Author Archives: admin

The Grape Escape.

Great Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadot

Do you ever get stuck in a rut? All your favourite shows are on hiatus, you’re eating the same boring meatloaf every monday, all your socks are white, you order the same entree at the same restaurant every date night, the Tim Horton’s barista finishes your sentences and even your shampoo is boring you.

You need to mix it up! Routine is efficient, but, without any relief, it becomes stale and uninteresting. Be spontaneous, take chances, experiment and try new things. I’m not saying you need to go out and buy a motorcycle, dye your hair blue or go skydiving.

There are safer ways to be adventurous, ways that don’t result in road rash or parachute failure. Try out that new Indian restaurant around the corner, give meatloaf night a rest, give that new latte a taste test and buy some polka dots socks for crying out loud!

Or maybe try putting some grapes in your pie. Never heard of it? Now you have! Sound weird? It’s delicious!

Great Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadot

Great Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadot



Great Grape Pie

Source: My imagination.

2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

6 cups grapes of choice
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp quick cooking tapioca

1 egg
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp granulated sugar

Note: I used three different varieties of seedless grapes: green, red and sable. I would suggest using seedless grapes for the best filling texture.

Butter a 9 inch pie pan then set it aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles course crumbs. In a small measuring cup add the vinegar to the milk then drizzle it over top of the flour mixture. Using a spatula lightly stir and fold the liquid into the dry ingredients until it becomes a workable dough.

Using your hands quickly form the dough into two equal balls. Cover them each with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least a couple hours or overnight.

Unwrap one half of dough and place it on on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out using a floured rolling pin into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Roll the circle back onto the rolling pin and use it to transfer the pastry into the prepared pie pan. Smooth it into the corners with your fingers then cut off the excess with a sharp knife.

In another large bowl toss your grapes with lemon juice. In a small bowl mix the sugar and tapioca together then add it to the grapes. Mix that in then let it sit for 15 minutes. Butter the bottom and sides of the bottom pie shell then fill it with the grape filling and smooth them out.

Great Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadot

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

In a small bowl beat together the egg and water. Roll out the other ball of pastry dough the same way you did before except this time cut little polka dots out with a pastry tip. Carefully roll the dotted dough back onto the rolling pin and place it on top of the grape filling. Center the top crust then seal the edges with some water and press the edge securely. Cut off the excess and, using your floured knuckles, form the edge into a pretty fluted pattern. Brush the top with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle it with the reserved sugar.

Place the pie pan on a baking sheet and bake it for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and let it sit for at least 1 or 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Great Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadotGreat Grape Pie because change is good via @hotpolkadot

How To… Er… Wednesday: Easy As Pie.

How to prevent your proce crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!

I’ve never really understood that phrase. Making pie isn’t exactly an easy task but eating pie is definitely both easy and delicious.

That’s what the phrase really refers to: something that’s simple and pleasurable. Like bubble baths, curling up with a good book and cuddling puppies. Try cuddling puppies in the bath with your favourite book while eating a slice of pie and you’ve really got something!

Pie crust can be kind of finicky at times. You might have formed the dough perfectly, tried the frozen butter trick, let it chill overnight and your pie still shrivels up like a raisin when you bake it. You’ve probably scratched your head about the mysteries of shrinking pie crust, but never really worried about it because, though it might be ugly, it tastes beautiful.

Today I’ll impart on you the little tips and tricks that you can utilize to avoid the dreaded shrunken pie crust. Making your pie can be just as easy as eating it!

Make sure to come back soon to find out what flavour this glorious pie is!

You’ll need…

Chilled pie dough, halved and wrapped in plastic wrap
Flour
Rolling pin
Pie pan, buttered
Unsalted butter
Filling of choice
Water
Pastry brush

It doesn’t matter what recipe you choose, pie crust can always shrink if you handle it improperly or lack the patience to prevent it. Chilling your pie dough after mixing it up is absolutely essential. I chill mine overnight, but, if time isn’t willing, an hour or two will work in a pinch. When you handle pie dough this causes the gluten in the flour to tighten and, if not given enough time to relax, the gluten will result in shrinkage.

