June 30, 2010

Wedding cake: a last-minute update!

I’m flying out of Edmonton for Halifax bright and early tomorrow morning. After four test cakes, I think I’ve decided on the cake I want to make … but I’ll still need to test it before the wedding. The consensus from my testers (mostly grateful opera students in a program with J) was that the first cake I made, the orange one from the last post, was the best. So the plan right now is orange cake with lemon buttercream and a vegan lemon creme filling with sliced strawberries. The filling is made with silken tofu, and it’s delicious.

Wish me luck with the final product! We’ve also decided not to do a tiered, stacked cake but instead bake several individual layer cakes and display them all together on one table at the reception. The idea of all those dowels and huge cake pans just made me too nervous.

There are still a few details to iron out, but I think we’ll mostly decorate with fruit and some fresh flowers, plus a little piping thrown in for good measure. Buttercream won the contest against fondant, which I’m pretty happy about.

I’m hoping to update the cake results from Halifax, because when I get home I’ll be computerless for about three weeks. I’m going to take a little blogging break … not sure how long yet. I’m heading to Europe to join J in August for three weeks. I’m sure there will be lots of amazing food to blog about, but it might just have to wait until I get back in September.

So have a great summer! I’ll be enjoying Halifax, Edmonton, Vienna, Paris and Denmark … what fun!

Out of the Park

On Tuesday night we had supper at the Wildflower Grill with J and his Mom. She was visiting for a week and we thought we’d take the opportunity to go there for the first time. I also took the opportunity to review the place for CBC. And it hit the ball out of the park, delivering up one of the best restaurant meals I’ve had in Edmonton. For this price level, I only have Zinc to compare it too so far, but it is many notches beyond.

No photos (I try to go incognito when I’m reviewing), but the best dishes were the beef carpaccio – stunningly soft, creamy and flavourful – and the chocolate tasting. Oh. my. god. If you like chocolate at all you must try it. But what impressed me most was the overall package. Wonderful atmosphere, fantastic service and original, high-quality food.

For more details listen to my review Friday morning on Edmonton AM (93.9 fm) at 7:50. If you miss it you can listen here.

Wildflower Grill
10009 107 st.

June 17, 2010

A very important wedding cake


I have an announcement to make: I am baking a wedding cake!

Not just any wedding cake. The cake for my sister Claire’s wedding. The same sister who is as obsessed with food as I am. The same one who is a passionate vegan and baker extraordinaire. That sister.

There might be a wee bit of pressure involved in this project.

But the prospect of fun and excitement far outweigh any nerves I may have. I’m no professional baker, and most cakes I bake aren’t even frosted, but I want this to be the best. wedding. cake. ever. Which is partly why I’m sharing this news here.

First up, the details:

- the wedding is on July 10 in Halifax.
- the cake will have to serve about 175 guests (eep!). This means at least three tiers, possibly four.
- there is to be no chocolate involved (groom’s request) and also no nuts (just in case people have allergies). Flavours such as coconut and mocha have also been vetoed. For now, the flavour palette involves some kind of fruit, most likely citrus.
- of course, it must be vegan!


The fondant/buttercream debate continues. We are thinking fondant would be a neater, cleaner-looking cake (see above about not being a professional cake baker), and there is no risk of melting frosting (the reception is indoors, but you never know). The downside is it doesn’t taste so hot, and doesn’t look so natural. I’ve never worked with it and don’t remember ever eating it either.


So far I’ve baked one test cake – the one you see here in the photos. It was an orange cake with lemon buttercream (both recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World – a must-have book in vegan baking circles). J took it to a party where it was a huge hit. I like it too, but I’m not convinced it’s the one. I used the buttercream to fill and frost it, but I thought that made it too sweet – this was likely also because I made the filling too thick. Ideally I’d like to have a filling different from the frosting (if we end up using frosting and not fondant).


There’s a lot I need to learn about construction and decorating a cake this big, and a lot of supplies to buy – dowels, cardboard cake rounds, a turntable, tinting colours, and if the frosting option prevails, palette knives and tinting colours. For preparation, I plan on baking the cake once I get to Halifax and freezing the layers. The morning of the wedding I’ll frost and fill each tier, then transport them to the venue to assemble and add final decorations. Did I mention I’m also the maid of honour? It’s going to be quite the day.


Tomorrow I’m going to buy a vegan desserts cookbook that looks promising, and I’m hoping it has some inspiring cake and filling recipes in it. I’m thinking of testing a lemon cake or vanilla cake next, and possibly experimenting with some kind of strawberry filling. I’m planning for several more test cakes before I head to Halifax July 1st.

So now I appeal to you, dear readers. Any advice for the first-time wedding cake baker? Fondant or buttercream? Flavours, decorating techniques, words of wisdom?? I am beyond excited about this, but a little guidance would not hurt at all.

June 4, 2010

St. Lawrence Market - Toronto


Visiting food markets in new cities is something I love to do when I’m traveling. Sadly I haven’t had many opportunities. I’m hoping to take in a market or two when we visit Europe this summer – so excited! I’ve heard so much about the Pike Place market in Seattle and the Ferry Building market in San Francisco. I really hope I get a chance to visit them someday. When we were in Vancouver last March I loved the Granville Island Public Market, and it immediately reminded me of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.



I first visited the St. Lawrence Market about a year ago, and I went back when I was in Toronto recently. It’s a pretty cool place, and just like the one on Granville Island, makes me wish we could have a market that was open during the week in Edmonton. It’s in a big old warehouse building downtown on Front street, and covers two floors. The top floor is mostly food and some kitchen-related items. When you head downstairs there is more food but also some arts and crafts mixed in.

There is so much to see.


Tantalizing cheese – big creamy wheels of it.


Lots of meat too.


Many varieties of shellfish.


Several bakeries (my mouth is watering at that Challah…).


Fresh Montreal bagels.


There’s a store on the lower level that has an astonishing array of bulk items – nuts, beans, all kinds of weird candies I’ve never heard of. They also sell different kinds of bulk salt, like Himalayan pink salt and smoked salt. It’s a great way to try new kinds of salt without paying an arm and a leg for a whole box. Last year I bought a small container of fleur de sel that’s not quite gone, and this year I bought Maldon salt. I haven’t tested them side by side yet to see if I can taste a big difference, but they’re both fantastic for sprinkling onto your food right before you eat.


The market also has many produce stands, both organic and non. When I was there in mid-May, they already had local berries. Jealous!

I can’t wait to discover more markets on my travels. Where are your favourite markets?