sweetness at the bottom of the birthday pie…

I have been fortunate enough to maintain many of my childhood friendships… and Monica is one of these friends. Her birthday is TODAY (Happy BIRTHDAY Mon) but we celebrated last weekend. I wanted to bake her a really good dessert. I wanted to bake her something that would really show her how much her friendship means to me. I decided to bake her a key lime pie.

Yep. Monica is a fan of the key lime pie. It’s sweet but with that edge…kinda like Monica :0) Since I’d never made this kind of pie before I figured I needed to use a source that I could count on: a recipe that would be fail-safe. I opened up the hummingbird bakery cookbook. Remember… I used it for my lemon poppy seed cake? Everything that I’ve tried from it has so far been successful… so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe. I was right. Not only was this pie simple to make, but the burst of lime brightened up a cool January evening.

Note: This pie is made in 3 steps; with necessary cooling time between each step: the crust, the filling and finally the meringue topping. I made the crust and filling the day before and then topped the pie about 2 hours before I presented it to Monica. So plan ahead!

Monica loved it. And really at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. So thank you again hummingbird bakery – another successful recipe from your cookbook of goodies.

Key Lime Pie
3 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 1/3 c. butter, melted
8 eggs, separated
2 x 300 ml cans of condensed milk
freshly squeezed juice and grated zest of 5 limes (I actually only had 3, so I added 2 tbsp of lime juice)
1 1/4 c. white sugar

Grab your 9-inch pie dish. The recipe book says to grease it… I forgot to :0)

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

For the crust: In a large bowl (or in your food processor) combine the melted butter with your graham cracker crumbs. You want to really incorporate the two together. Press the graham cracker crumbs into the base and sides of the pie dish (use the ball of your hand to flatten and compress the crust).

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes – the crust will be golden and firm. Place on a wire rack to allow to cool completely.

When the base has cooled you’ll be ready to start the filling (about 40 minutes… or you can place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to rush up the process).

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Put the egg yolks (keep the egg whites, covered, refrigerated until ready to use), condensed milk, lime juice and zest in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using your whisk attachment and beat everything together . You want this to be very well incorporated.

Once your filling has been well whisked, pour it into the cold crust and bake for about 20 – 30 minutes… the filling should be firm to the touch but still slightly soft (not wobbly) in the centre (mine took 30 minutes to bake, but I checked at the 20 minute mark).

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. When ready, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

When you’re ready to top the pie…

The Meringue: Preheat your oven to 300 F.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until frothy (a medium to low speed). Slowly incorporate the sugar (1 1/4 c.), increasing the speed of your stand mixer until you reach top speed. You want to get to the stiff peak stage.

Spoon the meringue on top of the lime filling, making sure that the entire pie is covered (meringue and crust should touch). Create peaks and swirls in the top of the meringue with a tablespoon.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the pie and bake for another 8 minutes – you want the meringue to be evenly golden on top… you’ll know when it’s ready. Just keep a close eye on it.

Allow to cool completely at room temperature before serving. Garnish with some more lime zest if you have it… the pie is beautiful either way :0)

the white nut… the coconut!

The cupcake. A perfect treat for any occasion. Especially a birthday celebration! I made this mini little treats as an extra dessert for Céline’s Thai themed party (the birthday cake was the mango-ginger cheese cake).

It was the first time I had tried any recipe from my new cupcake cookbook… some people liked the result (I being one of them), some people weren’t too keen… so I guess I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

I turned to cupcakes; a fine selection of sweet treats for my baking inspiration that cold January day… the pictures are absolutely beautiful, the flavour combinations make my mouth water… and since I had just bought the book, I figured I should give it a chance. I’m glad I did. The trick with cupcakes is not over baking them… I think I left these in a little too long… I’ll remember that the next time I attempt to bake them.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes
2 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. flaked coconut
1 c. white sugar
1 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp coconut extract
4 1/2 oz butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line 36 mini muffin cups with paper liners.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, coconut extract and melted butter together.

In the bowl of your free standing mixer with your paddle attachment, combine the flour, coconut and sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients.

The batter will become quite thick and fluffy – resembling almost a pancake batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners – about 2 tablespoons per mini cupcake liner.

Bake for 12 minutes (this is where I over baked a bit… no more than 15 minutes!) , remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting each cupcake.

Coconut Frosting
2 1/4 c. icing sugar
1 1/2 c. flaked coconut
2 1/2 oz butter, softened
1/2 tsp coconut extract
2 tbsp – 1/4 c. hot water

In the bowl of your stand mixer (use your paddle attachment again), combine the icing sugar and coconut. Add the butter, coconut extract and enough hot water to make a spreadable icing, adding it by the tablespoon.

Once the frosting is ready, place it in a piping bag (about 1/4 c. at a time), grab a tip that is quite large so that the icing can be piped easily. Pipe the icing and then (optional) sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes to decorate.

I think these cupcakes were adorable… one-bite treats for everyone to enjoy.

poppy seeds… oh what a wonderful cake they make!

I spent yesterday afternoon with some of my favourite people. I know… I seem to have a long list of favourite people, and it’s true! I’ve surrounded myself with pretty awesome folks- but these aren’t just people – they’re my Ottawa family :0)

Marie-Jo, Phil and Olivier took me in many years ago when I needed a place to stay… they supported my decision to move to Scotland, come back to Ottawa, allowed me to crash on their couch (again) and continue to lure me in with the promise of wonderful meals and even better company. The least I can do is bring a cake (or a pie) whenever I stop by (or when they host a family gathering of sorts).

Yesterday I brought them this lemon poppy seed cake. Sigh. It’s from the hummingbird bakery cookbook… I made it twice last week, and want to make it again. A dense cake with the tartness of lemons and the crunch of poppy seeds. I increased the amount of lemon zest since I believe that there is no such thing as too much lemon. I think it’s the perfect cake to bring when visiting people you really like…especially lemon crazy people like my family.

Described in the book as a “moist, tangy cake that is perfect with your afternoon cup of tea”… I can attest that it’s excellent with brunch and shared with your favourite company!

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake
6 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 c. + 1 tbsp white sugar
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2/3 c. milk
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grease a bundt cake pan (butter or cooking spray) – or you can use mini bundt pans and make many (6) mini loaves (I did both – hence making this recipe twice in a week).

Put your butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds in the bowl of your freestanding mixer and beat everything together (using your paddle attachment). You want to make sure that the batter becomes quite fluffy – really cream the butter.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet batter in 3 separate additions. Beat thoroughly until all the ingredients are well incorporated and fluffy.

Time to beat your egg whites. You want to beat them in a separate bowl (glass is preferred) until stiff peaks form.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the whisked egg whites into the cake batter – you don’t want to over mix and loose the volume the egg whites bring to the batter; so just incorporate everything.

Pour the batter into your prepared bundt pan and bake for about 30 minutes (the cake should bounce back when touched, don’t do the toothpick test).

This cake called for the addition of a lemon syrup (and pouring it over the warm cake)… however I ended up burning the syrup. I wasn’t paying attention and it boiled a tad too long :0)

I allowed the cake to cool a bit (10 minutes), then removed it from the pan and had it cool completely on a wire rack.

I decided to make another syrup just prior to serving the cake. Bring the juice of a lemon, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1/2 c. water at a boil and allow it to reduce a bit. Pour the warmed syrup over the cake so that it can drip over the top and add a pretty sheen to your presentation. It was lovely.