Easter Cupcakes

 Nest easter egg cupcakes

Nest easter egg cupcakes

Any excuse to bake for the holidays, I am there! Last week before heading back to visit family for Easter I made these Easter themed cupcakes. I was still doing lent then so I didn't have any but they were so much fun to make that it was definitely worth it. Dave bought me a case of different piping tips to practice my icing skills and after making these cakes with "grass" on top I realized how excited I am to test the rest of the tips out! Next is buttercream roses and then a practice wedding cake for a friend. More on that soon! Below is the recipe I used for the cupcakes (not my own) and my favourite buttercream recipe (my own.) Hope you feel inspired to make something both beautiful and delicious soon! 

 Making the cupcake

Making the cupcake

 Carrot cake seemed appropriate for this time of year

Carrot cake seemed appropriate for this time of year

Recipe for Carrot Cupcakes: (Half Baked Harvest)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup grated carrots
 Cooling down before icing

Cooling down before icing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12-18 muffin tins. 
  2. In large bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In another large bowl with mixer, beat together, oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Then add carrots. 
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture and beat. 
  5. Pour the batter into the lined muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes. 
  7. Let cool. 
 The green was the perfect colour for grass

The green was the perfect colour for grass

Recipe for Buttercream Icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • food colouring if you want (I used you a pastel moss green)
 Piping the "grass"

Piping the "grass"

Directions:

  1. Beat together softened butter and icing sugar. Add milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  2. Remove from bowl and place in piping bag. 
  3. To make "grass" I used t a star tipped piping tip. Every time you squeeze the icing out, be sure to pull up to create the height and style of grass.
  4. Once all the cupcakes are iced. Grate dark chocolate to make shavings.
  5. Sprinkle shavings in circles on top of the "grass" icing. Place 3 mini eggs on top of each "nest."

Bring to Easter dinner or for treats to friends! 

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 Ready for the nests

Ready for the nests

 Dark chocolate shavings for the nest and mini eggs

Dark chocolate shavings for the nest and mini eggs

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Matcha & White Chocolate Choux Pastry

 First step of making the choux pastry

First step of making the choux pastry

 

My first weekend back on the west coast was a baking marathon. After being away from my kitchen for 5 weeks I was excited to try out some new recipes and that's what we did. As I told you in last week's baking post, the Great British Bake Off has seriously inspired me to up my game in the baking world. I would happily own a bakery or work at a bakery, but for now I am practicing my skills until that day comes. The first pastry on my list was a choux pastry. I was always under the idea that choux pastry (or profiteroles) were hard to make and that's why it was always a treat when you would get them. After watching them be made on the Great British Bake Off and it really didn't look that hard, I decided I had to try it out for myself, so I did! I was right, it wasn't hard, if anything it was easy. Just a little time consuming and finicky for some steps but overall it was easy! I am definitely going to be putting these into my dessert rotation, maybe even making them for a friend's wedding this summer! I can't wait to try making them with different flavours. Check out how we made them below and the beautiful green that the Matcha & White Chocolate cream turned out to be!

 Adding the eggs

Adding the eggs

Recipe for Choux Pastry:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup watter
  • 1/2 cup flour (sifted)
  • 2 eggs beaten (separately)

Directions:

  1. Chop butter and add to water in a small pot. Melt butter and let it come to a boil. Once it has melted, add flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes away from the edges of the pot. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  2. In two separate bowls beat eggs. Once the flour, butter and water mixture has cooled add 1 egg and mix well. It should look like a runny dough. The trick is once it has been mixed together to remove the spoon and if the little "beak" falls it is ready. If it too thick add some of the second egg until the consistency is right. For our recipe we used roughly 1 1/2 eggs.
  3. Place dough in a piping bag (if you do not have a piping bag you can use a spoon.) Try and pipe the dough into the same size and shape. Mine looked a little like the "poo" emojis. Give the pastries enough room to grow so leave some space between each.
  4. With a wet finger, lightly smooth out the tops of the profiteroles so they do not crack.
  5. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. You want them to have puffed up and look golden but don't over cook them.
  6. Remove from oven and turn oven off. Pierce the bottoms with a skewer to let the steam out. Once you have done this to all of them place them back into the oven (that is off,) and let dry out for 20 minutes.
 It's important to get it the right consistency before piping

It's important to get it the right consistency before piping

 Piping each profiterole out

Piping each profiterole out

 Hot out of the oven!

Hot out of the oven!

