Wedding cupcake toppers, bride and groom.

Top 6 Tips to Know When Ordering a Wedding Cake (or any Custom Cake)

Wedding season is upon us, and many people have already planned much of their details in advance, while some maybe are still figuring out a few last-minute suppliers and vendors. In some cases, that may include hiring a baker to make your dream cake for your special day.

I have now baked cakes and cupcakes for a few weddings, made many custom cakes, and received numerous inquiries on orders as well. Planning “the perfect day” can be stressful for both the couple and the suppliers! Throughout these experiences, I have learned a number of things  to be aware of and would like to share them with you. Regardless of who you hire to create your wedding cake, or even a special custom cake, I have determined 6 things you want to be aware of and will help you hire the right baker/y.

Wedding cupcake toppers, bride and groom.

Wedding cupcake toppers, bride and groom.

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Need a birthday party idea? Host a private cooking class at NWCAV!

I am one of those people who is lucky enough to celebrate my birthday and Christmas in the same month, my birthday is exactly two weeks before Christmas – to be precise. As my fellow Sagittarians can relate, often birthday gifts might be combined with christmas gifts, and birthday parties may be celebrated during other festive parties. I am not complaining by any means, after all, this is all that I have known. During university when I wanted to plan a birthday party, I would compete with everyone’s final exam schedule; and now that those days are gone, I compete with work holiday parties and other festive plans. No big deal.

But this year, I decided to celebrate a little bit ahead of the game to ensure I could actually organize a gathering. I wanted to share with my friends and family what a night of cooking in a professional kitchen would be like – and enjoy a great meal (of course).

I called up my culinary school and booked a private cooking class, at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. It was SUCH a fun night, I highly recommend you consider this for your next party idea.

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Here are a few photos from the fun we had on the weekend. Everyone left super full, learned a few new culinary tricks, and took home new recipes.

As the host, I was able to choose the menu, of three courses. Then one of my former Chef instructors, Chef Warren, instructed the class. For each course we received a demonstration of what to do, then we made it our selves, and ate it. We did this for each course. Most of the preparation was done ahead of time too, so we were not there having to do a ton of time consuming components – they essentially let us do all the FUN stuff. Several culinary assistants were also in the kitchen roaming about our stations to offer assistance to anyone in need.

I highly recommend planning a private class at Northwest if you are interested for your next birthday or social. Here are my reasons why:

1) You get to choose the menu for your group, and allergies can be accommodated too

2) You get to cook with your family and friends, so it is easy to socialize – better than in a loud crowded restaurant anyway.

3) The food is amazing and fresh

4) You learn to make new recipes, learn new culinary tricks, but don’t have to do ALL of the prep work necessarily

5) The staff are super nice and helpful

6) You don’t have to do any of the clean up (BONUS)

7) It is just plain fun…

I might be making this my new annual birthday tradition; and I am already debating between a middle eastern themed menu for next year, or indian. What would you choose? Oh wait, or, maybe I want to go with Italian? Looks like I have the next few years already mapped out!

Learn more on the NWCAV website.

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International Chocolate Awards come to Canada: My Judging experience

Have you ever eaten 40 kinds of chocolate in one day? I just did. Yup. You read that number correctly. 40. Different. Kinds of Chocolate. It was a day of extreme chocolate for me.

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Why? Well, I was fortunate to participate in judging the 2014 International Chocolate Awards – Canada region, that recently took place in Vancouver last week.

I have not done anything like this before, and it was certainly a memorable experience. I hope to return next year! After learning how to make chocolate in Pastry School and the serious level of skills required to make a brilliant piece of chocolate, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Canada has some highly talented chocolatiers, and many of them are in Vancouver too.
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Canning season is here, and you CAN can anything!

Earlier this week I enjoyed an afternoon with a friend of mine while we canned some fresh peaches she brought back from a recent trip to the okanagan. Ripe for canning, the peaches were soft and perfect.

