Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmast tree…

2 Nov

While Halloween is all fun and games, I’m excited for the real holiday season to officially begin! I am such a sucker for Christmas: I think it’s the only holiday that allows you to bask in its glory for a whole month: the excitement and planning starts in November, but from December 1st through to the 25th, the fun and games and excitement just keeps building up.

And, what other holiday allows you to keep the decorations in your house for another week or two after it has passed? Just say it with me: Christmas is the best time of year. But if you don’t agree with me, which is okay, tell me what YOUR favourite holiday/time of year is, and why =)

I bought all new decorations this year, for the tree and for my home, since I’m moving at the end of the month (another great thing to look forward to for December!!). A new beginning at the end of the year. It’s pretty fantastic. So I bought new decorations, but I’ve also been making decorations as well. The paper stars you see in these photos are the product of my arts & crafts frenzy. But let’s not digress, the paper stars are pretty amazing, but the real stars of this post are the ridiculously cute sugar cookie Christmas trees!

Anna and I were at Crate & Barrel (our weakness, addiction, dream store, etc), and we saw these star cookie cutters that allowed you to make these very adorable and very epic Christmas trees. Just use your favourite cookie recipe, as long as it holds its shape, and off you go: roll, cut and bake. Put on royal icing, sprinkles, let dry, and assemble. Tada!

Endless decorating possibilities, and endless fun are guaranteed. If you want super neat and tidy royal icing, then use the flooding method on each individual star, let dry completely before assembling. To assemble, just put a bit of royal icing on the centre of each star before topping it off with the next level.

For a whimsical look, use the flooding method, but start assembling right away. The weight of each added layer causes the royal icing to spread out just enough to look like snow is drooping off each layer.

I used sanding sugar for added texture, and tinted my royal icing green for a classic Christmas tree look. I also just used simple icing sugar to get a freshly snowed on look – which also adds minimal sweetness for those who are not a fan of royal icing.  Dragees are super cute, and act as ornaments. I only had silver ones on hand, but go crazy! To get the star-topped look, just use half a toothpick to get the star to stand up.

As for the cookies, I did one batch with my all time favourite sugar cookie recipe. The key here is not to overbake – you want the cookies to be just baked through and firm, but no brown edges. Let the cookies cool completely before icing them. For the second batch, I used my snickerdoodle recipe, but made a few tweaks to get a firmer cookie since snickerdoodles are fairly melt-in-your-mouth.

You don’t need to run out and buy the Crate & Barrel kit, any set of star cutters will work just fine for these mini Christmas trees that measure about six to eight inches in height. The awesome thing about the kit, though, is that you can create beautiful large cookie centre pieces. The big Christmas tree was made as to the instructions that came with the cutters: 1 cookie of each of the four large cutters, and then 3 of each of the remaining cutters. The tree ended up being about 12 inches or so in height.

Happy baking!

not one, not two but four mini sugar cookie Christmas trees, to give you endless decorating options

white royal icing and sanding sugar gives the illusion of a snowy Christmas tree

dragees and runny royal icing give this a whimsical look

green royal icing gives you the classic Christmas tree look

and what's the fun of having mini trees if you can't have a big tree to dwarf them?

let the holiday baking begin!

Later days,

xo Chi

 

 

two cookies are better than one

27 Oct

Really, it’s a no brainer. Cookies will never go out of fashion. Sure, cupcakes are cute, wedding cakes are beautiful, macarons are fancy, but cookies epitomize childhood, happiness and deliciousness. Cookies are a year-round favourite, but we are finally entering the season that celebrates and showcases the versatility of the cookie. The holiday season is upon us, and I have already accumulated endless of recipes that are bookmarked, earmarked, pinned and saved, just waiting to be baked and gifted in pretty cookie tins. My favourite cookies are spiced cookies from all over the world: gingerbread, zimmelstern and lebkuchen from Germany, spiced amaretti cookies from Italy, and let’s not forget about those chewy spiced almond cookies that my (fake) adoptive Italian grandmother makes for me.

