CASA x Theta!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Why on earth, you might ask, would a single girl, in the middle of midterm season, undertake the making of 200 cupcakes for a seemingly random Thursday night event?

I’ll tell you: because I love my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
It’s the sisterhood that I never had growing up as the only girl in my family.  It’s the best friends I could have ever asked for, and the most steady, supportive sounding board I could have imagined.

I’ll tell you why else: because I love our philanthropy, CASA.
Having grown up in such a steady, loving family, I cannot fathom what it’s like to experience truly being alone; to not have a rock to cling to in hard times; to have to fend for yourself before you’re all grown up.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Court Appointed Special Advocates provides mentors and advocates for at-risk, underprivileged children in the court system.

Volunteers become a child’s anchor as they are thrown into the milieu of the foster system.
CASA helps kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to thrive and flourish with an adult’s love and guidance.
If you’re curious, read more about CASA and the work they’re doing for underprivileged children here.

Seriously, guys—how important and special is that?

Theta’s goal this year is to raise $25,000 for CASA of Cooke County.  The pre-event tonight is a fun way to raise awareness and garner attention to our fantastic philanthropy.

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Making cupcakes, logically, is one of the best ways I could think of to help with tonight’s pre-event.
200 cupcakes doesn’t seem like so many when you’re doing it to raise money for a good cause.

The flavors pictured here are:
vanilla sprinkle
chocolate nutella
salted caramel
red velvet

I donated 2 cakes to the raffle prizes, so tonight, two people will win the cakes of their dreams!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you’re interested in donating (even 1 dollar makes a huge difference, but don’t feel pressured), the link is here:
Donate to Theta x CASA!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I used this recipe for chocolate cupcakes and this recipe for nutella buttercream.
This recipe for red velvet cupcakes (I winged the cream cheese frosting).
And finally, this recipe for the vanilla and funfetti cupcakes.
Caramel from here.

xx

Left Footed

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

 Left foot, right foot, breathe.

-Pat Summit

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Midterm season.  Run.
Trip, clumsy, with leaden feet and wearied mind.
Make it through with 3 hours of sleep and 37 pages of painstaking notes.  Promise yourself a nap, forget to take one.
(Did you even remember to take your vitamins? Tsk.)

Lose—at the end of the simultaneously hellish and fabulous weekend—your last assignment, nearly finished (one question left!) to the perilous brink of Autosave in Word.
Redo the four page lab, tears in your eyes and hate in your heart, and fall into bed—alas— at 2 am.

Monday: forget how to function; forget how to swim; forget how to run and jump and write your name.
Remember, and breathe; remember, and breathe.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche
I am currently embarking on an (insane) journey to get 200 cupcakes made and delivered to a philanthropy pre-event that my sorority is hosting this Thursday.

I baked 100+ today.  Tomorrow will be the rest and frosting.

I’ve never seen this many cupcakes before in my life.  It’s pretty intense over here guys—I have no space in my kitchen—and the cupcake towers have gone vertical and are only climbing.
From Alexa: “it’s like Japan!”

Wait. Did I just hear a crash coming from my kitchen?!
(I kid.  Cupcake Tokyo will live to see another morning.)

Lots of delicious flavors—nutella, funfetti, red velvet, caramel, etc. so if you’re from UChicago and reading this, come to the pre-event on Thursday and eat one for free!!

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

So, I’m keeping this brief here because I am tired and need to read the ever-engaging textbook from my Genetics class.

These little buttery cookies are a perfect rendition of a classic shortbread.  They’re dipped in chocolate and pecans to make them extra special, but to be honest, they don’t really need it.
The rich dough needs little accompaniment: it’s a beloved classic for a reason, friends.

Still, it is awfully, terribly hard to resist a buttery, slightly crumbly cookie dipped in deep, dark chocolate with a smattering of crunchy pecans.

I brought these to a superbowl party (not exactly football fare, but whatever) and they were gone within 10 minutes.
Always a good sign.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Even though I’ve shared this quote before, it’s one of my favorites:

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.”

