You know what cookbook I didn’t know I needed in my life until now? A baking book that focuses on seasonal gatherings. Much is made of seasonal cooking and, it’s mostly to do with availability of ingredients (i.e., the fresh ones). But, as I baked from the newest cookbook from Nickey Miller and Josie Rudderham (co-owners of Cake & Loaf Bakery), Cake & Loaf Gatherings, I’ve come to appreciate their approach to what seasonal baking really means. And, it’s in this new cookbook that they also include savoury recipes as well as the sweet ones. It’s funny that I’m the kind of person who lives for TV spoilers or reads the last page of a book before the beginning because I am also the kind of person who is content to save some baking for special occasions. Take my cookie boxes at Christmas time: well known with my friends, I wait for “cookie season” all year. There is so much joy to be had when there are special makes and bakes to look forward to, which is why I’m loving Cake & Loaf Gatherings so much.
Cake & Loaf Gatherings also gave me a lot of nostalgic feelings – when I was a kid, I loved nothing more than when the holiday-themed magazines would arrive in the mailbox. Whether it was Chatelaine, Canadian Living, or Martha Stewart, I couldn’t wait to see all the cute, whimsical, and inspired holiday creations. And, through their timeless, yet fun approach, Miller and Rudderham have given home bakers loads of creative and playful ways to mark each holiday. They let ingredients and their imaginations guide them – even though Valentine’s has passed, and the winter holidays are far in the future, I’ve bookmarked the recipes for Hot Cinnamon Blondies, Chocolate Heart-Shaped Sandwich Cookies, Giant Peppermint Patty Brownies, and Reindeer Bait, just to name a few.
The book is organized into 13 chapters that span the entire year – 1) Valentine’s Day, 2) Easter, 3) Mother’s Day, 4) Tea Party, 5) Father’s Day, 6) Summer Eats, 7) Birthdays, 8) Milestone Party, 9) Fall Feelings, 10) Halloween, 11) Winter Holiday, 12) New Year’s Eve, and 13) Basic Recipes. Along with these chapters, the opening sections of the book outline key information on how to get started: How to Host a Gathering, Sharing Platters, Equipment and Tools, and Pantry Staples. What I really appreciate about the book is that all of the ingredients are easy to find and, I didn’t need to special order anything! Between my local grocery store, the Bulk Barn, and HomeSense/Winners, I was able to source everything I needed. For all of the bakes I tried, I actually used my electric hand mixer with one exception – when making the White Chocolate Whipped Ganache, I had to use my stand mixer because the mix time is 20-25 minutes (more on this later)! As a side note for those wondering: the ingredients are listed by volume rather than by weight for each recipe.
Since my MIL was visiting us, I decided to bake up a storm so that I could send her home with treats for my nieces. Looking through the chapter, it was difficult to choose what to try (it all looks/sounds excellent), but we finally narrowed it down to 3: The Cream Egg Brownies, Mini Egg Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and the Mini Egg Shortbread Cookies. All of the recipes rely on star Easter candies that are currently available in abundance at the grocery store. I’m not one to buy the Cadbury Crème Eggs or Mini Eggs but I love them when they’re baked into something!
The overall favourite was The Cream Egg Brownies – a brownie layer dotted with mini cream eggs, two layers of whipped white chocolate ganache, topped off with a milk chocolate butter ganache. Baked in a 9 x 13” cake pan, the brownie layer is smoothed out so that the layer is evenly distributed and then 12 mini cream eggs are arranged into a 3 x 4 grid so that when 12 brownies are cut, each will have a mini cream egg at the centre. The most marvelous part of this whole recipe is the most time-consuming – the White Chocolate Whipped Ganache. Using over a pound of white chocolate, home bakers melt the chocolate with heavy cream. Once melted and mixed until smooth, it is then added to the bowl of a stand mixer along with icing sugar. After whipping the mixture for 25 minutes (!!!), you’re left with the most perfect, melt-in-your-mouth ganache. It’s a dead ringer for the centre of a cream egg (especially when the gel colour is added)! I was utterly thrilled that it turned out so well and when added to the brownie layer, topped with a milk chocolate ganache, it was probably one of the best holiday-themed desserts I’ve ever made. An iconic treat – it’s one that will be added to the yearly list of Easter bakes.
Not wanting to squander the opportunity of having an Easter treat mule, I also baked the Mini Egg Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Mini Egg Shortbread Cookies from the book. The Mini Egg Chocolate Chunk Cookies are full of bits of smashed mini eggs, chocolate chunks, and sprinkled with pastel rainbow sprinkles – great textures, with perfect Easter colours. The batter is like another of my favourite cookie of theirs: the Gummy Bear Stuffed Cookies from their first book Cake & Loaf (review here). Since three is always a charm, I made sure to bake the Mini Egg Shortbread Cookies to add to the baking care package too. Even though these cookies are smaller in size when compared to the other ones I baked, they’re completely mouth-watering. The combination of that luscious shortbread and mini egg bits is perfection! While it’s been too long since we been able to enjoy gatherings with our far-flung family, it felt great to be able to share some of these deliciously fun bakes with them!
Not wanting to let any of the leftover mini eggs go to waste, on the last Sunday of spring break, I baked the Chocolate Mini Egg Scones. With the cocoa powder in the dough and the crushed mini eggs mixed in, I adore the intense chocolatiness of these scones. After trying all these bakes containing mini eggs, I’ve come to appreciate the crunchy texture they add (take note – if you’re looking for a vibrant colour, forgo buying your eggs from the bulk store because the colour of those eggs is a light pastel colour when compared to the eggs that come prepackaged at the grocery store).
There are many things to love about Cake & Loaf Gatherings – whether it’s the fun, whimsical bakes, delicious savoury bites, or how the authors emphasize building connections between family and loved ones through well-planned gatherings, I appreciated the deep sense of nostalgia the book evoked for me.
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.
2 thoughts on “Book Club Tuesday: Cake & Loaf Gatherings”
Thank you for the great review. I was looking for some new treats for Easter and you have provided a great resource!
I’m so glad you found some inspiration! Thanks for stopping by to read my review!
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