Taste The Rainbow

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With World Pride soon to be hosted in my fair home city and with our final meeting of the inter-school Gay-Straight Alliance this coming Tuesday, I set myself to baking this past weekend.

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What does one bake for a GSA party? Rainbow cupcakes, naturally!
Rainbow confetti on the inside, rainbow icing on the outside.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

…and I finally got around to doing some festive baking!

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We are among the very lucky ones who were not affected by the ice storm and the widespread power failures that have left so many people without power or heat in these terribly cold days, so I was able to do a bit of baking to take to our neighbours. I love to bake for the holidays and it is always a pleasure to do so, but this year I was also full of gratitude to be warm and cosy in our well-lit, comfortable house. My heart goes out to all those who are still waiting for the lights and heat to come back on.

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I made my annual batch of chocolate shortbread cookies, jazzing them up a bit this year by dipping them in melted chocolate and sprinkling them with chopped-up candy canes. I added some peppermint extract to the melted semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate, just to give it a bit of festive flair.

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I wrapped them up in tubes of parchment paper, tied up with some green velvet ribbon, and delivered them to the neighbours, but I bet Santa would be happy to find a plate of these waiting for him this evening as he makes his rounds!

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A Sweet Tea Party

One of the current bridal shower trends I love is the old-fashioned tea party. It combines a whole passel of lovely things: sweets, antique dishes, flowers, fancy silver….cake bunting!

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Today’s post is about just such a shower, organized and styled by my talented colleague, JG. The woman puts Martha Stewart to shame and her talents in the kitchen are legendary among those who know her.
Who better, then, to create the vision for the dessert table at her pal’s bridal shower?

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The wedding’s colour scheme is purples and lavenders and, thus, so were the sweets & the dessert buffet decor. Add some pretty washi tape mini-bunting
–(we had a joint brainstorm to add the pompoms to the bunting– isn’t it darling?!)–
a vintage silver tea service, some hydrangeas and some vintage tea cups & saucers and you have a beautiful, old-fashioned, feminine bridal shower.

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Yes, those are TRIPLE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES with purple sugar sparkles.

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Teapot-shaped, lavender-tinted shortbread? Yes, please!

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All photos by J. Goldberg, who was kind enough to let me share all this prettiness here.

Tiny, Perfect Cake

Here is how I packaged up the wee little cake I put together for a friend last week.

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First, I cut out a cardboard circle to go under the cake and then wrapped the whole thing in waxed paper, to keep the jam and the icing from bleeding through the wrapping. Next, I cut a strip of parchment paper to size and wrapped it around the cake, leaving the top open.

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Some washi tape and some glitter tape, plus a bit of grosgrain ribbon added a bit of pizzazz. Then, I wrapped the stem of a canvas flag in the same washi tape, for a sort of circus-y, birthday party-ish vibe. I hand-stamped the message onto the flag in blue ink (I’m a fan of vintage slang) and then popped the flag into the centre of the cake.

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A plastic gift bag and a string of sequins were the final touches. I used the glitter tape on the ends of the sequin string to keep it from unravelling– it would be sad to give someone a cake wrapped in the bedraggled, de-sequined remains of something so pretty! ūüėČ

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Sweet Treat

Here is an easy, sweet treat you can whip up for your sweetheart or for a friend.
I made this one for the birthday of a friend & colleague.
What is more decadent than a teeny, tiny cake all for yourself?

I used Paula Deen’s recipe for 1-2-3-4 Cake— it is so very easy and so very yummy!¬† It is a dense, rich cake that works perfectly for this project.¬†Once you’ve baked your cake, you’ll need a few supplies.

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I baked a simple slab cake from the leftover batter I used to make my honey his favourite treat for his birthday. I cut out two little circles using a pastry cutter (but you could cut out any shape you like; what about a heart for Valentine’s Day?) and then froze the remaining cake to use another day.

First, cut out your shape. I chose to cut two and make a double layer cake.

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Plop a big, delicious blob of yummy jam on top of one shape & spread it over the layer. Be generous!
(After all, if you are going to give someone a cake, make it count!)

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Next, mix a bit of icing sugar with some milk and add a drop of real almond extract. This is not an exact science; just mess about until you get a consistency you like. I opted for “drizzly.” Pour or spread it over your top layer– I did not ice the sides because I wanted the jam to be visible.

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Doesn’t it look yummy? I used raspberry jam for this one, but I think cherry jam would be delicious with a more spreadable chocolate icing… Or marmalade with a lemon/candied ginger icing… Or a caramel icing on both layers… Or add some lemon to the batter and ice it with cream cheese icing… Or add cocoa to the batter and ice it with key lime cream cheese icing…¬†The possibilities are endless– let your imagination run wild!

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I can’t wait to show you how I packaged it up in festive style!

Be My Guest

Stuck for hostess gifts? Teacher gifts? Something small and thoughtful to give a neighbour or a colleague?

I have a solution for you.
Make¬†The Barefoot Contessa’s Parmesan, Thyme & Black Pepper Crackers. They are incredibly quick and easy and they are beyond yummy!
I make a whole gigantic bunch of them and keep them in the freezer so I have them on-hand during the holidays.

I like to give them away in vintage mason jars, but glassine or paper bags, or pretty little boxes would be sweet, too.
Add a nice bottle of red wine and you have the perfect hostess gift for the festive season.

They are so quick and easy that you will have time to sit down and enjoy a few with a nice glass of wine while congratulating yourself on your cleverness in making such a thoughtful, delicious gift!

You’re welcome. ūüėČ

Have Your Cake & Eat It Too!

I am not much of a cook. I think if I didn’t HAVE to come up with something to make for dinner on a daily basis, go to the grocery store, make sure I am buying healthy, nutritious, appealing food to conjure into similarly healthy, nutritious and appealing meals, I might like it better. If, say, I had all the time in the world, the perfectly-functioning kitchen, an appreciative audience who would “ooh!” and “ahh!” and rave over my culinary prowess, the whole cooking thing might be less of a chore. Sound familiar?

But, like most people, mine is a harsher reality and, in it, making meals feels like drudgery.
(Yeah, yeah, First World Problem, I know.)

What I DO enjoy, however, is BAKING. Baked goods look pretty, so that makes me happy.
What makes me even happier, however, is EATING all those pretty baked goods! Nom!

I do spend a lot of time over on the Pinterest, pinning recipes I will (prolly) never make. Every now and then, a recipe shows up there that is quick, easy and yummy (my three key requirements!) and so I give it a try in a desperate bid to justify my Pinterest habit…

This recipe for Trisha Yearwood‘s Key Lime Cake has been all over¬†Pinterest, for good reason.
I loved the sound of it– Key Lime Cake? Yes, please!
I put aside my skepticism when I saw that it required a) a cake mix, b) lime Jell-o (really?!) and made it anyway.
Oh, boy, was I glad I did! It is super-easy and it tastes amazing.
A. MAZ. ING.

It has become my,¬†“Do you need me to bring something?” item when going to parties.
(I have perfected the art of volunteering-to-bring-dessert-before-the-hostess-can-ask-for-an-appetizer. Bad me!)

You can find the recipe here. And, if you make it, I suggest keeping only 1/3 of the recommended oil; substitute the remaining 2/3 with yogourt– less fat and the cake is just as moist, but not greasy.
Also, I skip the icing and just dust it with icing sugar. Yummy!