About Me

Photo: Paula Wilson
I started Caker Cooking in 2011. I'd been collecting cookbooks for a number of years and wanted to find a way to share them. Plus, many cakers don't realize they're cakers. So I figured creating a blog about caker food would be fun, nostalgic and maybe even a little educational. Well, as educational as you can get with a can opener.

Check out my journey towards caker self-acceptance. You can also listen to my CBC interview, read a piece that ran in Toronto Star and also read an article I wrote for the National Post about my more personal reasons for creating the blog.

In addition to writing about the world of caker food, I also write fiction. My most recent novel, Natural Order, is now out in paperback. It was selected as a "Best Book of 2011" by the Toronto Star and kobo.

Prior to Natural Order, I wrote a book called Fruit which made it all the way to the final round of CBC's Canada Reads.

Feel free to visit my author website, brian-francis.com for more about me. As far as keeping in touch, you can follow me on Twitter. You can reach me via email at cakercooking at gmail dot com.

Thanks for dropping by, leaving your comments, sending in recipes, etc. I had a lot of fun with this blog and hope you enjoy the time you spend here.

Brian



47 comments:

  1. Hi Brian,
    I'm listening to you with Sheila Rogers and really enjoying the interview. My great grandmother Sarah Roe was born in Ontario (Canada West) in 1855 and was poor. My grandmother (her daughter) said the only time she and her 9 siblings had eggs was on Easter morning. So what kind of cuisine comes from those family roots? Sarah Roe would have killed for a can of something as a break from root vegetables, cabbage and some poor cut of meat. Those women gladly embraced the easy modern ingredients. I was raised on minute steaks fried in a cast iron frying pan, with boiled potatoes and cream corn. Maybe 6 canned cherries in a fruit nappy for dessert. We weren't overweight teenaged girls!
    I often remember a dish served by my or a friend’s mother and wish I had a way to find that recipe. I will definitely be using your blog. You are filling a real need and NEVER sneer at that style of cooking!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I tip my hat to women like your great grandmother who made due without much. If you ever think of your friend's mother's recipe, let me know. I might be able to source it for you. (And can I tell you how much I love creamed corn? One of my all-time favourites.)

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    2. make do, for heaven's sake!

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  2. Hi Brian -
    I was born in the 1950's into a military family. It was a post WW2 world, and the "caker" cooking was the norm. (before the 60's, 70's) We didn't have a lot of money, nor did we often get fresh fruit and vegetables. That's how a lot of these recipes were born. My Mom was trying to feed a family of 6 on a low budget. That's how things like Mushroom Soup sandwiches, and fried balony came about. And frozen vegetables with Sunday dinner. And putting the peeled potatoes in the water by 2 in the afternoon, because she was just too busy. Lucky there was a bit of milk in the mash potatoes, because otherwise, there was no food value!
    Just want you to know/remember the post WW2 context of caker cooking - 50's Moms, just trying to do their best. I have lots of recipes, if you'd like any!
    Loved your interview (and your laugh!) on CBC with Sheila Rodgers today.
    Good luck and God bless - Cynthia

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    1. Hi Cynthia. Thanks for your comment. The old saying "Necessity is the mother of all invention" certainly applies to caker cooking. I've indulged in a few fried bologna sandwiches over the years, but have never even heard of a Cream of Mushroom soup sandwich! That must've been a pretty damp sandwich!
      Glad you enjoyed the interview.

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  3. Times were different back in the 60's when I would drop in to meet my girlfriend to walk to school.....8 kids in that house.....each one of us would pop a piece of bread in the toaster and the jar of Cheez Whiz was always there and open....knife in the jar.........two loaves of bread gone in ten minutes....not
    white bread.....thank you for opening up the memories! No breakfast burritos or MacDonalds drive thru with mom back then. Mom was at home and didn't drive!

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    1. You're right, logicalgal. There were no drive-thrus in those days. Just mom, a jar of Cheez Whiz and, if you were lucky, some JELL-O powder to dip your finger into at recess.