Knowing that makes the next steps super simple. Every time you work the dough, you need to let it rest to relax the gluten. Anytime you mix, knead, roll, form or fill the dough you need to give it a little time out to recover. Overworking the dough is a definite no-no. When adding the liquid, do it gradually and, when it looks like it’s coming together into a ball, stop. Overworking the dough will also cause the butter to melt and your crust to be tough as a result.

What you need to know is that the cold is your friend. Whenever you let the dough rest, put it in the fridge for a few minutes and, right before baking, put it in the freezer for a few more. Just like you would chill cookie dough or freeze a tart shell, it helps the pie dough keep its form.

How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!

On a floured surface, roll out one half of your chilled pie dough for the bottom of your pie. When you’ve reached the desired diameter, gently place the dough in the prepared pie pan. It’s crucial not to stretch your dough to fit in the pan. Doing this will definitely cause frustrating shrinking to occur. Press the dough into the pie pan and cut off the excess leaving a generous half inch overhang.

Refrigerate the bottom of your pie for about 10 – 15 minutes before filling it. Before filling your pie, coat the bottom and sides of the unbaked crust with unsalted butter. This doesn’t have anything to do with preventing shrinking, but it does a great job preventing soggy pie crust. Once you’ve filled your pie with your desired filling pop it in the fridge to rest while you prepare the top crust.

How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!

On a floured surface roll out the other half of chilled dough like you did the first. Cut the dough into strips for a lattice top or braided crust, or cut shapes out for a polka dot top like I have. Carefully place the top crust on the filled pie then secure the edges by brushing water between the top and bottom crust and pressing the edges securely. Some people brush water on the bottom crust’s edge then place the top crust. This might be easier, but leaves no margin for error since the water will act as glue and stick as soon as you let the top crust touch the bottom.

Cut off the excess and form the edge however you desire. That half inch overhang that I mentioned earlier can be your back-up plan. Always have a relatively wide edge on your pie just in case any shrinking occurs. If you have a wide edge, shrinking will be less noticeable.

How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!How to prevent your pie crust from shrinking. It's easy as pie!

Pop the pie in the freezer for 10 – 15 minutes before baking it in a preheated oven.

And there you have it! It might seem complicated at first, but really you just need to be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Just remember that the cold is your friend and the rest will come naturally.

How To Tuesday: Petal To The Metal.

How to achieve the petal frosting technique via @hotpolkadot

You know that picture in your head, the impossibly perfect one? You see it when you’re imagining how that royal icing flood will turn out. You see it in the back of your mind when attempting a side dutch braid. You see it clearly when you’re trying to match that DIY project you saw on Pinterest. Then suddenly your flood fails, your braid is broken and your DIY is a major don’t.

We probably set ridiculously high expectations for ourselves. I know I do. I’m pretty sure I can count the number of times reality matched my imagination on one hand. This is one of those times.

I’ll admit I was terrified to try this frosting technique. It’s trendy, it’s cute and it looks super complicated. For a perfectionist like myself, I was certain it would be a flop. I was worried the consistency of the frosting would be too thick, too dry and just not friendly. I was worried my rows would start slanting and look crooked. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough frosting to finish.

All my worrying was for nothing. This technique is deceptively easy to pull off and very forgiving. The recipe I used was the perfect consistency and even the exact amount.

You want to make a petal cake of your own? Sure you do!

How to achieve the petal frosting technique via @hotpolkadotHow to achieve the petal frosting technique via @hotpolkadot

Start by dirty icing your layer cake with the frosting of your choice and letting that set. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip with the remaining frosting.

Pipe a vertical row of 4 – 6 dots about 1/2 – 1 inch in diameter. Depending on the height of your cake, you may need to adjust either the size or number of dots. Once you have your line of dots, use a palette, butter knife or even a spoon to smush down one side of each dot to form a line of petals.

