RSS Feed

Last Thanksgiving’s Layer “Cake”

Last Thanksgiving’s Layer “Cake”

Before I can post about this year’s (2012) ambitious Thanksgiving potluck dish, I realized I never posted about last year’s dish, the fabulous Thanksgiving layer cake.


Now, this wasn’t just any layer cake. It was a complete thanksgiving dinner shaped into a layer cake. And yes, I did document it along the way.
I stumbled across a blog post documenting this idea, and kept it in the back of my mind until the moment arose to actually undertake making one of my own. The occasion, a tri-campus thanksgiving potluck hosted at our house, also known as the plaid party. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of myself in my hideous plaid shirt, guess you’ll just have to imagine what that looked like.

In any case, here’s the process of the amazing thanksgiving layer cake.


Here are the first few layers. There are two turkey “cake” layers, with mashed potatoes in between, as well as a layer of cranberry sauce, gravy and made from scratch stuffing.


Then I began covering the sides of the cake with mashed potato “frosting”.


Once the sides were covered, I put on a layer of mashed sweet potatoes on top.


Then I covered the top with marshmallows, and here’s where things got complicated. The recipe called for browning the marshmallows by putting them in the broiler for 1 minute. Having never used the broiler. I set it on high, and then left it in for more than a minute. You can probably guess what happened next. I opened the oven and found that the marshmallows had not only blackened, but were on fire. Now, I’ve burned things before, but I have never opened the oven to something in flames! I panic, and two of my “helpful” housemates just laugh, and rather than help, try to photograph the firey mess. Eventually, I pull myself together, blow out the flames, take off the burned marshmallow layer, and try again with fresh marshmallows and the broiler on low. One of my actually helpful housemates, sits with me as we watch it brown and pull it out before it burns. And Tada!


And here’s what it looks like inside:


As you can guess, it was a pretty popular dish. No leftovers of this one!

My Picaken had a hot date with a Turducken

My Picaken had a hot date with a Turducken

At first glance, you’d think this was just a really delicious chocolate cake. But inside this delicious cake is a pie, yes a pie. And not just any pie, a cranberry cheesecake pie.

Last year a friend posted a link to an awesome blog documenting the picaken, and like last year’s layer cake, I was waiting for the opportunity to a actually try making one. And what better opportunity than at a dinner with a turducken.

A good friend and former housemate attempted to make the vastly ambitious Turducken this Thanksgiving. He rallied together a team, named all 3 birds and fit them all together to make what we lovingly called, “Larry”.

When I was first invited to this shindig, I asked if a picaken would also be present, and after defining what one was, I was enlisted to make one. Not just any picaken, but one that had cheesecake worked in too.

So, I consulted a number of blogs, and combined a couple recipes, and here’s what I came up with:


First the ingredients. Yes I didn’t make my pie crust from scratch, I used Pillsbury crescent dough as recommended by the cheesecake pie recipe.


The first step was mixing the cream cheese, butter and sugar together.


I rolled out the crescent dough, and I had a backup pie crust in case.


Then I got ready to add the filling. I also decided to top the filling with some cranberry sauce that I had in the fridge from another thanksgiving inspired dish.


Here’s what the backup pie looked like, and what the recipe pie looked like underneath the toppings.


Then I put on the rolled out top, and as directed by the recipe, made a topping of cinnamon, sugar and butter. But, here’s where I went astray. I should have clued in that I should half that part of the recipe. Especially since the filling was enough to fill 2 pies. But alas I did not.


I smelled the burning before I saw it. Thankfully the pies were fine. But the cinnamon topping had slid off and was burning on the bottom of the oven. The smell was pretty bad. And the house filled with smoke, which was fine as I was home alone as I attempted this recipe. I futilely tried to let out the smoke, but when my housemate came home, she could still see the smoke in the front of the house!



In the end, both pies turned out great! There was a line in the blog post that I really resonated with where the author named that despite the chaos inside her kitchen, she left her pies to cool on the stoop because to any passerby she’d look like she had her stuff together. I wanted to let my pies cool on the stoop, but the rain deterred me, so I let them cool by the kitchen backdoor.


Then, I made the cake batter, and poured a bit in the pan. Then placed my pie in inverted, then covered it with the remaining batter. I let it cook in the oven for 20 minutes, and hoped for the best.


Out of the oven, and cooling by the back door. While I for the first time used the oven cleaner function.


The next morning, I released it from the springform pan.