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  4. Hello Brian, I listened to most of your interview today and did enjoy hearing about your cookbook collection and this blog. I grew up in the 50's in a military family (like the previous poster) and agree that most of the recipes were the result of being frugal and being limited to a very small array of ingredients.I laughed when I heard you talk about porcupine meatballs, a dish I cooked about age 12 when my mother announced that I was to cook for the family once a week. After consulting the Joy of Cooking, that was the dish I chose. I did not ever encounter an avocado, real coffee beans or fresh fruit in winter until I landed in Toronto in my 20's. As an aside, I would be pleased to share my small collection of church and local cookbooks with you and delighted to include you in my will as the deserving heir of said collection. First, though, you have to come for dinner. I love to cook, and I do live in Toronto, not far from Harbourfront. Well, sort of not far. Can you contact me? Laura

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    1. Hi Laura. Out of all the recipes in the Joy of Cooking, I'm happy to hear you decided on Porcupine Meatballs! They're a classic. I found my recipe for them in an old radio station cookbook from Saskatoon. Only problem is that I find them a little stinky. Must be something in the tomato soup.

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  5. As someone for whom real food is a close second to breathing, Caker Cooking is a guilty pleasure on a par with staring at stationery traffic on the DVP or watching Rob Ford dig himself into a hole at a press conference. That said, it is dispiriting to find no representation from the Jewish community in this sea of culinary surrealism. I aim to remedy the situation with a contribution from Second Helpings Please!, a cookbook given to me by my mother when I moved away from home in the 1970s. Second Helpings is the spiral bound masterwork of Mt. Sinai Chapter 1901, B'Nai Brith Women of Montreal. There are plenty of recipes in the book for real food but cream of mushroom soup, miniature marshmallows, crumbled corn flakes, ritz crackers and canned mushrooms mingle with the cheese blintzes and brisket like old friends at a cocktail party. I chose this recipe because of it's sheer simplicity and elegance.

    Baked whitefish

    1 1/2 lb. whitefish fillets
    1 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
    7 oz. bottle of 7-Up

    Place fish in a greased shallow baking dish. Season and dot with butter. Pour 7-UP over fish. Bake at 400 deg. for 20 min until fish flakes with a fork. Baste once or twice during baking. Serves 4.

    Best wishes,

    Linda

    P.S. For the record, the first thing I ever cooked was Jello






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    1. Linda, you've got to be kidding me! Fish cooked in 7-Up? That's a new one for me. I made a roast with Coke once so I guess it's really not that far of a stretch. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I love the title of the cookbook.

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  6. Hi Brian... I came here today also because of the CBC interview. I loved the interview and love your blog - will definitely keep coming back. I grew up as a caker in the 60's/70's - in fact, I don't recall having a vegetable that didn't come out of a can until well into adulthood. Sadly, I've left my caker roots behind me, but after today, I feel the mother ship calling me back home.

    I'm going to find the recipe for Stained Glass Torte and post it for you - I think you'll really like it because it involves many flavours of Jell-o, Cool-Whip AND graham cracker crumbs.

    Thanks for making my day!

    Karen

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    1. Hi Karen. Happy to hear the mother ship is calling you back to your caker roots! Yes, please post the recipe for Stained Glass Torte if you find it. It's a classic!

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  7. Hello from the UK! I often listen to CBC on my digital radio while I cook dinner here and I heard your interview with Sheila Rogers yesterday - so interesting! It put my in mind of a community cookbook I have at home which I inherited from my granny. From memory, it's from 1937 and is mainly cake recipes but you've inspired me to dig it out and have a go. More cakes than "caker" though!

    Catherine

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    1. Hi Catherine. If you come across the recipe, please share it. I have one from the 1920s, but nothing looks very appetizing, sadly.

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  8. I too heard the interview and loved it and love your site...I will be back. Will look for your books too, I promise

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    1. Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the site.

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  9. Hi Brian ..... well, I too heard your interview with Shelagh Rogers this past Monday .... thought it was soooo funny! You reminded me how "complete" I feel, knowing there is a can of tomato and mushroom soup I the cupboard. The world can be falling apart ..... but I have those cans of soup!!!