How to achieve the petal frosting technique via @hotpolkadotHow to achieve the petal frosting technique via @hotpolkadot

Pipe your next row of dots over top of the skinny side of the finished petals to hide it and continue the pattern. Then just repeat the petal process until you’ve got one glorious petal cake.

It’s an impressive and trendy design but a lot easier than it looks. It looks intimidating, but you’ll realize quickly that it’s so simple and super fun! Impress your guests at your next shindig or wow your relatives at the next birthday party!

Wordsmith.

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadotChocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

I’m a huge fan of the written word. I love reading it, I love writing it and, above all, I love learning more about it. I’m one of those people that, when encountering a new word in a book, I immediately look up the definition. I can’t read on without it. It’s like stepping out your door with only one shoe on. You feel incomplete, imbalanced and unsure. You can stumble upon misconception just like a rusty nail.

I use my dictionary app more than my angry birds app. I probably google the origin of words and phrases at least five times a day. I just hunger for words, for knowledge, for understanding. I’m the sort of person that can’t be content in knowing a thing, I have to know why and how and sometimes when and where too.

It fascinates me that, in the grand scheme of things, English is a relatively new language and therefore borrows from other European languages. There are few English words that you can bring to mind today that aren’t influenced by another language either loosely or literally. Decimation comes from the Latin word decimatio, a punishment practice implemented by Roman generals whereby a legion would be separated into groups of ten and made to draw lots to determine the tenth to be executed. We even use words on a daily basis that are completely in another language like entrepreneur, kindergarten and chocolate.

English is this inconstant creature forever in a state of flux. It’s constantly absorbing information, always influenced by culture and changing to meet our needs. We’ve gone from Beowulf to Romeo and Juliet to Great Expectations to Harry Potter. Fedex, dance-off and muggle are in the dictionary for crying out loud!

While it’s easy to take the low road and subscribe to the opinion that popular acronyms like OMG, YOLO and LOL are somehow the architects of the English language’s demise, I prefer another theory. We’re just entering a different stage of evolution. Do you think Shakespeare and Dickens could carry on a coherent conversation without cliff’s notes? We might resist at first, but eventually the transition will come naturally.

Words are magical. Words can frighten you, delight you, thrill you and definitely inspire you. With words I can’t paint beautiful pictures before your mind’s eye. With just a few words you can be saddened, overjoyed or enraged.

For example, I could tell you that this cake is the perfect balance of chocolate and orange, bitter and sweet, rich and light, dark and bright. I could tell you that beneath waves of velvety Dark Chocolate Frosting lies a cake striped with ribbons of deep chocolate and fruity orange surrounding and thick layer of aromatic Orange Curd. Each bite is so tantalizing to all five senses we may need to define a sixth or seventh. Immediately you should begin to feel the physiological effects of these few choice words. Your pupils start to dilate, your eyes widen, your mouth waters, your stomach growls and suddenly that cookie you’re about to stuff in your face doesn’t seem good enough.

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot



Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake

Source: Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart’s Dark Chocolate Frosting.

4 egg yolks
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp oil

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp orange extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp oil

1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Make the Orange Curd first since it needs time to set in the refrigerator.

In a small sauce pan combine the egg yolks, orange zest, orange juice and sugar with a whisk. Cook it over medium high heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 8 – 10 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and registers 160 degrees on a thermometer.

Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the salt and butter, one tbsp at a time and stirring until it’s smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a medium sized bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the Orange Curd so as to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate it for at least an hour before using it to allow it to set.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of your knife. Blend in the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil. Set the batter aside and start working on the orange batter.

In a large bowl an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Add the orange zest and orange extract.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil.

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

Now the fun part! Alternate spoonfuls of chocolate and orange batter in each prepared cake pan, layering one on top of the other while they spread out forming tiger stripes. Bake them for 40 – 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let them sit until they’re cool enough to touch and flip them out on cooling racks to cool completely. Level off the cooled cake layers with a cake leveller or a long serrated knife.

To make the Dark Chocolate Frosting, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl until the cocoa powder is dissolved and smooth then set it aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. On low speed, blend in the cooled chocolate and cocoa mixture.

