blog revamp, chocolates & a cake

I feel as though I’ve neglected my blog for the past couple of weeks…

But I haven’t … I swear!

I’ve just been a little busy.

First off … have you checked out my new awesome blog layout?  Doesn’t it look swell?  (please be patient as I update the recipes page …)

I heart the new look.  And I have one amazingly talented and wonderful friend to thank for it … Ms. Lindsay. You might know her from her blog ORGANIC PIXELS … where she wrote one of the nicest posts about me.  Seriously … I blushed as I read it … and I’m completely flattered that she thinks of me that way.  I think she’s pretty darn incredible as well.

Seriously Lindsay.  You are TOO SWEET.

Then … it was valentine’s day.  I don’t usually celebrate February 14th … except this year I have a manfriend who gifted me the bestest box of chocolates a gal could ask for.  (Thank you Justin for hooking the manfriend up … and claps to the manfriend for doing so well).

I have to admit I LOVED each flavour … I mean … the salted caramel exploded in my mouth … one bite and the gooey caramel escaped the chocolate casing.  AMAZING.  It was the manfriend’s favourite too … plus it was covered in edible gold.

Nuff said … this one’s a winner.

The mexican hot chocolate was smooth and spicy.  I originally tried it at Justin’s chocolate & wine event … (I strongly recommend it with a good glass of red wine)  … the chocolate was so smooth and thick it was a little ridiculous.

The raspberry chocolate was … beautiful.  Justin created a work of art with this one … the dark chocolate exterior, the layer of ganache and then the layer of a raspberry gel (almost a purée).  It was the perfect balance of sweet fruit filling and bitter chocolate.  I heart this one.

And then … there was the one inspired by me.

For REALZ!!!

Justin made a chocolate truffle inspired by me.  He filled with lemon.  Obviously.  And  then limoncello.  Another obvious choice.  The white chocolate ensured the tartness wasn’t too over bearing … This one was brilliant.  That’s right … I’m declaring the “lynne”spiration chocolate brilliant.  Available for order at Easter.

Then thirdly … and to be honest … my absolute favourite part of the week.

The penguin cake.

I’d been asked to make a penguin cake for a co-worker’s sister-in-law’s grand-daughter’s birthday (did you get that???).

All you need to remember from that sentence is that I made a penguin cake.  Chocolate cake with a penguin on top.

I accept to make this cake figuring Emily would be doing the decorating.

Only … Em ended up with a bad case of strep throat.  That left me with a cake that needed to be decorated …

I decided to use the same logic as “colouring within the lines” … I printed up a picture of a penguin, enlarged it, cut it out … and then pinned the stencil to the top of my cake.

After tracing the black outline, I used a star-tip and piped in all the black (body and eyes), yellow (beak) and then white (stomach and the remainder of the cake).  It took me about 45 minutes to decorate.

It looked like this …

I am totally and utterly tickled pink about this cake.

It’s AWESOME.  And I did it on my own.

It’s been a pretty sweet week … and that’s without telling you all about the fun I had on Saturday at the Kelp Records Winter Warmer  (post to follow).

wordless wednesdays: birthday cakes

I feel like a proud mother.  You know the kind – they look down at their children and simply beam.

That’s how I feel.

I am beaming.  And it’s because of this:

And this:

Seriously.  So proud.

Don’t you think both cakes look pretty?

Emily and I were asked to make and decorate a  birthday cake for friends of friends (thank you Isabelle for recommending us!).

After some discussions we decided on two cakes – one lemon and one carrot (they couldn’t decide which of the two they prefered – I thought one of each would be perfect!).  And so – out came my lemon cake recipe – my twist on it this time was to include some freshly made lemon curd into the buttercream frosting.  The second cake was my carrot cake – always popular; this time we decided to use raisins instead of the walnuts (no need to worry about allergies), and cover it in cream cheese buttercream … and then cover the sides with some flaked coconut.

Cakes made – buttercreams made – time for some decorating.

That’s where Emily came in.  As always – I showed Emily some ideas I had had and she was able to execute them.  Then when it came time to figure out how we would pipe the lettering, my friend Chloé offered up the idea of tempering chocolate and using that rather than buttercream piping (merci Chloé!!!).