    I thought this would make a really fun theme for a dinner party! I grew up in the 50's and 60's in a military family as well and enjoyed many a caker meal. Although her motive was to protest the high cost of meat, in the late 60's my mom proudly served us baked bologna roast complete with cloves stuck all over!

    Leslie
    ps .... my personal favourite I love to make is Schwartzies Hash Browns (from the Best of Bridge series)

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    1. Hi Leslie. Glad you enjoyed the interview. I had a good time doing it. I have a recipe for roast bologna, but I haven't gotten up the nerve to try it. It just seems so...wrong. But maybe the cloves would help.
      Schwartzies Hash Browns are the BEST. One of my all-time favourites. Comfort food at it finest - and cheesiest.

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  10. Hi again - Just in case you did not know, I wanted to tell you that there is a song which could be your theme, by the Prima Donna on a Moose, soprano Mary Lou Fallis - it's a perfect caker song - "Lime jello marshmallow cottage cheese surprise". Give it a listen if you have the chance.

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    1. Sounds like the soundtrack of my life! I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion. Now I'm wondering what other "caker" songs are out there.

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  11. Hi Brian -- I heard about your interview on another website and have been having a reminiscent blast browsing your blog. My mother was a health-conscious semi-hippie, and we grew up on the likes of home-made granola and for a painful period on a big bucket of frozen tofu. My grandmother, on the other hand ... she was keen on white sauce. Made with bacon drippings. On just about everything. I've tried to strike a happy medium ever since.

    Granny's two specialties were sweet cucumber pickles (any hint of green rind completely removed) and graham cracker roll, a.k.a. no-bake fruitcake. The latter was a real treat for my sweet-deprived brothers and me. So a few years back, at Christmas-time, I did a quick Google and found a similar recipe and made it for the extended family. The result was teeth-achingly addictive. As far as I can tell, it meets all the caker requirements - fast, out of a can, no-bake, no sign of green. I checked and most of the recipes listed are quite dull, no sign of the butter, maraschino cherries and marshmallows that added that extra sugar and fat kick. Here's a recipe that may come close to replicating Granny's classic: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1819,155163-225199,00.html -- except don't melt the marshmallows with the butter, they're better as minis scattered throughout.

    She made it into a roll and wrapped with wax paper, then we just ate slices of it. Apparently you can top it with whipped cream (Cool Whip?) to add insult to injury.

    Come to think of it, next time I make it (if ever) I'll throw in some chocolate chips as well.

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    1. Hi there. Thanks for the comment. I'm sorry that your mother was health-conscious. It must've been a terrible way to grow up. ;) Did you see my No-Bake Fruitcake? If not, just search under the Caker Christmas label. It sounds pretty close to the one your grandmother used to make except this one called for gingersnaps. I think you should definitely make one this holiday season, if only to celebrate those memories of your Granny. And if you do make it, please send a photo. I'd love to see what yours looks like.

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  12. Hi Brian,
    Just caught your interview on the podcast edition. I chuckled when you talked about tomato soup cake.....it was a favourite at our house. You see, we were divided in our house when it came to our choice for birthday cake flavours. Two loved chocolate cake, one loved golden cake, and my father and brother would have nothing but tomato soup cake with white icing for their birthdays. I grew up in completely caker neighbourhoods in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie when I was young, and the mothers ALL stayed at home and exchanged recipes. It is amazing to think we ate what we did. We were all a lot more active, running around playing outside every moment we could.
    We burned those Koolaid and Kraft calories!!

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    1. Well, I suppose the old saying "like father, like son" holds true in this instance. Thank goodness for playing outside in those days. Sometimes, I wonder how many kids know what "outside" is.

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  13. Loved the interview. I finally know who I am. I think I am calling my next novel Creamed Asparagus on Toast. Is that Caker ? (: Great stuf!

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    1. It's caker if the asparagus comes from a can and the bread is white.

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  14. Caker without knowing it until I heard your CBC interview. :)

    Child of the '70s, when this was still the standard suburban Canadian diet. And neither me nor my 6 siblings are obese or diabetic.

    You haven't LIVED until you've enjoyed a brown sugar & butter sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like. No demerarra sugar or Sucanat--it has to be the soft kind of old fashioned brown sugar.

