Strawberry Cream Roulade

Strawberry cream roulade - what a treat.

Strawberry cream roulade – what a treat.

This past weekend my family got together to celebrate a very special lady: my mom. It was a gorgeous, warm sunny day that reminded me of all the great things there are to look forward to in the coming summer months. Like strawberries! This roulade cake that I made for the occasion was the perfect way to kick off strawberry season. I’ve made a few chocolate desserts in recent months but for Mother’s Day I wanted to make something light, fresh, and not at all fussy. This strawberry cream roulade looks super impressive but it was actually way easier to make than I imagined. I love the simplicity of this recipe – flour, eggs, sugar, strawberries, cream. That’s pretty much it. So wholesome. The cake turned out beautifully and it was no trouble at all to roll, which was obviously the part I was most nervous about. I found some sweet, juicy strawberries at the grocery store (not exactly local, but it is only mid-May) and this dessert really let them shine. Light, airy vanilla-scented cake, berry-stained cream filling, and clouds of whipped cream to finish. The whole family enjoyed this one, and according to my mom (who got dibbs on the leftovers, of course), it was even better the next day.

Strawberry Cream Roulade

Ingredients

Cake

  • Unsalted butter, for pan
  • 8 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt

Filling and frosting

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for work towel
  • 4 cups strawberries, washed, dried, and hulls removed

Directions 

  1. Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and line a rimmed jelly roll pan (15”x10”x1”) with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together until light in colour, 1-2 minutes. Stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake until cake springs back when touched, about 20 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven. This cake smelled so good.

Fresh out of the oven. This cake smelled so good.

Lay a clean kitchen towel flat on a work surface with one of the short ends facing you. Generously sprinkle the towel with confectioners’ sugar. While the cake is still warm, carefully flip it onto the towel, remove baking sheet, and peel off parchment paper. Using the dish towel, roll the cake away from you; allow the cake to cool in rolled position.

  1. Make the filling/frosting

Set aside 6 strawberries for garnish. Finely chop the remaining strawberries. Place heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium speed. Slowly add remaining teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Set half of the whipped cream aside. Gently fold chopped strawberries into the remaining half.

 

Finely chop or thinly slice the strawberries. If the pieces are too large, it will be more difficult to roll the cake.

Finely chop or thinly slice the strawberries. If the pieces are too large, it will be more difficult to roll the cake.

  1. Assemble the cake

Unroll the cake. Evenly spread the strawberry whipped-cream mixture over surface of the cake and re-roll. Trim the ends if needed. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and evenly spread the top and sides of cake with reserved whipped cream. Cut reserved whole strawberries in half lengthwise and place on top of the cake for garnish.

Spread the filling over the cake and carefully roll.

Spread the filling over the cake and carefully roll.

 

Pretty pink swirl. Love it.

Pretty pink swirl. Love it.

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Mocha ‘Forest’ Cake

Mocha forest cake for a cottage-themed birthday party!

Mocha forest cake for a cottage-themed birthday party!

A couple weeks ago I joined my sister and her fiancé at their cottage to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I was delighted when I was asked to supply the cake. I jump at any opportunity to make a cake because more than any other dessert, a cake screams “We are celebrating something special!” Plus it gives me a chance to work on my decorating skills, where there is definite room for improvement.

My sister has a mild chocolate addiction so I knew a chocolate cake was an absolute must. I turned to a tried-and-true recipe that makes a moist, rich, super chocolaty cake. This recipe makes enough batter for a three-layer 8” cake. I love the combination of chocolate and coffee (who doesn’t?), so I decided to use an espresso-flavoured whipped cream frosting. I left the frosting a bit uneven for a rustic, cottage-inspired look. Just kidding. I’m just not very good at frosting a cake smoothly. I also wanted to play into our beautiful, natural surroundings with the cake decorations. I found a great idea on Pinterest for some piped chocolate trees which turned out to be just perfect! I made these ahead of time, packed them between layers of parchment paper to survive the 2-hour car ride, and put them on the cake once we had arrived at the cottage.

Chocolate trees piped onto parchment paper

Chocolate trees piped onto parchment paper

This cake turned out to be a real winner. And I can tell you from experience, it’s even better with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Go on…try it.

Mocha ‘Forest’ Cake

Chocolate cake with espresso whipped cream frosting and chocolate trees

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Espresso Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ – ½ cup icing sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Chocolate Trees

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions

1. Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds. Lightly grease three 8-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Whisk together the sugars, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of a mixer for 2 minutes. In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the cocoa powder and mix gently until the cocoa is dissolved. Add the cocoa mixture to the batter and stir until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Lightly tap the sides of each pan to remove any air bubbles.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

2. Make the frosting

Place the cream, icing sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl. Whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the espresso. Continue to whip on medium speed until stiff peaks form.

