Homemade Ice Cream Cake

Although it has only been four days since my last post, I feel like its been weeks.  It has been an incredibly busy week for me and, as per usual, I’m using blogging as a way to procrastinate from schoolwork, namely my art history midterm tomorrow morning.  While I’ve had a jam packed schedule, I’ve gotten to do some AMAZING things this week.  I don’t usually plug all my other blogs here, but if you go to the blog I made for my multimedia class, you can see a photo essay on my adventures going up in a Cessna-172 at the Rockcliffe Flying Club.  SO COOL AND SCARY.  That was one journalism adventure (a second was filming a flash mob, but that’s another story…).  Another wonderful thing that happened this week was meeting with Shakira, the co-owner/baker of Little Cakes. She drove in all the way from Stittsville to feed me cupcakes (and six of them with that!) so that I could judge them as part of my search for Ottawa’s perfect cupcake on the Local Tourist Ottawa blog.  You can check out that review this Monday :).

Alright, made it through hyperlink central?  Good.  Now on to the actual post…

This was by far the second most awesome cake I’ve ever made, losing out only to the pool party cake I made in the summer (it is my ultimate challenge to make a cake more impressive than that).  It all started when I was bored in class last week thinking about how much I was craving birthday cake.  From this boredom sprung the insane idea to make my very own ice cream cake.  Grabbing a piece of paper, I quickly sketched out the cake diagram you see below, detailing my plans for each intricate iced layer.  Some people doodle their name in multi-coloured ink, I doodle cakes.

Now you need to understand that I very rarely know what I’m doing.  Making this cake was no exception to this rule, and I figured I ought to do some research on said cake type before attempting to smush together dairy in a disastrous way.  I decided to make the cake in my beloved spring form pan, so I wouldn’t have to experience any sort of removal-from-pan challenges.  I lined it with plastic wrap and just sort of went from there.  My recipe can be found below the gadgillions of pictures, but in the meantime, let me break down the anatomy of this cake for you:

Layer 1: Chopped brownie
Layer 2: Strawberry ice cream
Layer 3: A homemade fudge thing, basically oreo crumbs and white chocolate chips mixed with chocolate sauce
Layer 4: Vanilla ice cream
Layer 5: Whipped cream

Now, since I’m speculating that many of you have never made an ice cream cake before, let me warn you that it is a time consuming process.  In preparation for our house Valentine’s Day party on Sunday night, I started making this cake on Friday.  Albeit it was so that I could take my sweet sluggish time making it, each layer does need to be frozen solid before you add the next.  For those of you hoping to make this cake in one day, it means that you’re going to have to wake up pretty damn early, unless you have some sort of state-of-the-art instant free liquid nitrogen machine.

The cake turned out awesome and I’m so proud I can finally check this one off my foodie bucket list.  It was a hit with the roommates and was the first of THREE dessert courses we had for dinner that night.  By the end I didn’t know whether to jump around in a sugar buzz euphoria or fall down in a food coma.  It turns out that latter won.

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Two-tiered Chocolate Zucchini Yogurt Cake with Raspberry Yogurt Icing

Let me start off by saying I am very proud of this cake and its very long name.  This dessert represents a culmination of practicality and taste, the first because I got to use up so much stuff from my fridge, and the second because of the amazing deliciousness of combined raspberry and chocolate flavours.

The idea for this cake was born on Sunday night when I was bored at home.  I was feeling guilty for having so much stuff in the mini fridge that my roommate Britt and I share, and was in one of my inexplicable baking moods (normally these happen at around 9:15 p.m. on a school night).  In the fridge, I had a tub of plain yogurt that was very near expiration date, so I knew I had to use that up.  Since zucchini has become my favourite vegetable, I decided I might as well go all out and make a zucchini cake.  Google is the most wonderful tool for finding strange recipes.  This recipe came from the site Cooper’s Kitchen (this dude Cooper apparently has his own show) and was absolutely perfect for what I wanted to do.

Once my cake came out of the oven, it struck me that I needed to whip up some icing.  Since I also had a large amount of raspberry yogurt left, I trolled the Internet some more before setting on the raspberry yogurt icing recipe that I adapted for this cake.  I had a mini Hilary baking freak out after the icing was done since it was kind of liquidy still, but this was quickly fixed by a morning of refrigerated glory.  I didn’t have fresh raspberries to put on my cake, so I decided to pipe dollops of raspberry jam on top of it.  Way to use my problem solving skills, right?

When I was at my part-time job on Monday, I was talking to my co-worker Natalie about this most recent baking adventure.  I quickly rhymed off the name of the cake, and watched in horror as she crinkled her nose in disgust.

Apparently she thinks that yogurt and zucchini do not go together in a cake.

