the best - vanilla cake

There is nothing fancy about this cake. This is the kind of dessert you make when you need to feed a lot of people and you don't want to go to a huge effort. Chances are, you will have most of the ingredients you need in your pantry already which makes it that much more convenient. The best thing, is that when you walk into the room with the cake in your hands your guests will ooh and ahh. It's that pretty!

I first made this cake about a year ago, when I was assisting food stylist Ruth Gangbar on a Chatelaine photoshoot. I think we made about 3 or 4 of these cakes in total and by the end of the shoot day all of them were gone. If I remember the story rightly, the recipe comes from Chatelaine food editor, Claire Tansey's next door neighbour growing up. I think this was the cake she made for every child's birthday party and any other celebration that was taking place.

Vanilla Cake as it ran in Chatelaine magazine, August 2010.

Here's the recipe.

Vanilla Cake with Summer Fruit (adapted from Chatelaine magazine)


For Cake:

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups milk

For Icing:

3 tbsp milk
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp almond or coconut extract (I used vanilla extract)
Summer fruit to top


Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9x13-in. glass baking dish with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper. Spray again.

Stir flour with baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until butter is creamy. Add sugar. Cream together until fluffy.

Mix in eggs and vanilla. Beat well to incorporate. On low speed, add a third of the flour mixture followed by half of the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour

Scrape into prepared pan. Smooth top gently. Bake in centre of oven until it is deep golden and a cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean, 65 to 75 min. If cake becomes deep golden before it is done baking, cover very loosely with foil. Cool on a rack 20-30 minutes. Flip cake onto serving tray so that the bottom is on top. The bottom of the cake will be the surface you ice.

Whisk milk into icing sugar until smooth. Whisk in extract. Spread over cooled cake. Top cake with summer fruit and enjoy!

{Note: I found I had to play with the proportions of the icing sugar and milk a bit. You want the icing to coat the back of a spoon and slowly drip off. I think the cake looks best when the icing drips down the sides a little bit. Add icing sugar or milk as you need until you attain the right consistency.}

Do you have a basic cake recipe you fall back on again and again? I'm sure there are a thousand ways you could modify this cake as well from adding different fruit toppings to switching up the basic icing. My husband suggested adding lemon zest to the cake and lemon juice to the icing as one example. I'd love to hear how you'd make this cake your own.

Images Credits:

All images The Marion House Book except #2 (Photo: John Cullen)


time for a new blogroll

I have a confession to make, when I started this blog almost a year ago I had no idea what a blogroll was. I actually had to google the word and even then I didn't totally understand what it was. My venture into blogging started right at the end of my maternity leave. I was informed by my old work that they only had 1.5 days a week that they could give me so I had some time on my hands and was looking for a way to be creative and proactive about my life after baby. I was not a blog reader or follower. I think I had visited maybe 3 or 4 sites on the advice of others but really didn't know anything about blogs or the blogging community. My husband suggested I start a blog to log all of the things I was already doing on a daily basis; cooking, decorating, cleaning, child-rearing, etc. I thought it would be a place where family and friends could catch up with my daily activities. I never imagined that I would have readers from all over the world!

Elle Decor via Poetic Home

Over the past year, I've had the chance to get out there in the blogging world and visit hundreds of sites I never knew about when I first created my blogroll. I realized the other day, that it was time to update my list to reflect the blogs I visit on a weekly basis. These are the places that really inspire me and keep me coming back for more. I've taken off a few of the bigger, really popular blogs because we all know about them already. I'm not saying I don't visit these super blogs, I certainly do, but I thought I would make a little room for some of the smaller blogs in the hopes that people visit them as well.

Finally, I'd just like to say that I really wish I had more time in my day to visit all of the beautiful and inspiring blogs out there and leave comments. Unfortunately, it's the one thing that often gets away from me. In addition to writing this blog which I do most evenings from about 8pm onward, I work a few other jobs. I spend three days a week at The Art Gallery of Ontario working as an exhibition designer. I'm currently working on the Abstract Expressionism show which is now on at MoMA and will come to Toronto in late May.

I also assist a fabulous food stylist named Ruth Gangbar. Today, we were working with Chatelaine magazine on a story coming out in the April issue.

Image from a Chatelaine food shoot we worked on in August with photographer John Cullen.

And I also work as a designer, decorating people's homes in Toronto. In the last year, my partner and I have worked on 10 different projects. (I hope to have some photos of one to show you shortly.) Oh and I have a two-year old! Needless to say, at the end of the day I'm lucky to get a blog post up! Having said that, I really do appreciate all your comments and I try my very best to get around and see everyone else's work. I know how hard it is to keep a blog going!

So, please take a look and check out some of the blogs on my blogroll and if you think I'm missing some let me know. I love checking out new sites.

feast for the senses

Every now and then when I have a free day I assist a wonderful food stylist named Ruth Gangbar. Food styling is something I've always been intrigued with so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped at the chance. A recent Chatelaine food shoot we worked on. Photographs - John Cullen

Before I embarked on my life as a designer, I worked as a chef for a few years. While a career in restaurants was not for me, my love of food and cooking has never diminished. This little creative outlet allows me to stay in touch with the culinary scene and spend a few days in the kitchen every month trying out new recipes and getting my hands dirty.

Chatelaine - John Cullen

The other day, we were doing a shoot for next summer for another magazine (yes, that is one of the ways they get those amazing produce shots to you in early spring) with the most amazing heirloom tomatoes I have ever seen; a veritable feast of colour and textures.

The tomatoes have the most wonderful names like Pineapple Fog, Black Krim, New Zealand Pink Pear, Green Sausage, Black Pearl, Green Velvet, and Purple Calabash. All of these monikered varieties came from Vicki's Veggies in Prince Edward County. If you were fortunate enough to be in the area this past weekend you might have attended their annual Heirloom Hurrah Tomato Tasting Festival where they have over 100 varieties of tomatoes to taste!

Images from Vicki Emlaw and Tim Noxon's Farm via John Cullen.

At the end of our shooting day, I was very happy to be able to bring home some of these amazing heirloom tomatoes to try. They really put to shame the tomatoes we get throughout the rest of the year. The smell alone was enough to make your mouth water. All they needed was a little salt and pepper, basil and some good olive oil. Absolutely delicious!