PHOTOS BY STEVE SMITH, VISIONFIRE STUDIOS
He can leap tall buildings with a single bound…wait wrong guy. However, if you know anything about Ed Hawkins he really is a super guy and he tackles everything with Herculean efforts. It was still a bit of a surprise when decadent desserts started to pop up on the social media accounts of this Dad, dentist and fitness zealot. But you can add another layer to this already interesting fella and while you’re at it, slather on some butter cream icing, cut out some festive fondant and add a few sprinkles because it’s Christmas and this guy just wants to make sure you have your cake and eat it too!
If there isn’t a little fun or if there isn’t at least a smidgen of challenge then Ed’s not really interested. He likes to keep mixing things up and as a result he can sometimes be a bit of an enigma. In the culinary world I think they call this they call this fusion. After all, how many dentists out there are flaunting sweet treats and sugar coated confections? Isn’t the road to perdition paved with pastry? But Ed will say that it all makes sense and all of these different ingredients of his life actually make the perfect recipe.
While he is likely best known in his community for his profession and his goosebumps on steroids Halloween house in Pictou that becomes a local attraction for a few days every year, he also loves food. He admits that it is as much the preparation and the process of food that he enjoys more than the actual consumption. He baked a lot when he was in Dentistry School at Dalhousie where he also met his wife and professional partner Kora Hanrahan. He baked Kora an elaborate chocolate cake the first year they were dating. She says she told him at the time that she would expect a homemade cake every year. I don’t think he’s let her down yet.
For a while after moving to Pictou to set up their practice Ed was very focused on nutrition, competing in dozens of triathlons and completing a half iron man when his two youngest children Chase and Reese were small. He did some on-line fitness coaching and developed a faithful following encouraging healthy active life style. It seems like the perfect fit for a health professional. Once his kids hit school he caught the baking bug again. He became Pictou Elementary School famous for his cookies and his weekend posts turned from burpee challenges to buttermilk pancake butterflies. Cookies moved to cakes and cakes became little masterpieces that could go up against many a professional decorator. He’s not in for the biz and gives most of his creations away to friends and family.
In his kitchen on Welsford Street in Pictou, Ed puts the finishing touches on one of three cakes that he made for the ah! Holiday issue. He tries to keep his fingers clean from the green food colouring that he massaged into a ball of fondant that will be rolled out and cut to shape. After experimenting with different cake recipes he landed on his two tried and true recipes for chocolate and vanilla that are the base for most of the cakes that he makes. But it’s the details that are the icing on the cake for Ed. He loves the precision and his hands are well practiced from years of dental work when your work field is approximately 20 mm wide, the size of the average tooth.
He’s not the first dentist to dabble in decorating. In fact he has a good friend who is a professor at Dal Dentistry who is currently a contestant on the Great Canadian Baking Show and proclaimed in his show bio “walking contradiction.” Ed does not really think that it is that much of a stretch between baking and dentistry. I guess you could say that both baking and dentistry can put a smile on your face.
MAKE MINE CHOCOLATE
1 ¾ cups of boiling water
1 cup cocoa powder
1 ¼ cup softened butter
1 ¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with waxed or parchment paper. Spray the pans and parchment with cooking oil. In a heat safe medium bowl add 1 ¾ cups of boiling water and 6 oz chocolate, stir to melt. Add 1 cup cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Cream 1 ¼ cups of butter with 1 ¾ cups of packed brown sugar Add 4 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 2 tsp vanilla. Add 2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt and half of the chocolate mixture. Beat on low to combine, then on high for 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining chocolate mixture and beat on low until mixed. Pour batter into pans and bake 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool for 10-15 minutes; remove from pans. Wrap in double layers of plastic wrap while still warm and freeze. Double recipe makes two 10” layers plus two 8” layers or four 9” layers. Never fill pans more than ? full.
LAYER IT UP
Makes 8 inch vanilla cake with 4 thick layers
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unsalted butter
2 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom of two 8x 4 round pans, then line with parchment paper. Prepare the dry ingredients. In a bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-8 minutes. Add eggs to the mixture two at a time. Blend until incorporated and scrape the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture in four parts alternating with the milk in three parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Remember to add the next flour or milk until just incorporated; be careful not to overmix! Pour the cake batter into prepared pans and spread it so that it is smooth and flat in the pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.
If you don’t have an 8×4 pan add parchment paper sleeve to the pan so it will not overflow. To do this start by preparing a long strip of parchment paper, long enough to wrap around the pan. Then fold it into thirds, fold up the bottom, then fold down the top. Grease or spray a bit of baking spray onto the bottom corners of the pan to help hold the bottom circle and sides. To prepare it for the pan, curl the folded parchment paper then put it into the pan and let it uncurl. This is quite a tall cake. After torting and levelling, you’ll get four thick layers. Half the recipe if you wish to have thinner cake layers.