Special Sticky Buns

Breads, Muffins and Scones

Yield: 6 large buns
Recipe: 51/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 231


     Like many other desserts from Anna’s cookbook, I had never made “sticky buns” or, as we called it in French, brioches. With anything else that I had never done before, I thought that sticky buns were very complicated to do. It is not so! This recipe was so well-explained that even a novice like me was able to do it. My only problem, I realized later, is that I used active dry yeast instead of instant yeast. I naively thought that they are the same thing. Albeit the sticky buns I obtained were heavenly, sweet and sticky, the dough was very elastic. When I was rolling the dough to contain the cream cheese goodness, it was very hard to manage. Consequently, the buns I obtained were not circular but were rather deformed. The buns I obtained were just as scrumptious, I am sure! These are definitely in my top 5 desserts done so far. You will have to exert incredible self control in order to not eat them all in one sitting, so good luck! 

Ingredients for dough:

  • 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1/2 package (4 oz or 125 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for glaze:

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  1. To prepare the dough, stir together the milk, yeast, sugar and egg in a stand mixer to blend.
  2. Add the flour, salt and nutmeg. With the stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment (alternatively, you can use a bowl and a wooden spoon), mix well until the dough is evenly blended.
  3. Add in the butter, mixing until homogenous.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set it on the counter to rise for about 2 hours, until it is about 1  1/2 times its original size.
  5. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. To do so, beat the cream cheese and butter together using a hand or stand mixer. Beat in the brown sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon, making sure to mix well.
  6. Grease an 8-inch square pan. Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle of about 15 inches by 10 inches (38 x 25 cm).
  7. Spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the dough and roll it up from the long side. Slice into 6 equal buns and arrange them in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the buns and bake them for 25-30 minutes, until they are evenly browned. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  9. For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and milk. Use a fork to drizzle the glaze over the sticky buns. These are best enjoyed warm out of the oven!



Frosted Mocha Whole Wheat Brownies

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 16 squares
Recipe: 50/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 54


     Brownies are probably one of the most universally loved desserts. Understandably. They mostly consist of chocolate, butter and, often, nuts. The simplicity of this type of dessert is what makes it so well loved. The twist in Anna’s recipe includes whole wheat (to make us feel a little less guilty of eating these delicious brownies), coffee and a cream cheese frosting. I really enjoyed making and eating these brownies. They were moist, delicious but, alas, very rich due to the cream cheese frosting. A couple of bites quickly fill you up (which means they last longer, no problem there)! 

Ingredients for brownies:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 oz (120 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3 oz (90 g) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 3 oz (90 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 package (4 oz or 125 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper, making sure that the paper goes up the sides of the pan.
  2. In a saucepot over low heat, melt together the butter, chocolates and instant coffee, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the sugar, vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time, making sure to stir after each addition.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda and salt into the chocolate mixture. MIx well until homogeneously combined.
  5. Stir in the walnut pieces.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes, just until the top of the brownies have a dull finish to them. Cool the brownies completely in the pan before frosting.
  7. For the frosting, melt the chocolate, butter and instant coffee in a metal glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir until melted.
  8. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand or stand mixer to soften and then add the chocolate mixture. Beat until blended.
  9. Add the icing sugar and mix to combine.
  10. Remove the brownies from the pan and ice the top. Let the frosting set for at least one hour before slicing.

Notes from Anna:

  • To toast the walnuts, spread the nuts on an ungreased baking tray and bake them at 350°F for about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.


Autumn Carrot Wedding Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one two-tier round cake
Recipe: 39/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 184

Carrot Wedding Cake

     Father’s Day is coming up this weekend. That can only mean one thing: it’s time to make a cake! It felt good to get back into baking after taking a small break (I was moving and everything was packed!). My dad uncharacteristically and specifically mentioned that he would very much like for me to make him a carrot cake for the occasion. Who am I to refuse? The fact that I love carrot cake is irrelevant and simply a great coincidence.

     This recipe was easy to follow and reproduce. Notwithstanding the slightly under-cooked cakes due to my getting used to my new oven which, apparently, takes twice as long to bake anything, everything went as expected. The cream cheese frosting was velvety smooth and delightful, one of the best I have tasted. I was worried that the carrot cake would not taste as good as I was expecting because I find that it is often the case that carrot cakes or muffins do not have such a prominent carrot taste. However, it was unanimous: the cake was delicious!! Everyone loved it and said that it is my best cake thus far. I found myself unable to disagree. As for aesthetics, I did not have a flat leaf tip and did not think the tips I have would make a suitable design, so I left the tiers as is, which I still think makes the cake look elegant yet rustic. Hence, I highly recommend this recipe. It is reasonably easy to reproduce and is succulent!

