Amelia’s Birthday

My sister Amelia’s birthday was on May 7th so last weekend the whole family gathered at my parent’s place to celebrate.

I made two types of cupcakes: Devil’s Food Cupcakes and Butterscotch Cupcakes with Salty Caramel Frosting.

1. The Devil’s Food Cupcake was the recipe from Martha Stewart I have used several times. The cake base is delicious and moist but I need to find a new icing. I used to whip the chocolate ganache but for some reason it did not set this time. I think next time I make these cupcakes I will just use a simple chocolate icing.

2. The Butterscotch Cupcakes are a recipe from Betty Crocker. They were incredibly sweet and next time I should probably follow the recipe and use 3/4 butterscotch chips rather than an entire bag. I think it would also help to melt the chips and then fold them into the batter to give the batter a smooth, rounded out butterscotch flavour.

The icing was delicious but incredibly thick and hard to work with. I had to thin out the icing twice with milk in order to make it a pipe-able consistency. I wish the icing had incorporated salt into it to give it slightly more depth rather than just sprinkling salt on top.

3. I had a major baking fiasco while making these cupcakes and I will actually own up to it. I had to melt some butter on the stove while baking the Butterscotch Cupcakes, so I had turned  on the stove, melted my butter and had continued baking. I pulled the cupcakes from the oven and put them on top of the stove. After about 5 minutes I noticed a burning smell but I thought, “Hey, there is probably some stuff on the oven element, no big deal.” Another 5 minutes passes and I notice smoke out of the corner of my eye, the cupcakes on the stove were smoking. I thought the venting from the oven had burned the cupcakes but I had left the stove on, which I didn’t realize until I was completely finished baking. I only lost 3 cupcakes to severe burns which wasn’t too bad.

See – even people who are passionate about baking and do it all the time have major fiascoes.

Overall, these cupcakes were a success, a little on the sweet side but you are eating a cupcake – what can you expect? Happy munching!

Recipe for Devil’s Food Cupcakes here. Recipe for Butterscotch Cupcakes below.

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I miss baking. I don’t get to do it enough because I am trying to not weigh 900 lbs. I am allowing myself to make cookies once a week. And bake when special occasions arise. And when there are rotten bananas on my counter I will make banana bread.

A week ago I made Betty Crocker’s Gingersnaps.

1. These cookies have a great blend of spices – cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

2. These cookies are considered low calorie according to the cookbook – they use shortening instead of butter and a much smaller quantity compared to most other cookie recipes.

3. These are chewy and dense out of the oven but quickly get rock solid.  When they do get hard, they are the perfect afternoon snack to be enjoyed with a cup of tea at work.

4. The cookies will take a few minutes to crack in the oven. After about 5 minutes the first cracks will appear on the surface. Wait another 4-5 minutes and they will be perfect.

A year-round adult version of a gingerbread man. See the recipe below the cut.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone has their own go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe – either it’s from the back of the chocolate chip package, ailment Martha Stewart or it’s just a tube of Pillsbury cookie dough (if this is you, please continue reading to see how easy it is to make chocolate chip cookies and how truly offensively you have been living your life). My go-to is Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

I love and use this recipe for a couple of reasons:

1. Betty Crocker does not lie – she says this recipe makes 4 dozen cookies and it does.

2. When I was a kid, I used to bake all the time with my sister Amelia and we would use this recipe. We have baked so many chocolate chip cookies using this recipe that the page in the recipe book is coated with enough dough to make another cookie.

3. It makes tender, moist cookies that melt in your mouth instead of crunchy, crumbly cookies that make a mess everywhere. In my edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook there is a diagram that illustrates what you did wrong if you cookies pancake out (too soft butter), or stay firm and perfectly shaped balls that you scooped out onto the cookie tray (too much flour).

On the note of softened butter – My favourite thing about my new (to me) kitchen is my refrigerator. It is from the 1970s and is a lovely olive green/yellow colour with wood veneer handles. Although almost everything is wrong with this thing, it has one piece of genius – the butter compartment has a temperature/hardness control on the outside allowing you to thaw butter in the fridge! This means, because I have this handy dial set to soft, I can literally bake whenever I want and can avoid the moment that almost always accompanied a new baking project: “I forgot to thaw my butter…”

4. If you don’t have a stand mixer (like me currently….hint, hint) you can easily make cookies using an electric hand mixer. I find it is actually better at beating the butter and mixing a smooth, liquid base before you add in your dry ingredients. It is slightly more difficult, however, to gradually add your dry ingredients and not to end up covered in flour when you use a hand mixer. I opted to stir in my dry ingredients using a spatula-spoon type utensil. Mix in all your dry ingredients before you mix in your chocolate chips.

5. The recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate chips to be used but in my infinite wisdom, I combined all the various chocolate chips I had into one bag. This resulted in a mixture of white chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate and mini chocolate chips being used in this batch. It created a nice subtle scale of chocolate flavours and colours.

6. Leave them in until they look almost cooked – this is Betty’s advice, and now my standard cookie rule. It is a common, rookie cookie move to leave cookies in the oven until the tops are hard. This will result in a rock solid cookie in your mouth.

I enjoyed a few of these at work and I left them sitting out on my desk in the sun. The chocolate chips were warm, and gooey as if straight out of the oven. Yum.

I also enjoyed a few with my friend Cynthia on our common lunch hour in Yorkville.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I went out for brunch this morning with my friend Lesley who is Scottish and delightful. She was asking what festive things I have been up to and my mind drew a blank. I think I started my Christmas planning a little too early and the past few weeks I haven’t really been doing anything festive… So this clearly needed to change.

1. I haven’t eaten on of these yet but my sister Theresa did and she described them as, “Perf.” She liked them because it had all the goodness of a gingerbread cookie without the dry, crunchiness.

2. I have too many Christmas wrappers – I ended up using the snowflake wrappers but you can’t even tell. Slightly disappointing for me but then I used blue sprinkles to compliment the paper and it looks snowy and magical!

3. The icing is AMAZING. It is cinnamon, lemon cream cheese icing. The flavours compliment each other so nicely but it is still light which cream cheese isn’t always.

4. Next time, I wouldn’t add water to the icing – it was the perfect consistency and then it became to runny. When I piped it out, it didn’t keep its perfect peak so well. Hopefully with refrigeration, the icing will become a little more stable.

5. There is a limited number and we are having an end-of-the-year-not-a-Christmas-party-on-December-12th tomorrow at work and there will be around 20 people there and I am only bringing 16 in… Hopefully everyone will stay calm and enjoy the festive treats!

The recipe below the cut.

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