—Tyler Knott Gregson

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread
makes 30 cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (360 grams) flour
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250 grams) butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
vanilla sugar, optional
4 ounces melted dark chocolate
chopped nuts, optional

directions:
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg; beat for 5 more minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and the flour and slowly mix until homogeneous.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4-1/2 an inch and cut out desired shapes; press the tops in a little vanilla sugar if desired.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and into the freezer.
Freeze for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, then bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
Allow cookies to cool completely, then dip half of each cookie in melted dark chocolate.
Top with nuts while the chocolate is still wet, then place in the fridge for 5 minutes to set.

Softie

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

In the end, these things matter most:
how well did you love, how fully did you live, how deeply did you learn to let go?

-Siddhartha Gautama

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here, this sweet little photo story about capturing life’s little moments on film is a perfect way to start your day.
“People are just lost in their own world when they’re kissing.”

Or, in the vein of the links I shared in my last post, here’s the app for the 36 questions to fall in love.  Brilliant.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

I wasn’t going to share these here, but they turned out so darn fluffy and cute that I had to pull out my camera and snap a few shots.

Plus, they’re pink.
To share them right after Valentine’s would be a shame.
So are these cookies, pink and fluffy and heart-winning, on Valentine’s morning.
Still have time to bake for your sweetie?  Make these, they’re fast and buttery and therefore universally loved.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

These Lofthouse-like cookies are buttery and rich, with slightly crispy edges and soft, fluffy centers; they’re topped with a veritable cloud of thick frosting and a smattering of sprinkles.
The cookie itself is soft vanilla, and it is topped with the creamiest, dreamiest pink American buttercream frosting–the epitome of soft and vanilla!
A light hand of sprinkles finishes them off.
These are classic and simple and delicious.

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Sending love, bisous, and positive vibrations to all my readers every day, but especially today.

xx

Lofthouse Cookie Clones | La Pêche Fraîche

Lofthouse Cookie Clones
cookies portion adapted from Cooking Classy
makes 15-16 large cookies

ingredients:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
170 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the frosting:
225 grams (1 cup) butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
drop red food coloring
sprinkles, optional, for decorating

directions:
Make the cookies: whisk flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together; set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed until very soft, pale, and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and egg white; beat for a full 4 minutes, streaming the vanilla in while mixing.
Scrape the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Add in the flour mixture all at once, then mix on very low speed, increasing the speed as the mixture becomes cohesive.
Once the batter is thick and homogeneous, stop mixing.
Scoop out 1/3 cup size scoops with an ice cream scoop; place on parchment lined sheets.
Using a glass dipped in flour, very lightly press down on the cookies to flatten.
Chill the cookies for at least 15 minutes in your freezer, or 30 minutes in your fridge.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake each sheet of cookies for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly on the sheet and completely on a rack.
To make the frosting, place the soft butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin slowly adding the powdered sugar while mixing on low speed.
Once the sugar is all mixed in, stream in half of the heavy cream and the food coloring.
If it reaches a fluffy, smooth consistency with half of the cream, stop.
If not, stream in the rest of the cream and beat on high speed until incorporated.
Frost the cookies very generously, finishing with sprinkles.

Red, Red

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day!

Here is another cake to add to your to-make-for-loved-ones list.
Other cakes I can think of for V-day:

this most recent chocolate covered strawberry delight
this red-berry strewn cake, accompanied by my favorite poem
these pink and red cakelets, fluffy and elegant
or, for a chocolate fix,
these sexy, whole-wheat (didn’t think those could go together? Think again.) brownies with glossy ganache
or, for a French dessert fix,
these petites Madeleines, soaked in tart lemon syrup, sticky and dense and delectable.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Things that have moved me lately (laugh, cry, feel, and love, love love):

How to fall in love with anyone.
/How to fall out of love with anyone. (lol)

This beautiful, heartwrenching photo story about a couple who both have cancer.  Beautiful.

These terrible valentines.  #6.

This adorable duo.  The tiniest kitten and his best doggie friend.  True love and friendship.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Food I’ve been drooling over lately:

Ohhhh, these scrambled eggs. These are love on a plate and if I woke up to these with fresh squeezed orange juice and hot, toasted, crispy baguette I would be the happiest girl alive (too bad N doesn’t read my blog, this is a gimme).