3. Assemble the cake

Once the cakes have cooled completely at room temperature, pop them in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. Chilling the cake makes it easier to level and frost. Level the cakes and turn one over onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Top with about ½ cup frosting and spread all the way to the edges. Repeat with the second layer. Turn the third cake over onto the frosting, cut side down. Peel off the parchment paper. Use the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

4. Make the chocolate trees

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the chocolate chips in the top section of a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot) and set aside. Pour an inch or two of water in the lower portion of the double boiler and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and set the chocolate over the steaming water. Let the chocolate melt for 3 minutes, then stir gently until all the chocolate has melted and is smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat and allow to cool until it is firm enough that it can be piped through a narrow tip.

Spoon the chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. Pipe the melted chocolate into the tree shape on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill the trees in the refrigerator until they are hard. Once they are hard, carefully peel them off the parchment paper, pipe some chocolate onto the back of the trees, and place them on the cake. Use any excess chocolate to drizzle on the top of the cake. If you don’t plan to use the trees immediately, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip cookies

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip cookies. Om nom nom nom

You know what makes Mondays better? Cookies. Especially these Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip cookies. One of my best friends shared this recipe with me and now it’s my go-to cookie recipe for just about any occasion. Not that you need an occasion – all you need is a tall glass of milk to wash these down.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together peanut butter, butter, brown and white sugars until fluffy. Add mashed banana to butter mixture.

Cream together sugars, butter, and peanut butter.

Cream together sugars, butter, and peanut butter.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Roll cookie dough with hands into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Do not flatten. Place tray of cookies in freezer for 5-10 minutes. Bake for 8-10 minutes (you should see slight browning on top when they are done). Be careful not to overbake – these cookies are very soft when you take them out of the oven and firm up as they cool. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to wire cooling rack.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Once the chocolate chips are evenly spread throughout the dough, you're ready to roll. Be sure to chill 5-10 minutes before popping the cookie sheet into the oven.

Once the chocolate chips are evenly spread throughout the dough, you’re ready to roll. Be sure to chill 5-10 minutes before popping the cookie sheet into the oven.

Transfer immediately to a wire cooling rack.

Transfer immediately to a wire cooling rack.

Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly

Remember back in November when I wrote about how much I looove winter? Scratch that. We’ve been in this deep freeze far too long. Enough with the Polar Vortex already.

In an effort to will spring into making an early appearance, I’ve decided to get a head start on some gardening. I’ve been dreaming about lavender all winter so I wanted to try growing it indoors. Lavender is one of my favourite plants. It’s so beautiful – I love scenes of lavender fields, row upon gorgeous row of that vivid purple-blue. It has a lovely, calming fragrance – just smelling it makes me feel like I’ve stepped into some country-chic French spa. The scent is believed to help relieve headaches, promote relaxation, and bring on a nice, sweet slumber. Plus, lavender adds an amazing flavour to baking – I had a lavender crème brûlée a couple years ago that was to die for, and I’d love to try to recreate it using my own, home-grown lavender. I figure that late winter is the perfect time of year to try growing it, since I can get it started indoors and then replant it in the garden once it’s warm enough outside.

Maybe this is a good time to admit that I don’t have much of a green thumb. So I opted for the easiest approach I could find. I bought this Lavender Ecocube from Indigo for $10. According to the instructions, you just add water and the lavender should start growing in something like 12-16 days. That’s my kind of gardening! Then, when the lavender gets too big for the planter, you put the whole wooden cube in a larger pot and the cube is supposed to compost and act as fertilizer for the plant. Sounds too good to be true!

Lavender Ecocube from Indigo. $10

Lavender Ecocube from Indigo. $10

Just add water!

Just add water!

Well, it was. It’s been about 6 weeks now and nothing has happened. I followed all the directions – I’ve kept the soil moist but not wet and kept the cube in full sun. Looks like I’m going to have to cut my losses. So I bought a packet of seeds from the garden centre and this week I’ll give these a shot. Stay tuned for an update!

Easy Morning Raspberry Muffins

Easy Morning Raspberry Muffins, warm from the oven

Easy Morning Raspberry Muffins, warm from the oven

Last Friday was one of those lucky days when baking inspiration hit and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. Don’t you love when that happens? We had an early morning ahead of us so I decided to make some muffins for an easy breakfast that we could take with us on the road. These muffins came together quickly and turned out beautifully – the tart raspberries are a really nice balance to the sweet, lemon-scented cake. I opted for big, bakery-style muffins so I only got eight out of the batter, but this recipe could easily make twelve smaller muffins. Perfect for breakfast, snack, or even dessert. Of course you could use whatever fruit you like – I think blueberries or cranberries would also be fantastic.

