Take 5 Birthday Cake

by byn on July 28, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Take 5 Cake

When one of your foodie friends is celebrating a big birthday, it’s time to bust out the big guns with a special cake. For Tasty G‘s big day, it had to be a Take 5 Birthday Cake.

I wasn’t acquainted with the Take 5 Candy Bar until I met Heather. It’s her favourite, and whenever our friend Jenny goes to the States, she always brings her back a bag of the minis. I somehow once wrestled one away from Heather (kidding, she handed it over willingly) and immediately understood the obsession.

Take 5 Slice

The five components of Take 5 are: chocolate, peanuts, pretzels, caramel and peanut butter. I actually made some Take 5 Bars a couple of years ago to celebrate the Tasty Gardener’s five year blog-iversary. They were sugar bombs of the highest degree, and they were glorious. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convert this into a cake formation. Here’s what I did:

  • Baked up three chocolate cake layers (using this recipe from Sweetapolita, as recommended by Danielle)
  • Filled and frosted with Prairie Girl’s peanut butter frosting (you could also use this one)
  • Spread My Favourite Salted Caramel between the layers (one batch was the perfect amount)
  • Sprinkled chopped peanuts on top of the caramel
  • Pressed pretzels on the outside

Inside Peek

It was absolutely perfect! Shout to The Craft (where we went for dinner) for storing the cake while we were at our Escape Room activity, then bringing it out with sparklers for Tasty G! Happy Birthday Heather!

HBD Tasty G

(Apologies to Mom for the profanity on this cake, but it was a hit!)


Ombre Glamour Shot
I haven’t really done that much baking this month, as evidence by my lack of posts. I’ve been busy outside the kitchen, and also it is so. freaking. hot. I did make a couple of pretty amazing layer cakes in June and July, so I wanted to document them here.

First up is this gorgeous (if I do say so myself) turquoise ombré layer cake I made for Nicole’s baby shower back in June. I wasn’t able to attend the party (I was on a family trip), but I had to make sure I could still contribute to making the day special for Nicole.

Ombre Slice

I told her I was going to make her this cake, and she also requested some squares (I made lemon squares and these strawberry rhubarb ones). The method was pretty straightforward, with a little bit of baking math mixed in:

  • First of all, I remembered to weigh the mixing bowl I was going to be using before I started, and recorded it
  • Then I mixed up Smitten’s 1-2-3-4 cake, which is my go-to vanilla cake
  • I then weighed the mixing bowl again, with the cake batter in it. I took that number and subtracted the weight of the bowl to get the weight of just the cake batter. I then divided it by four, as I wanted to make four equal size cake layers. I can’t remember what it was, but let’s call it x grams. You’ll see why this is important next.
  • With all my cake pans lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick spray, I began the tinting process
  • To start, I added the smallest drop of turquoise gel colouring to the entire bowl and mixed it up. I removed x grams of cake batter into the first cake pan, and spread it out with the offset spatula.
  • I added another drop of turquoise gel colouring to the remaining batter in the bowl, and once I was satisfied it was distinct enough in colour from the first layer, I removed another x grams to the second cake pan.
  • Repeat for layers 3 and 4. Now you can see why the math is important. It allows you to work from the same bowl, tinting as you go, instead of splitting the cake batter into four bowls and mixing each separately.
  • I baked the cakes until done (12-15 minutes, I think), and let them cool.
  • I frosted it with a big batch of My Favourite Buttercream, piped on the detail with a large round tip, and filled the middle with a custom sprinkle mix I made from Bulk Barn.

Treat Table

I had many happy texts from Nicole once the party was over, and she said everyone freaked out over the cake. The funniest thing was that she told me after that she was a little bit disappointed when she saw the cake; she thought it was going to have ombre icing on the outside. So she was super surprised and excited when she cut into it and found the ombre cake layers on the INSIDE!

Meanwhile, Nicole is currently three days overdue! C’mon baby, we’re ready for you!


Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

by byn on July 20, 2016

in Breakfast

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

This is hands-down the best summer breakfast you’re ever going to have. I started making breakfast crisps at the very beginning of this blog, when I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp with an all-rhubarb version. Deb subsequently updated the recipe in her cookbook, and that’s been my go-to for the last few years. I do make this in the Fall with apples, but this is truly my favourite.

Summer Breakfast

Over the years I’ve realized that a pure rhubarb fruit component is a little bracing for the morning, so now I do equal parts rhubarb and strawberries. I like to make this on Sunday nights before bed, and chill it in the fridge until the morning, then scoop out a bit into a mason jar with a huge dollop of plain Greek yogurt to bring to work, then repeat all week. I’ve been meaning for years to make a peach and blueberry version, so that’s going on the to-do list for August.

Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (with a couple adaptations)


Fruit Part

4 cups diced strawberries & rhubarb (I basically use equal amounts of each, enough to fill a large baking dish)

2 tbsp turbinado sugar

1 tbsp flour

Granola Part

4 tbsp coconut oil (the original recipe calls for butter, but I’ve been making this substitution for a few years and love it)

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

pinch salt

+ Greek yogurt for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Add the fruit to a large baking dish, and sprinkle the sugar and flour over top. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then stir in the sugar, followed by the oats, then flour, and salt. Sprinkle over the fruit.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then let cool to room temperature and chill in the fridge overnight.

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Nanaimo Ice Cream Squares

Baked Sunday Mornings is celebrating Canada Day today by remixing a classic Canadian dessert: Nanaimo Squares. My Mom always made these at Christmas time when I was growing up, but many Canadian families (ahem, Danielle) enjoy them all year round.

For my American friends, here’s a quick lesson. A traditional Nanaimo Square consists of three layers:

  1. Base: a no-bake crust made up of graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, COCONUT, and cocoa powder
  2. Filling: vanilla custard buttercream
  3. Topping: semi-sweet chocolate (the thicker the better, in my opinion)

The thing is though, coffee shops and grocery chains have ruined Nanaimo Squares for many people (meaning, me). Those store-bought versions are overly sweet and just gross.

The Baked Boys remixed the Nanaimo Square for Baked Occasions by swapping out the vanilla custard filling for ice cream! I was into this version, except I found that I really missed the coconut from the base layer (the Boys call for chopped up pretzels instead). I used vanilla ice cream in my filling for a classic Nanaimo flavour profile, but I like the other suggestions in the book for subbing in salted caramel, coffee or mint chip ice cream. Clearly I had trouble getting nice clean slices, but I’m sure that’s solved with a little more patience.

These were a hit at my family Canada Day celebrations yesterday!

You can find the recipe here! (For a traditional Nanaimo Square recipe, scroll down on this post)

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

Side note: LOL @ the Boys saying they enjoy the cooler summers in Canada. They’ve obviously never been to Toronto on a hot, humid summer day.

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June on Planet Byn {2016}

by byn on June 30, 2016

in Monthly Recaps

Snow Queen

Summer has arrived in full effect, and I fully enjoyed it and soaked up as much of it as I could before being knocked out by a summer cold:

  • My friend Weedy and her son Ronan had me over for dinner, and it was such a treat. Weedy’s signature summer cocktail is the Negroni, and she explained that your SSC has to be easy and quick to mix up. I love this strategy! She grilled lamb chops and asparagus and made some amazing crispy potatoes as well.  We ate in her backyard and talked until it was so dark we couldn’t see.
  • Speaking of summer cocktails, I met my friend Krishna on the rooftop of Gusto 101 on a blazing hot day for brunch. She was having an Aperol Spritz when I arrived, so I had to copy her, especially after Annie made them last year. I loved it and will have to pick up a bottle of Aperol to re-create this soon (see above re: Signature Summer Cocktail!).
  • I met my old co-worker on the patio at Local, a restaurant in Liberty Village (where Origin used to be). We shared some guac and I had a fish taco that was incredibly light and crispy, totally a winner. I’d go back in a minute to try a bunch of other things on the menu.
  • Who knew that Parkdale has not one, but two tiki bars? Not me! I tagged along with Sarah and her friends at Miss Thing’s where the drinks are served in vintage glasses, coconuts, and seahorse mugs and are super cute and colourful. I wasn’t head over heels about the food, but would go back for the cocktails and overall vibe for sure.
  • My foodie girls and I returned to Tavolo where we hadn’t been an ages. On Sunday nights they have a salad bar (is it all-you-can eat? We’re not sure, but we went up multiple times anyway!) and delicious pasta or pizza for a steal of a deal. We also had this deconstructed cannoli dessert that I’m still thinking about.
  • Libby invited me to the launch of Hidden Burger, this secret spot in the back of The Bottom Line. The premise is that they only take orders via app, and for $10 you get a burger, fries and a drink. The burger was delicious, and I would definitely go back if and when a burger craving strikes.
  • I spent a long weekend in Nova Scotia on a family visit to my parents’ hometown. Sadly my favourite childhood restaurant is now closed, but Snow Queen Leisure World is still in full effect! I made my Dad drive me here for a chocolate dipped cone, and it was the best!
  • Lydia and Aoife came over for happy hour to kick off the Canada Day long weekend, and we had fresh strawberry margaritas (I messed them up though, will post the recipe when I re-make it), guac and chips, plus some fresh watermelon and other snacks. So nice to sit on my balcony in the sun and catch-up.

