“There Are No Words . . .”


“There are no words to describe how good this is,” said my husband after just one bite of the Nutella Molten Lava Cakes that I made for a dinner party over the holidays. One of the ponytails was quick to follow up with: “This is the best dessert ever!”

So, it is without hesitation that I recommend this recipe to you as one to make when you want to impress and delight your dinner guests. Your guests will love the luscious chocolately goodness that oozes onto your plate and melts in your mouth. You will love how easy it is to make.

Now, I have to say that I’m all for making my husband happy these days. He really hit the ball out of the park on Christmas morning with a beautiful new automated cappaccino maker and the Larousse Gastronomique Culinary Encyclopedia. Both items were a complete surprize, as I had forgotten all about the book recommendations that many of you left on the blog post for my book giveaway in November. I owe a special thanks to Tandy from Lavender and Lime for recommending this book. It’s nice to know that my husband reads the blog, isn’t it?


From what I’ve read so far, this book is a must-have for foodies. Packed with recipes, tips and detailed explanations, it is regarded as the French cooking bible. In fact, Julia Child once wrote, “If I were allowed only one reference book in my library, Larousse Gastronomique would be it, without question.”

I’m sure that this book will successfully keep me out of trouble for countless hours this year and I promise to share a few highlights with you.

In the meantime, I’ll be able to keep up with working by day and blogging by night thanks to my convenient new source of caffeine! (I must tell you that I’m addicted to cappuccinos!)

Our dinner guests Tammy and Les asked for the recipe for these Nutella Molten Lava Cakes, so this post is really for them. They both enjoyed these molten lava cakes and liked that the recipe is no fuss, no muss. (The microwave conveniently melts the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella for you and then you just have to stir in the remaining ingredients.) The recipe is from my new favourite cookbook Savory Sweet Life, which my mom gave me for Christmas along with Ina Garten’s Foolproof.  I’d say all around I’m a pretty lucky foodie, wouldn’t you? (Remember, my husband reads this blog . . .)

Molten Lava Cakes

Nutella Molten Lava Cakes

Makes 12 cakes; recipe from Savory Sweet Life


10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1- 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 large eggs

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


confectioners’ sugar


Whole hazelnuts, toasted

fresh strawberry slices


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds, and then in three 30-second increments, stirring it until smooth after each interval. Stir the flour and confectioners’ sugar into the chocolate-butter mixture. Mix in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are firm but the centres are still soft.
  4. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 3 minutes to set up. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes and invert them onto a cutting board. Transfer each cake to a serving plate. Lightly dust confectioners’ sugar over each one, followed by a dollop of Nutella, a hazelnut and strawberry half (optional).


  • Molten lava batter can be made up to a week in advance. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and cover it with plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them. Set the muffin tin on the counter while the oven is preheating. The baking time will be the same.
  • Because I only needed six of these cakes for my dinner party, I scooped the batter for six cakes into my muffin tin to cook that day and the remaining batter into six small ramekins to store in the fridge for a later date. This worked well. I just found that the cakes in the ramekins needed to cook for a minute or two longer than they day that I first made them.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

During any given activity throughout the day–whether it’s buying a coffee, standing in line at the bank or boarding a plane–if you stop and look around you’ll no doubt see several people around you reading their messages on their smart phones.  Guess it is not surprising that 2.8 million emails are sent every second.

I read an article on a recent flight that underscored the importance of “disconnecting” while on vacation–that we need to savour each moment and not worry about “reporting” on the moment through social media, so that we can participate fully in our “real-life” relationships.

Can you tell that I took this message to heart? It helps to explain why I haven’t been posting and commenting recently. I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation in cottage country and I was “unplugged” for most of the week. (Okay, I did spend an hour one day commenting while the kids where kayaking with their dad.)

Now that I’m recharged (and excited to get cooking again) I want to share this Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova recipe with you. I make it every summer and it is always a crowd favourite. I made it a few weeks a go for a farewell dinner for our good friends who moved back to Israel after living in Canada for four years. We had a wonderful night, even though it was very sad to say good-bye. I’ll think of them whenever I make this pavlova from now on.

The best part about this pavlova is the fudgey chocolately centre that is quite unexpected the first time you take a bite. It’s the reason that the ponytails LOVE this dessert!


Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

 Very slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson, Forever Summer

 For the chocolate meringue base:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

 For the topping:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 12 – 18 oz raspberries (2 to 3 containers; 6 ounces each)
  • 2-3 tbsp grated semi-sweet or dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until peaks form and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.

Heap the meringue mixture on to a baking sheet in a 9 inch circle, smoothing the sides and top.

Place in the oven, then immediately lower temperature to 300° and cook for 60 to 75 minutes. It should look crisp around the edges and be dry on top. It is slightly squishy when you push down on the top. Turn the oven off and open the door slightly and let cool completely.

To serve, place the meringue on a large flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the whipping cream until thick. Add sugar. Pile the whipped cream on top of meringue, then add the raspberries. Grate the chocolate over the top.


  • Don’t forget to turn the oven down to 300° when you put the pavlova in the oven!
  • I’ve made this several times each summer for many years now and the meringue always cracks. Don’t worry, it still looks great once you add the whipped cream and raspberries.
  • Be sure to wash the raspberries well in advance of making this and place them on a paper towel to dry. This will ensure that the raspberries don’t run when you place them on the whipped cream.
  • I used 2 containers of raspberries this time, but normally I like to use 3 so that the raspberries are densely piled on the pavlova.
  • I also usually grate the chocolate into curls, but I was in a hurry to serve this and just finely grated the chocolate. The chocolate curls look more impressive, if you have time.

O Canada Cobbler

To my fellow Canadians, a belated Happy Canada Day; to my American neighbours, an early Happy 4th of July; and to everyone else, a right-on-time Happy July!

It has been a glorious long weekend here in Toronto. We like to stay in town for the July long weekend as it’s a great opportunity to chillax and avoid the five- or six-hour drive on the clogged highways as thousands of Torontonians head for the hills.

For the past few years, we’ve gotten together with our good friends who live in “The Beach” (as it is known in Toronto) on Canada Day weekend. We met our friends Laura and Kevin as frightened first-time parents-to-be at our pre-natal classes when we were expecting ponytail #1. Our oldest girls are born a week apart and they’ve been getting together for playdates and birthdays since they were three months old. (We like to say that they were friends before they were born.) Now there are siblings and it’s fun to watch all the kids grow and see that they actually get along well whenever we get together.

I decided to make Cherry Cobbler for our annual get-together last night. Served with a scoop of good ole vanilla ice cream, this red and white dessert is the perfect way to celebrate our Canadian heritage. We ate all but one small scoop of cobbler–even the kids seemed to like it.

I first made this Cherry Cobbler for my friend Maryann when I stayed with her in Vancouver a number of years ago. She liked it so much that I made it about four times during my week-long stay. She raved about it to my other West Coast friend L’il Debs, so of course I had to make it for Debs and her husband Bruce the night I went there for dinner. Since then I’ve changed to a topping that is more biscuit-like, which I prefer.

If you decide to try this, you might find yourself making this again and again too!

Cherry Cobbler

Cherry base adapted from A Year in Niagara by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh

For the cherry base:

  • 3 ½ cups cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a sauce pan, cook the cherries, butter and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Blend together sugar and flour. Add the flour mixture to the cherries in the saucepan, stirring to prevent lumps. Return this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for a minute or two until the sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 4-cup baking dish.

For the biscuit topping:

From Gourmet, September 1999

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarst meal. Stir in water until just combined.

Using large spoon, drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the fruit. Base for 25 minutes until golden brown.


  • I made this in a 10″ cast-iron pan and baked it in the oven (as this was more convenient for me yesterday than cooking on the barbeque). I popped the cobbler onto the grill on low heat as we were finishing dinner. It was bubbling and ready to serve in no time.
  • To cook the cobbler on the grill, follow my directions from my Bumble Crumble in a Skillet.

Birthday Cake Bliss and Giving Back

After everyone was snug in their bed last night, I turned on a chick flick (my husband is away on his annual fishing trip in Northern Saskatchewan) and cut myself a really, really large slice of my daughter’s birthday cake. I cut it with great care, ensuring that each bite would be loaded with as much candy as possible.  And as I gorged myself, nibbled delicately on this slice of candy-studded Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain, I decided that this was the cake I wanted for my next birthday party—that candy and cake is a deadly good combination.

I’m not sure if I’ll be perceived as nuts or fun-loving. What do you think?