Easy Morning Raspberry Muffins (adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)

Ingredients

Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ stick butter
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 half-pint basket fresh raspberries

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the muffin tin with butter. Be sure to thoroughly butter the top of the muffin pan so the crowns don’t stick. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly. Melt the butter with the lemon zest in the microwave. Add the buttermilk to the melted butter and let the mixture sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the butter mixture into a medium bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk until well blended.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the butter mixture into the well and stir gently with a rubber spatula. Mix until the batter looks fairly smooth, but a few small lumps are fine – they will disappear during baking. Gently fold in the raspberries until evenly distributed in the batter. (Be sure your raspberries are very dry or they will make the muffins soggy).

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until blended but not perfectly smooth

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until blended but not perfectly smooth

Fold in the raspberries. Mmm...

Fold in the raspberries. Mmm…

Spoon the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Stir together the remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the topping over the muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Namaste from Sweetpea’s Home

The whole idea of yoga really draws me in. It’s such a natural and peaceful approach to life, which I think we could all use in one way or another. I’m obviously not the only one who feels this way, since yoga studios are popping up everywhere. I’ve tried a few different yoga classes in the past and while I enjoyed them, I just haven’t found one that has stuck. They can be a bit pricey, the class schedules don’t always work with mine, and a bad experience with hot yoga definitely turned me off for a few months. Anything that makes me feel that ill can’t possibly be good for me. Still, the benefits of a calm mind, a strong body, and that sense of inner balance are really appealing to me. Enter Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube channel full of really inspirational (and free!) yoga videos. I first stumbled across this channel last week while looking for a gentle, relaxing yoga practice to do at bedtime. Since then, I’ve done at least one of her videos every day. In fact, I think I’ll go do one right now. Back in a bit…

…Ok, so I just did the Morning Yoga and it’s a great way to wake up for the day. I know it’s lunchtime. Whatever.

Yoga with Adriene is by far the best series of yoga videos I have found on YouTube. The videos are well-produced (love the music) without being overly fancy and are really down to earth. Adriene is friendly and positive and extremely encouraging of just enjoying your own personal yoga experience. Most importantly, she explains each movement clearly which, for a beginner like me, is key. It’s like having your own personal yoga instructor right at home. The best part is that there are tons of different videos, from an easy introductory practice geared towards beginners to more challenging videos that really get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. Just in the span of a week, I’ve already sampled her sequences for morning, bedtime, complete beginners, and weight loss. It really couldn’t be easier – just throw on the video whenever it works for you and follow along. All you need is a mat – if that. I’m sure a towel would work in a pinch. From what I’ve seen so far, there’s enough variety in the videos to challenge me as I get stronger and more flexible without getting bored. Plus, she adds new content regularly.

It’s only been a few days but I’m already seeing some positive changes. I’m more aware of my posture. I’m more conscious of areas of my body that feel tight or in need of attention. My arms are maybe a teensy bit more toned. Or that might be wishful thinking. Either way, I feel happy. The message of being kind to yourself and kind to your body is a good one, and is one I’d like to incorporate more often into the way I live my life.

A new year dawning bright

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Another year gone and a new year dawning bright –  this takes on a special significance when your birthday happens to fall on New Year’s Day. As I kiss my twenties goodbye, I can’t help but reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. My twenties were good to me. Really good: I earned two degrees, got my first real job, bought a house, got married, and shared countless laughs with family and friends, both old and new. Now that I think about it, it’s actually a lot for this next decade to live up to. I’ve never really been one for New Year’s resolutions – any promises I make to myself to eat better or declutter my space usually end in immediate failure with a nice big slice of birthday cake and a bunch of crumpled gift wrapping on January 1st. Not that I’m complaining. So instead of traditional resolutions, maybe just a solid set of general guidelines to keep the good times rolling into my thirties.

1. Cherish friendship

The older I get, the more I value the friendships I have nurtured over the years. I love looking back at all the momentous occasions of my life so far and realizing that the friends who stood by me then are the same ones who continue to do so today. These friendships have shaped who I am and make me happy – no matter how busy life may get, I plan to keep my friends close.

2. Embrace change

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best when it comes to handling change. I literally cried when I upgraded my iPhone to the newest software, didn’t like it, and found out there was no ‘undo’ button to go back to the old version (I’m fine with it now, by the way). Life moves quickly and is full of surprises – who knows what the years ahead will hold? But I really believe that when one door closes another one opens, and I am slowly learning to approach life with that belief in mind and accept change, both good and bad.

3. Be adventurous

I have absolutely no intention of going skydiving or running with the bulls. That kind of adrenaline rush doesn’t do anything for me except make me sick with terror. But I do want to feel confident that I am living life to the fullest and creating memories that I will look back on fondly. My Lululemon bag (and apparently Eleanor Roosevelt) says to “do one thing a day that scares you.” Since I’m currently not adventurous in the least, that sounds like overkill to me, but I think aiming for once a month is a good place to start. So perhaps this is a resolution of sorts, then: in the coming year, I will say yes to trying new things more often.

Happy New Year from Sweetpea’s Home and all the best in 2014!

I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures (however small) with all of you.