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Chocolate Cake with Raspberries and Brown Sugar Creamcheese Frosting

I would wager that sometime in the near future you might have some friends over for dinner. Or maybe you’ll be invited to a party. As the excellent host that you are you’ll want to make a show-stopper dessert that your guests will love, and as a guest you’ll do as your mother taught you and ask what you can bring. Sure, a bottle of wine is great, flowers are a nice touch, but imagine if you offered to make dessert and showed up with this wicked beauty?

Uh huh. You’d be the hero of that dinner story. (more…)

Mini Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

I have never been a morning person. I religiously hit snooze at least 4-6 times every morning and the only way to get myself moving is to quite literally leap from the bed and get straight into the shower. The shower must then be followed by coffee. Only then, well snoozed, braced for the day by hot water and caffeine, do I really feel like myself and feel prepared for the day. It may seem crazy then, that I also don’t really like to sleep in very late. It’s less about the time, and more about the pace. If I can snooze and drift in and out of sleep for awhile and languish in bed until I’m restless, I don’t mind getting up early. On days that I am not at work, like weekends or vacations (like this week) I feel a nagging sense of “wasting the day” if I am in bed past 8:30 or 9 o’clock. Gone are the days where sleeping until 11 was a normal weekend occurrence. I must be getting older.

I find on days like today, when there is nowhere that I need to be, and I know that everyone else in the house is either off to work or school or will sleep later than me, that the mornings can be a very lovely time of day. The term “me time” gets tossed around a lot but we all need it; time to recharge our batteries, think without being interrupted and move at our own pace. This particular morning I awoke at 4:23 am due to horrendous sinus congestion. After getting up and dealing with that, I went back to bed, checked my email, jumped on Twitter and realized that I was surprisingly awake for such an unreasonable hour.

Since going back to sleep all stuffed up seemed impossible and I was almost feeling, dare I say, chipper, I slipped away from the bedroom, cats in tow, and put on the kettle and soon had the French press brewing. (If I have nowhere to be, I can often postpone the shower and skip straight to the coffee with no ill affects.) Sitting on the couch with coffee, my leg being deftly massaged by a small cat I decided that baking up something for breakfast would be nice. In step with the unseasonably cold and drab weather that we have returned to, I thought of pumpkin loaf. Once my cup of coffee was done and the cat had grown bored of me, I set off back to the kitchen and found the requisite can of pumpkin puree, but alas … no eggs.  Now, had this been 10 am, 2 pm, 7 pm, etc. I might have tinkered and tweaked a pumpkin loaf to not include eggs, but since it was only quarter past 5 at that point, I abandoned the pumpkin and turned to an old standby: Vegan Chocolate Cake from The Joy of Cooking.

This cake, which I often make as cupcakes, is simply delicious. It is very quick and easy to make, is not too sweet and is always a hit. Don’t be thrown off by the coffee in the cake or glaze, it does not give you the mocha-like effect you might expect it to. Instead it enhances and deepens the chocolate flavour, and a deep, dark chocolate flavour is what you want from chocolate cake, especially if it’s for breakfast.

Mini Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Glaze

adapted from The Joy of Cooking 1997 edition

preheat the oven to 350°

Swapping out butter and milk in baking is usually a simple accommodation if you are attempting a vegan recipe. Eggs can be a bit trickier if you are unfamiliar with substitutions. These cupcakes are vegan and therefore they are egg-less but they get their lift from baking soda and vinegar. If you don’t have balsamic on hand, white vinegar will do just fine, balsamic just adds a nice depth of flavour. I have made this recipe many times with great success with some or all of  the oil replaced by applesauce, making them low fat or fat-free. 

Grease or line 24 mini muffin tins (or regular sized 12 muffin tin) (or a 9″ round cake pan)

In a large bowl, combine the following dry ingredients, whisking well:

1 1/2 C flour

3/4 C light brown sugar

6 tablespoons cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

In a second bowl, mix the following wet ingredients:

1/2 C cold coffee

1/2 C cold water

1/4 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp vanilla

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, all at once, stirring well to combine. Scoop into muffin tin. Bake for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then pop the cupcakes out and let them cool completely on the wrack.

For the glaze:

Stir together

1/2 C icing sugar

2 Tbsp cocoa

2 Tbsp cold water

3 Tbsp cold coffee

Mix well until a smooth, glossy glaze is achieved. Dip the tops of the fully cooled cupcakes in the glaze, allowing excess to drip off. The glaze will firm up as it dries. If you are adding sprinkles, non pareils, etc., do so immediately after dipping to ensure they stick. Store the cupcakes, once fully cooled in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