First up – the lemon cake with lemon curd buttercream

Emily then quickly got to work on the carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream and flaked coconut

And that my friends is how we ended up with these cakes.

that takes the cake

Donna is retiring.  She’s been working on the Hill for over 40 years.  43 to be exact.  13 years longer than I’ve been alive.  I was completely and utterly gobsmacked when I heard that.

IN-SANE. 

Obviously that calls for a celebration of sorts. 

And so we threw her a party.

Yesterday afternoon, everyone took the time to set aside their work, leave their cubicles, and gather around Donna as we all thanked her for her tremendous work and wished her the best for the future.

There were speeches.  There were presents.  Pictures were taken.

And then we ate.

I had been asked if I minded baking the cake.  Of course not!  I even got Emily to help me out with the decorating.   Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  Exactly as Donna had requested (I figured it was best to check and make sure she got the cake she wanted).

*Donna likes going to the casino … and we wanted to make sure she got her royal flush!

I was then asked if I wouldn’t mind baking another little treat … or two (or four).  Done!

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to make …. cranberry bliss barsBlack & white toffee bars?

That’s when I found this recipe.

To say that I was excited would be an understatement.  You see – when I was 12 years old, I was gifted my first recipe book.  It was an A to Z cookbook – with a recipe assigned to each letter of the alphabet (I remember that X was xylophone cake).  

My personal favourites to bake were the lemon squares and the espresso brownies.  They were … incredible.  I remember the lemon squares were mouth puckering tart, and that the espresso brownies tasted of a rich mocha … they made me feel so grown up.  I’ve since lost that book (if anyone knows which one I’m talking about … send me a quick email … I’d love to get another copy), but the memory of both those recipes sneak up on me from time to time.

These brownies brought me right back to my childhood.  Only this version is a little more grown-up.  I got to use my coffee liqueur – that ingredient wasn’t in my original recipe ;0)

If you’re looking for something to quickly whip up for the holidays – these squares … aren’t really what you are looking for.  Easy – yes.  Quick … well you need to include cooling time … so I’m not classifying these as labour intensive – simply as slightly time-consuming… but only slightly

These babies pack a real punch – full of mocha and chocolate.  Oh my my.  Delish!  Coffee and baked goods all in one bite (plus a little shot of coffee liqueur)

Made in two different stages – the brownie base, and then once cooled the espresso topping – these will make your coffee loving heart sing as they bake. 

triple espresso brownies

ingredients:

1/4 c. water

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 c. butter

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c. flour, sifted

1/2 c.  chopped toasted pecans

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your rectangular baking pan with parchment paper (or foil), grease with nonstick spray and set aside.  Lining the pan with parchment paper or foil simply allows you to easily lift the entire pan of brownies out and cleanly cut them – not necessary if you are fine with just cutting them straight out of the pan :0)

In a medium saucepan, combine the water with espresso powder.  Add the butter and the chocolate chips.  Heat and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. 

Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the sugars, vanilla and eggs – whisking the entire time so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Grab your wooden spoon and stir in the flour, pecans and salt.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (middle rack, and until a toothpick comes out clean).  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Do not remove the brownies from the pan yet.

Step two: making the frosting.

espresso frosting

ingredients:

3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 c. butter, softened

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tbsp coffee liqueur or 2 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand-mixer.  Add the butter, boiling water, coffee liqueur (or espresso powder), and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Beat on low-speed until combined (use your paddle attachment), then increase the speed – allowing the batter to get fluffy and smooth (if needed, add a little milk to loosen up the batter).

Spread oven the cooled brownies (while still in the pan). 

Sprinkle with some cocoa powder and then some chopped chocolate covered coffee beans. 

Allow these brownies to chill a little – either in the freezer for about 30 minutes or in the fridge (wrapped in plastic wrap).  This will make it much easier to cleanly cut them into pieces.

Lift the brownies out of the pan (the beauty of that parchment paper) and then cut into small cubes – you should be able to get about 60 squares.  Perfect little one-bite treats for any social gathering.  Especially one as memorable as Donna’s farewell.