Blink

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Yonder see the morning blink:
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.

Oh often have I washed and dressed
And what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I’ve done my best
And all’s to do again.

–A.E. Housman

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Hi friends!  This is a quick update/reassurance for today.
I’ve got a few great things coming your way, they just need extra time, work, and love, all of which are in short short supply right now.  Things are a little hectic/crazy/busy in my life at the moment, but it will all settle down shortly.
One of these days, I’ll get the chance to sleep for a full 8 hours.  One of these days.

For now, here is the most delicious pound cake I have ever tasted in my entire life.

Buttery, soft, tender pound cake with piles of citrus zest–lime, lemon, and orange– is brushed with a honey lime glaze and topped with a decadent vanilla honey cream icing.

The edges are ever so slightly crispy and crunchy, thanks to the unique shape and surface area of a bundt pan, and all these exterior nooks and crannies are saturated with salty-sweet honey glaze and icing; the interior is moist with delicate citrus flavor and pure buttery texture heaven.

The bright citrus zests add to the gorgeous yellow color– just like the daffodils that have cheerily sprung up around campus!

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Twice-Glazed Citrus Honey Pound Cake
cake portion adapted from Bon Appétit

ingredients:
for the cake:
1 cup (16 tablespoons) butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
zest from 2 lemons
zest from 2 oranges
zest from 1 lime
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

for the lime glaze:
zest from 1 lime
juice from 1 lime
juice from 1 lemon
pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 cups powdered sugar, as needed

for the vanilla honey cream icing:
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
big pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, as needed

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan very well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the butter and salt.
Beat for 4 minutes, until softened and very fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the sugar and citrus zests, stirring slowly at first, then increasing the speed up to high; beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs; beat for 3 more minutes.
Stir the milk and apple cider vinegar together; stir the flour and baking powder together in another bowl.
At the same time, going very slowly, add the milk and flour mixtures, alternating if need be but largely adding them simultaneously to the egg mixture with the mixer running.
Once all the flour and milk has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for a minute longer to ensure homogeneity.
Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make your glazes: whisk the ingredients for each glaze together in separate bowls until no lumps remain.
Add 1 cup of powdered sugar first; if the glazes are still too runny, just add more powdered sugar.
When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a serving plate.
Cover the cake in as many layers of lime glaze as you can, then allow it to cool for 10 more minutes.
Whisk the vanilla honey icing together to ensure that it is pourable, then spread it over the top of the still-warm cake.
Icing will drip and melt down the sides of the cake.
Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve!

Monster

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“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?
Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

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More green.  I’m afraid I’m the worst.
I really was displeased with the way this cake looked.  I originally topped it with those little green meringues, in the hopes that it would be springy and light and lovely, but it looked really fucking weird, guys.
The meringues did NOT mesh with the aesthetic of the cake, and the colors were all off.
They looked like white and green diseased dog shit on top of an unnaturally colored cake.
Sooooo ugly.  Tooooo ugly. I gave up photographing the cake and plucked all the meringues off to photograph.

I was really frustrated; I had been very excited about this mint and chocolate cake and yet to me, the cake looked like the cartoon version of Frankenstein’s monster, green skin and black-brown hair with weird sideburns.
UGH.  (I am actually laughing out loud at how creepily similar this cake is to the monster.  Good god.)
I chopped it up, ready to throw in the dish towel, but then I ended up half-liking how it looked all cut up into fat wedges, so I plonked it back on the table and took a few shots.

And that’s the riveting story of this monstrous cake.

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Here’s the story of the interior:
The fastest chocolate cake EVER (accidentally vegan!) provides a tender, moist base.
Sandwiched between the layers is whipped chocolate ganache, deep and dark and lovely.
The cake is frosted with the silkiest, lightest mint Italian meringue buttercream, refreshing and buttery and NOT toothpaste-y in the least (at least I’ve got that going for me).
Hot, melty ganache is dripped along the sides of the cake, for extra va va voom and shits and gigs.

