Duchess Bake Shop – Cookbook Launch

One does not attend the beautiful surroundings of Duchess Bake Shop (especially when a string quartet is playing) when one has a red, raw, drippy nose, wads of damp Kleenex up sleeves, in pockets, in hand) and a cough that sounds like a sea lion arf arf arfing for a fishie at Sea World. No indeed. One stays at home and employs two drinking buddies (albeit social media junkies and food lovers) to go in their stead.

@habanerogal (Laurel) and @super_su (Suzanne) seemed keen, so off they went. Their mission? To be the first to see the Duchess Bake Shop’s new cookbook, sip champagne, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Duchess kitchen.

While at home in my ugliest pajamas, a corner of tissue rolled to a point and stuffed up one nostril, I kept an eye on the Twitter feed to see what I was missing. I wanted to weep. The pictures, as you can see, are amazing. And I wanted to weep not only because I was missing the event, but because I was so proud that Edmonton has such an elegant, tasteful shop within its heart. And Duchess just isn’t pretty to look at. The products it produces are beautifully created and, the best part, taste absolutely sublime.

I’ve been going to Duchess since it opened and have always been partial to their lemon tart, key lime pie and pretty little macarons. At the last Earl’s menu launch, fellow food appreciator Gail Hall and ladies washroom partner (you know what I mean…. we ladies go in pairs) of Seasoned Solutions was explaining that Duchess has The Best almond croissants. Tell me this…. how can you hear the words, “Best Almond Croissants” and not rise to the challenge? How? I know some (perhaps a lot) of you can, and that’s why you are at a reasonable body weight. But when I hear “best of” I think impossible! How? Let me be the judge!

Early the next morning I was in the car zooming off to Duchess to be there at opening to see/taste for myself. Did I buy one? Heavens no. When judging, you must buy two, just to make sure the quality is consistent! And it was. My toes curl as I type… the kind of curl toes do when the body is in rapture.

Anyone who goes into Duchess will feel special and will reach for their heads to make sure their crowns and tiaras are in place. The service and attention you receive at the counter is consistently polite, efficient and eager to please. You will feel part of the beauty of Duchess.

Lucky for us, Duchess has captured their recipes in their new cookbook. I have not seen it myself, but have seen some of the recipes they are sharing, like one of life’s pretty treasures, Vanilla Madeleines. Other than having a special Madeleine baking tray (you more than likely have a friend with one that has it buried in the back of the cupboard and if you ask nicely would lend it to you), these are super simple to create in your very own kitchen.

So friends….if you are in Edmonton and haven’t been to Duchess yet, please go. It is perfect when you want a place to have coffee with a friend, when you want to gain friends and influence people by sharing a Tarte Montreal at work, or when you want to take home almond croissants to have with coffee in your pajamas in front of the TV.

Here’s some great photos @habanerogal took from the event. Kudo’s to both @super_su and @habanerogal for doing an awesome job of taking in the ambiance, sampling the food and drink, and giving me the swag bag (you two are real pals. If it were me, I would have kept it run off to Mexico) and reporting back! Good work, both of you!

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Sponge Cake

Happy first day summer! The sun is shining, the leaf curler caterpillars are dangling from the trees, friends are meeting on sunny patios for icy beverages, having great conversation and giving away eggs (thank you @Super_Su!).

P1020678 Not regular eggs either. These are beautiful farm fresh eggs which I am sure were laid by the prettiest chickens in Alberta. Look carefully, some are blue and green! The city girl in me wants to know how a robin mated with a chicken to come up with a blue egg… but I have been assured (perhaps comforted) that robins and chickens are not going at it behind the coop. And I’m sure someone out there sighing deeply and rolling their eyes and wants to leave a comment that chickens don’t need to “go at it” in order to lay an egg for breakfast. I don’t know about these things. Let’s leave it a mystery for now.

Now the thing is, I went to Seba Beach a few weeks ago and popped in at the farmers market. I came home with a dozen farm fresh eggs from Nature Spring Farm. We love our eggs Michael and I do, but two dozen is a bit much. What to do?

Sponge cake.

I could hear Mom’s voice in my head from ages ago…. “If you ever have a lot of eggs to use up, make a sponge cake”. So I did. It takes six eggs. And a lot of stamina.

P1020679If you have a modern kitchen you probably have a Kitchen Aid mixer you bought at Costco, which cracks and separates the eggs for you, beats yolks to a buttery yellow froth, self cleans, then beats whites to stiff peaks. I don’t have that luxury. I used my little electric hand mixer quite successfully, but it took away 10 MINUTES OF MY LIFE. I am kidding. Not about the 10 minutes, but I went in to a sort of trance, occasionally snapping out of it when the thought of the hand-mixer slipping and chewing through my fingers would pop in my head.

P1020684P1020687P1020688P1020689P1020691P1020692P1020693P1020695The recipe I used is in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. There are many recipes on the net.

But what does one do, once one has baked a sponge cake? You make a Victoria Sponge. That’s what you do. And here’s how:

Find a sponge cake, slice it, put a nice smear of raspberry or strawberry jam on half, fill with fresh whipped cream, and add another slice of sponge cake. If you want to get all fancy-schmancy, dust with powdered sugar. Serve with…… ?  Tea of course!

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