Category Archives: Bake with Anna Olson

Anna-Olson-Holiday-Dessert-Hacks

Transform Festive Desserts with Anna Olson’s Top Holiday Hacks

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to shine in the dessert department. In addition to the usual festive fare, why not dress things up for the holidays with Anna Olson’s sweet and easy hacks? Just follow these fun, fresh and flavourful ideas to make good use of your holiday ingredients, and take your Christmas baking to the next level.

How to Eggnog Anything

A mix of eggs, cream, sugar and booze, eggnog is the quintessential holiday drink. With a little ground nutmeg and rum extract, it’s easy to infuse this drink’s festive flavour into desserts, too. Anna shows that just a dash of rum (or rum extract) and ground nutmeg give buttercream frosting an unmistakable “eggnog” flavour. Swirl the sweet spread onto her Flourless Mini Vanilla Cupcakes and sprinkle nutmeg on top to complete the look. Or, for a decadent sweet treat, stir nutmeg and rum extract into Anna Olson’s Chocolate Truffles. If cookies are more your style, infuse the eggnog flavours into Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies by adding rum extract and ground nutmeg to the recipe, then, after baking, pipe frosting between two icebox cookies.

If you just can’t get enough eggnog this season, try your hand at these 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Eggnog.

Edible Peppermint Candy Platter

Instead of the plastic or glass trays, serve treats on an edible peppermint candy platter. Anna Olson demonstrates how to make a serving plate out of standard candies in this impressive holiday hack. If you’re making cookies, bake up a peppermint plate so you’ll have a unique and portable option for holiday parties and potlucks.

Adorable Rudolph Cookies

Shake up the holiday cookie table with these show-stopping sweets! Start with Anna’s Icing Sugar Cookies and learn how to transform them into adorable and easy decorated treats. A little royal icing and perfectly placed pretzels will help create delicious and adorable desserts. Those new to decorating will love how easy and achievable these sweets are.

Leftover Candy Canes

Got a stocking full of candy canes? There’s a recipe for that. Before you toss them, break out the food processor and pulse those broken bits into a fine candy cane crumb. This will serve as the base for tons of recipes. For a simple dessert, add crunchy candy cane bits inside and out of Anna Olson’s Vanilla Icebox Cookies. Another way to refresh your holiday treats with candy cane crumbs is to roll filled Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies into candy cane dust. If you’re looking for a festive sipper, double-up on the peppermint with this Slow Cooker Peppermint Hot Chocolate, lining the mug’s edge with candy cane bits (brush the edge with a bit of warm water to encourage sticking).

For even more recipes with the traditional holiday candy, try these 15 Tasty Recipes That Use Leftover Candy Canes.

Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Cookie Hacks

Plates and tins of shortbread, gingerbread and sugar cookies have long been a holiday tradition in households across the world, and for good reason. Holiday cookies are an indulgent classic, perfuming homes with comforting sugar and spice while satisfying the seasonal sweet tooth. Plus, they’re wonderful for gifting in jolly little jars or tins.


Click here for the chocolate snowflake cookies recipe from Anna Olson. 

But, between the shopping, wrapping, visiting and workplace parties, the holidays can sneak up on the best of us, leaving less time to bake than we’d like. That’s why we love these cookie hacks from master pastry chef Anna Olson, who always has her holiday baking under wraps! From decorated classics to spiced snickerdoodles, this cookie queen has you covered this season and beyond.

Watch Anna Olson’s Genius Ideas for Christmas Cookie Storage:

Plan Ahead, Bake Ahead
Being organized is the first step to creating an array of delightful treats that you and your loved ones can snack on, all season long. Get inspired by Santa and make a list of the recipes you want to enjoy this holiday season, then check it twice. As December can sometimes seem like a marathon, begin your baking as soon as that list is made.

Freeze Your Cookie Dough
If you’ve whipped up cookie dough but want to bake them off to gift or share later, store the unbaked dough in a zipper-top bag, and then pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Anna recommends freezing the dough rather than the cookies themselves as it saves space and retains freshness (and we think that nothing smells better than freshly-baked cookies!). Check out her awesome tips for techniques, storing and labelling in the video above.

Bake A “Fresh” Batch Every Week  
Now that you have a few batches of frozen dough in the freezer, do as Anna would do and bake up a tray of cookies once a week leading up to Christmas. With this hack, you’ll always have fresh treats on hand for family, friends and impromptu holiday guests.

Make One (Killer!) Basic Recipe
Having a versatile cookie dough base to work from saves time and ingredients, while allowing you to have a selection of cookies to enjoy over the holidays. Take Anna Olson’s Ice Box Cookies, for example. The base recipe can be combined with different ingredients to concoct amazing flavour combinations that will tickle a variety of taste buds.

Watch Anna Take One Cookie Recipe and Make Three Different Cookies:

Host A Cookie Exchange
Even the most organized bakers and holiday planners out there can’t always complete their checklists on time. That’s why hosting a cookie exchange is another great option when it comes to securing a selection of goodies. Anna has some tried and true tips on how to host the actual exchange to ensure that it goes smoothly. But don’t stress! As long as the hot cocoa is flowing and there are a few baked goods to snack on during the actual party, we’d say you’re pretty much covered.

Watch Anna Share 9 Tips for Christmas Cookie Exchange Success:

Ready to get baking? Here are dozens of our favourite festive cookie recipes to share, exchange and hoard this holiday season.

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Anna Olson’s Best Fixes for Your Biggest Baking Fails

When it comes to baking, nobody is perfect. Even expert bakers  have bad days in the kitchen, but the best part about messing up is learning from those mistakes.

Whether you’re baking a cake, whipping up a batch of cookies, or trying your hand at homemade pie dough, the next time you head into the kitchen, let Anna Olson show you how to fix your biggest baking fails.

Classic-Chocolate-Chip-Cookies

Make Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies.

1. Why do my chocolate chip cookies spread too much when baking?

There are two main reasons why your cookies all meld together into one giant sheet while baking. The first is that your butter could be too soft. An easy fix for that is to scoop the dough onto a pan, and then chill it for an hour before baking.

Your cookies could also fall flat if you use too much sugar or not enough flour. Even a seemingly harmless extra tablespoon of sugar could cause the cookies to spread because sugar liquefies as it bakes. Be sure to use measuring spoons and cups and follow the instructions for the best results.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Luscious Lemon Coconut Cake.

2. How do I stop my cake from sinking in the centre?

A common culprit that causes your cake to sink is an incorrect oven temperature. Just because your oven beeps and the display indicates that it’s 350ºF doesn’t mean that the temperature is accurate. An oven that runs too hot may make your cake look done when it really isn’t, or if the temperature oscillates, your ingredients can’t set at the right time and the cake sinks. The best solution is to purchase an oven thermometer and manually adjust how you set your oven.

Another cause is inactive baking powder or baking soda. If you don’t bake on a regular basis, always be sure to check the expiry date on your baking powder. For baking soda, replace it every three to four months and use the older box in the fridge as a deodorizer.

3. What causes my cheesecake to crack in the centre?

There are a few key steps to remember when baking a cheesecake. First, when adding eggs to your batter, mix them in on a low speed to prevent air working into the batter. Second, run a palette knife around the inside edge of the pan within 15 minutes of the cheesecake coming out of the oven. That way, if the cheesecake contracts, it will easily pull away from the sides without causing it to crack or tear in the centre. Finally, be sure to cool the cheesecake completely to room temperature before chilling. Your cheesecake can be refrigerated when the bottom of the pan is cool to the touch, not the sides.