Someone in my house triple texted me, begging for a slice after they caught a glimpse of it sitting in the kitchen.
By the time I got home, the thing had been decimated by a pack of hungry monsters college students.
I take that as a sure stamp of approval, ugly or not.

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

for the mint Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon water
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks, softened but cool
drop peppermint extract
drop green food coloring, if desired

for the ganache:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
big pinch salt
1 ounce (heaping tablespoon) corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda together.
Add all the wet ingredients at once while whisking.
Pour batter (will be liquidy) into prepared pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean; allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place salt, water, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to stiff peaks.  Carefully pour the hot syrup over the whipping egg whites, avoiding the whisk so that there is no splattering.
Whip meringue until it has reached body temperature; whip in butter 2 tablespoons at a time.
Add in the peppermint extract and food coloring and beat until buttercream is shiny, fluffy, and smooth.
Set aside while you prepare the ganache: melt all ingredients together in a microwave or double boiler.
Place in a blender or blend with a stick attachment until smooth, shiny, and glossy, about 1 minute.
Remove 1/3 of the ganache and set aside.
Place the rest of the ganache in the fridge and allow to set softly, about 30 minutes.
Remove from fridge and whip until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
To assemble the cake: spread first layer with 1/3 of the whipped chocolate ganache, then place the next layer on top and repeat.
Frost the exterior of the cake with a crumb coat of the buttercream, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.
Finish icing the exterior of the cake with the remaining buttercream, then place in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
If the reserved ganache has set, simply microwave it for 10 seconds until it is smooth and flowing once more; drip or pour the ganache over the edge of the cold cake; it will set as it drips down the side.
Allow the cake to come to room temperature, and serve!

Daisy

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A LITTLE madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown,
Who ponders this tremendous scene–
This whole experiment of green,
As if it were his own!

Emily Dickinson

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Mooooo.
Mooooooo.

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It is spring.
I can officially, fearlessly declare for spring.
Not just based on the official date (which was March 20th, but since it was still snowing in March, that didn’t seem quite right), but on the birds chirping and the sun shining and the people smiling.
The bare skin, the promising buds, the gentle scent of life on the breeze.

The smell, the feel, the sight of spring.
I feel invigorated.  Alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic.

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Babies abound in spring; I imagine calving is happening (although I’m trying not to imagine the horrors of calving on a factory farm, since I wanted this post to be upbeat and happy…), little wobbly kneed newborns frolicking in the sun.
If I had a farm or a country home with a cow, I’d name her Daisy.  Real original, right?
She’d be a little Jersey cow, and I’d have 2 goats and some chickens, too.

There is something very romantic about the thought of living and working on a rustic farm; it’s kind of a secret dream of mine to grow up and be Imen of Farmette.
Or maybe not so secret.

These here cows are Holsteins, though.  Or at least my best approximation of them.

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These cow cookies are so sweet!
When I saw this cookie cutter, I had to have it.
Now I’m dreaming of more spotted animals that I could create using the same technique.
Giraffes are my house mascot, after all…

These cows are crisp butter cookies laced with salt and vanilla, punctuated with rich, chocolatey bites.

Simple, simple cookie dough (count down from 3, then back up: 3-2-1-1-2-3) means that you can have these cookies in just about an hour, including chilling time.

There is nothing like a thick, crunchy-on-the edges sugar cookie with a soft center dipped in milk.

You absolutely must enjoy these with milk.  (Is that wrong?)

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Cow Cookies
makes about 20 large cookies

ingredients:
3 cups (360 grams) flour
2 sticks (225 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 egg
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon (5 grams) cocoa powder

directions:
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add the sugar and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg and salt; beat for 3 more minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and the flour and slowly mix until homogeneous.
Remove 5/6 of the batter, leaving the last 1/6 in the bowl; add the chocolate and the cocoa powder and beat until batter is uniformly colored.
On a well floured surface, roll out the vanilla dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Rip random and varying sized pieces of the chocolate dough off and flatten them slightly.
Place randomly on vanilla dough and gently roll to incorporate.
Cut out cow shapes with a cutter, doing your best to fit as many cookies in as possible to avoid having to reroll the dough.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and into the freezer.
You can reroll the dough, but the cow spots will not be distinctive.
Freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, then bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
Allow to cool; enjoy with milk.