With ponytails born five days apart (plus three years), June is always a hectic month for birthdays in our house.  This past week we hosted two parties – one for each girl. Add another four birthday parties over a two week stretch to the mix, and you’ll agree that it was only understandable that I RSVP’d about the wrong date to one of the parties. Right? (Note the desperate tone of my voice here!)

But it’s the same every year, so I try to plan ahead as much as possible. I made some of my new favourite cookies (Funfetti Cookies by Two Peas and Their Pod) for the loot bags for both parties a couple weeks ago and popped them into the freezer. I also made a Blueberry Coffee Cake for the adults at my four-year old ponytail’s party, and popped it into the freezer.

That left me free to make cupcakes for my oldest ponytail’s party and the Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain for the youngest ponytail’s party the night before. I haven’t made many cakes, so making this Fairy Cake was quite an adventure.  It was lots of fun to make and very rewarding, as my little ponytail’s entire face lit up when she saw it. When it comes to birthday baking, it really is all about planning ahead.

Over the past few years, I’ve also realized something else about birthdays.

It’s about the party—big or small. It’s about the cake. It’s about the running around with your friends and squealing with delight. It’s not about the presents! Sure every kid loves to get a few presents on their birthday. But a few carefully chosen presents is all it takes to make my girls really happy on their birthday.

This year we found a great new website called ECHOage. It is a service that allows you to invite your guests using their online platform with great invitations and reminders. Your child decides on one or two gifts that he/she would like for his/her birthday and selects a charity. The parents of the invited guests can then make a contribution online—half the money goes to the charity and the other half goes towards your child’s gift. (I should point out that Echoage has a service fee of 15% of the total funds raised.) I was able to buy each of my girls a couple outfits and a pet for their dolls. They were both more than happy and didn’t miss the mountain of gifts that they would have otherwise received. This was the third year that my oldest ponytail has raised money for a charity on her birthday and she’s raised over $700 in three years. I think ECHOage is the greatest thing ever, because everybody wins. Your child gets to learn about giving back at an early age; the charity receives much needed funds; parents of the invited guests don’t need to spend time shopping for birthday presents; and parents of the birthday boy or girl get to manage the volume of toys coming into the house.  ECHOage is linked to charities across Canada and the United States, so it’s a great option for anyone living in North America. For more information, click here.

If making a cake with the word “mountain” in it isn’t for you, then you might want to try Kristy’s Best Birthday Cake with Raspberry Filling and Super Lemon Buttercream Frosting, or Charles’ Kladdkaka (Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake), or Eva’s version of Kladdkaka. All of these cakes look really delicious!

Would you believe that I scaled back on the batter for the top three layers?

Bedazzled Fairy Cake Mountain

Adapted from the recipe by Fran Warde in Food for Friends

  • 6 sticks unsalted butter (each stick is ½ cup)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Required: 3 non-stick cake pans, 6, 8, and 10 inches in diameter, buttered, plus one paper muffin liner and muffin tin. (I used springform pans and they worked really well.)


Mix cocoa powder and boiling water in small bowl. Stir until smooth.

Make the cake in two batches. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp of salt in small bowl. Put 3 sticks of the butter and 1 ½ cups of the sugar in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. (Use paddle attachment if using Kitchen Aid mixer.) Add 5 of the eggs and beat until well mixed. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and milk then mix until incorporated.  Scoop out ½ cup of batter and mix with half of the chocolate mixture in a small bowl.

Transfer white batter to a greased 10” cake pan, drop the chocolate batter into the pan by the tablespoon. Swirl chocolate batter into the white batter with a knife or skewer. Bake in a preheated 350° for 35-45 minutes until golden, springy in the center and just coming away from the edges of the pan.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and put onto a wire rack to cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients as before, filling the smaller 2 cake pans (8” and 6”) and the one muffin liner in a muffin tin. Swirl the white and chocolate batter as before. Put all 3 cakes into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, checking as before to see if the cakes are cooked. Let cool completely before frosting.

Butter Frosting

  • 2 ½ sticks softened unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups icing sugar

Put the butter and icing sugar into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons hot water and beat until soft and creamy. Put the largest cooled cake onto a plate or cake plate and spread with butter frosting. Put the middle-sized cake on top and spread with butter frosting. Repeat for each of the remaining layers, ending with the muffin. The icing does not need to look perfect as it will be covered with the top frosting.

