Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bake Sale

Bake Sale

ISBN 10: 1596434198
ISBN 13: 9781596434196
Publisher: First Second
Paperback: 160 Pages

A friend of mine had actually picked up a signed copy of Bake Sale at ALA, so I was pretty excited to receive a review copy shortly after. And honestly, the words "cupcake," "graphic novel," and "recipes" are enough to get me jazzed up.

I initially read the graphic novel pretty quickly and then proceeded to read it to my cousin, Justin, who just made the recommended age range of ages 8 and up (or grades 3 and up).

The first chapter begins at 6:30am, a pretty realistic time for a business owner to wake up I suppose! We follow Cupcake, baker and owner of Sweet Tooth Bakery, as he prepares for the day's opening. Each step, from cracking the eggs, packing the sugar, and mixing the batter, is illustrated and probably my favourite sequence because it is wordless. His bakery opens at 9:00am and the first speech bubble starts on page 11, a tomato raving about the carrot cake. At 4:00pm, it's closing time and Cupcake's friend, Eggplant waits for him as they grab a bite before going to brand practice.

We get a sense that this is Cupcake's daily routine and he eventually falls into a baking rut. That is, until Eggplant suggests they both go to Turkey to meet Aunt Aubergine (Eggplant's aunt) and Turkish Delight (the greatest pastry chef in the world). Soon, we see Cupcake working hard in trying to earn more money. Eggplant helps watch the shop as Cupcake finds creative ways to sell his desserts.

Sadly, Eggplant gets laid off and tells Cupcake that he won't be making the trip to Turkey. However, Cupcake offers to send Eggplant there with the money he has saved. While Eggplant is away, Cupcake goes through another rut and it starts to show in his shop. That is until Eggplant returns with a gift from Turkish Delight - spices. This pipes Cupcake up and with the encouragement from Eggplant, he decides to join an exotic baked goods contest. Will they win?

The story has a lot of adult mentality, helping out a friend, working hard towards a goal, and trying new things were good lessons to include, but I don't know any third grader that feel like they're stuck in a rut or have best friends that get laid off. Out of creativity and ideas? Maybe. Yet, I was surprise to see that Justin was still able to enjoy it. He laughed at the play on words and even pointed out the comical scenes in the art. At the end, I asked, "did you like the book?" to which his reply was, "yes."

Recipe projects in this book include: how to make sugared flowers; marzipan dog and marzipan cat (one of Turkish Delight too); raspberry squares; brownies; vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting; dog treats; and peppermint brownies. In additional, we learn at the end of the book that Sara Varon spent time at Cheeks Bakery (but, now closed) in Brooklyn to learn about the daily routine of running a bakeshop! Now that sounds like fun research!

Disclaimer: Interior artwork posted with permission from First Second. A review copy of Bake Sale was sent to us for review from Gina at First Second. No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Short & Sweet Cupcakes

1945 Avenue Road
Toronto, ON M5M 4A2
Tel: (416) 519-6633

After hearing about Short & Sweet Cupcakes, I told Howard that I wanted to check it out. The shop is right on Avenue Road, visible by the hot pink signs and chairs.

Inside, the shop is nice and bright, we can see the full cupcake trays and friendly staff working on grabbing cupcakes for the steady stream of families that came in.

The window display - looks like it's a back-to-school theme!

All the cupcakes are behind a glass pane, seated on trays or cake stands, and they're clearly labeled!

There's the gigantic menu hanging on the wall. Luckily for us, all the flavours are available on Saturday.

We picked the Lemon Drop Cupcake, a lemon cupcake with raspberry buttercream. The cupcake is dense, but the texture was fine - it just depends if you prefer light airy cakes over the pound cake versions. The frosting is piled on a garnished with a lemon candy. The cupcake didn't reach a strong citrus or tart flavours that I love in lemon and raspberry, but was still enjoyable.

Our second choice was their seasonal cupcake for August - the Banana Split. This was a banana cupcake with a chocolate ganache filling, topped with vanilla buttercream, chocolate drizzle and sprinkles. The chocolate ganache was delicious, but that frosting to cake ratio was too high for us. You can see the two levels of buttercream swirls piled on top of the cupcake. It just made the cupcake really, really sweet for us, and over powered the banana flavour.

It's not in our neighbourhood, but while we were there for the short period of time, lots of families came in to buy cupcakes. There was one funny conversation that we overheard between a mother and daughter:

"Mom, can we buy the bottle of sprinkles so that I can eat them all?"
"Err... maybe next time."
"Oh I can't wait! I'm going to eat all the sprinkles."

You might have noticed that there were two mini cupcakes in our first photo. The owners were kind enough to offer samples to the children and seeing us with our cupcakes, gave each of us one too. That mini chocolate cupcake was yummy, we simply can't resist fudge-like buttercream!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

To continue on our fun weekend recap (before this weekend begins), we tried a bunch of new things. First stop was lunch at The Burger's Priest. While Howard and I have been there before, we recently learned about their secret menu. It all started with Karen from Eat Here Next, I forwarded her post to Howard and it was pretty much settled that we would be trying the Tower of Babel.
Howard has also been whining about eating a grilled cheese sandwich. It seemed silly to me if we went to buy just a sandwich - after all, you can grill one at home pretty easily. However, this was an exception since the grilled cheese sandwiches represented the top and bottom buns of this burger. If you're wondering what the break down is, it's:

Grilled cheese sandwich + lettuce + beef patty + breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom caps + beef patty + grilled cheese sandwich = Tower of Babel

We also ordered chili cheese fries and a bottle of water to go with this. Since I felt that this was a gigantic burger, I told Howard we would be sharing it. The meal ended with Howard telling me he wasn't sharing next time. =P

Next stop, we headed to King West to O&B Canteen for some dessert. This wasn't because they're known for spectacular desserts, but because we wanted to relax somewhere before our main event started (see below), plus we've never been!
I ordered their fruit sorbets, which was green apple, raspberry, and lemon that day. I found that the texture was different for the green apple flavour, icier than the raspberry and lemon. The raspberry and lemon were smooth and nicely tart.
Howard picked the Gâteau Basque with lemon gelato. His only comment were the use of floral petals. Hehehe, he didn't like that at all and made a face when he accidentally ate one (after pushing them all aside, there was one hidden underneath).