With the desire to quash Natalie’s uncertainly, I brought in a huge chunk of cake the next day to share with everyone in the office.  As I carried my tupperware container of cake across campus, I fumbled while putting on my mittens, dropping the tupperware and allowing the cake to somersault away from me.  By the time I made it to the office, the cake was a mess, and I had to carefully scrape icing off the lid and reapply it to the cake.  As I presented each of my co-workers with a piece of cake, I also showed them pictures of what my cake looked like pre-drop.  They needed to know that I wasn’t a completely incompetent cake decorator.

In the end, the cake turned out awesome.  The raspberry icing was the perfect contrast for the chocolate cake which, although a tad dry, was still tasty.  Since both contained lots of yogurt and zucchini, I’m going to write this cake one off as a “healthy meal” in hopes of justifying the fact that I ate it for breakfast two days in a row.

Recipe: Two-tiered chocolate zucchini yogurt cake with a raspberry yogurt icing
See recipe on Cooper’s Kitchen.

Raspberry yogurt icing
– 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
– 4 cups icing sugar
– 1/2 cup raspberry yogurt
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup raspberry jam

Using a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Add yogurt and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Using a piping bag (or a Ziplock bag) pipe small dollops of jam onto the cake.

Nana’s Christmas Fruitcake: the continuation of an old family tradition

Happy Boxing Day everyone!  Since the stores in Sudbury are closed on boxing day (thanks to a rather archaic bylaw which I quite adore), I took the good graces to extend my annual Christmas “sit around the house and do nothing but read and eat” festival into the depths of December 26.  Still being in a disgustingly full state, I decided to settle in and do the only activity you can do while in a food coma: food blog!

Here is the old Duff family tradition around which this post is based:

Every Christmas for the past 25 years, my dad has been the recipient of one of my Nana’s famous homemade fruitcakes.  The tradition started when my dad, who moved to Canada 31 years ago, stopped returning home to Ireland for Christmas after he met my mom.  Since my Nana passed away almost two years ago, this family tradition has risked extinction.  Last Christmas, my dad was eating fruitcake from the year before that had been hidden away in the depths of our freezer, making this Christmas the very first where he would be without his traditional holiday fare.

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Christmas Cake Pops: my first encounter with Bakerella’s one bite wonders

Everyone – my life has been changed!!!  How you ask?  Well, quite simply put, it is through the purchase of this fantastic new cookbook:

I saw this book yesterday while I was in Chapters with my family.  Bakerella has been a favourite blogger of mine for sometime now, and I often peruse her site endlessly in my delusional dessert daydreams.  Bakerella is famous for these special little cake pops/bites.  She is so famous for these heavenly morsels that she even has a BOOK TOUR.  Cool, right?  Basically, these cake pops are cake crumbs mixed with icing and covered in a candy coating.  Not for the light of heart, hyper five-year-old or cavity fearer, but perfect for those suffering from low blood sugar!  Once I saw this book, I knew I had to have it.  I had resisted purchasing it once (as a partial Christmas gift for best friend Britt), but I could resist no longer.  Nope, I was 100 per cent committed to making seasonal cake pops.

And make them I did.  My favourite part of Bakerella’s cake pop recipe is that it calls for boxed cake mix and icing from the can.  Endless hours of baking from scratch were saved!

Also, the funniest thing happened to me when I was at the grocery store shopping for supplies.  Here I was in an unfamiliar baking aisle, frantically flipping through my glossy new cookbook to decide what to buy.  I must have been looking completely disoriented and confused when a woman came up to me and said something along the lines of “hey, I made cake pops last week!”  This introductory statement led to a 15 minute conversation about cake pops and how much we love Bakerella.  Turns out she had made reindeer, turkey and snowmen cake pops earlier in the year, a task which I have yet to conquer.  Want to hear something even more weird?  The woman, whose name is actually Karina, turned out to be a teacher at a high school in Ottawa where I had gone to write a journalism story last year.  SMALL WORLD, right?  Anyways, she gave me some great tips for making these (only use 3/4 of the frosting, melt shortening in with the chocolate to keep it from hardening), and it was a neat little conversation that sparked only out of me holding my new Cake Pops cookbook in the store.

After the grocery store I trekked off to the Bulk Barn where  I spent a small fortune on chocolate candy coating (those cool little coloured disks of moulding chocolate that don’t look like food), lollipop sticks and sprinkles.  My meagre student budget is going to start suffering thanks to the purchase of this book… Also, I partially over-purchased on the chocolate for this one, so I’m going to need to think of something creative to do with 2 pounds of coloured chocolate over the next week… I’m open to suggestions…

SO MUCH extra chocolate!!!

