the holy grail of butter cream frosting

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I am on a quest for the best vanilla cupcake paired with the holy grail of BUTTERCREAM. With the plethora of cupcake shops out there this should be an easy task –but not so. Many bake shops excel at particular flavours but I have only found a couple of shops that has really delivered on the vanilla butter-cream. Too many frostings are overly sweet , cloying and sickly tasting to me.  There was a time when I was anxious to be seduced by a cupcakes beauty only to be bitterly disappointed. Sadly now, I am weary and jaded!

Finding the perfect recipe is equally difficult….but I have done it!!!

First off I was sucked in by the heading of BEST GOLDEN CAKE RECIPE by a famous baking blog. Against better judgement I ignored my own instincts to forego the mixer when incorporating the dry and wet ingredients together and used the mixer instead. Predictably the cakes were tough, and riddled with tunnels. Like a long-lost friend, I sought out my OLD SCHOOL BETTY CROCKER recipe for DINETTE cake and followed the method my mother had taught me years ago. I have used this recipe on many occasions over the years as it is a perfect easy to pull together basic butter /golden cake. You can see by the picture how well used this cook book is. Publicly I espoused my love of JOY OF COOKING, when I was harbouring my dirty little secret of BETTY CROCKER hidden away at arm’s reach. It kills me to look back at some of the “old timey recipes” I saved in the binder.

Here is the recipe for DINETTE CAKE- according to Terri and then the best  BUTTER CREAM that I searched out on All (The user comments were very helpful in order to decipher the best method to use, since you will see the original instructions are kind of vague.)  My sister Lori had shared a custard buttercream and I had loved it but lost the recipe.I had tried to recreate it from memory and was not getting the perfect end result I wanted. I have added my own notes (IN RED CAPS) too so you can try it out.

Then tell me if you don’t love it!!

happy eating, terri

DINETTE CAKEadapted from Betty Crocker 



  • 1/3 c butter
  • 1 c sugar

BEAT TILL SMOOTH and fluffy and add in

  • 1 egg-

CONTINUE TO BEAT UNTIL SOFT then remove bowl from stand mixer

  •  3/4 c  Milk ( can be sour or buttermilk or whole milk) and vanilla flavouring or paste
POUR INTO CUPCAKE TINS OR 1 9×9 sq or 1 large round tin.
Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F
Set timer according to your pan size–small cupcakes take approx 15 min but check your over to get the right timing
COOL ON RACKS and ice with  butter cream when ready . You can get fancy and add a raspberry of blueberry or whatever you like–but you really can enjoy as is. 

BEST BUTTERCREAM– adapted from the recipe on this link. 


  1. FIRST STEP:  In small saucepan cook flour and milk until it forms a ball, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature. ( I USE A GLASS BOWL AND HEAT UP IN THE MICROWAVE. IT JUST SEEMS LIKE LESS MESS TO ME AND NO POTENTIAL BURNING)

    see how think it is??? very goopy.
    see how think it is??? very goopy.
  2. SECOND STEP: With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. ( LET THE CUSTARD COOL –) 

    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
    grinding my white sugar into a powdery fine concoction
  3. THIRD STEP : Beat both mixtures together on high speed until fluffy and smooth. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour (IF NEEDED), until it is of spreading consistency. (USE A STAND MIXER to incorporate the butter mix and custard mix—AND BEAT TO REMOVE ANY LUMPS- YOU CAN THIN A TINY BIT WITH MILK OR CREAM IF NEEDED BUT CUSTARD CAN BE VERY GLUEY. REMINDED ME OF MY FLOURAND WATER GLUE COOKIES I USED TO BAKE OUT IN THE SUN WHEN I WAS A KID–I ALSO TRIED TO MAKE MY DAD EAT THEM AFTER SPRINKLING WITH NESTLES QUICK POWDER ON THE TOP…be patient, it will all come together!)

apple pizza with avocado and pulled pork

I know it might sound really weird but I have to say this is an amazing marriage of flavours. I  am on a pizza binge as of late–because it is just so easy to pull together and I am trying to use up what I have purchased previously instead of buying stuff every night. This just happened to be what was hanging around my kitchen.