Ingredients for cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4  1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots, loosely packed
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 packages (8 oz./250 g each) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Required for assembly:

  • 9-inch round cardboard cake board
  • 6-inch round cardboard cake board
  • 2  1/2 cups walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Offset spatula (optional, to spread frosting)
  • Piping bag
  • Leaf tip


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch and 6-inch cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine the ingredients.
  3. Stir in the grated carrot and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat together the brown sugar, oil and eggs.
  5. Add the sugar and oil mixture to the flour mixture, beating together with a stand or hand mixer until well combined.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, making sure to fill them to the same height. Bake the 6-inch cake for 25-30 minutes and the 9-inch cake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cakes for 20 minutes in the pan, then turn them out and let them cool completely, at least one hour.
  8. For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until the mixture is fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat gently until the sugar is fully incorporated, then beat at a higher speed until the icing is fluffy. Warning: You will need your biggest bowl for this! This recipe makes a lot of frosting. 
  9. To frost the cakes, slice the 9-inch cake into three equal horizontal layers. Spread a generous amount of frosting onto the first layer, top with the second layer, and spread frosting on this layer before topping it with the third  and final layer. Chill for at least an hour.
  10. Repeat step 9 for the 6-inch cake.
  11. While the frosting is setting, prepare the walnut garnish by preheating the oven to 350°F. Toss the walnut pieces with the maple syrup and spread them evenly on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Toast the nuts for about 15-20 minutes, until they are evenly browned. Once they cool down, the maple syrup will caramelize and the nuts will be ready to use!
  12. Generously frost the top and sides of the cakes using an offset spatula, making the frosting as smooth and level as possible. Chill the cake for at least another hour before adding the final touches.
  13. To assemble the cake, carefully place the 6-inch tier on top of the 9-inch tier, ensuring that it is centered. For an added touch, you can fill a piping bag fitted with a flat leaf tip with cream cheese frosting and pipe vertical lines up the sides of the cake, from bottom to top. Generously sprinkle the toasted maple-covered walnut pieces over the top of each tier.




Notes from Anna:

  • The toasted maple-covered walnut pieces can be kept in an airtight container until ready to use.
  • The cake should be stored in the refrigerator, but can be kept at room temperature for display (or eating!) for up to 5 hours.


Red Velvet Cupcakes

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: about 15 large cupcakes (or 12 large cupcakes and a dozen mini cupcakes)
Recipe: 30/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 137

Red velvet cupcakes

   I realized very recently that I hadn’t baked cupcakes for a long time. That is simply unacceptable. I love making, baking, decorating and eating cupcakes! At my previous work I used to make some every couple of weeks and bring them in. Perhaps it is because I focused on more complex or different recipes from Back to Baking, and hence (almost) forgot my passion for making cupcakes. I took advantage of a friend’s birthday this weekend to make these cute red velvet cupcakes. They were moist, tasty and the frosting was exquisite. It is the best cream cheese frosting I have tasted thus far, probably because I am not a huge fan of cream cheese (except in cheesecakes!) and that this frosting was more subtle. I must also disclose that albeit I do find them tasty, I never fully understood what red velvet cupcakes are supposed to taste like. Obviously, a chocolate cupcake tastes like chocolate and a vanilla cupcake like vanilla, but what about these? They contain both chocolate and vanilla in similar amounts, so in my mind red velvet cupcakes are supposed to taste like both. Please correct me if I am wrong. This recipe was a success nonetheless! They were all gone in an instant.

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) white sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (175g or 6 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin  tins with large muffin liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk the ingredients to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar using a hand or stand mixer.
  4. Add the egg, vanilla extract and red food coloring to the butter mixture and mix well until the mixture is homogenous and fluffy.
  5. In yet another bowl, mix together the buttermilk and white vinegar.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
  7. Spoon the batter evenly between the muffin liners. Bake the large  cupcakes for 18-20 minutes and the small cupcakes for 10-12 minutes, until the top of the cupcakes springs back after being pushed down gently. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for 10 minutes before letting them cool completely on a rack.
  8. For the cream cheese frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until the mixture is fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat gently until the sugar is well incorporated. Pipe or spread the frosting on each cupcake.

Notes from Anna:

  • The cupcakes should be stored in the fridge but served at room temperature.
  • If you want a more natural red color, you can substitute the red food coloring with 3 tablespoons finely grated raw beets. In that case, use only 3/4 cup of buttermilk in the recipe.