Archive for the ‘shopping’Category

White Chocolate Buttercream with Vanilla Cupcakes

Birthday Cupcake on Birthday Bunnykins

One of my oldest friends (and by old, I mean the length of time we’ve been friends…not age) enjoys a particular kind of cake for her birthday: white cake with blue frosting.  This birthday cake is traditionally prepared by another of our dear friends, Elpoo.  It’s always sweet and yummy and decorated in some clever way.  Here’s a cake she made for my own birthday:


 For this particular festive gathering, however, cupcakes were requested. Well, we all know that I have been elected (appointed?) the designated maker of the cupcakes, so the honour of baking for this occasion fell to me.  My signature cupcake is chocolate with chocolate buttercream frosting.  In a feeble attempt at meeting the white and blue requirements, though, I did my best to whip up a batch of homemade cake batter and a version of my favourite buttercream recipe. 


The cake was…meh.  The recipe was taken directly from a Cooks Illustrated recipe, with a few minor tweaks.  It was simple enough but honestly, a store-bought mix with some delicious additions (sour cream, melted butter, vanilla…mmmmm) would have been better.  I found the crumb slightly tough and a little dry, but I don’t think that was all due to possibly overbaking them.  Regardless, I’ll spare you the recipe.


Our focus instead shall be the frosting.  After all, isn’t a cupcake really nothing more than a vehicle to convey said frosting to mouth?  All silky and buttery and sweet and rich.  Perfection.  For those that enjoy reading about such sweet things, please join me on this educational jaunt into the world of frosting as we explore four tasty variations of buttercreams:

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11 2009

Apple Picking


Carl Laidlaw Orchards

So the crafters are going apple picking this weekend!  Yay!  I don’t get out of the city very much so this is a real treat.  I’ll put up a full-fledged apple-picking post when we get back.  My haul last time was close to 30 pounds, so there will likely also be an apple butter post, an apple compote post, and an apple pie post.  Apples for everyone!


09 2009

Nutty Club

Nutty Club

No, this is not the name of our crafters’ club…although I wouldn’t debate its accuracy.  I thought, considering the name of this foodie blog and all, that it was high time I showed you some crispy bits.  Please enjoy them in their full-coloured glory.  These crunchy candy coralettes (also known as sprinkles, jimmies, candy vermicelli, sugar strands, hundreds-and-thousands, or hagelslag) are from Nutty Club, a Western Canadian company with their head office in Winnipeg.


In operation and “serving Canadians coast to coast” since 1903, I honestly believe they have not changed their branding since probably the 30’s.  Bless them for that.  I think the handless, dancing CAN-D-MAN on the package has worked his way into the collective memories of everyone who spent any time in the Prairies.  The company specializes in confectionary and baking products and I have vivid recollections of both.

The racks of snacks are most often seen in small-town grocery stores, co-ops, and gas stations and contain snack-sized bags of ju jubes, allsorts, scotch mints, humbugs, chicken bones, and midget mix.  Also available were the more savoury items such as peanuts, popcorn and sunflower seeds.  My high school store had one of these racks and my favourite treat was a bag of salt-and-vinegar peanuts smuggled into typing class.  Any type of food was strictly forbidden, so my typing buddy and I were flush with rebellion as we sneakily munched away at the back of class.  In retrospect, it was rather unhygienic, what with the communal Smith-Coronas and all and then licking the sour salt off my fingers.  But hey, it was the early 80’s and times were simple then; no one worried about these things.  Well, apparently the teacher did.


Anyone who’s spent a nanosecond in a Prairie kitchen, especially during a bout of seasonal baking, has probably caught site of the Nutty Club food colouring in their funky bottles (see above).  And no matter how many drops you added to the frosting, your red and green never came out more than pink and mint…not exactly what one hopes for when decorating those Christmas cookies.

Always the avid baker, my grandmother’s basement larder was a veritable treasure trove of Nutty Club baking products: bags of baking ju jubes she liked to put in her carrot cake (a nice alternative to raisins, I must say), the pressed sugar decorations reserved for special occasions, pecan halves, miniature candied fruit slices, and sprinkles and trim-ettes for days.  My grandmother also enjoyed serving Nutty Club “juice” made from appropriately-coloured concentrated syrups to which one added water.  Cherry was a favourite.

So if you’re ever passing through a town west of the Great Lakes, keep an eye out for the dancing CAN-D-MAN, grab a bag of Midget Mix, and participate in our national identity.  If, on the other hand, you’re heading to Paris and see a box of these goodies:


…pick one up for me because these are NOT available here.  I’ll pay you back.


09 2009

Julie & Julia


No self-respecting food blogger could not write about the film Julie & Julia, even if only in passing.  I won’t actually go into “review” mode here.  However, in case you might have missed it, the movie is based on two books:  Julie & Julia:  My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme.  Figuring prominently in both was the mother of all French cooking tomes, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child.


Two years ago, I brought Ms Powell’s book along with me on a trip home to my parents.  It was a quick and breezy read and I admired her challenge of working her way through 524 recipes over the course of a year.  In fact, it prompted me to pick up my very own copy of MtAoFC (as Julie efficiently labels it).  It is a classic, after all, and I certainly couldn’t deprive myself of yet another cookbook.  In order to qualify for free shipping (“D*mn you, Amazon!!!”), I had to top up my order and selected Prud-homme’s memoir of his great grand aunt Julia.

 I think MtAoFC received more attention than all my other cookbooks combined.  Seriously.  I sat down and read it cover to cover.  I don’t think I’d cook much from it, and the recipes are somewhat dated.  But 16 pages on how to make a soufflé was just too much enjoyment for me.  Definitely food porn…in a literary way.  Anyway, the memoir was a lovely companion piece to her cookbook since it essentially documented said book’s conception and birth.  I didn’t know much about her before (although I could do a wicked impression), and I walked away from both books marveling at her passion, fortitude and zest.

 Meryl Streep

The film is a nice tribute to both Julie and Julia, and that’s exactly what it was…a gentle reflection on both these women, whipping up a gastronomical storm.  Meryl Streep really does deserve accolades for her success in channelling la Grande Gourmande.  Read My Life in France, though; it really deserved to have a movie all to itself.


08 2009

St. Lawrence Market

Bing Cherries

Bing Cherries

I went to the market today with two dear friends and we all left with sacks of produce exploding with possibilities.  If you’ve never been to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto before, you’re missing out on a world of possibilities.  It may not be the biggest market or the best market, but it’s MY market…only an 11-minute walk away.  I’ll tell you more about it shortly.  Until then, you’ll have to munch on my photos of the seasonal produce I schlepped home…

orange beets

orange beets


07 2009