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  1. I  had a bag of dough left over from yesterday that I let rest on the counter to warm up.
  2. there was a HUGE avocado that I had picked up on the weekend and it was finally ready to use along with fresh cilantro that was on its last legs.
  3.  pork loin was thawing the fridge –still a bit frosty
  4. a couple of apples/pears were lying around just begging to be eaten
  5. My cheese choices included some old cheese strings, some paneer, and a small block of aged white cheddar. I opted for the cheddar.
  • First I slathered the skinny lean pork loin with EVOO, salt, pepper and grainy mustard – then roasted @ 450 degree F oven for 20 min…. end then I turned the  oven down to 300, placing foil around it  in order to keep it from drying. I added in some mango juice that was leftover in the fridge as well just to add a bit of flavour and moisture (but you can use apple juice, OJ or even just a bit of water).

When I was ready to do the pizza, I pulled out the heated stone ( i just keep it in the oven with the roasting pork) and placed the thin rolled out dough on it. At this point you should remove the PORK and let it rest and turn the oven to 400 Degrees again.

  • Back to the Pizza Dough: spread some EVOO , salt and pepper, thin layer of cheese, and thinly sliced apples THEN pop into oven again (on the bottom of the oven floor if you have a peel and stone)
  • Set timer for approx 10 min. Remove when crisp on bottom. You can broil the top a for a couple of minutes if the apples need browning up.

Remove from oven.

  • Separate the pork with 2 forks and add on top of apple pizza
  • Top with homemade Guacamole (fresh avocado, cilantro, finely chopped onion, lime zest and juice and salt and pepper to taste) or however you like your Guac.
  • Walnuts would also be a great addition to the pizza and add some extra texture and interest.

I dare you to try it!


me and Mark Bittman are peeps

I would like to think so but I flatter myself. He has inspired me for years now. I was delighted to see that my pizza post was right in sync with his NYTimes piece this week.

Check out his TED TALK too while you are at it.


For Chefs at Home, a Pie Above the Rest

Potato Pizza: Mark Bittman makes a simple pizza with potato and rosemary.

Published: April 17, 2012

I’M here — back in the Dining section with a new column — to insist once again that not only can you cook it at home, but you can likely cook it better.

Talk Pizza With Bittman

Mark Bittman will host an hourlong chat this Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on The Times’s Facebook page, answering your questions on the ins and outs of making pizza.



How to Cook Everything

Mark Bittman’s new column, How to Cook Everything, will appear every other week in the Dining section. He will continue to write for Opinion and the Sunday Magazine.

“It,” in this case, is pizza, and the impetus for today’s installment was a visit to a highly acclaimed pizza joint in Manhattan, where I was served (for $15, or about four times the cost of the ingredients in a supermarket) a perfectly ordinary, overly poofy, drearily sauced pizza. Granted, the mozzarella was first rate. Big deal.

This followed by a couple of days what has become a not-atypical dinner at my house, where I served a pizza bianca, lightly sprinkled with olive oil, salt and rosemary, and threw together a pie with a tomato sauce based on a slew of onions and a bit of guanciale (only because I happened to have some), along with a sufficient amount of grated Parmesan to make its presence known.

I won’t even get into the money-saving part; people who cook at home for economic reasons already know about that. I will say that my crust tasted better, and my pizza was more properly cooked (yes, that’s a matter of taste, but do you really want to eat a bialy with tomato and cheese, as seems to have become de rigueur?) and better sauced than the one I ate a few days later in Midtown.

Yours can be, too, and I know that because I’m not really that good at making pizza. In fact, two or three of my close friends do it better, and I know of others.

It’s about three things: some confidence, practice and a food processor. This piece is my attempt to instill you with the first, encourage you to get the second and implore you to use the third, though even that’s not necessary, since there is an alternative: the no-knead method popularized by Jim Lahey. I’ve gone back and forth between the two, but for ease, lack of mess and more-flexible timing, I’ve come to prefer the food processor. Still, make the dough however you like, because you won’t go wrong.

From the beginning, the food processor was justifiably promoted as a tool for making dough. (My longstanding guide for this, by the way, is “The Best Bread Ever,” by my friend Charles Van Over.)

I love it for pizza because you can make the dough in five minutes. (A video of this is here.) Although rushing isn’t ideal, you can start pressing or rolling out the pizza 20 minutes later. (Use the larger amount of yeast if you’re doing this.) Which means, in a pinch, start to finish in an hour.

What is ideal is letting the dough rest for a while in the refrigerator or even freezer, though for best quality not for more than a few days. The advantages of this technique, besides the obvious convenience (make the dough in the morning or up to a few days before, and just let it come to room temperature before proceeding), is that the dough matures, marginally improving its flavor and making it considerably easier to handle.

