Archive for the ‘Cake’ Category

Sitelle and I have been negligent posting as of late.  She has been off camping in Northern Ontario, while I moved back to Halifax to continue writing my thesis.  Now that the boxes are unpacked, my kitchen is back in full working order, so I am ready to get busy in the kitchen!

Two of my close friends celebrated their birthdays in the last few weeks.  The birthday girls decided on peach cheesecake, so I tackled baking the second cheesecake of my life.  While I love cheesecake, it seemed like such a finicky dessert that I largely avoided baking it.  I found a recipe on Epicurious that looked both simple and delicious.  The recipe below is a slight modification of the original recipe, incorporating a few changes reviewers recommended.

This is a New-York style cheesecake that bursts with autumn flavour.  The peaches add a little panache while the cake itself is decadent and smooth.  Making the cheesecake is fairly simple, although with so many steps, it can be time intensive. This is a great recipe to make ahead – the flavours only intensify if you refrigerate it for a day or two!

Peach Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

(9-inch cheesecake, about 12 slices)



1/2 package gingersnap cookies (about 1/2 pound)

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of cinnamon


5 peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Cheesecake filling:

32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (that’s 4 cups, or 4 8-ounce packages)

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1/2 cup peach jam

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 large peach, peeled, pitted, very thinly sliced


For crust:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Coarsely grind gingersnap cookies in food processor. Add ginger, cinnamon, and butter and blend until moistened. Press crumbs over bottom and 1 inch up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Cool on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling:

Combine peaches, 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon juice in heavy large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and peaches are juicy, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until peaches are tender and juices thicken, about 5 minutes.  Place compote in freezer and cool until at room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream and vanilla. Spoon a generous half of cheese mixture (about 4 cups) into crust. Spoon peach compote over by tablespoonfuls, spacing apart. Top with remaining cheese mixture.

Bake cheesecake until puffed, set in center, and beginning to brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off oven with the cheesecake still inside, and allow the oven to cool (I left mine in overnight). Remove cheesecake from oven and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

For glaze:
Combine jam and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until glaze just comes to simmer. Strain into small bowl. Release pan sides; place cheesecake on platter. Spread glaze over top of cheesecake to within 1/4 inch of edge. Chill cheesecake until glaze sets, at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Just before serving, arrange peach slices in center of cake.

Bon appetit!

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My grandmother’s carrot cake is to die for.  Moist and beautifully textured with nuts and coconut, it is unsurprising that our family often requests this cake for birthdays.  I only discovered a few weeks ago that her secret is to follow Silverpalate‘s carrot cake recipe.  Written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, their recipes are classic, perfect for special occasions.

About 18 months ago, I made a bet with my friend Leslie.  We agreed that the loser would have to bake the other their favourite cake.  I promptly lost the bet, and ever since we have jokingly agreed that I better remit sooner rather than later.  Last night, I finally had the chance to pay out my debt, so I decided to cook the most sumptuous carrot cake I had tasted, this Silverpalate recipe.

This cake spares no frills (and is sadly not for a calorie-watching individual), decently filled with walnuts, coconut, and pineapple.  Surprisingly there is less carrots than coconut!  The cream-cheese frosting is smooth and tangy, a beautiful complement to the spiced carrot cake.  Leslie decided that this cake was more than worth the cake – although she is now threatening that due to the 18 month delay in remittance, I owe her a second carrot cake from the interest!


Carrot Cake

(10 to 12 slices)




3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cup canola oil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1 1/3 cups puréed cooked carrots

3/4 cups drained crushed pineapple



8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temperature

3 cups icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 9-inch layer cake pans lined with wax paper.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.  Add oil, eggs and vanilla.  Beat well.  Fold in walnuts, cocount, carrots and pineapple.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until edges have pulled away from sides and cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.  Slowly sift in icing sugar and continue beaing until fully incorporated and frosting is smooth.  Stir in vanilla.

