Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … 🙂

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Holiday Sandwich Cookies

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Cait and I seem to have developed a tradition in recent years of getting together and baking something in time for the holidays. Usually there’s much yelling (both at each other and at what we’re doing) and definitely too much giggling. Last year we made biscotti, and the year before that we came up with those rum balls that got us wasted. This year I got to pick, and, as I’ve been craving Oreos recently, I went with that for inspiration and found this recipe from Chatelaine.

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It started with us making a trip to Dollarama for some unrelated items, and Cait managed to find a three-pack of teeny tiny Santa hat hair clips. Note our manic expressions. I’m surprised mine actually stayed in my hair the whole night.

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It did not stay in Gren’s hair. He was not a fan.

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Start with your dough, because you’ll need to refrigerate it for a bit. In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I doubled the recipe because there were two of us).

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Then, in the bowl of your mixer, plop 1 cup room temperature butter and beat it with 1 cup granulated sugar until it’s fluffy and lovely.

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Then drip in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 egg and beat that until fluffy.

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Slowly, using a shield, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well combined. The dough will be very stiff.

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Separate that into two sections, flatten them into discs, and chuck them in the fridge for at least an hour. I made ours into little logs, which we then labeled “poos” for the rest of the night. We are very mature.

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Now you can make your filling. Beat up 1/2 cup room temperature butter until soft and creamy, then add in 2 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar (slowly) and beat until combined. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons (or more) whipping cream until you have a nice thick fluffy icing. Then you add in 1/4 cup crushed hard candy.

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Now, Cait made hers with crushed candy canes (the recipe calls for peppermint candies but they’re pretty much the same).

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I, however, have a strong aversion to candy canes. So I used Werther’s hard candies instead.

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Here is Cait smashing up some Werther’s for me.

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So we split the icing into two parts and mixed the candy canes into one half and the hard caramels into the other.

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Now, when your dough is chilled enough, preheat your oven to 375°F and spray several baking sheets or line them with parchment (which is what I did). Grab one of your chilled discs of dough and roll it out on a floured surface (or between two sheets of waxed paper, which is what I’m doing here). Dust things with flour if they get sticky.

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Use cookie cutters to get some good sandwichy shapes. Cait was in charge of this as I rolled out the dough. She was very careful to make sure she made at least two of everything, for sandwichy purposes.

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Gather up your scraps and chuck them back in the fridge to re-roll after ten minutes or so. Make sure to use all the dough! Place the cut cookies on your baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. The cookies will expand somewhat so don’t put them too close together.

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Set the baked cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cait made this cookie corgi specially for the Pie.

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Now sit down with your cooled cookies and your frosting and a small knife and start pasting icing onto one side of a cookie. We watched Elf as we did this, to get into the holiday spirit.

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Match it up and squish it down (not too hard – they will break if you press them too hard).

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And that’s it. Sandwiches! They’re supposedly best eaten the day they’re made but I actually preferred them the next day when they were a little chewier. But that’s up to you.

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Store whatever you can’t eat in an airtight container.

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Mocha-maca-mel Monsters

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The first job I ever had that I got without the aid of nepotism was as a Subway Sandwich Artist at the local mall. Now, this was way back in the day, and by back in the day I mean so long ago that we only had two kinds of bread, one type of cheese, and we still cut the loaves in U-shapes (which, I maintain to this day, is still the better way to do it). My favourite Subway cookie was (and still is) the double chocolate macadamia nut, with a cocoa base, white chocolate chips, and a handful of crushed macadamia nuts.  So good.  And I don’t even like macadamia nuts. I don’t know how they were made (they came in little frozen dough pucks) but this recipe is an homage to my memory of burning myself on ovens for minimum wage. Enjoy!

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/4 cup instant espresso (for the mocha- part).

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I tried to line this up all cool and edgy but my kitchen door was open and kept blowing the flour around and the grains of instant coffee were too coarse to stay still. Turns out I suck at being cool. And at planning ahead.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar until super fluffy and glorious.  I know some of you don’t use refined sugars but you simply cannot beat the smell of butter and sugar getting to know each other.

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Add in 2 large eggs, beating them up individually – just like any kung fu movie involving one hero and multiple opponents.

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Slowly tip in your flour mixture and mix until totally combined (I used the shield, sorry Eli).

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Then smash up some macadamia nuts (for the -maca- part).

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I have no idea how many I have here, but I think I ended up with just over 2 cups after I smashed them with the end of my rolling pin.  Good times.

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I also added in about 2 cups butterscotch chips.  For the -mel (caramel) part.

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Drop in heaping tablespoons onto your baking sheet and bake, rotating halfway through for 8-10 minutes.

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Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes on the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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So tasty with a cold glass of milk.

