Half birthdays

Sunday, February 19, 2017
When the girls were young, we celebrated half-birthdays. Half birthdays happened on the six-month anniversary of the actual birthday, and we celebrated them with half a cake. Literally, since we cut a one-tier cake in two and placed the halves on top of each other. The other rule of half-birthdays is that you do something nice for someone else (instead of receiving something as you would on your regular birthday).

We haven't celebrated half-birthdays in years, but did so recently when both girls were at home and my youngest daughter reminded me it was hers. I'm always happy to recreate childhood memories, and it was fun baking our traditional half-birthday white cake with caramel frosting.

What are your favourite family food traditions?

Half-birthday White Cake with Caramel Icing
(Note: if you want to make the whole cake, it was inspired by this recipe. The icing recipe is adapted from a recipe in Company's Coming Cakes, a cookbook I received at one of my wedding showers.)

For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter one 9" round cake pan on sides and line with parchment paper on the bottom.

Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar, continuing to beat. Add eggs and egg white one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Continue to beat, scraping down the sides as necessary, for 2 - 3 minutes until very fluffy.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup. Add to butter mixture alternately, starting and ending with dry ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Pour cake batter into pan and bake 36 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool slightly in cake pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

1 cup brown sugar, packed
6 Tbsp cream or milk
1/2 cup butter
3 cups icing sugar
8 - 12 pecans, toasted

Heat brown sugar, cream, and butter in medium saucepan until it boils. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely.

Add icing sugar and beat until smooth. (You may need to add more cream to make it spreading consistency.)

Frost the cake and top with pecans.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

If you read my blog carefully, you'll have seen that a few weeks ago I did something I hadn't done before: double-post a recipe.

For some reason, I had no memory of posting Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute in March 2015, and didn't even realize the duplication until a week after posting it again in January. At least, one might argue, they were nearly two years apart.

I'll admit life is busy now - in addition to my full-time (plus overtime) contract position, I'm juggling a few freelance projects. And maybe that's making me absent-minded. Because when I went to post a recipe today, I hovered over the cauliflower-kale gratin photos on my computer before realizing I'd posted that one six weeks ago.

After that near-miss, I triple-checked that I hadn't already posted my recipe for Garam Masala cookies. And I'm happy to say this is a brand-new recipe for my blog! I've made so many cookies in my life that it's rare to come across one that's completely different, but this one truly is. I wouldn't have imagined how great an impact garam masala would have on a batch of cookies. And I promise you this - if you make these cookies, you'll never forget them.

Garam Masala Kitchen Sink Cookies

Adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook by Nancy Vienneau

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1/4 tsp orange extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add egg, orange zest, and orange extract and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and garam masala. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed sugar mixture a little at a time until combined. Fold in oats, toasted pecans, chocolate chips and dried cherries, and stir until just mixed.

Drop rounded tablespoons full onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.