Top Frosting

  • 5 cups icing sugar
  • Water (I used just under a ½ cup)
  • Assortment of candies (I used smarties, skittles, swedish berries, chocolate covered raisins, red shoe laces, coloured mini marshmellows, and pastel candies with hearts.
  • Food colouring of your choice

Put the icing sugar into a bowl. Add water a little at a time and stir until smooth and blended. It should be thin enough to run down the cake, but still thick enough to cover it entirely. Pour over the cake, letting it cascade down and cover all of the cake.

While the frosting is still wet, add the candies, sticking them all over the surface.


  • The top frosting on the cake keeps sliding down the cake as you pour/drizzle it from the top. I cleaned up the base of the plate before decorating with the candies. It shifted a little after the candies were added, but I think the fact that the rows of candies are perfectly straight adds to the charm of the cake.
  • I used pink food colouring for the top frosting.
  • I sliced of a few small bumps on the cake tops before icing. This was easy to do.
  • The dollar store is a great place to buy the extra long candles and candies, especially those little pastel heart candies with expressions like “be mine” or “email me” (this wasn’t on the candies of my youth).

Blueberry Coffee Cake and Funfetti Cookies

Blueberry Coffee Cake


My adaptation – added 1 tsp of lemon zest and 1 tbsp lemon juice to the batter; mixed blueberries with 1 tsp flour then poured half of the batter into the pan, followed by half of the blueberries, then remaining half of batter. Sprinkle second half of blueberries on top of batter, followed by the topping.

Funfetti Cookies


Make a wish!

Bumble Crumble in a Skillet

In Canada, we celebrated Victoria Day today. It’s a holiday that we embrace with open arms because it usually marks the first long weekend of the year with warmer weather–and this year didn’t disappoint. The weather this weekend was spectacular.

As it heats up outside, I the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I love it when there’s an easy alternative. Such was the case this weekend when I made a humble bumble crumble in a cast iron skillet on the barbeque. I cooked it on our barbeque at home and then transported it (by wagon) to our friends that live in the neighbourhood. It was so easy to throw the skillet on the barbeque at low heat (just to warm the crumble) while we ate dinner. I’ll definitely be making this again (and again) this summer. Now I know that for some of my European friends barbequing isn’t an option, so of course this crumble would work just as well in the oven–with or without the skillet. 

In case you’re thinking that this sounds and looks a lot like a crisp, I did a little research and confirmed that according to my trusted Cobblers, Crumbles and Crisps book that I’ve had for decades, crumbles and crisps are interchangeable. Both have a sweetened fruit base topped with a crumbly shortbread pastry. Apparently crisps are called crumbles in Great Britain, where the toppings often contain rolled oats in addition to flour. I’ve used a family recipe for the crumble–adding the slivered almonds and a bit of cinnamon to the mix.

I’ll take a crisp or a crumble for dessert any day. It’s such a simple dessert, but when served warm with ice cream, there’s nothing like it.

Bumble Crumble [in a Skillet]

  • 4.5 cups of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and diced
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch


  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds

Mix the fruit with the sugar and corn starch and place in the bottom of a 10″ cast iron skillet. (A 10″ pie plate can be used if you are not cooking this on the barbeque.)

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, cinnamon and slivered almonds. Mix in butter with a fork or stand mixer until the topping is crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Turn barbeque to high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and turn off one side of grill. Place skillet on side without direct heat and cook for 40 to 45 minutes until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

If using an oven, bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.

Memories of Denmark and Ebelskivers

Do your favourite travel memories revolve around food? Now of course there are the places that you wander between meals—the museums, the artisan markets, or the ancient burial grounds. But does your mind always drift back to that incredible triple cream brie that oozed perfectly over your baguette or that rum and raisin scone with the to-die-for clotted cream that made you believe you were a member of the royal family? Am I all alone on this one?

It’s been more than five, ten, okay, 20 years, but I vividly remember the day I was greeted by a family friend’s sister at the Aalborg train station waiving her little red and white Danish flag so that I’d recognize her. Thanks to my warm and welcoming host and her family, I learned a lot about the Danish culture during my five-day stop-over and I saw a lot of the local sights and sounds, including the Aalborg Tower and Zoo. But what really stands out in my mind? (No, not the aquavit.) I clearly remember the celebratory family dinner with the entire Christensen clan, where I was introduced to the Danish tradition of eating ebelskivers on special occasions.  (Okay, and maybe I remember  a cute Danish boy as well.)