I took a canning class once, a while back, at Save-On-Meats through a Groupon. I wrote about it in another blog post. Anyway, I remember there were a lot of steps by they were not too complex.

So I did a little search and came across this super handy site, full of recipes to for using local produce. BC Tree Fruits – peaches in light syrup. As I read through the steps, I thought, this is gonna be fruity-fun!

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Knife Skills 101 with Chef Kelly Schoultz

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A few months ago some friends and I realized we shared an interest in gaining better knife skills in the kitchen. Another friend is a trained chef, Kelly Schoultz, and offered to lead a knife skills class for us based out of one friend’s home. The class was arranged over this past weekend, one day. It was a fun and educational event with friends, learning to chop vegetables and fruit more efficiently than ever before – knife skills 101.

Kelly is a true whiz in the kitchen! She is full of energy, super friendly and a great teacher. We were all impressed with her speed and precision.

We were instructed to bring our own knives from our kitchens, a cutting board, and some containers to bring food home in. She provided a handout too with information about basic knife skills.

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A cocao bean story and my night at Winnowing Wednesday with @EastVanRoasters

Tonight I went to Winnow Wednesday at EastVanRoasters. It was a great foodie experience all about chocolate and helping a social enterprise at the same time. I discovered this event via a @ScoutMagazine Tweet:

And later read Mia Stainsby’s review of the shop in her Vancouver Sun article.

I signed up instantly.

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Opening of Temper Chocolate and Pastry, West Vancouver

IMG_6073Temper Chocolate and Pastry opened in West Vancouver’s Dundarave Village on Saturday. Despite the down pouring rain we had that day, I still ventured out to see their new space. It was actually the perfect thing to do that day, because it involved sampling  pastry, enjoying some hot tea, and taking a much needed break. Here is a look at some of my photos and short visit:

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The pastry selection had been picked over, clearly, by the time I arrived (well into their opening day). But I went with my usual temptation, an Almond Croissant.

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The chocolate display and quality reminded me of Thomas Haas, high end, and worth a taste. I didn’t actually try the chocolates, though I plan to on my next visit!

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HAVE Cafe’s 2nd Annual Cupcake Throwdown!

In January 2011, HAVE Cafe hosted their second annual cupcake throwdown at Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive. It was a SWEET event to say the least and raised over $2600 from ticket sales and donations. Funds support HAVE Cafe, a culinary training school and restaurant in the downtown Vancouver’s eastside. Their mission is “To develop a program that will train “employment barriered” people from the downtown eastside and surrounding neighbourhoods, and to place them in entry level jobs in restaurant kitchens of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association”.  A cause that melts my heart, and reminds me of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation program. The idea of inspiring people and teaching life skills in the kitchen is amazing to me.  If you have the chance, visit the Cafe – it is the best value eats in more ways than one…

So when an organization like this hosts a cupcake fundraiser it’s an instant sell to me! Cupcake bakers contended with their cupcake displays throughout the night, while patrons tasted all the entries and voted on the winners or presentation and taste.

I honestly had a hard time choosing, they all were good in their own way. I feel like a mom saying that, but it is true. How can you go wrong with a cupcake!?!?

Here are some photo highlights of the sweetest dinner I’ve had so far this year! I can’t wait for the 3rd annual throwdown!!!

Third place winner - sweet potato carrot cupcakes!!!

Third place winner - sweet potato carrot cupcakes!!!

Rainbow cupcakes - I was SERIOUSLY impressed by these ones!

Rainbow cupcakes - I was SERIOUSLY impressed by these ones!

S'more Cupcakes with camping Ken & Barbie

S'more Cupcakes with camping Ken & Barbie

The pinkest ones of all, and flavour was to die for!

The pinkest ones of all, and flavour was to die for!

Mexican Vanilla cupcake filled with blackcurrent cream

Bite-size & flavour packed: Mexican Vanilla cupcake filled with blackcurrent cream and a swirl of cassis flavoured Italian meringue buttercream - topped with a mini french macaron.

