Weekend Recipe: Rhubarb Cupcakes with Whipped Cream and Rhubarb syrup

Rhubarb season is in full swing here in Vancouver.  One of my coworkers brought me a big bag of rhubarb and I promised to turn it into something delicious for the office to consume.  Let me tell you that this recipe definitely succeeded at that!  My co-workers have decided that this is their new favourite thing that I make!

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced rhubarb

Cupcake Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients.

3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale & fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract.

4. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with buttermilk.

5. Stir in rhubarb.

6. Divide batter evenly among lined cups.  Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Whipped Cream Ingredients:

2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved length-wise

Whipping cream directions

1.  Use the tip of a paring knife to scrape vanilla-bean seeds into the whipping cream. Add icing sugar.

2. Whisk until peaks begin to form.

Syrup Ingredients

1 cup diced rhubarb
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Syrup Directions

1.  Use tip of paring knife to scrape vanilla-bean seeds into a saucepan.  Add the water and sugar.

2. Bring it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.

3. Remove from heat. Add rhubarb. Let it cool completely.

4. Remove rhubarb with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Return the liquid to a simmer and let it cook until reduced by half (approximately 5-10 min)

6. Let it cool slightly and then add the rhubarb back into the syrup.

To put it all together, put a dollop of whipped cream on top of the cupcake, top with some rhubarb & syrup. Serve immediately.


Weekend Recipe: Filled Crescent Rolls

Nutella filled crescent rolls

When I plan to bake for the first rehearsal of a show, I always have to think about quantity and price.  For The Last Days of Judas Iscariot which begins rehearsals on Monday, we are expecting close to 40 people at the first read through – a cast of 14, Creative team of 10, and five companies that are coming together to co-present it each sending a handful of people to the reading. It’s a lot of people. But yeast dough is cheap, easy & plentiful and this recipe for filled crescent rolls has made its way to many rehearsals/auditions over the past year.  My favourite variety so far has been the pumpkin filled one.  It is delicious with a little drizzle of cream cheese frosting, too!  For Judas I made two varieties: pumpkin filled & Nutella filled. Now, if you are lazy you can always go to the local grocery store, buy a package of Pillsbury crescent rolls and fill them in this same manner.


1 cup warm (but not hot!) water
1 tbsp yeast
1./2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup skim milk powder
4 cups flour
zest of 1 lemon (optional)

Pumpkin filled crescents!


1. Place warm water into mixing bowl. Do not use a metal mixing bowl. Add the yeast to the water and allow it to sit until the yeast dissolves.
2.  Add the sugar, lemon zest & oil. Mix well.
3. Add 2 cups of flour & the skim milk powder.  Stir until smooth.
4. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix as much as you can with a spoon.
5. When you can no longer mix it with your spoon, get your hands in, kneading the dough until all the flour is absorbed.
6. Drizzle a small amount of oil over the dough. Flip the dough around in the bowl until it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in a room temperature environment until it has doubled in size (about an hour).
7. Divide the raised dough into quarters or halves – depending how much it raised.  You need enough dough to make a 10″ circle.
8. Using a pizza pan as a guide, flatten out one chunk of your dough into a circle.
9. Spread your filling over the “pizza”.  I’ve used Nutella, Pumpkin Pie Filling, or various jams.
10. Using a pizza cutter, cut the circle into 9-12 slices.
11. Starting with the wide (outside) edge of each slice, roll the each slice up and place onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.
12. Baked at 375 for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.


Weekend Recipe: Pull Apart Cheesy Bread

I promised to make bread of some sort for dinner on Wednesday night, but I decided I wanted to try something a bit different.  I found a recipe for pull apart cheesy bread and decided that with a few adaptations it would be perfect.  You can find the original recipe here. Sadly, I do not have any photos to accompany this as we ATE THE ENTIRE LOAF before I thought to grab my camera.  It was that good.