I’ve been thinking about ebelskivers for all these years and finally decided to buy myself the special pan required to make them. Allow me to introduce you to ebelskivers if you’re not familiar with them.

Apparently, Denmark is famous for its apples, which are known as “ebler.”  The literal translation of ebelskiver (pronounced “able-skeevers”) is “sliced apples” although most ebelskivers do not include apple slices. Abelskivers are in fact little pancake balls (called “pancake puffs” in the US) that according to Wikipedia are “solid like a pancake but light and fluffy like a popover.”

While one of the traditional ways to serve ebelskivers is with strawberry or raspberry jam and icing sugar (especially on special occasions and during the Christmas season), these versatile little round spheres can be served anytime of day—as desserts, savory snacks or at breakfast, depending on which fillings or toppings you choose.

This is my new ebelskiver pan

The abelskiver pan itself is a real conversation piece. There’s one story that tells of Vikings returning fiercely hungry from a battle and placing their damaged shields over a hot fire and cooking the pancakes in the indentations. (This is the image that was floating through my mind as I used my cast iron pan.) The special pans are often passed down from generation to generation. For example, when my mom’s best friend immigrated to Canada from Denmark more than 50 years ago, she didn’t bring much with her—but she did bring her grandmother’s ebelskiver pan.

I made these ebelskivers a second time this weekend, as we had an early Mother’s Day brunch with my mom (since we won’t be able to see her next weekend.) The girls just love pancakes, and these little “pancake balls” didn’t disappoint. Although I think it had something to do with all that dipping in jam and icing sugar!

We served the ebelskivers on my grandmother’s platter,
which was just perfect for a mother’s day brunch (Note the hotel for dolls on the couch behind!)

Classic Ebelskivers

From Ebelskivers, by Kevin Crafts

Basic Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½   teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (omit for savory ebelskivers)

For Preparing and Serving

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for dusting
  • Strawberry/Raspberry Jam

Preparing the batter

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, melted butter and vanilla extract (if using). Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.

In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain. Use the batter right away.

Cooking Ebelskivers

Make batter.

Here’s my mom taking a turn flipping these little jewels.

Brush the wells of the ebelskiver pan with some of the melted butter and place over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add about 3 tablespoons batter to each well. (I used an ice cream scoop for this and it worked well.)

Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Use 2 short wooden skewers to turn all the pancakes and cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the finished pancakes to a platter and keep warm in the oven while you repeat to make 2 more batches. Dust the warm pancakes with the confectioners’ sugar and serve right away.

Makes 21 pancakes.


  • When you want advice on something, you ask the experts. So, I asked Elly (my mom’s best friend from Denmark) and my Danish colleague Maria, and they both recommended the cast iron version of the abelskiver pan. There were enough comments on amazon.com about scratches on the non-stick version that I decided cast-iron would be best.
  • There are quite a number of abelskiver pans available through amazon.com. Here’s a  pan similar to the one that I have, which I absolutely love so far. I bought mine at Placewares at St. Lawrence market for $35. While I wanted a solid cast iron pan (without a wooden handle), I decided not to bother going through the effort of shipping.
  • Apparently you need to make sure that the cast iron pan will work on your gas stove. The pan doesn’t have a flat bottom; it rests on the bottom of the pan’s skirt, so this needs to work with the metal grate on your stove. The grate on our stove is flat and so the pan works just fine.
  • I made a second batch of abelskiver this weekend and filled them with strawberry jam during the cooking process. This added a level of complexity that I wasn’t ready for. The directions called for one teaspoon of jam, but I found this to be too much and the jam stuck to the wells in the pan. I don’t think I’ll try this again for quite a while. Next time I make them, I’m going to try adding chocolate chips and serve them as dessert at a brunch.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcakes

Some days, brushing your teeth or getting to the office on time feels like you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. You know those days?

Those are the days that you pray you have some left-overs in your freezer and that there’s something good on TV that night.

I’ve been having quite a few of “those days” lately. By the time I get both ponytails dropped off at daycare and make my way downtown on the subway (which never seems to be running on time), I’ve feel like I need to grab a stiff drink instead of just a coffee. I’m even more tired at the end of the day, so I’ve been sticking to the meals that I know are fast and easy– and I haven’t been trying many new dishes.