However, when you’re talking about simplicity at its finest, then nothing can beat a decadent chocolate cookie, or the crisp clean taste of sugar cookies. One of my all-time favourite cookie is this chewy, cake-like chocolate cookie that crackles beautifully once it is baked. It remains soft, but holds its shape perfectly, in order to be used  to sandwich creamy cream cheese filling. Seriously, chewy chocolate + creamy cream cheese = heaven in a bite. And then there is Anna’s perfect sugar cookie recipe, which lends itself as the perfect canvas for any of your sugar cookie project ideas. I hope to be posting a three dimensional sugar cookie christmas tree very soon, so stay tuned!

By the by, these photos here were taken by the very talented & versatile Jeff Turner of jeffturnerphoto and of straylightphotography.

sprinkles make my life

valentine's day, christmas, easter, new year's, sugar cookies are perfect all year!

later days! xo Chi

baking is fun, but it’s stressful, too!

23 Oct

Baking a batch of cookies is fun. Baking a cake for friends is fun, too. Baking cupcakes for a friend’s friend’s birthday isn’t too bad. So when people approach us, and ask us to cater their wedding/bridal shower/baby shower/birthday party, we always say yes with happiness and excitement. But let me tell you, baking for an event is probably the most stressful and nerve wracking job that I have ever had to do – but I would never ever give up this job. I worry about getting everything perfect, of living up and surpassing expectations, I pray to the dessert gods that they will not let me drop the entire batch of cupcakes, or smash the cake box while delivering it. Things always go smoothly…until they need to. Every time we cater, it is an adventure, and by the time we finish, we feel like we just ran a marathon – that’s been filled with cake and icing. But let me tell you, it’s a pretty wicked marathon to be part of.

For this event, they asked us to bake enough mini desserts for about 200 people. It was a business function, so we had to think of desserts that were fun, but easy to eat with minimal mess. We chose to serve Anna’s famous mini red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing, my famous cheesecake tartelettes, as well as an assortment of fancy cookies, brittles, meringues, and of course, beautiful madeleines. We glazed the madeleines for extra flavour, but also to keep them moist since the desserts had to keep at room temperatures for several hours. The mini cheesecakes were topped with candied and sugared lemon peel at the very last possible moment, so that the peel would maintain its beautiful sugary shine. My favourite dessert would have to be Anna’s red velvet cake – I have requested it as my wedding cake in 2012! By the by, the photos of this event were all taken by my very talented friend & photographer Savo Sok.

red velvet

Anna piping her famous cream cheese icing on her famous red velvet cupcakes

Anna and myself, hard at work

madeleines

glazed orange madeleines. yum!

our desserts spread: blueberry lemon cheesecake tartelettes, meringues, coconut macaroons, marshmallow cookies, madeleines, caramel praline bars, and red velvet cupcakes.

later days! xo Chi

Welcome to the ramblings & adventures of Anna and Chi

22 Oct

Our Cake Date blog will be a product of the combined love and effort of Anna and myself (Chi), as we both work towards The Big Dream: owning the perfect bakery that we can call our own. It’s been quite the journey so far, for the two of us. We met through fate (or through Gareth, who may have been Fate’s little helper), and have discovered that we are pretty much two halves of one whole. If you ignore the fact that Anna is Polish, and that I’m Vietnamese, we could be twins. Really. I swear.

Since then, we have been talking, texting, emailing, pinteresting, and dreaming about all the things that Cake Date will be, will not be, and will have to be. We have half of our menu all figured out, we already own as many cake platters and cake stands that a bakery could possibly use, we have the colours picked, the design chosen, the teaspoons stored away. All we need now is a little more time for experience and for working out the details. Until that day, we live to bake, to experiment, to go traipsing around Toronto to explore its delicious mosaic of cafes, patisseries and bakeries.

The Cake Date blog will chronicle our journey from where we are now (dreaming the dream) and our big goal: living the dream.  You’ll probably hear about our dessert adventures in Toronto, find out more than you care about our personal lives, and look at lots and lots of delicious dessert photography.

anna & chi

Chi & Anna

Later days,

xo Chi.

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