Archive for Special Occaisons

Virtual Cookie Swap

If there’s one thing I love this time of the year, it’s making cookies. I know it’s just a silly little thing, but I think, in today’s world, people really like getting homemade cookies.

Normally, I’d make baking dates with friends, or I’d organize a cookie swap.

The idea of a cookie swap is you invite a bunch of friends over for an evening or an afternoon. Each friend brings a certain amount of cookies. I usually say 1 or 2 dozen–one dozen to swap, and 1 dozen to eat.

Then everyone puts out their cookies, and you take home the same amount of cookies you brought. You get to try different types of cookies, different recipes, and it’s always a fun, social event.

Clearly that’s not happening this year.

Virtual Xmas Cookie Exchange

But you can do a Virtual Cookie Swap.

There’s two different ways you can do it:

Cookie Swap: Each person in the swap bakes the required amount of cookies (1 doz, 2 doz, whatever you decide) and then wraps up that amount of cookies separately for each of the participants. Then you either mail or drop off the packages (safely–no contact). Then you organize a zoom call where you all open a bottle of wine, or even better, make a festive cocktail, and open and try your cookies all at once.

Virtual Cookie Swap (recipes): This will cost you less money in postage. Each person contributes a beloved favourite Christmas Cookie recipe, and the organizer puts them all together in an online “book.” You can use Evernote or OneNote for something like this (it even allows you to create chapters!). Then each of you can choose one or all of the recipes to make yourself. You can still have a zoom party.

Charity Component? One thing you might want to build into your virtual cookie swap is a charitable component. Maybe you’ll all donate to a specific cause, or agree to try to solicit donations for a specific cause. Many charities are suffering this year because of COVID, as they’ve been unable to do their normal fundraising campaigns and events. And this year, people are struggling more than ever. Or maybe you want to make extra cookies and donate them to your local homeless shelter.

You need music! You can create your own Spotify playlist (everyone can contribute their favourite songs) or use one that’s already been built.

Christmas Cocktails. If you wanna get real fancy, add the component of a Christmas Cocktail (for a few of my favourites, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page) to your party. You can either send out the recipe in advance so everyone can pick up the ingredients, or even make little cocktail kits. A bunch of Vancouver restaurants are also offering ready-made cocktail kits.

Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap

I wanted to share with you a few of my personal favourite Christmas Cookie Recipes.

Salted Dark Chocolate Shortbread: super easy to make, these employ the “lazy” method of making shortbread. Few ingredients, but maximum impact.

Easy Spiced Chocolate Christmas Cookies:  Again, not hard to make, beautiful result.

Amaretti Cookies (vegan): Amaretti are those meringue-like, crispy cookies you get with your coffee in an Italian restaurant. This is my vegan version, using Aquafaba. Very festive!

Miniature Brownies: This is a Christmas recipe I’ve been making for a minimum of 20 years. They’re so yummy and festive.

Matcha Shortbread Cookies: all the shortbread recipes pack and ship well, but this one incorporates the green colour of matcha, so is extra festive.

Ginger Cookies: These are the real deal. With three types of ginger, they pack a punch!

Vegan Eggnog Cookies: They taste like eggnog! How can you go wrong?

Wacky Cake

I’m in the process of writing a new cookbook, and inevitably, when I get into recipe development, I start thinking about when I was a kid, learning to bake. For me, as a cookbook author and recipe developer, one of the biggest challenges is creating recipes that are simple and clear enough for people to follow. I have to bear in mind that not everyone has been cooking and baking for the last 20 years, and put myself back into that beginner mindset.

This was compounded when I started visiting my mother’s recipe box. I lost my mom 12 years ago, but I only recently came into possession of her recipe box. The plan is to do some kind of a project with it, and make each of the recipes available to the rest of my family.

But thumbing through those stained recipe cards, written in my mother’s hand (and a few in 12-year-old Becky’s), I’m amazed at the skills I developed. There are no directions on any of her recipes. They are all just a list of ingredients and how long to bake it for. That’s it. It was just assumed you understood that you cream the butters and sugars together, then add the wet ingredients, then finally the dry. It’s no wonder I learned to bake–I had no other choice!

Wacky Cake Recipe

Wacky Cake Recipe written in my mom’s handwriting.

I came across one recipe in my mom’s box that I noted was vegan. Now, we were not vegan, just to be clear. We weren’t even vegetarian. So 98% of these recipes call for butter, milk and eggs. But this one, for some reason, didn’t.

It’s called Wacky Cake, and I thought I’d do a little research on ye ol interwebs about it. Turns out, the recipe was quite popular during WWII when things like butter and eggs were rationed, and scarce. But there were still occasions to celebrate during the war. There were birthdays and weddings and anniversaries. Cake-worthy occasions, that deserved celebration, even in the absence of the requisite ingredients. So they got creative (sounds a lot like what’s happening in the world right now, doesn’t it?)

A recently colourized version of a black and white photo of my mom and dad with my sister, Shelly. My mom is 20.

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of vinegar and also baking soda. Vinegar in an acid, and baking soda is a base. Put the two together? Magic!

Since I started talking about this recipe, so many people have said they have a similar recipe in their families, and universally, this cake is a favourite.

My friend, Chef Nathan Hyam, uses raspberry vinegar in his version. Another friend said they sub the water for coffee for a mocha version of the cake.

Just try it (assuming you can get flour!). I promise this cake does not disappoint.

Oh–the reason it’s called “Wacky Cake” is not just because it lacks milk, butter and eggs. You were also meant to make it by mixing the entire cake in the pan in which it was baked. That’s a little too wacky for me. I made mine in my Kitchen Aid, and I’ll give you directions for that. 😉

Wacky Cake

(recipe courtesy of my mother, Lena Mary Coleman)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon oil (my mom says “salad oil” I assume that means canola or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Method:

  1. In a large bowl place the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda, and whisk well to combine. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, water and vinegar, and whisk well.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet into it. Whisk just until combined.
  3. This recipe makes one 8″ square cake, one 8″ round cake or 12 cupcakes. Be sure to prepare your pan before pouring in the batter by either greasing and flouring the pans, using cupcake liners, or lining with parchment.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
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