Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Cake can be very distracting. Here are four recipes I discovered this year and couldn’t resist baking.

1) Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake


For Easter I made a Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake. I used strawberries, instead of the raspberries like the original recipe.

Find the recipe here: Chocolate-raspberry Bavairan Torte

2) Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Mascarpone frosting


I made this for an early birthday party in July. Look at this gorgeous cake!

Find the recipe here: Raspberry vanilla cake with mascarpone frosting

or watch how to make it.

3) No Bake Chocolate Pie


Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Gooey and silky smooth. I made an Italian Meringue for the top, instead of a regular meringue. We toasted it using my Dad’s propane torch. Not exactly a kitchen torch, but it worked beautifully.

Find the recipe here: no bake chocolate pie

4) Evergreen Christmas Cake

Green mirror-glazed vanilla cake with caramel mousse.



The mirror glaze makes for a fantastic looking cake, doesn’t it?

I cobbled the recipe together from various places, my sources are at the bottom. It is a 6 step cake and I took three days to make it.


Step 1 Cake

Vanilla Cake
3 cups (375g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2g) salt
3 tsp (12g) baking powder
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups (335g) sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp (10g) vanilla extract
1 cup (240ml) milk

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
2) In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
3) In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat mixture until it’s light and creamy yellow. Incorporate eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.
4) Gradually add flour mixture while alternating with milk. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
5) Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let pans cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes, and then remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Step 2 Rich praline-cream filling

Praline powder
For Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
Toasted pecans, 1/3 cup pecans finely chopped or finely ground

1)Making the Caramel sauce: Combine sugar, water and cream of tarter in heavy sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. (Check this by rubbing some of the sauce between your fingers. If you don’t feel any sugar grains its dissolved.)  Stop stirring
2) Bring sugar to full boil, and continue to boil until it turns a dark amber color. This may take a while.


  • You can swirl the pan to help it caramelize evenly, but don’t stir it.
  • The sugar may crystallize on the edges of your pan. You can use a pastry brush and water to melt these off, or just leave them.
  • The cream of tarter helps stabilize the caramel, and that keeps it from crystallizing. So I usually just leave the pan alone.
  • Watch the caramel carefully once it starts to turn an orangey color. Keep cooking  until it reaches a deep caramel/amber. Use your nose and smell it. If it gets too dark, and smells burnt then you have to make a new batch.
  • Test your caramel color by putting a small amount on a white plate.
  • Hot sugar/Caramel is very hot, don’t touch it, or let it splash you. You will get badly burned.

3) Prepare a cookie tray, or jelly roll pan, covered it in tinfoil. Once your caramel reaches a a deep amber, or dark caramel color, remove it from heat and pour in a microwavable bowl. It will be very hot, but starts to cool off quickly.
4)Quickly pour hot caramel onto your tinfoil-covered tray. If caramel gets too hard to pour, you can reheat in microwave. Allow caramel candy to cool. Then break into pieces
5)Grind cooled caramel in food processor, or crush into a fine powder. (Keep extra caramel powder in your refrigerator)
6) Toast pecans in oven, at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool. Use these for the cake garnish and to make the praline powder for filling.
7) Combine 1/3 cup of caramel powder and 1/3 cup finely chopped or ground pecans
Rich Praline-cream filling
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks (or 1 egg slightly beaten)
1 Tablespoon butter
2/3 cup praline powder

1) combine sugar,cornstarch and pinch of salt in small bowl.
2) Add milk to top of a double boiler, and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and cook for 15 minutes until thickened.
3) Pour a small amount of hot milk mixture into a bowl of egg yolks and stir quickly to combine. (So you don’t cook your egg). Then transfer egg mixture to the double boiler. Continue to cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4) Add the butter, and praline powder and stir until combine. Pour through a strainer into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.

my notes: This was more of a sauce, which was great for soaking into the cake. If you want more of a thick fluffy filling modify the recipe to just 3/4 cup milk. Once the filling is cooled, gently fold in 1/4 cup of cream, that’s been whipped to stiff peaks.


