St. Patrick’s Day 2014

St. Patrick’s Day is not my favourite holiday but it is one I seem to celebrate every year. I wear green, I paint my nails green and gold and of course, I bake and cook.

This year, I busted out Brown Eyed Baker’s Irish Car Bomb recipe again because it is perfect and totally lovely. Between juggling my purse, lunch and a massive container of cupcakes, trying to hold on to the subway pole and not making eye contact with people so they don’t ask for treats, I narrowly made it to work without a smushed or dented cupcake. Phew. I think it was worth it as all the cupcakes were munched and not a trace remained.

For lunch I made Irish Lamb Stew (from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day – March 17). Giancarlo and I made this stew together and it was the first thing we truly made together – cue your awwwws.

IMG_5587This stew was amazing. It has a huge depth of flavour and texture. Because the ingredients are layered, the bottom layer of potatoes and onion complete dissolve and create a thick, flavourful base for the stew. The top layer of potatoes and onion maintain their shape and texture creating distinguishable chunks of deliciousness. The lamb is chewy, moist and tender.The thyme permeates the entire soup and gives it this rich, intense flavour. Yummmm.

This stew will become a staple for St. Patrick’s Day in our house. It is a few days late but you should make it anyway!

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes

For my birthday, I baked myself Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Brown-Butter cupcakes.  I don’t think it’s sad or depressing to bake for your own birthday for a number of reasons:

  1. On my actual birthday, GC mustarded up the courage to attempt his first apple pie (which was delicious and a success!)
  2. I love to bake. And I bake well.
  3. I tell people I am baking for my own birthday. It is more of a statement then a question or an offer and it has come to be the norm

IMG_4805Since we munched hard on these cupcakes at my birthday, you don’t get a photo of what I actually made – just a photo of my Martha Stewart Cupcakes book.

These cupcakes were delicious. The cake was light and airy, with the perfect bit of seasonal spice. The pumpkin flavouring wasn’t overwhelming to the point where you feel dejected to have another pumpkin treat on your October birthday.

But what really made these cupcakes was the icing. This is one of the best icings ever. It is extremely easy to make and has such a rich, powerful flavor the perfectly tops off your cupcake. The cupcakes dip beautifully into the icing and harden with a seamless coating that can make anyone like a pro. I am going to scour my cookbooks for more recipes that include this icing. There is a pumpkin cookie (also by Martha Stewart) topped with this icing that I am aching to try.

Although it is after Halloween, don’t feel like you can’t cook and bake with pumpkin! Recipe is below the cut, and happy munching!

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Peach Bourbon Cupcakes

Happy Birthday Caitlin! Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I made her Peach Bourbon Cupcakes – capturing the tastes of summer and her taste for Jack Daniels.IMG_4203IMG_4201These are amazing! Hints of bourbon and peach, nurse make these the perfect cupcakes for August. And my favourite part of this recipe – it makes a batch of 12 cupcaakes! Fun cupcakes and not in an excessive amount!? Amazing!! I would definitely suggest you all run out to the grocery store and pick up some fresh Ontario peaches and makes these cupcakes this weekend!

Recipe can be found here at Love and Olive Oil! Happy munching!

Cupcake Cake Balls

Sometimes you need to celebrate birthdays on a smaller scale, a much smaller scale.

Cake Ball - CupcakeFor my friend Al’s 24th birthday I made cupcake shaped cake balls. Tiny bite-sized yums that are funny and whimsical. I forgot how much of a pain cake balls can be to make but for a good friend, you put in the effort. There are currently about 10 more cake balls sitting in my freezer waiting to be decorated – feel free to ask!

Happy birthday Al! I love you!

St. Patrick’s Day – 2013

St. Patrick’s Day is not my favourite holiday. I have nothing against the Irish, I am just not a fan of holidays centered around drinking (re: New Year’s Eve) despite the fact that I do like going out for a drink.  Confusing I know, I just find that these holidays tend to bring out people who are full of drama and can’t handle a drink. However, a few of my close friends have Irish backgrounds and they are all a good time so why not go out and celebrate with a few beers, and more importantly, a few themed cupcakes?

IMG_3439IMG_3446Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache Filling and Bailey’s Irish Cream Icing.

