(Cup)cake Amsterdam

Did I ever tell you about my cake tasting experience in Amsterdam when I was originally planning my destination wedding?  As a diligent researcher I spent my time finding different bakeries in the city, plotted them all out in Google Maps and reached out to a few who I thought would fit the bill.  In the short period of time I spent in the city I corresponded with a few and only visited one (actually two- but that is part of the story) for a tasting.

Our tasting at the first place was quite standard.  We discussed cake expectations, number of guests and potential flavours.  What I didn’t realize before speaking with the baker was how vastly different Dutch wedding cakes were from North American wedding cakes.  On the outside the cakes look the same, but the type of cake and filling that is used is different.  If you are expecting a spongier, moist consistency with buttercream, think again.  I tried something delicious called (pardon my French) called a “chocolate slut” that was the consistency of a dense chocolate brownie with dried cherries and nuts.  Delicious, but not what I imagine in a wedding cake.  The same goes for the version of carrot cake I tried.  Decent tasting but it was missing all the spices, the spongy texture and the cream cheese icing.  I also sampled a few vanilla cake items with creams and mousses inside.  Not the texture for me.  Fundamentally, there was nothing wrong with what we tasted, it just wasn’t right for us.

On my second last day of wedding planning, discouraged and upset over the thought of not having a delicious piece of cake I could identify with at my wedding, I found Zoe at Cake Amsterdam.  Zoe is a New York City expat living and running a successful baking/catering business inc the city.  When I contacted her, she was nice enough to squeeze my fiance and I in for a tasting (I got hopelessly lost trying to find the shop along the canals of the RLD) and finally, our taste buds were at peace.  We sampled a round of cupcakes in death by chocolate, lemon coconut, carrot cake, red velvet, and Dutch orange (vanilla cake with an orange citrus buttercream).  All flavour combinations were outstanding, the cake was the right consistency and the buttercream was sweet and not too buttery.


We were so pleased that we had found a North American baker living in Amsterdam and had a lovely baking conversation during our tasting in her shop.

Photo Source: Cake Amsterdam

While my excitement may be bordering overkill, if you have lived as an expat anywhere, sometimes when you find something familiar to the palate you appreciate it just a bit more.  We were sorry that we weren’t able to work with Zoe in the end, as we moved the wedding back to Toronto, but we look forward to the next time we are in the city.  Her bakery is not to be missed if you are craving a North American style (cup)cake.


I feel like having a party

For some reason, I got home from teaching today and I felt like dressing up and having an afternoon party. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather, my excitement over my party clothes shipment from Asos.com or the fact that I am looking forward to baking 30 lemon cupcakes for the weekend.  Something says it is time to entertain.  In my fantasy entertaining world, if I was to dream up my afternoon party I would make sure to fill my table and home with the following items.

1. Flowers from Saipua in Brooklyn.  I like how the fuscia stands out from the pack.

via saipua

2. Invitations, hand done by Plurabelle Calligraphy. I like the look of the calligraphy on the chalk boards below.

via plurabelle calligraphy

3. This ombre cake by Apt2B Baking Co. first because I love ombre, second because the cake is almond, another fav.

via apt 2b baking co

4. Chocolate pumps for my guests from Jordino in Amsterdam. I swear these things call out to you when you walk by the window.  I want to crunch on a chocolate shoe with sprinkles.

via foursquare

5. Finally, a fun mix of colourful and interesting table top items to accessorise the food and drink. Yes, I threw in two bright clutches, not as a table top accessory but more as a thought of what my guests would be holding to brighten up their outfits.


Party time


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Top Five Hotels for 2012

Last year, I made a solid dent in my European exploration goals and was fortunate to travel to Madrid, Amsterdam, Milan, Florence, London, Berlin, Vienna, Prague (I live here- so it’s a given), Rovinj, Graz, and Linz.  I walked, ate, and window-shopped my way through these cities and merely scratched the surface of these destinations.  When I travel, I subscribe to the slow travel philosophy and would rather let a city unfold by taking in fewer sites and up-ing the neighbourhood strolls, cafe pauses, grocery and market shops and check out tips from spotted by locals.   As 2012 gets underway, another year of travel is upon us and my research is in full force.

I typically scour websites, articles, blogs, Hipmunk, Airbnb and Tripadvisor to figure out where I want to go and stay.  So far, here are my top five hotels that have made my list of where I would like to stay in 2012.  I think I’ve got my bases covered with sun, mountains, vineyards, a loft and a historic retrofit-turned modern hotel. On a slightly unrelated note to hotels, is anyone familiar with these two travel resources: Magazine Hidden Europe or the Matador Network ? I just stumbled upon both and I am excited to give them a read for recommendations- they look very rich in information.

Here are my top five picks of hotels that look down-right awesome.

