Tag Archives: baking

pumpkin-spice-cookie-cups-with-caramel

Caramel Pumpkin Spice Cookie Cups Are a Fall Must-Bake

Pumpkin spice season is short and sweet, which is why we’re excited to make the most of it. Filled with pumpkin spice — the irresistible combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove, these soft and chewy cookie-cupcake hybrids are a must-bake this fall. Perfect for entertaining, these two-bite cookie cups are filled with salted caramel and topped with a light, whipped cream cheese frosting. Serve with a piping hot latte and you’ve found pumpkin spice perfection.

pumpkin-spice-cookie-cups

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cookie Cups with Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Chill Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 24 cookie cups

Ingredients:
Cookie Cups
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Caramel
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Frosting
1/2 (250 g) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups icing sugar
2 tsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Garnish: ground cinnamon

pumpkin-spice-cups-with-cream-cheese-icing

Directions:

Cookie Cups
1. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin, egg yolk and vanilla extract until combined.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until chilled.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
4. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Scoop dough one tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Roll in sugar mixture and place in muffin cups. Gently press back of 1/2 teaspoon measure into centres of dough balls to flatten slightly.
5. Bake 10 minutes, or just until lightly golden brown. Press 1/2 teaspoon measure once again in the centre to maintain the hole. Let cool 10 minutes, transfer to wire rack and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Cool completely.

Caramel
1. For the caramel, combine water and sugar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar turns a medium amber brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, carefully and gradually stir in cream. Stir in vanilla and salt. Let cool completely.

Frosting
1. For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the heavy cream and vanilla until combined. Beat in the remaining icing sugar until light and fluffy.
2. To assemble, fill frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Fill another piping bag with cooled caramel (slightly heating if too thick). Fill cookie cups with caramel and pipe with frosting. Drizzle with additional caramel and sprinkle with cinnamon. Best served the same day.

Need your pumpkin spice fix? Try these tasty recipes.

maple-butter-tart-pie

Maple Butter Tart Pie is a Canadian Classic with a Tasty Twist

Canadians are kind of obsessed with butter tarts and there’s a good reason. The light and flaky pastry holds a gooey, sweet, and slightly runny filling that is sometimes studded with pecans or raisins.  The buttery treats are so beloved that they’ve garnered an annual festival in their honour, where fans can get their butter tart fill.

Needless to say, this dessert has a big place in the hearts of Canadians. But we’ve taken it to new heights with a family-sized maple butter tart pie that is so good, everyone will find room for dessert.

This larger tart celebrates our love of the Ontario favourite with inspiration from Quebec’s maple-filled  dessert “tarte au sucre.” Our version starts with a light cream cheese pie crust, baked with an addictive filled that’s a combination of brown sugar and maple syrup – no corn syrup here! As the pie cooks the sugar caramelizes to create a light crunchy top with a custard-like interior. Bake it up for your next get together and see for yourself!

butter-tart-pie-with-crust

Maple Butter Tart Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Freeze Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Makes: 1 (9-inch pie)

Ingredients:
Cream Cheese Pie Crust
2½ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
¼ cup cold cream cheese
½ cup cold water

Maple Butter Tart Filling
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar

sliced-butter-tart-pie

Directions:
Dough
1. In the work bowl of a food processor, place flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Add butter and cream cheese, and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add ice water, 2 Tbsp at a time, just until the dough comes together. You may not need to use all of the water. Shape 2/3 of dough into a disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll large disk of dough to ¼-inch thickness. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into bottom and up sides. Trim excess dough, and fold edges under. Roll remaining disk of dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out leaves with a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. Brush each leaf with water and press onto edges of crust. Freeze for the crust for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
4. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of pie crust, letting ends extend over edges. Fill with pie weights. Bake until edges are set, about 10 minutes. Remove pie weights and bake for an additional 2 minutes, or just until bottom crust is set. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C).

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Filling
1. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, maple syrup, egg yolks, egg, vanilla and salt until smooth.
6. In a small saucepan, combine whipping cream and butter over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and slowly pour into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Strain through a sieve, discarding any pieces. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.
7. Bake in bottom third of oven, until golden brown and the filling is set (center should still tremble), about 1 hour 10 minutes. Loosely cover with aluminium foil halfway through baking to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool completely before serving. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar if desired.

Can’t get enough butter tarts? These Butter Tart Recipes will satisfy your sweet tooth.

An Easy, No-Bake Pumpkin Trifle That’s Right at Home on Your Thanksgiving Table

This lovely layered dessert is complete with all of the spice and flavours of pumpkin pie, minus the hard work of rolling, crimping and baking. Layers of rum-soaked ladyfingers, spice-infused pumpkin, sweetened whipped cream, crunchy toasted walnuts and white chocolate come together for delicious flavours and perfect textures. Simple to toss together for the everyday but special-occasion-worthy, this showstopper pumpkin dessert is a spectacular recipe to make for Thanksgiving.

This dessert doesn’t stop at the end of pumpkin season. It can easily be made into a springtime treat by folding ½ cup lemon curd into the whipped cream in place of 1½ cups pumpkin puree; and omitting the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Add 1 cup raspberries or blueberries (or a mix) to each layer instead of 1½ walnuts, and you’ve got an entirely new dessert!

Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Pie Trifle Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 12 to 16

Ingredients:
1 L 35% heavy whipping cream
⅔ cup icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp allspice
2 (150 g) pkgs ladyfinger cookies
3 Tbsp rum
1½ cups chopped toasted walnuts
1½ cups shaved or grated white chocolate

Directions:
1. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat cream until it holds soft peaks. Slowly add icing sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold in vanilla. Transfer 3 cups of whipped cream mixture into a separate large bowl and fold in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Reserve pumpkin cream mixture and plain whipped cream mixture.

Trifle prebuild

2. In a 9-inch trifle dish, arrange one-third of the ladyfingers on the bottom of dish and brush with 1 tbsp of rum. Layer with about a third of the reserved pumpkin cream mixture, ½ cup (one-third) of the walnuts, one-third of the plain whipped cream mixture and ½ cup (one-third) of the white chocolate shavings. Repeat this process twice, finishing with chocolate shavings. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one 1 hour before serving.

Love to layer? There are more seasonal trifle recipes right this way.

How to Make Vegan Apple Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream

Fill your home with the warm, delicious smell of cinnamon by making this heavenly double-layered vegan apple spice cake!

It’s easy to make and combines fresh apple, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, molasses, and brown sugar with a fluffy and sweet maple buttercream frosting. You’ll feel quite proud of yourself after making this and your sweet reward is eating it!

Easy Vegan Apple Spice Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:
Apple Spice Cake:
1 ¼ cup soy milk, room temperature
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp all-spice
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup shredded apple
1/3 cup coconut oil (soft at room temperature)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ Tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup pecans, roughly chopped

Maple Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine, room temperature
6 tablespoons maple syrup

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, ginger, and sea salt.
  4. In a third bowl beat together coconut oil and brown sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Then beat in molasses, vanilla extract, and soymilk and vinegar mixture until smooth.
  5. Add the liquid ingredients and shredded apple to the dry ingredients. Fold the batter until it’s just combined, ensuring not to over mix it.
  6. Lightly oil 2 x 7 ¼” cake pans with a little bit of coconut oil. You can also bake one at a time if you only have 1 pan.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Spread out the batter so it’s even and to the edge of the pan.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes on the centre rack. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out of the centre of the cake clean.
  9. Transfer cakes out of the pans onto wire racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  10. To make the frosting beat together vegan butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup until fluffy and smooth.
  11. Place one cake bottom side down on your serving plate and spread frosting evenly with a spatula across the entire top of the cake. Place the other cake, bottom side down, on top of the frosting. Use remaining frosting to cover the entire cake.
  12. Using the palm of your hands gently press small handfuls of roughly chopped pecans along the entire side of the cake until well coated.

Looking for more sweet seasonal desserts? Try our Best Apple Recipes.

Summer Starts With Saskatoon Berries (and the Most Delicious Berry Crisp Recipe!)

Growing up at her grandmother’s knee, learning to farm, forage and cook with the freshest ingredients, it’s no surprise that Candace Ippolito became the owner and CEO of the SaskMade Marketplace, a thriving business that showcases the best of what Saskatchewan’s farmers, food producers and artisans have to offer. Here, she recalls one of her favourite food memories: her grandmother’s Saskatoon berry crisp. “Every delicious bite of my grandmother’s Saskatoon berry crisp is a sticky, sweet flavour bomb, but there’s a lot more to it than that for me. My personal history is basically baked into that dessert.”

“Grandma’s crisp takes me back to the farm, where I grew up surrounded by my tight-knit family. Grandma and Grandpa lived right next door, and my aunt, uncle and cousins lived not too far away. As a kid, breakfast and lunch always took place at Grandma’s. Mom left early for work in town, so in the morning, my brother and I would have a quick bite with Grandma before boarding the school bus. At lunch, there was always a big made-from-scratch feast for everyone, including the men who worked with Dad and Grandpa on our cattle farm. Since Grandma was Irish, potatoes were always part of the meal. Every fall, we would dig the potatoes up and haul them down to her cold cellar in the basement, and every spring, we would haul about half of them back up again—never a shortage of potatoes. And since she had a huge garden, there were always veggies, too, either freshly picked or from her cellar stash of preserves and frozen vegetables.”

“The main attraction was usually a braised beef dish, but you never knew which parts you were going to get. Grandma was the original nose-to-tail chef! We never wasted a thing that was grown, butchered or foraged around our homestead.”

“Of course, Grandma’s spreads were never complete without her baked goods. She made wonderful cream puffs, rolls and fluffy biscuits. Best of all were her homemade pies, cinnamon buns, crisps and other sweet treats. Her Saskatoon berry crisp, always served with fresh whipped cream, was my favourite. There’s something about the texture. The base was ripe Saskatoon berries melted down, soft and sweet; then the crumb topping was really brown and rich and had kind of a caramelized taste to it. With every mouthful, you’d get a sweet, syrupy start, then finish with a delicate buttery crunch. I don’t know how else to put it except to say that, to me, that crisp tastes like love.”