4 cups all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup skim milk powder
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried basil
2/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg for brushing (optional)
1 tablespoon oil


1. In a non metal bowl, add the yeast to the lukewarm water.  Let it stand until the yeast has dissolved.
2. Add the salt, flour, and skim milk powder.  Mix until the dough is coming away from the sides of the bowl.  When it gets too hard to stir, begin kneading it with your hands.
3. When the dough is no longer sticking to the bowl or your hands,  pour the oil over the dough.  Flip the dough around in the bowl until it is fully covered in the oil. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise until it has doubled. This will take approximately an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5. Divide the dough into 12. Roll each chunk into a ball and then flatten into a flat circle.
6. Mix together the two kinds of cheese, basil and garlic in a bowl.
7. Place approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese/herb mixture on the center of one of the circles of dough. Fold the circle in half around the filling and seal it using either your fingers or a fork.
8. Place the  pocket of dough into a greased loaf pan.
9. Repeat the process of making the dough pockets until all 12 are done and squished into the loaf pan.
10. Break the egg into a small bowl. Mix it up well. Brush over the top of the loaf.
11. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
12. Allow to cool slightly and then remove from pan. Pull apart and enjoy!

Weekend Recipe: Rootbeer Float Cupcakes

The birthday girl eating one of the cupcakes

When I asked the lovely Linsy what type of cupcakes she wanted for her 30th birthday party (Happy Birthday Linsy!), she was pretty quick to say that she wanted Root Beer Float.  I did some hunting online and found a recipe from My Sweet Gems and we did a test run (of only 6 cupcakes).  We were mostly happy but wanted more root beer flavour in the cupcake part and weren’t sure the filling was right.  We liked that there was filling, but I thought it was far too sweet (in addition to frosting AND glaze). So I kept looking, found some more recipes, and am now using parts of three separate recipes to make these absolutely fantastic cupcakes, worthy of the birthday girl!

CUPCAKES adapted from Serendipity Mommy


1 Cup Root beer Soda (NOT DIET).  I used Stewart’s Fountain Classics Root Beer.
1 Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
3 Tsp Root Beer Concentrate/Extract
1 1/3 Cups Flour
3/4 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine root beer and vinegar.  Let stand for about 5 minutes
3. Add the sugar and oil.  Whisk until frothy and the sugar has been absorbed.
4. Mix in the Vanilla & Root Beer concentrate.
5.  In a sperate bowl, mix together the flour, baking power, baking soda and salt.
6. Slowly add the flour mixture to the liquids while mixing.  Be careful not to over mix.
7. Fill your cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Because this batter is fairly runny, I found that putting the batter into a plastic baggie and then cutting the corner off and piping the batter into my mini cupcake liners.  I had enough batter for 33 mini cupcakes. NOTE: The batter does not rise a lot, so filling the liners quite full is a very good idea.
8. Bake for  18 minutes (or until a tooth pick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean).

Don't they look delicious?!

VANILLA CREAM FILLING adapted from Group Recipes:

3 Tbsp Flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 scraped vanilla bean
1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Whisk together flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until thick.  (This will only take a few minutes).  Make sure to stir continuously to prevent the mixture from burning or clumping.  Once thickened (to the consistency of pudding), remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
2.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the slightly warm milk/flour mixture.  Mix well.
3. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds.  Beat well (an electric mixer is really useful here) until it is light and fluffy.

Self-portrait with cupcake.

ICE CREAM FROSTING adapted from Better Homes and Gardens:


1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup vanilla ice cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp Whipping Cream

1. Make sure your butter is room temperature and soft.  Allow ice cream to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy.
3.  Beat in the ice cream and the vanilla.
4. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar.
5. Add the whipping cream until the frosting is the right consistency.
ROOT BEER GLAZE adapted from My Sweet Gems:

One more picture of the cupcakes because they were SO TASTY


1/4 tsp root beer extract
3 tbsp icing sugar
Milk to consistency.
 1. Mix root beer extract and icing sugar in a small bowl.
2. SLOWLY add milk until it is the right consistency.
3. If you accidentally make it too runny, just add more icing sugar.
1. Cut a divot in the top of each of your cupcakes.
2. Using a piping bag (or ziploc with the corner cut off), fill the divot in each cupcake with Vanilla Cream Filling.
3. Pipe your vanilla ice cream frosting over the top of each filled cupcake.
4. Drizzle the glaze over the frosting.
5. EAT.

Weekend Recipe: Chocolate Beer Cake

When the Vancouver International Fringe Festival asked me to make them a cake with beer in it, I was intrigued.  I’m not a beer drinker, but I took on the challenge.  They presented me with a recipe from McAuslen, the company that makes the St. Ambroise brand and sponsors the festival each year. The cake turned out beautifully and it was fun to hang out in the Fringe office on Wednesday afternoon for cake with the staff.  Getting it from my house to the office was a bit of a challenge though.  Walking down the street with a three layer cake in the pouring rain is not something I’d advise doing.  It was two tall for my cake carrying case though, so it was on a cardboard and covered in plastic wrap.  Like I said, a bit of a challenge. The little old men I walked past thought I was adorable though.

