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I am a firm believer that the birthday girl should always get to choose her birthday cake. So when my friend Kaitlyn recently celebrated hers, she requested that I make a cake using this recipe, an old family favourite.

I was a little dubious – a gluten-free chocolate cake that claimed to be moist and intensely chocolately.  Boy was I ever proven wrong – this cake is amazingly rich, with one of the best structures I’ve ever tasted for a gluten-free cake.  It’s also super easy to mix up.  I decided to frost it with a White Chocolate Ganache, but the cake is tasty enough to stand on its own if you are in a pinch for time.

Best of all, my friend said that the cake easily converted to lactose-free too – all that’s needed is to substitute the butter for vegetable oil and milk to almond/soy milk.

 

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Carson & Rose Chen

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Carson & Rose Chen

Quinoa Chocolate Cake

(Original recipe from Quinoa 365: the Everyday Superfood)

No one will believe this chocolate cake is made with cooked quinoa —
no flour required. It is kid-friendly and gluten-free.

Serves 8-16

Ingredients

2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
1 1/3 cups water
1/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

1-1/2 cups white or cane sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce  to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the  covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a  fork and allow the quinoa to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 8-inch round or square cake  pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.

Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add  2 cups of cooked quinoa and the butter and continue to blend until  smooth.

Combine sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake on the centre rack for 40 to 45  minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before serving. Frost if desired.

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for up to a month.

Bon appetit!

 

– Catherine

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As the wintry weather continues to approach (it’s scary to say approach since it feels like beyond the winter I’m used to), I’ve been craving comforting meals in the warmth of our apartment. It’s funny because although I’m living in one of the bustling metropoles of the Northwest Territories (there are four, I am told, in total), the town is small at 3000 people, and has a couple of stop-lights. I cannot find half the spices I want in the grocery store (not even things you’d expect, like dried thyme), yet the baking isle is stocked with as many varieties of flour as your usual grocery stores in Ontario, or more. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that many people here take the time to bake their own bread and make their own preserves with the slower pace of life here. The smell of baking bread is not uncommon in the neighbourhood, and people definitely take baking their bread seriously – hence the large variety of flour available.

Tonight, as I thought about the chili we’d be having for dinner, I decided it was time to bake a Sunday night dessert. It’s apple season, so I’ve been going wild with apple-themed things, and this is no exception. It’s an upside-down apple-cinnamon and brown sugar cake, the perfect consistency to have with a hot chocolate, tea, or early afternoon coffee. It was completely invented in our kitchen, since the one cookbook we have here does not have a similar recipe, and we don’t have regular access to the internet (only at the library and those few times at school when we have free time). So, this is the first new recipe born out of Hay River!

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten, in a medium bowl

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

2 apples, sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 or 400 if your oven is on the cold side.

Grease a medium rectangular cake pan (we used a pyrex oven dish, maybe 6 inches by 9), and sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved, and then add melted butter.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre, add the wet ingredients to the well, and carefully incorporate all ingredients together, removing any lumps that are formed.

Toss the apples in the cinnamon and half the brown sugar and mix the remaining brown sugar with the butter. Line the bottom of the pan with apples, and cut the remaining apple slices into small chunks and reserve them. Sprinkle half the brown sugar-butter mix over the apples. Cover with half the cake batter, and sprinkle the remaining apples and brown-sugar butter over top. Top with the remaining batter.

Bake on middle rack in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired, and toffee syrup if you’re feeling particularly fancy – although it’s not necessary!

-Sitelle

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To accompany the cranberry sauce post I did a few days ago, here’s the recipe for an absolutely divine cheesecake we made for a dinner party last night. G. has been coaching boy’s volleyball, and last weekend he brought a big bag of his home-made chocolate chip cookies along for the team. They loved the cookies apparently, but the poor quality of the flour meant that before the boys managed to eat all of them many had disintegrated. He came home and announced we must make a cheesecake to use up the crumbs. Yes!

Warning! Bake this cake in the morning – it requires a lot of cooking and cooling and rest before you can serve it to your guests or bring it to a dinner party. It’s well worth the effort though, I promise. It’s lighter than many cheesecakes, and the nuts in the crust along with the browned butter make it absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (we used crumbs from the chocolate chip recipe at the back of the “chipits” chocolate chip bag, and picked out the chocolate chips we could find)

3/4 cups chopped pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup browned butter

Filling, first layer

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 lb (454g) cream cheese (this is two packages of philadelphia cream cheese, not one!)

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Filling, second layer

1 1/2 cups thick sour cream

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla or 1 Tbsp maple syrup

pinch of salt

1-2 cups Spirited Cranberry Sauce

Directions

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once it is melted, allow it to begin to bubble. Reduce the heat and watch it carefully until the bubbles start to get bigger and then smaller. Once they are tiny and look foamy, keep your eye out for little golden and then light brown specks in the butter. Remove it from heat immediately as the butter is now at the browned butter stage which is delicious as it tastes like hazelnuts but it can easily be burned. If you like you can keep a shallow pan of cold water next to your stove and when the butter is browned you can dip the bottom of the pan in order to kill the cooking process and protect your butter from burning.

