The Belated Birthday Cake

There are a lot of Libras and Virgos in mine and my husband’s families.  Between September 10th and October 21st there are seven birthdays that I can think of off the top of my head.  That is a lot of birthday cake to eat in the span of five weeks.  Could you imagine eating seven birthday cakes in less than one month? That is at least a cake a week and sometimes two per week.

Since moving abroad, we only get to eat “virtual” cake with our family members who celebrate in September and October- not a bad thing on the waist line- but of course it doesn’t beat the real thing!

This year, it turns out that my husband and I were out of the city travelling over both of our birthdays so no one got to bake or eat a “proper” birthday cake.  To rectify this birthday “injustice”, we made a belated birthday cake and celebrated with a few friends in Prague.

I set out to make a chocolate buttercream.  I went to the grocery store to find the appropriate baking chocolate but whatever I purchased was not what I thought it was and when I tried to make the chocolate buttercream the day before, it did not taste right, so I threw it out and started again.

Fortunately I had a bag of white chocolate chips sitting in my baking drawer on hand from an earlier out-of-Prague adventure that I’ve been meaning to use up.  I consulted my trusty “More from Magnolia” cookbook and decided to try Magnolia Bakery’s white chocolate buttercream frosting recipe which I paired with the vanilla butter cake recipe in Amy Atlas‘ “Sweet Designs” book.

Mix-mix-the Amy Atlas vanilla butter cake was simple, quick and a delight to work with. Love this cake, it is my new go to vanilla cake recipe!

30 minutes later, I had two beautiful 8″ cakes cooling on the wire rack making my kitchen smell amazing.

Next, the white chocolate buttercream.  I ran out of vanilla (liquid form) so I used vanilla bean paste instead which worked out quite well.  The bottle in the picture below is my LAST bottle of vanilla in Prague, so I have to reserve it for extra special baking going forward, or find a way to order Neilsen Massey online!

My white chocolate chips from Jane Asher, melt nicely in a double boiler on the stove top.

And poof! It magically turns into a double layer sprinkle covered belated vanilla birthday cake 🙂

We sliced into it after dinner and it was pretty sweet (tasting and deliciousness).

While I was assembling the cake, I thought to make four layers and perhaps put a layer of lemon curd or jam in between to cut down on the overly sweet white chocolate buttercream, but I was having trouble evenly cutting my layers so I nixed that idea and left it as a sweet, sweet cake.

Vanilla Butter Cake (from Amy Atlas’s book: Sweet Designs)

NOTE: I doubled her recipe and used two 8″ cake pans for taller cakes.  Her recipe indicates it makes enough for one 9-inch cake or 12 cupcakes.

1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp of salt (I omitted salt because I hate the salt I currently have- it makes things taste too salty)
3/4 cup whole milk (I used whatever milk I had in the fridge)

Heat oven to 350F.   Line your cake pan with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and continue beating while you add one egg at a time and then the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two parts alternating with the milk.  Beat for 1-2 minutes until the batter is smooth.  Transfer to your cake pan.

Bake for approximately 17-20 minutes (mine took longer because of my small oven and the need to cook a double recipe for longer)- Watch your cakes and test to make sure the centre comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

What type of icing do you like to pair with a simple vanilla cake?  Do you have the Amy Atlas book? Have you tried making this cake recipe before?  I wish there was a chocolate version.


Love This!: P-Vine Travel Guide Books + Welcome Beyond

I am getting set to do a bit of travelling in the next couple weeks and in my research, I stumbled across these lovely travel guide books from Japanese publisher, P-Vine Books.

"Good time" Nordic Yuriko Mori


"Brooklyn Neighborhood" Mayumi Akagi

Photo Source: P-Vine Books

Even though I cannot understand Japanese, these look like cool books to have on a coffee table.  The illustrations and photography are beautiful and would still be helpful, no doubt.

On a separate travel related note-  has anyone used or seen this travel site for booking unique apartments and boutique hotels?  I just found it yesterday and I am in loveeeeee. It’s called Welcome Beyond “Hand Picked Paradise.”  Had I found it earlier, I may have used it to book some of my honeymoon stops.  The properties on this site are unbelievable.  Most are apartments/houses to rent but I did see a handful of smaller, unique hotels on the site as well.

It is interesting to think about why we find things when we find them.  Welcome Beyond is not a new site, but I only learned about it yesterday.  I wonder what led me to it.