Making a cheesecake? Try Anna Olson’s recipe for Classic New York Style Cheesecake.

Try Anna Olson’s Chocolate Banana Muffins.

4. How do I prevent peaked tops on muffins?

When your muffins come out of the oven with peaked tops, this is a sign of overmixing. To get those perfect muffin tops, mix your batter by hand instead of using electric beaters. When hand mixing, use a gentle stirring motion until the point where flour is no longer visible.

5. Can I still use curdled custard?

Curdled custard means that the eggs in the custard have overcooked, but don’t throw it away and start over. While still hot, put the custard into a food processor or blender, and puree on high speed. Strain the custard into a dish, cool and chill as usual, and no one will even know – it’ll be smooth and perfect!

Put your baking skills to use with Anna Olson’s Peach Raspberry Custard Tart.

6. What is seized chocolate, and how do I avoid it?

If your chocolate has seized, it will take on a dull, curdled look, it will not be smooth, and some oil (which is actually cocoa butter) will be floating. To prevent seizing, melt your chocolate in a metal bowl placed over a pot filled with an inch of barely simmering water while slowly stirring. The steam from the water gently melts the chocolate. Try and avoid using the microwave to melt your chocolate, but if you must, use a lower heat setting.

If your chocolate seizes, remove it from the heat and add a few drops of tepid water. Stir slowly and gently with a spatula where the water was added, then increase the radius of your stirring motion to return the chocolate to its smooth state.

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fruit Truffles are a must-try for chocolate lovers. Still not enough chocolate? Check out Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes.

Lemon-Meringue-Pie-anna-olson

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Pie.

7. Why does my pie dough crack when rolled or shrink when baked?

Dough cracking while rolling may not be a sign of anything wrong with the dough itself. It is often that the butter within the dough is too cold, causing the cracking. To prevent this, try pulling out the dough 30 minutes before rolling. It will roll out with less cracking (and far less effort).

If your dough shrinks when rolled or after baking, it’s a sign that it needed “relaxing.” The proteins (gluten) in flour become elastic when “exercised,” i.e. making and rolling the dough, and time is the only fix. If your dough springs back when rolling, pop it back into the fridge to rest for 20 to 45 minutes. To avoid a crust that shrinks when baking, chill the lined pie shell for 30 minutes before baking.

8. Is there a way to prevent a cake from breaking when it’s turned out of the pan?

All baked goods, including cakes, tarts, cookies and muffins, are fragile directly out of the oven. Be sure to wait 15 to 20 minutes before turning them out to cool.

If you suspect that the problem may be caused by the pan (cake will stick to a scratched pan even if it’s greased), then line the pan with parchment paper. Have the parchment hang just above the edges of the pan so you can use it to easily lift out the cake.

Test your baking abilities with Anna Olson’s Carrot Cake.

9. Is there a secret to preventing butter tart filling from bubbling over or sinking in the centre?

Butter tart filling bubbles over or sinks in the centre due to over-mixed filling. The eggs hold in the air which rises in the oven, causing the filling to overflow while baking and then sink immediately when taken out of the oven. The secret is to whisk the filling by hand until it’s evenly blended.

Sugar crystals in the bottom of the tarts are also caused by over-mixing, causing the sugar to separate from the eggs as the filling bakes. Adding a teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to the filling ensures the sugar will completely dissolve as the filling bakes.

Anna Olson shows you how to impress your guests with a butter tart buffet.

 

10. How can I avoid lemon square filling from seeping under the crust base?

The key to making squares with a fluid filling poured over a base, such as lemon squares, is how you mix the base. It should feel crumbly, so don’t over-mix it. Gently press the base into the pan, and make sure a bit of it comes up the edges and goes into the corners. Do not pack it in firmly or it will pull away from the edges while it bakes, leaving a gap for the fluid lemon filling to seep underneath.

Give Anna Olson’s Lemon Meringue Squares a try.

Looking for more? Try Anna Olson’s Best New Desserts.

Anna Olson’s Canadian-Inspired Desserts Will Make Your Weekend

The days are long and languid, and I love lapping up every last drop by spending as much time outdoors as possible. Let your summer dinner party festivities linger on by setting up a Canadian-inspired dessert bar, so guests can help themselves (and return for seconds.)

A Festive Strawberry Shortcake Bar

June & July are strawberry season, so why not celebrate with this fresh red and white dessert — strawberry shortcake?  If you are into baking, you can bake off shortcake biscuits, then have bowls of sweetened whipped cream and fresh strawberries sliced and ready for assembling and serving.  You can even add a bowl of chards of crisp meringue to stir into the dessert, making an Eton Mess (and this also gives those going gluten-free an option!).

Farmhouse-Strawberry-Shortcake

Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

Get the recipe: Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

For more of a cake version, slices of angel food cake suit strawberries and cream.  Set a whole cake out on display as a centerpiece, but have slices of cake already paltered and ready to serve.

Anna-Olson-Strawberry-Shortcake-and-Trifle

L-R: Angel Food Cake with fresh fruit; Strawberry Shortcake Trifles

For a more formal setting, you can assemble individual strawberry trifles.  Arrange them on a dressed table and use quarts of fresh strawberries as décor.

A Classic Butter Tart Buffet

A Canadian classic, this is a fun dessert station to set up if you are hosting a party at the cottage.  We all love butter tarts, but there are heated debates over what should be inside a butter tart: Raisins? Walnuts? Pecans? Chocolate Chips? Bacon? Nothing? So in order to please everyone, I like to make a dessert station out of butter tarts, or even butter tart squares.

Take the Quiz: Which Butter Tart Matches Your Personality?

I make plain butter tarts or butter tart squares – a good non-stick pan really helps make extracting the tarts or squares easy, and I’ve put my muffin tin through the paces, testing them with butter tarts!

Butter Tart Buffet, photo courtesy of Janis Nicholay

Get the recipe: Anna’s Butter Tart Bars

After the tarts are made, I prepare bowls of our favourite butter tart add-ins, as well as scoops of ice cream and caramel and chocolate sauce. Each guest can grab a plate, place a butter tart on it and top it as they wish.  What I’ve learned over doing this just about every summer is that inevitably, each guest puts EVERYTHING on their butter tart!

See More: These Nanaimo Bar Popsicles are Everything You Need This Summer

 

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and decor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and www.thebay.com

Anna Olson Dessert Station

Anna Olson’s Best Dessert Station Recipes for a Picture-Perfect Party

It’s time to party!  We as Canadians know how to appreciate every bit of sweetness that our summer season gives to us, and that includes entertaining guests for birthdays, bridal and baby showers, graduations and family reunions, and even better if we can host outdoors.

Maybe you’ve figured out the snacks and nibbles, and you know that the grill will be fired up to take care of the main part of the meal, but what to do about dessert?

Anna Olson's Raspberry Fruit Jellies
Homemade Raspberry Jellies

Dessert stations are the hot ticket at professionally catered events, but you don’t have to be a caterer to create a beautiful, themed dessert bar.  Having such a set up is ideal for a large group because there are some guests who will make one visit to grab a sweet plate, some may take a pass altogether, and there are others who may sneak in multiple trips.

A dessert station also allows you to use time before the party starts to set up the table nicely, leaving space for your bowls and platters that need to be refrigerated to be added last minute, and all of the work is done ahead of time — anything that allows you to be more of a guest at your own party gets a checkmark in my book.

Here are a few fun ideas for summery desserts that suit a party:

Waffle Dessert Station

Hosting a brunch party or shower? Waffles don’t have to be a part of the breakfast portion…make them dessert!