For Sansa

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Valar morghulis.
Valar dohaeris.

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Finally, finally, finally.
After months of agonizing waiting, frenzied reading, and greedy marathon-watching, Season 4 of The Best Show Ever Made is here.
It premiers tonight.  HBO.  Don’t miss it. (Have you seen the new trailer?)

It’s April 6th.  Game of Thrones.  Season 4.  Premiers. Tonight. Be still, my beating heart.

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I recently finished A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the series.
George R.R. Martin takes no prisoners.
I am so transported by his writing, and the show even more so, I dare say.
I’m really glad that I watched part of the show before reading the books, which is a first, because the sets that they dream up are truly magical and fantastic, arguably better than what my imagination would have filled in.
This way, when I read the books, I can visualize the characters and their homes and country very clearly.
Normally, I’m an advocate for experiencing a series the opposite way, books first, then movie/T.V. show, but Game of Thrones is special.
It’s a cinematic masterpiece.

I’ve rewatched season 3 for the 90th time, and I have this on repeat while I study daydream all day and snack on these cakes.
I am so ready, y’all.  I can’t even express it.

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Sansa: “Lemon cakes are my favourite!”
Lady Olenna: “So we’ve heard.”

(Our first introduction to Lady Olenna, that marvelously dry and brutal little bird.)

Poor, miserable Sansa.
We can only wait for her luck to turn around and her life to stop constantly falling to pieces (or die, knowing G.R.R.M).
She really does love lemon cakes, as is made abundantly clear by all the mentions of these little treats.

In honor of her, I made dainty lemon cakes to share today.
These are incredibly quick to make, about 40 minutes from start to stuffing them in your face.
These have only seven ingredients, and no chemical leavening!  If we are really trying to be accurate, these cakes come incredibly close to ingredients available in Westeros.

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The cakes are light and delicate, crumbly and ever so slightly sweet, buttery and full of lemon, the glaze sticky and luxuriously tangy.

Where the glaze sinks into the warm cake, pockets of puckery sweetness form, prompting a finger licking so as not to lose any of the precious, sticky icing.
The cakes themselves are redolent with butter, vanilla, and lemon, with a fine textured crumb and crisp edges.
I think they’d go over quite well with Lady Sansa of House Stark, and they will fit right in as a snack during the premiere tonight.

These are best served with a piping hot cup of milky black tea and the heads of your enemies.

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Sansa’s Lemon Cakes
makes 15-18 small cakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing the pans
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
pinch sea salt
zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour

for the glaze:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons dried milk powder
1 tablespoon butter

directions:
Make the cakes: first, brown the butter until very dark, almost burnt, then strain out the solids by pouring the butter over a mesh sieve lined with 2 paper towels.
Allow to cool, then squeeze out the extra butter in the paper towels and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter your mini muffin tins or mini tart shells very well with melted butter– be sure to get in all the grooves.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment with a pinch of sea salt and begin to beat on high.
Meanwhile, zest 2 lemons into a bowl with the sugar and rub very well with your fingertips to release the essential oils.
When eggs are beginning to become light colored and fluffy, start to slowly stream in the lemon sugar.
Whip for about 6 minutes, until quadrupled in size and very light colored.
Pour in the vanilla and beat until combined, 10 seconds.
Sprinkle the flour on top of the eggs, then pour the cooled butter over the flour.
Gently fold batter to combine, being sure to incorporate any pockets of flour.
Batter will deflate slightly, but still be very light when you are done folding.
Scoop rounded tablespoons into your pans, filling them 2/3 of the way full.
Bake for 15 minutes, until deeply golden and springy to the touch.
Immediately turn the cakes out of their molds, and set aside while you make the glaze.