Sometimes you get sick of eating fruit for dessert. There. I said it. It’s good for you, it’s hydrating, it’s sweet, and it’s lovely, but it’s not always what you want. With the onset of the summer months the jewel toned bounty of berries and stone fruits available is amazing, but sometimes you just want something more … rich. Ice cream and gelato are obvious choices, since they are so cool and luxurious. Cakes, crumbles, pies, cupcakes, and the like are all delicious too, but they require baking, and getting the oven cranked up to 350 or higher on a hot summer’s day is enough to make me want to cry.
Don’t lose hope, there is a saviour capable of meeting the requirements of sweet, soft richness without the use of heat.
Behold: the icebox cake. The “original” icebox cake is attributed to Nabisco’s retro-favourite: an assemblage of chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream made into a log and chilled. When cut it has a delightful striped black and white zebra-like pattern. [As a brief aside, if you are interested in eating zebra striped things, check out this cake from Banking Banter, the King Arthur Flour website blog.] All icebox cakes, are, by nature, bakeless, and I suppose even a no bake cheescake would constitute an icebox cake. Hence the term “icebox”. Although simple, and not usually a gastromical challenge, these sweet sweeties are easy to make, easy to eat and usually feed a crowd. In the case of this peanut butter icebox cake, all you need is a couple mixing bowls, some easy to assemble ingredients and room in your fridge for a 9×13″ pan and you will be rewarded with 24 servings of luscious peanut buttery confection … just in time to beat the heat!
Peanut Butter Icebox Cake
this is an adaptation of a Kraft recipe, so it called for all kinds of name brand items (totally unnecessary). I have also tinkered with some of the ratios, but to give credit where credit is due, this is not an original recipe.

1 lb (about 2-2.5 cups) chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup of butter, melted
1 x 250g brick of cream cheese
1/4 of a cup of sugar
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons of milk
2 packages of instant vanilla pudding
1/2 a cup of smooth peanut butter
3 cups of Cool Whip*

Mix the crumbs with the melted butter. Press onto bottom of 13×9-inch dish. Refrigerate for the 10 minutes or so that it will take you to mix up the rest of everything. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and 2 Tbsp. milk in a medium bowl with a whisk until well blended. Stir in 1-1/4 cups Cool Whip and smear the mix over the crust.

Prepare the pudding as per directions, using the remaining milk. Stir in the peanut butter and spread this over the cream cheese layer you just put down. Chill for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened and firm. Cover with remaining Cool Whip.

Chill for 4 hours or until fully firm before cutting into 24 pieces to serve.

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* don’t judge me! If you were eating this right away and taking it all to a party, etc. you could use whipped cream, however, whipped cream will deflate and separate in ways that the “edible oil product” texture of Cool Whip will not. Besides, you aren’t eating this everyday … but you will want to!

White Chocolate and Almond Blondies

 

 

It’s the height of strawberry season and everywhere you look in the market you will see baskets and bags brimming with ripe, red, ready-to-be-devoured berries. Strawberry shortcake is, of course, the quintessential strawberry dessert of late spring/early summer, but personally, I have always found it to be a bit disappointing. For me, the biscuit-type short cake of the classic dessert leaves much to be desired, so when the season hits and strawberries are bountiful and my taste buds yearn for something strawberry shortcake inspired, I look for other alternatives. (more…)

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate

copper mug of hot chocolate with a gingerbread man cookie cutter beside it I love The Holidays. This is my favourite time of year for so many reasons. I know that it is fraught with issues (like good old commercialism, etc.) but I love the sparkle and coziness of our winter months. I love gift giving and I love the food that all the world’s celebrations and festivals bring to light. For the most part, I’m a traditionalist. I celebrate secular Christmas and the treats are fairly typical but one less obvious or traditional flavour combination I adore is chocolate and gingerbread together. A few years ago I worked out a recipe for Chocolate Gingerbread Crackles after seeing a recipe for a chocolate gingerbread cake by Nigella. So when the team at Moscow Muled reached out with a pair of their copper mugs I was so excited to make a festive drink for the season. I pondered doing a twist on the traditional mule (vodka, lime, gingerbeer) but I knew these beautiful copper mugs (which feature in our Gift Guide) would be perfect for a very special hot chocolate.

Before I get to the ridiculously easy recipe for this Gingerbread Hot Chocolate, let me tell you more about these gorgeous cups. I had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica of Moscow Muled and it was delightful to hear so much passion and energy coming from a spirited entrepreneur. Moscow Muled copper mugs are 100% copper, hand made, and from my beloved hometown of Vancouver, Canada. Moscow Mule style cups are hot right now and they are easy to find in stores and online, but if you are in the market for them for yourself or as Holiday gifts for the foodies and entertainers on your list, I really do recommend you connect with Moscow Muled and buy their mugs. The quality is absolutely gorgeous and they are head and shoulders better than the ones I bought a few years ago (Moscow Mules are a great tipple to sip while you wrap gifts, I find). On top of being well made and beautiful in hand, these mugs are all for a good cause! Moscow Muled donates 15% of all profits to multiple non-profit organizations committed to preventing and stopping impaired driving – a really worthy cause and one that is extra important during the holidays when people are indulging and out on the town. Why not get a pair of these gorgeous copper mugs for yourself or someone on your gift list?  (more…)