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • I didn’t see many movies this month, but my Mom and I did go see Me Before You because we both read the book. I was still stuffed up from my cold, so crying my face off during this movie made breathing quite challenging. The only other movie I saw was Central Intelligence with The Rock and Kevin Hart. I’m not sure if it was because I had been cooped up in my place sick all weekend, but this movie was HILARIOUS. Kristine and I were definitely the only ones laughing at the Sixteen Candles scene at the end.
  • I started working my way through my summer reading list (might do a separate post on this), after finishing Longbourne, which was a re-telling of Pride & Prejudice from the servants point-of-view. I also re-read Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld’s first book that I last read in 2006. Totally holds up.
  • When I was sick on my couch I watched both Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies, and it just makes me so happy that the girls are all still friends in real life!



S’mores Cupcakes

by byn on June 28, 2016

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

S'moresy Goodness
Finally, finally, finally I had S’mores Cupcake success!!! I don’t know what it is, but I have the worst luck ever with marshmallow frostings. Even when I’m so careful and follow every tip in the book – making sure my egg whites are room temperature, have no trace of yolks, using a metal bowl, wiping it down with lemon juice or vinegar – sometimes my egg whites still won’t whip to stiff peaks. I first tried this recipe back at Thanksgiving and had no luck with the frosting.

S'mores Cupcake

It was my nephew’s birthday party a couple weeks ago, and I vowed to conquer this once and for all. I tried the same frosting recipe and had another disaster, but instead of giving up, I switched to another recipe from a different blog that worked for me in the past and had great success! I made two separate batches, but doubled it in the notes below, so I’m sure that would be fine.

Toasted Tops

Anyway, after all that egg white madness, my reward came in the form of using my cute little kitchen torch to toast these babies up. They were a huge hit! I want to toast everything!

S’mores Cupcakes

Source: Annie’s Eats + A Cozy Kitchen

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes


Graham Cracker Crust

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, melted

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cocoa

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp hot water

2 1/4 cup flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

3/4 cup sour cream

Marshmallow Frosting

4 tbsp water

1 1/3 cups sugar

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. For the crust, in a medium sized microwave safe bowl, add the butter, and melt in the microwave. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs and sugar until well combined. Add 1 tbsp of the graham cracker mixture to each cupcake liner. Use clean fingers or the back of a spoon (I used a pestle) to press down into an even crust. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. For the cupcakes, get out a small, medium and large (microwave safe) bowl. In the small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, then whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, then the cocoa mixture.
  4. Switch to an electric mixer, and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add mixture to cupcake liners, right on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  5. For the marshmallow frosting, set up a double boiler (so, a saucepan with about 2″ of simmering water, with a heatproof bowl set over top that is not touching the water). Add the water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt to the bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix together on low speed to combine, then slowly increase speed to high, whipping the mixture to stiff peaks. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the double boiler, and set on the counter on a tea towel. Whip for 2 more minutes, then add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. To assemble, add the frosting to a piping bag with a large open star tip. Pipe onto cupcakes (start at the outside and swirl in). Using a kitchen torch, toast the marshmallow lightly until golden brown. (Alternatively you can do this under the oven broiler, but watch very carefully so you don’t light the cupcakes, and your kitchen, on fire).


Rhubarb Poppy Seed Dressing

I’m boldly going where no Planet Byn recipe has gone before today: a savoury rhubarb recipe. I tried to make a rhubarb chutney once and it was a disaster, so I’ve given other savoury rhubarb recipes the side eye ever since. Rhubarb barbecue sauce? No thanks. Raw rhubarb in a salsa? Nah.

Pretty in Pink

However, a rhubarb poppy seed dressing seemed like something I could handle. It was so easy, tasted great, and is so pretty and pink. I basically re-created this salad from last summer, and added the dressing. Such a delicious summer lunch to enjoy outside.

Rhubarb Poppy Seed Dressing

Source: Chatelaine


1 cup chopped rhubarb

1/4 cup water

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp poppy seeds


  1. Add rhubarb and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the rhubarb is broken down. Let cool.
  2. Add rhubarb mixture, maple syrup, white wine vinegar, dijon and olive oil to a large measuring cup, and use an immersion blender to puree. Stir in the poppy seeds.