Make the glaze: place sugar, lemon juice, and water in a small pot.
Heat until boiling and bubbling, cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk powder and butter.
Whisk very well; glaze should be sticky but homogeneous and still pourable when hot.
Pour a teaspoon or so of glaze over each warm cake, then set aside to cool and set.

Enjoy with tea!

Why the Face?!

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If you’re staring at the screen like what-the-fuck-is-she-kidding-me-right-now, I get it.

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I feel your eyes burning into me across the vastness of the interwebs.  So stop.
Don’t look at me like that. I know, ok, I know.

I gave you candy canes in January, pears and apples in March, and now, this.
St. Patrick’s day was just a few weeks ago, and here I am giving you GREEN meringues.
It’s not even April Fools Day, so this really isn’t funny.
No, I’m doing this seriously.

SOorrRRyyyYYy. not sorry.

My blog, my rules, bitchez.  You should be used to it by now.

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These meringues were meant to top a mint-chocolate cake (coming soon), but looked ugly as hell.
They were too pretty to not photograph, though, so I decided to make two mint/green posts, as a nice big fuck you to all my wonderful, beloved readers.
Just kidding!!!  I love you.  But I am still smushing green into your faces post-St.-Paddy’s-Day, so I obviously don’t love you that much.
I’m sorry.  I am a bad blogger.

The meringues are flavored with peppermint, and are perfectly crisp and crackling on the outside, with the interior still marshmallowy and soft.
The mint makes them a little cooling, and dangerously snackable.
The green makes them extra pretty, and extra unseasonable.
Just what I was going for!

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Peppermint Meringues
makes 10 large meringues

ingredients:
3 (90 grams) egg whites
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
1 drop peppermint extract
green food coloring, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, and ready a piping bag with a plain tip.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and begin to whip.
When a foam starts to form, slowly stream in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
Add in the salt and peppermint extract when the meringue is reaching stiff peaks.
Beat until meringue is stiff and glossy and shiny.
To make your meringues striped, take a paintbrush dipped in green food coloring and carefully draw lines on the inside of your pastry bag.
Carefully fill the pastry bag with meringue, being careful not to smudge the food coloring too much.
Pipe meringues as desired, then bake for 2 to 3 hours, rotating periodically. (This seems like a ridiculous range of baking times, but humidity and size of meringues can really wreak havoc. To check if meringues are cooked, carefully try to lift one of the cookies off the baking sheet; if it lifts off cleanly and not sticky at all, the meringues are done.  If it is syrupy or soft, leave them in.)
Turn the oven off and crack the door; allow meringues to cool completely within the oven.

All Hail

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My good lords and ladies, would you care for a bloody poofy woolly biscuit?

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What, that doesn’t sound appealing to you?!
Allegedly, that’s what Lord Lamington, after whom these little confections may or may not be named, was fond of calling them, and not exactly lovingly.

The history of the lamington is a bit convoluted, with different stories attributing its origin to various sources.
They’re quite widely popular, so there must be something behind them.

Lamingtons are enjoyed from Queensland to Toowoomba to South Africa to… Cleveland.

(In other Australia-related news… more weird ass marsupials discovered on the only freaky continent to boast marsupials!)

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When I found some desiccated coconut in the famed and fabled land of Hyde Park Produce, I knew instantly I had to make lamingtons. (After, of course, I stirred heaps of it into this cake and this cake, too.)

The traditional form is a cube of vanilla sponge cake, sometimes split in two and filled with jam, dipped in chocolate glaze and covered with coconut.
I didn’t deviate too much, because I’ve never tried a real lamington!

Here, a moist, light vanilla sponge cake is filled with rich, thick coconut pastry cream, coated in a dark bittersweet chocolate glaze and dusted with plenty of chewy, nutty desiccated coconut.

Lord Lamington must have been crazy, because these treats are fabulous.
They’re really not sweet, with a myriad of textures: the sponge cake is fluffy, the coconut cream buttery, the glaze melty and the coconut shreds are chewy.
The flavors meld beautifully, with the coconut pastry cream giving an aroma of coconut to the interior as well as the exterior, the thin shell of chocolate not overpowering the delicate vanilla or coconut.