“You know what else? To me, this recipe tastes like the month of July. July is the only time of year for harvesting Saskatoons. Our whole family would go up to a friend’s property, each of us with an empty ice cream pail in hand, and we weren’t allowed to quit until everyone’s pail was full. The older kids were always happy to help out the younger ones—otherwise, the day would never end! That once-a-year outing set us up with enough berries to last a long time. We sometimes worried about finding bears up there in the hills, and I sure didn’t like wearing Grandpa’s ugly old work shirts that protected us from the prickly bushes and mosquitoes as big as hawks—but all the same, I have really happy memories of those berry-picking days.”

“For a lot of my friends, memories of their grandmothers are about going for ice cream or shopping at a mall. We’re a fourth-generation farming family, so that’s not my experience. For me, it’s about sitting on a veranda, peeling carrots or shelling peas. It’s about pulling potatoes in the garden, gathering eggs from the chicken coop or picking Saskatoons. ‘Busy hands’ is what we used to call our time with my grandparents. There was always some work project going on with us, and that’s OK. She instilled in us that a family that works together, stays together!”

Grandma Betsy’s Saskatoon Berry Crisp

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 cups freshly picked Saskatoon berries (if using frozen
berries, they must be completely thawed and excess moisture removed)
¾ cup flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch salt
½ cup cold butter

Directions:

1. Add berries to buttered 10- x 6-inch (3 L) baking dish.

2. In bowl, mix together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture is in coarse crumbs.

3. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over berries. Bake in 350° F oven for 40 minutes, or until  topping is golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or  ice cream.

Published August 21, 2015, Updated August 20, 2018

Photo courtesy of Candace Ippolito

These Easy Banana Split Cheesecake Bars Will Make Your Summer That Much Sweeter

This twist on a summertime classic is perfect for those hot summer days since it has no need for the oven to be on for hours. This nearly no-bake dessert starts with an easy vanilla cookie crust, creamy cheesecake and whipped topping. The best part is that it can be made ahead of time, so it’s ready to feed a hungry crowd in an instant. Consider this your go-to summer dessert for barbecues, potlucks and any meal that needs a cool and sweet ending.

slice-of-banana-cheesecake

Banana Split Cheesecake Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill time: 3 hours
Bake Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 16 Servings

Ingredients:
Crust
1 (312 g) box (5 cups) vanilla wafer cookies
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling
2 ¼ cups heavy cream, divided
3 ozs (93 g) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 (250g) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 (96g) package of instant banana cream pudding
1 cup granulated sugar

Topping
1 (1 L) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
¾ cup maraschino cherries, drained
½ cup dry roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles

dish-of-banana-split-cheesecake

Directions:
Crust
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 13×9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
2. In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together cookies, sugar, and salt until small crumbs remain. Pour in melted butter and pulse until combined.
3. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Filling
1. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup heavy cream over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let stand 2 minutes. Slowly stir together until combined. Let cool completely.
2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. With the mixer running, gradually add remaining 1¾ cup cream, beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in pudding mix until combined.
3. Spread cream cheese mixture and drizzle with chocolate sauce in alternating layers over the crust, reserving ¼ cup chocolate sauce for later use. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Topping
1. Spread whipped topping over cheesecake. Garnish with a drizzle of remaining chocolate sauce, bananas, cherries, peanuts, and sprinkles.

Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try our best No-Bake Summer Desserts.

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.

Easy Homemade Blueberry Pop Tarts You’ll Absolutely Love

One of the best parts about being a kid is eating copious amounts of sugar-filled breakfast foods. Chowing down on six bowls of cereal used to be a perfectly acceptable option. Nowadays, we opt for healthier morning meals, but once in awhile we get nostalgic for the early morning sugar rush from our childhood. So I’ve decided sugar is totally OK in the morning if you just take a little time to bake something from scratch. Enter: homemade pop tarts. Mini pies with icing that you can eat with one hand. These easy-to-make blueberry-filled, lemon-iced pastries are a perfect treat in the AM. The best part is that you can feel like a kid again, without actually being one!

homemade-pop-tarts-3

Blueberry Pop Tarts With Lemon Glaze

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Servings: 12 pop tarts

Ingredients:

Dough
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg (plus 1 egg to seal tarts)
2 Tbsp ice water

Filling
¾ cup blueberry jam (or any kind of jam or fruit)
½ cup blueberries

Icing
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Lemon zest for garnish

Directions:

1. Begin by making the dough. In a food processor combine flour, salt and sugar. If you don’t have a food processor you can do this by hand. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add egg and water and pulse until dough starts to come together. Be careful not to over work the dough.

2. Remove from processor and shape dough into two rounds. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Related: Our Carbiest Breakfast Recipes, From Croissants to Pancakes

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and roll into a large rectangle that is roughly 6 inches by 12 inches. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.

5. Place 6 squares on one of the prepared baking sheets. Place 1 Tbsp of blueberry jam on the center of each square. Top with 3 or 4 blueberries. Roll out other piece of dough and cut into 8 equal-sized squares as above.

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6. Beat 1 egg in a bowl and using a pastry brush, brush around sides of each square. Place another square on top to form your pop tart. Use a fork to seal the edges. Poke a few holes in the top of the dough to let steam escape. brush egg wash on top of tarts.