Fill cake and frost sides with cream-cheese frosting.  Dust top with icing sugar.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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A favourite summer cottage dessert has long been rhubarb delight.  Featuring a strawberry-rhubarb base with a cake topping, I have yet to meet a friend or family member who does not polish off this dish.  What always amazed me is how delicious this dessert tastes despite reminding me of a 50s cookbook: the secret ingredient is strawberry jello.

If your garden is overflowing with rhubarb, this is an easy recipe to provide delicious comfort food.  Rhubarb delight a la mode was a wonderful way to polish off a bbq dinner on my cottage dock!

Rhubarb Delight

(makes a 8 by 11 inch pan – about 12 good-sized servings)


4 cups chopped rhubarb

3/4 cup sugar

3 ounce package of strawberry jello

1 package white cake mix (single layer)

1 cup water

1/3 cup margarine


Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place the rhubarb in a greased 8 x 11 inch pan.  Sprinkle sugar over rhubarb, followed by strawberry jello powder.  Sprinkle cake mix over jello.  Pour water over all.  Dot with margarine.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Cool and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or serve warm). Delicious served a  la mode on a lazy summer evening!

– Catherine

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I am a well-known peanut butter lover (case in point: as I type this, I am munching away on a peanut butter cookie). So when my friend’s birthday rolled around, I volunteered to make a birthday cake.  Flipping through an old Joy of Cooking, I came across a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes.  Now, I may have had a hole in my upbringing, but I had never before eaten a peanut butter cake.  So clearly this cake needed to be tried.

unsurprisingly, peanut butter cake is as delicious as it sounds.  Inspired by the flavours of reeces peanut butter cups and leftover icing, I decided to pair the peanut butter cake with chocolate icing.  Served with a glass of cold milk and topped with some raspberries (everything is tastier topped with raspberries), this cake was a hit!

Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

(serves 12)




1/3 cup butter

1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided

Generous 1/2 cup peanut butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup milk


3ish tablespoons butter

At least 3 or 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2-3 tablespoons of cold coffee (the stronger, the tastier)

A lot of icing sugar


Raspberries, if desired



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat the butter until soft, then add 1 cup of the brown sugar and the peanut butter.  Blend until fluffy.  Add and combine until light the eggs, remaining brown sugar, and vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Add the sifted ingredients in 3 parts alternately with the milk.

Pour into two 8 inch circular pans (or 22 muffin cups), and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool.

To make the icing, cream together the butter, cocoa powder, and coffee.  Incorporate icing sugar until chocolate-mocha icing is thick, yet spreadable.  Adjust cocoa/coffee proportion to your liking!

When cake is coolish, remove from pan.  Place the first round on a plate and smother the top with chocolate-mocha icing.  Place the second round on top and spread the remaining icing over the cake.  Decorate with raspberries. Serve with a large glass of milk!
– Catherine

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For as long as I can remember, my family has always enjoyed coffee cake for Christmas and Easter brunch.  We would eat it at our dining room table still warm from the oven, with bacon and a selection of my mother’s homemade jams.  I spent my first ever Easter away from home this year, and I could not bare to break tradition.  So for brunch, I made my great-grandmother’s coffee cake in all its glory: absolutely fluffy with a delicious pecan cinnamon crunch.

Coffee Cake 

(10 generous slices)


1/2 cup butter

1 Tbsp Crisco

1 cup white sugar

3 eggs, one at a time

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cup flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 generous tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are my favourite, but walnuts are delicious too)


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream the butter, Crisco, and white sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, the sour cream and the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in a separate bowl to make the crumbs.  Place half the batter in a greased tube or bunt pan – it will be thick so you will have to tease it to spread evenly.  Sprinkle with half the crumbs.  Add the remaining batter, followed by the crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Delicious served warm with fresh berries!

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I can’t believe I missed it. The perfect day to launch my own very first completely invented recipe.

It was national pineapple up-side down cake day on April 20. What was I thinking? Honestly. I am eternally grateful to a pair of savvy radio commentators for reminding me before it was all too late.

I have been so excited to post this recipe for a long time. It has a very special story behind it.