    Also Barbours in New Brunswick re-issused some of their own classic caker cookbooks recently, I bought one in St. John last month.

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    1. Thanks for the tip about the brown sugar and butter sandwich. Sounds like it's packed with vitamins! I remember eating brown sugar and peanut butter sandwiches a few times. Also molasses sandwiches. I guess I had those when we were out of mock chicken loaf.
      I'm in dire need of some east coast cookbooks. I only have one, so I'll have to see if I can find the one you mention. Thanks.

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  15. Hi Brian. I recently heard your interview with Sheila Rogers. Those recipes did bring back some memories. I especially remember coloured Marshmallows in Orange Jello with Cottage Cheese! I was wondering what year the United Church Moderator's Cook Book was from? I'd like to see if it is in the Archives' Collection. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Laura. My mom used to make a salad with cottage cheese, mandarins and orange JELL-O. I haven't had it in ages, but will have to see if I can find the recipe. The United Church cookbook I have is missing its cover. I think it's called "Let's Break Bread Together" and came out in 1988. Check the tab "The Caker Cookbooks" tab at the top of the blog for a visual. I have a hunch the United Church still sells it. Good luck.

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  16. I'd like to throw Cream Tuna on Toast your way. My Mum made it for me and I love it to this day. My Mum is from Northern NB and I am currently residing in BC, she's in SK. She suggested Betty Crocker might be a source for a recipe, but it's not in my 1975 edition, sadly. I'd take 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 1 can tuna (lightly drained), heat in a small pot with a splash of milk and serve on hot, buttered toast! VoilĂ ! My personal touch is the addition of a small can of peas. Mmmmmmm

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    1. Thanks for the recipe, Rana! I'll have to try this for breakfast one morning instead of the usual peanut butter. I can only imagine how popular I'll be on the bus ride to work.

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    2. It never even crossed my mind to have it for breakfast! It's a lunch thing in our house, but good luck and enjoy!

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    3. My grandmother used to make this with canned salmon, but otherwise the same recipe. Creamed Salmon on toast. By the time she made it for us, it was with frozen peas but I'm sure back in the day it was canned peas.

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    4. Seems like we might need a Creamed Tuna vs. Creamed Salmon Taste-Off one of these days.

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  17. Hi Brian,
    I've been happily following your blog ever since hearing your interview on CBC. As a huge fan of casserole cooking and anything that involves mushroom soup, I find your blog to be a refreshing breath of fresh air. I say there aint' nothin' wrong with cooking that's both delicious and easy! Where's my can opener?

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    1. Glad you like the blog. Although I'm not sure "refreshing breath of fresh air" is the best way to describe this blog. Maybe more like a breath of ground beefy air.

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    2. Ground beefy air works too. Hey Brian, I noticed that there's been no mention of the slow cooker yet on the site. What is your opinion on the slow cooker, and how about a feature? I mean really, what slow cooker recipe doesn't start with either a can of mushroom or tomato soup!

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    3. You're right - I've been neglecting my slow cooker. I'll have to source some recipes. I think I have a recipe for slow cooker chocolate cake, which puzzles me. I mean, who wants cake and then is willing to wait 8 hours while it cooks?

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    4. I look forward to some future tributes to the slow cooker. While on the subject of cake, have you tried the chocolate cake recipe that is cooked in a mug in the microwave? Much faster than an 8 hour slow cooked one and only one dish (cup) to wash up!

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    5. I've never tried that - mainly because I don't own a microwave. I know, it's shocking. A caker without a microwave is like a caker without a can opener.

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  18. Hello there,

    Have enjoyed reading Natural Order so much, and found its entree to Caker Cooking a godsend. I have this wonderful little booklet "Bless This Food" compiled by the good ladies of the Leaside Presbyterian Church to pass along to you. How might I get this to you?

    Keep fighting the good fight, all to them. I look forward to you all the time.

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    1. Thank you! I appreciate that. Drop me an email at cakercooking at gmail.com when you get a chance. Sounds like that booklet would be a nice one to add to the collection.

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  19. Very cool blog. I laughed and laughed.

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    1. Thank you! I hope you try a recipe or two. They're not all that bad.

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