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Krystopf’s Chocolate Chiffon Birthday Cake

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Because we were running around on my birthday, the Pie and I broke with our tradition of making each other birthday cakes from scratch and bought one from a local bakery.  It was lemon chiffon, and we liked it so much we immediately vowed that it would be on our list of things to learn.  It was Krystopf’s birthday on Saturday (my biggest brother is 37, how scary is that?), and he requested something chocolatey for his cake.  So instead of lemon chiffon, we’re making the Joy of Baking’s chocolate chiffon cake.  While the cake has multiple steps, they’re all pretty easy.  It’s also a good cake to make the day before and store in the fridge overnight.

Start by separating 6 eggs (add an extra white to the whites pile so you have 6 egg yolks and 7 egg whites) and let those come to room temperature.

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Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F and grab your favourite tube pan.  Resist the urge to put any grease of any form into it.

Next, seize your sifter and, in a large bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup room temperature coffee, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Make a well in your flour mixture and add the egg stuff to it.

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Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you get this lovely glossiness.

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Now we can start beating up those 7 egg whites.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and use an electric mixer to whip them to soft peaks.

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While still beating, slowly add in 3/4 cup granulated sugar and keep whipping those up until you get nice stiff peaks that stand on their own.

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Gently fold the meringue into the rest of the cake batter in three separate additions.

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I found it a bit tricky to get it all properly mixed, so mine is a little marbled.

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Pour the batter into your tube pan and smooth it down.  If you think there are large air bubbles in there, cut through it a few times with a knife to break them.

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Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, and then immediately invert your tube pan to allow the cake to cool completely without collapsing under its own weight (this is why you don’t grease the pan).

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Use a bottle to prop it up if your pan doesn’t have feet.

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Now that the cake is cool we can work on the glaze and filling.  Chuck a bowl and the wire whisk from your electric mixer into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

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Chop up 6oz semisweet chocolate and heave that into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) with 1/4 cup butter and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

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Heat that over a pot of barely simmering water until it’s all melted and lovely, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

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While it’s cooling down, you can decant your cake.  Use a sharp knife around the edges and tip it upside down onto a plate.

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Use the knife again to remove the bottom part.

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Then cut the whole thing in half horizontally.

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Haul your frozen whisk and bowl out of the freezer and throw 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa, and 1 teaspoon instant coffee into the bowl.

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Pour out 1 cup cold whipping cream and add a few drops of that to the mix in the bowl.  Give it a good stirring, then beat in the rest of the whipping cream until it’s a frothy mocha masterpiece.

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Take about 3/4 cup of the mocha cream and spread it on the cut side of the bottom half of the cake.

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Put the top half back on and then drizzle the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides.  Spread it smooth with a spatula.

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Pipe the remaining mocha filling on top.

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I let the cake chill for a bit to set the glaze.

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Oh man it was good!

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Rusty’s Diamond Cake

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It was Rusty’s birthday on the 4th and we cooked up a plan for a really epic baseball-themed cake.  The cake recipe itself came from Delish, because I needed a three layer cake in order to have enough batter to fill my 16″ pan.  As it stands, the batter was so good that I’m keeping the page bookmarked so I can actually follow the recipe at another time.

First thing’s first: preheat your oven to 350°F and then butter your cake pan.  This is my 16″ round pan. I got it at a cake store when I made the Ivy Vanilla Wedding Cake.  Once you’ve buttered it, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter that, too.

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Now, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter and 3 cups packed brown sugar until they’re as fluffy as humanly possible.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Add the eggs to the butter and beat until it’s all incorporated.  Scrape the bowl down and give it a good beating for about a minute.

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In yet another bowl, sift together 3/4 cups cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 3 cups flour.  Or you could whisk it with a fork, which is obviously what I did.  It’s all lies, what I tell you.  All of it.  LIES.

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Grab 1 1/2 cups sour cream and alternate adding that with the flour to the batter until they’re all gone.

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Finally, while mixing, slowly add in 1 1/2 cups hot water to the mix.

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Smooth your batter into your cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  For some reason I don’t understand, a giant cake takes just as long to bake as three little ones.  Let the cake cool almost all the way in the pan before tipping it out onto a cooling rack.

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While that’s doing its thing, you can whip up some icing.  Despite the ill-fated nature of Rusty’s birthday cake last year, we have found that the icing recipe for that thing is the best one out there.  Because of the size of this cake, I doubled it, and only had a little left over.

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So.  In a bowl, cream together 2 250g packages plain cream cheese (room temperature — very important) and 2 cups butter.

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Then, bit by bit, and using a flour shield if you’ve got one, add in 6 cups icing sugar.

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Beat that until it’s all mixed and lovely.  Add more sugar if necessary.