If I could re-book the hotels on my upcoming route using Welcome Beyond, I would look at saying at:

L’ancienne Post in Provence

42 Rue Victor Hugo in Languedoc-Roussillon

Alemanys 5 in Girona, Spain

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that Welcome Beyond is neat:

1. Yatzer: Welcome Beyond + interview

2. Flodeau: Welcome Beyond Hand Picked Paradise

3. Happiness Is: Welcome Beyond

4. Miss Moss: Welcome Beyond


Enjoy travel dreaming, dear readers! I hope this has provided some inspiration.






Leon and Khoo

As someone who has had the opportunity to live in different countries, I can assure you that it pays to have friends all over the world.  I mean c’mon, how else are you supposed to grow your cookbook collection if don’t have people’s bookshelves to browse?  Yes, I suppose blogs and Amazon recommendations will suffice, but sometimes browsing a REAL bookshelf is more fun than a virtual one.

A friend of mine in Prague, who shares my interest in cooking/baking, has a great cookbook shelf.  The other evening while my fiance and her were discussing her new website/editorial/writing services that she is launching in London, I decided to occupy myself by browsing her cookbook collection.

The Leon mini restaurant empire (they have multiple locations in London) is premised on buying and cooking with local ingredients, good, wholesome, high quality ingredients, low GI foods, and food to statisfy a range of dietary preferences from vegan and vegetarian to omnivore and carnivore!  I am totally going to a Leon restaurant next time I am in London (hopefully before the end of 2012).

#1 Leon: Naturally Fast Food (Two cookbooks – book 1 ( has it, is currently sold out) + book 2 can be pre-ordered for September 2012)


Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

#2 La Petite Cuisine A Paris by Rachel Khoo.   Rachel Khoo, the English born chef and writer who now lives and cooks in Paris.  Her cookbook, highlights her cooking, and experiences of moving to Paris, enrolling in a program at Le Cordon Bleu and cooking/showing how simple it is to make French food in her tiny kitchen.

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,


I am always interested in new cookbook recommendations.  If you have any, send them over by sending me a note in the comment section below.








I had too many carrots…

I opened my vegetable drawer to find out that I had too many carrots.  In my efforts to reduce my carrot supply, I set out to make a carrot cake.  Nothing like a carrot cake recipe that typically calls for 4 to 6 cups of grated carrots to burn through my stash.

I have had a page ticked down for a carrot bran brunch bunt cake from the LCBO‘s Food and Drink magazine (old issue) for weeks now and decided to do something about it.  I already went grocery shopping today and when I was assembling the ingredients, I realized I was short an egg (I had three out of four eggs).  After debating the potential baking repercussions of being short an egg in a cake, and not wanting to go back out and buy a dozen more eggs, I decided to regroup my baking initiative and look for a new recipe.  The problem is, when you look for a new recipe, you never have all the ingredients in your deviation plan, so you end up in the same spot you started out.  One egg short of a cake.

Carrots were on the brain.  Determined not to give up, I found a carrot cake recipe in the Rose Bakery (Paris) cookbook, Breakfast, Lunch, Tea,  that seemed a bit too decadent for what I was intending to bake (more healthy-brunchy-less rich carrot cake for dessert), but it was usable as a base.  I modified the recipe’s 2 cups of flour with a mixture of 1/2 cup white flour, 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup wheat bran and added a handful of golden raisins, 1/2 a can of pineapple chunks and another handful of crushed walnuts. I also skipped the frosting and tested it out with some blueberry jam.

I think it turned out well. It is a carrot cake mutt; a hybrid of several carrot cake-bread-loaf recipes which was transformed into something that turned out moist, crumbly and delicious.  (Thankfully- the baking gods do not always smile down on me when I get creative and mix different recipes!)

If you are looking for something a little more decadent, there is a great recipe here.


Homemade Granola + Weekend Roundup

It’s Monday! Where did the weekend go?  I just returned from teaching my marketing strategy class and was famished as usual after talking for two and a half hours, so I decided to make myself a vegetarian pasta lunch from scratch.  I can’t remember if I have ever taken the time to cook myself a “meal,” beyond a salad, soup or sandwich, for lunch.  Odd, lunch seems to have evolved into this meal in passing, during the week, where cooking and sitting down to eat lunch is more of an exception than a rule.

