September 20, 2014

Gluten-free and dairy-free buckwheat-grapefruit cake


Hello again.

I made this cake when I was craving a plain baked good. Something humble and rustic, something that would be good served alongside a dollop of whipped cream or simply dusted with icing sugar. And since I had a bag of buckwheat flour, I used it. I really like buckwheat in baked goods, though you have to make sure not to be too heavy-handed or it can get, well, heavy. And dense.

This is a good flour combination that keeps the crumb light. Feel free to play around with it. I made this cake without the grapefruit for some friends who were over for the evening, including my friend Meghan who is very lactose-intolerant. I then made it again, in cupcake form, for Meghan for her first day of teaching Grade 3. I figured she could use a little boost. I decided to add some grapefruit and I think it worked quite well. The glaze makes the cakes very moist and a bit messy to eat, but they don’t fall apart.

As for what’s happening in my life besides cake: We are enjoying the end of summer and the start of fall. Trying to find new rhythms and new routines and stick with them. An ongoing struggle. The past few weeks I have managed to fully plan our week’s suppers in advance, and between Jacques and I, we have executed them. With not too much difficulty. This, I believe, is a victory. It takes time and effort. But it’s worth it.

Gluten-free and dairy-free buckwheat grapefruit cake

Makes one 8 or 9-inch cake or 12 cupcakes

1 tablespoon grapefruit zest (from about one large grapefruit)
130 grams granulated sugar
6 tablespoons dairy-free margarine* (or butter if you can eat dairy), at room temperature
40 g. buckwheat flour
30 g. gluten-free oat flour**
50 g. sorghum flour
35 g. sweet rice flour
35 g. tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) coconut milk (you could sub almond milk or cow’s milk here)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional Glaze***:
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 or 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. If using muffin tins, you can butter them, but a little bit of cake will stick to the bottom of each one. I might try liners the next time.

Measure your sugar into a medium-t0-large bowl and add the grapefruit zest. With your fingers, squish the zest into the sugar until there are no clumps. It should smell fragrant. This will allow the grapefruit oils to flavour the sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.

Add the margarine or butter to the sugar and zest and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add the dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or cupcake tins. If making cupcakes, only fill tins just over half full. It should make twelve cupcakes.

If making a cake, bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake until set and a tester comes out free of crumbs, about 30 more minutes.

If making cupcakes, bake for 5 minutes at 350°F and then turn oven down to 325°F and bake until a tester comes out free of crumbs, about 15 more minutes.

While cake is baking, make your glaze. Whisk together the juice and powdered sugar in a bowl until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Add more sugar or juice to get the consistency you like.

Once finished baking, let the cake(s) cool in the pan on a rack. When it’s not hot anymore but still warm, unmold onto a plate. Drizzle the glaze overtop, letting it drip down the sides. Some will soak into the cake.

* My favourite dairy-free margarine is Earth Balance.

** Most oats are not gluten-free. Make sure you buy oats or oat flour labelled gluten-free. My favourite brand available in Edmonton is Only Oats, which sells rolled, quick, and steel-cut oats as well as oat flour, oat bran, and some muffin and cookie mixes. I usually make my own oat flour by blitzing oats in the food processor. It is not as fine as commercial oat flour but it works well in most recipes, including this one.

*** If you don’t feel like a glaze, simply eat the cake plain, or sprinkle it with powdered sugar and serve with fresh fruit and/or whipped cream.

May 31, 2014

Honey Lemonade


Back again after 7 months. So I'd like to take things slow.

Let's talk about honey lemonade. It's really the perfect summer drink. Refreshing and just sweet enough for me. And as you'll see, very versatile.

A few weeks ago I read about the benefits of drinking hot water with lemon first thing in the morning, before coffee. I decided to give it a try. I didn't notice any physical benefits, like feeling more awake or healthier, but I did realize I actually love the taste of hot water and lemon. As much as that makes me sound like I'm 80 years old.

October 19, 2013

Cactus Club Cafe–Jasper Avenue, Edmonton


Though I'm still struggling to figure out how this blog will fit into my new life, I thought I'd take the opportunity to pop back in and tell you about a restaurant reception I attended last week.

A new Cactus Club Cafe just opened up right in our neighbourhood, at 11130 Jasper Avenue. I was invited to the soft opening reception and took my good friend Irene (Jacques graciously offered to stay home so we wouldn't have to get a babysitter to give Lucie supper and put her to bed).

It was a lovely evening and made us both feel like celebrities, which isn't a bad thing once in a while. I'm sometimes invited to these types of events, but I rarely attend, mostly due to scheduling or because they're difficult to get to on public transport. But this restaurant is so close by that it was easy. And sometimes it's nice to say yes to an evening of free wine and food.


Cactus Club Cafe is a chain that started in Vancouver, and now has over two dozen restaurants across BC and in Edmonton. This is its second Edmonton location, with one at West Edmonton Mall already. The restaurant on Jasper is large, taking up almost the entire front of the building on the corner of Jasper and 111 st. It also boasts a large patio right on the street, complete with small trees and heating lamps (it was closed while we were there, but I noticed now that the restaurant is open for business, the patio is also open). It will be nice to have another big patio in the area come summer. It's also nice to see a new dining option in the Oliver neighbourhood, and so close by to us.

Before the reception, I emailed the media contact to let her know I had celiac disease, and the restaurant was very accommodating. There were several dishes I couldn't eat, but the kitchen also prepared a few small bites just for me, and I was pretty impressed with that. All of the food was delicious, and Irene loved everything she ate too. The wine also flowed freely throughout the evening.