I did manage to find the energy to make Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes for my husband’s birthday. Peanut butter cups are his favourite and I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate them into my desserts (like the Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie). This recipe was fun to make with the girls because they could peel the peanut butter cups from the wrappers and drop them into the batter at the right time. I think they were worth the effort. Isn’t is always worth the effort to make things for your family?

I also made my own frosting this time and I was glad that I gave this a try. I must tell you that I never have the meringue powder usually required to make buttercream frosting and I don’t like to use egg whites when kids will be eating them. That’s why I’ve always just used icing from a tin. So, when I found a buttercream recipe that didn’t require either ingredient, I just had to try it. You can make this without the peanut butter for an all around buttercream frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes With PB Cups

(Makes 18) Adapted from allrecipes; by Ladan

  • 1 bag peanut butter cups miniatures (320 grams/12 oz)
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the oil and sugar until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition; add the vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture milk; beat well.
  3. Add one scoop of batter to each paper liner, then add one peanut butter cup and top with one more scoop of batter. Liner should be just under ¾ full. Repeat until batter all used.
  4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker’s Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ – 3 ½ cups icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp peanut butter

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about a minute. Add 2½ cups icing sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Add remaining one cup of icing sugar (if using) and beat until incorporated.  Then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add peanut butter and beat on medium-high for one minute until well incorporated.

Frost the cupcakes when cool.

Top each cupcake with a piece of pb cup (Cut each pb cup in half; cut each half in thirds)


  • I used an Atecco 843 decorating tip (closed star). I bought it at Placewares in St. Lawrence Market.
  • I found that this buttercream frosting recipe was just enough for 18 cupcakes when piping the icing. It would make more than enough for icing by hand.
  • Be sure to peel the paper liners off the cupcakes carefully, as the pb cup may stick to the bottom on the odd cupcake if you don’t peel carefully.
  • Given that there are so many nut allergies out there, I wouldn’t recommend making these cupcakes with peanut butter for a kids party. However, you could easily omit the peanut butter cups in the cupcakes and the peanut butter in the frosting.
  • I like the consistency of the buttercream with the extra cup of icing sugar added (35 cups in total).

Kahlua Sunrise

View from the Mayan Ruins, Tulum

My family and I landed at the Toronto airport late last night in our sandals, sundresses and shorts—and instantly missed the warm Mexican sun as we raced to our parked car.We just spent a wonderful week at a resort called Dreams Riviera Cancun located in Puerto Morelos, just outside of Cancun. It was everything I could have hoped for in a vacation—relaxing and luxurious with lots of great food and drinks.

I never really adjusted to the two-hour time difference, and woke up around 5 a.m. most mornings. This turned out to be a great advantage, as the best lounge chairs at the pool and beach were already claimed (with a towel or personal item) by 5:30 a.m. I couldn’t believe it actually—but it helped to remind me of something I’d forgotten…

Sunrise in Mexico

How inspirational it can be to watch the sun come up.

I was also inspired by the many tropical flavour combinations that I enjoyed over the week—lime, cilantro and chili (ceviche); watermelon and mint (mojitos); cucumber and mint (granita); and coconut (ice cream) and Kahlua.

One day soon I’ll recreate the shrimp ceviche that I had almost every day for lunch, but in the meantime, I’ve recreated the dish—coconut ice cream and kahlua—that was introduced to me by one of the waiters at Oceana, my favourite restaurant at the resort. It is so simple, but the flavour combination is a keeper. It explains why I had this almost every day too!

Hopefully the effects of my vacation will last longer than a day or two. I know I’ll be thinking longingly of those magical sunrises as I get ready for work each morning. But I’m curious—what’s the most spectacular sunrise or sunset you’ve experienced in your travels?

Coconut Ice Cream Balls With Kahlua

  • ½ cup (approximately) good quality vanilla ice cream
  • 2 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut (medium)
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp Kahlua (according to taste)


  1. Using a small ice cream scoop, make three ice cream balls approximately 1-1/2 inches wide.
  2. Place the coconut on a small plate and roll each of the three balls around in the coconut.
  3. Place ice cream balls in a bowl or glass.
  4. Drizzle with the Kahlua.
  5. Enjoy!


  • I’ve updated the recipe to note that I suggest using medium shredded coconut, as this is what I used and it worked well. It is a finer coconut and the texture works for this recipe. I’m guessing you could also use another type of cocount and chop it finer (I will test this out shortly).