Lemon cake with lemon butter cream frosting

To me, lemons are synonymous with summer. I’m not sure why given that I live in Canada and lemons certainly don’t grow here, but are available in the grocery story year round which of course begs the question, when is lemon season?

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When I was a little girl, my Mom made homemade lemonade. She juiced the lemons, added in sugar and citric acid and boiled the whole thing into a thick, sweet lemony syrup. The syrup was mixed with water and poured over ice. It was a delicious cool treat on a hot summer’s day. Literally, a tall drink of lemonade.

I think my lemons = summer comes from making lemonade. And possibly cleaning supplies. And foot scrub.

Okay, so this is one of those moments where I crack myself up and no one else finds it funny. Moving along…

So back to lemon cake. I had some friends over to celebrate a birthday a while ago. My go-to birthday cake is usually chocolate, but decided to dig through the recipe archives and see what else I could find. I decided on a lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting.

This cake is fairly easy and very tasty. It’s made with fresh lemons and tastes like a summer day, even thought we ate it during a snow storm. With Easter coming in a few short weeks, this could be a pretty dessert option.

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Here’s the recipe for my lemon cakes which the 6YO has dubbed easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy cake.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 & 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

Instructions:

  1. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the cake pans with a parchment or wax paper circle.
  2. With your mixer on high, whip the butter until smooth and pale in colour.
  3. Slow the mixer down and add in the sugar.  Once the sugar is incorporated, run the mixer on high for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add in the eggs. Once they have been incorporated, give your bowl a scrape and then mix on medium for another minute or two.
  5. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking power, salt and lemon zest.
  6. Add in some of the flour to the butter mixture followed by some milk and lemon juice. Alternate between the three until all incorporated.
  7. Divide the cake batter between the two pans.
  8. Bake and let cool on a wire rack.

Temperature: 350 degrees
Baking time: 20 – 25 minutes for 2 round cakes or 18 – 21 minutes for 24 cupcakes

Lemon butter cream recipe:

This tangy recipe will make enough frosting to put a nice thick layer between the two cakes as well as amply cover the cake.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 7-8 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Instructions:

  1. Whip the butter. Cut it up into small pieces and put it in your mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth.
  2. Slowly add in about half of the sugar. If you put it all in at once and turn your mixer on high, your kitchen will resemble a winter wonderland. Slow and steady is fine. Scrape the bowl edges often.
  3. Add in the lemon zest and the lemon juice.
  4. Slowly add the rest of the sugar about half a cup at a time. Once all the sugar is incorporated, put you mixer on high and whip the icing for a few minutes until very fluffy.

Assembling the cake:

  1. Once the cakes have cooled completely, place one of the cakes on a pretty plate.
  2. Place a blob of icing (yes that is the technical term and it’s about 3/4 cup) on top and spread it all around. Keep the icing on the sides quite thin and you will have about 1/4 – 1/2 inch of frosting on the top.
  3. Gently place the second cake on top. Again, drop a blob on the top and spread the icing around the sides and top of the cake until everything is covered. This is called a crumb coat and you should have more than half of the icing left.
  4. Put the cake in the fridge for an hour or two and put the remaining icing in an airtight container, but do not put it in the fridge.
  5. Once the cake is cold, use the remaining frosting to ice the cake either with a knife or a piping bag.

I put a crumb coat on the cake and then piped roses all over the rest. This technique is really easy if you have a piping bag and a big star tip (like easier than trying to smooth icing all over the cake) and a great tutorial from Iambaker.net can be found here.

Also, I tried the bottled stuff since then and the flavour just isn’t the same. So pick up a few lemons and use the real thing :)

 

 

 

Lemon Meringue Kisses… aka gluten-free baking delights

So I made these the other night – lemon meringue kisses. Actually, I called them lemon meringue cookies, but when I posted a picture on Facebook, a couple of my friends told me they called them kisses when they were little, so why not? Let’s combine them, and now they are lemon meringue kisses.