While I maintain that pie is always love, this pie is extra.
Salty/sweet/floral depending on your honey.
From Four and Twenty Blackbirds, so you know it’s good.
(+added bonus of pie tips!)

Churros. You can never go wrong with churros.
Sam, won’t you come live with me please?!

This is the most lovely heart shaped bundt cake in the world; and I am the world’s biggest sucker for lemon glaze.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a 1950s dream.
Red velvet, creamy white frosting, dark chocolate malt balls.
It’s the kind of cake you would see in a diner or, if Kerri Russell ever made cakes, one that she would whip up.

Red velvet, in all its dyed and bright glory, is worth the few teaspoons of red No.5 that you will ingest.
Beet cakes will never be red velvet.
I love you, I love beets, and I’m sorry, but they won’t be.
When I want a traditional cake, I want it made right.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

So that’s what we’re doing here.
Making it the right way.

The red velvet cake is adapted from Magnolia (you know it’s going to be good!), and is lusciously moist, with a fine crumb and a distinctive, slightly cocoa-y, buttermilk tangy flavor.
The frosting is a fluffy cloud of cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream, not overly sweet and firm enough to pipe, with a balance of the buttery flavor of a traditional European buttercream and the very necessary and traditional American cream cheese frosting, without which red velvet would not be the same.
The cake is dolled up with lashings of dark chocolate ganache and dark chocolate malt balls, toasty and sweet, and a shower of powdered sugar to finish.

Each thick slice is a little piece of cake heaven, with the traditional flavors of red velvet, made better with extra butter and a touch of chocolate (totally necessary for Lover’s day, right!?).

It really is red velvet in all its glory!

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

A few notes about this recipe:
You could top this cake with sprinkles or truffles or really nothing at all, the frosting alone is a statement.

If you’re not 100% absolutely confident in meringue buttercreams, do not make this one.  It is tricky.  Start with a non-cream cheese meringue buttercream first (like this beautiful pink one), or make a cream cheese frosting like Rosie’s or a cooked milk frosting like Pioneer Woman’s).

ACV or white vinegar will work in the recipe.
Make sure to chill your cake before pouring hot ganache over it.
Set a timer for beating your eggs/butter (I usually underestimate the time it takes to fully cream butter and sugar).

Red food coloring: I use Americolor.  I know it incorporates seamlessly and it gives me great color with a small amount.
That being said, you could use liquid (you’ll need more, maybe ~2 tablespoons) or Wilton (I’ve had plenty of success with their red food coloring, but it comes in small tubs so I’ve a huge bottle of Americolor now).
Cocoa: don’t use extra dark cocoa, as it might tint your cake darker than you’d like.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“The sexiest thing in the world is being really smart.
And thoughtful.
And being generous.
Everything else is crap.”

—Ashton Kutcher

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Dolled-Up Red Velvet Cake
makes 1 6-inch layer cake
cake portion adapted from Baking in Pyjamas

ingredients:
for the red velvet cake:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
30 grams cocoa powder
333 grams (1 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons red gel food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
240 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
240 mL (1 cup) buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
pinch salt
3 tablespoons water
2 sticks of butter, soft but still cool and cubed
225 grams (8 ounces, 1 block) cream cheese
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

for the ganache:
140 grams (10 tablespoons) butter
60 grams (1/4 cup) half-and-half
pinch salt
200 grams dark chocolate, chopped finely

to assemble:
malt balls
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter until soft and light, about 3 minutes if already softened.
Add in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes; the mixture should be glossy and very fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs, food coloring, and vanilla extract.
Beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should have tripled in size.
Scrape the bowl and dump the flour on top of the butter.
Place the baking soda over the flour.
Mix the buttercream and vinegar together.
Start mixing the flour into the batter at a very low speed; simultaneously, start drizzling in the buttermilk.
Once all is incorporated, beat on high speed for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion out the batter equally into your 3 pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese meringue buttercream: whip cream cheese until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Scrape into another bowl and set aside (leave at room temp!).
Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the sugar, water, and salt into a small pot over medium heat.
Begin to whip the whites as you heat the sugar syrup; once it reaches 240 degrees F, your whites should be nearly stiff peaks.
At 242-245 degrees F, slowly and carefully drizzle the sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites.
Beat until nearly body temp; add in the slightly soft butter 1 cube at a time.
Continue to whip (even if it looks curdled!) until the buttercream comes together and makes a whapping sound against the bowl.
Scrape the whipped cream cheese into the buttercream and add in 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar.
Slowly mix the icing, increasing once it is nearly homogeneous.
Don’t beat too much.
Place in fridge for 5 minutes if needed to slightly firm up.
To frost the cake, do a crumb coat then freeze.
Apply the rest of the frosting, then freeze again.
Use a knife dipped in hot water and then dried off to smooth the icing perfectly, then chill until you drizzle the ganache.
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl.
Heat the butter and half and half until boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, whip with a whisk until the ganache is glossy and shiny.
Pour over the edges of the cake.
Pipe little stars on the edge of a cake, then top with a malt ball and a shower of powdered sugar.

