Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dessert before dinner: French Toast Cupcake, and Avocado Penne

As adults, I feel it is our right—nay, our duty—to occasionally spoil ourselves with dessert before dinner. As such, we have hatched a plan for a monthly blog entry: ‘Dessert Before Dinner’. This is part of our goal to ‘feed each other’, as well as our goal to support local business…for the dessert we plan to eat, once a month, before dinner, is Little Cakes Cupcakes.

Little Cakes in a nutshell: two awesome ladies who live and bake in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. They create delicious cupcakes (mostly their signature minis) that not only taste incredible, but look fantastic, too. It’s a winning combination, and it’s harder to find than you’d think. So often, taste is sacrificed for looks…but these gals pull off perfect cupcakes every time. Little Cakes works almost entirely by special order, creating perfect batches of cupcakes for parties requiring anywhere from 2 to 200 dozen. Little Cakes donated several dozen mini cakes to our co-ed bridal shower earlier this year, and at that time we first had the honor of attending one of their tasting nights. When the ladies offered us space to come again this month, we were utterly thrilled! The tastings take place at With Love Bridal Boutique, a new and adorable shop in Stittsville, Ontario (about a 30 minute drive from central Ottawa). In this glamorous atmosphere, surrounded by pearly jewellery and rows of gowns, we munched away on ten separate varieties of cupcakes. As we chatted, high on sugar and full of chocolate, we decided the best and most awesome thing to do would be to regularly attend the monthly tasting nights, blog about our ‘favourite flavour of the hour’, and follow it up with a dinner recipe…thus, ‘dessert before dinner’. So, without further ado, let us pontificate on the heaven that is…

The Maple French Toast Cupcake

Little Cakes always does a great job with dreaming up new flavours, and this one was a quick favourite of ours. The cake itself was the usual fabulous signature bake that can be expected from all LC cakes, spongy and moist without being gluey or grainy. The perfect swirl of icing on top is what punches you in the tongue, but the cake itself carried the subtle taste of the maple. Maple can often come off very candy-like, but this maple made me think of homemade pancakes with real syrup.

The icing was amazing and complex in its flavours, first hitting you with a punch of vanilla, then finishing off with a warm burst of cinnamon. I loved the look of this cupcake, simple off-white but with the specs of cinnamon glittering in the icing. Little Cakes icing melts in your mouth, and this variety was no exception; the richness came from the icing, while the sweetness came from the cake—which you’d usually expect to be the other way ‘round. All-in-all, the whole first bite made me think of the way that Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal smells, though that stuff never tastes as good as its aroma would suggest. Not so for these cupcakes: from sniff to swallow, the maple French toast cupcake was magnifique

Now, some cupcake porn: just a few straight-up HAWT shots of the cakes, with our dinner recipe below....


Brian in heaven. He ate 13 cupcakes!

Colleen, baking goddess!

And Now, Dinner…Avocado Pasta Sauce over Penne

With a cold-weather cupcake we pair a cold-weather meal…but something dead-easy I found on the internet. Last week I had a craving (as I often do) for avocado, but didn’t want to make a salad or wraps to stick it in. What I wanted was hot, warm, carby pasta, and avocado. I’ve been told that you can’t really cook with avocado, though what exactly happens to it if you do, I don’t know; it’s mysterious, like the rule about not getting Mogwais wet after midnight. (Spoiler: they turn into Gremlins. Clarification: Mogwais turn into Gremlins, avocados do not. At least, not that I know of.) Anyway, I found arecipe, which again I pretty much ignored (adult ADD) except for the basic actions taken and the fact it used a food processor. I was so excited about this, because I got a processor at my bridal shower and I’ve been dying to use it, but had no idea what to do with it. Well, lo and behold, we have avocado penne. Here are the super-simple steps to creating a fantastic, rich dish that’s rife with good nutrients—not that I wouldn’t have made it, anyway…


Food stuffs
-one avocado
-half a box of penne

Spices and oils
-olive oil
-lemon juice
-garlic: 2 cloves, or a big spoon of pre-mushed stuff

What to do:

1. Get the avocado flesh out of the avocado. I did this by watching people on TV do it; here’s a YouTube video.
    1b. Boil water for the penne, and cook it following the instructions on the box. Drain when it’s ready. It may be ready in between the steps you take for the sauce.

2. Put the avocado flesh (meat? dough? muscle?) into the processor along with a big dash of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of cilantro, the big spoon of garlic, and about a tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Blend for a while. Push the goo down towards the blades so it all gets blended. If it’s not blending well, add a touch more lemon or olive oil. I ended up adding dashes of both. Pepper to taste (I like LOTS), and maybe there’s other spices you like…throw ‘em in. I should have added chilli pepper flakes, for instance, but I didn’t think of it.

4. When your penne is done, drained, and put back into the pot, pour the avocado over the penne and toss together like a salad. Serve hot, and eat it all that night, as apparently you can’t reheat avocado (but no one says WHY).

Advanced steps:

When I went to serve this, I found it a little bland, just because avocado is such a simple, rich creamy thing. I got creative and threw some marinated mushroom caps and artichoke chunks into the pasta—these we picked up earlier in the day at the antipasto table in La Bottega, but you can get them in jars. I also cut up and added in some marinated spicy eggplant, a recent discovery of mine that I’m obsessed with.

After eating this, both Brian and I agreed that pine nuts would have been an extraordinary addition; homemade bacon bits were also a good suggestion. However, I really just enjoyed mowing down on a big plate of creamy avocado penne. The great thing about it: it was a lot like an alfredo sauce, but without the milk…score for the lactose intolerant couple.

So there you have it: a complex cupcake, followed by a ridiculously simple pasta dish. Both items delicious and warm and buttery and rich. I’ll admit, the only thing I might have been able to eat after the cupcake feast was a green salad with vinaigrette, but I actually chose to forgo dinner altogether, instead falling into a sugar coma and waking up with a hangover that I cured with the hair of the dog that bit me: a cupcake from the ones we got to take home! ‘Like’ Little Cakes’ facebook page, and come out to the November tasting night—it’s not just for brides, because there’s always occasions upcoming for cupcakes! Try the avocado recipe, as well, and someone somewhere: tell me WHY you can’t heat up avocado. I beg you. Is it Gremlins?


  1. Hahaha, avocado turns into gremlins ...

    I think you can't reheat it because it gets all oxidized and mushy. And if you've already pureed it then it will be extra mushy and extra oxidized and probably not taste all that great.

    But that's just a guess.

  2. This post made me laugh. It also made me want Avocado Pasta Sauce over Penne! :D

    If I ever am so lucky as to get a Mogwai I will definitely not water it or put it over penne. Promise.

    Wait! Maybe I should read your post again...