Friday, 15 March 2013

Vancouver's Best Cupcake & Bakery Offerings!


So, we are now more than halfway through our time in Vancouver! It's crazy to think that we have been here this long...and that the rain still hasn't gone away yet! Everyone warned me before I left that it rains a lot in Vancouver, and I was like 'yeah, yeah I know'.  Kind of like that time when I spent a year studying in Scotland and before I left everyone told me Scottish people hate English people and I was all like 'yeah, yeah so I've heard' and then I got there and they really did! and so it has been with Vancouver...I was anticipating rain, but this much rain I could never have comprehended!! I swear I will never complain about the rain in England when I return because it will be nothing compared to what I've experienced here!! 

Anyway rainy ramblings aside, I thought it was time to do a round up of all the sweet treats I've been enjoying on the west coast! Vancouver has surprised me in that I thought they would have tons of awesome cupcake bakeries, but really they don't.  

In my first week here I ventured to Cupcakes, which is perhaps the most famous and one of the only sole cupcake bakeries in Van city.  The two owners even have their own T.V show that I had watched a couple of times on sky back in the UK so I was pretty excited about trying their cupcakes!

In my opinion, they're pretty standard.  Standard flavours, standard decorations and really not very exciting at all! I hate cupcakes that only have frosting on top with no other edible decorations.  We tried this chocolate cupcake with pink coloured vanilla frosting and it was just okay for me.

A few weeks later we stumbled upon them at the night market and so I decided to give them another shot.  I went with their coconut cupcake with cream cheese frosting, topped with shredded coconut.  

I couldn't taste any coconut flavour which as a coconut obsessive was pretty disappointing! (and yes I am wearing my American flag Canada, what can I say!)

The only other dedicated cupcakery that I know of in the city is called Cassia Cupcakery.  One night, I knew my husband would be venturing to that side of the city so I hinted heavily that if he should stumble past that cupcake shop he should go inside and buy us some! Unfortunately I wish he hadn't wasted his money.  He brought us home a peanut butter cupcake and a 'strawberry cheesecake' cupcake.  

My strawberry cheesecake cupcake was vanilla cupcake with a scraping of cheesecake mix on top of the cupcake and then some pink frosting swirled on top.  None of it tasted like strawberry and I would have expected at least a cheesecake filling or a cheesecake topping, not just a scraping of it across the top! It was a pretty weird cupcake that I didn't end up finishing.  We had to throw my husbands away because the peanut butter frosting was so weird! We both took a bit and were looking at each other like 'what is this!'.  It confuses me how people can have a sole business dedicated to cupcakes and yet they sell creations that aren't even edible! 

So things were looking pretty bad on the cupcake side of things here in the city! and then I read online about this cute little place called Butter Baked Goods.  Again, it's pretty far away from where we live and without a car sometimes making 3 different bus trips seems extreme.  So when we hired a car to pick up our Christmas tree, I worked out if we were very quick we could make a detour to this bakery and still get our hire car back on time.

As soon as I stepped through the doors, I let out a squeal of excitement...this was exactly the kind of bakery I'd been looking for! Excuse the poor quality phone pics! but I was met with rows of freshly baked cupcakes, layer cakes, brownies in assorted flavours, campfire bars, mini lemon meringue pies, homemade s'mores, homemade marshmallows and just counters full of deliciousness! 

There was sooo much to choose from! I went with their coconut brownie, of course, and it was sooo delicious!

A few weeks later my husband brought me one of their chocolate and peppermint candy cane cupcakes which was the best Vancouver cupcake I've had so far! I have a week off work next week because of spring break and you can bet I will be making that 3 ride bus trip to Butter Baked Goods!

Whilst Vancouver hasn't quite lived up to my expectations on the cupcake side of things, there are still plenty of other delish treats! My absolute favourite find in Vancouver is Lucky's Doughnuts, found inside Parallel 49th Cafe...

I got taken here in the first week we arrived! and was met with this cabinet of excitement...

Of course I had to go for the coconut cream pie flavour! I'm pretty sure it was the yummiest doughnut to ever pass my lips! and since then I have tried their mango doughnut which is filled with a mango curd and covered in a mango is equally as amazing!

The last time I went there they were pretty thin on the ground with their flavours so I picked up this lemon bismark.  Again, it was one of the best doughnuts I've ever eaten - they can do no wrong! 

I'm also in love with their beautiful turquoise crockery! 

For the best pie in need to head to Aphrodite's, an organic pie cafe out in Kitsilano! I was expecting a delish piece of pie, I was not expecting the biggest piece of the most over the top pie I've ever seen in my life....

That right there is a slice of chocolate raspberry cream pie! and is the best pie I have ever eaten! It didn't come cheap at $9.25 for one slice but it fed me for 3 days in a row so I'd say it was worth it! 

We also found the biggest cookies I've ever seen in my life in Whistler at a little coffee shop called Mogul's.  I got the raspberry oatmeal flavour, and it was seriously tasty! 

The other sweet treat you can't miss out on when you go to Whistler is a beavertail! 

Our favourite flavour is the one smothered in chocolate, peanut butter and reese's pieces! It's like a baked pastry spiced with cinnamon and it is sooo delicious, and hits the spot on a cold snowy day! 