Now over two months ago I headed to Belize with 12 other students from the University of Toronto to study Indigenous perspectives on food security and health. Perhaps surprisingly, we all got along well, and were totally mind-boggled by the amount we learned. In 10 days, I can easily say I learned a lot more than I did in my entire undergraduate experience, especially in terms of what I still remember. There’s something about learning by experience that cannot be beat. The experience was amazing, to say the least.

On the third day of our trip, we stayed in Hopkins, a most charming Garifuna Village on the Caribbean coast. We happened to be staying in a beach house (totally unexpectedly) which had a stove. I knew it was one of the student’s birthday that day, so I decided to bake a cake with ingredients I could find in the stores near-by, and to invent a recipe based on them since I had none to work with. I borrowed a cake pan from a chef at a restaurant down the street. Honestly, it was a really neat experience.

Being in Belize, there was pineapple, like no other I have ever tasted. What I have tried in Canada probably amounts to an abomination. I found eggs, sugar, and flour near-by.

To top it off, I used delicious dark rum to flambé the cake just before serving, instead of candles. It was quite the treat. Thank you to 2 of my friends for the photos!


-1 very fragrant pineapple, peeled and cored
-1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I’d recommend substituting this with butter if possible for even more flavour)
-3 Tbsp brown sugar
-1 Tbsp dark rum

-4 eggs, separated
-1 cup milk
-2 Tbsp rum
-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
-3/4 cups sugar
-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-4 tsp baking powder


Preheat oven to 375F. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Gently caramelize the sliced pineapple for 15-20 minutes with the brown sugar.  Add the rum after about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the milk, rum, vegetable oil, and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg thoroughly. Beat the egg whites to medium-firm peaks (chill the whites, the bowl and whisk if possible – and if you have 1 tsp vinegar that also helps to add after they begin to stiffen).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Then fold in 1/4 of the stiff egg whites gently.  Then incorporate the remaining egg whites carefully, gently, and quickly.

Pour the caramelized pineapple into a greased rectangular oven dish, and then the batter over top. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Use a butter knife to cut the edges away from the pan, and invert onto a plate or platter, so that the pineapple is on top.  Then I heated up 3 Tbsp rum in a pan over medium heat for 1 1/2 minutes, and lit it carefully on fire and poured it over the cake for the flambé.

This cake could be accompanied by whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but is completely delicious on its own. I hope you enjoy it!


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Chocolate Banana Cake

When I was in my second year of undergraduate, I volunteered in Toronto’s north end, reading with a grade 2 class. The students were over 90% first- or second- generation Canadians, and they found reading an incredible challenge. They taught me the virtues of patience and perseverance: it was magical to watch their literacy skills grow over the year. During my last session, they surprised me with a beautiful baking book, Baking: Simple to Sensational

This year, I decided to volunteer in a homework club, in the North end of Halifax where the kids similarly struggle to read. We had our final session last Wednesday (where I learned that if you don’t watch kids near an open box of cookies like a hawk, they will eat ten!), and it inspired me to flip through the baking book and reminisce about Toronto. I was seeking a chocolatey dessert, and this beauty caught my eye. With the promise of dense, moist, and with a velevety chocolate glaze, I was hooked. Chocolate cake on its own is delicious, and the bananas were sure to add depth. The resulting cake quickly evaporated (especially when served with homemade whipping cream)!

Chocolate Banana Cake
(serves 8-12)

4 semi-sweet chocolate baking squares, chopped (4 ounces total)
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 small banana, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup whipping cream
4 semi-sweet chocolate baking squares, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of a greased 9 inch round pan with waxed paper (I used a springform pan). Grease the waxed paper and the pan.

Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter until smooth. Allow to chill for five minutes. Meanwhile, sift all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients. Create a well in the flour mixture, and mix the wet with the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate mixture, and blend until smooth.

Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool completely and transfer to a plate.

For the ganache, heat whipping cream until bubbles start to form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate. Mix until the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Pour and spread over cake top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour. Serve with whipping cream!

– Catherine

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