And covered it with frosting. It made a huge mess, but tasted fantastic! Then I ran into my next problem, packaging it for a 45 minute transit ride to its final destination. I brought back the pan’s ring, and secured it around the cake and to the plate with rubber bands. Then covered the top with tin foil, also secured with rubber bands. (No photos were taken)


After fighting the wind that threatened to take off the tin foil and blow in foreign contaminants, the picaken arrived at the dinner.


What it looked like inside.


A close up of my piece.


And as you can see, it was well enjoyed by all. And now that I know I can make one, I wouldn’t be opposed if the right opportunity came up to make another.

“Fried Chicken just tend to make you feel better about life”

True words spoken from one of my new favorite movies, The Help.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.

I moved this summer, and live in a full house with another IV Staff and 4 IV interns! Each day is an adventure in our house, but for the most part I am loving it!

Wednesdays are my night to cook, and since I only really have to cook one meal a week, I end up being pretty creative.

This week I made FRIED CHICKEN, and now I have a recipe I really enjoy and can refer to rather than spending so much money at Popeyes!

I also host a small group at my house every other Thursday, and we spend 2 hours making meals from the website, “Cooking with the Bible”. This Wednesday, I tested out the recipe for Russet Mashed Potato Casserole, made with yellow fleshed potatoes, as I couldn’t find Russet Potatoes. I also don’t know what Sumac is, so I used a substitute of lemon zest and salt. I also tried to vegan-ize this meal, and made Nayonnaise. Though I didn’t use silken tofu, and my blender is broken, but it turned out ok for the most part.

But the best part was making CAKE POPS! I modified a recipe from the Happy Baker for Pumpkin Spice Cake Pops. Which turned out AMAZING! I love Cake Pops.


Some Weekly Highlights

So, I haven’t been as good at recording my experiments, but I HAVE been experimenting.

Here are some highlights:

Cake Pops

Inspired by Starbucks, I found out how to make this easy treat. The gist is that you make the cake as usual, and then crumble it and mix it with frosting, then form it into balls. Place sticks in the cake balls and put in fridge to chill. Coat with melted chocolate and return to fridge for chocolate to harden, and serve. The recipes I’ve found for this process have been using box cake and canned frosting; but I imagine you could do this easily with cake and frosting from scratch. I often get sent home with boxed cake mix and have found this a helpful way to use up the packages so I can free up pantry space. Also canned frosting is often cheaper than buying the icing sugar needed to make the frosting. The cake pops photographed are Cherry Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting covered in a dark and milk chocolate topping. I also experimented using a Butter Pecan Cake with Vanilla Frosting covered with Melted Butterscotch and SemiSweet Chocolate Chips.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Perogy Stir Fry

I found Cheemo Perogies on sale! On the box was a recipe for Perogy Stir Fry. I was intrigued, and a bit concerned about how that would taste, but decided to try it. I made the stir fry with peppers, snap peas, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots and perogies. I cooked all the ingredients individually, then combined them with a combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and fried them for roughly 5 minutes. It was a little odd to navigate, but the meal turned out great! Unfortunately, the perogies don’t keep well, so the leftovers were a little soggy, but still delicious.

Perogy Stir Fry

Entree Salads

If you ask me, I am not a Salad person. I usually hate having Salad as a meal, but I was inspired by Wendy’s fancy new salad options, and rather than spending $10 for one meal at Wendy’s, I got the ingredients and made a salad that lasted for a few days.

I used a bag salad mix as a base, then added red and green peppers, pecans, gala apples and honey infused goat cheese. I topped the salad with some breaded chicken strips. I ate the salad as is, without any dressing, as the components had enough rich flavours.

I made another entree salad with another bag salad base. I added orange peppers, almonds, and dried cranberries. I topped it with hand-breaded chicken (I learned how to bread chicken, which is SUPER easy!) and used Kraft’s new Creamy Masala Dressing.

Both Salads were delicious and so filling!

My return to chocolate

This year, I gave up chocolate for lent. The decision for this came from realizing I have unhealthy consumption patterns with chocolate, especially as I tended to use it for comfort after a bad day or for late night snacks after work (we’re talking 1 am chocolate binges while streaming TV and then going to bed with all that chocolate just sitting in my system).

So, while it was good for me to let go of the places where I’d made chocolate an idol; there was a second pattern to my chocolate consumption; as most of my friends, co-workers and housemates are all big fans of chocolate. My fast meant comprising spending time with them; and so there were a few instances when I broke lent for the sake of celebrating with people:

– I made and ate Mocha cupcakes for my friend Vanessa to celebrate her finishing her fashion collection.