I didn't find the restaurant space particularly exciting, though it was comfortable, with large booths and tables surrounding a bar in the centre of the room. The restaurant is divided into two sections, with the lounge, where we were, on one side and a more formal dining room on the other.



I wasn't really on my blogging game and missed taking any photos of the food, but the tuna tataki with avocado and citrus was a highlight, as well as the quinoa salad with pecans and feta cheese. Irene especially loved the mini bbq duck club sandwich on raisin bread, with crispy duck bacon, and the pineapple hoisin short rib bites.

There were many people from the Cactus Club staff, including managers and the owner, who were in from Vancouver for the opening, and several of them came over and chatted with us. Probably the best part of the evening was getting to meet Chef Matthew Stowe, Cactus Club's head of product development. Matthew is also the winner of Top Chef Canada Season 3. I must admit I've never watched the show, but Jacques and I love the original American series.

We chatted with Matthew and asked him questions about his career and his experience on the show, which was really interesting. He said the producers will often make contestants out to be something they're not, and edit people's comments so they are played completely out of context. Though I'm not really surprised, it was good to get that confirmation. Stowe seemed like a down-to-earth, humble guy, and I'm curious to search some clips from his season and see what he was like on the show.


All in all, it was a treat to be out on the town enjoying good food and wine. I think with this new location being so close, we'll definitely be visiting Cactus Club Cafe in the future.

Cactus Club Cafe
11130 Jasper Ave.
Edmonton, AB

And now for a little perspective, here’s  my usual mealtime view:


I couldn’t check in here without adding a photo of la belle Lucie. Hope to be back soon.

June 22, 2013

Gluten-free vanilla birthday cake


Many months have passed since I last visited this space. My baby has grown into a one-year old. I am now back at work full-time. And for the past four weeks Jacques has been away in Newfoundland on an opera training program, and I’ve been parenting on my own.

For two weeks my mother was here, and it was quite wonderful. She helped enormously with household chores, and just playing with Lucie and cleaning her up and changing her diaper when I needed a minute longer to drink my tea or get dressed.

Since Mom left I’ve had lots of help from my many marvellous friends. But it’s been hard at times. Work is very busy, and when I get home there are a million things to do before I can sit for a few minutes and relax before I go to bed and start all over again.

But I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. Life has been great overall. I’m in a job that I really love, Lucie has taken to daycare like a fish to water, and Jacques is doing incredibly well. All I can say is single parents are to be very admired. Very, very admired.

Well, let’s move onto some food talk, shall we?

A few weeks ago, I made Lucie a birthday cake. I wanted it to be the same as the cakes my Mom always made me when I was a kid. Sometimes she did fancy shapes or new recipes, but the one I remember with the most fondness was called Nanny’s Hot Milk Cake.


It’s basically a plain vanilla cake, but of the best quality. It’s tender and light with a beautiful crumb, sweet but not too sweet, and golden brown on top.  I’m not sure if heating the milk makes a huge difference, but since it’s always delicious, why mess with it? The frosting – a plain, simple buttercream – was customizable, and as a child I remember adoring the peppermint kind.


I set out to recreate this cake, gluten-free, for Lucie’s first birthday. I added some ground almonds to the first one I made, and that turned out to be a mistake. I think they added too much weight and density, because the cake turned out eggy and flat.

The second time, I tweaked the flour mixture, and came away with a winner. I used more starches and fewer whole grains than I usually do, but this is a special occasion cake. It doesn’t taste exactly like the one from my childhood, but pretty darn close. Most importantly, it’s tender, moist and fluffy. And everyone at Lucie’s birthday party enjoyed it.

Lucie was recovering from stomach flu on the day of her party and didn’t even taste the cake. But I don’t think she cared much. I’m sure she’ll grow to love Nanny’s Hot Milk Cake just like I did.

Bonne fete ma belle, belle cocotte!


Gluten-free Vanilla Birthday Cake

Makes two 8 or 9-inch layers. Halve the recipe for one layer. This also makes wonderful cupcakes. One layer equals about 12 cupcakes.

1 cup milk
4 eggs
1. 5 cups white sugar
92 g. sorghum flour
68 g. white rice flour
40 g. sweet rice flour
56 g. potato starch
20 g. tapioca starch
4 tsp. baking powder
56 g. (1/4 cup) butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour your cake pans. You can use 8-inch or 9-inch round pans, or even 8 x 8-inch square pans if you prefer.

Put milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat when it is scalded – there will be tiny bubbles around the edge and steam rising from it.

Meanwhile, break eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light yellow and creamy. Keep a close watch on the milk.

Add sugar to eggs and beat until thickened.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and add to sugar and eggs about half at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add vanilla extract and mix in well.

Add butter to the hot milk and stir a few times until it melts. Pour into the cake mixture and fold gently until it is all mixed in. The batter will be quite liquidy.

Pour batter into pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The original recipe calls for less time, but my cakes took about 40 minutes. When done, they will be golden brown on top and a tester inserted into the centre will come out clean.

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup (113 g) softened butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla, almond extract, peppermint extract, etc. *

Cream butter with an electric mixer until smooth and soft.

Add sugar a little bit at a time, until mixture becomes quite stiff  (do not add it all).

Stir in about half the milk and beat well.

Add the rest of the sugar, the milk and the flavouring.

Beat until smooth and light. This takes a lot of beating. The frosting will increase in volume and become fluffy.

Wait until cakes have cooled completely before frosting.

*Variation with Chocolate: Add 2 squares (56 g.) of melted, unsweetened chocolate to the frosting in the last step.