 Let them cool before you pipe them

Let them cool before you pipe them

 Matcha powder and icing sugar to make the inside

Matcha powder and icing sugar to make the inside

Recipe for Matcha & White Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 bar of white chocolate (melted)

Directions:

  1. Melt white chocolate on stove top and let cool.
  2. In mixer blend together butter, icing sugar, matcha powder and milk.
  3. Add white chocolate once it has cooled and mix.
  4. Put buttercream in icing bag and pipe through the small holes in the bottom of the profiteroles.
 The perfect colour of green!

The perfect colour of green!

 Piping the cream mixture inside

Piping the cream mixture inside

 Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

We found that the profiteroles dried out quite quickly and were best eaten the day of. However, if you have an event you are making them for, the empty profiteroles will stay fresh in a tupperware or frozen, then just add the cream when you need to. I'm excited to fill them with different flavours in the future!

Truffle Making with Zoe's Bakery & Cafe

 Chocolate shells ready to be filled

Chocolate shells ready to be filled

What better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than chocolate making (and eating for that matter.) I started my advent calendar Dec. 1st and I religiously eat a chocolate a day. As you can probably tell already I love chocolate, well I really do. So when I saw that Zoe's Bakery & Cafe was hosting a truffle workshop I signed Dave and I up right away. The evening was spent learning how to make two types of truffles and while doing so we also tasted a lot of chocolates (Dave more than I.)

First off was the theory lesson by Zoe about how truffles came to be. The lesson was short and sweet and then we got started. First on the list of things to do that evening was make the ganache: the filling of the truffles. Ganache is half cream, half chocolate, the chocolate has to be true chocolate which means it must contain cocoa butter. We found out that most chocolate we eat isn't true chocolate because the cocoa butter has been removed and replaced with different oils like canola oil or palm kernel oil.

 Filling our shells with ganache

Filling our shells with ganache

To make the ganache you had to boil the cream, pour over the chocolate with whatever flavourings you chose and mix until emulsified. You have to make sure that you do not add too much of the added flavours or else your ganache will become too runny. We chose to make a milk chocolate ganache with pistachio and Grand Marnier and it was delicious! The best part about this exercise was that after we filled as many chocolate shells with our own flavours we could switch ganaches with everyone else. There were so many delicious flavours to choose from! My favourites were Dark Maple, Dark Orange, Eggnog & Rum and Earl Grey. But really all of them tasted good.

 Filled and ready to set

Filled and ready to set

 Capping our truffles

Capping our truffles

 

Next step was filling the shells with our ganache. We used squeeze bottles, however, you can also use a piping bag. Once we were finished filling them we placed them in the fridge to let them set. Once they came out of the fridge we capped them with melted milk, white or dark chocolate. For this step we used piping bags. Once again we put them in the fridge or the freezer to set the caps.

 Decorating them with everything possible

Decorating them with everything possible

 

The last step was rolling them in the chocolate of our choice, then decorating them however we saw fit. I wanted our truffles to look beautiful and professional so I was the decorator while Dave did the rolling (the messy part.) We rolled them in all the different chocolates: dark, white and milk. Then I sprinkled the tops of them with the decorations available. There was cocoa powder, espresso, cookie crumbs, nuts and sprinkles, but you could really decorate them however you pleased and whatever you have available in your kitchen.

 Caramels dipped in chocolate with different toppings

Caramels dipped in chocolate with different toppings

After we finished our ganache filled truffles we had some more time available to us to learn how to make hand-rolled truffles and dip caramels in chocolate, to round out our perfect chocolate boxes. For the hand-rolled truffles Zoe had previously made two ganache flavours and set them in the fridge so they were firm and set through. The flavours were white chocolate egg nog and milk chocolate bailey. We spooned the ganache out and rolled them into little balls in our hands. Then we could roll them directly in cocoa or nuts. Or if we wanted to make them even more chocolatey we could roll them in melted chocolate to create a rustic shell. Dave took over these steps making the hand-rolled ones where I decided to dip the caramels since that was the less messy task. 

 Ready to take home and eat

Ready to take home and eat

 

Everything we made was delicious and we were able to share them with friends and family, which was perfect because then we couldn't eat them all ourselves! If you're living in Tofino or Ucluelet I would highly recommend trying out the course. It was so interesting to learn about the art of truffle making but fun and practical and a skill I plan on using again and making them for gifts! 

 We didn't make note of the different flavours so it was a guessing game with each bite! 

We didn't make note of the different flavours so it was a guessing game with each bite! 