– I celebrated being close to the end of the semester while using my coffee passport at Bisogno to order Nutella Lattes with Vanessa

– I celebrated Vanessa’s birthday by having a slice of her chocolate ice cream cake

– I celebrated my friend Dave’s birthday by making a chocolate sundae

– I enjoyed chocolate White Russians with a childhood best friend with whom I’d finally been able to reconnect

For my return to chocolate, I made Easter Egg Brownies, a recipe I found in Vanessa’s roommate Amber’s Splenda Cookbook. We modified the recipe to include Nutella, to celebrate the end of Vanessa’s fast of Nutella.

The modified recipe looked like this:

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1/3 cup minus 1 tsp Splenda
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

3 oz milk chocolate


36 chocolate minieggs

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin pan with 12 liners
2. Melt dark chocolate and butter in double boiler or in microwave.
3. Crack eggs and gradually beat sweetener until combined, then beat in melted chocolate mixture. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder into bowl. Add milk chocolate chips and stir ingredients together until just combined.
4. Divide mixture into cups and bake for about 8 minutes or until just firm.

5. To decorate the brownies, shave the milk chocolate into small curls using potato peeler.
6. Spread a thin layer of Nutella over brownies. Top with chocolate curls and minieggs.

Easter Egg Brownies

These were delicious and decadent! I could only manage one at a time; my body couldn’t handle all that chocolate!

Archi’s NEW Yearly Challenge

So, the truth of the matter is that last year’s challenge, was a bit too ambitious for me. I gave up on blogging pretty early in, and gave up on the challenge not soon after.

However, the week’s I stayed strong with the challenge, gave me new skills and techniques and definitely made me a better cook/baker. I learned to fully appreciate meals when out, especially ones that were pretty complicated to remake; but for the most part, i’ve come to realize I prefer making great meals myself as opposed to going out.

In everything I’ve made, or recreated for myself for the sake of the challenge, only one meal stands out as NOT better than restaurant quality, that being Channa Masala; which I also realized I don’t like in large quantities. Apart from that everything else, I’ve made has been a success!

So, I have been thinking what is a reasonable challenge for me this year (and yes I realize it’s nearly half over) and have finally decided on something. So, one thing I take away from this challenge, is that I enjoy challenges; and especially enjoy ambitious cooking/baking challenges. Something about the “Go big or don’t bother” aspect; which made successes feel much more gratifying and failures being something to learn from. On average this year, I’ve been making at least 1-3 ambitious meals per week; for work, personal and social purposes; so my challenge this year will be to continue with my ambitious meal making and to blog about them at least once every 2 weeks.

That being said, look to the next post for my most recent undertakings.

Cupcakes galore

So, its been a while since I’ve updated my yearly challenge. But, I am still going strong (kind of), and experimenting with different creations. Most recently, I have been inspired by a novel about making cupcakes.

Amazon recommended the book to me, shortly after I had discovered Baking Cakes in Kigali, called The Icing on The Cupcake. Now, this book was an infinitely lighter read than Baking Cakes in Kigali, but still very entertaining. It’s your basic chick-lit book, about a spoiled heroine starting over and realizing the folly of her ways, in the meantime using baking as therapy. The last bit is what drew me in, the added bonus was that each chapter of this book ended with a recipe for cupcakes, and after trying the first one, that I was able to view with amazon reader, it became clear to me that I needed to purchase this book. Shortly after purchasing this book and trying some of its creations, I found out that the website, and food blog of the author was up and running, where she had posted most of the recipes found in her book. However, I am still pleased with my purchase, and have started lending the book out to my fellow baking comrades.

Meanwhile, after an unplanned situation with my other job (my not day job), I found myself with the house to myself, with many melancholy moments, requiring what else, but some therapeutic baking. I was actually considering treating myself by going to one of the few good cupcake cafes in Toronto (most located on the east end of the city, which is at least a 1.5 hour commute for me), but then decided I’d try my hand at making one of the more unique options myself. The result: Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream frosting. These turned out AMAZING! I used a decaf Earl Grey, actually I just cut open a Tetley bag (which I’ve never done before). I halved both the cupcake recipe and the icing. The icing turned out really well, I had my doubts but in the end it was smooth and creamy, and with just enough icing sugar to make it slightly harden without making it rock hard like royal icing. I definitely recommend trying this recipe, the cupcakes themselves are really light, and the lemon icing is a great compliment (though the lemon zest and juice combo makes for a pretty flavourful icing, so it might overpower the subtlety of the cupcakes.

There is so much more that I could say about cupcakes but then I’d never finish this blog post, and its been sitting in my draft folder for almost a year, so I’m just going to save my further thoughts and post this as is.