cake

Lively Bakery : Bedford, Nova Scotia

I was contacted by Sasha from Lively Bakery in Bedford to do a few shots of her cakes and tarts for Simply Gluten Free magazine.

Sasha's baking is 100% gluten-free, dairy free and refined sugar-free. 

It's also 100% delicious.

I know because I ate three pieces of cake and the strawberry tart in the photo above.

Ha.

You can find Sasha at the Alderney Farmer's Market in Dartmouth every Saturday, on her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/livelybakery) or over on Instagram (@livelybakeryhfx).

Foodstyling : chocolate + mint green + peach + I'm sorry Mum

I don't know about you but I LOVE the colour combo of mint green and peach. Maybe I've been looking at too many pins on Pinterest, but really, it goes much deeper than that.

When I was 12, my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in and build a new one. I was crushed - so much so that the night before we moved, I can remember crying in the top bunk of the bunk bed I shared with my sister - 'I don't want to go', I kept moaning through my tears.

But you see, it didn't matter what I wanted. That's a pretty hard lesson to learn but it's a good one.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter what you want.

The next day, the trucks came and our life was packed into trucks, to be driven across town, to a beautiful, brand new house that was EASILY twice the size of our old one. We had a huge backyard, a gorgeous brand new bright and airy kitchen and I GOT MY OWN ROOM. 

That last part was heavenly for me. My very own room to decorate any way I liked. And I did. I plastered my walls with headshots of New Kids On The Block, Brutus the Barber Beefcake (weird, I know) and baby animals. I rocked out at night, with the door shut, dancing along to the Top 9 at 9 on 680 CHNS. My parents pretty much left me to it because they had their own stuff on the go. My dad was constantly doing stuff around the house and my mum had discovered interior decorating

That's where the mint green and peach come in.

My Mum fell in LOVE with this colour combo. For our new house she chose carpet that was peach-toned, had custom peach curtains made, and bought lamps, table covers, furniture and cushions in various shades of peach/mint green/aqua.

I thought it was disgusting.

'Ugh, Mum, THAT IS SO UGLY!'.

Looking back, I see that my Mum was actually a pretty stylish lady with really good taste. And who was I to judge with my Joey McIntyre wallpaper?!?

So when James (www.jivephotographic.com) and I talked about doing a stylized stills shoot, I came up with the concept of 'the winning cake at a county fair' in my Mum's (still) favourite colours. I used my beautiful green jadeite cake stand as a starting point. I scouted for pretty peach fabrics, made the little flag banner in the background out of mint green cardstock (hung on clear fishing line), and chose peach carnations to accompany the cake (I love carnations! They're so ruffly and pretty, plus, they're relatively inexpensive and they last forever as long as you change the water).

I doubled the classic Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe, which is my absolute go to. It's easy to make, is super chocolatey and stays moist for days. I used three layers for the cake and gave the fourth layer to friends topped with some extra frosting. For the frosting, I made Nanny Burke's Buttercream and added 1/4C cocoa powder. I swirled the frosting on the top of the cake into a spiral by resting my frosting spreader lightly in the middle top and spinning my revolving cake stand in one direction until the frosting spreader reached the outside perimeter. Then I used my spreader to expose the layers around the sides of the cake. I love how when I actually cut the cake, the light and dark layers of the cake alongside the slice look like a negative. James shot the cake with one continuous light, a diffuser and some white reflectors and then captured it on his digital Hasselblad. I honestly think with his skill and that Hasselblad, James could make a pile of cow turd look good.

We do a lot of work for clients but sometimes, you just need to shoot for fun, for yourself, to be creative, and to say, 'Mum, I'm sorry I made fun of you. You were right all along'.

photography : James Ingram  ---  food / prop styling : Kelly Neil

Polenta 'Cake' with Black Olive Pesto Filling and 'Nduja Ricotta 'Frosting'

When Joana from Yummy Food Blog emailed me and asked me if I'd like to enter her Mediterranean-inspired recipe contest I was excited, however, as you may know, I don't usually do things the 'traditional' way. 

From Joana - 'I’m asking a small set of bloggers including yourself to write a blog post or recipe all about your favourite dish that’s inspired by Mediterranean style cooking. For example, I’m originally from Portugal and love seafood and veggie dishes that are packed full of fresh herbs and spices such as Chorizo & Pancetta Bake and Bacalhau Com Natas. The most creative and imaginative post will receive a Kindle Fire HD, there is also a second prize of a £25/$40 Amazon Gift Voucher.'