Trending

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts
Oh, the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms
Was it love or fear of the cold that led us through the night?
For every kiss your beauty trumped my doubt.”

—Mumford and Sons, Winter Winds

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Current mood: ecstatic.
Reasons: Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer was released.
The Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer was released two days ago and I have watched it 19 and a half times.
Despite the half foot of snow that smothered Chicago on Sunday and the reading and pset sitting in my “to-do” pile, I am very, very happy.

(I just watched episode 2 of season 1 for, incidentally, the 19th time…  Am I obsessed yet?  Yes.)

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If you’re anywhere on Pinterest or instagram (hey, you! Go follow me. The link in under that picture –> over there), you know about the naked cake boom that has been taking over weddings, pastry, and the food-blogosphere.
They’re trending.
#nakedcake

What is a naked cake?  It’s a cake whose layers show through the (minimal) frosting.  They’re often topped with berries or flowers, and they are so so so pretty as big tiered towers.

Here, check out this beautiful board of cakes.  OMg.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought a ~naked~ cake would be perfect for Valentine’s day.
Did I just say that?  Oh, God.  I was joking.
(My dearest father is cringing somewhere.  Sorry family.)

This is the first one I made.
I learned some lessons along the way.

First, choose a sturdy cake.  You don’t want a ton of crumbs.
Second, also use a thick, sturdy frosting.  You want it to hold up even in a fairly thin layer.
Third, berries always look amazing on top of a cake.  And they would be delicious inside of the cake, provided that you don’t have a roommate who is averse to fruit.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake base for this cake is my absolute go-to chocolate cake; it’s a recipe I’ve been working on and modifying slightly as time progresses. It’s perfectly moist and finely-crumbed while staying sturdy and not falling apart.
It slices like a marvel and is deeply chocolaty with a hint of balancing salt and a firm bite.

The frosting is a traditional American buttercream with a twist: a touch of goat cheese gives it creamy tang, with an earthiness that pairs well with cocoa.  A touch of cream keeps it soft and spreadable, and a shower of powdered sugar plays the foil to the deep, damp cake.

The chocolate covered strawberries on top make the cake extra special, and seriously…
Who doesn’t love chocolate covered strawberries?! 
They make pretty much anything that much better.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For my first naked cake, I’m pleased with how it turned out.
Soon, I want to try a vanilla cake so I can frost it even more sparsely (less worry about dark crumbs).

Also, after I just wrote that, I realized I have made one naked cake before: this rouge-fruited beauty.

Anyways, in keeping with the February spirit aka oh-god-it’s-almost-Valentine’s-day panic, I’m leaving you with this cake.
It’s got chocolate, and cheese, and chocolate-covered strawberries; it’s naked and surprising; it will win over any Valentine whom you desire*.
*results may vary

xx

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting (and Chocolate Covered Strawberries)
makes 1 6-inch 3-layer cake

ingredients:
for the chocolate cake:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

for the goat cheese frosting:
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, soft
3 ounces soft goat cheese, warmed to room temp
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar, to taste
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream

for the chocolate drizzled/covered strawberries:
8 ounces strawberries, smaller is better
3 ounces dark chocolate
(sliced strawberries, optional, for between the layers)