7. Place the baking sheets in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pop tarts to a cooling rack, let cool completely before icing.

9. To make icing, whisk lemon juice with icing sugar. If you want a thinner icing add a bit more lemon juice. Place a dollop of icing on each pop tart and sprinkle with lemon zest.

homemade-pop-tarts-2

Published July 21, 2016, Updated July 16, 2018

anna-chocolate-cake

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.

Get the recipe for Anna Olson’s 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.

anna-peach-cake

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 yummy 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 pan. 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.

Related: Birthday Cake Recipes That Will Make You a Dessert Person

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 it’s 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.

Related: Expert Food Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

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 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:

1. 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).

2. 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.

3. 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.

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.

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Upside-Down-feature

A Stunning Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake That’ll Steal the Show

If you’ve managed to stop yourself from eating all of summer’s sweet strawberries fresh off the vine (or from the farmer’s market), then we have a treat for you. Turn these summery jewels into a delicious upside-down cake! Simple and understated, upside-down cakes are great for casual picnics because they travel well and pretty enough for any summer gathering. In this case, we used bright strawberries and vibrant rhubarb for this sweet and slightly tart cake.  The caramelized fruit and tender cake are definite crowd pleasers. Top with pillowy whipped cream for a festive ruby-red and white pairing for Canada Day!

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Upside-Down-4

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake Recipe

Serves: 8 to 10
Bake time: 40 to 45 minutes
Total time: 1 ½ hours

Ingredients:
For the topping:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ Tbsp heavy cream
2 cups strawberries, trimmed and sliced*
1 cup rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces

*Slice small strawberries in half. For larger berries, cut into 3 to 4 slices, about ¼-inch thick.

For the cake:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

mint for garnish, optional

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Upside-Down-3

Directions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. And the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the vanilla and heavy cream until smooth. If needed, return to low heat, whisking, until smooth. Pour the caramel into the prepared cake pan. Carefully arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the caramel. Pack the strawberries closely together as they may shrink after baking. Sprinkle in about a third of the rhubarb to fill in any gaps between the berries.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer), mix the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium-low, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

5. Add half of the flour mixture and mix to combine on low. Stream in the buttermilk until incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Stop the mixer and fold in the remaining rhubarb.

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Upside-Down-1

6. Tip the batter into the pan, on top of the strawberries. Smooth out the top of the cake and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the finished cake to rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a thin knife around the inside edge of the cake pan. Place a large cake plate on the top of the cake pan, and very carefully (using oven mitts) flip the cake plate and cake pan upside-down. Remove the cake pan and allow the cake to continue to cool.

7. Meanwhile, whip the cream and sugar together with a whisk (by hand or electric) until medium peaks. Add in the vanilla and whisk again until combined.

8. Serve the cake with a dollop of whipped cream and a fresh sprig of mint, if desired.

Strawberry-Rhubarb-Upside-Down-02

Looking for more delicious strawberry treats? Try our 45 Best Strawberry Desserts to Celebrate Summer.

rhubarb-raspberry-cheese-cake

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Adds a Pop of Spring to Your Easter Table

After months of snow, rain, and grey skies, rhubarb bursts onto the scene with its beautiful colour and tart, refreshing flavour. As soon as we spot those ruby red stalks at the market, we know spring is finally here! A bit sweet, slightly tart and extremely vibrant, rhubarb brightens up all of our favourite desserts and pastries – and this cheesecake is no exception.

Against a canvas of creamy white cheesecake, this jewel-toned rhubarb raspberry coulis pops off the plate. A hint of lemon would pair wonderfully in the cheesecake filling, but we love pure vanilla bean to round out all of the tangy flavours of the rhubarb and raspberry. A classic graham cracker crust and sour cream topping keep the slices clean and elegant for a sweet spring or Easter celebration.

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Bake Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
Serves: 10 to 12

Ingredients:

Crust
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling
1½ lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream, room temperature

Cheesecake Topping
1¼ cups sour cream
¼ cup granulated sugar

Rhubarb Raspberry Coulis
1½ cups sliced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
½ cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup granulated sugar, or to taste
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch

Directions:

Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2. Add the crumbs to a mixing bowl along with the sugar. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.
3. Pour the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crust into an even layer on the bottom of the pan using your fingers tips or the bottom of a flat measuring cup or drinking glass.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack as you prepare the filling.

Cheesecake Filling:
1. Increase the oven to 350ºF. Bring 4 to 6 cups of water to a boil (enough to halfway fill a large roasting pan) and set aside. Place a large roasting pan on the very bottom rack of your oven. Place a second rack just above the roasting pan.
2. Meanwhile, place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on medium-low for 4 to 5 minutes, or until completely smooth. Stop and scrape down the bowl every couple of minutes.
3. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla bean seeds or extract into the cream cheese and mix for another 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Mix for another 30 to 60 seconds to smooth out any lumps.
4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time. Allow each egg to fully incorporate into the batter before add in the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
5. Add the sour cream. Mix on medium-low until the batter is creamy and uniform, about 2 minutes.
6. Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Smooth out the top as needed. Tap the bottom of the cake pan on top of the counter a few times to expel any trapped air bubbles. Wrap the sides of the pan in a double layer of aluminium foil.
7. Very carefully pour the recently boiled water into the roasting pan. Place the baking pan on the rack above the roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. When done, the sides should be puffed and set while the centre should jiggle when the pan is moved. If it is not ready, check again after an additional 10 minutes of baking. Once done, turn the oven off and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool inside the humid oven for about 45 minutes. Once cool, remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack.