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadotChocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

To assemble the cake, center the bottom layer of cake on your cake plate. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip with the majority of the frosting. Pipe a thick border of frosting around the inside edge of the cake then fill it with a generous layer of Orange Curd. Place the top layer of cake on top and, with a palette knife, cover the entire cake with a thin crumb coat of frosting. To achieve the petal frosting effect, come back on tuesday for the tutorial. Enjoy!

Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadotChocolate Orange Tiger Cake via @hotpolkadot

My Mind Lets Go A Thousand Things.

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadot

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadotChocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadot

I’ve always been fascinated by the things our mind chooses to remember and the things it chooses to forget.

I can’t remember learning to whistle, but I can vividly remember that time in fifth grade when Justin Kennedy flashed one of his perfect smiles at me. That terrible haircut I got to impress him thankfully didn’t last for long and my whistling skills have only improved.

I can’t remember the moment I met my best friend, but I can clearly recall my recurring childhood nightmares about ET. He hid in my closet mostly and creeped up on me with his weird glowing finger. I’m still terrified of ET, but at least my best friend understands me.

I can’t recollect the details of that amazing Radiohead concert, but I can remember every excruciating hour that my cat was lost by the airline. My cat is subsequently terrible at travelling, but my souvenir Radiohead t-shirt is still my favourite despite the holes and faded patches.

Sometimes it even feels like the space between our ears is finite. You learn a new friend’s name and suddenly you forget your PIN number. You finally memorize your favourite pizza dough recipe and you forget who your eighth grade math teacher was. You cram for your written driving test and instantly forget which key fits in the back door deadbolt.

Here to illustrate my point is Thomas Bailey Aldrich with one of my favourite poems, both beautiful and aptly named, Memory.

My mind lets go a thousand things,
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour –
‘Twas noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue moon in May –
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then pausing here, set down its load
Of pine scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

I remember seeing my sweetie for the first time. He was framed in my basement apartment peephole nervously shifting his weight to one foot while clutching a bouquet of flowers. I remember hearing his voice for the first time and being startled by how deep and warm it was. I remember how much his whiskers tickled when I kissed him. I look forward to capturing little mental snapshots like these in the years to come.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope it’s one to remember!

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadot

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadot



Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake

Makes 1 loaf cake.

Source: My imagination.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup raspberry puree
1 tbsp raspberry jam
1 tbsp oil

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp oil

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Grease a heart shaped cupcake silicone mold and set it aside. If you don’t have a mold like that, butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan and set it aside.

In a large bowl an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the raspberry puree and oil. Lastly, mix in the raspberry jam.

Divide the batter between the prepared heart shaped cups then bake them for 15 – 20 minutes until the tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out moist but not goopy. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely. If you opted for the cake pan instead of the heart molds, cut out your heart shapes with a cookie cutter once the cake is cooled.

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadotChocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake via @hotpolkadot

Grease a 9 inch loaf pan and fit a piece of parchment paper inside with enough overhang to lift the baked cake out.

In a large bowl an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil.

Pour enough batter into the prepared loaf pan that you just cover the bottom. Place a row of raspberry cake hearts down the middle and cover them with the remaining batter. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle and sides comes out clean. It will bake considerably quicker than you average loaf cake with the raspberry cake inside. Leave it to sit until the pan is cool enough to touch safely then, using the parchment overhang, pull the cake out to cool completely.

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it aside. Combine the cream and butter in a small sauce pan and heat it on medium heat until the butter melts and the cream just reaches a boil. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit covered for a few minutes before stirring it until it’s smooth.

Pour the ganache over the cooled cake for a luscious chocolate glaze. Slice and enjoy!

Chocolate Raspberry Forbidden Love Cake7

Death By Chocolate And The Birth Of A Blog.

Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadotDeath By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadot

Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadot

Three years. I can’t believe it’s really been three years. Three years ago today I timidly introduced myself and stepped into the blogosphere. I baked cookies, snapped some photos, met you fine folks, wrote about life and wrote about love, laughed, learned, grew.