The recipe contest is sponsored by Spanish travel agency, Canarias -

'Canarias.com - experts for all things travel in and around Spain and the Canary Islands. What once was a car rental company with a small fleet of 40 vehicles has become a major tourism company dedicated to the areas of Spanish tourism, car rental, leisure, health and food. We do everything in our power to offer our visitors the best experience by offering the widest range of products and services - everything the client needs to make their vacation unforgettable.'

I've not had the pleasure of visiting Spain, but Sean has, and despite three separate visits to Italy, Spain is still his #1. Now that we know about Canarias.com, perhaps a trip to the Canary Islands is in order?

I came up with a fun Mediterranean-inspired appetizer that's assembled in an round cake tin. It would be neat to present the 'cake' on a beautiful stand at a dinner party!

Polenta 'Cake' with Black Olive Pesto Filling and 'Nduja Ricotta 'Frosting'

6-8-inch round cake tin - greased lightly with olive oil or butter

1/2 C pinenuts

1 C Kalamata olives, pits removed (I buy Kalamatas that are already pitted and sliced)

1 clove garlic, rough chopped

1/4 C Manchego cheese, grated

1 500g tub Ricotta

1 C 'Nduja**

2 C water

1 1/3 C milk

1 C cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 C Grana Padano

- Toast pinenuts in a dry pan until golden - combine toasted pinenuts in a food processor with Kalamata olives, garlic clove and Manchego cheese - pulse until 50/50 chunky/smooth - mix with 250g of Ricotta and set aside

- In a small bowl, with a spoon, mix 'Nduja and remaining 250g Ricotta until smooth

- In a large microwave safe bowl, whisk water, milk, cornmeal and salt - microwave in 1-minute intervals, whisking between each minute until thick - about 6 minutes - add butter and Grana Padano - stir to combine - voila! Microwaved polenta!

- spread a thin layer of polenta in greased cake tin - top with olive pesto/Ricotta mix - top with another layer of polenta - top with 'Nduja/Ricotta Mix - top with another layer of polenta - leave yourself enough 'Nduja/Ricotta mix to 'frost' the outside of the cake

- place cake tin in fridge to cool/set one hour - flip cake onto plate and 'frost' with remaining 'Nduja/Ricotta - can be served warm or cold

***'Nduja is a SPICY spreadable salami made in Calabria, Italy. I ordered mine from Bottega Nicastro in Ottawa!

Blood Orange Coconut Cake with Blood Orange Glaze

This recipe almost didn't make it to my blog and I'm still not 100% sure I should post it.

After searching the internet for recipes I was feeling uninspired despite the fact I had a bag of beautiful blood oranges sitting on the counter. Two days later I said 'fuck it' and decided to try a different approach.

Ratios.

If you've not heard of it, there are ratio formulas you can apply to pretty much any type of baking to create your own recipe. Michael Ruhlman is often credited for the 'Ratio Method' and has even written a cookbook on the subject, however, since I don't own his book, but do have access to free info online, I decided to give it a go and make up my own goddam cake recipe.

My plan was to start simple with a 1:1:1:1 cake - equal parts egg, butter, flour and sugar. Essentially a recipe for classic poundcake, you can change the texture of the cake depending on which order you blend the ingredients. So they say. I think that depends though, on if you stick to traditional ingredients.

Which I did not.

*sigh*

I can't do it. I just don't know how not to veer.

My train of thought:

'What if I crack open that jar of coconut oil I've had in the pantry for over a year and give it a try? Oooh ooh ohh - and what if I use that beautiful white Italian cornmeal I have instead of flour? Oh - maybe I should cut it with some ground almonds to give it a little more flavour. Oooooooooh - and THEN I'll make a small batch of blood orange jam to go on top of the cake. But that will be kind of dark so what if I mix it with a light sugar glaze!! YA YA YA! This is gonna be awesome!!'

And that's pretty much how it works.

Inspiration.

For me, that is.

Anyway, I made this cake and photographed it, then I took it downstairs and made Sean eat a piece. Before he even tasted it I said, 'Ugh - I don't know why I didn't just follow a stupid recipe!! This cake sucks!!'

To which he replied, 'I really like it'.

And so, because I am married to the pickiest man alive, and he said he liked this cake, I am posting the recipe. Because who knows? Maybe someone else will like it too!

By the way, it's gluten free and dairy free.