Cheesecake Topping:
1. Turn the oven back on to 350ºF. As the oven heats back up, combine the sour cream and sugar for topping the cheesecake. Carefully spread the topping over the top of the cheesecake with a small offset spatula. Return the topped cheesecake back to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
2. Turn off the oven and again prop open the door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before placing it on a wire rack. Let cool for an additional 30 minutes then place in the refrigerator. Drape a piece of parchment paper over the top of the cheesecake to prevent condensation from forming and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight (best).

Rhubarb Raspberry Coulis:
1. Place the rhubarb and raspberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until the fruit begins to break down and juices begin to simmer about 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice. Stir the lemon juice mixture into the rhubarb and cook for a few minutes. Remove the mixture from the stove and blend until smooth. Press the puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the raspberry seeds. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembly and Serving:
1. To release the cheesecake from the pan, carefully run a thin knife around the edges of the cake before unlocking the springform pan. Warm a metal spatula under hot water, dry, then run it around the edges of the cheesecake to smooth.
2. Slice cheesecake into wedges, cleaning your knife in between slices, and add to plates. Top with a generous drizzle of coulis and serve.

Explore another spectacular spring dessert couple with our best strawberry rhubarb recipes.

vanilla-chocoalte-cake

1 Easy Vanilla Cake, 3 Stunning Ways to Customize it

If baking is a science, then this is an experiment you’re going to love. We’ve created a one easy vanilla cake recipe that bakes up into a moist, buttery dessert. But the real beauty of this batter is that a few ingredients additions, and it can be transformed into an entirely different dessert. 

Bake this master recipe into a cinnamon swirl coffee cake, a chocolate and vanilla marble loaf or maybe even a rustic rhubarb upside-down cake. You’d never guess that each of these delectable desserts starts with the same batter.  Get ready to add this astoundingly versatile recipe to your baking repertoire. 

vanilla-cinnamon-bundt-cake

Basic Buttermilk Batter

Prep Time: 
15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Makes: 1 cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or sturdy wooden spoon, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
4. Add in one-third of flour mixture followed by one-third of buttermilk. Repeat additions, ending with buttermilk. Mix until batter is just combined. Do not over-mix.
5. Proceed with any one of the three cake variations below.

vanilla-chocolate-bundt-cake

Variation 1: Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf
Divide Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) evenly between two mixing bowls. In one bowl, mix in 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 Tbsp sugar; leave the other batter as is. Grease a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. Pour one-third basic batter into pan lengthwise, covering only one side. Pour one-third chocolate batter into pan beside basic batter for two long strips of cake batter. Repeat additions, forming a checkerboard pattern, finishing with chocolate batter. Run a small wooden spoon side to side through loaf to create the marble effect. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve.

 

vanilla-rhubarb-upside-down-cake

Variation 2: Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Toss 2 cups of chopped fresh rhubarb in a large bowl with 3 Tbsp granulated sugar. Let rhubarb and sugar stand for 2 minutes. Grease an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pan. Chop 2 Tbsp unsalted butter into small pieces and arrange over the bottom of cake pan. Add rhubarb to cake pan in an even layer over butter. Pour Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) over rhubarb and smooth top. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate so the rhubarb is on top and remove pan. Cool, slice and serve.

vanilla-cinnamon-bundt-cake-sliced

Variation 3: Glazed Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of brown sugar with 2 tsp ground cinnamon. Pour half the prepared Basic Buttermilk Batter (recipe above) into a greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over top. Pour remaining batter into Bundt pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool. To make the glaze, mix 1 cup icing sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon and 3 Tbsp buttermilk. Add more buttermilk if necessary to reach a thinner consistency. Pour glaze over cooled cake. Slice and serve.

Eager to keep baking? Try these Best Birthday Cake Recipes.

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

The Sticky-Sweet History of the Butter Tart

How do you like your butter tart — firm or runny? With raisins or bacon bits? Made with butter or shortening? There are a gazillion and one ways to make (and eat!) a butter tart, but only one truly great place to enjoy them: in Canada, the birthplace of this sweet, satisfying treat. “The butter tart is 100 per cent Canadian,” says Anna Olson. “It’s an individual tart, as opposed to a full-sized pie.”

In case you’ve been in hibernation, a butter tart is a flaky, round pastry shell filled with a gooey buttery filling that’s semi-solid, with a crunchy top. Taste testing is almost a patriotic duty, offering a delicious way to sink your teeth into Canadian history.

whiskey butter tarts

Get the recipe for Pecan Whisky Butter Tarts

Like many legendary dishes, the butter tart’s origins are fuzzy. It’s believed that filles à marier (“marriageable girls”) created a crude version in the 1600s. These newly arrived Québécois brides filled their French tarts with New World ingredients: maple sugar, freshly churned butter and dried fruit such as raisins.