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I scooped out a small amount of plain icing to use in drawing bases and baselines.

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Another chunk I dyed astroturf green with some gel food colouring (this stuff will give you the bright colours that are lacking with traditional liquid food colouring, which you can see in the background of the first photo).

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And then another hunk I coloured brown with some gel food colouring and a touch of red liquid stuff, to emulate the clay.

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Then I took a look at my cake.  I cut off two “corners” to form the shape traditionally associated with a baseball field.

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Then I traced a bit of a design with the back of a knife to indicate where the infield went, and crumb coated the sides of the cake with brown icing. Later on, when I had extra icing, I piped more brown around the edges to finish it off.

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I shoved the icing into Ziploc bags and cut off the corners to do my piping, because all my cake decorating stuff is still in storage.  Here is the initial layout of the clay infield.

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After smoothing it out (I “raked” it later with a fork), I started on the grass, which I wasn’t going to flatten.  I wanted it to look like it had been groomed.

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Continuing with the outfield.

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Then the infield and pitcher’s mound, which is raised (by dint of extra icing).

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Here I took a break to sample my wares.

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With the Pie’s instruction, I drew on the bases and base lines.  They’re not accurate (because I’m not good at listening and the Pie isn’t good at giving useful instructions), but it’s a cake.  Sue me.  This is the view from home plate.

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The Pie insisted on adding that plastic baseball.  Rusty loved (and ate) the whole thing.  Except the baseball. I hope.

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Bookmark Brownies

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This recipe comes from a laminated bookmark I received as part of a promotional package from Chatelaine magazine.  While I was not so struck by this unsolicited mail that I wished to subscribe to the magazine, I kept the bookmark because the brownie recipe on it was gluten free with an interesting twist.  Actually this is a lie.  As soon as I’d typed in the ingredient list into this entry, I threw it out.  And was annoyed that it was unrecyclable.

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Below is the original recipe for one pan of brownies.  I tripled this because I was baking for work, so ignore my photos involving massive amounts of baking materials.

First, separate 4 eggs, and bring the whites to room temperature.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides of the pan (you’re going to use these as handles later, see?).

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups icing sugar with 2 cups ground almonds (I used almond meal), 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt.

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Add to that your egg whites and 2 teaspoons vanilla and mix well.

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Pour that thick loveliness into the prepared pan.  And by thick I mean that this stuff will suck you into oblivion if you’re not careful.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is shiny and crusty and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out mostly clean.

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Use the parchment handles to carefully lift the brownie out of the pan (you don’t want it to suddenly sag and break in half, for instance) and set the brownies on a rack to cool completely.

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What this recipe doesn’t tell you (because I guess the bookmark was too small) is that these things are next to impossible to cut cleanly.  I thought mine weren’t cooked enough and ended up putting them back in the oven for another fifteen minutes and they were still ridiculous, sticking to the knife and crumbling everywhere.  Warm, cold, didn’t matter.  Crumbles all over the place.

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But they tasted like brownies.  So that’s that.

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Treats Week: All Truffles, All the Time

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I think I would lead a happier life if every Wednesday was a truffle day.  Just sayin’.

I have an easy kind of truffles for you today, delicious to the max.  They make great nibblies to have on hand for guests who drop by, and also elegant little gifts.  And the best part of this recipe (which I have modified from here and here), aside from its simplicity and versatility, is that they’re totally vegan and gluten-free.  So you can make everyone happy.  Serve them with chokladboll for fika and it will be even more impressive.

Soak about 15 medjool dates (those are the big ones) for about 15 minutes.

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While the dates are relaxing in their nice bath, take about 1 cup dessicated coconut, and chuck it in your food processor.  Pulse that until you have teeny flakes, and set half of it aside for coating the finished truffles.

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Do the same with 1 cup walnuts, almonds, pecans, or nut of your choosing, reserving half for coating.  I toasted these ones first.

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Dump the other half of the coconut and nuts back in the food processor.

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Add the soaked dates to the food processor, as well as 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk.  Alternately, you can use a few tablespoons of coconut oil.

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Now what you should know here is that I both doubled the recipe and my food processor is really small, so I did this in batches and mixed it together in a bowl.

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Pulse that gooey mass until it’s all finely combined and forming a huge ball.  Chuck that in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

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Then you can start making truffles balls with your hands.  Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll it in your palms to form a rough sphere. This was my hand after doing the whole batch.

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Roll about a third of your truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder (with an extra sprinkling of cayenne if you wish), another third in your coconut flakes, and the last third in the crushed nuts.

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Keep these in the fridge, or freeze them for later on down the road. My doubled recipe made 48 truffles.

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They’re so pretty and tasty and spicy!

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