LemonMeringueCookies

I know it seems like a weird thing to bake on a random weekend, but I have made chocolate pudding a couple of times in the last week which uses egg yolks and I had tucked away the whites in my fridge for some other random to be determined use.

I started digging through my recipes looking for ideas. My mom suggested Pavlova, or at least that’s what we grew up calling it. Basically, it’s a delightful meringue that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and smothered with whip cream and fresh fruit. That’s a dessert for another day.

Anyhow, I came across my newly-renamed recipe for meringue kisses and decided to add in some lemon rind. These sweet little morsels of crunchy goodness would be awesome at a baby or wedding shower. Or just because it’s Tuesday.

Here’s the recipe (and it’s totally scalable if you need to make more or less)

  • Whites from 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • Zest from ½ a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

Mixing instructions:
1. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form and it’s quite foamy.
2. Slowly add in sugar on low until combine, then whip until stiff peaks form and the egg mixture is shiny and sticks to your whisk beater.
3. Slowly add in lemon rind and mix until blended.

You can form the cookies a number of ways. I used a pastry bag with a star tip, but you can also use a large zip bag and cut off a corner to leave about a 1 cm round opening.

  1. Line your cookie sheet with a silicone baking sheet, parchment paper or using the good old butter and flour meathod.
  2. Fill your piping bag with the egg mixture and make 2-3 cm dots on a cookie sheet. The cookies can be fairly close together as they don’t expand much.
  3. Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours
  4. Let cookies cool completely on the baking sheet before removing
  5. Enjoy

Tempertature: 200 degrees
Baking Time: 3 hours
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Lemon Meringue Cookies

 

 

What’s in your glass… This BC classic is in mine

My husband took this picture tonight… It’s a bottle we bought our first summer in Kelowna. It’s from the Mission Hills which is the most recognizable winery in the Okanagan. And tonight, this is what’s in our glass.

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Teaching our kids to ski…. Well, sort of. We left it to the pros

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For a whole bunch of crazy reasons, we took our spring vacation early this year. It worked out well, we missed the crowds and had an amazing week with our kids. Although I’m not sure the kids feel that way. While my kids hang out at daycare this week, their friends are at beaches, ski hills and theme parks.

We also changed things up a little and traded our traditional sun vacation for the snow. We decided this was the year to teach our kids to ski. Well, not us teaching exactly, somethings are best left to the experts.

We went to Revelstoke Mouontain Resort and had an amazing week. Our kids learned to ski and then I got to write about it here for Family Fun Canada.

Chocolate Pudding – the kind made with eggs, chocolate and milk

I don’t know why, but lately I’ve had a hankering for chocolate pudding. Not the instant kind that comes in a box where milk is added and voila, pudding. Seriously, what is in it that turns milk into something thick and chocolaty? Well, sort of chocolaty.

I was digging through my recipe box and came across an oldie. I’m not even sure where it came from except that it’s in my 15-year-old handwriting. Pre-Epicurious. Pre-Pintrest. A total relic by my kids’ standards. The fact that it’s hand-written and not on my ipad makes them giggle.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate chips, but dark chocolate chips work nicely, as does chopping up a great quality chocolate bar)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a bowl, mix together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Using a thick bottomed pot, heat 2 cups of milk until nearly boiling.
  3. Remove from heat and slowly add in the chocolate egg mixture a spoonful at a time stirring very well after each addition.
  4. Once all the chocolate is incorporated into the milk, return to the stove. Stir constantly until the pudding gets nice and thick.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips, butter and vanilla until smooth
  6. Pour into 6 small bowls or ramekins and serve… or not.

We eat the pudding warm at this point. I hear some people cover it and put it into the refrigerator until later. Crazy talk. Pudding is delicious warm. :)

So I had planned to take pictures, but before I realized it, my family had eaten it all. This is what I was left with.

This is what happens when I tried to make chocolate pudding.