I want to say thank you for being so patient with me. I’ve been pretty absent pretty often and I appreciate your understanding. Life’s been a little nuts recently and I haven’t had the time to bake elaborate cakes and roll out flaky pie crust.

So I thought you deserved a little something special to celebrate. Hot Polka Dot is as much about you as it is about me.

What could be more decadent that chocolate? How about three different kinds of chocolate? White chocolate cheesecake sandwiched between dark chocolate cake riddled with milk chocolate chips, enrobed in whipped dark chocolate ganache frosting and topped with a trinity of chocolate curls.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Cheers to Hot Polka Dot, cheers to you, cheers to cake and cheers to three more years!

Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadotDeath By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadot

Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadot



Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake

2 pkg (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 vanilla bean
6 ounces (1 cup) white chocolate, melted and cooled
2 eggs

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 eggs
2 1/2 cup flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 cup milk chocolate chips

10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the over to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a 9 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper on the bottom and a ring around the edge. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil and place it in a shallow baking pan full of water that reaches halfway up the pan.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla seeds until combined well. Add the cooled white chocolate and mix well. Blend in the eggs one at a time until just barely blended.

Pour it into the prepared pan and bake it for 30 to 45 minutes until the center is almost set but still a little jiggly. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool inside for an hour. Bring it out and let it cool to room temperature with an inverted plate on top. Let it set in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

Next make the chocolate cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of your knife. Blend in the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake them for 30 – 40 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let them sit until they’re cool enough to touch and flip them out on cooling racks to cool completely. Level off the cooled cake layers with a cake leveller or a long serrated knife.

Death By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadotDeath By Chocolate Cheesecake Cake via @hotpolkadot

While the cake cools make the whipped chocolate ganache frosting. Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it aside. Combine the cream and butter in a small sauce pan and heat it on medium heat until the butter melts and the cream just reaches a boil. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit covered for a few minutes before stirring it until it’s smooth.

Let the ganache reach room temperature before whipping it with an electric mixer until it lightens in colour and becomes light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of chocolate cake on you cake plate. Follow that with a generous layer of whipped chocolate ganache frosting. Place the set cheesecake on top then another layer of frosting and, finally, the other layer of chocolate cake. Ice the entire cake with the rest of the frosting. Enjoy!

And The Winner Is…

Congratulations Siri of Cooking With Siri! You are the proud new owner of Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever!

It’s a beautiful book and I just know you’re going to love it! Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address to receive the book.

Thank you to everyone else who entered! I enjoyed reading about your favourite vanilla treats!

Pure Vanilla.

When I found out my friend, Shauna of Piece of Cake was releasing yet another amazing cookbook, I was so happy for her! Then I found out it was all about one of my favourite things ever and I was thrilled. Then I found out I could get myself a review copy plus a giveaway copy for you and my head exploded.

Pure Vanilla is aptly named. The rustic photos, heartfelt descriptions and homey recipes all lend to the organic, unrefined and untouched beauty that is the vanilla bean. Vanilla has become synonymous with words like safe, predictable and ordinary. Shauna shows us how to look at vanilla in a different light, a soft natural light. Vanilla is unassuming, but not bland. Vanilla is familiar, but not boring. Vanilla is nostalgic, but not antiquated. Vanilla is sexy, beautiful and adventurous.

Pure Vanilla’s recipe index ranges from the tried and true to the exciting and new. Name your favourite vanilla recipe and this book has it! Everything from luscious Vanilla Buttercream to Vanilla Cream Pie, Vanilla Bean Marshmallows to Vanilla Ice Cream. Then there’s a few recipes I bet you’ve never tried like Twinkie Bundt Cake, Candied Vanilla Popcorn and Vanilla Martinis.

When I saw Shauna’s recipe for Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies, I knew it was the perfect recipe to share with you at this festive time of year. These cookies were bursting with vanilla flavour and were melt-in-your-mouth soft. They’re cookies best served on a plate to Santa or to loved ones accompanied with a tall glass of milk.

