Coconut Chai Cake

IMG_2094When we were very young, our parents would take us exploring in our cabin cruiser, “The Hurricane” up through Howe Sound, and further up along the Sunshine Coast towards Texada Island. While I never remember staying overnight on the boat, we did do some very long day trips. We’d sit in a line along the bench at the stern of the boat, with lifejackets rubbing our chins, while the sun and wind toasted us. Dad would sit on a high seat, steering, sometimes allowing one of us to help him. There was a small cabin, with counters, a table & bench seating. It most likely converted into a bed if needed. Mom would have packed our very reliable picnic basket with egg sandwiches, some sort of cake, and cookies, and lemonade. At some point, tins of Shasta sodas usurped the bottles of lemonade.

We’d spend all day doing long runs out in the sea, or poking from inlet to inlet, getting off the boat to explore. Needing to swim into shore, or be lifted by Dad.

On a recent road trip up to Bowser, and lots of tucking into the beach all along the way, north of Parksville, we stood on the beach and looked all the way from just south of Baynes Sound towards Vancouver. With the calm waters, and the hint of summer in the air, I was transplanted back to that bench at the stern of the boat, feeling the sense of adventure we always felt when leaving the dock, and very much felt the presence of our parents. Those wonderful boat trips, although early in our lives, imprinted the need to be near the ocean in all of us.

This is a delightful snacking cake that would be perfect for a day on a boat, or a picnic. Originally from BBC Good Food, I have tweaked it a bit, a delicious idea to put the wonderful flavours of Chai into a cake. Enjoy! Continue reading

Coffee ~ Gingerbread Squares

IMG_8960I’m working on a menu for an upcoming three-day catering job, and my mind is full of all sorts of different baking for this group. Besides their three meals a day, we keep a fresh fruit, baking & beverage counter stocked for them all weekend. Muffins, cookies, coffee cakes, and then always something yummy mid-afternoon, to be sure they don’t feel faint before dinner. This is one of the afternoon treats they’ll be getting, great with a cup of coffee, or a glass of milk. Lots of flavour with the molasses, spice, and coffee, with a familiarity that always pleases. Top the squares with Brown Butter Icing for a lovely nutty finish. Continue reading

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

IMG_7016Even though today felt like spring, I know that winter is not yet half over… warm rich desserts still work this time of year. We may get a snowfall yet, but my cup is half full knowing that spring is almost here, or at least just around the corner. But, while the calendar still says winter, make a yummy mid-winter treat for your guests or family.

For a wedding between a British guy and an Indian girl last year, his request was to finish the meal with Sticky Toffee Pudding. We made a couple of changes to the traditional pudding after reading about the use of coffee for steeping the dates in BBC’s Good Food, and garnished it with gold leaf, bringing a little Bollywood to the dish (as remarked by a chef in the wedding party). For that event we topped it with a bit of whipped cream, but as shown here, a scoop of vanilla ice cream works beautifully as well. Continue reading

Glazed Polenta & Almond Cake with Stewed Lemons

IMG_8024The blackberries are dripping off the bushes. The air is heavy with their scent as I walk by, reminding me that I have to get serious about picking them while they’re still plump and sweet. This summer has been so busy; add to that the heat and mosquitoes, and I haven’t really felt the urge to do much picking.

While I still have time for the blackberries, the Transparent Apples are just about done, the horses and cattle getting most of them so far. I need to go out and get enough for half a dozen pies, as they are my favourite pie apples. Mix them with the blackberries, and I’m over the moon! In the cold, dark days of winter, pulling a pie filled with summer fruit from the freezer, and cooking it, not only fills the house with summer smells, but gives us one more chance to eat that sweet summer goodness.

Picking for pies and freezing is a commitment of time that I need to build into an already busy day. But to pick a few cups takes no time at all, to enjoy with ice cream or a baked dessert like this wonderful, very grown up, polenta & almond cake. This citrusy version is a perfect complement to the summer berry crop. Continue reading

Chocolate Date Cake

IMG_5149While our girls were growing up, we always had extra children in the house.  It helped that we were the closest home to the island’s one room schoolhouse.  Consequently I tried to have quick snacks that would refuel them before they’d head out to play on our farm.  Sometimes it was just a snack to eat while curled up on the couch watching a movie on a rainy Saturday.  This recipe was used many times over the years, and was a favourite of the builders who built our house.  The dates give it an honest sweetness, and the simple topping of nuts and chocolate give a crunch and richness to make the cake even better.

I’ve made this cake with regular all-purpose flour and with gluten free flour (I use Cup 4 Cup), and it is light and fluffy whichever you choose to use.  The nuts can be any type you want, or even a combination.  Do use semi-sweet chocolate chips though, as milk chocolate will be too sweet. Continue reading