chocolate, mandarin & thai basil roll cake

chocolate, mandarin & thai basil roll cake
chocolate, mandarin & thai basil roll cake

How I will miss you citrus season! To express my undying adoration, here is one last ode to citrus for this winter, in the form of a chocolate roll cake filled with Thai basil-infused whipped ganache and whole mandarins.

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tiramisu tres leches cake

tiramisu tres leches
tiramisu tres leches
tiramisu tres leches

This cake is, in essence, a sheetpan version of tiramisu with superabundant soak. It’s also a travesty and is neither really a tiramisu or a tres leches cake.

For the uninitiated, tres leches cake, or pastel de tres leches, is a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of canned and fresh milk. I love it – it is the dream remedy to all dry cake nightmares! Origins of this cake can be linked to multiple Latin American countries, European influence, expansion of dairy farming and sales of canned milk. It’s perhaps a familiar story of food emerging from resilient local ingenuity under colonialism (with a touch of capitalism and wartime food preservation).

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grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes

grapefruit rose cardamom loaf cakes

I don’t know whether there is a grapefruit rose soap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flavour combination subconsciously entered my head via a soap. I mean, it sounds pretty soapy – in a good way. (I always find myself wishing that displays of fancy handcrafted soaps were edible. Oatmeal, honey and goat’s milk soap? I’d eat that for breakfast any day. Especially if it wasn’t actually soap.)

These soap bars cakes are also actually grapefruit cakes. I’ve tried making “grapefruit” cakes a couple times before following a similar approach as I would with a lemon cake – throw in some zest – and always ended up with a very plain cake. Because I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion and have an active imagination, I could taste grapefruit if I waved my hands and thought hard enough about it… but that doesn’t help others taste the flavour.

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fruitcake (2020)

fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020

Happy winter holidays! Every year around this time we pull out the fruitcakes: dark, sticky, dense, eighty percent dried fruit, full of tradition and less so, elegance.

While the exciting time, when we can taste the cake, is now, the process usually starts in late summer or fall. Brushed with rum and wrapped up in paper and a double layer of plastic, the cakes age in the dark whilst pondering their existence for at least a few months – or a few years (the best fruitcakes are old and existential).

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invisible tosca cake

invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake

Gateau invisible is a deceptive cake – made nearly entirely of apples, it’s named for way the thin slices seem to “disappear” into the batter. Like a number of desserts, it’s one which seems to have gained more traction in Japan than in it’s native France.

The cake is often scattered with a topping of slivered almonds before baking, though, for a bit of fun, I’ve borrowed the crackly, caramelized almond topping from the Scandavian toscakake. Doing so echoes the beloved pairing of apple, caramel and nuts while providing textural contrast between clafoutis-like custardy cake and crisp top.

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black forest baba

black forest baba
black forest baba
black forest baba

This is a mashup of my two favourite retro desserts: baba au rhum and black forest cake – the result is, in essence, a very, very boozy black forest cake. The baba is flavoured with chocolate, soaked in a syrup of kirsch, rum and Chambord, and then served with plenty of whipped cream and a cherry kirsch compote.

Baba au rhum is classically a rich, yeasted cake soaked in a rum syrup. Recently I’ve been making babas based on the recipe in the Duchess Bake Shop book by Giselle Courteau. She dries out the babas for a couple days until they’re thoroughly desiccated and ready to absorb a startling amount of syrup. It’s a method that ensures the flavours of the syrup penetrate throughout the entire cake!

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strawberry rooibos almond cake (& the nagoya protocol)

strawberry almond rooibos cake

Rooibos tea comes from the plant Aspalathus linearis which grows only in the Western and Northern Cape areas. San and Khoi people, the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, have been harvesting, processing and drinking rooibos tea long before colonial times, passing traditional knowledge regarding the medical properties of rooibos between generations.

Under colonialism, the atrocities of genocide, enslavement and resource extraction concentrated political, economic and social power in the hands of colonists. One of those resources was the traditional knowledge around rooibos; during the apartheid in South Africa, the Rooibos Tea Control Board held a complete monopoly over production and marketing.

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strawberry daifuku mont blanc cakes

strawberry daifuku mont blanc

strawberry daifuku mont blanc
strawberry daifuku mont blanc
strawberry daifuku mont blanc

Mont blanc is traditionally a chestnut and cream dessert. The components vary, but it is always easily recognized by its pathognomonic piped spaghetti-like strands of chestnut cream – there is a piping tip specific for it (which I recommend acquiring if you plan to make mont blanc a regular thing as trying to do this with a single or tri-hole tip is… terrible.)

Mont blanc was enthusiastically adopted in Japan in 1945, where it seems to have gained more traction than in its French home. And as is the great thing with adopted foods, they come into their own in their own ways. While I love the chestnut and cream profile of the original, I can take a cue from the strawberry, sakura, sweet potato, and matcha versions that abound to try something different as well.

In this case, I based mine around strawberry daifuku, a whole strawberry typically encased in anko (sweetened red bean paste) and wrapped in mochi, a combination first premiered by Wahei Osumi in 1985.

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coconut, genmaicha & strawberry layer cake

genmaicha, coconut & strawberry layer cake
genmaicha, coconut & strawberry layer cake

What is a weed? If one cared to ask the right people with the right intonation (and maybe a single, raised brow), it could elicit a plethora of answers – do we consider intention, indigeneity, utility?

My favourite is a succinct and pragmatic definition from an expert with the local horticultural society: a weed is anything that you don’t want growing there. It’s a definition that allows for flexibility, including both intention and allowing some spur of the moment impulse. Hence the reseeded spinach crowding out other seedlings, yes, can be a weed. And, alternatively, something you didn’t intend to grow, but that you’ve become rather fond of, can stay.

For instance, bright pink, miniature peony-like poppies first began appearing in the community garden a few years ago, and each year they grow more numerous. This year they’ve gone rogue – you can find them spindling up through the canopy of potatoes, growing alongside peas, and in some plots, even an entire patch.

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blueberry layer cake (& we must defund the police)

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Currently in Toronto there is motion that has been put forth by Councillor Josh Matlow and seconded by Kristyn Wong-Tam to reduce the police budget by at least 10% and invest in community resources. Mayor John Tory then submitted his own motion (which as mayor, appears directly on the agenda) in order to bypass defunding of the police, taking the sympathy of councillors that may have otherwise supported the motion to defund. Unfortunately, this is not an acceptable compromise and one that will likely lead to an increase in police budgets if body cameras are implemented. Read Anthony Swan’s breakdown of Tory’s motion here and act now by referring to his page here. 

Again and again advocates have been hitting a wall of reluctance to defund the police by those in political power. Why do people have such differing opinions on defunding the police? I found one answer articulated by Sandy Hudson’s (co-founder of BLM Toronto) article in the Huffington Post –  much of it has to do with different communities have fundamentally different experiences and relationships with police, first of all in the quantity of interactions, and secondly in the nature of those interactions.

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