My slightly lopsided beer cake. I'm still impressed that it survived its grand adventure across town. Photo by Debby Reis.

Chocolate Beer Cake
adapted from the McAuslen recipe

We only managed to eat half the cake! Three layers is a lot of cake!


1 cup of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
1 cup of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1/2 tbsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup of sour cream
One can of cherry pie filling (or you can make your own.  I was intrigued by this recipe, but couldn’t cherries are out of season so I couldn’t make my own)
Vanilla Bean Frosting


1. Preaheat oven to 350°F. Butter three ,8-inch round cake pans and then dust with cocoa powder.
2. Heat beer and 2 cups of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the cocoa and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature.
3. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
4. Beat eggs andsour cream in a separate bowl. Add cocoa and beer mixture to egg andsour cream and beat.
5. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir until well blended.
6. Pour into cake pans and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted to the tallest part of the cake comes out clean.


1. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut off any rounding on the top of your cakes so that they will easily stack on top of each other.
3. Set down your base layer.  Place half of your cherry filling on top of it. Put the second layer of cake on that, then another layer of cherry filling and finally the third layer of cake.  Ideally, set the top layer of the cake upside down so that the smooth base from the bottom of the pan will become your easily ice-able top of the cake.
4. Ice the cake carefully, especially where the layers meet.  It is often wise to do a layer of rough icing, let it set, and then go back and do a nice clean coating after.


BONUS Weekend Recipe – Butterbeer Cupcakes

Just prior to the release of the final Harry Potter movie, some friends and I got together for a HP marathon day.  My contribution was butterbeer cupcakes, that while delicious were so sweet that most people could not finish. When Nicole’s birthday lunch was approaching and I needed to come up with a perfect cupcake, it was super easy to do one based on her favourite fictional world (in fact, we watched a couple of Harry Potter movies while we ate) and it gave me a chance to adapt the recipe to be slightly less sweet.  I also adapted it to a smaller batch size since I was baking for three people instead of a large group, but the recipe I’ve done could easily be doubled.

Butterbeer Cupcakes
Adapted from A Pastry Affair

Yields 8 cupcakes

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter flavour
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cream soda


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake tin with baking cups.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg plus the egg white and beat well.  Add the vanilla extract and butter flavouring.
4.  Mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the cream soda, then the remaining flower.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way and bake for 20-24 minutes until the cupcakes are golden.

Butterscotch Ganache
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Heat the cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Place the butterscotch chips in a bowl.
2. Pour the hot cream over the butterscotch chips and let stand for 3-5 minutes or until the butterscotch chips have melted.
3. Mix well, making sure the chips have fully melted and spread into the cream.

Butterscotch Buttercream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
3-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Splash of heavy cream (as needed)


1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla, and butter flavouring.
3. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2-3 minutes, starting with 3 cups and adding more only if necessary.
4. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved (I used approximately 2 tablespoons).

Buterscotch Pudding
1 package butterscotch pudding mix
2 cups cold milk


1.  Add pudding mix to cold milk.
2. Whisk together until it begins to thicken and is not lumpy.


1.  Cut a small cone out of the top of each cupcake. Fill the newly created cavity with butterscotch pudding.
2. Cut the depth off the cone you removed so that you just have a small lid to place on top of the butterscotch.
3. Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and pipe onto the top of each cupcakes.
4. Drizzle the remaining butterscotch ganache over the frosting.
5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until you’re ready to serve them.

Weekend Recipe: Pizza Dough

Quadruple cheese pizza!

I was hosting a birthday lunch this past week and decided that pizza was the perfect thing to serve, but instead of ordering in I figured I’d do the affordable thing and make my own.  I am pretty sure that this crust was the best I have ever tried.  I was super happy with how the whole thing turned out.

Doesn't it look delicious?!