Step 3 Caramel Mousse

Caramel Mousse
1-1/2 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin
2 Tablespoons water
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
2 cups whipping cream (35%)
1/2 cup butter cubed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

1) In small saucepan, add 2 Tbsp water; sprinkle gelatin over top. Stir to combine and set aside.
2) Making the caramel sauce: In a separate saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, 5 Tbsp water and cream of tarter to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring. Continue to boil, without stirring, until dark amber in color. This takes a while.
3) Once you get a deep ambery/caramel color, carefully add 1/2 cup of the cream, along with the butter, vanilla and salt. It will sputter and bubble up, so step back from stove-top as you stir these. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Pour into a large bowl.
4) Cook gelatin mixture over medium heat just until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add mixture to the caramel sauce and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature.
5) In separate large bowl, beat 1-1/2 cups of the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the cream into cooled caramel-gelatin mixture until combined; fold mixture back into cream just until no white streaks remain.

Step 4 Assemble cake

8″ springform pan with removable bottom
serrated knife
off-set spatula

1) Your cake layers need to fit inside an 8″ springform pan leaving about 1/4″ around the edges. Level the cake, cutting off the top so it’s even. Trim to fit inside your 8″ pan. (I used a paper plate as a guide and cut the cake edges off, until it fit inside. The cake pieces will be a tasty snack. or maybe a trifle)
2) Place first cake layer on bottom of springform pan, with cut side up.
3) Spoon on praline filling  and allow it to soak in. (or spread an even layer of filling)
4) Add caramel mouse over the filling, and spread all around the edges.
5) Add second cake layer with cut side down. (The flat bottom faces up) Cover completely with the rest of the caramel mousse and level off. (Tap your cake pan on the tabletop to get out any air bubbles. You want to fill the springform completely and evenly, so that you get a smooth edges all the way around and on top.)
6) Freeze until firm. (You can make the cake and assemble ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you’re ready to glaze.)

Step 5 Dark Green mirror glaze

Mirror Glaze
4 teaspoons (16g) Powdered Unflavored Gelatin
7 Tablespoons (100ml) Water
3/4 cup (245g) Corn Syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) Water
1 cup (200 g) Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup (140g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 oz (220g) Good White Chocolate, broken into pieces
Green Gel food coloring (I used Wilsons Green-leaf gel food coloring, and added purple to make it darker.)

1) Add gelatin to 7 Tablespoons of cold water; stir to combine and set aside.
2) Combine the corn syrup, 1/4 cup of water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a full boil.
3) Add the bloomed gelatin and the sweetened condensed milk and whisk smooth.
4) Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Pour the entire hot mixture over the chocolate and whisk smooth, add food coloring.
5)Slowly pour glaze through a strainer into a medium bowl. The goal is to get rid of any air bubbles.
6) Allow glaze to cool until 90 degrees F, before you pour glaze over the cake

STEP 6 Final Garnish


Jelly roll pan
small bowl (just make sure it’s smaller than the cake bottom)
Powdered sugar
Sprig of evergreen, also dusted with powdered sugar
toasted pecans

1) While the glaze is cooling off: unmold your cake from the springform pan, and smooth edges and top. (Get it as smooth as you can. Because the glaze is very transparent and will show any bumps or rough edges. But make sure cake is still very cold when you glaze it.)
2) Place your frozen cake on the small bowl, and then pour cooled glaze over the top, allowing it to drip off the edges.
3) Allow glaze to cool completely. Carefully scrape off the drips from bottom and move to cake plate.
4) Use sieve to dust powdered sugar over the top, garnish with sprig of evergreen and toasted pecans.

my notes: The mirror glaze is a sticky gooey mess. It stays gooey, even if you freeze it. I glazed the cake and let it rest for an hour, then scrapped off the drippy edges and put the cake on the cake plate and kept it in the freezer. Then just before serving I added decorations.




Sources: The Vanilla cake was the same as the one I made in July, from Home Cooking Adventure . The filling I made from an old Fanny Farmer cookbook, the Caramel Mousse from Canadian Living, and the mirror glaze from Gretchen’s Bakery.


“Youth is a writhing thing. It squirms and wriggles in the mud. Youth is considered to be the “springtime” of one’s life… But spring is not always some fanciful fairy-tale time. It’s also the season when all the bugs and squirming things that people hate come crawling out of the earth.”

Durarara!!, Vol. 5 (novel) by Ryohgo Narita


“Sometimes it is the process of doing that makes things clear. If we don’t start, we never know what could have been. Sometimes the answers we find while searching are better or more creative than anything we could have ever imagined before.”