There are, of course, some fine points, but even here there’s flexibility. Should you roll the dough or pat it out? That’s your call. (If you pat it out, you can leave it thick and dimpled — use your fingertips — and call it focaccia.) Should you use a pizza peel and a stone? Well, yes, and if you preheat the stone for a good half-hour, the crust will crackle even more, but it isn’t essential. I didn’t have a peel for a couple of years (no room) and used a piece of plywood or a flexible cutting board. And if you don’t have a stone, a baking or cookie sheet will do fine; just use a little olive oil to keep the dough from sticking. This will give you a crisper crust, one sort of halfway to the fried dough Pete Wells writes about this week.

A whole-wheat crust? Sure, 50 percent; it won’t be as crisp or have the same “pull,” but it will have a deeper flavor and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. (You can also integrate herbs, garlic, dried chiles, loads of black pepper, cornmeal, whatever, into the crust; the food processor makes this incredibly easy.) Extra-crisp crust with extra-moist topping? Prebake the crust about halfway, with just a bit of olive oil on top, then add everything else and return to the oven.

Mix the dough by hand? Yes, but you’re increasing your workload or, if you go for the no-knead method, your time. If your food processor isn’t big or powerful enough for the recipe here, halve the recipe or get a new food processor. Other uses for the dough? Fried pizza or calzone, both discussed elsewhere in this section; rolls or bread or even those silly garlic knots. But pizza is the highest and best use.

The options don’t stop, and we haven’t even started on toppings. When it comes to these, I’m pretty conservative, favoring the kind of treatments I mentioned earlier, or pizza with potatoes (a legitimate Roman favorite, obviously for carb lovers), eggplant or zucchini.

Others include the obvious, like tomato sauce of almost any type, with or without mozzarella and/or Parmesan; fresh tomatoes; pepperoni; anchovies; sausage (cooked or crumbled); chorizo or other cured meat; olives; onion cooked to any degree or not at all, with olive oil; pesto (or fresh basil); eggplant or zucchini, sautéed or grilled first, with or without cheese and/or tomatoes; seafood (raw clams, oysters, shrimp, scallops, lightly steamed mussels, lobster, whatever), preferably with garlic, oregano and oil.

I don’t wander far from those, which doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s all optional, and all good. Better, in fact.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 18, 2012, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: For Chefs at Home, A Pie Above the Rest.

a weekend with Ms. Madds

This weekend, I had a 2 1/2 year old to myself– 4 days and 3 nights. As I write her mother is spending her last evening in NYC celebrating the completion of her undergrad degree. This is a big deal for Maddie to be without her mommy overnight, but we seem to be having a good time in spite of it all.

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Friday night we heard the familiar music of the ice-cream truck. When my kids were little I  used to curse the guy that would drive into our townhouse complex nightly. I felt like a meanie, as I rarely had any spare dollars to spend on frozen rockets and overpriced ice-cream. Well guess what? Somehow I have the $ now to buy ice-cream almost as large as a 2 year old’s head…even if I have to raid he college fund to do it!

On Saturday we wandered around the neighbourhood. We especially love and the little flower shop next door. We hit a French bakery for bread and spent the next hour at the playground. The evening was spent eating a cold hotdog at a baking fundraiser for kids to go to camp.  Sunday we mostly stayed home,  watching endless YouTube loops of Kitties and owls and doggies and monkey with a few Barbie Princess and Mickey Mouse cartoons thrown in for good measure.

We also baked shortbread cookies…rolling out the scraps of dough and pressing the cutters into them 100 x each. I use the easiest recipe on earth and for once she can eat the play-dough. I have posted the recipe along with a fancier version from Rouxbe. The key is to USE REAL BUTTER. This is not the cookie to skimp on the butter.

Madeline’s culinary preferences include Cheerios, macaroni, peanut butter sandwiches, crackers and cheese and scrambled eggs and toast. She also likes grapes, apple, a few bites of banana and mandarin oranges. Now I recall the reason my regular dinner making went off the rails and has yet to recover. Give me a crowd of 10 or even 50 and I am a happy to cook all day long. Make an appetizing, well-balanced meal every night is a challenge I have yet to perfect.