 Enough truffles to take us to Christmas

Enough truffles to take us to Christmas

Ombre Rose Icing

 Kohana's 1st Birthday Cake

Kohana's 1st Birthday Cake

If you haven't realized already, I take any opportunity I can to make a cake. This post is a few months old, how is it November already? When Dave and I were living in Victoria we lived in a great house with friends and one of them was a newborn baby. We were lucky enough to get to see Kohana grow up a little bit before moving up island. In September it was her first birthday and I asked if I could make the cake. Everyone said yes, to my utter delight and one weekend while I was at home visiting I put together a vanilla cake with lemon buttercream icing. This cake was more for the parents, rather than Ko, but I was happy to make it for our little past housemate. I used a simple triple vanilla cake recipe and put raspberry jam between the layers. For the icing I wanted to do something in pink for Kohana but didn't want it to be over the top. I decided to go for a pale pink, coral and white to create a sort of ombre affect. We didn't get to stay for cake as we were driving back that day, however, I heard it was a hit and I loved icing it. Below is my simple icing recipe (which I doubled) and directions if you ever need some inspiration for a birthday cake. 

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Recipe: (Double it if you want to ice a triple layer cake like I did here)

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla (however for this recipe I used lemon essence)
  • 1 tbsp milk

Directions: 

Mix together the icing sugar and butter. Add the flavouring slowly at first, tasting it so it does not become over powering. Add a tablespoon of milk if you want/need it to be a little less hard. Dave recently ordered some pastel food colouring for me, so I used the rose petal pink and the creamy peach to get the desired colours I wanted. I separated the icing into three bowls, white, peach and pink. I iced around the cake roughly, to have an under layer of icing to place the roses on top. For this I worked with a knife to get a small, even amount on. Next comes the piping bag. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to icing, especially since I hate fondant and work almost always with buttercream so my roses were rough but I think it gives the cake a more homemade feel to it. Ice the white roses on the top first and then add whichever colour you want to follow. This will create a slight ombre effect as the icing is piped out of the bag. Once you have covered the cake in roses all around you are finished! Leave in a cool spot until it's time to eat cake! Then, let them eat cake! 

 My food colouring I chose to go with

My food colouring I chose to go with

 I love the pastel effect this food colouring gives the icing

I love the pastel effect this food colouring gives the icing

 Triple layered cake with raspberry jam in between layers

Triple layered cake with raspberry jam in between layers

 Concentrating and hard at work

Concentrating and hard at work

 Almost there! 

Almost there! 

 Finished product! Just needs a 1 on top! 

Finished product! Just needs a 1 on top! 

An Italian Thanksgiving: Tiramisu

 My mum's famous tiramisu recipe

My mum's famous tiramisu recipe

 

For 'friendsgiving' this year I decided to make something a little different for dessert instead of the traditional pumpkin pie. I used to make Tiramisu with my mum when I was a kid all the time and I think I loved the making of it more than the final product. The dipping of lady fingers in coffee one by one and sneaking a couple for myself brought back so many memories. Tiramisu seems so exotic and difficult to make, however, that is definitely not the case. It was really easy and everyone absolutely loved it. If you're looking for a crowd pleaser, look no further! The steps and recipe are below, enjoy for dessert or if you're really feeling bold have it for breakfast. It has coffee in it, so that's ok right?

 The coffee mixture ingredients

The coffee mixture ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp Tia Maria (or Kahlua)
  • Package of lady fingers
  • 500 grams of mascarpone cheese
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp Tia Maria (or Kahlua)
  • 500 ml whipping cream
 The first layer of lady fingers dipped

The first layer of lady fingers dipped

Directions:

Make large pot espresso and let cool. Mix together milk, espresso and Tia Maria in medium bowl. In large bowl whip together mascarpone cheese, sugar, Tia Maria and whipping cream. Use large glass or ceramic dish. Dip lady fingers in coffee mixture. Be sure to not over soak them or else they will fall apart. After first layer is down, spread with cream mixture. Add another layer of dipped lady fingers, then more cream. Sprinkle with cocoa powder to finish. If the cream doesn't whip well and is runny (like mine was) place in freezer until about an hour before serving. If not keep in fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

 Ready with the mascarpone cream layer

Ready with the mascarpone cream layer

 Second layer started

Second layer started

 The final and delicious product! 

The final and delicious product! 