“The idea of mixing a syrup with eggs and dried fruit to form a dessert is an old one — and was likely born out of necessity to make do with ingredients on hand,” says Dr. Lenore Newman, food security and environment director at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Others believe the butter tart has roots in pecan pie, brought to Canada by Americans or possibly is related to Québec’s sugar pie or even Scottish border tarts. And some experts credit pioneer cooks for creating the beloved version known today, tracing the earliest printed recipes back to the 1900s. Ultimately, no one knows for sure, but the tart’s origins are likely a combination of all of the above. “It just slowly evolved and appeared,” says Anna. “It looks like a lot of other tarts: like the French [Canadian] tarte au sucre or a treacle tart [a traditional British dessert].”

Four hundred years later, the butter tart has become the quintessential Canadian sweet treat. It was all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s one of the few authentically Canadian recipes that exists on paper.

“The butter tart’s success in Canada is likely linked to our general love of sweet desserts,” says Dr. Newman. “However I do feel that the butter tart is being influenced ever so slightly by Canada’s cuisine with its dedication to local foods. British and French settlers loved sugar, but butter tarts also fit a model of early Canadian foods that needed to pack a really high calorie load into each bite. We worked outside in the cold and needed to eat a lot more than we do now.”

Related: Butter Tart Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Today, the craze continues. There are even butter tart trails that dessert lovers can follow, with Ontario’s Kawarthas Northumberland Region and Wellington County offering maps and self-guided itineraries to explore local bakeries and cafes. What’s even more incredible is the butter tart has become an international superstar.

“No matter where I am travelling, I’m always asked to demonstrate a butter tart,” says Anna. “I have demonstrated butter tarts in Argentina, Moscow, Dubai, all over Southeast Asia. I just hosted a chef from the Philippines and the one thing on his checklist was trying a butter tart. Because the world knows the butter tart as ubiquitously Canadian.”

What makes an “authentic” Canadian butter tart? It’s a hotly debated topic within the baking community, especially when it comes to three aspects: should the tart’s filling be runny or firm? Should it contain raisins? And how far can you stray from the original recipe? According to Anna, there’s no clear answers: it really depends on the baker and the proof is, well, in the pastry.

“The butter tart has as many recipes as there are people who make them,” says Anna. “But whether it’s a filling made with maple syrup or corn syrup is very particular to the [baker]. Some swear by lard pastry, others by butter. To call it a butter tart, you can’t change the shape or syrupy filling.”

Nonetheless, bakers and pastry chefs are making endless and ever-evolving variations on this favourite Canuck dessert. Some stuff the flaky pastry cup with toasted pecans instead of raisins or even chocolate or bacon fillings.

The bacon butter tart has become a staple — it’s that salty crunch in the bottom,” says Anna. “I’m seeing more with chocolate melted into the syrupy filling. You could even put in marshmallows and chocolate chips for an s’mores butter tart!”

In recent years, some maverick chefs and bakers are even masterminding butter tart-flavoured foods, such as ice creams, cookies, cobblers and Butter Tart Cheesecake.

Butter Tart Cheesecake

“While you may not change the butter tart, you can integrate those flavours and textures elsewhere,” says Anna. “For my new cookbook, I want to do a butter tart swirl cheesecake that has that the same pastry crunch, butteriness and drifty caramel swirl.”

It’s worth taking a tantalizing tart trip across Canada to try all the variations and recipes, with Anna naming Niagara’s 13th Street Winery and The Pie Plate Bakery & Café as being among the best. If you’re feeling adventurous at home, try mastering Anna’s Pecan Butter Tarts. For holiday entertaining, you could even build a butter tart buffet that will entice guests to the table.

Pecan-Butter-Tarts

Despite her playful renditions, there’s one thing that Anna is old-fashioned about when it comes to making a classic Canadian butter tart. “Can you make a low fat butter tart? No way!” she says. “But you could make them miniature sized.”

Published November 14, 2016, Updated January 1, 2018

buttertart crack candy

Saltine Cracker Toffee Gets a Maple Butter Tart Twist

Butter tarts rank with as one of the most classic and loved Canadian treats. The gooey filling and pecan crunchiness inside flaky pastry is hard to beat. These sweet, buttery flavours, combined with saltine crackers and creamy chocolate make an addictive, utterly delicious treat that’s perfect for holiday candy making and gifting. Give this sticky, sweet, crackly treat a try with dark chocolate and chopped almonds for a different take, or white chocolate and trail mix – the possibilities are endless. Deceptively easy to toss together, this will be your most-requested holiday treat, year-after-year.

butter tart crack candy

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 24

Ingredients:
48 saltine crackers
1-1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups milk or dark chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line bottom of a 17×11-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange crackers in one layer on sheet (you may need to break some to fit), set aside.

Crack prebake

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour mixture immediately over crackers (it does need to completely cover the crackers as the mixture will spread in the oven).

Crack choc chip

3. Bake until butter and sugar mixture has spread over crackers and bubbling, about 6 minutes. Remove from oven (rearrange crackers using a butter knife quickly if they shift at all during baking) and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evening; let stand 3 minutes, allowing chocolate to melt. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over cracker mixture and sprinkle with pecans. Cool for 20 minutes at room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill for at least 45 minutes, or until completely chilled through.
4. Once mixture has cooled completely, break into rustic pieces. Serve. Store covered at room temperature.