These were snapped up from my house table ridiculously quickly; people remarked how pretty and how delicious they were.
(Nary a “bloody poofy wolly biscuit” to be heard!)

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A few notes about making these poofy little delights:

Trim the edges off your sponge cake! This keeps it moist and allows you to level any imperfections off.
Don’t worry too much if your cubes are kind of wonky, mine were like that too.  They taste just as good.

If your pastry cream is a bit thick, just stir it around vigorously, or fold in stiffly whipped cream.
The pastry cream recipe unavoidably makes more than you’ll need, but you can use it to sandwich more cakes, or thin it with a bit of milk or cream for coconut pudding!
To pipe it into the cake, don’t be shy.  Stick the tip of your pastry bag into the center of the cake and apply pressure.
As the crevices in the sponge cake fill up, the tip will be shoved out of the cake, and you’ll know that it’s full!

When covering the cakes with the glaze, less is more.  Scrape off as much as you can, leaving only a thin lacquer of chocolate.  Otherwise a lot of it will drip into your coconut, and the cakes won’t be as neat.

Desiccated coconut may be a little difficult for some to locate; look for it in ethnic sections or ethnic supermarkets (mine was an Arabic brand).
If you can’t find it, it seems that flaked or even shredded coconut does the job well enough.
Don’t let the coconut hold you back from trying lamingtons!

As always, serve with a good strong cup of milky English tea.
(Yes, Australians have teatime too, thank you O Great British Empire.)

P.S. I’m back in the States.  Woohoo. So glad…  I can feel my tan fading already.  Great.

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Coconut Cream Lamingtons
makes 16
cake portion adapted from Saveur
pastry cream adapted from the Kitchn

ingredients:
for the sponge cake:
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the pastry cream:
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk, well stirred
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
big pinch kosher salt
2 egg yolks

for the ganache:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
scant cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk (feel free to use coconut milk)
pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

to assemble:
1- 2 cups desiccated coconut

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour an 8×8 pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
Whip on high for 3 full minutes– set a timer.
With the mixer running, add the salt and slowly stream in the sugar.
Beat for another full 3 minutes– set a timer.
Whisk the vanilla extract into the melted butter, then pour it into the whipped eggs.
Dump the flour (gently) on top, then add the baking powder to the flour mound.
Gently, using folding motions, incorporate the butter and flour into the eggs.
The batter should be homogeneous– you will have to mix thoroughly yet gently– but not completely deflated.
Spread the batter into the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden.
Allow to cool completely, then slice off the edges and top so that it’s all level.
Meanwhile, make the pastry cream: blend all ingredients except vanilla together, either with an immersion blender or in the canister of a regular blender.
Pour into a small saucepot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding-like consistency.
Remove from heat, blend again if there are chunks, and allow to cool before filling lamingtons.
Make the ganache: melt the chocolate, gently, in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and butter, and blend with an immersion blender (or, again, in a regular blender or food processor) until shiny and smooth.
Ganache should be thin enough that it will not pull many crumbs off the cake, so add another tablespoon or two of milk if need be.
To assemble lamingtons, slice cake into 16 cubes.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the coconut pastry cream; stick the tip into the center of a cube of cake and fill until the pressure forces the tip out of the cake.
Dip the cakes into the ganache, being sure that the chocolate coat is very thin, not thick and heavy.
Brush any excess ganache off, then roll the wet cube in coconut.
Set on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set for at least 2 hours.

Ironic

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It’s Spring!  That’s spring with a capital S, because it was official as of March 20th.

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And yet here I am sharing a treat that’s chock full of fall fruit.
While in the tropics, feasting on pineapple and papaya.

Bad blogger!  Bad, unseasonal blogger!

Are you really surprised?  Remember when I gave you candy canes in January?  That was cruel.

To make up for it, I’m sharing some spring-y things that I’ve been diggin’ lately.
Yay for links!  Click ‘em.  You know you want to.

