Martha Stewart's CAKES : Happy Birthday to me

My birthday was last week and it was sooooo boring. I took my cat to the vet to have his teeth cleaned. I went to Target. We had a quiet dinner at home.

It was exactly what I wanted.

Except for one thing.

For the first time in my entire life, I didn't have a birthday cake.

No cake.

No candles to blow out.

A couple of days later, Martha Stewart's CAKES arrived for review from Random House of Canada and my immediate thought was, 'I'm going to make myself a birthday cake'.

I pored over the pages, reading every sweet little recipe intro, drooling over the beautiful photography, trying to decide which one would be perfect.

It turns out that choosing a cake recipe was much like choosing my wedding dress. The first one that caught my eye turned out to be my favourite.

Maple Cake.

'The incomparable flavour of pure maple syrup is reason enough to make this sweet treat; that it is quick to prepare is an added bonus. Maple syrup is marked and graded by its colour, ranging from light to dark - the darker the colour, the more intense the flavour. If you can find grade B, use it here for both the batter and the icing.' - Martha Stewart's CAKES, p 120

Martha's book instructs the Maple Cake to be baked as a single layer in a 9-inch square pan, but who wants a flat, square birthday cake? I divided the batter between two 8-inch round pans and doubled the icing.

Oh my god. The icing.

Anyone from Canada that's ever gone on a road trip has probably eaten a Maple Dip Donut from Tim Horton's.

Martha's maple frosting has the texture of the top of a Maple Dip but the taste is about a gazillion times better.

The cake itself was light and fluffy on the inside and baked to a perfect light golden brown crust on the outside.

Martha Stewart's CAKES is being heralded as a ' stop resource for cakes - birthday, chocolate, coffee, Bundt, upside-down, loaf, and more. From pound cake and angel food (with many variations) to genoise and streusel-topped, from comfort classics like red velvet, six-layer coconut, rich chocolate, lemon meringue, and cheesecake to sophisticated grown-up fare including chiffon cakes and tortes with luscious fruits, these 150 recipes and colour photographs cover techniques, decorating, and gifting ideas for every taste and occasion, whether no-fuss or fancy.'

A beautiful cake from a beautiful book.

Happy Birthday to me.

Martha Stewart's CAKES is available for sale on September 24, 2013.

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Sweet Potato Soup with Acadian Maple Syrup

One of the beauties of Twitter is the ability to hold conversation with people you would not normally meet. Last week, Tim Pratt of Real, Creative Eats tweeted about his weekend trip to the Earltown Maple Syrup Festival. I responded with a big 'I LOVE MAPLE!!!' tweet to which I then got a response from@AuthenticCoast with a link to the DesBarres Manor Inn recipe for Sweet Potato Soup with Nova Scotia Maple Syrup.

DesBarres Manor Inn is one of Nova Scotia's stunningly beautiful historic properties that has been faithfully restored to the full splendour of it's 1837 heritage. Located in the town of Guysborough, along the scenic Marine Drive of our Eastern Shore, DesBarres Manor has become a go to for lovers of local food and wine. 

'From our spectacular open kitchen, our culinary team uses fresh ingredients from the Manor’s organic garden along with seasonal gourmet treasures from local farmers and fishers to create contemporary Canadian cuisine with an East Coast flair. Seasonally inspired menus are complemented by the Proprietor’s extensive wine collection, offering you a personal selection of fine wines from around the world. Combined with our attentive service, the DesBarres Manor dining room creates a culinary experience as warm as our people.'

I followed DesBarres' recipe to a T and the end result was pretty good but I was left wanting a little more of a flavour kick. Maybe it's because I've been working for the Bertossis too long but my tastebuds have developed a serious need for intense flavour. 

DesBarres Manor Inn Sweet Potato Soup with Nova Scotia Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp Olive Oil, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1/2 C chopped celery, 1/2 C chopped onion

1 Litre Chicken Stock, 2 Lbs peeled and diced Sweet Potatoes

4 Tbsp Maple Syrup, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, 1 C Whipping Cream, 4 Tbsp Brandy

Sour Cream and Garlic Chives to garnish

Kelly's Modified Sweet Potato Soup with Acadian Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp Olive Oil, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 stalk chopped celery, 1/2 med onion, chopped

1.5 Litre Chicken Stock, 2 Lbs peeled and diced Sweet Potatoes

8 Tbsp Acadian Maple Syrup, 1/2 tsp Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp Cardamom, 1.5 C Milk, 4 Tbsp Brandy, pinch of dried chili flakes

**Sautee garlic, celery and onion in olive oil 2 minutes

**Add chicken stock and sweet potato - bring to the boil - reduce heat - simmer one hour or until potatoes are soft

**Puree - add all other ingredients - simmer 15 minutes

**Garnish with sour cream and garlic chives

I simmered my sweet potatoes for one hour as the recipe calls for. I should have taken them from the heat when I checked them at 1/2 an hour because that's when they were done. By the end of one hour, my sweet potatoes had reduced too much and were so thick that I had to add more liquid, hence the increased measurements of stock and milk in my version. Also, my whipping cream was expired so I had to substitute milk for cream.

The only real difference in my version is the seasoning. I doubled the Maple Syrup because I found the original amount got lost among the sweetness of the potatoes. I increased the amount of nutmeg and then added cardamom to bring forth another flavour dimension. The pinch of chili flakes, once pureed, rounded out the bottom end of the sweetness with a little fire. I ate my first bowl with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped baby chives (I couldn't find garlic chives). The chives added a nice hint of oniony crunch but I think the soup could stand alone without the sour cream. 

All in all, this was a really nice recipe from one of Nova Scotia's best!!