Last time we also tried the warm cinnamon apple flavour.  I can't recommend these pastries enough!

If you follow my blog, you'll know of my love for s'mores! so when I found out that this chocolate cafe downtown called Mink did a s'mores fondue I was there like a bear!

It was super fun! They brought this cute little tray to our table, and we were able to toast our own marshmallows over this little burner.

and then dip them in the oh so tasty melted chocolate and make up your own little s'mores using the graham crackers provided! 

It was the perfect way to spend a chilly rainy afternoon! 

I realise this blog post is getting a little long, so I'll leave you with one more cupcakery and probably my favourite one in B.C so far.  It's in a little fishing village called Steveston, about 30 minutes away from Vancouver itself and it's called Bell's Bakeshop.

The reason I knew it was going to be a great cupcakery was because the owner used to work at Angel Food Bakery in Brighton before opening up her own cupcakery over here.  Angel Food is one of my fave U.K bakeries! so I knew before we had even arrived that the cupcakes were going to be good!

We were met with cabinets full of tasty looking cupcakes! 

I, of course had my eye on the Oreo crumb covered one!

Although, this malteser layer cake was rather tempting too! 

Byron went for the chocolate peanut butter combo, complete with the dreamiest peanut butter frosting and reese's pieces to finish it off! It was everything a cupcake should be! 

My Oreo cupcake had big chunks of Oreo throughout the vanilla cupcake and then it was covered with a creamy frosting, surrounded with Oreo crumbs and a mini Oreo on top! I was in cupcake heaven! and was happy that I'd finally found a good cupcakery in B.C! If only it wasn't so far from my house! It took us 2 buses and a skytrain and journey time of over an hour! but I'm sure we'll be back, the cupcakes will be calling my name! 

So that's my little roundup...if you ever find yourself in Vancouver and are in need of a sweet treat hopefully this will help you out and if you know of any places I've missed please let me know! 

Friday, 1 March 2013

The BEST Key Lime Pie!

So my love of key lime pie is pretty well known! I will pick a restaurant solely based on the fact that they serve key lime pie for dessert, without evening glancing at the rest of the menu! but who can blame me? It's a pretty rare occurrence to see it on a menu over here...and pretty non existent to see it on a menu back in England! So I usually make do with making my own!

We were heading to dinner at our friends house the other weekend and I knew that key lime pie was also our host's favourite dessert, and since I am now able to buy a whole bag of real key limes over here I knew there was no other option but to whip one up! 

I started with scouring the internet and finding this Martha recipe.  Martha never lets me down! I was excited for the baking to commence!

After baking the graham cracker crust first and then baking it again once you bake the filling, I was worried the crust would be slightly overdone.  I also had lovely visions in my head of little piped swirls of cream just around the edge of the pie, in order to let the real star of the pie shine through...however those plans fell apart when my cream wouldn't whip to a stiff enough consistency (the curse of Canadian 'whipping cream' strikes again!).  By this point I had pretty much convinced myself this was not going to be a good pie so I didn't bother taking any photos.

A few hours later and we were at dinner with our friends and the time came for dessert.  They were ooh-ing and aah-ing over the look of my pie and I told them not to get too excited as I didn't think it was going to be great, and then we all ate a slice and it was the best key lime pie I have ever made.  The crust was perfect, and not overdone like I had assumed.  The filling was soft and wonderfully smooth and oh so tart, something the lime lover in me was loving! and despite me not wanting to cover the whole pie with cream it actually worked really well to balance out the tartness of the key lime layer.  I said I wished I had taken some pictures of it after all! and so our friends promptly lent me their camera and let me snap a few pics! Just the kind of friends every food blogger loves! It was in the corner of a dimly lit lounge so they are not great photos by any means but I just couldn't stand the thought of this recipe not being shared!

A few people back in the UK have been asking me about key limes and sometimes if they find slightly smaller regular limes they think they have struck gold and come across key limes.  I know of no shop in the whole of the UK that sells key limes.  Whole Foods say they can order them in for you, but when I tried this they couldn't come up with the goods! So I took a pic of a persian lime (the kind that we get in the UK) next to the key limes they sell here to let my friends across the pond see the difference.

I know calling it the 'best' key lime pie is slightly presumptuous and everyone's tastebuds are different but our friends quickly followed their first slices of the pie with seconds, and I had to restrain myself on the whole bus ride home from not eating the remainder of the pie in the dish I was holding! so to me that sums up a pretty tasty pie!

Martha's Key Lime Pie:
Serves 4 (greedy key lime loving people) or 8 normal people :)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 tbsp grated key lime zest, plus some lime slices for garnish
1 1/2 cups double cream, chilled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl.  Mix well.  
Press into a 9 inch pie plate, and bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Lower oven to 325 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, gently whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, key lime juice and zest.  Pour into the prepared, cooled crust.

Return pie to the oven and bake until the center is set, but still quivers when nudged, for about 15-17 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Shortly before serving, combine cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium speed, for about 2-3 minutes, until soft peaks start to form.

Spoon over cooled pie.  Cut 6 lime slices.  Cut a small slit into the centre of each slice and then twist the slices and push them gently into the top of the pie.

Eat and enjoy!


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