Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Piecaken Fest 2013: My Chocolate & Pear Creation with Sour Cream Milk Chocolate Ganache (recipe included)

It started a little over a year ago with a photo found on the Internet. A friend sent it to me and said: "Please can someone make a piecaken for my 40th birthday?" And so I did.  I made a giant piecaken for his birthday with two pies baked inside of two 14" round cakes, stacked and iced.  It was awesome.

For those who do not know, a piecaken is a whole pie baked inside of a cake. Yup, completely indulgent, but definitely satisfying for people who love pie and love cake, or for someone who loves pie but needs a cake to celebrate a birthday or event.

This was the original photo
found online here.
This year, we decided to invite more people and hold a piecaken bake-off contest. With five savoury piecakens and eight sweet piecakens entered, this was a decadent, delicious and super-fun evening! Check out all the pictures on this blog's facebook page here.

I had so many ideas that I did not know where to begin.  But I knew that my entry had to include chocolate!  In fact, I don't make pies unless I can include quality chocolate within them. So after throwing a bunch of ideas around, like a blueberry pie inside of a cheesecake, a raspberry pie inside of a flourless chocolate cake (I still want to try this one!) and a chocolate-peanut butter pie inside of a chocolate Rice Krispie cake, I decided to make my trusty chocolate-pear pie recipe (which is a favourite with my husband and his family members), bake it into a vanilla cake and top it with my Sour Cream Milk Chocolate Ganache and some toasted crumble-top bits.

First I made the 10" pie, which includes my melt-in-your mouth pie crust recipe, organic milk chocolate chunks, 6-10 sliced pears, cinnamon, brown sugar and a crumble-top mixture of flour, oats, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. The downside was that the pears were not as ripe as they should have been, which slightly changed the texture of the pie, and I had used Muscovado sugar from Mauritius instead of brown sugar, which gave the overall pie a less-sweet flavour. But it was still pretty good.

Then I made a sour cream-based vanilla cake (I would share the recipe, but it is my own 'from scratch' recipe and it is a business secret!).  I poured just a half inch of cake batter into the bottom of a 10.5" spring-form pan. After having made a few piecakens, I have learned two important things:

(1) use less batter to ensure the cake cooks all the way through, and

(2) it is easier to remove the pie if it is baked on parchment in the pie plate and if it is flipped upside down into the cake batter.  There is less chance of your pie breaking this way and you do not need an extra set of hands to remove the pie plate (don't worry about the pie being upside down, once baked, I just flip the whole cake back over onto the cake plate so the pie is right-side up again!)

Then I poured a thin coating of cake batter on top and filled in the sides. I baked it for around 40 minutes to an hour (a piecaken takes a long time to bake!).

Once cooled, I flipped the whole thing over onto a silver cake plate and made a milk chocolate sour cream ganache (see below for recipe). I iced the cake with the ganache and then toasted some of the leftover crumble-top and voila!  A beautiful piecaken was born. 

I also made two savoury piecakens (a Tourtiere inside of a Sour Cream Cornbread and a Chicken-Pot Pie inside of a yogurt cornbread - both were delicious!)

So now, as I plan for next year`s festival (oh yes, this might just be open to the public next year) and try to lose any weight I might have gained from eating 13 slices of piecaken at the party, I have an entire year to test out and think of the endless chocolaty combinations of piecaken that I can make for PiecakenFest 2014. If you have any ideas, feel free to add them to the comments below.

Below are the pictures of the first piecaken that I made last year (2012) for my friend's birthday party. It was 14" round, covered in real vanilla buttercream and organic milk chocolate chips and topped with an additional mini Crumble-Top Pie just for fun.  Inside: A Cherry-Dark Chocolate Pie baked inside of a Chocolate Cake. Stack on top was a Milk Chocolate Crumble-Top Pear Pie baked into a Vanilla Cake. The crumble-top pies made for messy slices but it was SO much tastier than a regular pie with a pie-crust top.


This is me
sampling Piecaken
at the party.
Such a fun night!
For more information on our Piecakens, check out my blog devoted entirely to piecaken recipes and ideas for putting pies inside of cakes at:  Also  my friend Christine also wrote a blog post about our little festival: And check out this guy's website: I think he came up with the idea for sweet piecakens and we fell in love with his idea and built on it! He calls himself the King of Piecaken and I think after last weekend, I should be called the Piecaken Princess.  It has a nice ring to it, am I right?
I think I will just stick to "Chocolate Connoisseur", I feel like I have a better chance of mastering the art of chocolate than the art of piecaken. After all, chocolate is my true passion!
Sour Cream Milk Chocolate Ganache Recipe
1. Melt 12 ounces of chopped milk chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes on HALF power or over a double boiler (take off heat when there are a few chunks left and stir until melted).