Lemon Cake

 My mum's 60th birthday cake

My mum's 60th birthday cake

My love of baking doesn't seem to be slowing down and if I have the opportunity to bake a cake for someone I take it! Last week was my mum's 60th birthday and we threw her a surprise BBQ. My dad and a few of his friends did all the cooking and I did the cake baking. My mum has two favourite flavours, lemon or caramel. I decided on a lemon flavoured cake because it was the perfect light and fresh flavour to finish a summer BBQ off with. I used a recipe online for the triple layer lemon cake  and made my own famous buttercream icing. The cake was perfect, however, I should have probably baked two because everyone loved it so much. The recipe was great, it was moist with a great lemon flavour that was echoed in the icing and lemon curd between layers. Below is the recipe for the cake and my recipe for the icing. 

 Lemon curd between layers

Lemon curd between layers

Recipe:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • lemon curd (homemade or bought, I used bought due to time restraint)

Directions:

Grease and line three 9" round cake pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven for 350 degrees. In one large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a second mixing bowl beat butter, sugar, lemon peel and lemon juice until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating between each until mixed together. Evenly pour into each pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely before assembling cake and making icing. 

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Recipe for Icing: 

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp essence of lemon (or lemon juice) (add more as needed for taste)

Directions: 

Mix all the ingredients together. If it seems too hard add a little more milk. Taste to ensure it isn't too sweet or buttery. I use this recipe for everything I ice, it really is the easiest and most delicious. You can add food colouring, liqueur or cocoa to change the flavour or colour.

 Triple-Layer Cake

Triple-Layer Cake

 

When you're ready to assemble your cake (after it has completely cooled), remove from pans and set aside. Take out first layer and place down, cover the top with lemon curd and repeat with next layer. When the final layer is on top begin to ice the top and sides. You can do a crumb coat to ensure it looking more professional, however, as time was limited I was just careful with my icing. Garnish with lemon peel and mint and enjoy! 

 Lemon rind for decoration

Lemon rind for decoration

 Lemon Buttercream Icing

Lemon Buttercream Icing

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 The cake was a major hit

The cake was a major hit

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Cannolis

 Cannoli shells and ricotta bought at a local Italian shop in Victoria

Cannoli shells and ricotta bought at a local Italian shop in Victoria

As you all know already, my dad is Sicilian and I love everything about being Italian, especially the food and fashion. As a kid I always loved visiting my dad's side of the family in London and Palermo because I would associate it with the delicious foods we would eat. Even arriving jet lagged at my auntie's house was exciting because she would have the biggest Italian lunch ready for us with as many as 20 relatives gathered around the table. We would eat way too many courses but always find time for dessert, like cannolis. The best cannolis come from Sicily, however, you can sometimes get a good one in a real Italian deli, like in Toronto or New York City. When I went into the Italian deli and shop in downtown Victoria a few years ago I found these mini cannoli shells for sale and bought them for my dad. We made them when a cousin from London came to visit and I had been wanting to recreate them ever since. This past weekend my parents came up to visit us in Ucluelet with all the ingredients so my dad and I whipped up some pretty delicious cannolis if I do say so myself. They are really easy to make and so delicious, definitely give them a try next time you want to make something different for dessert. 

 Mixing up the ricotta, sugar and Grand Marnier mixture

Mixing up the ricotta, sugar and Grand Marnier mixture

Recipe:

  • Half a tub of ricotta cheese (about 300-400 grams)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 shots of grand marnier (or vanilla if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (the mini ones are even better)
  • 1/2 cup crushed pistachios
  • 1 package of cannoli shells
 The pistachios are essential to get the real Sicilia taste and chocolate chips for good measure

The pistachios are essential to get the real Sicilia taste and chocolate chips for good measure

Directions:

Mix the ricotta, sugar and grand marnier together. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon into a piping bag like you would with icing. Crush the pistachios and have them ready to dip either end of the cannoli in. Pipe the mixture into the cannoli shell until it just about comes out either end. Dip the ends in the pistachios and continue until all the shells are filled. Enjoy with an espresso or a shot of grand marnier like my dad and Dave did! 

 Ready to put in a piping bag for the cannolis

Ready to put in a piping bag for the cannolis

 Ready to eat! 

Ready to eat! 

My Best Friends Wedding Cake

 The best chocolate cake recipe you will ever make! 

The best chocolate cake recipe you will ever make! 