If you have space and the inclination, you could set up an “action station” and let people make their own waffles, or you (or a “voluntold” family member) could make them.  As your guests take their waffles, have an assortment of sauces and toppings ready for dressing:

  • Chocolate, Dulce de Leche or caramel sauce
  • Fresh fruits: berries, pineapple, bananas, mango
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Cupcake frosting (colour-tinted or rainbow if your party has a colour theme)
  • Sprinkles (for that unicorn effect)
  • Mini marshmallows (for the s’mores effect)
  • Whipped Cream

There are two main types of waffles you can make:

1. Classic buttermilk waffles are made from a batter similar to pancakes, but have whipped egg whites folded in right before making.

2. Liege waffles are a yeast-raised waffle dough, that has crushed sugar cubes added before portioning.  This dough can be made ahead and chilled (which might be handy before a busy party day).

See More: Anna Olson’s Maple Bacon Waffle Cake

Cupcake Garden Dessert Station

Cupcakes are the perfect summer party dessert.  They are easy to pick up and eat with your fingers, the perfect single portion and as pretty as can be!  You may have thought that cupcakes were just a dessert “phase” we were going through, but they have stood the test of time and are still a popular choice at weddings, showers and other garden parties.

Of course, you can decorate your cupcakes as simple or as elaborate as you wish, but if hosting your party outside, why not make a flower garden of your cupcake display?  Here is my recipe that shows how to decorate some colourful flowers. I use my piping tip set and disposable (but reusable and recyclable) piping bags from the Anna Olson Kitchen line to get the job done.

Anna-Olson-Cupcake-Garden
Vanilla Cupcakes with Floral Frosting

See more: Anna Olson’s Very Best Cupcake Recipes

All Things Sprinkles!

Anything with sprinkles is hot right now, so make a colourful dessert station out of just about any assortment of desserts, so long as sprinkles abound on top and/or within them! Tarts, cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, cookies, squares — just about any sweet treat takes on a playful tone when sprinkles are added.

Confetti-Frosted-Sugar-Cookie-Squares
Confetti Frosted Sugar Cookie Squares

You can use bowls and jars of sprinkles as part of the table decor, or just provide spoons so people can add sprinkles as they wish.

Party Table Tips

Now that you’ve picked your dessert table theme, here are a few tips for success as you plan and assemble:

1. Location

If setting up your dessert table outdoors, be sure that it is shaded, so that desserts don’t melt in direct sunlight. This also applies to indoors — avoid setting a dessert table near a window with direct sunlight, which can magnify the heat and melt the icing off a cake!

2. Labels 

Place tags next to each dessert item, so that if unattended, guests know what the desserts are. Include potential allergens, or note if items are “free” from gluten, eggs, dairy, etc.

See More: Anna’s Vegan Baking Hacks

3. Serving Tools 

Place serving tools on each platter or plate, but have a few spares on hand, just in case a spoon slips into the whipped cream bowl.

4. Use Battery Twinkle Lights 

Tea lights are pretty, but can be dangerous on a dessert table if an arm with a sleeve reaches over an open flame. Strings of battery-operated twinkle lights are easy to arrange and add the perfect sparkle.

5. Takeaway Boxes 

Want guests to take treats home with them? Bakery boxes or more decorative boxes can be purchased affordably at craft stores.

I hope you are as excited as I am for the summer hosting season… I’ll see you on the back deck!

Anna Olson Party Desserts

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and decor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and www.thebay.com

Anna-Olson-Birthday-Cake-tile

Here’s the Cake Anna Olson Bakes for Her Birthday – and Why You Should, Too!

Everybody loves birthday cake! And why not? A birthday cake means there is a celebration, and someone is being honoured, and best of all if that person is YOU!

My birthday is May 8th, falling very near or sometimes right on Mother’s Day, so there are now two reasons to bake a cake.  The question is: what type of cake to make?  You’ve seen me make every possible type of cake, but are you curious which are my favourites?  Here are a few things about me and my love of cake, and some guiding tips that I follow:

Cake vs. Cupcake

Cupcakes were always my choice growing up, and ballerinas were my “thing”. My Mom had a set of plastic ballerina figurines that she would top each cupcake with for years.

Remember regular layer cake batters don’t always adapt well to cupcakes.  Often wet batters will stick to the paper liners on cupcakes instead of peeling away easily.  If you want a cupcake, choose a cupcake recipe.

Chocolate-Spice-Cupcakes
Chocolate Spice Cupcake with Chocolate “Swirl” Frosting

Tip: When baking cake layers, whether round or square, use cake pans with sides that are a straight 90° from the bottom.  Some cake pans have angled sides (for the only reason that they nest well for shipping) but when layers are assembled, the cake won’t have straight sides, and the angle is noticeable when the cake is sliced. I’ve designed my Anna Olson Kitchen cake pans specifically with this in mind.

Choosing Your Cake Flavour

I love the classically named cakes, with their defined flavour & filling combinations:


Black Forest Cake – chocolate cake, cherry filling and whipped cream frosting

Dobos-TorteDobos Torte – thin layers of nut sponge with chocolate buttercream and a caramelized sugar “fan” on top

Opera-TorteOpera Torte – sponge, ganache and mocha buttercream

I also like watching cake flavour and decor trends, including “naked” cakes, confetti cakes, and I am going through a serious waffle cake phase right now.

I don’t repeat birthday cakes – I change it up every year, and I rarely choose a chocolate cake.

When to Bake Your Cake

Because I’d like to be a guest at my own birthday party, I plan on baking the cake layers two days ahead (or baking and freezing further ahead) and making the fillings and frosting the day before, and assembling then.

Tip: Cake layers are less crumbly and easier to slice when baked a day before frosting them.

Anna-Olson-birthday-cake

Tip: Unfrosted cake layers should not be refrigerated (it would dry the cake out. If baking a day ahead, wrap them well and leave them on the counter.  Once assembled, the frosting seals in the moisture, so it can be chilled and stay fresh.

How Long Will Your Cake Sit Out?

If the weather is nice (and you went to a deal of effort), you’ll want to show off the cake and let it sit out at room temperature (out of direct sunlight).

Tip: Frosting and fondants that have food colouring added fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Take care where the cake is placed for display, and adding a little glycerin (available where you buy cake decorating supplies) to your frosting or fondant will help preserve the colour.

So you need to choose fillings and frosting that suit:

Out for under 30 minutes: mousse fillings and whipped cream frostings are fine.

Out for 30-90 minutes: Curd fillings, fruit fillings, cream cheese frostings and chocolate ganache can handle sitting out for longer.

Out for 90+ minutes: Swiss buttercream cakes, fondant covered cakes, and cupcakes can sit out longer.  Italian buttercream is the most stable frosting, which is why it is a favourite choice of pastry chefs for wedding cakes.

Anna’s Birthday Cake

So now that we’ve talked about all types of cakes, what is my choice for a birthday cake?  And the winner is:

Lemon-Swiss-Buttercream-Hatbox-Cake
Lemon Swiss Buttercream Hatbox Cake

Lemon cakes are ideal in spring, and I’m also thinking about Mother’s Day – I’ll be celebrating with my Mom then, and she loves a good lemon cake as well.  The silkiness of the Swiss buttercream is sweet, smooth and stable, but is not overly rich or cloying.  I’m not certain that I’ll replicate this hatbox style – I may go for piping spring flowers on top to suit the season.  Now that the Anna Olson Kitchen line carries a box of 100 reusable & recyclable disposable piping bags, and a piping tip set, there are no limits to my decor stylings.