Joy of Baking —   Shortbread Cookies:

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

 In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer or food processor beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  

Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated or pulse in processor.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out between parchment or floured surface. Cut shapes and bake until lightly browned 8-10 min.

a perfectly imperfect day

Last weekend I made  my way out to the suburbs to spend a glorious day of baking with my new friend Gaiti that I had first met about 5 years ago soon after she was first married. She has an adorable active son and an amazing business where she gets to do her favourite thing…baking for ” The Cupshoppe ”

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I packed up 2 year old Maddie in the car and stuffed some favourite pans and fresh cream in my bag. As I pulled in front of the house, Maddie threw up all over her twirly purple dress. After pulling everything off except her diaper and shoes we were able to locate some large sweat pants and a dinosaur shirt to clothe her. She was remarkably compliant and good-natured in spite of it all. Gaiti’s 4 year old son Ayaan and Maddie spent much of the day staking territorial claim over everything in sight and at one point Maddie yelled at the top of her lungs in a glass breaking volume that was truly impressive. Ayaan ever the charmer wooed back her affection with a peace-offering of a talking Elmo.

In the meantime Gaita made the most amazing chicken curry full of ginger, tomatoes, and amazing spices. I am still dreaming about it. We ate it so happily that I forgot to take a picture until only a small serving was left. We also poured over recipe books, wedding albums and life in general.

After lunch was cleared away we were finally on to the task of creating the Creme Brûlée tarts. The pastry was perfectly yummy and flakey (if not beautiful) but the creme needed time to cool. The day had sped by and we divided up the 8 tarts and I packed up the car. The sink-washed twirly dress had dried on the line and Maddie was once again princess worthy and the two kids had become happy companions.

An hour later, I poured the runny creme into a tart shell, dotted it with raspberries, skipped the sugary topping and ate it prematurely…( also eaten too fast for a picture). Perhaps it would have set if left for 3 hours or better yet overnight, but sometimes delayed gratification is over-rated.  Running and dripping all over the plate, it was the perfect way to enjoy the end of a lovely old-fashioned sort of day.

For an expert approach to creme brûlée baked in a traditional way check this out

friends for dinner- Happy Easter

Sundays are always a good excuse to entertain and Easter makes it a MUST DO. I scrapped any traditional Easter feast in favour of upping our veggie count. The only traditional item on hand was a fresh batch of HOT CROSS BUNS brought by my wonderful friend Susan. Truth be told, it was expedient that I salvage all those soon to be dead veggies I had purchased a week ago (see first post) and save a fish from dying of frostbite. Yup!!! I actually made dinner for 8 without a fresh trip to the market. I get this peculiar satisfaction when I actually use anything that has been sitting in my pantry, fridge or freezer.

On a side note–Saturday evening was my 2nd attempt at yogurt. When I checked on my batch this morning, I discovered that my milk was very hot (eek!) with a brownish skin on top. Luckily I had been reading a fun blog the previous evening around  GREEK YOGURT and there was a section devoted to salvaging yogurt failures–so I took my immersion blender and mixed the stuff up into a caramel smoothy–cooled down to 110 F and plopped some more live yogurt into the batch. I covered it up and let it incubate all day. By the time dinner came around tonight I had a lovely batch of caramel coloured yogurt. Can’t wait for breakfast Monday!

Check out this link for more insight…

…but I digress.

On to DINNER: I chopped tons of veggies, spread them across 3 baking sheets and roasted them . The rice cooker was filled with Black Thai Rice which I threw together with an assortment of raw broccoli, chopped apples, grated carrots and an apple cider vinaigrette | served with Nappa Cabbage Coleslaw – edamame, ginger, fresh pineapple  and lime | cucumber spiralled with sweet asian vinegar concoction | mahi mahi fish fillets from the freezer – lightly fried in olive oil | warmed  naan from the freezer |  coconut cream pie with cheater frozen pie shell.

The best part of course, was hanging out with fun friends and family (and Red the dog with an appearance made by Simba from the Lion king.) Wish all of you could have been there with us.

Pie recipe follows…

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coconut cream pie:

Any pie crust desired – baked and set aside to cool


2 c milk

1/2 c of coconut milk

3 egg yolks ( save the whites for meringue topping)

1/2 c sugar

1/3 c flour

1/2 c dry coconut

  • Heat up milk & coconut milk in deep pot
  • In food processor mix eggs & sugar well until thick yellow — then add in flour and mix some more
  • Add 1/2 c hot milk mixture into processor while running | mix well
  • Return to pot and stir with whisk until thick–which should happen quickly. Make sure the flour taste has been cooked out.
  • Add in dry coconut
  • Spread into pie shell to cool.
  • WHIP EGG WHITES and approx 1/3 c of sugar into a thick meringue.
  • Spread on pie and brown under broiler with a few sprinkles of coconut on top

Terroni Pizza knock-off faster than you can order take-out!