This past weekend was quite busy with lots of socializing.  Fortunately I had time to make my weekly batch of homemade granola that is a staple in our house.  Granola is one of my go-to breakfast/brunch staples and after reading and getting turned off from too many granola labels from store bought items, I was motivated to learn how to make a healthier version for my house.  I typically make a batch every 10 days depending on who is around and what we are doing and store it in a big Ikea jar.

I can’t tell you how easy it is to make granola if you’ve never tried.  My recipe is a combination of two recipes, plus room for creativity and flavour variation.  The first (it’s been a while), I believe came from a Toronto Star recipe about making your own granola without using oil (often used in store bought products).  Next, I later modified it to include quinoa, after testing out a recipe from the Quinoa 365 cookbook.

So far my recipe is as follow- Heat oven to 35oF or 180C (Europe)- if you want bake it slower I’ve also done this recipe at 325F.  Depends on how hot your oven is.

In a metal bowl, mix:

3 cups of oats (you can scale the recipe depending on how many batches/how much you need)

1 cup of uncooked quinoa

1/2 cup of slivered almonds, 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds (out of shell)

1/4 cup of wheat germ, 1/4 group flax seed (called Lindseed in Europe) (for protein, nutrients and fiber!)

2 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of nutmeg (omit if you don’t like nutmeg)

Then add 1 cup of honey and 1/2 or 1 cup of maple syrup to the dry goods and mix everything together.  Again you can alter the quantity of liquids (honey/maple syrup) but the point is that the dry goods should be covered, not soaking wet and drowning.  This is what helps bind the dry goods together while cooking, so once you’ve given everything a good mix, if it looks too dry, add more of something (honey or maple syrup) until you are satisfied that everything has been coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon out your granola mix on the sheet, pressing the mixture down in order to spread it out right to the edges of the pan.  If there is too much granola on the baking sheet, it may make more sense to split it into two batches.  I find a thinner layer of granola cooks more evenly and prevents burning, rather than piling the entire batch on one. (Up to you of course!)

Set the timer for 15 minutes to start.  At the 15 min mark, it is worth taking the granola out of the oven, mixing it around (especially the edges which will burn first if you don’t watch it), re-patting everything down and then putting it back in for another 10 minutes or so.  When the granola is golden brown it is time to take it out.  Let it cool either on the pan, or by pouring it back into the metal bowl. Once completely cooled, you can add any chopped dried fruit or other items such as cacao nibs or dark chocolate to the mix.  Store in an air-tight container and enjoy on top of yogurt, with milk or sprinkled on gelato.

Outside of my granola making efforts, I wanted to share a couple more tabs that I’ve left open all weekend in hopes of sharing with you these ideas that made me smile:

1. For our Sunday morning breakfast, my fiance made us Joy the Baker’s Smashed Raspberry, Chocolate Chunk Pancakes– quick thoughts- interesting recipe, uses very small amounts of brown sugar instead of white sugar.  We both thought the pancakes had a bit more of an elastic texture but still delicious and worth trying.

2.  I decided, this year I want to learn more about the science of cooking and just ordered myself a cookbook that I read about on Heidi’s recommended book list (101 Cookbooks) titled Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

3. Three new Berlin sites that will provide me with endless hours of reading on where to eat and shop when I visit the end of this month: Exberliner (not sure how I missed this one!), Uberlin’s food and drink section, and Cafe Kultur Berlin that sadly looks to be done updating its content but still has some terrific recommendations.

4. Design Seeds, for all you colour palette, inspiration board fanatics- this will be your new bf.

5. Raspberri Cupcake’s Salted Caramel Apple with Popcorn recipe (I’m dreaming of this for my wedding)

6. Finally, Call Me Cupcake‘s amazing, self-produced s’mores cupcake video.


Penguin Books Great Food Series

I am loving the Penguin Books Great Food Series, a collection of cookbooks with writing and recipes from the past 400 years.  Can you imagine trying a recipe that was created 200 years ago?

These books are more like artwork thanks to the stunning cover designs by Coralie Bickford Smith.  I think Penguin is on to something by trying to engage and connect with its design oriented consumers who would appreciate this type of product from a design perspective, different than your typical reader.  Why not make reading more fun, by jazzing up the covers and turning them into mini works of art that any cook, cookbook collector, or design enthusiast would proudly display (and read) in their homes?  There is even a blog that shows what the food looks like from some of the recipes in this collection of old cookbooks here.

via dustry burrito

via sue du jour


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...