Mix the cookie crumbs along with the brown sugar, and then pour the butter over that whole mixture. Mix well, and then press into a round, 2 1/2 inch deep springform pan (ideal… we don’t have anything of the sort though and managed well enough). Press the bottom and sides up to form an even crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you process the first layer of cheesecake. Remove the cream cheese from the fridge so it can soften a bit, as with the eggs.

Next, preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk all the ingredients for the first layer together, except the cinnamon. If you have a food processor, process them together. If not, as is the case with us, you can press it through a sieve several times with a spoon and that does the job too although it is a bit messier! Spoon that into the crust and bake for 20-22 minutes. When it is cooked remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. This takes several hours. Sprinkle the cinnamon over top of the first layer.

To make the second layer, preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the ingredients for the second layer thoroughly. Pour it all over the first layer. When the oven is ready, cook for five minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool first to room temperature and then to chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 6 hours before it is ready to be served.

Before serving, prepare spirited cranberry sauce, and drizzle over top.

-Sitelle

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A few weeks ago, I had an excuse to bake a celebratory cake.  While searching for a suitable recipe, a small side note from the “About Angel Food Cakes” section in  Joy of Cooking caught my eye: it suggested that to jazz up an angel food cake, to stuff it with lemon curd.  The complementary flavours of tangy lemon layered inside a light angel food cake captivated my imagination (not to mention my tastebuds).  I decided to finish the cake with a whipped cream frosting stabilized by rich mascarpone cheese.   Mascarpone is a rich, spreadable, Italian cheese, almost custard-like in flavour.  It helps thicken the frosting, while retaining the lightness of the whipping cream.

The cake was suberb – with the flavours melding perfectly.  For my parent’s wedding anniversary this weekend, I tried it out on my mother (who is a self-declared dessert connoisseur),  and she too declared it an absolute success. While slightly fiddly to assemble, it is certainly worth every second of effort!

Coincidently, a few weeks after my initial test run,  Canadian Living came out with a similar recipe for mother’s day.  I suspect most mothers would love this special dessert next Sunday!

Angel Cake with Lemon Curd and Marscapone Frosting

Makes one 10-inch angel food cake

 

Ingredients:

Angel Food Cake

1 cup sifted cake flour

3/4 cup + 3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 11 large whites)

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond abstract
 

Lemon Cheese

3 large eggs

1/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
 

Marscapone Frosting

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup marscapone

1/4 to 1/2  cup icing sugar, depending on your preferred sweetness
 

Finishing Touches

1 pint blueberries

Grated zest of 1 lemon
 

Directions:

Angle Cake

Note: The egg whites should be at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Have ready an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (preferably with removable sides).

Sift together three times the flour, 3/4 cup sugar and salt.  In a separate large bowl, combine the egg whites, water, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and vanilla.  Beat on low speed for 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture increases to 5 times in volume and resembles a soft foam, about 3-5 minutes.

On medium-high speed, beat in 1 tablespoon at a time, taking 2 to 3 minutes 3/4 cup sugar.  When all the sugar has been added, teh foam will be creamy white and hold soft, moist, glossy peaks that bend over at the points: do not beat until stiff.

Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture (about 1/4 cup) evenly over the batter and fold gently with a rubber spatula only until the flour is almost incorporated; do not stir or mix.  Repeat 7 more times, folding in the last addition until no traces of flour are visible.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread gently to level the top.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

When the cake is done, invert immediately and cool upside down in the pan, to prevent it from sinking.  Use the feet of the pan to hold it above the surface of the table or prop it higher by resting the tube on a bottle or inverted funnel.  Let the cake cool for at least 1 1/2 hours, until it is thoroughly set.

To remove the cake from the pan, slide a thin knive around the cake to detach it from the pan and the tube.  If you have removable sides, slide the knife under the cake to detach it from the bottom.  Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
 

Lemon Curd

Whisk together in a saucepan until light in colour the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest.  Add the fresh lemon juice and butter.  Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the butter is melted, the mixture is thickened  and simmers gently for a few seconds.  Using a spatula, scrape the filling through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla.  Let cool, cover, and refrigerate to thicken.
 

Marscapone Frosting

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk whipping ceam until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or cream will be grainy). In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.
 

Assembly

Using a very sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully cut the cake horizontally in thirds. Lay the bottom layer on a serving platter.  Gently spread half of the lemon curd over the cake.  Place the middle layer over the curd.  Gently spread with the remaining lemon curd.  Cover with the final third.

Using a frosting spatula (or a butter knife), frost the entire cake including tops and sides.  Decorate with blueberries and lemon zest. 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)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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)

 

Ingredients:

CAKE

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

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

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

 

Directions: 

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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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)

Ingredients:
CAKE
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

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

Directions:
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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