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Whisk the oil, sugar, salt, and egg together vigorously until lighter in color and fully homogeneous.
Whisk the cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the hot water, then slowly stream it into the sugar mixture while whisking quickly.
Dump the flour on top of the batter and the baking soda on top of the flour.
Gently beat/stir to incorporate all of the flour evenly.
Portion batter out into prepared pans (you may have a little extra).
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the tops are springy and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: beat the butter on high speed for 5 minutes, until super fluffy and light.
Beat in the goat cheese and salt until completely homogenized.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the butter and cheese and slowly stir to combine; increase speed until completely mixed in and the frosting is fluffy.
Pour in cream 1 tablespoon at a time while whipping at high speed until the frosting is a pipeable consistency.
To frost the cake, place 1/3-1/2 cup frosting between each of the layers, then use the remaining frosting to crumb coat/frost the outside and top of the naked cake (optional: layer sliced strawberries over the frosting between the layers).
To make the chocolate covered strawberries, melt the chocolate over low heat, either over a bain marie or in a microwave.
When 3/4 of the way melted, whisk vigorously until the rest of the chocolate is melted and is shiny and smooth.
Dip or drizzle the strawberries as desired (do this over a piece of parchment paper).
Allow to cool and harden completely, then top the cake with the strawberries.

Fit For A Queen

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Love, whose month is ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair,
Playing in the wanton air:
Through the velvet leaves the wind,
All unseen can passage find;
That the lover, sick to death,
Wish’d himself the heaven’s breath.

–Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost, Act IV, scene 3

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Oh, I know, this month is never May.
It’s snowy and windy and cold instead.
(It’s not even snowing that much here in Chicago.  For you poor folks on the east coast, I’ll keep quiet.
My advice—find a good movie or book and a cup of hot cocoa or soup and curl up for the day.
Snow storm or not, that’s what I wish I was doing…)

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These cute little cakes are miniature prinsesstårta.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, princess cakes are Swedish pastries, traditionally favored by princesses.

These are like traditional prinsesstårta, only mini: a simple round of soft vanilla sponge is spread with a layer of tart raspberry jam and then a heaping dome of barely sweetened whipped cream hides away a single raspberry in the center.
The creamy little snowball is topped with pink marzipan, sweet and fragrant with almonds, and a dusting of powdered sugar atop another perfect berry.

They’re really, really delightful.
Light and not too sweet (and thus a very European dessert), with the floral almond contrasting wonderfully to the raspberry, with vanilla and cream playing (very important) supporting roles.
They taste very much like shortbread or shortcake to me, with the combination of fruit and cream.

I definitely recommend giving these a try—the assembly is really not difficult, and the final product looks like it came out of the pastry case of a little Swedish pâtisserie.

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini pink prinsesstårta with ruby red raspberries would be perfect for a light Valentine’s day dessert.
If you are really, really kind and love your S.O. very much, you might be able to split one cake.
But you should really each plan on having two one.
Trust me.

There will be more sweets for your sweetie gracing this page soon, because once I’m out of the weeds of 4th week (Two science midterms in 4 days. Ouch.), I fully intend on getting lost in some butter, flour, and sugar to soothe my ego, which will most certainly be aching.

For more inspiration, check out some of last year’s V-day treats:

strawberry pocky cake
grapefruit possets
mendiants

Pee. Ess. check out Molly’s gorgeous mini princess cakes!
(How can anyone not just adore her and her blog? Ugh so much mooshy blog love.)

Mini Raspberry Princess Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini Raspberry Prinsesstårta (Princess Cakes)
sponge portion adapted from Poires au Chocolat

ingredients:
for the sponge:
80 grams flour
30 grams cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
3 eggs
25 mL cold water
120 grams sugar

to assemble:
480 mL (2 cups) heavy (double) cream, cold
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup raspberry jam
15 raspberries
200 grams marzipan, tinted however you like
powdered sugar