— Lynne Cox, Grayson



Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

When I visited Japan several years ago I had a strange encounter. I saw a mysterious creature, a yokai.

It was during a walking tour. My sister and I were climbing up a long set of stairs toward a temple gate. Ahead of us we noticed some Japanese girls taking photos and exclaiming excitedly. What was this about? We climbed faster.  In the bushes just off to the side, less than three feet away, we glimpsed a Japanese tanuki.

japanese tanuki

Continue reading “Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)”

The Unexpected Words that move me

Some books I love from the moment I start them, others grow on me, so that by the end I love them.

I have four  absolutely-perfect-best-ever books, and Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux  is one. (I’ll try to talk about the others later.) My love for The Tale of Desperaux began at the very beginning, when the mother mouse declares, “All that work for nothing… It is so sad. It is such a disappointment.” She is a french mouse, and disappointed that her newly born son is alive. Oh my heart. Then she gives her son his name, “Despereaux, for all the sadness, for the many despairs of this place. Now where is my mirror?”

The book only got better from there. It was perfect. It was everything I ever wanted in a story, and more than that – it was everything I never realized I wanted.

I love to discover such unexpected words.

Continue reading “The Unexpected Words that move me”

Mini review: Finn Fancy Necromancy

Finn Fancy NecromancyFinn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not know I needed more sasquashes in my life. I was enjoying the book plenty before, but when the sasquashes showed up, then it really got my attention.

I hope its not too much of a spoiler to mention them, because they are kind of a surprise early on, but the sequel has the name Bigfoot in it, so it can’t be too spoilery. There are all kinds of unexpected surprises in this book, in the descriptions, in the characters and the crazy things they get up to.

I tried to explain what the book was about to someone at work today, and it took me a moment to grasp its essence. It’s good, yeah, but what is it about? Well, it’s about a guy who was exiled to another realm and is now returning to our world 25 years later. (It’s our world, but with magic. Sometimes, I believe our world does have a kind of magic.)

Finn is a fish out of water in this modern world, with its fancy cellphones and thin computers and ‘google’ – which he assumes is a children’s game when his niece suggests he ‘google’ something. Poor Finn is two decades behind everyone. Cue some amusing ironic situations. Plus, someone’s trying to send him back into exile.

I only sorta grew up in the 80s -so, I’m just barely kinda familiar with 1980s pop and geek culture – but if I ever needed an expect, then Finn’s got me covered. From Goonies to Star Wars, Star Trek, Prince and Pac-Man, he makes such classic references.

The family dynamics feel real, and I like how the brothers are struggling to relate to each other after all this time, and how their mother’s ghost still lingers around the house. For all the fantasy, and the sasquashes, having the family drama and Finn’s love situation, makes the book easy to relate to.

In the beginning Finn suspects his brother is out to get him, and the big reveal about who the ultimate-arch-enemy is, doesn’t happen until the very very end, which I found frustrating. I wanted Finn to know who his enemy was sooner. It would have been more dramatic. But everything comes together in such a satisfying way at the end, that I was okay with it. Plus, so much fun happened getting to that point. Like when Elvis showed up.

But I won’t say anything more, because I don’t want to spoil that part.

View all my reviews

5 best YA novels with dragons (any excuse to talk about dragons)

5 best YA novels with dragons (any excuse to talk about dragons)



This calls for a celebration. I finished my reading goal on goodreads! I somehow managed to sneak in one last book yesterday and that means . . . I have a total of 1000 books in my READ shelf!

Ta da!


I’m making a bit of fuss over nothing. There were no fireworks this morning. No CONGRATULATIONS. Nothing exciting happened when I input the latest book. I’ve certain read over 1000 books, but I didn’t always keep a record when I was younger.

Book number 1000 was A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn.

It surprised me by being quite ordinary. I kept expecting action and excitement and romance, but the book kept sliding down a different path. It was more about knowing yourself and your place in the world. For Marni, a princess who has a rather tragic background story – that world is one of magic. Of a forest that moves, that is full of strange laughter and tiny creatures, and, of course, there is a dragon.

This year I encountered five very different dragon worlds. Most of them did not come out this year, but this is when I discovered them.

I’m going to list them below and countdown to my favorite.