5. Vivere Suites and Rooms, Arco Trento, Italy-This place looks super relaxing nestled in the mountains of North Eastern Italy in Arco Trento. You can drink wine from Vivere’s vineyard and indulge in delicious Italian food. Sign me up!

via splendida

4. Hillside Beach Club, Fethiye, Turkey- Tucked into a secluded bay on the Aegean coast, Hillside Beach Club looks like  a massive, but fun holiday village with 333 rooms on the property.  Now, I am not the person who usually has their bags packed and runs to a “holiday village” but I am willing to make an exception for Hillside Beach Club.  As a place to explore, relax and recharge, it looks terrific.  Plus, it has received some impressive reviews.  25+ weather from April to October isn’t bad either. They have five categories of rooms (A-E) and lots of activities.

via latebreaks

3. The Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands- I am super excited about this place, and slightly biased because this is where I am getting married.  I fell in love with the Conservatorium the first time I discovered it while it was still under-construction. The Conservatorium represents my favourite type of architecture because it takes something old and turns it into something new while preserving the past.  This hotel was an old bank (you can see pigs in the wall tiles), opposite the Van Gogh museum.  The property was purchased, gutted, re-designed, renovated and received a new look by Italian architect Piero Lissoni including massive glass addition that is simply stunning. You’ll here more about this one as I get closer to the wedding.

via holland.com


2. Matelote, Antwerp, Belgium- Cosy, utilitarian and modern is what comes to mind when I think about staying at the 12 room Hotel Matelote in Antwerp.  I love the look of the loft bedrooms and neutral colour palette designed by local, Peter Deelen.

via tripadvisor

1. Feldmilla Design Hotel, South Tyrol, Italy- This is a family run hotel with 35 rooms located in the Valle Aurina (Italian), a valley on in the South Tyrolean Alps that boast peaks of 9,850 feet.  Feldmilla is where I would go to connect with nature, hike the mountains and relax.  I am particularly interested in visiting/supporting this hotel because they have a strong sustainability policy part of ClimatePartner. The hotel is climate neutral and does its bit to reduce CO2 with their own hydroelectric generator on site.  On the food end, their restaurant can accommodate gluten free and lactose free (I’m neither)- but always good to know!


via groupon.at


Moeder Babelutte: What Candy Should Be

Last week in Amsterdam, I had a make-up session with the talented Joeri Vanhove, owner of the amazing store, Red Carpet Queen.  In conversation with Joeri, we were talking about all things food and dining related in our respective countries and he mentioned that Belgium is home to delicious, and gourmet food.  Everywhere you go, they do it gourmet in that country.  I hung on to this gem of information and decided to do a bit of research, having never been to Belgium myself.

I came across a delicious looking candy and confectionary shop that has 10 locations across Belgium called Moeder Babelutte.   The story behind Moeder Babelutte began in 1850 when a woman named Rosalie Desmat and her husband moved to Heist, Belgium. While her husband worked, Rosalie made batches of her mother’s recipe for a candy called Butter Babelutte, which she sold to weathly English and French children who were visiting the coastal town.  A babelutte is like a caramel made with brown sugar, milk, wheat flour, cinnamon and biscuits.  The candy became so popular with the residents of Heist, Rosalie’s candy making turned into a business, Moeder Babelutte.  Over 100 years later, Moeder Babelutte has been revived and expanded.  Has anyone been to Belgium and tried a Moeder Babelutte caramel or chocolate?  I can’t wait to go.

All photos via Moeder Babelutte 


Exchange Hotel

If you have a preference to stay in boutique hotels when you travel and like avant-garde art, have I found the hotel for you.  I was in Amsterdam last week working on the wedding plans and toured several hotels around the city.  One of the most interesting hotels I visited was the newly opened Exchange Hotel .

Located down the street from Central Station, the Exchange Hotel is the sister hotel to Amsterdam’s Lloyd Hotel and replicates the room system of offering guests the choice between 1 – 5 star hotel rooms in the same building.  On a design front, the hotel teamed up in a creative partnership with the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and commissioned the school’s students to design the hotel rooms.  The result is that no two rooms are the same and I can confirm, having toured five or six of them, the rooms are spectacular works of art.  Examples of themes include a pinhole camera, the Marie Antoinette room, the mattress room and a room that looks like a hooped petticoat structure.  I will share with you that my only disappointment in this innovative property, is their lack of AC in rooms.  I think AC is a necessity in this day and age, however I am sure there are loads of people out there willing to forego AC in the summer for cool digs.

Another great feature of the Exchange Hotel is its cafe and contemporary department store, Stock and Options.  Their cafe, Stock, is a much-needed retreat on a strip of fast food, touristy junk.  Stock has your typical cafe roundup of items such as smoothies, yogurt, muesli, coffee, tea, croissants and some sweets but really stands out from the crowd due to its beautiful interior design.

Options, their contemporary department store, is the third gem tied to the hotel.  Options is a showcase for all things design.  It is a terrific store for both local and international design brands and will quickly become a favourite of locals and tourist alike looking for something special.

via another travel guide

via style sight

via trend land

via petite passport

via kleur inspiratie


Raw Materials

I am heading back to Amsterdam next week to continue planning the details of the wedding.  I have a list of vendors to check out and I think, by the time spring rolls around, I will be an Amsterdam event planning expert.  Researching and interviewing vendors is a fun process and I am looking forward to my task.

One store, non-wedding related, that I look forward to returning to, is a shop I found on my last visit called Raw Materials.  Raw Materials is recycled, reclaimed and reused materials at its best- in furniture format.  The store, almost museum-esque, merchandises its products over three floors.  Walking around inside is truly a sensory overload to those interested in recycled, natural products like myself.  Raw Materials carries a broad range of items from lighting, and chairs, to dishes, tables, floor rugs, ceramics and textiles.   One could easily outfit an entire house with the products they offer or, at the very least, walk away with a unique accessory to decorate a room.    I hope these pictures are a bit of a tease, but really, you have to check out the store yourself next time you find yourself in Amsterdam!

via style made simple

via remodelista

via ffffound

via youropi

via vosges paris

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