directions:
Make the sponge: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease, line with parchment paper, and lightly flour an 11×15 inch jelly roll pan.
Whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and sea salt together.
Separate eggs and place whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Whisk the egg yolks with the cold water and sugar for 4 minutes (until pale and fluffier), then sprinkle the flour mixture over and gently fold in until mostly combined (some pockets of flour should be present).
Begin to whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment; whip until they reach stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites in, gently, to the egg yolk mixture.
Fold until the flour pockets are gone and the egg whites are all incorporated homogeneously.
Do not over-fold.
Spread the batter all over the jelly-roll pan.
Bake for 12 minutes, until golden and springy in the middle.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.
Cut 2-3 inch rounds while still somewhat warm; discard/snack on scraps.
Allow the rounds to cool before assembling.
To assemble, first roll the marzipan out very thinly and cut rounds that are approximately 2 inches larger in diameter than the sponge cake rounds.
Spread a small amount of raspberry jam onto the cakes, then place a raspberry in the center.
Heap up whipped cream on the cake, shaping it with a mini offset spatula into a dome shape.
Drape marzipan over the cake and smooth, folding wrinkles to look uniform.
Repeat with all the rounds.
Top each with a second raspberry and a dusting of powder sugar.
Serve slightly chilled, with strong tea.

It Ain’t Broke

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist.
Keep fighting.
Keep loving.

—Leah Wilson

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

How is winter treating you lately?

We’ve had a string of not-so-terrible days, so mild, in fact, that parkas are forgotten, gloves and hats stripped off and left behind, where the prospect of a fresh salad for dinner doesn’t seem nearly as cold and uninviting of an idea as before.

I mean, gosh, 40 degrees F—anyone up for iced coffee?

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Actually, I’m still off of caffeine, miraculously.
In fact, I’ve used more caffeine in my Organic Chemistry lab experiments than I have actually consumed over these last few months.
Last July, I went off of coffee—I was drinking too much of it, and still feeling tired every day.
The transition was unpleasant (migraines, vomiting, etc.), but luckily for me, it was summer.  Sleeping until 12 wasn’t so big of a deal after all—and how can one really be grumpy when it’s sunny and warm?
(Don’t ask my parents, because they’ll tell you I was plenty grumpy sometimes…)

This December, I went completely off of caffeine—no black or green tea, no diet coke.
I’m still feeling fairly fresh in the mornings.  I think my body has transitioned well; not having that extra boost definitely pushes me to get more sleep, which is never a bad thing.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

So even though I sleep like a baby without the interference of the caffeine fairy who so conveniently likes to flit around right when you try to go to sleep, there is one thing that keeps me up at night:

N can’t eat anything that I make, since he’s lactose intolerant.

Life without butter and cheese is sad indeed (although that being said, he can eat truly prodigious amounts of food and not worry about the accumulation of a single ounce of fat, so don’t feel too bad for the kid…); but I daresay it might be worse if your girlfriend is, allegedly, some fanatic pastry blogger, and yet you never get to see even a single thing that comes out of her kitchen.

(Save for this cake that I made with him in mind, of course.)

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made him cookies that he could enjoy without worry.
I went for the classics, because, honestly, there is no better cookie than a soft, still-warm chocolate chip.
(He can’t dunk them in milk, though! GAhhhh.)

These cookies are soft on the inside, but crisp on the bottoms; they’re rich and full of texture and flavor.
Made with plenty of brown sugar and rice-milk based chocolate chips, with Earth Balance and a hit of salt.
They’re everything you want chocolate chip cookies to be, just without the dairy.
The secret is to underbake them, and let them settle into little pillows of perfection.
I made them tiny, because it means you can eat 9 of them without a second thought, obviously.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Note: these cookies can easily be made with real butter and dairy-full chocolate chips.
But since you can eat dairy, might I suggest this divine, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread?
Or these softbatch peppermint cookies with buttery chocolate frosting?
Or even these extra-intense brown butter chocolate chip cookies, fat and fluffy and the opposite of dairy free?
Or dairy-full vanilla and chocolate roll-outs in the shape of dairy cows? (Mooo.)

Back soon (with butter)!

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 36 small cookies

ingredients:
113 grams (4 ounces, 8 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks (or other dairy-free butter sticks)
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) white sugar
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons, packed) brown sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I use RiceDream brand)

directions:
Place Earth Balance in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the white sugar, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and scrape the bowl; beat for 4 full minutes until fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl, add in vanilla extract and egg and beat for 4 more minutes (set a timer) until very light colored and glossy.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour and, on top of the flour, the baking soda.
Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until dough comes together; it should be thick and require a little elbow grease.
At this point, taste, and if it needs more salt, sprinkle another 1/4 teaspoon over the top of the dough and either use your mixer or spoon to fully beat the dough.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Portion out in 2 tablespoon scoops onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Freeze for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Space cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the sheets and bake for 9 minutes; they will look puffy and still a little underbaked.
Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Serve with a cold glass of (almond) milk!

