Friday, July 18, 2014

Babies, Birthdays & under-Beds

If you have read my older blog posts, you probably remember the one where I explained how, since my mid-teens (even before I met Mr. A), I had been collecting random objects that I liked and would need for my future home. I had drinking glasses, a vast variety of kitchen utensils, table runners (that were out of style by the time Mr. A and I moved), candle holders, frying pans, etc. For years, I would keep everything under my bed while impatiently waiting for my knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet and give me a home in which I could put everything I had collected over the years. That blog post was "Under the Bed" and you can read it at the following link: 

I went to Toys'R'us a few days ago to find a gift for the first birthday of my cousin's incredibly adorable twin boys. Yes, twins! I changed my first diaper and it was wonderful! I love babies. Crazily enough, every time there is a diaper to be changed... 

As I stepped into Toys'R'us, I felt like I had just landed in a new country and was asked to find my way without a map. Basically, I was lost and clueless. I strolled through the aisles quickly scanning the toys and stopping in front of anything that said "12 months and above". 

Without much success, I found myself in the clothing section of the store. I think the feeling I had in that department was close to the feeling that the 5-year-old-Me had when entering Toys'R'us. Surrounded by everything in miniature, the under-the-bed-Tania/my inner-prep-mom started to surface. I gawked at the tiny pajamas and socks that would look wonderful on the baby that I don't have yet! I told myself "I have to buy them! I have to stock up! They are so small. They won't take up any space!". Imagining Mr. A's reaction to my coming home with baby clothes (it would have probably been a mix between happiness, confusion and a slight dose of fear), my logical side eventually kicked in and I left the store only buying gifts for the twins.

Either way, very disappointingly (or perhaps thankfully), our bed is very low and there is not a lot of space to hide things under it... and I have already filled all the cupboards and closets of our house to (almost) full capacity. So I either have to resist buying tiny pajamas or find a house with bigger closets. I'll resist for now.

Because no birthday is complete without cake, here's a recipe for a classic Victoria Sponge Cake from the Queen of Cake: Peggy Porschen. I've baked with Peggy's recipes countless times and trust me when I say they NEVER disappoint. 

I know the recipe seems long but it's a lot easier than it looks.

Glorious Victoria Cake

Recipe from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen 

Makes one 15cm (6in) round cake, serving 8–12 slices

Glorious Victoria (


For the sponge:
- 200g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Seeds of ½ vanilla pod
- 4 medium eggs
- 200g self-raising flour

For the sugar syrup:
- 150ml water
- 150g caster sugar
- Scraped vanilla pod

For the buttercream filling:
- 300g unsalted butter, softened
- 300g icing sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- Seeds of ½ vanilla pod
- Small amount of pink food paste color
- 3 tbsp any good-quality raspberry jam

Three 15cm (6in) round sandwich tins
Cake leveller or large serrated knife
Non-slip turntable
Flat disc to place on top of the turntable 
 (Peggy uses the loose base of a 30cm (12in) springform cake tin)
15cm (6in) round cake card
Metal side scraper
Two plastic piping bags
Medium star piping nozzle
Plain round 4mm (¼in) piping nozzle

Bake the sponges one day ahead of serving. Make the sugar syrup whilst baking the sponges. Prepare the buttercream filling and assemble and decorate the cake on the day of serving.

Preheat the oven to 175°C/350F.

Prepare the sandwich tins by greasing and lining them with greaseproof paper.

To make the sponge
Place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.

Beat the eggs lightly in another bowl and slowly add to the butter mixture while whisking quickly. If the mixture starts to separate or curdle, stop adding the egg and beat in 2–3 tablespoons of the flour. This will rebind the batter.

Once all the egg has been added and combined with the butter mixture, sift in the flour and stir until the batter is just combined. This will ensure the sponges stay light and fluffy.

Divide the batter evenly between the sandwich tins. If you find it difficult to measure by eye, use your kitchen scales to weigh out the amount of sponge mixture for each tin.

Bake for 15–20 minutes, depending on your oven. If you are using deeper cake tins, the sponges will take longer to cook.

The sponges are cooked when the sides are beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tins and the tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch. If in doubt, insert a clean knife or wooden skewer into the centre of each sponge; it should come out clean.

To make the sugar syrup
While the sponges are baking, prepare the sugar syrup for soaking.

Place the water, caster sugar and vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Set aside to cool down slightly. Discard the vanilla pod.