This recipe is courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker (BEB) and is from St. Patrick’s Day 2011. Here are some of my favourite things about this recipe:

1. The chocolate stout cake base is amazingly moist. It is moist, decedent and there is a subtle molasses taste from the stout. If you dislike stout, don’t let that deter you from making/tasting this cupcakes, you cannot taste the stout! I used Guinness, obviously. You only need one can of Guinness which is a plus if you don’t like Guinness.

2. BEB had this brilliant idea (I am crediting her with it, I don’t know if it is her original creation) to use a large piping tip to hollow out the cupcake. HOW HAD I NEVER THOUGH ABOUT THIS BEFORE?! This is easy but so ingenious! You need to hollow out the cupcake, remove the cake from the tip, and then hollow out the cupcake again to get a deep pot to pipe delicious ganache into. I only did this hollowing out step once which unfortunately resulted in not enough ganache.

IMG_34413. The ganache. Ganache is ridiculous, decadent and a heart attack in chocolate. The ganache piped into these cupcakes has a touch of whiskey in it. Again, if you don’t like whiskey don’t let that deter you from making/trying these cupcakes! There is only 2 teaspoons of whiskey so it just brings out the richness of the chocolate rather than adding any booziness.

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4. Now don’t worry, your booziness is coming from the Bailey’s icing. I don’t know why, but I had never really enjoyed Bailey’s until this St. Patrick’s Day and now I love it. In hot chocolate, over ice or in icing, I will take it. This icing is sweet but not in the way that hurts your teeth. It is creamy, rich, sweet and filled with that great Irish cream taste. BEB also has a recipe for homemade Irish cream and I’m incredibly tempted to make it – it uses condensed milk, how can I not make it?!

These cupcakes were a hit. I gave one to the bartender, a woman legitimately from Ireland, and some of her friends, also  from Ireland, as well as the owner of the pub. The fact that these made people legitimately from Ireland happy on St. Patrick’s Day is reason enough to try this recipe. This recipe is so good that my friend Cynthia has requested these cupcakes for her birthday in June. If you want to try these, you have about 2 months to become friends with Cynthia!

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker below the cut and happy munching!

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“A Christmas Carol” Cupcakes

More festive inspiration, this time coming from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

This cupcakes come from Maddiebird Bakery in Chicago. In a production of the play, one of the cast members ordered these cupcakes for the cast and crew. You can see close-up shots of the figures on their Facebook page here. It’s unfortunate that I discovered this bakery after we returned from Chicago but that just means we will have to go back!

My favourite is the ghost of Marley. He looks crazy and spooky all at the same time. It’s nice to see Christmas desserts other than cookies. Cookies are the go to because they make large batches and are easily transportable but cupcakes allow you to do so much more.

These cupcakes have inspired me to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol and bake cupcakes – I hope they do the same for you too!

Happy munching!

Dlish – Yorkville Location

Dlish opened a second location at Bloor and Yonge, shop just on the outskirts of Yorkville and exactly 350 meters away from my work. This could be trouble.

I went on Tuesday at lunch for a cupcake date with my friend Caitlin. I paid for my cupcake all in change, for which I apologized for, and the cupcake barista (what is the title for someone who works at a cupcake shop who is not the baker? Cashier sounds so crass and simple) said anytime I had excessive change I should come to the bakery. Again, this could be trouble.

Caitlin ordered the Nutella cupcake and I ordered the Cinnamon cupcake – a first for me.

It was a little too sweet, but it had a light, subtle cinnamon flavour. The only thing that was missing was a glass of milk to wash it down.

Happy munching!

For the Love of Cake

Sunday afternoon found us in Liberty Village to try For the Love of Cake.

1. For the Love of Cake is currently ranked #1 on BlogTO’s list of the city’s best cupcakes. They have recently redone this list and I don’t know how I feel about it. There are 3 bakeries I still have not visited (obviously this will be rectified and anyone can feel free to join me in this endeavour) so I can’t make a fair assessment of it but I typically don’t completely agree with BlogTO. I use them more of a jumping off point to discover new things and things that are tried and true. Their lists are consistent and a great way to discover Toronto. They have lists for almost anything you can think of and are constantly revisiting and updating their lists. And they have an app – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Also, their list has 9 bakeries on it – everyone know a Top ___ list has to have multiples of 5.

