Wednesday, November 12, 2014

it all begins with cake...

...yes, it begins with cake and continues with cake. 

Today, it's actually petits gâteaux, as created in Julia, Child, a charming picture book with words by Kyo Maclear and pictures by Julie Morstad and published by Tundra Books for children aged Kindergarten to Grade 2. I love this picture book - from the clever title to the subtle, muted colours of the illustrations to the end papers to the poster inside the book jacket and everything else in between. It's a delightful, yummy read for all ages. I wish I'd written and illustrated this one! Oh, what fun it must have been to put this book together...

Julia Child has been a favourite chef of mine (she has the perfect technique for making the perfect omelette) and I was immediately drawn to this book for young children (and young at heart) just by its title - Julia 'comma' Child. The book references Julia Child's life, her friendship with 'Simca', their enjoyment of food and their inspiration for cooking. And the two little chefs help some adults rekindle their joie de vivre from childhood. I was actually introduced to this story in a review written by Camilia Kahrizi while glancing though the Fall 2014 edition of the Canadian Children's BookNews magazine - so thrilled to have stumbled upon it, as finding this story revived my passion for picture books. I had the chance to chat with Camilia at the Toronto Book Fair about 'Julia, Child' and I agreed with her thought that it's everything a picture book should be.

And as a former Kindergarten and Grade One educator, I can see oodles of curriculum connections for the Kindergarten and Primary years programs. There are opportunities for links to learning in all areas of development:  social-emotional (developing problem-solving skills), literacy (making predictions, responding to read-alouds),  math (counting, measuring, sequencing), science (observing, questioning), the arts (role-playing) and so on. It's a tasty addition to any early years classroom, school library or bookshelf at home.

Our family shared those chocolate almond cupcakes and we thought the recipe was a new dessert favourite. And maybe I'll bake these little treats whenever I need a reminder (like the adults in the story) to have fun, take a deep breath and savour...

Chocolate Almond Cupcakes
Inspiration:  Julia Child’s ‘Reine de Saba’ Cake from The French Chef and I've adapted it as petits gâteaux:

Makes 12 cupcakes

Cupcake ingredients:

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate melted with 2 tbsp brewed espresso
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup plus one tbsp granulated sugar 
3 large eggs (separated)
pinch of salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup sifted cake flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350ªF.
2. Place paper cupcake liners in muffin tin.
3. Place chocolate and espresso in top pan of simmering water of double boiler until melted and stir to combine.
4. Cream the butter and 2/3 cup sugar in medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
5. Beat in eggs yolks one at a time until well-blended. 
6. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar over the egg whites and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the butter and sugar mixture until well combined. Fold in one fourth of the beaten egg whites, then gently stir in one fourth of the sifted flour. Alternate until all beaten egg whites and flour are incorporated. 
7. Fill muffin cups ¾ full. 
8. Bake for approximately 10 – 15 minutes. The cupcakes should be puffed and the cake tester should have moist crumbs attached when a toothpick is inserted.
9. Let cupcakes cool.
10. Then spread or apply icing with pastry bag.
11. Sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds.


Icing ingredients:

2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 tbsp brewed espresso coffee
5 - 6 tbsp unsalted butter

1. Place chocolate and espresso in top pan of simmering water of double boiler until melted and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
2. Beat in butter one tablespoon at a time.
3. Transfer pot to a bowl of ice cubes. Continue to beat until the mixture has thickened to desired consistency.

Bon appétit!


  1. Oh, perfect! Delicious post, delicious photos...

  2. Thanks, Theresa.
    Picture books and chocolate - how can one go wrong!