Lemon-Swiss-Buttercream-Hatbox-Cake-version-2

And if you are baking a birthday cake for yourself or someone else, remember that delicious memories are made in the kitchen – enjoy the time spent baking as much as the time spent eating!

 

The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and décor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and  www.thebay.com

Anna Olson Assembling Cakes

Anna Olson’s Top Tips for Assembling and Icing Cakes

Dreamed of being a cake boss? From simple coffee cakes to elaborately layered tortes, it’s all within the realm of “yes, you can!” if you master the recipe and technique. When baking at home, follow Anna Olson’s step-by-step methods to creating beautiful and delicious cakes dressed to impress.

Stacking Cake Layers

Don’t be intimidated: it only takes three simple tools to successfully stack two cakes on top of each another. Plus, Anna’s easy instructions make it a cinch.

As Anna says, grab your measuring tape, wooden doweling, and a serrated knife, and give it a go at home.

How to Fill a Cake

For filling a cake, think beyond the usual frosting-cake combination: spoon lemon curd, strawberries stirred with jam, chocolate mousse, or whatever you fancy between the cake layers. Follow Anna’s step-by-step instructions and your cake will slice perfectly without squishing or sliding.

To recap, the steps are to create a stabilizing “dam” – a ring of buttercream frosting around the edges and a secret slicing ring in the centre – and then spoon filling into the gap and pop on the next layer. Repeat until you’ve got a towering masterpiece ready to be decorated.

Masking a Layer Cake

Once you learn the icing essentials, “masking” or frosting a cake is a snap.

Remember these essential tips from Anna when masking your cake:

  1. Start by using more frosting than you need
  2. Always mask at the top of the cake first, and then move onto the sides
  3. Always connect the next addition of frosting to the first
  4. When polishing the cake, start with the sides and finish with the top
  5. Use a bowl scraper to achieve clean edges on your cake
  6. Chill the cake for 30 minutes before decorating

Covering a Cake with Fondant

Why not fancify your baked creation with a little fondant? Working with this edible icing, used to sculpt or decorate cake, is easier than you think.

Remember, the key steps are:

  1. Ice the cake.
  2. Roll the fondant into a thin but stable layer.
  3. Using the rolling pin, drape the fondant over the cake.
  4. Gently press out any air bubbles.
  5. Trim the edges.
  6. With the palm of your hand, rub the fondant until it feels satiny.

Looking for more cake inspiration? Check out Anna Olson’s Best-Ever Cake Recipes.

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The Only One-Bowl Brownie Recipe You Need (With a Secret Ingredient!)

The secret to moist, chewy, fudgey brownies? Mayonnaise!  Everyone’s favourite sandwich spread is the key to success when it comes to the perfect brownie. Also worth mentioning is that mayo replaces the need for any butter, which means far less saturated fat.

Anna Olson’s One Bowl Chocolate Brownies

Makes: 1 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) pan

Ingredients:

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
⅔ cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
⅔ cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease and line a 9-x-13-inch (3.5 L) baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour boiling water overtop. Let the chocolate mixture sit one minute, then whisk to melt.
3. Whisk in the sugar, then add the mayonnaise and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.
4. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until evenly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
6. Brownies slice best when chilled, but taste best at room temperature.
7. Once sliced, you can store the brownies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Want more baking recipes and tips? Find out how to fix your biggest baking fails here.

How to Make Rainbow Swirl Frosting

If certain coffee franchises have taught us anything through their creative iced drinks, it’s that when it comes to all rainbow-coloured or unicorn-inspired  people are all in. So why shouldn’t the tri-coloured frosting be all the rage with cupcakes, too? Thanks to a little kitchen creativity, you can get that same pretty rainbow effect without heading out to the bakery or fancy cake shop.

Rainbow Frosting, Two Ways

Anna Olson has two ways to achieve a tri-coloured swirl that works for any colour-combo of your choosing. That means decorating with soft pastels, funky neons, or with themed birthday or anniversary party hues – it’s as simple as scooping icing into a piping bag.

Anna Olson puts a pastel concoction to the test with a fresh batch of cupcakes, first by using three separate piping bags joined by a special coupler. The tool helps to give the icing a rainbow-like effect, with perfectly defined edges. Then, for those of us who don’t have such fancy tools, she shows us how to create a pretty tie-dyed effect using one large piping bag and a simple star tip. Sure, those edges may fold into each other a little more, but it’s actually a really pretty and neat way to finish off a traditional cupcake. One that’s guaranteed to be loved by children and adults alike.

It may sound like a fancy schmancy way to top the traditional dessert, but it’s actually really easy. Even novice bakers can get the hang of this with a little practice and a spare frosting plate.

“I love that no two cupcakes look the same… it almost looks like a bouquet of flowers,” Olson says towards the end, once she’s decorated half-a-dozen impressive yet oh-so-simple cupcakes in a matter of seconds.

With frosting tips like these, you’re certain to be the star of your next birthday celebration, potluck get-together or cupcake party. If you can resist the tempting colours long enough to actually get them there without eating them all first, of course.

You special little unicorn, you. And now as someone out there probably once said, “keep calm and cupcake on.”

Want more recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out 30 Celebration Worthy Cupcake Recipes.

Pudding Chomeur is The Québec Dessert We All Need in Our Lives

It’s no secret that some of our favourite foods are French Canadian classics; Tourtière, split pea soup, maple everything and of course, gravy-and-cheese-curd-smothered poutine. But when it comes to desserts, nothing beats syrupy, sweet pudding chomeur.

What is Pudding Chomeur?

If you haven’t had this classic, quintessential Québec dessert and you love the taste of fresh maple, this is definitely one you’ll want to add to your recipe box. The dish first rose in popularity during The Great Depression, when factory workers were forced to be a little more creative with what they had on hand, especially if they wanted to indulge their sweet tooth. For French Canadians that meant all the staples for a basic cake (flour, butter, milk and eggs) and tons of maple syrup that they sometimes sourced in their very own backyards. (If they didn’t have access to maple syrup, they used brown sugar as a caramel stand-in instead.)

The result was pudding chomeur, which roughly translates into “unemployment” or “poor man’s” pudding. Don’t let the name fool you though; once you dig into these single-serve cakes and all of their glorious maple goodness, you’ll feel like you’re indulging in the richest (not to mention easiest to whip-up) dessert ever.

Anna Olson has her own elevated riff on the dish, where she takes a regular old cake base—no added vanilla or lemon zest here—and gussies it up with some additional butter and brown sugar for a little extra luxurious richness.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Pudding Chomeur.

Then comes the really delicious part: the maple syrup concoction. Olson simmers up maple syrup, water, vanilla and more butter and then douses her uncooked cakes until they’re swimming in the stuff.

“You’re going to think it’s too much syrup,” she advises. But it’s not. It’s really, really not.

For you see, as the pudding chomeur bakes up, the maple syrup bakes down, thoroughly soaking the cake and transforming it into a sweet, syrupy ramekin of heaven. You end up with cake on top and all of the maple goodness for dipping and dunking underneath.

It’s so simple you could make it on a weeknight, but it’s also rich enough to serve to guests at the end of a fancy dinner party. Another bonus? Your house will smell absolutely incredible.

Now that’s what we call une bonne idée.

Want to try your hand at more classic dessert recipes? Take a look at this list of Anna Olson’s classic baking recipes.

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4 Must-Know Chocolate Rules for Better Baking

A chocolate dessert is a welcome sight at any time of the year, no special occasion required. While there’s a certain set of rules for making chocolate truffles and other candy, chocolate desserts like cakes, tarts, mousses and more requires some specific know-how. From knowing when to use baking chocolate vs. chocolate chips to decoding chocolate percentages, this information will help you deliver desserts that are as decadent as they deserve to be.