I fell in love with Terroni’s years before I moved to Toronto.

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The Queen West location was chosen by a beloved couple’s wedding rehearsal family dinner and it was love at first bite! Seriously–If you come to Toronto, you must GO TO TERRONI’S !

Our personal favorite:                 C’t Mang                                           16.95

white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh pears, walnuts, speck (smoked prosciutto), honey

Since then I have been on a quest to recreate the perfect thin crust pizza at home.


Making your own dough is sooo easy–but sometimes I just grab a bag of dough from the grocery store and shove it in the fridge so it is even easier to make pizza in the blink of an eye. (you MUST MUST MUST warm to room temp before working the dough)

HOMEMADE DOUGH: I love my food processor for this- insert the plastic blade (or use your mixer , by hand or plan ahead and use that old bread maker in the back of your cupboard)

RECIPE— 2 tsp yeast mixed in * 1 c of warm water with * 1 T of sugar

Throw in 2 c of flour | mix MIX mix|  Remove lid & add in 1 tsp of SALT*

**DO NOT FORGET THE SALT!!! I have done this and believe me, it is tasteless without it. (think tender cardboard)

Not needed, but I add olive oil–a splash or more  | and add up to
*1 more cup of flour and run processor again. Dough is very hardy. Balance out wet and dry if texture is too wet or too crumbly

The dough should be elastic and formed into a ball.  Take out and knead a couple of times to smooth out. Sprinkle counter with a little flour before kneading. Let rest for several hours or even just a few minutes.  Divide into 3 balls if using right away. You do not have to let it rise at all if you are in a hurry. Letting it rise will produce a bit chewier tender crust.

ASSEMBLE YOUR TOPPINGS and HEAT the OVEN to 500 Degrees F. * If you are using a PIZZA STONE throw this in to heat up as well.

Grate Mozza- plan on a light hand with the cheese.  I use less that 1 c per pizza*


No Pears?- Use Apples

No Speck?- Go meatless or use what you have on hand–I used sliced corned beef

No Gorgonzola I often use Feta or whatever I have on hand–but I try to keep a bit of blue cheese around. ( Fragile soft cheeses go on after you take out of oven )

OF COURSE–you can add any combo of ingredients you want–Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Unripened cheese | Sausage, Mushroom garlic | Caramelized Onions, and anything!

For soft cheeses, just add after you have removed pizza from the oven. Otherwise it will melt and drip away into oblivion.

I also throw some more EVOO on the surface. Sometimes I squirt a little honey or balsamic glaze. Yummy to bite into an unexpected flavour pop of sweetness. 

VERY IMPORTANT—Veggies need to be pre cooked to produce a good outcome unless they are sliced paper thin.  For Red Pizzas use sauces sparingly. A light hand with toppings make the best thin crust pizzas.

Pay attention to your favourite flavours when you eat out and recreate them at home.


My favourite platform to cook the pizza is the stone. I bought this for $10 . You DO NOT need an expensive stone. I also have a pizza pan with holes in the bottom and plain old cookie sheets. A crisp thin crust is possible on all of them and I have the pictures to prove it.

I spray with Pam or use a swipe of olive oil cause it SUCKS when it sticks!

ROLL YOUR DOUGH- Ssstttrrreettcchh YOUR DOUGH and make it as thin as you can. I use a rolling pin but if the dough is super soft, you might be able to use  just plain hands. If your dough has been chilled you MUST WAIT UNTIL IT IS ROOM TEMP for this process. This is one time I do not ignore the rules. It will not WORK COLD!!

NEXT–Place your dough on the stone or pans. If you have a heated stone your crust will start cooking immediately!

DRIZZLE with a little OLIVE OIL and salt and pepper

Add CHEESE next

Place toppings on next and you can sprinkle with some Romano or Parmesan or Feta or ?  if desired.

Place as low on the oven rack as possible but you can rotate around if you are doing more that one pizza. I often put the stone in and start it baking and assemble the next one while it’s bubbling away.

You can even place the stone right on the OVEN FLOOR if you have a gas or hidden burner. This is amazing but can be awkward to remove without a pizza peel .

Your pizza will be done in approx 10 to 15 min. Keep checking to make sure it is crisp on the bottom. Nothing screams crappy pizza more than a moist, wet bottomed  crust …almost impossible if you also used fat uncooked veggie chunks and a bunch of red sauce.

For a great pizza tutorial check out this Stone soup video. Jules does a great job showcasing her own process. of turning your home oven into a PIZZA OVEN.