The thing with Bakerella’s cake pops recipes is that it’s kind of complicated to let the chocolate set on the cake.  Since I decided to make these kind of at the last minute, I didn’t have time to find the styrofoam block that Bakerella requires.  This is normally the thing that you stab all your lollipop sticks into so that your cake pops stand up straight.  With a little ingenuity and a lengthy trip to the Dollar Store, I created a cake pop standing device out of foam cups and masking tape.  Baking challenges, bring it on!

Since it is CHRISTMAS EVE (can you believe it?!) I spent my entire day…I mean HOURS, coating and hand decorating a dozen and a half little Christmas trees.  The end result was totally worth it – I mean, come on, you need to admit that they’re cute!   If you plan on making any of these, make sure you follow Bakerella’s recipe to the tee, since she has everything perfected.  On top of the Christmas trees, I made little tuxedo (as my mom calls them) cake bites, with half white chocolate and half semi-sweet chocolate.  A little less extravagant than the trees, but fun and tasty nonetheless.  Pour yourself a big glass of milk to go along with these and you’re all set!

To end off this post, I am happy to announce that we delivered some cake pops to our neighbours across the street, and in return they gave us a freshly baked apple pie!  What a trade off!

Merry Christmas!!
Love, Hilary

Family Christmas Party aka Holiday Potluck II

Since it’s been awhile since I posted about my last potluck, I figured a new cheerful holiday post was in order.  Just as an update on my life for anyone who teensy bit cares: classes have now officially ended and I am half terrified, half excited that my second last year of university is halfway over.  Seriously!  My actual life starts so soon, I can’t wait.  Also, my first exam isn’t until the 17th, so I have spent the last couple of days doing the following: drinking beer, eating chicken wings, playing Mario Kart, eating (inhaling) sushi, and watching Mean Girls.  As you can see, my life involved quite a bit of eating and not much studying.  As of tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. that will most certainly change.  Exams, you are going down.

The charming Christmas ornament my mom sent us last year. The blacked out section is our address, which I feel should not be mentioned over the realms of the Internet.

Okay, so ever since we moved into our house, it has become a tradition to have a “Christmas family potluck.”  And by tradition, I mean we had a dinner last year and decided that we needed another excuse to decorate the house for the 2010 festivities.  Since there are six of us in the house plus two boyfriends and a boyfriend roommate, we ended up with quite a bit of food.  There was chicken, ham, potatoes (sweet and normal ones!), stuffing, brussel sprouts (which I wasn’t brave enough to try, I blame my dad for not liking them!) and MORE (if you can believe it).  Finally, there was dessert, which I was obviously responsible for making.  On the menu this year was a double-layered chocolate cake with peppermint white chocolate buttercream icing.  I seriously ate so much for dinner that by the time people came over for our actual party, I just wanted to go down to my room and put on my stretchy pants.  Thank god I resisted.

Regretfully, I did not get a nice picture of my cake since I didn’t finish icing it until well into the depths of 6 p.m. light.  The picture you see below was taken under the lamp Ariel bought at a yard sale.  ‘Nuff said.  I’ll tell you this, however…  It was yummy!  I finally managed to use some of the ridiculous amount of white chocolate that I have and used the rest of my homemade Christmas tree chocolates to decorate the sides.  IT WAS Christmas in a cake.

Christmas dinner as seen from my iPhone

This year’s family get-together also involved a “fancy” holiday party afterwards, at which time we proceeded to drink spiked egg nog and revel in the glow of our sparkling Christmas tree.

We also had our Secret Santa gift exchange.  There are six of us in our house and this year we PROMISED not to try and sneakily match the gift givers with their recipients.  This, however, failed greatly, and after two revealing bus conversations with Ariel and Amanda, I had the entire web of gifting deciphered.  Amanda was my Secret Santa and she got me…wait for it…A COOKIE PRESS!  That’s right, I can now make spritz cookies and pipe icing to my heart’s content.  Best. gift. ever.  I was Ariel’s Secret Santa, and got her the cute polar bear sweater you see below, Christmas tea and a cookie like the one we had from Le Moulin de Provence in first year.  Cute, right?

ALSO, one more thing.  I wore this wicked dress I bought at the Ottawa Vintage Sale a few weeks ago and was DEVASTATED when I got some sort of water stain on the front of it.  Seriously, you can’t take me anywhere!  Hillary’s Cleaners will be having a visit from me very shortly…

The pictures below are just a few more images from my fun night…






My wonderful Secret Santa







Family picture where we all look a little bit crazy (especially Britt)...
Mass chaos in the kitchen
New favourite channel: The Fireplace Network
Our Christmas tree as seen from my Hipstamatic iPhone app
Family picture 2010