Monday, March 26, 2012

custom cakes and goodies: star wars and lego cakes

Phew! It's been a busy week and it's going to be even busier for the next couple of weeks. I loved working on these Lego and Star Wars cakes. I had made the Yoda cake a while ago but hadn't come around to posting it. I gotta say, I was worried about making the little guy but I think it turned out quite nicely in the end. The other cake was for a little boy turning nine with a passion for Lego. I had some previous practice with this cake, but the whole brick cake was new to me.

I really enjoy creating custom cakes, but the only down side is that it leaves me with less time to bake for my family and friends. I'm really hoping that I'll get to try out some new recipes and designs for Easter.

One of the traditions in our house is making a special sweet Easter bread similar to Challah. My mum makes some every year but I've actually never been able to help her with it. However, if all goes well this year, I've put aside some time to make it with her. I think my little niece will even get to help out. I love Easter and all its yummy treats! And with the sunny weather we've been getting it's probably going to be a really nice weekend. But for now, I hope you'll enjoy these sweet cakes.

What do you like to make for Easter? Any family traditions?

Monday, March 12, 2012

crepes with whiskey ganache and bailey's whipped cream

The snow is meltiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

Clearly, this is exciting news. Not that I'm a huge winter-hater, but I must admit that I'm pretty happy to be seeing less and less snow, and more and more warmer weather these days. I really hope it keeps up, at least until next weekend for St-Patrick's Day, or more importantly, the parade on Sunday! 

As a long standing tradition in Montreal, the St-Patty's parade is a lot of fun for people of all ages. And yes, the only day when you're allowed to drink openly on public streets. I'm definitely excited about having breakfast with friends and most likely some Irish coffee. I'm not exactly a big drinker, but there's definitely going to be some (or more) alcohol involved.


I even decided to start it up early this year with a sinfully delicious Irish breakfast. These crepes are seriously mouth-watering, but I have to admit that they are very heavy. In fact, it's more of a dessert than breakfast. Irish whiskey chocolate ganache drizzled onto crepes with homemade Bailey's whipped cream. Yup, I went there. 

Yes, these crepes are ridiculously indulgent. Yes, they are fattening. And boozy. But oh man, just looking at these pictures is making me drool. There are a few steps to take, but each component is actually really easy to do. You can skip the homemade Bailey's if you wish and use store-bought to save time. Either way, these crepes are the "craic"!

Basic Crepes

Yields 6-8 crepes


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter


In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a well and add eggs, milk and oil. Whisk everything until smooth. Let stand about 1 hour in refrigerator. (alright, so I usually skip this part) 

Oil a crepe or regular skillet and heat on medium-high. Pour enough batter to cover pan with a thin layer. Let it cook for about 30 seconds then flip over and cook other side. Continue until no more batter remains, oiling well after each or every second crepe. Keep warm under a plate.

 Whiskey Ganache 

Original source: Brown Eyed Baker

I cut down the original recipe a lot because I didn't want too much chocolate for two people. This worked out quite well. You can put in as much Whiskey as you'd like!

2 ounces (60g) dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 - 2 tsp Irish Whiskey (Jameson, of course)

Place chocolate in a small bowl. Heat cream in a small sauce pan until just boiling. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit 15 seconds then start mixing until nice and smooth. Add whiskey to taste.

Bailey's Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 - 1 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream (I made a homemade Bailey's using this recipe from the Cupcake Project)

Place cream, sugar and Irish Cream in a electric mixing bowl and whip on medium-high speed until medium peaks form. 


Fill crepes with chocolate ganache and/or whipped cream, drizzle with ganache and pipe whipped cream with a piping bag on top with desired. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

lavender-glazed cheesecake: so lovely

I don't know about you but lately I've been getting disappointed when I can't get something seemingly easy right. I develop these ideas in my head, and when they don't work out, I get frustrated. Sometimes I make really stupid mistakes and I don't know why. I'm talking mainly about baking here, but it also goes for other things in my life.

You'd think that I would know better, but nope, mistakes seem to happen from time to time.


It used to happen a lot more when I first started off on this baking adventure and although I've learned heaps since, I still catch myself screwing things up. The last time I had a failed attempt, I just sat and cried for a bit. Pretty pathetic, huh?

Well at some point, I realized that I'm not the only one. Mistakes happen to everyone. I've even caught the top chefs at pastry shops messing up. In fact, almost everyone makes mistakes, but I've realized that I just need to keep learning from them. Because chances are, I'm going to mess up a lot more as I keep learning new things.

The most reassuring thing that I've ever heard is that everyone makes mistakes, but the professionals just know how to cover them up. 

So I guess there's nothing to be ashamed about. I'm also pretty lucky to have a guy who knows just what to say to help me and calm me down. 

As for this cheesecake, it was really easy and a joy to make. I'm not sure why, but I've always been a little scared of making cheesecakes. I've made them before but was never fully satisfied. Well, let me tell you, this is IT. This is definitely my new favorite cheesecake recipe. It's easy and oh-so-smooth and yummy. The texture is perfectly silky, while the glaze adds just a hint of flavour without taking away from the actual cheesecake. Happy baking!

Cheesecake with Lavender Glaze

Yields one 6-inch cake
Source for cheesecake: Miette


For the cake:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (either home-made or ready-made cookies)
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 pound (2 packages of 250 g each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream 
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
1 to 2 cups icing sugar, depending on how thick you want it


For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the melted butter and graham crumbs in a small bowl and press into the bottom of a 6" springform pan. (I don't have a springform pan of that size so I oiled the bottom and sides of a 6" cake pan and placed a round piece of parchment paper on the bottom so that when I took the cake out, I could just flip it over and it would fall out.) Bake the crust until dark golden brown and firm, about 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy and smooth, without any lumps, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth and delicious looking, 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating just until incorporated and not for too long. Slowly add the cream and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Strain the batter through a mesh sieve into a clean bowl, then pour onto the cooled crust. (This results in a silky smooth cheesecake).

Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Place the cheesecake pan into a larger roasting pan or even a bigger cake pan (I put mine in a 10" cake pan). Pull out the middle rack in the oven half way, place your pan-in-a-pan on it and then carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up or more the sides of the cheesecake pan. (This is what prevents the sides of the cake from turning brown).

Bake until the filling is set and just barely jiggles in the centre, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove from the water bath and place on the wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate a few hours or preferably overnight. When cool enough, run a knife around the sides and loosen edges, flip over and let cake slide out.

For the glaze:

Place the milk in a small sauce pan and remove from heat when it starts to boil. Add the dried lavender buds and let steep 5-8 minutes. Strain milk into a bowl and whisk the icing sugar a little at a time until smooth and at desired thickness. I added a little drop of purple food colouring to give a lavender look. Pour over cheesecake and enjoy! 

Side note: I tried really hard to not let my glaze run down the sides but it just wasn't happening. I think a thick ganache would have given the result I was looking for, but I loved how light the glaze was. It added the perfect hint of flavour without over-powering the cheesecake too much.
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