Just Like You

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“There’s no one just like you,” she said.
“That’s why we need to celebrate.”

—Karen Kingsbury
FAME

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”

—Julia Child

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

A birthday without cake is just another dreary day.
A birthday without cake, loves, is not a birthday at all.

Birthdays are for cakes.
(Note: cakes are definitely not only for birthdays, however.)

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m slowly curating the birthday cakes of my roommates (Daly’s birthday is 3 days before mine, so it always happens before we get to school, but a half birthday, perhaps?).
Alexa will love this—it tickles me pink how much she loves her birthday posts.  She also, for the record, loves pink.

Just for reference, here’s Alexa’s cake from last year, and the one from this year.

Dunno if I can possibly link back to that caramel popcorn cake one more time, but oh well.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

But this is a birthday cake (and post) for a girl who loves the color mint and Paris, soy lattes and Back to the Future, the Old Major sandwich at Z&H and puppies.
Who embodies the Duchess Kate Middleton and has the most brilliant hair and sleeps like Sleeping Beauty (yes, that deeply).

The one who inspired these whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies with her love of Starbucks.

Betsszzyyyy!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Elizabeth made it through 2 decades of life.

Obviously, we needed to celebrate with a very big, very chocolaty cake.
Thing is, her birthday was the day after we got back from winter break!  So I hadn’t prepared anything (usually I’ll bake the layers a day ahead or something along those lines, since the days can get so excitingly monotonously busy around here) the day of.
Still, I poked around in my kitchen for ~2 seconds and knew exactly what I had to make her.

A cake tailored to a few of her favorite things.
A cake just like her.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is really easy, and miraculously fast.
I had it imagined, made, decorated, and photographed within 2 and a half hours.  Not too bad, especially when you consider that the photography took longer than any of the other processes.

The cake itself is a springy dark chocolate and coffee—mocha—cake.  It’s soft and feels light yet rich at the same time, with a good balance of sweet and bitter from the coffee and cocoa.
It’s a one bowl, one whisk, and one measuring cup kind of recipe, perfect when you need a cake, stat!

The frosting is a Nutella Italian meringue buttercream, so conceived because I had no confectioner’s sugar but lots and lots of bittersweet chocolate.
It’s impossibly light and buttery while still maintaining plenty of chocolate flavor, which I always find is missing in chocolate egg-based buttercreams.
First, a plain Italian meringue buttercream is whipped up, one big glossy cloud.  Then heaps of cooled chocolate get whisked in, and a fair dollop of Nutella, too.
The color change is mesmerizing: from the palest yellow to a red-brown cocoa.

The end result is seriously amazing.
It’s salty and sweet, chocolaty and a little bit nutty.
Italian meringue buttercreams are so silky—they pair perfectly with a cake that has a soft, tight crumb.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

 This is a cake that’s perfect for a birthday.
It’s fun (sprinkles!), has flavors that everyone will like, and makes the right size cake for sharing with friends.

It frosts like a dream and will look impressive no matter how you decide to finish it up—just don’t forget the candles.

But seriously—don’t the adorable candles on this cake practically beg for extra sprinkles?!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy belated birthday, Elizabeth darling.
xx

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3-layer, 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the mocha cake:
1 2/3 cups (190 grams) flour
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder
1 5/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5/8 cup (200 mL) buttermilk (or milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup (120 mL) coffee (or hot water plus 1 tablespoon espresso powder)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (105 mL) vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the Nutella Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 mL) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) unsalted butter, soft but cool
8 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (~120 grams(?)) nutella

sprinkles, for decorating

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Whisk buttermilk, oil, coffee, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then whisk wet ingredients into dry.
Portion batter out evenly into pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out nearly clean and the cakes are springy to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the icing: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Slowly add in the cooled chocolate while whipping, then add in the Nutella.
Scrape the bowl and whip for another minute to ensure homogeneity.
Frost cooled cake as desired, and add sprinkles!

