In January of 2015, Nick Rundall, publisher of Whitecap Books, approached Daphna Rabinovitch about writing a cookbook. She did not jump at the offer even though she’d been wondering about doing a book about baking for some time.
“I hemmed and hawed… I thought, does the world need another baking book?”
Rabinovitch, a Toronto-based food writer and award-winning author, may have been uncertain about embarking on the project, but her family and friends urged her to give Whitecap the green light.
One of her biggest cheerleaders was her father, the late Jack Rabinovitch, founder of the Scotia Bank Giller prize, Canada’s richest and most prestigious literary award.
In November, Rabinovitch’s book, The Baker in Me scored gold or top prize in the single-subject cookbook category at the Taste Canada Awards. These awards recognize the best in culinary writing in Canadian cookbooks and blogs.
“When they called my name it was like going into shock,” Rabinovitch recalled. “I didn’t expect to win…My legs went to jelly.
“It was a tremendous moment in my life. I dedicated the win to my dad. I wish he would have been there to know that I won.”
The Taste Canada Awards are decided by people in the industry and so it was particularly “gratifying” to be recognized by her peers, she said, noting that she “was up against stiff competition.”
She was surprised her book won, especially after celebrity chef, Anna Olson, garnered silver in the same category for her baking book.
“I’m proud of my book,” Rabinovitch said. “Whitecap did an amazing job and I had a tremendously gifted team.”
She described The Baker in Me as a practical work that “demystifies the science” of baking. “It’s not meant to be a ‘trendy’ cookbook. It’s a home baking book.
“It’s a classic cookbook that people can use over and over again.”
This culinary win was not Rabinovitch’s first. In 2001, her book, Canadian Living Cooks: Step by Step, won the Cuisine Canada Gold Award.
She is also a celebrity cook in her own right. She co-hosted Canadian Living Cooks, one of the first television shows to be broadcast when Food Network Canada launched in 2000.
The show ran for four seasons. “In those days the cooking shows were more about education than competition,” Rabinovitch mused.
Rabinovitch, the mother of a 19-year-old son, teaches cooking and baking classes and does food consulting, and recipe development. She is also a regular contributor to these pages.
She traces her love of baking to her childhood. “I’m a born baker. Baking is so much part of my identity.”
She recalls baking with her mother, when she was a young child.
Rabinovitch grew up in Montreal, but moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in political science and economics. She then went on to study journalism.
But when she was in her mid-20s she followed her heart. She moved to San Francisco to train at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. Later she honed her culinary skills as an apprentice at the Badia a Coltibuono estate in Tuscany.
Rabinovitch said she makes a challah every week and she bakes for all family occasions. “I wake up and I just want to bake. I’m constantly trying to find reasons to bake.”
Blueberry lime bundt cake
o 2 1/2 cups sifted cake and pastry flour
o 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
o 1/2 tsp. salt
o 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
o 1 tbsp. finely grated lime zest
o 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
o 3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
o 4 large eggs, at room temperature
o 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
o 2 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
o 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
o 1 cup icing sugar
o 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a 10-cup bundt pan; set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl making sure the three ingredients are well mixed. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar and the lime zest until the zest is well distributed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the cream cheese for 1 minute or until well combined. In a thin stream, gradually add the lime-infused sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the egg yolk.
Remove the bowl from the stand. Switch to using a wooden spoon. In three additions, stir in the flour mixture. Gently stir in the blueberries. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 55 to 60 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Unmould and cool completely on a wire rack.
In the bowl of a mixer beat together the cream cheese and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Pour in the lime juice and beat just until the mixture is of a drizzable consistency.
Drizzle the icing over the cake, allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Makes 12 to 16 servings.