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Finally recovered from the crazy that was CupcakeCampTO! If you missed it – details and recaps here, here and here!  For more, including videos and links to tons of photos, check out the official site cupcakecamp.ca.

awesomesauce-cupcakecamp-organizers

Michelle, Andre and Monica (above) did an absolutely amazing job in getting this up and running – the first CupcakeCamp in Canada!

I made a few different cupcakes for the event, including meatball cupcakes (not an official entry, maybe next year!).  I think they might have helped a few folks prevent a serious case of carb coma or diabetic shock from all the sweet stuff that was flying about that day.

I think they went over quite well, but not as well as my Vanilla Cheesecake Crunch, a wee bit of tastiness that wasn’t super fancy in the decoration department but managed to nab first place for best dessert-inspired cupcake – thanks so much to the FoodTV folks for taste testing over 40 different cupcakes!

For those interested in trying them out – here’s the recipe. I tweaked it a bit, so tried to note those edits where I made them. Mostly I just wing it as I go… which is somewhat funny since I tweaked this recipe the morning of CupcakeCamp and never actually had a chance to taste the final version of these until after the judging happened! I’m glad they turned out delish. :)

Enough chatter – on to the recipe!

Vanilla Cheesecake Crunch (original recipe by Elinor Klivans, from the book cupcakes!)

Batter

2 1/2 cups AP flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt get sifted together, then set aside.

Mix 3 large eggs with 2 cups of sugar until thickened and light cream colour. I used a handheld mixer and it took about 2 minutes. Probably quicker with a stand mixer.

eggies

Mix in 1 cup canola or corn oil along with 2 tsp vanilla. I tend to add a bit more vanilla. Yum.  Mix those in and then add 1 cup sour cream. Beat that all together on a low/med speed until no streaks and then incorporate the dry ingredients until just mixed.  Batter is thick and a lovely pale yellow.

batter

You are ready for step 2, the filling!

Filling

Grab your trusty mixer and get cracking – beat the cream cheese (1 pkg) with 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.  Beat in 1 large egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla. I added more vanilla.  The original recipe called for the addition of 1 tbsp of lemon juice plus 1 tsp zest but I tried that the first time and it was too lemony for my taste. I was interested in vanilla – not lemon – cheesecake! Additionally – I made 2x this amount because I wanted more cheesecake per cupcake!

beaters1

Topping

Easy peasy. Melt yourself 2 tbsp of unsalted butter (okay, I might have used 3…mmm….butter) and then pour it over a mixture of 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup light brown sugar and 1/8 tsp salt that you stirred together in advance. Stir quickly to mix or you’ll end up with a big ol’ lump in the middle.  Break up larger pieces with your fork to ensure a fairly even size for your crumble.

Fire up the oven – apparently you are supposed to cook these babies at 325 for 25 minutes but I think I had them in at 350 for less… and they baked much faster with the convection oven on too – probably about 15 min.

Make the Cupcakes!

Toss liners in the muffin pans, this recipe says it makes 24 regular, 12 extra large or 72 mini.

Fill 1/2 the liner up with batter, fill to just below the top of the liner with filling, or whatever ratio you like. The original recipe called for 3 generous tbsp of batter to 1 1/2 tbsp of filling.  Sprinkle crumb topping over each.  I started pressing it down just ever so slightly so it wouldn’t fall off after baking.

Take a peek (don’t open the oven if you don’t have to though!) often, to make sure they aren’t getting brown. You can test with a toothpick but I think that they are past-done when the toothpick comes out clean.  They need to be a little bit crumby and moist still to ensure the cheesecake is nice and soft.

cheesecake-cupcakes

The only thing left to do at this point is enjoy!! :)  If you try these out, do let me know what you think.  I *highly* recommend Elinor’s book cupcakes! as I tried a bunch of recipes from it and they were all superdelishfantastico!

(More CupcakeCampTO pics to follow)

My City, Rewound

I was skulking about on the City of Toronto‘s website the other day looking for some information about our house and I came across their scanned image archives that have been made available online.

Queen West, looking East from James St. - Toronto - 1924

Queen West, looking East from James – Toronto – 1924

Now, it’s quite the hassle to view the images – so prepare yourself ahead of time.  Each link must be clicked, each image viewed on its own. It’d be great if these images would be added to Flickr’s The Commons or somehow made more readily available and easy to surf through.

Building the Subway and Streetcar system - Downtown Toronto

Building the TTC – Toronto

However, all that aside, the images (and there are a ton of them) are lovely to explore and I had a few little thrills when I spied some from just down the street that were taken near to the time our house was built. At least you can search by date and keywords.

If you live in Toronto and have an interest in how your neighbourhood looked many years ago, check out the Toronto image archives.

Here are a few I found interesting, all from around the time my house was built (1924).