For another easy candy recipe to add to your holiday cookie tin, try this festive Canadiana-themed chocolate bark.

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.

black-icing-halloween

How to Make Black Icing for Naturally Spooky Halloween Treats

Using coconut butter and activated charcoal, we’ve created a smooth, luscious dark icing, with no food colouring, that is the perfect addition to any Halloween treat.

Despite its deep, dark hue,  charcoal — which you can buy with coconut butter at health food stores — doesn’t have a funky taste. Instead, this icing is sweet, rich and maple in flavour.
You can feel good serving this to your kids, knowing it’s a fairly healthy recipe. Scroll down to find a fantastic way to use it in spooky, desserts.

Black Icing1

Prep Time: 7 minutes
Total time: 7 minutes
Serves: 4 to 7

Ingredients:
1 cup coconut butter (also known as coconut manna)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut milk (from a carton, not a can)
1 tsp activated charcoal (in powder form)

Directions:
1. If the coconut butter is solid in a jar, break it up into larger chunks and measure out 1 cup.
2. Place all ingredients except the activated charcoal in a food processor and blend until smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. You may need to stop and scrape down the side.
3. Add activated charcoal and blend for another 2 minutes until the icing turns black.

Black Icing2

Time to put your spooky black icing to use! Turn cupcakes into a tasty cemetery using black icing to set the scene with this recipe for Pull Apart Graveyard Cupcakes.

Food Network Kitchens Pull Apart Graveyard Cupcakes

Food Network Kitchens Pull Apart Graveyard Cupcakes

Looking for more spooky recipes? Try these Scary-Good Halloween Cakes.

6 Bakery Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Pro

Some say that homemade is best, but to be honest, we think those people have never been to some of the amazing bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters. Sure, some of us know how to whip up the best batch of cookies on the block, while others may boast cake-baking skills that would rival Nonna’s. But at the end of the day, it’s the tricks of the trade that really elevate a baked good to the next level.

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Well, we’re ready to level up, and we’ve enlisted Jean Parker and Rachel Smith’s help to do it. Here are six genius hacks that all next-level bakeries use that will have your home kitchen smelling like a bakery in no time.

1. Make use of your freezer

Perhaps you’ve heard that freezing—or at least refrigerating—your cookie dough before baking is a surefire way to get gooey-but-crispy cookies? As it turns out freezing many of your concoctions in advance is a great way to add extra moisture and ensure a perfect bake.

“Your fridge and freezer are just as important as your oven sometimes,” Jean says. “That and giving yourself the time. For a home baker it’s hard to wait 12 hours for [something], but you do.”

Bakeries certainly seem to have the time, which is why they’ll freeze cakes or cinnamon buns before baking or decorating. Now that’s what we call a cool trick.

2. Enhance with citrus

Peach-Buckle-Proof-Bakery
Proof Bakery’s Peach Buckle recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon zest. 

One of the best ways to elevate the flavour profile of something is by hitting all of those complex layers of seasonings—that’s true whether you’re baking or cooking. But one of the most common mistakes we make is adding too much salt and not enough acidity. Well, it turns out that latter ingredient elevates baked goods, too.

“You’d be surprised how much lemon juice is in a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get that flavour,” Rachel says. “It’s like salt. They can enhance flavours and really change the flavour profile.”

You’ve  seen lemon juice in apple, blueberry or strawberry pies (to name a few) but don’t be afraid to try it in chocolate cake, too.

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Vancouver’s Purebread bakery marries lemon and chocolate flavours in their Lemon Chevre Brownie.

3. Invoke some flour power

How many times have you baked fruity muffins or chocolate-chip scones, only to have the fruit bleed through and sink to the bottom, or the chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess? It turns out there’s a very simple solution to all of those problems: a little flour power.

“Coating chips and berries in flour is a huge one,” Jean says. “It prevents them from sinking or melting. Blueberries, if you toss them in flour first, won’t blend into the batter.”

It’s so simple, yet makes concoctions so pretty. Who knew?

4. Swap flour for cocoa

No, as much as we love all things chocolate we don’t mean swapping out flour for cocoa powder when you’re baking in general. But when you’re coating a cake pan—especially a cake pan being prepped for a chocolaty concoction—that’s a swap the real pros make.

“A lot of the time you’ll see a baker dust their pan with flour to help prevent it from sticking,” Rachel explains. “But if you’re doing a chocolate-based cake, use cocoa powder so it actually doesn’t change the colour of the cake. I learned that at Little Bird in Saskatoon from Tasha and Kim.”

5. Get creative with jam and jelly

Not all Pinterest-worthy projects actually come out like the photos that inspire us—that’s why #PinterestFails were created in the first place. But if you’ve been eyeing a trendy birch-bark stump cake the way the bakers at Saskatoon’s Little Bird were, it’s time to get creative with your decorating to achieve the desired effect. And sometimes that means using creative ingredients like jams or jellies.

Double-Chocolate-Birch-CakeSaskatoon’s Little Bird Patisserie & Cafe makes this gorgeous Double Chocolate Birch Cake.