This is what happens when I tried to make chocolate pudding.

Here is a great selection of chocolate pudding photos since clearly it doesn’t last long enough in our house to photograph.

 

Thanksgiving dinner – we have many blessings, oh and I made pie.

One of the things about living in Calgary is that we have family here. And not just the community that we have created, but real, live, related family. We had family in Vancouver, but not in Kelowna which means our past nine Thanksgivings were usually spent with close friends, lots of food and wine and usually an abundance of laughter. These gatherings were counted among our many blessings.

In Calgary, we have the privilege of adding real family – my sister’s family, my mom and grandparents – into that mix. We offered to host dinner this year, which is something we haven’t done in years, and enjoyed watching our kids laugh at crazy inside jokes with their cousins while four generations sat together. Four generations is kind of mind-blowing. Thanksgiving Dinner

The turkey worked out. Stuffing was fine as were the brussel sprouts, carrots & peas and potatoes. My kids were the most excited about ambrosia salad. Totally random concoction that my great grandma served my grandma who served it to my dad and has been a staple at our table since I was a little girl. Catch this – it is called salad, but is really a rich dessert made with fruit, whipping cream and coloured mini-marshmallows. And I would leave it off the menu, and did for years, except my 8YO discovered it at Christmas dinner last year at my mom’s and begged for it. I think my grandma was pretty excited to see it on the table.

I’m pretty proud of our dessert… Over the past few years, we’ve always picked up a fresh home-made pie from one of the schools in Kelowna. They do it as an annual fundraiser and honestly, it doesn’t get any better or tastier than that.

Apple Pie

I decided to try making pie. Not something I’ve ever done, not something I ever thought I would do, but why not? I can bake just about anything, but pie has always seemed like too big of a deal.

So I started the google… how hard could it be? Dough, apples, cinnamon. BOOM! Pie. I could totally do this, or so I hoped.

So, I found this recipe for flaky cream cheese pie crust from something called the Pie Bible. The instructions are hard to follow and I don’t have a food processor so improvisation was definitely needed, but managed to get something that resembled pie dough. Of course, the pie bible forgot to include baking instructions which was awesome, but looked like the consensus among every other recipe was 400 degrees for 35 – 45 minutes.

Worst case scenario, we had a box of brownie mix in the pantry. Best case scenario, we would have something that resembled a pie to put on the table.

Apple PiesIt worked. I think. The crust actually tasted pretty good. The filling was runnier than I would have liked and the bottom crust was totally mushy. And it was totally delicious. Someday, I’ll figure the rest out, but for tonight, I’m pretty happy.Homemade_Apple_Pie

Rolled it out, and had way more than I needed, even after doing my shell and cover, so I made something that I would like to call Pots des Pommes… really, it’s pie filling in a ramekin with a piece of pie crust on top. Sounds way fancier as Pots des Pommes, n’est-ce pas?

Making Pots Des PommesTotally cute. The 5YO suggested the star cut-outs when I told her we needed to make some kind of holes to let the steam escape.

Pots_des_pommes

This little guy arrived at our house, but I’m not sure who to thank?

This little fella just arrived on my front step one day...

This little fella just arrived on my front step one day…

Someone dropped off a pumpkin on my front step last night. But I have no idea who.

 

Family Time in the Rocky Mountains – our weekend at Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise

We spent the weekend out at Johnston Canyon Resort. It isn’t a resort exactly, but it is a cute collection of little cabins overlooking the trails of Johnson Canyon part way between Banff and Lake Louise. Open for only part of the year (the warmer part), the cabins are rustic little three bedroom bungalows that are probably quite similar to the homes our my grandparents would have owned and the perfect place for a family weekend offline.

We had originally booked to go out at the end of June, but our plans were foiled by the floods that temporarily shut down road access to the area. So we rebooked for September.