5 Best YA novels with dragons that I read in 2015

5. A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

There is only one dragon is this book. He is something made of myth and story. “There is no familiarity here, no urge to reach out and stroke his razor scales. . . . Yes, there is his size, and his teeth, and his claws, but he is beautiful, pure, and I near wish he would eat me up . . .”

The language throughout Hahn’s book is stunning, and best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Don’t look for action here, but heart. Mostly confusions of the heart. Whether Marni is among humans, or inside the magic, nothing is ever simple.

4. Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey

The dragons on Wilde Island are predators.

“The dragon’s tongue lashed out like a devil’s whip. He lowered his head, saying ‘Sweet morsel.’ Dragons know many human languages, being sharp-witted and slit-tongued so the words did not surprise me.”

They are deadly monsters who hunt humans. Although the humans have their dragonslayers, they also have a memorial dragonstone to list all the victims the dragon has taken. It’s a very medieval world, and Carey captures that with all its superstitions and dangers.

The princess Rosalind has a strange curse. She was born with a scaly blue-green dragon’s claw, instead of one finger. This “cursed” deformity brings her a surprising connection to the dragons.

This is a story of surviving.

3. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

A classic story of dragons that exist at the edge of the world.

The Farthest Shore is the third book in the Earthsea Cycle. It is a slow read too, but it builds as only Le Guin can do it. The Archmage Sparrowhawk and young Arren are on a quest, searching for answers. Why is magic fading from the world? This is not really a YA book, but it’s a coming of age story and masterful written.

The dragons are immortal and wild, both dangerous creatures and irresistibly fascinating.

2. Seraphina  and the companion tale: Shadow Scale by Rachael Hartman

I highly recommend Seraphina. It delighted me in so many ways. The dragons especially. It was the best book I read last year. The companion tale Shadow Scale came out this year. It wraps up some loose ends, and explores more of the world, but just wasn’t quite as good as the first. The ending felt a little too much like a deus ex machina.

The dragons in Seraphina are numerous, and they have a human form known as saarantari. Dragons and humans in this world have formed a tenuous peace between each other. No longer trying to kill and destroy, but to learn and communicate. Harder than it sounds. The dragons here are not emotional creatures, like humans are, but rather they are scientific, rational and logical. Mostly. When they take human form they can experience emotions, but they are still dragon.

“I was eleven years old. Orma had been teaching me meditations for months. . . He thrust a mug of water under my nose. I grasped it shakily and drank. I wasn’t thirsty, but any trace of kindness …. was a thing to encourage.

‘Report, Seraphina,’ he said, straightening himself and pushing up his spectacles. His voice held neither warmth nor impatience.

I shifted on the hard floor. Providing me with a cushion would have required more empathy than a dragon – even in human form – could muster.”

A more traditional fantasy, but so unexpected, from the philosophical discussions, the strange inner world Seraphina keeps in her mind and the humanness of dragons, the dragoness of humans.

last dragonslayer1. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Ah yes, if you haven’t discovered Jasper Fforde then you have to try him. I cannot repeat this enough. His newest series is YA, although I could argue about that, but at least it has all the classic wackiness of Jasper Fforde novel. Instead of classical literature, or nurse tales or aliens – this time the world is all magic. Dragons. Quarkbeasts. Big magic. Little magic. I don’t know how this book doesn’t explode from all the humor and zaniness inside it.

Jennifer Strange is an orphan. There are plenty of orphans around since the Troll wars. Jennifer manages Kazam Mystical Arts, even though she is only fifteen, and as she explains, “Working with those versed in Mystical Arts was sometimes like trying to knit with wet spaghetti; just when you thought you’d gotten somewhere, it all came to pieces in your hands.”

There is only one dragon in this book and one dragonslayer. One dragon left in all the world, and the dragonlands are a highly valued property. Until the dragon dies no one can get their hands on it. Also, magic is dying out in the world. Jennifer’s boss the great Zambini has disappeared and it’s up to Jennifer to sort things out. Don’t worry. Even if she can’t use magic, she has a quarkbeast and the magicians at Kazam may be unusual and mostly old retirees, and, even if things get crazy, it will always be entertaining.


Currently Reading: The gaslight effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulations other people use to control your life by Dr Robin Stern

Current distraction: Playing Xenoblade Chronicles X

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Julia has
completed her goal of reading 77 books in 2015!