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First, this cake!  Lemon is top on my list of favorite, fresh flavors.  I love the edible flowers that Jen used to decorate, as well.  Totally spring-appropriate.
(And that pup!  Oh, those photos of Kaweah make me miss Ginger so much.)

In the vein of flowery cakes, I think I pinned every. single. one. of these photos.  OHMYGOD. I can’t describe how obsessed I am.  Wow.

It’s like Laura is in my brainthese heavenly, spiced falafels accompanied by tons of fresh veggies look like the definition of a perfect, light lunch.  Currently craving.

And helloooo another winner from Annie.  This gorgeous tart is so simple, and the accompanying story is quite heartwarming.  Raspberries + pistachio for life.  One of my favorite combinations.

How cute are these little cakelets!  Mini cakes for life! Molly has won me over.  I give in, I think they are the cutest thing to ever happen to the planet.  Feed me, Molly.

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Thanks to this board, I am becoming obsessed with floral arrangements… Oh Pinterest, you do me wrong.

Linda’s amazing instagram feed satisfies me when her posts are far between.  All those flowers and sunsets make me dizzy with envy!  And so many breakfast bowls.  Gah.

When can I move into this beautiful loft-to-be? ASAP, please.

I want to be here. Spring rooftop dinner party.  Wait, why is this not my life again?  (Pinterest, you devil.)

What is inspiring you this spring?  Share your photos, links, and love–I’d love to see!
I’m quite excited for the change of seasons, though, to be honest, I will be less than glad to leave México.

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You can’t tell that I’m very excited for spring based on these muffins, but let me explain myself.
There were quite a few lonely, leftover pears and apples in the house fridge, just calling to be folded into a spicy batter and baked into muffins.

These muffins are soft, with lovely chunks of sweet pear and apple, the buttery batter made with nutty whole wheat flour and 5-spice and cinnamon for a kick.  It’s topped with a crunchy streusel with a touch more of the numbing, warming spices.

The recipe would be equally wonderful with fresh blackberries or even blueberries, and I could see peaches eventually making their way in.  For now, I made due with what I had on hand.

These are a perfect breakfast treat– they are not too sweet, and feel wholesome while still being a treat.

They’re splendid with a good strong cup of tea.

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Whole Wheat 5-Spice Pear Muffins 
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 12 muffins

ingredients:
for the muffins:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons 5-spice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 small pears, peeled and chopped
1 small apple, peeled and chopped

for the streusel:
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons turbinado sugar
pinch of cinnamon and 5-spice
2 tablespoons butter, cold

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a muffin tin with papers.
Make the streusel: whisk the flour and sugar together with the spices.
Using a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is clumpy.
Make the muffins: cream butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add sugars, salt, and spices and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg.
Beat for 4 more minutes; mixture should be very fluffy and not gritty at all.
Whisk the milk and vinegar together.
Scrape the bowl and add the flour and baking powder and baking soda on top of the butter.
Begin to slowly mix the batter as you pour in the milk/vinegar mixture.
Batter will be thick; gently stir in the chopped pears and apples.
Scoop batter into muffin tin, then top with streusel.
Bake for 20-24 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Sweet Relief

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Then a calm, solemn pleasure steals
into your inmost mind;
a quiet aura your spirit feels,
a softened stillness kind.

–Charlotte Brontë

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It’s been a bit quiet around here, unusually so.  Have you missed my whining?
Probably not.

But I’m back anyways!  Sort of.

Finals are over!  I can now melt into a puddle of delicious laziness; I can and I promptly will.
Lord, does it ever feel good to relax.

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I’m on vacation for spring break.
No, not an SBK2014-rage-your-face-off-throw-up-on-the-beach-by-day-club-hop-by-night type vacation, but a quiet, revitalizing trip.
(The former isn’t quite my style or speed, in case you hadn’t realized.)