Rhubarb Mint Julep

by byn on June 22, 2016

in Cocktails

Rhubarb Mint Julep

The collection of rhubarb based cocktails here on Planet Byn is getting quite extensive, and I love it. We’ve made two simple syrups to stir into cocktails, infused vodka with strawberries and rhubarb, made a margarita with a jam base, and last summer a delicious mojito. I had this mint julep recipe bookmarked since last Rhubarb Season, and a little extra incentive to make it this year after celebrating the Kentucky Derby with these bourbon cookies we made for Baked Sunday Mornings.

This is a simple, pretty, refreshing cocktail to enjoy on your balcony while procrastinating from wrapping birthday and baby shower presents, which is what I did last week.

Rhubarb Mint Julep

Source: Hungry Girl Por Vida via Fashionable Hostess

Yield: 1 cocktail


3 fresh fresh mint leaves (more if they are small)

1 oz simple stewed rhubarb

2 oz bourbon

+ crushed ice

+ fizzy water


  1. Add mint leaves and stewed rhubarb to a glass or mason jar, and muddle with a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon.
  2. Stir in the bourbon and crushed ice, and top with a splash or two of fizzy water. Stir again. Add fresh mint for decoration.


Simple Stewed Rhubarb

Last week I got a text from my friend Nicole wishing me “Happy Rhubarb Season!”. She knows me so well! It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. I was in a momentary panic a few weeks ago looking through a Buzzfeed gallery on rhubarb recipes, thinking that I had reached the end of the rhubarb road, having made a variation on almost every recipe they posted: cocktails, squares, cake, pie, popsicles, ice cream. I’ve really been through it all in the past seven summers since this obsession began!

So imagine my surprise when I tried to find a recipe on Planet Byn for simple, stewed rhubarb, after being #blessed with a gigantic bundle of rhubarb a couple weeks ago from my Mom’s dental hygienist (random, I know, but I love it). I suppose you don’t really need a recipe for this, but I wanted to get the proportions right. I don’t like rhubarb recipes where so much sugar is added that you don’t make that pucker with your mouth. The pucker is the best part!

Classic Stewed Rhubarb

So here’s the recipe I used, and it’s perfect. Use this on toast, stir it in yogurt, add it to a cocktail (coming up next post!) layer it up with overnight oats. Happy Rhubarb Season!

Simple Stewed Rhubarb

Source: Canadian Living


3 cups chopped rhubarb

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp water


  1. Add rhubarb, sugar and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The rhubarb will break down into strands. Store in a glass jar or tupperware in the fridge.


Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

by byn on June 9, 2016

in General

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

When this recipe was posted on Smitten Kitchen last year, I was with Danielle in Atlanta and for sure said “I’m making this as soon as I get home!”. Well we all know what happened after that: two weddings, one case of bronchitis, and major summer fruit FOMO meant there wasn’t a lot of time for s’moresy things in my kitchen.

I made a half-hearted attempt to make this at some point in the Fall when I got my kitchen torch, but I tried to use frozen yogurt and almond milk. I mean, really.

I finally went all in on this milkshake last weekend when the Haagen-Dazs was on sale at my grocery store and I took it as a sign. Into the blender goes a whole tray of toasted marshmallows, vanilla ice cream, milk, a spoonful of greek yogurt and a little bit of vanilla bean paste. Whoa. Anyone reading this knows I have a major sweet tooth, and even I say this was teetering on the edge of too sweet for me. But as if I could resist this toasty delight!

S'mores Milkshake

Side note: As I was enjoying this, I realized I am not a milkshake person. I’ve only ever made two other types (both Baked Sunday Morning projects), and I don’t think I’ve ever ordered one in a restaurant , except coincidentally in Atlanta at Flip Burger, no doubt because we saw this post while we were there. I also don’t think I’ve had a Wendy’s Frosty since the 90s. Are they still a thing?

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: this is 1/2 the recipe and makes 1 generous or two reasonably sized milkshakes


5 oz big marshmallows

1/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

1 cup vanilla ice cream

1 tbsp greek yogurt

+ extra marshmallows for garnish


  1. Preheat your broiler, and move a rack close to the upper third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Spread out the marshmallows and broil until golden brown. WATCH CLOSELY, they’ll burn so fast. I flipped my marshmallows over and broiled on the other side too. Let cool (you can speed this up in the fridge or freezer).
  2. I have an immersion blender, so I added the marshmallows, milk, vanilla bean paste, ice cream and yogurt to a big measuring cup and blended it up!
  3. Add to a glass with a few extra toasted mallows on top!

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