My best friend got married two weeks ago and I had the opportunity to make her wedding cake. I have been baking since I was a kid and love to do it, however, this baking challenge brought me to a whole new level. I have made many cakes and when my best friend told me she wasn't going to get a wedding cake for her special day I immediately volunteered (to my mum's dismay.) I have to say I wasn't living in Tofino when I first volunteered to make the cake so I thought it would be an easy thing for me and my mum to venture on. However, I quickly moved to Tofino and my mum and I had to make the cakes from four hours apart, which stressed my mum out quite a bit. But in the end, after a terrible trial run a month before the wedding, the cake came out beautifully! Although it was stressful at the time, it was so worth it and I would do it over and over again. Everyone loved it, including the bride and groom and that made it all worth it and I definitely plan to make more wedding or special occasion cakes in the future! 

 Crumb coat

Crumb coat

The recipe I used for the cake was one that my best friend gave to me when I was a kid so I thought it would be perfect to use for her own wedding cake. It's an easy chocolate cake that can be adapted to either round or rectangular cake pans according to the cake you want to make. For the wedding day we made both a four layered wedding cake, as well as two double layered slab cakes. We layered the cakes with raspberry jam per request of the bride and groom but it's the perfect combination for the chocolate cake, balancing the sweetness of the cake with the tartness of the jam. Finally we iced it with simple buttercream vanilla icing and a white chocolate ganache to get the drip effect.

Recipe for Cake:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Combine dry ingredients. Add milk, soft butter and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes. Add egg, beat 2 more minutes. Pour into greased and floured 9" round pan. Bake 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Doubles well for 2 larger cake. Great with raspberry jam filling. Line pans with parchment! 

 Final coat

Final coat

When it comes to icing a chocolate cake with vanilla icing, you always have to use a crumb coat. We learned this the hard way the first time we made the cake and the crumbs were all over the icing, not a good look for a wedding cake. The crumb coat is a light coating of icing you put on the cake before the final coat. After covering the cake in a crumb coat, place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes (minimum), however, a few hours is best to ensure it has stuck to the cake. Once the crumb coat sets, apply the icing on thickly to cover the cake completely. I used an offset spatula and a scraper to make sure the icing was even and flat. Once again place in fridge, overnight is best. The final step was the white chocolate ganache. As we poured it on it dripped over the side and the warm ganache will harden against cold cake. 

Recipe for Icing: 

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions: 

Mix all the ingredients together. If it seems too hard add a little more milk. Taste to ensure it isn't too sweet or buttery. I use this recipe for everything I ice, it really is the easiest and most delicious. You can add food colouring, liqueur or cocoa to change the flavour or colour.

 White Chocolate Ganache Drips

White Chocolate Ganache Drips

Recipe for Ganache:

  • White Chocolate
  • Heavy Cream

Directions:

Mix together equal parts chocolate and cream and microwave on low. Remove after 30 seconds and mix, then repeat until melted thoroughly. The consistency should be quite liquid like so the drips can fall evenly on the cake. The key to getting the drips to fall down the cake is to spoon the ganache onto the edges first then in the centre to have an even look. 

 The final product

The final product

 My mum & I with our creation

My mum & I with our creation

 The bride & groom cutting the first piece

The bride & groom cutting the first piece

 Looks like everyone enjoyed it! 

Looks like everyone enjoyed it! 

Chocolate Pasta

My friend Kate was in Italy for the holidays and for my birthday she sent me the most unique birthday present to date: CHOCOLATE PASTA! I love getting mail and when I opened this parcel I was so excited and surprised to see what was inside. I had never seen chocolate pasta before, let alone had any idea how to even cook it! The next night I was watching Chopped on the Food Network, a favourite of mine and guess what they featured as a basket ingredient for their dessert round, chocolate ravioli. I was inspired to make a delicious dessert out of this otherwise starchy ingredient and I began looking up different recipes. I was inspired by numerous recipes, but in the end improvised with the ingredients I had in my kitchen and this is what I ended up with: Chocolate Pasta with a Cream, Nutella sauce with Pistachios. 

 The package of chocolate pasta

The package of chocolate pasta

Recipe:

  • 1 package of chocolate pasta (I didn't use the whole package because I was a little skeptical at first)
  • small carton of whipping cream (250 ml)
  • 1/4 cup of nutella
  • handful of crushed pistachios
  • shaved white chocolate
  • raspberries

Preparation:

For pasta, follow along on package directions (for mine it said to boil water and cook for 4-6 minutes, then strain). In frying pan, (while the pasta is cooking) begin melting the Nutella and mixing with the whipping cream to make a chocolate sauce. Grate or shave white or dark chocolate (I liked the look of the white chocolate because it looked like parmesan!). Crush a handful of shelled pistachios (or you could also use hazelnuts). Once the pasta has cooked, strain and mix with chocolate sauce. Plate the pasta and top with grated chocolate, pistachios and garnish with raspberries, and enjoy! 

