An Evolution of Holiday Cakes

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xmascake2013So this is kinda out of season (however, given the horrendous snowfall we received yesterday, perhaps it is just giving the white Christmas we should’ve had instead of that ice storm back in December). I decided to dig up some old photos of some of my earlier attempts at holiday cake decorating. I would never say I’m a pro now but it is quite humbling to see how I started and how much I’ve learned through the years. So if you’re attempting to make a cake and it just cannot hold itself together, don’t get discouraged. We’ve all been there; pre-crumbcoat. Practice makes more practice perfect.

Pictured above is the cake from Christmas 2013. The tree is made from an ice cream cone and presents are shaped using rice krispie treats and wrapped in fondant.

Now brace yourselves for this blast from the confectionery past (2006 to be exact). I believe this was my first multi-tier cake, and believe me, there were multi-tears alright:

wondayxmas2006Well, you gotta start somewhere!

Next up is 2007′s holiday cake where I learned to dial back the crazy a bit using cones for trees for the first time, and a gingerbread house that was actually made with graham crackers:

xmas2007Then in 2008, I went back to the lab kitchen to experiment with decorating again. This time using wafer paper for designs. Looking back on this, I think I can execute this better… and by “better” I mean do it completely different:

xmas20082009 was a trying year – due to an accident, I was out of commission for a while but I was determined to have an epic cake comeback with multi-tier cake with a spinning snowman! Suffice to say, I’ve had all evidence of its existence destroyed.

There were many other cakes since then that have helped me hone in my skills. Perhaps they’ll eventually find their way to this blog but until then, Merry Cakemas!

Maple Bacon Cupcakes w/ Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

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maple baconTomorrow morning at a ghastly hour in our time zone, Team Canada will be going for gold in the Men’s Hockey final in Sochi. What better way to pump ourselves up than with a batch of Canadiana in the form of some delicious cupcakes? I present you with maple cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting topped with bacon and toffee bits.

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Salted Toffee Bark

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salted toffee barkI’m not going to pretend I invented this. A quick Google search for saltine toffee bark or some variation of that will turn up this super simple recipe. I think the only adjustment I made was the amount of butter I used (spoiler: it was more than most recipes you’ll find out there). Why the change? First it was by accident; doubling the initial amount. I learned from people that they actually liked it a little chewy. I, unfortunately, didn’t but I found a nice little compromise that allowed it to be toffee-like but not break your teeth.

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A Couple of Ways to Dress a Vanilla Cupcake

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vanilla cupcakeI tend to judge a Chinese restaurant by their fried rice, a Thai place by the Pad Thai, a pizzeria by its pepperoni and cheese, and a bakery by its vanilla cupcake. The beauty of its simplicity lies in how versatile it can be yet how it can stand alone as a dessert show-stopper untouched. Two ways I’ve played with this recipe is first by giving it a tropical flare by topping it with toasted coconut and candied dried pineapple, and then filling the cupcake with something (in this case, some candy… more on that later).

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Chocolate Honey Jack Daniels Cupcakes w/ Honey-Cinnamon Buttercream

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hjdI love putting Jack Daniels into my baking but when it was suggested I start using Honey Jack Daniels? Well, game over, man! Game over!

I’m not going to even pretend I made this up. A little Google search lead me to this blog and I followed this recipe to the letter (doubling it and compensated the time for mini cupcakes instead). One change I made was to the frosting: I added some milk and a splash of Honey Jack and whipped it up until it was fluffy (more icing sugar might have been added to make up for the extra liquid added.

Shrek-themed Gingy Cake

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ginegy1The cake is the Magnolia Bakery vanilla recipe (yes, this Gingy Cake is not a ginger cake). I also used my usual pudding filling with a splash of bourbon for between the layers.

Now let me explain this cake design: a friend at work has expressed his hatred for the Shrek movie franchise on a number of occasions… so naturally, his birthday cake was going to be Shrek-themed. Shrek’s face was too hard and hideous to construct so I took the easy route and fashioned Gingy out of actual gingerbread cookie. This would have been great if my friend had actually seen a Shrek movie and got the reference

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Poll: Caramel vs. Chocolate

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caramel tassies

Caramel and Chocolate. What a wonderful combination of rich decadent flavours. Separate them and what do you have? TWO wonderfully rich decadent flavours! My colleague and I set up a challenge for ourselves to pit a caramel dessert up against a chocolate one (sparked when I said “I think I’d choose caramel over chocolate any day.”)

The only rule was the caramel dessert could not contain chocolate and the chocolate dessert must be free of caramel. Already, as a representative for caramel, I felt like I had successfully put myself at a disadvantage. Caramel always tastes best when with chocolate but chocolate can stand on its own.

My colleague chose a worthy foe in a rich Mississippi Mudslide brownie. Me? I went with Caramel Tassies.

mississippi mudslide

How would you vote?

Now that you’ve voted, check out the recipe for the dessert that won in the office.

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