So you want to win a copy of Pure Vanilla? Of course you do!

Just use the simple Rafflecopter widget below for several different ways to enter! The terms and conditions are listed at the bottom. Just leave a comment below letting me know what your favourite vanilla treat is. This mandatory entry opens up three more enxta entries so make sure to make good use of them! The giveaway is open until Friday December 22nd at midnight.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Heirloom Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 vanilla beans
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, room temperature
2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup vanilla sugar

Note: Instead of using a flat-bottomed glass to press your cookies, try using a vase or glass with a patterned-bottom. This gives the cookies a unique look!

Preheat the over to 350 degrees and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of your knife. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla seeds until it’s pale in colour.

In a small bowl whisk together the oil and egg then slowly add it to the butter mixture until it’s smooth.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt then gradually add it to the butter mixture until you have a soft evenly incorporated dough.

Scoop about 1 – 2 tbsp of dough for each cookie and roll into a ball, placing twelve balls on each cookie sheet. Spread your vanilla sugar out in a shallow dish and, with the bottom of a damp glass pressed in the vanilla sugar, press each cookie into a 1/4 inch thick disc. Dip your glass in the vanilla sugar before flattening each cookie to ensure maximum sugar deliciousness. Bake them for about 10 – 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until they’re slightly golden brown on the edges. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

How To Tuesday: The Gift.

I am a gifted gifter. I’m not the type of person that asks what you want for Christmas. I’m the type of person that, through my powers of deduction and reasoning, I figure out exactly what you want. I daresay I know what you want better than you do.

I live for that warm smile that spreads over a person’s face when they rip that pretty paper open to catch a glimpse of that perfect gift hidden inside. It might not be expensive, or big, or hard to come by, just exactly what they wanted. A wrinkle at the corners of the eyes, a tug at the corners of the mouth. That contagious warmth that began in the first hint of their smile spreads to your heart and keeps you cozy all day.

Some of the best gifts are the unexpected ones. For that kind neighbour that collected your mail while you were away, for that teacher that helped your daughter master the saxophone, for that little boy who shovelled your walkway. Just a little something to say thank you at a time when everyone should be thankful for those around us that do things without expecting a reward.

I think DIY gifts are extra thoughtful and special. Just because it didn’t break the bank doesn’t mean that you didn’t make it with love. Just the fact that you made it with your hands says more than most expensive gifts could.

What better gift to give this holiday season than hot chocolate mix? Show someone how much they warm your heart by warming their belly!

You will need…

2 ounce preserve jars
Measuring spoons
Funnel
Cocoa powder
Granulated sugar
Peppermint candy canes, crushed
Mini marshmallows
Tags
Ribbon

Using the funnel pour 1 tbsp granulated sugar into each jar. Follow it with 1 generous tbsp cocoa powder. Next add 1 tbsp crushed candy cane. Top it off the rest of the way with mini marshmallows. For best results, level each layer carefully before adding the next.

To prepare your Peppermint Hot Chocolate, add the individual mix to a mug of hot milk and stir it until the cocoa isn’t lumpy and the crushed candy cane has melted. To avoid spills and get a smooth drink, pour half the hot milk into the mug and stir in the mix then, once it’s incorporated, add the rest of the milk. Enjoy!

From Us To You!

How’s your holiday shopping going? I’ve got something that will definitely help!

Because you deserve a little something special.

Because this time of year is in the spirit of giving.

Because I like you.

Because I have some amazing friends.

We’re giving one lucky winner a $500 Amazon Gift Card that they can spend on some holiday shopping or on themselves! The giveaway is open to entrants in Canada + the USA only and will run from December 4th through to December 18th.

We’re using Rafflecopter for this giveaway because it’s one of the best, most secure ways to host a giveaway like this. It allows us to store and track entries as we get them and to draw a winner when the giveaway is over. To enter, you can either login to the widget with your Facebook account or with your name and a valid e-mail address. Comments are welcome; however they will not be counted as an entry to the giveaway. You must like all participating sponsors on Facebook in order to successfully enter.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway