One Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake through two camera lenses

Two weeks ago I had a blind date. With a girl. This is what my best friend told me when I described to her my meeting with lovely Alanna from One Tough Cookie blog.

Back in August I got a surprising email from Alanna Lipson, my fellow Torontonian food blogger, whose recipes call my name and photographs make my fingers reach for the camera. She suggested teaming up and collaborating on something. Without any hesitation I responded yes and we started planning our meeting. We both preferred making a dessert rather than a savoury dish just because it's more fun to photograph (let alone eat).

And just like that, I had my "blind date" with a talented photographer. We had a really fun day of cooking, photographing, eating the cake we just made and gossiping. Alanna's presence made me look at the baking process in a different and forgotten over the past few years way. I noticed the details that I usually ignore: white puffy clouds of flour sifted into a bowl; tiny granules of Costa Rican cinnamon spilled out of the measuring dish; glistening droplets of chocolate batter rich with buttermilk and cocoa on the work surface, begging to be tasted.

We moved all the baking supplies and ingredients into my studio where the morning light, bright and soft, shone on the bowls and spoons and spices and powders with such seduction that I could not help myself but photograph. Looking for shapes, shades and shadows, it is the pictures that were the focal point of the day for me, not the cake.

But still, the cake cannot (and should not) be dismissed. It is moist, airy, intensely chocolatey with a slight buttermilk tang that cuts through the richness of the frosting and makes the cake taste light. It has a hint of cinnamon and a faint aftertaste of spicy and comforting cayenne pepper (oh, how I wished for it to be a bit spicier, a bit bolder).

I then spent a few days editing photographs and tasting the cake again in my memories. Every photographer is different, and so it was really fun seeing what Alanna did with her dark and beautiful pictures. You can see hers and mine photo styles below (my pictures have Imagelicious watermark), and please check out Alanna's blog post about this cake too.

Oh, and I also decided to try something totally new - I created a cooking video! I made a rookie mistake and held my iPhone vertically instead of horizontally, though, but I'm quite happy with the result.

Note: this is a very photo heavy post. Recipe is at the bottom.

Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake

This recipe was adapted from Sweetapolita and flourless. cookbook by Nicole Spiridakis

1.5 cups flour (190g)

Cake batter:
Flour - 1.5 cups 1.5 cups (190 g)
Sugar - 1.5 cups (300 g)
Dark unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed) - 2/3 cup (80 g)
Baking soda - 2 teaspoons
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon
Cinnamon - 1 tablespoon
Cayenne - 1/4 teaspoon *see note
Buttermilk, room temperature - 3/4 cup
Hot water - 2/3 cup
Vegetable/canola/sunflower oil - 3/4 cup
Vanilla - 1.5 teaspoon
Eggs - 2 large

Softened butter - 1/2 cup (115 g)
Milk chocolate, melted - 60 g
Vanilla - 1/2 teaspoon
Confectioner's (Icing) sugar - 1 cup (100 g)
Buttermilk - 2-3 tablespoons

  • Preheat oven to 350Β° F (180Β°C).
  • Spray the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment rounds. Set aside. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. 
  • In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla, and then mix in eggs. 
  • Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Divide batter equally among the two cake pans or weigh for accuracy--each pan should weigh about 385 grams. 
  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with a only a few crumbs, about 23 minutes (see note). Try not to over-bake.
  • Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting, place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  • Add the melted chocolate and vanilla, and beat to incorporate.
  • Sift in the icing sugar, stir.
  • Add the buttermilk 1 Tbs at a time, until desired consistency.
  • Use half of the frosting between two cakes and the other half on top of the cake.


- I would use at least 1/2 teaspoon if not 3/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper next time in the batter.

- I also think that frosting would benefit from 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne to really make the cake taste like Spiced Hot Chocolate.

- My oven took about 28-30 minutes to bake the cakes. They was quite under baked after 23 minutes.

- Don't forget to check out my Video!!!

Spiced Hot Chocolate Cake - moist, chocolatey and a bit spicy, perfect for any special occasion
Posted on October 8, 2015 and filed under Recipe.

Onion Soup

I'm standing in my kitchen in front of the cutting board and crying. It's not one or two tiny tears slowly sliding down my cheek. No, my face is streaked with tears. Sobbing, I am looking at my husband. He's staring at me with a blank expression on his face. Finally, after a few long seconds he's shaking his head and silently going away. I'm wiping my tears, sighing and turning back to my cutting board... 

...continuing slicing the onions.

I cry when I slice and dice onions. Almost every single time. It doesn't matter if the onions are yellow, sweet or purple, I still cry and yet, I love onions. The aroma of freshly diced white cubes hitting bubbling and foamy melted butter on the pan, starting to crackle and sizzle and talk to me is intoxicating. It's my favourite smell in the world. Well, that is until I smell garlic swimming in the smoking oil; or until I smell the spicy cinnamon meddling with apples in an apple pie; or bacon frying; or... 