Rich-Chocolate-Mousse-Cake

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

1. The Difference Between Chocolate Chips and Baking Chocolate

There are two types of chocolate used in baking recipes and they have distinct characteristics and functions.

Chocolate Chips

Sold in a bag and measured by volume (i.e. 1 cup/250 mL), chocolate chips are designed to hold their shape when stirred into a batter or dough, like in Chocolate Chip Cookies. They often contain ingredients like soy lecithin that helps the chip hold its shape and stay in place within the recipe. That is why chocolate chips are not meant to be melted and folded into recipes like chocolate cake, frosting or brownies. You will find that when melted, the chocolate is thick and even grainy since the chips weren’t designed for this function.

Baking Chocolate

Sold in squares, bars or large chips called “callets,” baking chocolate is also called couverture chocolate. It is made to be chopped and melted to be used in baking. It is important to weigh your baking chocolate for recipes, and not measure it by volume. When melted, baking chocolate is smooth and glossy, making it easy to stir into your recipes. Chocolate sold in bars labelled as “chocolate” can be used in baking, but if the bar is labelled as a “candy bar”, then that is eating chocolate, not baking chocolate.

2. The Difference Between Dark, Milk and White Chocolates

Dark and milk chocolates are made up of cocoa solids (also called cocoa liquor), cocoa butter, sugar, flavouring such as vanilla, and sometimes emulsifiers like lecithin. Milk chocolate is milder than dark chocolate because it has fewer cocoa solids and more sugar and cocoa butter, making it melt more easily and taste a little sweeter.

White chocolate has all of the above ingredients except for the cocoa solids, so the absence of that bitter character makes it taste so mild and sweet. On the opposite end of the spectrum, unsweetened chocolate has no sugar and very little cocoa butter, so it is strong and very bitter.

Because these differences in cocoa contents, dark milk and white chocolates melt and re-set differently from each other. Because of this difference, they’re not interchangeable in recipes. Other ingredients such as the sugar, cream and butter would need to be adjusted if you planned on changing chocolates.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Dark Chocolate Mousse

3. Chocolate Percentage Explained

In the world of dark chocolate, you may notice that it is called semisweet or bittersweet, or the package has a percentage on it. This percentage indicates the cocoa liquor content. The higher the percentage, the more intense the chocolate.

Semisweet needs a minimum of 35% cocoa liquor but typically falls between 40 and 65%. Bittersweet chocolate falls between 66% and 99%, but 70% is my preferred number for desserts that have a chocolate intensity and balance.

White Chocolate Mousse Cups

4. Baking Chocolate Storing Tips

Be sure to store chocolate, well-wrapped in a cool, dark place, but be sure not to refrigerate or freeze chocolate. If you see a white “dust” on the surface of your chocolate, it is not mould. It is called bloom, and is simply a little cocoa butter rising to the surface of the chocolate, and is a sign of a temperature change at some point. It is perfectly fine to use.

Are you a chocoholic? Try Anna Olson’s Best Chocolate Recipes.

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How to Make the Best Birthday Cake

Birthday cakes carry some of the fondest memories. Sweet, colourful frosting,  the warm glow of birthday candles and making a wish when you blow them out.

What’s most important when baking a birthday cake from scratch is to feel the spirit of the occasion. You’re baking this cake for someone you care about, to celebrate them and mark their special day with a shared sweet treat.

From choosing the perfect birthday cake recipe to icing tips and tricks, this guide will help you make a memorable and mouthwatering birthday cake.

How to Select a Birthday Cake Recipe

Which Flavour of Cake to Make?

Chocolate and vanilla cake are the most common types of birthdays because they tend to be crowd pleasers. Birthday cakes are for sharing, after all! Lemon and carrot cake follow close behind these top two cake flavours. And if you happen to be baking a cake for my birthday, then consider this Luscious Lemon Coconut Cake, it’s my all-time favourite!

Here are my favourite recipes for the most popular birthday cake flavours.

Chocolate Cake:  Anna Olson’s Classic Devil’s Food Cake


Vanilla Cake: Anna Olson’s Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake with Caramel Pastry Cream

Lemon Cake: Anna Olson’s Lemon Swiss Buttercream Hatbox Cake

Carrot Cake: Anna Olson’s Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

How Big of a Cake to Make

While an 8-inch or 9-inch round cake might be typical, it’s popular right now to make cakes that are taller with a smaller diameter. You can take a recipe for a two-layer, 8 or 9-inch cake and spread the batter evenly in an 11-x-17-inch sheet pa. This will likely take less time to bake, so set the timer 10-15 minutes sooner, but check the doneness the same way. Then use a large round cutter or a template you can trace to cut smaller rounds and make a 4 or 5-layer cake that will sit wonderfully tall.

The Right Ingredients

Stick to the ingredients called for to make the cake. If the recipe calls for cake and pastry flour, it is because using it will result in a tender cake with a fine and delicate crumb structure, because the flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose. Dutch process cocoa powder has some acidity removed so it will react to the baking powder or soda differently than regular cocoa. Buttermilk really makes a cake moist and nicely balanced.

 

Make-Ahead Cake Tip

Cake layers can be baked well ahead of time and frozen, and then thawed on the counter when ready to assemble. Do not refrigerate unfrosted cake or it will dry out.

Birthday Cake Frosting Tips

There are countless types of frostings to choose from, and my above recipes feature common types: chocolate, basic buttercream, Swiss buttercream, and cream cheese. Here are a few quick tips that apply to all  frostings:

  1. Work with frosting at room temperature. To be smooth and spreadable, frosting needs to be at room temperature. If it’s a warm day, your butter may be softer than room temperature, so pop the frosting in the fridge until it holds its shape when you spoon or spread it.
  2. Food colouring gel works easily and smoothly into frostings. Just add a little at a time with a toothpick, mixing well before adding more. The colour will intensify the longer it sits, so favour less at first. Also, the colour will fade if exposed to sunlight, so keep that in mind when you display your cake.
  3. Buttercream or cream cheese frosting benefits from whipping on high speed to build in structure and a fluffy texture. If you want a fudgy frosting for your chocolate cake, like Devil’s Food Cake, then avoid whipping the frosting.

Make-Ahead Frosting Tip

All of the above frostings can be made ahead and then chilled or frozen to be used later. Thaw the frostings on the counter (do not microwave) and then re-whip them to fluff them up before using.

How To Assemble a Birthday Cake

There are 3 parts to assembling the birthday cake:

 

How to Fill a Layer Cake

If adding a pastry cream or a fruit filling to your birthday cake, you need to prevent it from seeping out the sides.  To do this, spoon some of the frosting into a piping bag and pipe a “dam” around the outside edge of the cake, then spoon and spread the filling before topping with the next cake layer.

 

How to Mask a Cake

Covering the cake smoothly takes a little patience and practice. A fully masked cake has the frosting on the top and sides while a “naked” cake has the sides exposed (no frosting, or just a sheer layer). A few hints on masking:

  • More is More! Dollop or spread generous amounts of frosting when first applying. It is easier to scrape away excess frosting than to add more (at the risks of pulling up crumbs).
  • Top then Sides: Spread a level layer of frosting onto the top of the filled cake, pushing it right over the edges. This makes it easier to frost the sides and have the edges meet easily and straight.
  • Smooth, smooth, smooth! Use an offset palette knife to keep smoothing the top and sides of the cake until it is smooth and seamless.

Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas

  • any sprinkles, cookies or candies should be applied before chilling the cake
  • ribbon can be used, but place a strip of parchment under the actual ribbon, so that grease marks from the buttercream do not appear.
  • practice any piping detail on a plate or sheet of parchment before starting on your cake, but …
  • remember that all piping mistakes are erasable.  Simply scrape off and start again.
  • the same goes for writing “Happy Birthday” in chocolate. Practice on a plate first
  • fresh fruits and flowers are a lovely way to finish a cake. Be sure that flowers are non-toxic, and that fruits are washed, and air-dried before applying.

Have a birthday coming up? Try one of our Best Birthday Cake Recipes.

anna-olson-kneading-dough

Anna Olson’s Guide to Making Bread at Home

Comforting, filling and satisfying, bread is the cornerstone of western food culture. And making your own bread is one of the gratifying baking projects. There’s a sense of power and confidence that comes from coaxing four simple ingredients into a dough that grows and then bakes into something so fulfilling.

There is such satisfaction to rip into that loaf of freshly baked bread, a whisper of steam emanating from it, and letting the butter wind in little rivulets as it melts on your first bite. If you’ve always wanted to try making your own loaf, this guide will give you the knowledge and confidence to bake bread at home.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rustic Ciabatta.

The Four Magic Ingredients

Flour

Bread flour has a higher protein (gluten) content than all-purpose, so when kneaded, the proteins bond, giving the dough strength so it can hold in the air the yeast produces. Many types of bread can be made with all-purpose flour, but if you are getting serious about bread baking, then bread flour is best.

Water

Tap or spring water is a personal choice, but no matter your choice, the temperature is key. Yeast ferments at around 115ºF (46ºC), so your water should be that or a touch warmer. A thermometer isn’t necessary – I just test the water on my wrist – it should feel slightly warmer than body temperature.

Yeast

Yeast is key to fermentation. Yeast feeds on the natural sugars within the flour and generates alcohol and carbon dioxide, which causes your dough to rise. As the bread bakes the alcohol cooks off, while the air bubbles produced by the CO2 stay in place, making the bread airy, fluffy and light.

Leavening Agents

Most bread recipes call for commercial yeast, but there’s more than one way to leaven your bread.

Commercial Yeast

The simplest ways to start fermentation is to add a few teaspoons of dry active or instant yeast. Dry active yeast needs to be dissolved into water, while instant yeast can be added at any time, no dissolving needed.

Starters

A yeast starter is a natural and flavourful way to start fermentation, most commonly used for sourdough bread. To make your own starter, combine equal parts by weight of flour and water. Then add a touch of honey. You could also add a pinch of commercial yeast, which is optional. Place the mixture in a loosely-covered jar on your countertop and let sit for 24-36 hours. The natural yeast in the air will start a fermentation. After using, remaining starter can be re-fed and stored in the fridge, feeding it every two days with the same proportions of flour and water. The longer it ages, the more flavour it develops.

Salt

Salt does more than flavor bread. It also slows fermentation, which is a good thing. The longer a bread is left to rise the better flavour you get and the interior texture becomes stretchy when you tear into it. Commercial breads than have a fluffy cotton-like texture are quickly fermented, where homemade or artisan breads have a chewier texture and more character.

 

4 Easy Steps to Making Bread

How to Knead Bread

Kneading is the important step of working the dough to develop the proteins in the flour. You can do this by hand or with a mixer equally well, and it is a gratifying step – that feeling of pushing, stretching and pulling the dough is so soothing, and as the dough becomes developed, you will feel it get elastic under your hands.

Don’t be tempted to add too much flour to your dough as you knead it. I like to hold back 1/2 cup of flour from the recipe to use for kneading. Bread dough should still be a little tacky in most cases and barely come away from your hands after kneading.

How to Proof Bread

This is the most important part of bread making, and where you do nothing! Time is key here – the first proof (also called rise) is where the yeast really gets to work, developing flavor and texture. The first proof is usually at room temperature and some recipe call for you to punch down the dough, to challenge the yeast to get to work again.

The second proof happens after shaping, and you can control the timing of this by popping the bread into the fridge (this way you can make, proof and shape your bread dough the evening before, chill it overnight and then proof it in the morning to start the day with freshly baked bread).

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s Seeded Rye Bread.

How to Shape Bread

Every culture with bread has a style for shaping it. Regions in France and Italy have very specific shapes to their bread, or consider flatbreads and other styles such as naan.

Shaping isn’t just for aesthetics – as the baker, you are knocking out the air from the dough one last time, coaxing that yeast back to work, and this helps develop the crust.

How to Bake Bread

Most bread cooks best in a high temperature oven, to set the crust and get that final burst of leavening. Adding steam, by spraying the inside of the oven with a misting bottle, or placing a tray filled with 2 cups of boiling water helps develop a good crust and a shine to the crust.

You can tell when your bread is baked by lifting it up with a tea towel and tapping the bottom – if it sounds hollow, then it’s done.

If you are baking bread in tins, turn the bread out of the tins immediately from the oven.

The most challenging step when baking bread? Letting it cool at least 20 minutes before slicing or tearing into it!

Can’t wait to get baking? Try Anna Olson’s Best Classic Baking Recipes.

Anna Olson’s Cheerful Lemon Meringue Easter Desserts

Easter marks the time of year when the sun begins to shine a little brighter and warmer, and when garden flowers slowly begin to emerge from the ground. Not only are welcome changes happening outside, but also inside kitchens, with home bakers turning to fresh, vibrant flavours, like zingy lemon, for desserts that offer a treat for both the palate and eyes. Resident pastry pro, Anna Olson showcases a few brilliant ways to bring those good outdoor vibes into the kitchen with her lemon meringue desserts.

Get creative with lemon meringue, and think beyond pie this Easter with Anna Olson’s desserts that delight.

 

Anna Olson uses a bright lemon curd to fill cupcakes, profiteroles and eclairs before giving them the burnished meringue flourish.  Here’s where you can easily find the recipes that Anna references in the above video:
To bake up a lemon-scented cupcake, try Anna’s recipe here.

Get Anna’s lemon curd recipe here.

To make eclairs and profiteroles, use Anna’s recipe here.

Lemon Curd Makes Easter Desserts Shine

Anna Olson’s lemon curd recipe can be used beyond the recipes she features in the video. For instance, for a lemon-lovers Easter dessert, double the citrus by infusing a pound cake with lemon zest, then top each slice with a spoonful of lemon curd and tumble of sliced strawberries. Or, use lemon curd to fill a springtime layer cake or stir into yogurt for an Easter brunch side dish. There are countless ways to get more lemon curd into your springtime sweets.

The Best Meringue for Lemon Desserts

For that must-have snowy white topping, Anna makes a Swiss meringue, which begins by whisking egg whites and sugar together over a water bath until warm. This differs slightly from the raw egg white French meringues many recipes call for. When the sugar is dissolved and the whites are foamy, the mixture is added to a stand mixer where it’s beaten until glossy, thick and cool.

You Can “Lemon Meringue” Any Dessert

Armed with a tangy lemon curd and fluffy meringue, you’re ready to add lemon meringue intrigue to your favourite treats.  Anna adds a bright lemon curd filling and cloudlike meringue topping to cupcakes, profiteroles (cream puffs) and éclairs. Anna’s recipe for Lemon Coconut Cupcakes is a naturally fitting cake base to use for the cupcakes.

For the choux paste, the same base is used for both the round profiteroles and elegantly long éclairs, allowing you to have two seemingly different, French patisserie-level desserts in one. For a failsafe choux paste recipe, try Anna’s Profiteroles and Éclairs, replacing the pastry cream filling with lemon curd, and the chocolate topping with meringue, as shown in the video.

How to Fill Éclairs, Profiteroles and Cupcakes

When filling the choux paste desserts, you’ll feel the lemon curd resist slightly, which is how you know when to stop piping. If you don’t have a pastry bag, try a zip-top bag with a corner snipped out.

The profiteroles and éclairs are naturally airy so you can fill them with the lemon curd right away, but you’ll have to take out a centre portion of the cupcakes before filling (save those scraps for cake pops). That small hole in each cupcake that holds the lemon curd filling is fully concealed when the meringue topper is in place for a very delicious surprise.

The Final Flourish 

With that zippy lemon filling hiding in the treats, it’s time to top with the meringue. If you don’t have a pastry bag for the topping, consider going rustic with the back of a spoon, creating a bit of textural interest on top.

Anna notes you can leave the meringues to set as is, but for that true lemon meringue pie appearance, she gently caramelizes the meringue using a kitchen torch. Along with looking great stylistically, torching adds a rich toasted marshmallow flavour to anchor the juicy lemon filling.

Once you have the hang of it, you’ll be lemon meringue-ing everything.

From chocolate cake to madeleines, explore more springtime sweet inspiration with these Delightful Easter Desserts.

Anna Olson’s Dainty Easter Egg Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This easy and unique dessert is an exciting take on chocolate covered strawberries and dazzles on your spring sweets table.  Anna shows us how to give the time-honoured treat an Easter spin for a play on chocolate eggs that’s fresher, juicier, and prettier, too. It’s the chocolate and strawberry combo we all know and love, presented in a brand new way. There’s not a tastier way to enjoy fruit this Easter.

 

Make Your White Chocolate Eggshell

Whole strawberries with their stems cut off are dipped in melted white chocolate, taking on the appearance of an eggshell and acting as a blank canvas for your Easter egg designs. If you like brown eggs, this would be a great place to melt down some unwrapped chocolate eggs to coat the strawberries in place of, or in addition to, the white chocolate. For ease of dipping, choose firmer strawberries, not overly ripe ones that may bleed or cause the chocolate to split.

Decorating Eggs with Royal Icing

Anna uses royal icing to decorate the white chocolate dipped strawberries. This is simply a mixture of water, icing sugar and meringue powder, and you can get Anna’s royal icing recipe here. The royal icing is neutral base can be tinted in any colour you wish; in this case, it’s delicate springtime pastels. To pipe, Anna uses a parchment cone, which is easy to make – she demonstrates the technique in this quick video.

Add Some Sparkle

The royal icing also acts like glue when soft for a shower of decorator’s sugar (more colour!). This adds texture and vibrancy to really make the chocolate dipped strawberry eggs pop. Head to your local bulk food store and see the Easter-inspired sparkles and sprinkles they have available.

Do-Over Your Design

Anna notes that if you’re not happy with your design, just wipe it off before the royal icing sets. You don’t even need to re-dip the strawberries. As long as the white chocolate is firm, you can remove any unsightly icing squiggles in a pinch.

Have an Egg Decorating Party

For an interactive Easter activity, dip a few pints of strawberries far enough ahead of time so that the white chocolate can set, about 4 hours at room temperature or about 30 minutes if you put them in the refrigerator. Then, lay out sprinkles, tinted royal icing and any other edible decorations at the table for kids to embellish their own eggs.

Double the Chocolate

Easter wouldn’t be the same without mountains of chocolate. So, if you’d like even more chocolate on your white chocolate dipped strawberry eggs, decorate with a contrasting dark chocolate or coloured white chocolate instead of royal icing. This imaginative recipe is versatile and adaptable to your favourite sweet drizzles.

Keep the chocolate and berries theme going this Easter with Anna Olson’s Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Torte, decorating the top with these chocolate dipped strawberry eggs for a real showstopper.

Anna Olson’s Pretty Birds’ Nest Meringues Sing of Spring

Pastry chef Anna Olson adds her whimsical touch to make a springtime or Easter treat that, as she says, “sings of the season.” Meringue nests hold a creamy vanilla buttercream, sweet coconut “grass” and colourful candy eggs. Kids and adults alike will love this treat, and every baker can put their own spin on it. What’s more, this fanciful birds’ nest dessert is easier than it looks, and Anna shows you how to pull it off flawlessly with the following video – and have fun in the process.

 

To assemble these spring-themed meringue birds’ nests,  you’ll need Anna’s simple white Birds’ Nests meringue recipe here.

You can use your favourite buttercream frosting recipe for the filling or try Anna’s vanilla buttercream frosting recipe here.

Meringue 101

For the nests, Anna turns to a French meringue, a straightforward mix of egg whites and sugar. Unlike Swiss meringue, a French meringue doesn’t have you warm or cook the egg whites and sugar together before using; the whites are kept raw, becoming cooked upon baking in a low oven. Be careful not to over-whip your egg whites, but if you do Anna shares her easy fix in this quick video.

No Pastry Bag? No Problem

If you don’t have a pastry bag, prepare the nests as you would a mini pavlova, using a spoon to create rounds and indentations where your filling will sit. There’s no wrong way to go about creating your masterpiece.

This Trick Keeps the Colour Pure Pink

To retain the pink colour (or your preferred pastel shade) in your meringue, a low and slow bake will help to achieve this. Other desserts, like pavlova, where you want to keep the appearance fair,  can also follow this method, with or without food colouring.

Avoid Browning the Meringue

A low oven also helps to avoid browning for a more polished look, creating a crisp exterior and airy interior to boot. After baking, those delicate egg whites have turned into a sturdy base, ready to be filled.

Have Fun with the Filling

rich vanilla cupcake buttercream is the ultimate compliment to those light-as-air nests. You can play around with the flavour of the buttercream, use a thick vanilla bean custard, or using Anna’s recipe for lemon curd mixed with whipped cream for the filling. And, not only does the filling taste great, it acts as “glue” for the decorative toppings to come.


If you’d like a more straightforward interpretation of this springtime treat, try Anna Olson’s elegantly pared down recipe for her meringue birds’ nests here.

Decorating the Birds’ Nests

Anna keeps with the playful feel of the meringue nests, creating green “grass” from shredded coconut and green food colouring. She uses liquid food colouring, not paste, which coats every strand of coconut more evenly to create a bagful of blades ready to decorate with.

Every Nest Needs Eggs

Egg shaped candies are the final touch. Alternatively, small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs will work as well, just be sure to unwrap them before eating. Or, if it’s already sweet enough for you at this point, consider topping your nests with blueberries (like robin’s eggs), raspberries or red currants.

We can’t think of a more fun, family-friendly way to serve up something sweet, special and just a little different this Easter.

After the chocolate egg hunt, serve up a scrumptious Easter Brunch with the help of these morning-making recipes.

4 Genius Ways to Elevate Store-Bought Desserts

So you’ve been tasked with making or bringing a dessert, have you? While it’s a nice thought to want to bake up a spiced cake with hand-crafted frosting, crumble an amazing pie with those apples you picked in the fall, or even whip up a batch of the warmest cookies the season has to offer, sometimes time just isn’t on your side.

That’s when store-bought desserts from the local bakery or grocery store are oh-so-key. You can buy them ahead of time (giving you more time for other dishes or a little more sleep), and then thanks to these ingenious tips from our very own Anna Olson, you can take them to the next level. Trust us, these simple tricks just may have people thinking you slaved in the kitchen.

Just don’t forget to put the dish on your own plate before serving!