Our main event was going to the TIFF Bell Lightbox for El Bulli: Cooking in Progress! We had never been to the Lightbox for a film yet, so I was pretty excited. No surprise that the staircase looked like a Bell commercial.
A view of the control booth room.
Howard and I had just watched the Kings of Pastry the week before, so when I heard that El Bulli was still playing, I quickly ordered us tickets. If you're not familiar, El Bulli was a restaurant in Spain owned by Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler, who are known for their avant-garde cuisine. El Bulli has been voted the World's Best Restaurant five times by Restaurant Magazine and had three Michelin stars. (I'm writing this all in the past tense because El Bulli officially closed on July 30, 2011.)

El Bulli used to close for six months of the year to experiment and develop new dishes, and that is how the documentary begins. We watch them clean and pack up their kitchen and travel to their lab in Barcelona. We found this portion of the film to be a bit slow, the chefs would try to find new ways of creating food, document it, file, and organize huge boards listing possible menu items. One of the amusing things was watching them grade each dish, was it worth one star, two stars, or three stars?

Things started to pick up when lab time was over and they went back to operating the restaurant. And what a beautiful location this restaurant is in! Remote and with a beach, this is surely the stuff of dreams! We were delighted to learn that they hired interns in the kitchen. It was fascinating to see how meticulous they were with preparing the restaurant for opening day. The grounds were painstakingly raked, the gardens were groomed, the tablecloths were ironed, and the glassware were spic-and-span. Truly teamwork.

The small portion of food had Howard shaking his head, but the tasting menu usually consisted of 28 to 35 dishes. We see them perfect cocktails and snacks through trial runs and a full service test in which Ferran Adrià tastes and jots down his critiques and notes. We really felt his dedication and constant desire for improvement.

After the film, we were quite hungry, so we stopped by Nota Bene for dinner. Another new restaurant for us, we had heard good things about it and Chef David Lee was a judge on Top Chef: Canada! To start, Howard and I tried the Yucatan hot and sour soup (with smoked chicken, goji berries, and coriander) and the Crisp duck salad (with green papaya slaw and cashews). Of the two, we both preferred the refreshing salad.

Howard noticed that two of his dishes were garnished with flower petals that day. First, his Gâteau Basque at O&B Canteen and then the duck salad. Does food taste better with flowers or are they simply there for looks? Both Howard and I tucked ours aside and avoid eating them.
Howard tried the Grilled "rare" hangar steak. I don't know why I did it, but I ordered a burger for dinner. Jennifer's Stilton beef brisket burger with pomme frites. It was a let down compared to the Burger's Priest we had at lunch. The waitress had asked me how I wanted it cooked - I asked for medium since I didn't want to risk under-cooked burger. It came pretty rare inside, even Howard looked skeptical. On the up side, the pomme frites were delicious!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Joanna and Julian

This has been one fantastic weekend and I'm so eager to share it with you, because it contained so much happy stuff!

First, we got to make lots of chocolate cupcakes for Joanna and Julian's wedding day. Now, who doesn't like the smell of chocolate wafting out of the oven?

Second, we got to decorate these cupcakes with books! You know how much I love books right? You might also want to check out Joanna and Julian's engagement photos. You can see how much the both of them love reading too! I actually met Joanna through publishing, she also works at a children's book publisher and is a published author. If you like fairy tales, please check out her book, Fractured: Happily Never After?

For their wedding, we made a bunch of books that were monogrammed with the letter "J." This worked out beautifully since both their names started with that letter. Here's how you can make your own fondant books:

Fondant Books

Rolled fondant
Gel paste colours
Clean toothpicks
A rolling pin
A knife

Step 1: Roll fondant on your practice mat or clean work surface. Either use a small rectangle cutter or your clean knife to cut a piece of "pages."
Step 2: If you don't have coloured fondant, dip a clean toothpick into your gel paste and knead it into the fondant. Roll out the coloured fondant and lay the "pages" on top. Use your knife to trim around the three sides.
Step 3: Peel off the excess fondant.
Step 4: Gently fold the book's cover over. If your fondant isn't sticking, dab a tiny bit of water in between the cover and pages.
Step 5: Trim off the excess fondant. Make sure the cover and pages align (if that's the look you're going for).
Step 6: Have fun decorating the book! Create an indent close to the spine for that cinched look. If you have tiny alphabet stamps, emboss your cover with them. Keep them away from the sun and store them in a dry, clean area. Allow them to harden a bit to stay book stiff.

The best part is that you can customize the orientation, colour, spine, cover, and size of these books! You know I love blue and brown:

Some over-sized gift books, I even attempted a die-cut cover:

Here are some landscape books:

Can you guess the letter these cupcakes form from a bird's eye view?

Yes, the letter J!
You probably guessed by now, Joanna and Julian had a book themed wedding. Instead of table numbers, each table represented a favourite book of theirs, and the boutonnieres and bouquet were made from paper (beautiful origami work). I'll share those photos once the photographer sends them to Jo and we get permission to post them here!