Month: August 2013

Really good cupcakes

really good cupcakes

These few things appeared in my little life within a short time period:

  1. a new cookbook arrived from Amazon
  2. we celebrated two family birthdays this week
  3. my sister-in-law gifted me a gorgeous cupcake liner and pick set
  4. my niece and favorite baking partner booked an unexpected afternoon visit

really good cupcake stuff

I took this to mean only one thing – time to bake cupcakes! I used the classic recipe from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook and can honestly say they’re the best Sydney and I have EVER made and probably the best we’ve tasted. You have to try them! Authors/bakers Cheryl and Griffith Day really know their stuff. Here’s their recipe:

“Old Fashioned Cupcakes (with Buttercream frosting)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder, preferably aluminum free
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.
In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), combine both flours, the sugar, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the cubed butter a few pieces at a time, mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the milk and vanilla, then mix for another 1-2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed.
With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each baking cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Makes 24.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6-7 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • liquid gel food coloring (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the mill, and vanilla and mix on low speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add up to 3 cups more sugar, mixing on low speed, until the frosting reaches the desired light and fluffy consistency, 3-5 minutes.
If desired, to tint the frosting, add a drop or two of food coloring to the frosting, mixing well; add more coloring as necessary until you reach the desired shade. If you want multiple colors, scoop the frosting into several bowls, then add the food coloring. The frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. To frost the cupcakes: using a spatula or butter knife, spread the tops of the cupcakes with swirls of frosting. Top with sprinkles if desired. The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 6-7 cups.”

really good cupcakesSydney did all of the icing and decorating herself. The girl’s got some mad skills and I really do hope we’ll have a shop together someday! I asked her how she learned all the fancy piping and flowers and she said “Cake Boss, aunty”.

Sydney with cupcakesNow, about the cookbook. I ordered it on a whim after hearing about this nostalgic bakery in Savannah, Georgia that’s decorated with tons of vintage touches and bakes classic treats and savouries. I highly recommend the book, it’s absolutely beautiful, full of do-able recipes and great tips. You can tell how much this husband and wife pair love to bake and share with their community. I may have to add a visit to ‘Back in the Day Bakery’ to my bucket list. Road trip anyone?….I’ll bring the cupcakes!

The Woefield Poultry Collective – a book review

book review

So, I’m on this mission to read all 5 books of the Game of Thrones series before summer’s end. It’s a bit of a commitment since each book is at least 800 pages and full of many many characters and places to remember. My coping strategy is to read one book then take a break with a lighter, easier read before heading on to the next. This is one of the fun reads I’ve enjoyed “in-between”.
book reviewSusan Juby’s The Woefield Poultry Collective is totally charming. The basic storyline is of a young New Yorker who inherits her uncle’s farm and heads to Canada to put her dreams of self sustainability to the test. I have to admit part of this book’s appeal is it’s setting – a tiny town on Vancouver Island about an hour from where I live. Juby’s strength is definitely in her characters. She has four very different personalities tell each chapter, from a preteen girl to a seventy-something man. While she names them in each section, her writing lets you know instantly who’s telling the tale. Values, skills, experiences and shortcomings of each character are explored in ways that make the reader root for them all. The unlikely four create a little community and by supporting each other, they succeed in their personal and collective challenges. While the hard work of farm life is glossed over somewhat, it’s easily forgiven with it’s humour. Diversity, acceptance and spunk are celebrated in this fun little read. I caught myself laughing out loud a few times!

Homemade lip balm

lip balm recipe

Lip balm is one of those simple pleasures in life that I absolutely cannot live without. I’m a bit of a junkie with tubes and pots of the stuff in every purse and gym bag, in the car and at my desk. Of course I had to try my hand at making my own! I’ve played around with different recipes over the years but this basic one is my favourite with a minty tingle and comparable to Burt’s Bees. It’s pretty quick and easy to whip up with ingredients from the health food store!
You need:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp beeswax
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp lanolin
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil
  • small containers with lids

lip balm DIY

I make a primitive double-boiler out of an old pan and a recycled tin can! Wash a tuna type can thoroughly then bend one spot of the lip into a point (pliers help with this) which will become your pouring spout. Put a little water in the pan and let it simmer. Place beeswax into your tin can. Put it into the simmering water and stir until melted. Add the coconut oil and lanolin and stir to combine. A chopstick makes the ideal stir stick. Remove from water using oven mitts and add honey and mint drops. Stir well to mix the oil in. Slowly pour into clean, dry containers almost to the top and let set. I find having a paper towel lined cutting board is perfect for pouring on as there will be drips and they’re hot! As these set or harden, they tend to sink in a bit in the middle. Fix that by reheating any remaining balm mix in your tin and top up your containers. This batch filled 8 containers with some still left over!
lip balm DIYlip balm DIYThere are all kinds of fun decorating options for your containers: stickers, labels or draw with Sharpie markers. This batch is mostly for me so I just added a strip of washi tape for a bit of color. The ingredients can be a bit of an investment initially so try to get the smallest quantity available or consider splitting with a friend and making it together! In the long run it’s way cheaper than store-bought balm and it’s all natural to boot. I know I say this about all of my projects but these truly make great little gifts. Who doesn’t enjoy a new lip balm to pucker up to?!