1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs olive oil
1 clove crushed  garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Ingredients for topping


1. Put the water into a large bowl and slowly sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Make sure each pellet of yeast is able to get wet.
2. Allow that to sit for about five minutes so that the yeast can soften and then whisk it until the yeast is fully disolved.
3. Add the salt, sugar, garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese.  Mix well.
4.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and mix until smooth.
5.  Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of floor, mixing it as you go first with a wooden spoon and then by hand when it’s too hard to mix with a spoon.
6. Knead the dough for 5-8 minutes, until it begins to feel responsive.  It should have just enough flour so that it is not sticky while kneading.
7. Pour a small amount of oil into the bowl.  Turn the dough in the oil so that it is lightly coated and then place the dough in the bowl.  Cover the bowl and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
8. Preheat oven to 450 F.
9.  Divide the dough into two equal parts.  Spread out onto pizza pans and let rise again for approximately 20 min.
10. Top as you desire. (I used a garlic pizza sauce and then four kinds of cheese – provolone, mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan)
11. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly brown around the edges.

Weekend Recipe: Toffee Bars

My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was right around 10 years old – it was a Betty Crocker favourites book – and one of the first recipes that I made from it were these Toffee Bars.  In fact, next to the recipe in a bright red pen are the words “VERY YUMMY” that young me wrote in.  They’re very simple to make and not actually very sweet.

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit from the original and I think it’s only better!


1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg yolk
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, but I bet hazelnutes would be amazing!)


Still warm and melty!

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 8″ square pan.

2. Mix butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg yolk together in large bowl.  Add flour and salt. Mix until well beaten.

3. Press dough into pan.

4. Bake for approx 22 minutes, or until very light brown. The crust will still be soft.

5. When you remove the pan from the oven IMMEDIATELY spring chocolate chips on hot crust.  Let stand about 3 minutes or until chocolate chips are soft.

6. Spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the bars.  Sprinkle with nuts.

7. Let cool 30 minutes. Cut into bars while still warm.

Weekend Recipe: Champagne Cupcakes

All dressed up for NYE - a champagne cupcake with champagne custard filling and champagne buttercream frosting



2 3/4 cups all-pupose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup champagne (or other sparkling wine)
6 egg whites


1 cup champagne
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tblsp cornstarch
5 large egg yolks (if you seperate your eggs and the yolks look small, throw in a sixth…I did)
2 tblsp light corn syrup
6 tblsp. chilled whipping cream


4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter (at room temperature)
1/3 cup champagne (at room temperature)



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a cupcake (or mini cupcake) pan with liners.  (This recipe yielded 24 mini cupcakes plus 4 jumbo cupcakes for me).

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend dry mixture into butter/sugar alternating with champagne.

3. In another large clean bowl, beat egg whits until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (The mini cupcakes took 15 minutes, the jumbos took an extra 7 minutes)

5. Allow the cupcakes to cool.


1. In a large saucepan, whisk the champagne, sugar, cornstarch, yolks and corn syrup to blend.

2. Put saucepan on the stove and turn heat to medium.

3. Whisk the mixture constantly until it begins to thicken (should be 10-15 minutes).

4. Allow the mixture to cool.  While it is cooling, grab a clean bowl and beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.

5. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard.

(the custard can be kept in the fridge for about a day before being used)


1. Beat together sugar and butter until well blended.  Add champagne and mix well.

2. Check the consistency.  If its too runny add more icing sugar, if its too thick add more champagne.

To Assemble:

1. Take the cooled cupcake and cut a small cone shape out of the top and fill with the custard.

2. Fill a piping bag with icing. I chose to use a Wilton Open Star 1M tip.

3. Hold the icing bag 90 degrees to the cupcake and pipe a swirl beginning at the outside edge and moving inwards.

4. Top as desired. I used little edible gold stars, but you can use whatever you want!

Have a very happy New Years!

Weekend Christmas Recipe: Crockpot Mulled Wine

Mom's crockpot full of mulled delicious.

Tonight my parents are hosting an open house – a way for us to see lots of the old family friends without having to make visits to each of their homes in these busy holidays. It’s a drop in type event, but one of the beverages Mom wanted to serve was mulled wine. I’ve just finished mixing it up and it smells so good that I had to share!


1.5 L of your choice of red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
2 3/4 cup of Orange Juice
1 Orange (medium sized)
3 Cinnamon sticks
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp All Spice


1. Pour wine and orange juice into crock pot.

2. Slice orange into thin slices and add to wine/juice mixture.

3. Toss cinnamon sticks into crockpot.

4. Mix together cloves and all spice and put into tea ball, cheese cloth sack, or tea bag then put into crock pot.

5. Let it sit on the lowest setting for a couple hours. (If you are in a hurry, turn it to high for about 30-45 min). Do NOT boil. Boiling will remove all the alcohol.