Crunchy

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

—John Lennon

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Welcome, brand new baby year, fresh and bright white and snow covered.
Welcome, welcome 2015!!

(I’m back in Chicago, and it’s snowing a fair amount.
Class starts tomorrow.
It’s going to be below 0 deg F on Wednesday.
Le sigh.)

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

My mama loves granola.  She eats it for breakfast almost every day.
My mama is *ahem* particular about her granola.  She likes maybe one out of every 5 she tries.

So before I left to come back to school, I made a whole bunch of simple, healthy granola for my mom.
Heaps of oats, plenty of maple syrup, rich and buttery coconut oil, a hint of spice.

This batch fills up an entire large canister of rolled oats, and it uses about half of one, so it’s a perfect way to finish off the jar floating around your pantry.

It’s utterly delicious with cold milk—cow’s or otherwise (I recently tried hazelnut-almond-cashew and fell in love)—and fresh raspberries or strawberries, difficult as they are to source in the depths of winter.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

This granola is crunchy, sweet, with a whisper of salt.
It’s toasty and full of almonds and coconut.
It’s simple—a hint of cinnamon, maple syrup to sweeten, and that’s pretty much it.
It’s vegan and gluten-free if you want it to be—just make sure all your ingredients are certified vegan or GF either way.

It’s super easy to customize: add a tablespoon of vanilla extract or replace the almonds with hazelnuts or pecans, use coconut chunks or chips instead of flakes, toss in dried mango or raisins or cranberries or banana chips.

Anyways, this is meant to be a nourishing first post of 2015 (!) but also a short one, as I have to unpack and settle into our little home here in Chiberia.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond Coconut Granola
gluten-free, vegan
makes ~6 cups of granola

ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats (certified GF if necessary)
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (or use unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or ghee)

directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir oats, almonds, and coconut together.
Stir salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil together, then pour wet ingredients over and stir with a spoon until all is coated.
Spread oats out onto baking sheets and tamp down lightly to pack.
Bake for 15 minutes, then lightly stir with a spatula and rotate sheets.
Bake for 15 more minutes, then stir and rotate again.
Bake for 10-15 more minutes, until evenly and lightly browned and toasted.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheets.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Inspired

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

Or should I say, iN&Spired?

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

 If you’re on instagram, then you’ve seen Caroline Khoo’s work.
She runs an account called Nectar and Stone (n&s), and she works utter magic on chocolate and confections.

Here’s her online lookbook.

Here’s her instagram!

I love her pastel and gold work, and her chocolate are, in particular, my favorites.
When I found a little pyramid silicone mold for sale, I snapped it up and promptly made some n&s-inspired chocolates myself.

These are super simple.
White chocolates tinted pale baby pink, with veins of dark chocolate wafer crumbs running through.

They’re more pretty than delicious, to be honest.  Although I myself am quite partial to a crunchy white chocolate, I know some people aren’t.
These, in all their white chocolate simplicity, are definitely not for those people.

white chocolate111_02

These are simple and clean and pretty, and they’re a perfect way to ring in the New Year.  (Um, champagne and chocolates always go together, don’t question it.)

I’ll be back in a couple days to share something on the lighter, healthier side with you. (What?!)

Here’s to 2015!!
May it be filled with little pretties and chocolate and lots and lots of inspiration.

Nectar & Stone inspired chocolates | La Pêche Fraîche

White Chocolate Bonbons

ingredients:
quality white chocolate or couverture
food coloring, if desired
crushed chocolate wafers

directions:
Finely chop your white chocolate (very, very finely).
Place 3/4 of the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.
Heat in 30 second bursts, taking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
Once the temperature reaches 112 degrees F, remove from the microwave and stir in the remaining finely chopped white chocolate and food coloring as desired.
Stir until chocolate is melted; let it sit until the temperature has reached 78 degrees F.
Heat for 15 more seconds until the temperature reaches 84 degrees F.
Fill half of the wells in your mold with chocolate, then sprinkle a little wafer dust over the chocolate.
Fill the rest of the mold with chocolate, then use a scraper to even out the tops.
Freeze for 5 minutes, then release from the mold.