Posts Tagged ‘Martha Stewart’

Light Fruitcake

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People hate fruitcake.  One mention of the word invokes comparisons to doorstops and urban legends about the blocks being passed on over the years.  And with all honesty, my own opinion reflected that of the masses.  It generally wasn’t part of my family’s Christmas tradition, however; it was typically cut into fingers, wrapped in cellophane, stuffed into a paper scroll, and distributed during the Presentation lines at weddings.  This was meant to be the token sharing of the wedding cake.

fruitcakeIt was crumbly, filled with fruit detested by children, and had an unidentifiable chemical taste.  The only reprieve was with the sickly-sweet layer of almond-flavoured frosting on the end.  The seasonal version picked up at the local grocery store offered no real variation on this sad theme; same fruit, same texture, same taste.  The “light” fruitcake was slightly less evil, with maraschino cherries leaching their red dye into a generic pound cake.  It was only more tolerable because it bore no resemblance to the dark cake and was devoid of bitter nuts or dates.  Regardless, I was not a fan of either.

That being said, I don’t know what prompted me to make it.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I was seduced by the glossy pages of the Martha Stewart Living, December 2000 issue and her article on fruitcakes.  Always up for a challenge, I tackled the dark cake (making judicial substitutions and swaps) and four weeks later, started a fruitcake revolution.  It was more than edible; it was actually good.  Sworn anti-fruitcakers are now converts, banging down my door every Christmas for the latest variation.  I think it might be all the alcohol, with the macerated fruit acting as nothing more than an elaborate vessel.  But I’m not complaining.

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I generally alternate between a light version and a dark version.  The light is stewed in sherry and is slightly more delicate in flavour and presentation, while the classic dark is soaked in rum and includes the traditional dates and figs.  Both are fairly easy to whip up but do require time (at least a month of weekly liquor dousings) and money (good fruits, nuts and spirits are priced at a premium).  The recipes are also flexible enough to allow for customization and tweaking to whatever your budget and tastebuds allow, since the cake is really nothing more than a bit of cake batter coating masses of fruits and nuts. 

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I’m presenting to you my recipe for the light version of the fruitcake.  Check back next year for the dark.  It might be a little late to make it for this holiday season, but next year, with a jump start, you’ll be sharing it with pride as your recipients eye it suspiciously, then ultimately consume whole slabs…all washed down with a hot cup of tea, of course.

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12 2009

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




Always trust Martha to bring the culinary world of New York to my living room.  Not that long ago, she presented a segment on 10th Avenue noshes and ChikaLicious Dessert Bar was included on her two-part tour.  Chef owners Don and Chika Tillman present a starkly intimate dessert eatery built around an open kitchen where the chefs and sommelier work and serve the customers directly.  Their reasonably priced three-course tasting menu has been described as being American desserts with French presentation and Japanese tasting portions and includes a palate-cleansing amuse, a choice from the varying dessert selection, and a plate of assorted petit fours.  Wine matchings are offered, along with organic coffees and teas.

For our visit, we started with a sweetly puckering duo of lemonade sorbet with lemon panna cotta.  For our “mains,” we each tried one of their classic desserts:  Fromage Blanc Island “Cheese Cake” (pictured above) artfully nestled into a mound of shaved ice; and a Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce.  Both were divinely delicious and proof of the chefs’ skills in presentation, taste and texture.  We couldn’t ask for anything more after an exhausting day supporting the local retail economy.  And indeed, the petit fours were the proverbial cherry on an otherwise perfect sensory experience:  a cube of quivering coconut marshmallow, a mini-wedge of carmelized lemon peel pound cake and a kiss of ganache atop a crisp chocolate wafer took us over the edge and we sailed home on a satisfactory sugar high.

They don’t take reservations, but any wait is worth the experience.  And while you’re there, check out the Dessert Club ChikaLicious, their companion bakery directly across the street, for arguably the best cupcake you will find in Manhattan.

ChikaLicious Dessert Bar

203 E. 10th St., between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave.

New York, NY

Open Daily

3pm to 10:45pm.


06 2009


Grapefruit and Lavender

Another discovery brought to me courtesy of Martha Stewart, Papabubble is an international cult candy shop with outlets in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and now Manhattan.  Their artisanal hard candies are handmade in plain view at each store.  You can watch the owners as they knead, beat, stretch and slice the sweet bites into submission.  Simple ingredients, a dynamic range of flavours and cute packaging make them hard to resist.  While there, I managed to sample almost every flavour, some of them even still warm from the marble slab.  My must-have favourites include chili-lime, lavender, caramel apple, and lemon ginger along with the most adorably delicious pink grapefruit.


You can watch a Martha Stewart’s visit at: Martha at Papabubble



380A Broom Street, between Mott St and Mulberry St.

New York, NY

Open seven days a week


06 2009