Blood Orange Coconut Cake with Blood Orange Glaze

1 egg + 2 yolks

100g coconut oil

100g organic cane sugar + 100-150g more for topping

100g cornmeal (I used fine-ground white Italian polenta I have in my pantry but any cornmeal will do)

100g ground almonds (mine were the No Name pre-ground kind)

1/2 C medium-shredded unsweetened coconut

4 blood oranges (mine were around 120g each)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 C icing sugar (aka powdered suagr/confectioner's sugar)

- Preheat oven to 350º - grease an 8-inch round cake tin with coconut oil and 'flour' with cornmeal

- Zest and juice one blood orange - set aside

- In a stand-mixer beat eggs and coconut oil on med-high speed for 10 minutes - slowly add sugar until combined - add cornmeal, ground almonds, coconut, baking soda, kosher salt plus the blood orange zest and juice you set aside - mix until combined - pour into prepared cake tin and smooth top with a spatula or butter knife - pop into hot oven and bake 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean - when cake is done, remove from oven and let cool in the tin, on a rack

- Slice the peel and pith off of two blood oranges with a sharp paring knife - cut orange pieces into small segments and remove seeds - weigh the cut up oranges and then put in a pot with an equal amount of organic cane sugar (my cut up oranges weighed 135g so I added 135g sugar to the pot) - bring to a gentle boil and continue to cook at a gentle boil for 15 minutes - set aside

- Sift icing sugar into a bowl and whisk in the juice of the fourth blood orange - stir in the cooked blood orange/sugar mixture - spread on top of cooled cake allowing the glaze to drip down the sides

Recipe : The Best Carrot Cake Ever

Ok, ok - I know that's a bold statement but REALLY, I MEAN IT.

I've been looking for the perfect carrot cake recipe for so long.

I've tried my mum's recipe, Sean's mum's recipe, my friend Phil's mum's recipe and guess what? My versions never taste as good as theirs. 

Last month, I was asked to photograph a few cakes, at the Hammonds Plains home of Seahorse Sweets owner Jody Waugh, for the current winter issue of East Coast Living Magazine. I arrived on a Saturday morning to find Jody about to start baking a carrot cake while her business partner-husband Keith sat in the dining room meticulously hand-painting teeny tiny Minnie Mouse decorations for a gorgeous, bright pink, little girl's birthday cake.

After our shoot, Jody looked at East Coast Living's editor, Suzanne Rent, and I and asked, 'Would either of you like a piece of carrot cake?'. Suzanne and I glanced at each other in a 'what kind of question is that?!?' kind of way and both offered a resounding 'YES PLEASE!'.

And that is the exact moment that the best carrot cake I have ever had entered my mouth for the first time.

Light - fluffy - moist (no oil!) - spicy - lots of frosting that's not too sweet.

Absolutely perfect.

When the winter issue of East Coast Living arrived in my mailbox I was thrilled to see Jody's recipe for carrot cake inside. I knew exactly when I was going to make it.

Sunday December 8 - Sean's birthday.

You see, carrot cake is Sean's FAVOURITE and he always has one, in one form or another, on his birthday.

I knew Jody's cake would be the one this year.

And guess what? He LOVED it. And so did I.

I am serious when I say this is the BEST CARROT CAKE RECIPE EVER!!!

I contacted Jody and asked if I could post her recipe and she said yes and so I am pleased to share with you:

Seahorse Sweets' Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting aka The Best Carrot Cake Ever

CARROT CAKE

3 eggs

1 C butter, melted

2 C sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 C flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 C crushed pineapple (include some juice)

2 C grated carrots

  • preheat oven to 350º - grease three 8-inch round cake tins with butter and line with parchment
  • beat eggs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy
  • sift flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda and salt - add to wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated
  • fold crushed pineapple and grated carrot into batter (I also added 250g of chopped walnuts)
  • divide batter between three cake tins and bake 25 minutes - check center with a toothpick - if still sticky, continue to bake checking every couple of minutes
  • cool in tins

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

2 C unsalted butter, room temp (I used salted and still added the 1 tsp of salt and it was fine)

2 blocks cream cheese, room temp

1 tsp clear vanilla (I used regular brown vanilla)

1 tsp salt

8 C icing sugar (aka powdered sugar - aka confectioner's sugar), sifted

  • beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy
  • add icing sugar to butter mixture (if using a stand mixer add all at one - if using a hand mixer, add one cup at a time

Please note - this recipe make a three layer 8-inch round cake and a ton of frosting. If you like less frosting, I would consider halving the cream cheese recipe

A huge gigantic super duper thank you to Jody and Keith at Seahorse Sweets for letting me share 'the best carrot cake recipe ever' with you!!!