Category Archives: Parenting/Kids

Pecan and Date Loaf

February is a bleak month no doubt about it. There’s not much going on outdoors (unless one skis, which one doesn’t) and it. is. cold. Baking is one of those things whose idea itself is warm and cozy. And what better to bake than a loaf cake that will go excellently with those endless cuppas that make winter worthwhile.

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My family loves its nuts. (I live with 3 male members..what can I say.) We always have peanuts, cashews, almonds and pecans in our house although I very rarely cook with them. A nut loaf brimming with nutty goodness, low in fat, enhanced with caramely date chewiness seemed like just the ticket for a baking morning. This loaf is not too sweet (I always cut down on sugar in professional recipes), although it can do with even less. I made a few other modifications — used pecans instead of the more common walnuts, added unsweetened applesauce for part of the liquid (OJ in this case) and pureed the dates. Result: a perfectly light loaf that’s just as good toasted and buttered or as is.

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You’ll need:

30g unsalted butter
115g icing sugar
35g brown sugar
1 medium egg
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
2tbsp unsweetened applesauce
125g pitted dates
80ml boiling water
1tsp vanilla
225g AP flour
1/2 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
50g walnuts or pecans

  • Soak the dates in boiling water while you prep other steps.
  • Preheat oven to 180C or 350F and lightly grease or parchment line a loaf pan.
  • Cream butter, sugar and egg until smooth. Then add vanilla, OJ and applesauce. Mix to combine well.
  • Blend the softened dates (with the water) into a puree (coarse or smooth as per your preference. Mine had tiny date pieces left and that was fine). Add date mixture to the wet ingredient mix.
  • Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl, then slowly add to the wet mix.
  • Pour into lined tin and bake for about 40 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. (If you have to rush out to, say, pick up the kids, ahem,  before the toothpick comes out quite clean, leave the slightly underdone loaf inside the turned-off oven until you get back. It’ll be fine, I promise.)

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Enjoy its yummy scrumptiousness with a guilt-free slice at tea time knowing that you did all you could towards healthy dessert eating. If you’re lucky, your kids might even deign to consider this a legit after-school snack — win win.

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No-fail Chocolate Cake with Ombre Buttercream Frosting

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I bake cookies for a home biz, I consider myself a fairly intuitive cook and an overall can-do individual. Until now the one thing that I could NEVER do was bake a cake I liked. It just. wouldn’t. happen. Too eggy, not spongy enough, too dry, meh, underbaked, overdone — I’ve done it all. I gave up on cakes a long time ago.

And then a friend pointed me to Laura Vitale, an Italian chef whose recipes she swears by. I was skeptic but I gave it a try. And boy, was my friend not kidding! I adapted the recipe a bit and made the best dozen chocolate cupcakes of my life. The structure transfers well to cake as well. Soft, spongy and intensely chocolatey.

One of the oddities of the UK is that buttercream isn’t popular here as a frosting, fondant is. And I can.not stand that thing. It’s too rubbery and just…bleh. V wanted a buttercream cake, and it’s almost impossible to find a bakery that will make one here. So I decided (again) to give it a go.

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The cake rose beautifully the first time and I fell in love with those luscious cracks. The taste is slightly fudgey (although the cake itself ins’t dense at all) and caramely because of the brown sugar. Once cooled, the cake holds its shape without being dry, perfect for layering or tiering.

For the birthday cake, I baked two of these babies and sliced each in half horizontally. Piped a buttercream dam and filled with chocolate ganache before piling up the layers. Crumb coated with buttercream, then divided the remaining into 4 colours : moss green, teal, nursery green and white. Check out the various ombre cake tutorials on YouTube for the actual technique. It’s super simple, highly forgiving of beginners and offers dramatic results.

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Notice that my cake is slightly lopsided and unfinished at the bottom, mistakes to rectify for the next time. (Also, I ran out of buttercream.) But it was so well received by a bunch of 11yos, and most importantly my highly picky son, that I was mighty pleased! Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll need:
Makes one 8″ round cake

120gm butter
3/4c granulated sugar
1/4c brown sugar
2 med eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1c AP flour
1/2c cocoa
1/2c buttermilk (make your own by adding 1tsp white vinegar for every 1/2c of milk)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coffee powder, optional

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda together in a separate bowl, set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a couple of times.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating between each addition, followed by vanilla and beat until well combined.
  4. Add flour-cocoa mix alternating with buttermilk in 3 total additions (so, starting with flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Only mix until combined…DO NOT over-beat.
  5. Bake in a 350 oven until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before lifting cake from pan.

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The Bane of Kids’ One Liners.

I’m bored: I’m not your personal jester.

I’m waiting: You won’t let me forget.

I hate you: Good. So you’ll leave me alone now?

I’m sleepy: Nooo! We’re almost home!

I’m NOT sleepy: Yes, you effing ARE!

That’s not fair: Enjoy your stay in my world, buddy.

I didn’t do it: That doesn’t make it true.

He started it: Do you even know the person you’re pointing at to avoid getting into trouble yourself?

Why can’t I have screen: That everything in moderation conversation we…?

Can I have screen now?: See above. Screen time is done.

You can’t make me: Oh yeah? Let me make some things clear…