YES thats an ice cream cone filled with brownie, vanilla cake, and topped with buttercream frosting!

YES thats an ice cream cone filled with brownie, vanilla cake, and topped with buttercream frosting!

There were a few French displays too...

There were a few French displays too...

Paris too!

Paris too!

Classic chocolate.... enough said. This was my final stop of the night.

Classic chocolate.... enough said. This was my final stop of the night.

The winners of the night were a first place Red Velvet cake, second place coco lime, and third place sweet potato carrot.  The pink pink cassis cake won for best presentation.

It was sincerely sweet success!

Hello 2011 – just let me eat CAKE!

I can’t believe how fast 2011 is flying by already, outside my blogging efforts I’m about to start a new job and I’m starting to feel the success of my first food blogging year.  Referrals continue to come in and I’m inspired by the food scene in Vancouver everyday, I wish I could write stories as often as I am inspired… One day maybe!

For now, I wanted to share a few foodie highlights from 2011.  My first adventure this year was learning about urban composting from the folks at CityFarmer.org.  They have such an amazing organization in the core of Vancouver in the West 4th area.  Their passionate gardeners truly care about nature – and even though I visited in the midst of winter, the garden was still a fascinating place to visit.

Sharron, head gardener, and Michael Levenston, Executive Director, shared their stories with me and Sharron toured me around the garden. It is the coolest and greenest place I’ve seen in months, despite lack of green in January. I’ll be back in the spring for sure. Full story to follow soon.

A gateway to greener living in Vancouver, CityFarmer.org

A gateway to greener living in Vancouver, CityFarmer.org

After my gardening experience, I headed to the Second Annual Cupcake Throwdown H.A.V.E Cafe fundraiser, at Cafe Deux Soleils on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. HAVE Cafe is a culinary training school in downtown Vancouver’s eastside, and is as inspirational as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation.

So when I received an invitation with the words “Cupcake Throw-down”, it was not an RSVP to decline – a guaranteed sweet event. It was certainly sweet success raising over $2600 for HAVE Cafe.  Full photo story to follow next!

HAVE Cafe cupcake throw down fundraiser was a hit!

HAVE Cafe cupcake throw down fundraiser was a hit!

A couple cupcake contenders...

A couple cupcake contenders and voters...

The food train continued a couple weekends later when my own brother hosted a sushi potluck dinner party.  A great idea for you folks looking for some fund ways to host dinner with friends!  Host makes the sushi rice and nori paper; and provides the basics including soy sauce, wasabi, rolling mats, chopsticks and maybe some Japanese green tea! Then your guests each bring an ingredient prepared to roll inside your sushi!  EASY PEASY AWESOME!

Potluck ingredients may include bell peppers, yams, prawns, salmon, lettuce, cucumber, cooked egg, avocado, shrimp, carrot, and whatever your heart desires.

Guests take turn making their sushi roll of choice, so yummy and fun!

Guests take turn making their sushi roll of choice, so yummy and fun!

Homemade sushi can be so colourful!

Homemade sushi can be so colourful!

Make your own veggie rolls too!

Make your own veggie rolls too!

Classic cucumber!

Classic cucumber!

Have you ever hosted a sushi potluck? Or another culinary-themed potluck dinner? Tell me about it!

Movember ends in Stachoff @thecornersuite!

Live twitter feed shown throughout the event

Live tweets shown throughout the event

Movember ended earlier this week, and I attended my first Tweetup! Hosted by The CornerSuite Bistro in downtown Vancouver, known for their signature blue chairs, it was a fun post-work event to check out the 30-day-upper-lip-mogression! Ladies attending had the option to buy fake-stache by donation, and some of them began to fall off throughout the event which added to the entertainment.

The CornerSuite Bistro's blue chairs

Some of CornerSuite Bistro's signature blue chairs

Here is a clip of a couple of the contests who competed in the stachoff where the top three winners received gift cards to a barber shop.

Have you been to a tweetup before, if so, where was it?