Book Club Tuesday: Cake & Loaf

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“…when we sat down in that coffee shop and laid out our bakery dreams to each other, they were really about creating a space we wanted to go to every day. To build something that would address as many of the systemic issues we had seen in our own bakery jobs as possible. A place to foster creativity and feminist ideals. A business that would give more than it would take from the community and that centred sustainability in all its decisions. The results have not always been what we intended, and we are still learning how the systems in which we operate affect our biases and how we can continue to be better. It has been a financial challenge. Trying to operate in an effectively non-profit way in a capitalist system is fraught with compromises and disappointments. Luckily, we are resourceful folks and have had the honour of working with many amazing people over the years, so we feel like we have won the life lottery.” (4)

Over a decade ago, Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham opened the brick-and-mortar version of Cake & Loaf in Hamilton, Ontario and now, they have a newly published cookbook (of the same name) to share with home bakers. I’m new to the Cake & Loaf world but as I read through the introduction, I learned that this bakery is so much more than the delicious treats they sell. Miller and Rudderham are in the vanguard of businesses that focus less on profits and more on social and systemic issues. Their approach encourages consumers to shop locally and support people who work at building a better community — and in the case of Cake & Loaf, they do this with delicious panache.

As I bake through the book, I am enticed as much by the homey, comforting recipes as I am by the stunning showstoppers. The Cake & Loaf Cookbook is full of recipes for any level of baker and even if you’re not as comfortable with some of the more complex bakes, Miller and Rudderham do an excellent job of walking home bakers through the steps. The recipes are organized into 8 chapters: 1) Morning Baking, 2) Cookies, 3) Bars, 4) Sandwich Cookies, 5) Cheesecakes, 6) Cakes, 7) Tarts and Pies, and 8) Icings, Buttercreams, and Fillings. Like most good cookbooks, the authors begin the book by offering sections to help bakers — Advice for Bakers and Essential Tools and Equipment — and, throughout the book there are beautifully illustrated diagrams instructing bakers on how to assemble things such as the layer cakes and sandwich cookies. The table of contents is great because the recipes are listed under each chapter heading and, if you’re looking to make vegan recipes those are indicated using a symbol beside recipes that are vegan. Ingredients are common to most pantries and, I found that I was able to buy specialty ingredients (such as the chocolate teenies at stores like Bulk Barn).

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Gummy Bear Stuffed Cookies, p. 85

The current movement in baking cookbooks is that weighing ingredients is becoming standard and, one of the most common questions I receive when I share baking books: do they provide ingredients by weight? In this case, Miller and Rudderham do not, but I counsel you, dear reader, to let that not be a deal breaker. You’d be missing out on some spectacular bakes, so my suggestion is simple: as you make the recipe for the first time, weigh the ingredients as you go along and jot down the weights alongside the volumes given in the recipe. Then, the next time you want to enjoy that recipe, you’re all set! One design feature that I really appreciate is that almost all the recipes are contained to one page, which means no flipping back and forth to see ingredients or instructions. This makes the font for the recipes quite small but, for me, having everything on one page is worth it!

Sometimes when cookbooks arrive my daughter will flip through and bookmark recipes she’d like to try, and there are many in Cake & Loaf that made the list! The first recipe we tried was for the Gummy Bear Stuffed Cookies — which are cookies rolled in candy-coated mini chip and stuffed with gummy bears (how could this be bad??). And, as soon as the cookies come from the oven, more gummy bears are pressed into the top! So much fun to make and eat! I was able to bake a dozen cookies from the recipe, which meant that we gave out cookies to kids in our neighbourhood. I took their advice from the recipe notes and used gummy bears made with real fruit juice because that flavour really comes through in the cookie. Needless to say, these cookies were a huge hit with the kids!

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Nanaimo Sandwich Cookie, p.130 (Bird’s Custard American Buttercream, p.246; Dark Chocolate Ganache, p.130)

Another show-stopping bake came from the recipe for Nanaimo Sandwich Cookies — chocolate cookies full of nuts, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, and coconut, which are then filled with Bird’s Custard American Buttercream and drizzled with a Dark Chocolate Ganache (all the recipes are from the book). I made these for my husband’s birthday this year and he was not disappointed! The recipe is a delicious nod to the Canadian classic — Nanaimo bars — and they were decadent enough to celebrate his special day. I absolutely adore the custard buttercream and will make good use of it on frosting future cakes.

My favourite recipe (so far) from the book is the one for Churro Waffle Cookies. I have made this recipe so many times now, I think I could make it by heart! It was the description in the recipe notes that piqued my attention, “These cookies are an amazing combination of pound cake meets cookie meets waffle. They have a dense texture that melts in your mouth and just enough spice to balance out the vanilla interior.”(76) I like that the dough is made ahead of time and left to chill in the fridge so that when it’s time to make them, the process goes quickly. They are just the thing I want to have when I am enjoying an afternoon coffee and the recipe is so customizable that there are endless possibilities for trying different toppings and glazes. The churro version with its cinnamon-sugar flavour and perfect texture from the granulated sugar are popular in my house but, we also adore ones dipped in an icing sugar glaze too (sprinkles are a definite must). Just yesterday I made a batch that I dipped in a custard-cinnamon icing sugar glaze that was delicious. If you have this book and aren’t sure which recipe to try first, I completely recommend trying this one.

I love a good doughnut, and the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Baked Doughnuts from the book taste amazing (my husband says they’re the best he’s had)! These doughnuts are moist, fudgy, and really chocolate-y. The batter is filled with semi-sweet chocolate chips and, once they’re baked, each doughnut is dipped in chocolate icing and then topped with whatever you’d like — for the batch I made I used three different toppings: sprinkles, chopped peanuts, and chopped mini eggs. And while fried doughnuts are tasty, I prefer the baked variety because there’s less mess (I am not adept at deep frying).

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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Baked Doughnuts, p. 53

The beautiful and fun bakes that Miller and Rudderham offer in their new cookbook, Cake & Loaf, will delight any home baker! I’ve found many recipes to enjoy and lots of different bakes to celebrate the big and little moments. And I appreciate how the book also encourages home bakers to use our time and resources to build better communities.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Canada for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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Farmers’ Fruit Muffins, p. 23

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