Slum Lodging House - Toronto - 1924
Slum Lodging House – Toronto – 1924
The Beach - Toronto - 1924
The Beach in Winter, frozen – Toronto – 1924
Ladies at Woodbine Racetrack - Toronto - 1924
Ladies in furs at Woodbine Racetrack – Toronto – 1924
Looking East from the Royal York - Toronto - 1929

Looking East from the Royal York - Toronto - 1929

The Danforth lavatory - Toronto (corner of Broadview/Danforth) - 1924

The Danforth lavatory - Toronto (corner of Broadview/Danforth) - 1924

TTC Bus - Toronto - 1923

TTC Bus - Toronto - 1923

Building the Bloor Viaduct - Toronto - 1916

Building the Bloor viaduct - Toronto - 1916

Startups + failing economy – VCs = layoffs.

Many friends and acquaintances have already faced the dreaded “we’re sorry but we have to let you go” lately… and today I joined the club.

Yep, still feels weird to say it but I was laid off today. My first layoff.

I am unemployed. Sounds a little tragic, no? Don’t get me wrong, I AM excited about what’s next. I know it will be great.  It’s just a real kick in the gut to realize that the marketing session you thought you were going to is actually your dismissal meeting. This has never happened to me before.

Not to suggest that I was blindsided. It wasn’t so much of a surprise given the market conditions, the industry (software/web) and the type of product we were working on (image search, mobile search apps).

So, what’s next? Some soul searching, some researching and the rest I’m not quite sure about yet. What I do know is that I am very lucky to have the amazing group of friends I have.  It’s been just a few hours since I started letting people know and already my phone has been ringing and my blackberry has been buzzing with leads and tips, along with lots of humorous “keep your chin up” messages. You guys rock. Really.

To Leila and Paul… thank you for bringing me on board and letting me share your vision for the last six months. It’s been such a learning experience and the team, well, you know how to pick’em Leila – what a bunch! From the long nights and hectic scheduling required to launch a product my first week on the job to the fun and stress-free Friday night get togethers, it’s been quite a ride. And the technology is pretty incredible, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on how things go. I’m proud to have been a part of launching the world’s first image search engine out into the world.

And while I know I am in good company (hey Seesmic folks, a shout out to Accordion Guy, to name a few), it still really kinda sucks. As Seesmic‘s Le Meur noted about their recent layoffs: “We cut everything that wasn’t outsourceable, core or absolutely necessary for the company.”  Ouch. But it’s true. Unfortunately for me, community and marketing manager doesn’t fall into core when your product is software, and doubly so when you have products still in beta.

Marketing and community = important, but… Developer = core.

So there you have it.

I recommend to those folks who have also just joined Club Sacked that they head on over to read Joey deVilla‘s post about getting terminated. Believe me, you will feel better afterward, I know I did.  In the software and web industry things are looking pretty grim, as Joey points out, “people who follow the industry are writing articles warning us that it’s not if you’ll get laid off, but when.”

Well, it looks like I just stepped in a big steaming heap of when.

So, buck up, as they say. It’s time to buff up the resume and hit the ground running. I’m looking forward to new adventures.

I’m going places.

Image: Don Solo

Explosive Photo

Well this doesn’t look very safe, does it? Firecrackers burst around celebrants at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand…

Image: Chumsak Kanoknan / Getty

See more of Time’s Pictures of the Week and visit Boston.com’s The Big Picture too. TBP has the most stunning images each and every time I visit, I’m never disappointed. Check out Worker resting on bales of cotton by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, one of my favourites in the set from his Earth from Above series.

This video is brilliant.

Kudos to JewsVote.org for their bold move, calling on young Jewish folks to “schlep” to Florida to get their grandparents to vote for Obama. And Sarah Silverman? A perfect choice.

It’s daring, to be sure…

Check out The Great Schlep for all the details. Happy schleping!

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. It’s not getting better, is it?

Well, yesterday Roger Ebert kept at it with a scathing review of Palin as the VP candidate for the Republican party. It’s worth a read. Here are a few lines from his post:

Although Palin gets laughs when she mentions the “elite” Ivy League, she sure did attend the heck out of college. Five different schools in six years. What was that about?

Sarah Palin’s travel record is that of a provincial, not someone who is equipped to deal with global issues.

I want a vice president who is better, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn’t repeat bald- faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere.

You go, Roger! Thinking of making the switch from movies to politics?

Here are a few of my favourite posts from the folks at Tiny Gigantic (the blog from the team at Language in Common).

I happened upon their blog when they posted a little comment about Idée and TinEye (they like us…whew!). Digging in a little deeper I found a number of posts that really spun the wheels in my head.

From “the elevator pitch is for people who don’t really care” to “generosity as strategy” and “personal branding is nonsense“, I think you’ll find plenty to noodle on over at TG.

Check out “How to Have a Conversation, or Tell Me About Me” as well; this isn’t new stuff really, but it’s well put and got me to thinking about my day to day interactions.

Tiny Gigantic – check’em out. The PDFs in the antics section are superbly done and worth a read too.

No dummies hanging around those halls.

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