Escaping the city on a Friday night

Escaping the city on a Friday night

Saturday was a cloudy and sometimes rainy day. We drove out to Lake Louise early in the day. With the start of the larch trees in the valley changing from green to gold, there had been warnings about shortages of parking in the area. The cloud cover hung low, the air was misty and yet scores of tourists from home and abroad were crowded around the lake for the perfect picture of Lake Louise’s piercing blue water against the forest around it.

The hike from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House

The hike from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House

The hike to the tea house is just over 3.5km from its base at the edge of Lake Louise up the side of the hill, through a bit of valley and finally up some stairs to the log cabin with no electricity and a wrap around patio. We were lucky enough to grab a table outside. Although as we were sitting down, the lady at the next table decided to put all the dirty dishes from her table on ours, “because you have more room than we do…”

We had watery hot chocolate and tea, PBJ and tuna on delicious home-made bread. The kids wandered to the lake’s edge while we sat finishing our tea and waiting (forever) to pay our bill. The looks on their faces as they stared between the mountains that still surrounded us and down to the town of Banff.

As we arrived back down the hill, the mist had turned to rain. We had been sheltered on the trails and were ready to warm up once again. A day out in the fresh air, followed by a dip at the Banff Hot Springs, dinner and a couple of crazy rounds of Jenga, I think both kids were asleep in less than a minute.

Our second day was spent heading up the trail to Johnston Canyon. It’s short easy walk through some beautiful gorges and a series of waterfalls, often along a sidewalk. Someday we want to venture past up to the Ink pots, but this wasn’t the weekend.

Johnston Canyon

I can’t wait to go back next season.

Summer road tripping… and just like that, the vacation ends.

Not sure how it happened, but summer came and went. We had the most magical two week family vacation and by magical, I don’t mean we were in Disneyland. Someday, but not yet.

Even though I feel like it was a summer in flux and we didn’t quite get to the things we planned on getting to, it was perfect.

Here’s the roundup:

My 5YO learned to ride her bike. She was dying to take her training wheels off like the big kids on the street. She’d try and try and try. She was so close and after two days at bike camp – BOOM! She had it. Awesome.

We pulled the kids out of daycare for the summer. Watching them have only a couple of hours a day of outside time a day and then spending the rest watching movies and other kids play video games made our decision this year really easy. So they had seven weeks of summer camps and two weeks of family vacation. They spent it outside riding bikes, hanging with farm animals, learning camp songs, programming robots, swimming, playing soccer, wide games and hide-and-go-seek. They came home every night dirty, sweaty, tired and excited to do it all over again. Awesome.

My 8YO bagged a couple of peaks with his Dad. We live an hour from the Rocky Mountains, how could they not? On one particular hike, they headed to Kananaskis to find the roads and trails were badly damaged after June’s flooding. The info centre directed them a mountain north of Highway 1 where they ventures up the side of a mountain that my son said “looks like a stegosaurus.” As we drove through the mountains a week later, he was right, it does look like a stegosaurus. Awesome.

summer_Family_Roadtrips

We spent two weeks driving over 3000km from Calgary to Shuswap Lake to Vancouver to Squamish to Kelowna to Shuswap Lake and back to Calgary. And we stopped at all those places we’ve only ever driven by.

Tunnel Mountain, the Natural Bridge, the Enchanted Forrest, Emerald Lake, the BC Mine Museum at Britannia Beach, the water slides in Bridal Falls…

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and we spent days at the beach (in every place we visited), caught up with family and friends, and ate our weight in fresh cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, blueberries, strawberries and apples.

Fresh cherries, plums, strawberries, peaches and eggplants from the orchard

Fresh cherries, plums, strawberries, peaches and eggplants from the orchard

We came home, finished up the last two weeks of summer camp, saving the best for last. Those last weeks were filled with as much fun as we could cram in including the 8YO’s first sleepover. Awesome.

And just like that, summer is over and will quickly be replaced by yellow trees, cool breezes, busy schedules and socks.

Until next year…