Ginger and spice and all things nice...

I've been meaning to share this recipe for a while. It's a simple, yet wonderful cake recipe I stumbled upon years ago, and has always been a favourite for brunches & lunches - especially this time of year. It lends itself to the savoury as much as the sweet, and is a great way to finish off a meal - without overloading your guests with something that's ooey-gooey rich (not that there's anything wrong with ooey-gooey rich!)

So pour a cup of steaming hot breakfast blend coffee and enjoy this little slice of spicy-sweet heaven!

Bon appetit!
Sweets by Ally

Ginger Cake with Spiced Cream

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves (if you don't fancy the taste or smell of cloves, you can omit this ingredient - it won't harm the cake in any way!)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp good vanilla
icing sugar to decorate

For the whipped cream:

3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon into a bowl. Set aside.
With an electric mixer (hand or stand version), beat the eggs on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.
Adjusting the mixer to low speed, beat in the flour mixture alternatively with the whipping cream into the eggs, beginning and ending with the flour.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour into the pan and bake until the top springs back when touched lightly, about 35-40 minutes.
To make the spiced cream, combine ingredients in a bowl and whip until the cream holds soft peaks. sprinkle icing sugar over the hot cake, cut into squares and serve with whipped cream.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I love anything lemon. It's tart, sweet and so just "oozes" summer to me. As both a baker and a cook, I'm also taken with lemon because of it's ability to be both sweet and savoury at the same time. Just a hint of lemon zest sauteing in a pan with onion and garlic or a splash of fresh lemon juice to perk up a sauce - these are aromas that make me happy.

Then there's the sweet side of lemons - and one of the most incredible lemon desserts I've ever had is this lemon yogurt cake from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. After watching her make this cake on TV, I had to try it for myself. It is the best lemon cake I've ever made - and it's really quite easy. This is a guaranteed showstopper for any Sunday Brunch event. It's light, moist and super-lemony.


Lemon Yogurt Cake
(adapted from Ina Garten's book: Barefoot Contessa at Home)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt (you can substitute this for lemon yogurt for an extra-lemony punch!)
1 cup sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 2/3 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking, heat the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cooling rack with a baking sheet, parchment paper, or foil underneath (to catch the drips.) While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

When the cake has cooled, make the glaze: combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake; it will dribble down the sides and that’s just fine.

Makes 1 loaf.

C is for cookie...

I don't think there is any dessert that is more classic or comforting than a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. Few other scents can invoke such nostalgia as the smell of chocolate chippies baking in the oven.

A fresh baked cookie reminds us of Mom; of after-school snacks and bake sales, and most importantly, of home. It's one of the main reasons that real estate agents suggest that sellers bake a batch of cookies just before an open-h
ouse; it shows prospective buyers that your home is loved.

As we move away from the carefree days of summer and into the reflective mood of fall, I'm reminded of things that are comforting; my favourite sweater, my blanket, a comfy chair, a good book and of course, homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Here is my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I hope it will become yours too.

Sweets by Ally

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies
(yields about 5 dozen 2 1/4" cookies)

2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 x 12 ounce package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's or Nestle Toll House)
1 cup chopped pecans (they play so nicely with chocolate chips!)

preheat oven to 375F
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside for a moment.
In a large bowl, combine butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gradually add in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop the cookie mixture by the tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown.

Reverse out!
Turn these cookies into Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies by substituting 1/4 cup of flour with cocoa powder and use white chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet.

an apple a day...

It's Autumn, which means time to say goodbye to sandals and swimsuits, and say hello to sweaters, cool scarves and of course, the bounty of the harvest. What October wouldn't be complete without a trip to a local orchard for fresh pressed cider, corn mazes and of course, bushels of apples?

So, the family is heading out this weekend to go apple-picking, which means that come Monday, my kitchen will be full to the brim with the smell of apples, cinnamon and fresh pastry. To set the mood, here's a classic Autumn morning treat that's sure to fill your kitchen (and your tummy) with warm apple goodness:

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

(yields 16 small muffins)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chilled butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 large apple, peeled & diced
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

In a bowl, blend flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. (Speedy hint: use a food processor!)
Measure out 1/4 cup of mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and brown sugar and set aside for the topping.
Add apple and walnuts to remaining mixture. In a separate bowl, beat egg, then add milk. Blend well. Add to flour mixture, stirring until just blended. Don't worry if the batter is thick and lumpy - it's supposed to be!
Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Sprinkle topping lightly over batter & bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.
Cool, remove from pan and enjoy!

Sweets by Ally