 Mixing the cream and Nutella sauce

Mixing the cream and Nutella sauce

 Grated white chocolate (the parmesan of the dish)

Grated white chocolate (the parmesan of the dish)

 Crushed up pistachios

Crushed up pistachios

 The final and delicious product! 

The final and delicious product! 

White Chocolate Mandarin Orange Cake

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Ingredients:

Cake:

  • Room temperature butter, for greasing
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (6 oz/170g) white chocolate dipping wafers (see Note)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (f you do not have buttermilk, which I never do, put 1 tsp of vinegar in 1 cup milk and let sit for a minute and mix)

For the mandarin apricot jam (between the layers of the cake)

  • 1 lb (about 4 medium) mandarin oranges
  • 1 (250 mL) jar apricot jam
  • 1/2 cup mandarin orange juice

For the icing (between the layers and for the top of the cake)

  • 1 cup (6 oz/170g) white chocolate dipping wafers
  • 1/4 cup half and half (10%) cream
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, plus some for dusting
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp. orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, or mandarin orange juice (I actually used this inside the mandarin apricot jam for added flavour)
  • 3 mandarin oranges, peeled and pulled in segments
  • 2 Tbsp. shelled, unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped (I opted out of using pistachios)
  • Fresh mint sprigs (I opted out of using these as well  

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease 2, 8” round cake tins with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place dipping wafers and warm water in a small pot. Set over low heat and stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and set aside. Mix 1 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in second bowl, beat until well blended. Next beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Slowly mix in the melted white chocolate mixture. Divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake the cakes for 35 to 38 minutes, or until golden.

Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans. Run a paring knife around the outside of each cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove cakes and let cool to room temperature. 

To make jam, peel oranges and separate each orange into segments, and then cut each segment in half. Place orange slices, apricot jam and orange juice in a small pot, I also added the Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and reduce to a simmer until reduced, about 30 minutes. Cool jam to room temperature, and then refrigerate until needed.

To make the icing, place white chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Mix until they are melted and blended with the cream. Remove bowl from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until well blended. Slowly mix in the melted white chocolate mixture.

To finish the cake, place one of the cake rounds on a work surface, hold it in place with the palm of one hand and use your other hand to hold a sharp serrated knife. Use the knife to cut the cake horizontally in half. Now cut the second cake in half. Place some of the icing in the centre of your cake plate, and then set on one of the cake halves, cut side up. Spread the top of that cake with 1/4 of the frosting. Now spread that icing with a 1/3 of the mandarin apricot jam. Repeat with rest of layers. Spread the rest of icing on the top of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with mandarin orange segments.

 The cakes ready to go in the oven

The cakes ready to go in the oven

 Making the Mandarin Apricot Jam while the cakes were cooking

Making the Mandarin Apricot Jam while the cakes were cooking

 After the cakes were cooled, Dave helped me cut them in half

After the cakes were cooled, Dave helped me cut them in half

 White Chocolate Icing and Mandarin Apricot Jam, ready to start layering! 

White Chocolate Icing and Mandarin Apricot Jam, ready to start layering! 

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The Best Pumpkin Pie (In my opinion)

 My grandmother's recipe

My grandmother's recipe

This past Thanksgiving, which was a few weeks ago, I made my grandmother's famous pumpkin pie. This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember and is one of her best. I made it for a one of three Thanksgiving dinners at a friends house for a potluck and it was a hit! Even the few Irish who had never had a homemade pumpkin pie enjoyed it. Best served with a dollop of my family's secret whipping cream. 

 Miniature pumpkins (also know as gourds) grown at my parents house

Miniature pumpkins (also know as gourds) grown at my parents house

Pumpkin Pie: 

  • Mix together 3 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Add 4 lightly beaten eggs combine with 1/4 cup melted butter
  • Blend well with pumpkin mixture
  • Pour in 10 inch pie crust (I cheated and did not make my pie crust)
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes
  • Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes or until set 
 The delicious ingredients coming together

The delicious ingredients coming together

 Before...

Before...

 After...the final product! Don't forget to eat it with maple syrup whipping cream

After...the final product! Don't forget to eat it with maple syrup whipping cream