There's a funny story behind this soup. We had a department lunch at work and there were burgers served - lots of meat patties, buns, and platters of condiments and fixings. Big bowls of relish, hot peppers, plates of lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced onions. After the lunch we wrapped the plates in plastic wrap and put in the fridge. For the next few days, every time we opened the fridge, we were met with the pungent onion aroma. Finally, after a few days my colleague and I decided it was time for the onions to go. We got the plate out, unwrapped it and saw all those thin, translucent white arches. "Oh," she said, "you could make an Onion Soup with that." And just like that, I got a container and packed all those onions to take home.

If you have sliced onions, the soup is actually pretty easy to make. I don't want to call it French Onion Soup since I did not follow any particular recipe. The idea is that the onions are caramelized in a large pot for a very long time, maybe 30-40 minutes and when you think that the onions are fully done, then cook them another 10-15 minutes. Trust me, the soup will be better! Then add some stock and cook until all the flavours meld together. Season with salt, pepper and serve with Cheese Toasts. 

Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts is a comforting fall and winter dish with very few ingredients.

Onion Soup

Butter - 1 tablespoon
Olive oil - 1 tablespoon + more if needed
Onion, halved and then thinly sliced - 5 cups
Dry thyme - 1 tablespoon
Bay leaves - 2
Vermouth - 1/2 cup (optional)
Chicken stock - 8 cups
Salt, pepper to taste
  • Add butter and oil into a large heavy pot and melt.
  • Add onion and cook on medium or medium-low speed for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally and making sure that the onion doesn't burn.
  • You may want to add a bit more oil if the mixture starts to dry.
  • Add thyme and cook for another 15 minutes or until the onion is extremely soft, brown and sweet.
  • Add vermouth if using and cook for 2-3 minutes until it evaporates.
  • Add the stock, bay leaves, salt, pepper and cook for another 15 minutes on medium-low until all the flavours come together.
  • Serve with cheese toasts.


- I found the soup a bit too thin for my liking, so I mixed 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with half a cup of hot broth to form a slurry and then added it back to the soup. It does not affect flavour, but it makes the texture slightly thicker.

- Onions are sweet naturally, so the soup will be pretty sweet unless you salt and pepper according to your taste.

- Please, please cook onions for a very long time! 

- You can make this soup vegan by using only oil to cook the onions and vegetable stock.

Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts is a comforting fall and winter dish with very few ingredients.

Posted on October 5, 2015 and filed under Recipe.

Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by REESE as part of their #DoYouSpoon campaign, however all opinions are my own.

There is time for elaborate cakes with frostings and syrups and fillings. There's time for triple layer bars and swirl brownies. There's time for double baked biscotti with drizzles and sprinkles. And there's time for simple cookies. Cookies that don't require softened and creamed butter. Dough that doesn't need to be chilled and rolled and cut. Dessert that comes together in five minutes while drinking your first cup of coffee at 7 o'clock on a weekend morning while struggling to keep your eyes open.

And when it's gloomy outside and the coffee hasn't kicked in yet, there's no need for precise measuring and whisking and folding and rolling. It's time for something simple. Something that comes together in a few minutes and fills your kitchen and your soul with warm smells of sugar and chocolate.

Time for Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies.

I've made these cookies twice while experimenting with exact measurements. Both recipes turned out delicious, and the only difference between versions is the amount of flour. The first time I made the cookies I used one whole cup of flour, which made soft and cakey cookies that didn't spread while baking and were really similar to bite-size cakes.

Second version that I'm posting here used only half a cup of flour, which resulted in thin and chewy cookies. The texture was quite unique and reminded me of soft butterscotch candy, just a little bit sticky. The peanut butter flavour is understated, but still there. It's not overwhelming, it lingers in the aftertaste of the cookies and makes the cookies extremely satisfying yet not overpowering.

Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies have only 3 ingredients and take 5 minutes to mix. Great for a weeknight dessert!

Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

makes 2 dozens

Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate spread - 1 cup
Egg - 1 extra-large or large
Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Flour - 1/2 cup
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate spread and an egg.
  • Add baking powder and flour. Mix until flour disappears.
  • Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart.
  • Bake for 13 minutes.
  • Transfer to wire rack and cool.


- Spray or swirl a measuring cup with oil before adding the spread, this way it'll come out easier and won't stick.

- It'll seem like there's not enough flour, but half a cup is enough. However, you can add more flour. The more flour you add, the less it'll spread and the less chewy it'll be.

- Cookies were pretty soft after 13 minutes of baking, but they harden once they cool. Don't over bake!

Reese Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies have only 3 ingredients and take 5 minutes to mix. Great for a weeknight dessert!
Posted on September 28, 2015 and filed under Recipe.