Classic Chocolate Sauce

Six ingredients, a pan and a whisk are all you need to make an indulgent, silky-smooth chocolate sauce that you can pour over decadent vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, or—if you feel like it—just eat it straight up with a spoon. It’s that good.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Chocolate Sauce with:

Brownie Sundae Explosion

Caramel Butter Tarts

Classic Caramel Sauce

We were shocked at how easy this yummy dessert-topper is to make with just a little planning and the foresight. It’s a classic addition to any crumbly, fruit-based dessert, but we love it mixed with brownies or other chocolaty items too.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Classic Caramel Sauce with:

Anna Olson’s Caramel Apples

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Raspberry Coulis

If you’ve got a creamy dessert or something chocolaty on-hand, bring it to the next level with a fruit-based coulis—a classic pastry chef concoction that’s actually way simpler to make than it sounds. (Seriously, you don’t even need to turn on the oven.) The people you’re making it for don’t have to know that though; tell them you made a fresh coulis and then sit back and revel in their impressed looks.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Raspberry Coulis with:

Anna’s Coconut Cream Pie

Mint Chocolate Cake

Quick Toffee Sauce

Gingerbread, sticky pudding or plain old ice cream will never be the same after you’ve had those items with this simple toffee sauce that packs a huge flavour punch. Amazingly, you only need four ingredients and a few short minutes to whip it up, but it can also be assembled beforehand and quickly heated up again before serving. Now that’s what we call a (not-so) sticky solution.

 

Want to make something from scratch anyhow? Pair Anna’s Quick Toffee Sauce with:

Spiced Nut Cake

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Looking for more easy desserts? Try Anna Olson’s Best Pie Recipes.

anna olson gingerbread cake with whipped cream

Anna Olson’s Make-Ahead Tip to Make Holiday Desserts Shine

The holidays aren’t just a time to break from work and to celebrate; they’re also a time to indulge in things that make us truly happy. And when it comes to desserts, what’s more indulgent than the time-old classic, whipped cream?

Light, frothy, sweet and delicate, whipped cream is an easy way to elevate any dessert, cup of coffee or bowl of fruit, instantly putting a smile on your face.

Classic-Farmhouse-Strawberry-Shortcake

Anna Olson’s Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

This holiday, you could certainly go for the store-bought variety, but let’s face it: nothing beats fresh, homemade whipped cream. There’s a problem though—while we love the fresh stuff, we often find that in order to truly get that frothy, whipped finish, whipped cream needs to be made fairly close to serving time. Otherwise, it falls flat in the fridge, leading to a disappointing lump on your plate.

Luckily, Anna Olson has a solution. And not just any solution; with this one secret ingredient that instantly stabilizes whipped cream, you can make the stuff up to 24 hours in advance and then tuck it away in the fridge, where it’s guaranteed to hold its shape.

No one will be any the wiser that you made it in advance—maybe even while you were in your pajamas.

 

Ready to get your whipped cream on? Here are some of our favourite go-to Anna Olson recipes that—you guessed it—include whipped cream.

Key Lime Cheesecake

Classic Farmhouse Strawberry Shortcake

Classic-Gingerbread-Cake

Anna Olson’s Classic Gingerbread Cake

Classic Gingerbread Cake

Florentine Napoleon with Berries

Strawberry Meringue Tart

Still hungry? Check out these whipped cream-friendly recipes from other Food Network Canada stars:

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Cream

Ginger Snap Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream

Peach Upside Down Corn Cake with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate With Marshmallow Whipped Cream

Butternut Squash Soup With Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Fried Shallots

Valerie’s Irish Coffee

Looking for more delicious holiday desserts? Try these impressive cheesecakes from Anna Olson.

Anna Olson’s Easiest-Ever Holiday Desserts

The sheer bustle of the holidays is enough to trip up even the most prepared party-throwers among us. So why make things even harder for ourselves when it comes to whipping up a holiday meal? Or more specifically, when it comes to everyone’s favourite part — dessert.

Whether you have last-minute guests or a big dinner party planned, Anna Olson has your back. Here are four of her ridiculously easy-to-assemble favourites that will leave all your guests impressed and satisfied, giving you way more time to actually enjoy the holidays themselves.

Super Simple Chocolate Mousse

Who doesn’t want delicious chocolate mousse in a matter of minutes? This genius recipe calls for just two ingredients, making it the perfect dish for last-minute guests. Whip some up while you’re getting dinner ready, or make it in advance and keep some on hand in the fridge. This yummy dessert will last as long as the expiry date on the cream you used to make it, which means it can be the perfect standalone dish or serve as a fancy-schmancy garnish.

Lemon Cheesecake Mousse

If it’s a cheesecake flavour you’re looking for but you find yourself low on time, this zesty mousse certainly lives up to expectations. With just five ingredients—including fresh lemon juice—and a hand-mixer doing most of the actual labour, the hardest part about this recipe is not licking the spatula every time you scrape down your cream cheese mixture.

Last-Minute Lemon Delight

Whisk up this three-ingredient, warm lemony delight and serve it over fresh fruit for any last-minute guests you find yourself hosting this holiday season. Or, add some cream to stabilize the mixture and refrigerate it for a dreamy lemon mousse later on. Heck, why not just make both while you’re at it and enjoy the best of both dessert worlds? We promise, it’s that easy.

Easy Apple Tart

Anna can’t take full credit for the deliciousness that is this easy peasy apple tart; it’s actually her husband Michael’s go-to recipe. Four simple ingredients and a half hour in the oven mean this sweet-and-savoury dish is impressive without being time-consuming. Seriously, the hardest part is probably peeling the apples.

Looking for more inspiration? Try these 4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna Olson.

4 Genius Homemade Christmas Gifts from Anna Olson

One of our favourite parts of the holidays is the gift giving—there’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding the perfect little treat for that special someone and handing it to them “just because.”

Even better? When you can handcraft that gift yourself, adding a dash of personalized love to the package.

That’s what makes these foodie gift ideas from Anna Olson so awesome. Whether you’re gifting the gift of food this season or are simply looking for a few cool host/hostess gifts to dole out at your scheduled soirees, any of these unique ideas will certainly do the trick.

Hot Cocoa Mix

What better way to warm someone’s heart over the holidays than with some thick and rich hot cocoa to go? Anna uses three ingredients for an indulgent chocolate base, then wraps these thoughtful gifts up with some marshmallows, a candy-filled ornament and a pretty little bow. It’s like giving a warm hug.

 

Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love freshly baked cookies, especially during the holidays—a classic time of indulgence? Anna has assembled elegant layers of dry mix, chocolate chips, cranberries and oats in a pretty little mason jar, making for the cutest (and most delicious) homemade gifts on the block. The only thing missing is a fresh glass of milk.

 

Santa’s Choice Granola

Homemade granola is pure bliss in a bowl, but how often do we actually take the time to whip up a batch of the stuff? Not often enough, we say. This particular concoction is hearty and rich, not to mention it smells like a fresh batch of cookies. Parcel some up for a unique gift from the kitchen this holiday season, and watch it get devoured before your very eyes.

 

Sweet Popcorn Blends

Snacks are the official fuel of the holidays, and popcorn is pretty much our go-to healthy(ish) snack of choice. So why not sweeten up a friend’s day with these pretty parcels of homemade sweet popcorn blends a la Anna? There’s a white chocolate and cranberry concoction; some classic s’mores popcorn with melted milk chocolate; and the ultimate indulgence, dark chocolate popcorn with a sprinkling of sea salt. On second thought, we may just have to save this gift for ourselves.

 

Looking for more? Try Anna Olson’s Best Cookie Recipes.