2. I know why this bakery is on their list at number one. It is because they are doing something different with cupcakes. It’s not just cute sprinkles, unique flavour profiles and delicate piping. It is that the have 4-dimensional cupcakes: cake, filling, topping and garnish. This is one of the more creative things I have seen done with cupcakes and especially in recent history. Cupcakes are becoming overdone and boring but this is a fresh take on a tasty treat.

3. Liberty Village is completely dead on Sundays. We had a bit of a time finding this place, more due to the fact that Apple Maps are terrible and completely inaccurate. Once we found the building complex that houses For the Love of Cake it was a bit of a mission to find the entrance of this building but we finally did. The store front is all windows allowing you to peer into the bakery.

The cupcakes and cakes are the only decorations – simple and tasty. The bakery did look as though it needed a fresh coat of paint and that the desserts on display needed to be replaced as they were covered in a thin layer of dust but this is just me being nit picky.

4. You have many choices of yums at this bakery: cakeballs, cake pops, mini cupcakes, regular cupcakes and mancakes. Criticism of the mancakes: if you are not comfortable enough to eat a delicious bite size yum of something then you don’t deserve to eat it. But I guess some people are not comfortable in their own skin. It was also slightly sexist – I would not object to eating a maple bacon cupcake just because I’m a lady.

Although the bakery cannot 100% guarantee that the cupcakes are completely allergen free they do separate the cupcakes that have nuts from the ones that do not have nuts.

They do not, however, in the names of the cupcakes tell you what the filling is. I guess you should look at the website before you visit the bakery or ask but I like that type of information to be readily available to me.

5. We felt particularly greedy and order 6 cupcakes. The cupcakes turned out to be a little less than $16.00 which is standard for a half dozen cupcakes but will still make you question why you are being ridiculous and spending that much money on cupcakes.

GC’s Choices Top row, right to left: Gingerbread Man, Cookies and Cream and Very Vanilla.
My Choices: Bottom row, right to left: Bailey’s Hot Chocolate, Drunken Eggnog and Death by Chocolate.

Gingerbread Man: A gingerbread cupcake filled with their homemade lemon curd and topped with cream cheese frosting and a gingerbread man (candy cane).

Since when is lemon a natural pairing with gingerbread? This was a huge miss for both GC and me. The cake was dense, with aromatic spices and it was sweetened by the cream cheese frosting. That was great. The lemon curd filling, on its own was great but was incredibly off putting with the gingerbread and even the cream cheese icing.

Cookies and Cream: Moist chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with vanilla frosting with Oreo cookie crumb and an Oreo cookie.

This was one of GC’s that I did not try. I can only imagine that it was delicious if not for the chocolate ganache filling alone.

Very Vanilla: A traditional vanilla cupcake filled with our homemade vanilla custard and topped with vanilla bean frosting and a fresh berry or pomegranate seeds in our case.

This cupcake was top heavy and ugly. The custard in the middle was too sweet and tasted slightly fermented (I ate it today and we bought them on Sunday so I’ll admit that was my fault). The cake did not have a real vanilla taste to it, it tasted more like and had the texture of angel food cake. The icing was yummy and very vanilla though.

Bailey’s Hot Chocolate: Moist chocolate cupcake filled with a Bailey’s milk chocolate Bailey’s ganache and topped with a toasted marshmallow frosting and a milk chocolate chunk.

When I ordered this cupcake she warned me it was more coffee than hot chocolate. I found that interesting as Bailey’s does not have a coffee taste to it. When I bit into it, it did not taste like coffee or Bailey’s which was incredibly disappointing. The chocolate cake was moist and the right amount of chocolate. The marshmallow frosting was the best part – perfectly toasted and sugary.

Drunken Eggnog: A flavourful eggnog cupcake filled with homemade eggnog custard and topped with rum frosting and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

I was skeptical to try this cupcake after the lack of flavour from the Bailey’s in the previous cupcake. But this cupcake did not disappoint. The cake itself had a subtle eggnog flavour which was emphasized by the custard. Omigosh this custard was amazing. I hate eggnog but I am always drawn towards eggnog desserts. This custard was sweet, creamy, with a hint of spice and booze to it. The frosting was slightly boozy but had a hint of cream cheese flavour to it. The nutmeg added a final touch of spice to it. This is a cupcake I would highly recommend and it will make you feel festive and happy.

Death by Chocolate: Moist chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate butter cream and chocolate shavings.