Once the sponges are baked, let them rest for about 10 minutes outside of the oven. Using a pastry brush, soak the tops of the sponges with vanilla bean sugar syrup while they are still warm; this allows the syrup to be absorbed faster.

Once just warm, run a knife all the way round the sides of the tins, remove the sponges from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

Once cool, wrap the sponges in cling film and then rest them overnight at room temperature. This will ensure that all the moisture is sealed in and the sponges firm up to the perfect texture for trimming and layering. When trimmed too soon after baking, the sponges tend to crumble and may even break into pieces.

To make the buttercream filling
Place the butter, icing sugar, salt and vanilla seeds into a mixing bowl and cream together until very pale and fluffy.

Add a small amount of pink food colour to the mixture and stir through until combined and the buttercream is a pastel shade.

To assemble the cake
Trim and sandwich together the three sponge layers using one layer of buttercream filling and one layer of raspberry jam, and the vanilla sugar syrup for soaking.

With the remaining buttercream filling, cover or mask the top and sides of the cake.

To decorate
Place the cake either on to a cakestand or on top of the turntable covered with a piece of greaseproof paper.

Place a star nozzle into a plastic piping bag and fill with a generous amount of the remaining buttercream. Place a round nozzle into another plastic piping bag and fill with a small amount of the remaining buttercream.

Divide the top of the cake into eight equal segments. Using the star nozzle, pipe a ring of C-scrolls around the circumference, revolving the turntable as necessary. Next, pipe a shell from the middle of each C-scroll towards the centre.

Where all eight shells meet, pipe a rosette on top at the centre of the cake top. Using the round nozzle, pipe a small dot between each shell.

Using the star nozzle, pipe eight fleur de lys evenly around the sides at the top edge, with a single upside-down shell underneath at the bottom edge.

To finish, pipe a small dot between the fleur de lys and shell. If the cake has been placed on greaseproof paper, chill until the piped dots are set before transferring to a cakestand.

Serve the cake at room temperature. This cake is best enjoyed within 3 days of baking, but it can last for up to 1 week.

Glorious Victoria (

Thursday, July 10, 2014


We had a lovely Brunner last weekend.

Brunner is the meal you have when you have planned a brunch for 1:00pm but realize that the Wimbeldon finals are on TV so you push it to 2:00pm. You then realize that the game is getting longer than expected so you push it again to 2:45pm. Finally, you make it to the restaurant at 2:44pm with your stomach singing the feed-me-now chant because you refused to eat a decent breakfast to leave room for the delicious hollandaise sauce-drenched goodies to come. You sit and wait for the fashionably late while chugging down coffee to stop the stomach-chanting that is quickly turning into stomach-chanting-and-dancing. At last, the "fashionable" arrive and a big plate of calorific goodness is placed in front of you at almost 4:00pm. You think to yourself "I got this!" and attack.

Starving, you suddenly feel like you have the special talent of unhinging your jaw and start hoovering up the food on your plate (and a little off your neighbor's plate). A little more than halfway through your giant meal, feeling like an abundantly stuffed Thanksgiving turkey, you notice that your now silenced stomach chants will turn to stomach pains if you keep eating. Nevertheless, you keep picking at the remaining food on your plate thinking you should take one more bite because it would be a sin to waste such scrumptiousness. (Thankfully, Mr. A gladly volunteered to help me clear my plate.) 

That, my friends, is a Brunner. Brunch that is of such wonderfully epic proportions and deliciousness that it automatically and unintentionally turns into dinner as well. 

Liquid gold

We went to L'Avenue on Mont-Royal; a magical place where Mr. A and I once enthusiastically waited in line for at least 45 minutes in -15 degrees of winter cold (remember those days?); where liquid gold (aka REAL maple syrup) flows in abundance and where the food is as enchanting as the bathrooms.

L'Avenue - Bathroom!

Because my eyes radar in on anything on the menu that has goat cheese, I had the Mr. Séguin: Eggs Benedict with goat cheese, sauteed mushrooms & spinach... and it was well worth the wait.

The Mr. Séguin

If you're a sucker for hollandaise sauce like me, here's the simplest recipe e.v.e.r. It is from Julia Child so you know it's good. All it takes is a blender, a few ingredients and less than 5 minutes.

Julia Child's Blender Hollandaise Sauce

- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a pinch of pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted)

1- Place the egg yolks, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a blender and blend for 5 seconds at top speed.
2- Uncover the blender and (still on top speed) add the melted butter in a thin stream.
3- Season to taste. You're done! Serve immediately or place the jar in lukewarm (not hot!) water to keep it from solidifying.