“I made a birch bark stump [at Little Bird]. It was insane,” Rachel says. “Watching somebody decorate a cake, you learn little tips. [They] took brown food jelly and put holes in the side of the cake, and then smeared it with an offset spatula to create those lines of the birch bark around it. When you see the finished product, you just look at it and wonder how the heck did they do that. It’s actually quite simple, those little details.”

6. Oil it up

Want to know the secret to a moist, indulgent cake? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not an extra pat of butter, despite how deliciously rich that sounds. Nope, the secret to moist cake comes in the form of a more unexpected ingredient: oil.

Chocoalte-Chip-Marscarpone-Cupcakes-Giada-de-Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis knows that secret to moist cake, too! Try her recipe for chocolate chip and marscarpone cupcakes.

“Oil doesn’t evaporate because there’s no water in it, but butter is made with water so it evaporates,” Rachel explains. “Butter is great for flavour; it’s not necessarily great for a tender cake.”

Aha. So it turns out butter doesn’t make everything better. Just most things.

Rachel-Smith-at-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start baking like the pros.

For ‘The Baker Sisters,’ Baking Is In Their DNA

Whipping up delectable desserts isn’t just a passion for Canada’s baking duo, sisters Rachel Smith and Jean Parker; it’s basically in their DNA. They were helping their mom whip up butter tarts, cookies and a “green pie” they still rave about to this day, since before they could even stand at the counter, inherently fostering their love of all things sweet and sugary. It’s a love that launched the sisters on a pretty sweet career path, and now, an exciting new TV series The Baker Sisters, premiering October 20th at 10 E/P.

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Rachel reaching for her first birthday cake, made by her mom Heather.

“Our mom, even from the very beginning, really tried to get us to help,” Rachel remembers. “We would make cookies on the floor. She started doing it on the floor because when I was a baby, I fell off the counter. She was like, ‘I’ll put you on the counter in one of those seats,’ and unfortunately I fell off while helping her make cookies.”

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Jean on her first birthday, getting her own from-scratch birthday cake from mom Heather.

Jean jokes that Rachel has never been the same, but it’s obvious that their mother’s love of baking and their fond memories of her concoctions still resonate with their palates to this day.

“The one thing I remember asking for a lot was this cinnamon coffee cake. It was marbled, it was beautiful, it was moist,” Rachel raves, recalling how her mom was always covered with flour and that the house usually smelled like baking, attracting the neighbourhood children. “The cinnamon and butter throughout the cake was thick, so you’d get that buttery piece of cinnamon. We’d always eat it with crunchy peanut butter. Whenever she said she was going to make a coffee cake, I was like, ‘Is it that one?’”

TheBakerSisters11On Rachel’s third birthday from left to right: older sister Brittany, Jean, mom Heather and Rachel.

“My mom would have her bake days and then freeze everything,” Jean chimes in. “The problem is things just taste really good in the freezer. Frozen chocolate chip cookies are up there as one of my favourite things… I remember being a kid, watching the cookies rise was like TV. Sitting in front of the oven with the light on watching the cookies rise. ”

To be fair, there was a period when these sisters thought they were over baked goods… well, for good. They refer to themselves as “broody teenagers” who had little interest in butter tarts and the butter tart business their mom ran at the time, complaining that they’d smell like their mom’s signature treat.  And while they have early memories of whipping up brownies, chocolate chip muffins and snickerdoodles out of spare tart dough (they were given free reign to shape those scraps the way they wanted), they also yearned for regular kid treats like Flakies, Twinkies and Jos Louis.

Jean and Rachel shared a family photo from when their mom started her own butter tart business:

Where it all started.. The original photo from 90's #familyofwomen #maplekeytartco #canadianbakers #canadiantarts

A post shared by Maple Key Tart Co (@maplekeytartco) on

“I never wanted to eat another butter tart again. And now here we are,” Jean shrugs.

Here we are indeed. It’s memories like those that have made the sisters closer and perhaps even unified them over the years as they’ve expanded their own baking skills and launched their own butter tart empire, Maple Key Tart Co.

While some siblings in that situation would inherently bust out the rivalry when asked who was better at the craft, these sisters are nothing but complimentary, pointing out their strengths with affection. Rachel is quick to reveal that Jean is better at nailing the precise measurements and recipes needed to be a successful baker, but Jean says that when it comes to kitchen efficiency Rachel reigns supreme.

“I’m staying at her house right now and at dinner last night she was making four separate meals at one time. It’s (her) speed and (her) confidence in the kitchen,” she explains.

The-Baker-Sisters

Today, Rachel and Jean both try to continue the baking tradition with their own kids. At Jean’s house, cookies are always a safe bet (the kids love anything with chocolate while she likes rolling peanut butter cookies in sugar), but Rachel takes a slightly different approach by sneaking extra vegetables into muffins.

“Muffins, like a carrot cake muffin, because I love jamming vegetables in it. With a carrot cake muffin, I’m grating a whole zucchini in there. Vegetables are tricky. Also, scones or biscuits. You can put broccoli in there and totally trick your kids.”

The kids may be tricked into eating veggies or baked goods for now, but if they’re anything like their moms, baking will eventually hold a strong, familial place in their hearts too.

It is, after all, in their DNA.