2. Warm up 1 cup of sour cream to room temperature (or slightly warmer) in the microwave.
3. Beat in 1 cup of room temperature sour cream - I used an 18% all natural sour cream that was similar to crème fraiche.
4. Ice cake immediately before the ganache stiffens.
This is also great as a filler in between layers of chocolate cake - it is rich, slightly sour and sweet all at the same time.  It takes the phrase 'sweet and sour' to a whole new level!
For the chocolate, be sure to use a high quality milk chocolate with at least 30% minimum cocoa solids for a full chocolate flavour.  I used Camino Fair Trade and Organic Chocolate with 38% cocoa solids. I have also used Cacao Barry's Organic milk chocolate (see for purchasing info) and sometimes a President's Choice 300 gram Milk Chocolate Bar which can be found at any Superstore, Loblaws or Valu-Mart in Ontario.  If you are not Canadian, check your local grocer for quality milk chocolate bars, like Green & Black's Organic/Fair Trade Milk Chocolate or other brands.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hazelnut and Chocolate - A Perfect Pairing for your Delicious Creations

I spent a year in France nearly eight years ago and while there, I saw a world of hazelnut-and-chocolate that I never knew existed. Aside from seeing the wonders of Nutella in its full European glory, chocolate flavoured with hazelnuts could be found in commercial candy bars, fine chocolate bars and chocolate shops all over the country. Having grown up in Canada, where peanut butter is the king of all nut-butters and just hearing the phrase 'chocolate-peanut butter' makes people instantly salivate, I had no idea that hazelnut was the revered nut in other parts of the world.

I recall grocery shopping during my first week in France and being hard-pressed to find a jar of peanut butter. But Nutella lined the shelves of grocery stores like nobody's business (and at a great price too compared to the high price of a jar of Nutella in Canada at the time). Also, Bueno, a candy-bar with a hazelnut filling, was being advertised non-stop and all the packaged gift chocolates seemed to be focused on hazelnut and praline fillings.  There were no Reese Peanut Butter Cups and crunchy peanut fillings to be found!

The world of chocolate in North America has changed a lot since then; the market now has a greater focus on hazelnuts and more natural tasting hazelnut-chocolate combinations.  And since I started my chocolaty business a four years ago, I have been experimenting with hazelnuts and pure hazelnut butter in my chocolate creations.

The only problem has been access to reasonably priced hazelnuts. In the rural town where I now live, I could only find hazelnuts sold raw and in small bags. The roasting, shelling and grinding hardly seemed worth my time.

Then I found a brand of hazelnut butter that was sold in the health food section of a major grocery store chain. It was good, but the price was $12 per 500g jar - a little too steep for my budget! I've been searching for a website, or the manufacturer, to contact them and get a better wholesale price, but nothing has worked out.

Finally, I hit the jackpot when Cacao Barry sent me a sample of the nicest hazelnut butter (or 'meat' as the package stated) that I have ever come across. It is dark in colour, rich in flavour and ground until perfectly smooth.

So last month, I made chocolate-hazelnut truffles (or 'meltaways' as some call them because I included organic coconut oil in my truffle creation).  Then I made hazelnut TOFFLEs - my signature product which normally has a cream-based milk chocolate centre inside of a rich, dark chocolate toffee.  The hazelnut TOFFLE was delicious - as good as the original TOFFLE!

Finally, I dipped pieces of Cacao Barry's origin chocolate in it to see which one it best paired with. It turned out that the Cacao Barry's Madirofolo (Madagascar) 65% dark chocolate paired beautifully with it. And I also discovered that this was a great breakfast too (chocolate with hazelnut butter is much better than toast with hazelnut butter).

So if you are looking for hazelnut butter to add depth to your chocolate creations, check out Cacao Barry's pure hazelnut butter: this website will enable you to search by your country and find a supplier in your area. If you are in America, they can be found on Twitter: @ and in Canada, their Canadian sale team can be reached at: @CacaoBarry_CA.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Organic Swiss chocolate that is a darker than your average dark chocolate....and delicious too!

Organic chocolate bars most often come in milk chocolate, 55% dark chocolate, 70% dark chocolate and sometimes in 85% dark...but a 75% organic dark chocolate is virtually unheard of.  Until now, that is.  On a recent trip to The International Cheese Shop in Ottawa's Byward Market, I picked up a Chocolat Stella Organic Nature 75% Dark Chocolate bar that was imported from Switzerland.  True Swiss chocolate that is bitter, but also somewhat sweet, rich and absolutely delicious. It is certified organic by bio.inspecta AG and is USDA Organic certified. It is also all-natural and only contains four ingredients (cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla).

Because this chocolate tasted so great, I have managed to slowly eat one piece at a time and savour the 100 gram chocolate bar since June...until today when I finally finished it.  This is truly an accomplishment for me!

You can learn more about this chocolate bar and other Chocolat Swiss products at: Interestingly, their website is promoting a new line of chocolate bars made with agave instead of sugar, for a low-glycemic chocolate experience. I need to get my hands on some of those!

There were a few other flavours on the shelf in The International Cheese Shop, so if you are in Canada's Capital I suggest you take a look at the selection as you walk in the door.