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.

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.

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.

Pretty please with a cherry on top? Black Forest Cake (or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Nothing says Happy Birthday like a cake made with love

Nothing says Happy Birthday like a cake made with love

I don’t even have to ask what kind of cake my husband wants for his birthday. The answer is always Black Forest cake. And who can blame him? Layers of chocolate cake, black cherries, and swirls of pillowy whipped cream? Yes, please! In the past I’ve opted for the store-bought variety but this year, with a little extra time on my hands and more baking experience under my belt, I decided to make my own. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there, but most seem to fall under two main camps: the traditional German style or a sweeter North American variation. Since my husband grew up in Central Europe, I knew he would appreciate the traditional variety so I set out to find a recipe that would result in a rich, but not overly sweet, dessert. Unfortunately, a lot of the traditional Black Forest cake recipes seem to require the same amount of time and energy as a multi-day Olympic event. I wasn’t ready for that kind of effort, but I still wanted to come as close as possible to the real deal. I used a basic chocolate cake recipe but followed two main rules that were common among all the recipes claiming to be for ‘authentic’ German Black Forest cake (or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte): (1) Do NOT use cherry pie filling; and (2) It MUST contain Kirsch.

I sampled the Kirsch before I started baking and I have to be honest – it was awful. I gagged. I was actually scared I would ruin the cherries by soaking them in it. But since it’s not a Black Forest cake without it, I took a leap of faith and just went for it. Miraculously, some kind of liquor-cherry magic happened! The result was amazing. It gave the cherries a great flavour that was able to stand up well to the chocolate cake and the whipped cream made a perfect, light frosting. I decorated the cake with a sprinkle of dark chocolate shavings and a few more cherries on top.

Is this a true Black Forest cake that will please even the most discerning German grandmothers? Probably not. But it’s an easy and delicious take on the classic chocolate-cherry dessert. I’ll definitely be making this one again.

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

Cherry Filling

  • 1½ cups canned sour cherries, drained (reserve ¼ cup cherry juice)
  • ¼ cup Kirsch

*If you can’t find Kirsch, or would rather not use alcohol, you can substitute additional cherry juice in its place.

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Here's everything you'll need

Here’s everything you’ll need

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds. Lightly grease two 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Whisk together the sugars, flour, cocoa powder, 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. Add the boiling water and stir until the mixture is smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the two 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.

While the cake is cooling, combine the cherries with the Kirsch and the reserved cherry juice. Save a few cherries for decorating.

To make the whipped cream, place the cream, icing sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl. Whip on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate the whipped cream until needed.

To assemble the Black Forest cake, level the cakes and turn one over onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cherries from the Kirsch mixture and place on the cake layer. Top with about ¾ cup whipped cream and spread over the cherries. Turn the second cake over onto the cream and cherries, cut side down. Peel off the parchment paper. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the top and sides of the cake, reserving ½ cup for decorating. Garnish with chocolate shavings, piped whipped cream, and the remaining cherries. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.

Cherries soaking in Kirsch and cherry juice

Cherries soaking in Kirsch and cherry juice

Spread the cherries (and cream) between the cake layers

Spread the cherries (and cream) between the cake layers

Frost the entire cake with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings

Frost the entire cake with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Garnish with a few swirls of whipped cream and top each with a cherry.

Thanksgiving Crash Course

Every year at Thanksgiving, my family gathers around the table at my parents’ house to enjoy a roast turkey and all the fixings lovingly made by my mom. She’s a great cook and prepares the works – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, tons of veggies, and pumpkin pie for dessert. Usually apple pie too, but I always choose pumpkin because it only comes around once a year. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. We always have great food and lots of laughs – just thinking about it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Simple e-vite sent out to my family. Unnecessary? Yes. But cute.

Simple e-vite sent out to my family. Unnecessary? Yes. But cute.

But this year, my husband and I have decided to step up to the plate. We’ll be hosting our first ever Thanksgiving dinner – first holiday meal of any kind, actually. We’ve wanted to do this for over a year and now we finally have a dining table big enough for a crowd! So we’re pretty excited, but as the day quickly approaches I’m realizing there are a lot of details to consider. I’ve never made a turkey and I have a lot of questions. Fresh or frozen? How far in advance should I buy it? Do I even have a roasting pan big enough for a turkey?! I’ve made stuffing before, but my mom was always right there to help me if I needed it. And it seems almost impossible to time all those side dishes to be ready together, especially since the turkey will be taking up prime oven real estate. I think I need a bit of a crash course in Thanksgiving dinner…

Since (Canadian) Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, it’s time for me to get organized and start thinking about how to pull this off successfully. I love party planning and I’m always up for a challenge, so I’m pumped.

Here’s the menu:

  • Roast turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce
  • Stuffing
  • White balsamic roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, squash, brussels sprouts)
  • Red cabbage and apple slaw
  • Apple pie and pumpkin pie (with ice cream :-))

My mom has offered to bring the cranberry sauce and the pies, which is a bit of a relief. Even though I love baking, I’ve never attempted to make a pie crust. I don’t think now is the time to start experimenting (other than the turkey, stuffing, gravy, veggies, and coleslaw, of course). And I don’t even like cranberry sauce, so how would I know if I got it right? My husband and I have already done a test run of the roasted vegetables, and they turned out pretty well. This week we’ll be trying out the coleslaw (with turkey burgers, so it’s an accurate simulation). In the meantime, I’m reading a lot of turkey recipes to find one that sounds simple and fool-proof.

Let me know if you have any tips and tricks for a couple of rookie Thanksgiving hosts! I’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out. Hopefully there won’t be too many disasters…

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

This is a delicious pumpkin loaf, moist and lightly spiced. The batter comes together quickly and without the fuss of any electronic mixing equipment. This bread is great for breakfast or with an afternoon cup of coffee or tea. I think this would make a beautiful Thanksgiving treat, but you don’t really need a special occasion to make this. I recently brought this pumpkin walnut bread to a fall cottage getaway and everyone loved it. Even my husband, who claims he doesn’t like pumpkin-flavoured baked goods, asked me to make it again. This is a new fall favourite for me, and a recipe I will come back to again and again.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread (Adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat a 9×5” loaf pan with melted butter and line it with a piece of parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until well blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Eggs, water, sugar, pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract

Eggs, water, sugar, pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined and smooth. Add the walnuts and gently stir until they are evenly distributed. Using a spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top with a knife or spatula.

Scrape batter into parchment-lined loaf pan and smooth the top.

Scrape batter into parchment-lined loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out cleanly. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature up to 2 days or up to 4 days in the refrigerator. To freeze, double-wrap the loaf in plastic and place in a resealable plastic freezer bag. This bread can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.