Omigosh. This chocolate was completely overwhelming. But in an amazing way. The icing was smooth, creamy and milky. The chocolate ganache was rich, thick and completely heavenly. This is my favourite of the cupcakes we tried that day.

These cupcakes were a perfect combination of cake, icing and filling. I was very happy with these cupcakes and I would make the trek back to Liberty Village for them. And you should too!

Happy munching!

 

 

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Happy birthday to my friend, Rachel!

On October 21st, Rachel celebrated her birthday. I wasn’t able to go out for the delicious dinner that was planned for that evening so we met up with our boyfriends (who are best friends and this is how we met) on the following Tuesday for mini pizzas and cupcakes.

1. I will always make cupcakes for your birthday if a) I love you and/or b) if you ask. Keep that in mind, friends! You can always get baked goods from me. Also, if you don’t want cupcakes but I love you, you will also still get them. This seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

2. I decided to make these cupcakes because I had debated making them for my own birthday. I know that seems slightly selfish but when it was my birthday, I had run the possible cupcake flavours past Rachel and she was intrigued by both the pumpkin and the apple, so I am a good friend, I promise!

3. These cupcakes were sweet, moist and had a warm blend of spices. I would have liked a stronger apple flavour. The recipe used applesauce rather than real apples but still used butter. This is interesting because typically recipes use applesauce so they can be vegan, but this recipe just used it for the flavour. This is valid but I am always on the lookout for a good vegan recipe because I have yet to find one for cupcakes and it is just good to have in your baking arsenal.

4. My favourite part was the icing. It was cream cheese icing but it was made even better by the addition of brown sugar, rather than icing or white sugar. This icing was unbelievable, you don’t even know. With my new mixer I can whip cream cheese and butter into submission and make velvety smooth and light icing. The brown sugar added a spicy, sweetness and it worked perfectly with the cake base. I would never think of adding a sugar that wasn’t icing sugar to an icing but this worked amazing. It piped out perfectly and held its form nicely.

These were a hit and made the birthday girl happy, which in the end, is all the matters on someone’s birthday. Happy birthday, Rachel! Hope it was a great one and that the upcoming year is great!

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Toronto Food Truck Lot – October 16

For lunch on my birthday I went to Toronto’s Food Truck Lot with my sister, Theresa.

The Toronto Food Truck lot is located at Yonge and Goulde, near Ryerson University. This is a convenient walk or subway ride away from my work and therefore could be trouble. The lot has room for 5 or 6 trucks that rotate on a daily basis and when we went on Tuesday the following trucks were there: Pretty Sweet Cupcakes, Food Cabbie, Per Se, Caplansky’s, Buster’s Sea Cove and Hula Girl Espresso.

Theresa and I probably should have been adventurous and tried something new but we couldn’t resist the lobster rolls from Buster’s Sea Cove. They were delicious as always and perfect with every bite. Next time, I promise, I will order the tacos…

I did, however, try Pretty Sweet Cupcakes.

I love the design on this truck. It is whimsical and playful. I love the combination of teal and pink, it is retro without being dated. I ordered the Pumpkin Spice cupcake – I wanted to compare it to my own recipe.

1. In a Toronto Life article I read, they claimed that each cupcake had its icing freshly piped on top of the cake and this did not happen. When I read that I thought it was an incredibly ambitious idea because piping bags can be finicky and if icing get slightly warm it can become unmanageable. I do not fault them for not piping to order. If I had a truck, I wouldn’t do it either.

2. Is it just me or does it look like there was something ripped off the top of my cupcake? Or that it was smushed into something? Either way I’m not happy about it. The icing was far too sweet. You didn’t get that rich cream cheese flavour but rather a faint, chalky taste. It was incredibly disappointing. Part of the reason one eats pumpkin, carrot or red velvet cake is for the cream cheese icing.

3. The cake was incredibly moist but it didn’t have a strong enough pumpkin or spice flavour. Part of the problem with seasonal flavours is that is is hard to perfect a recipe when you only get a few months a year and you might only get to make the recipe once. This was a decent cupcake and I would try other flavours from this truck and I would suggest you do too!

The food truck lot is amazing and I would suggest you visit. There wasn’t a ton of people there and we only had to wait a few minutes for our food. Our only complaint was that there was no seating options but this is a consistent complaint with food events.

Get out while the weather is still nice and support local food trucks! Happy munching!