I’m in Mexico, having an utter blast and seriously luxuriating in the heat.
I plan on getting tan (sorry mama!) and drinking a lot of piña coladas (not sorry), exploring the beach and eating a ton of fruit.
(Also, Netflix.  Currently watching Pirates of the Caribbean.  Um, Orlando Bloom.  Swoon.)

All in all, this is shaping up to be a swell break.

¡Viva Mehico!

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Since I’ve now forced my happy, warm, tropical vibes into your mind, I’ll share some with you, in the shape of a delicious cake.  Huzzah!

This cake is wholly dairy-free, and could easily be made vegan with a flax egg or egg replacer and vegan chocolate for the frosting.
This cake is part whole wheat, and is chock full of good fats from the coconut and macadamia nuts.
Coconut comes in three forms: oil, meat, and milk.

Sweet bananas, creamy coconut, buttery macadamias, nutty whole wheat flour, rich, dark chocolate.

This is a one bowl cake, with an ideal texture for banana cakes: a good bite, moist and sweet, but not mushy or cloying.
The frosting is not sweet at all, and adds good bitter notes to the dessert.
This is a winner, for sure.

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Some notes on the recipe:
Use brown, brown, nasty looking bananas.  The browner, the better.  Brown, spotty, mushy ones will be sweeter and more flavorful in the finished product, though they are gross eaten out of hand.
This is because the sugars have begun to break down, creating flavor and scent molecules which enhance the cake.

You can use 1 can of full-fat coconut milk for this recipe; refrigerate it overnight and scrape off 1/2 cup of the thick cream at the top for the ganache, then whisk the rest together and measure out 3 tablespoons of this milk for the cake.
Scraping the cream for the ganache is the same procedure as making coconut whipped cream; here are two good tutorials– just skip the whipping part.

You can easily use sweetened flaked coconut in place of the desiccated, if that’s all you can find.  Use a little over 1/2 a cup to get the same amount of flavor.

Feel free to leave the macadamia nuts out; I think they add a lovely tropical flavor, but some people don’t like them.

You can use a mixture of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, but definitely don’t use milk chocolate.  It will be too sweet.

So hello, hello, from the tropics.  I’m glad to be back– I’ll be posting, even from down here, so don’t you worry.
Just start with this cake.  More on the way.

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Tropical Coconut Banana Cake
cake portion adapted from The Galley Gourmet
makes 1 8×8 inch cake

for the cake:
4 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) coconut oil, solid
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 extra large egg, at room temperature
3 medium bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

for the ganache:
1/2 cup coconut cream
5 1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8×8 inch pan.
Place coconut oil, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes, until fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg; beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the mashed bananas; mix slowly just to start to incorporate the bananas.
Add in the coconut milk, vanilla, and vinegar and stir once or twice to start to incorporate the wet ingredients.
Dump the flours on top, then the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Mix on high, starting slow and working up, until batter is completely homogeneous.
Stir in coconut and macadamia nuts.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
To make the ganache, heat the coconut cream until bubbling, then pour over chopped chocolate.
Whisk (or blend with an immersion blender) until shiny and smooth.
Allow to cool until spreadable, then frost cake.
Allow ganache to fully set before cutting cake.

It Gets Better

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“When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me.
A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calendar that showed the wrong month.
I could have cried over it. I did.
Where the smoke from a chimney ended. How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

– Jonathan Safran Foer | Everything is Illuminated

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Eleven weeks has this year been.

Magically have the hours stretched into days, weeks, months.
In the moment, the minutes melted like molasses, yet here we are, looking back at the accumulation of time piled high like snow drifts.
The quarter gusted by, ruffling my hair, picking at the edges of my jacket, freezing my salty tears to icicles.

Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.

But he is deaf, this cruel god.  There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march.  Forward we go.

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Eleven weeks has this year been.

One, two, three months.  Two thousand fourteen.  Twenty fourteen.

The year began as a frenzy of tears, of dually joyous and grieving reunions, of family and love and support and then fell into a deep well of loneliness and numbness, of steely walls and wintry blues, of homesickness and exhaustion.
Slowly, though, 2014 stabilized to an equilibrium.
Just as there was sadness, there was celebration.
Just as there was remembrance, there was readjustment and renewal (even some resolutions).

Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.

We do not like to be changed.

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Yet what can I say?  It gets better.

Things get better.  I don’t eat dinner alone in the stairwell anymore, cold and alone.  I let warmth into my life.
I don’t cry when I’m falling asleep; I don’t cry when I wake up.  I smile, and stretch, long and satisfying.
I don’t feel like my lungs are collapsing in on themselves when I think about you.  I breathe deeper, and deeper still.
I don’t feel my heart break anew into a million pieces when I think about my father, his brothers, his mother.  It aches, but I embrace it.
I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when I hear your name.
(Although I did feel like I was being punched, repeatedly, when I heard your voice.  My body clenched and I started to sweat.  I listened to it over and over and over.)
I am so proud and so grateful, and I close my eyes and remind myself of that instead.

There were times when I didn’t think it would get easier.  When I felt hopeless, helpless, lost.
It did, though.  I see it more and more as this quarter draws to a close.
Never forgetting.  I miss you.  I keep your picture in my wallet for good luck on my tests.  I taped your picture to my wall– you’re a dreamcatcher for anything math-related because those kind of thoughts give me nightmares.
I’m sure you happily absorb them, and roll your eyes when they’re wrong.
No, never forgetting.
Just feeling my heart knit back together, feeling the rent be mended, one stitch of time by one.

Allowing it to get better.

gggg

If there was ever something that you would think couldn’t get better, it would be St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
The name alone is enough to give this impression.  Gooey.  Butter. Cake.

But oh, friends, oh.  Does it ever get better.  In a word, yes.
Let’s be clear and upfront about what gooey butter cake is.

There are two versions: one is the more classic, yeasted bottom, butter topped coffeecake-like confection, and one is Paula Deen’s dump-a-buncha-butter into a cake mix and slather it with cream cheese decadence.  Christina Tosi makes a similar version.
That’s how you know it’s good.
1) the name
2) Paula Deen
3) Xtina Tosi

This is the decadent, preservative-filled type, but made better.  Made way, way, way better.
No box mixes.  Sans preservatives.  Still just as easy.

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First, the base.  Normally a box of yellow cake mix with a stick o’ melted butter added.
Here, oats, brown sugar, plenty of salt, and brown butter are stirred together, turning into a thick, soft cookie base, with a hearty texture and assertive flavor.

Next, the topping.  Cream cheese, more brown sugar, eggs, plenty of salt, and a heap of powdered sugar are beaten together to form the sticky, cheesecake-y layer.

After it bakes, the top is cracked and deeply golden, and the whole thing smells like brown butter-brown sugar heaven.
Shut your eyes to resist its seductive temptation, and stick it in the freezer.  Overnight.  This is the hardest part of this recipe.
When it comes out the next day, it’s dense and chewy, yet maintains its eponymous gooey-ness.
Dust it in more powdered sugar, slice, and dive right in.

One bite and there’s no going back.
It just got better, fam.

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Brown Sugar Oatmeal Gooey Butter Cake
makes an 8×8 pan
heavily adapted from Christina Tosi (originally via the now defunct Gilt Taste)

ingredients:
for the base:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

for the topping:
8 ounces cream cheese
hefty pinch salt
6 packed tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (13 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line an 8×8 pan with parchment, then grease the parchment generously.
Place oats in the bottom of a bowl, then put sugars and salt mounded up to one side.
Place your butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.
After it melts, continue to cook it until it browns and becomes nutty and fragrant.
Pour browned butter over oats and allow to sit and marinate; after a few minutes, stir the sugars and salt together with the oats.
Beat in the egg and egg yolks.
Stir in the flour and baking powder.
Mixture will be crumbly but stick together when pressed.
Press into the bottom of your 8×8 pan; you will have some left over (leave 3/4 of an inch for the topping).
Prepare the topping:
Beat cream cheese and salt together until very light and fluffy, and no lumps remain.
Whip in the brown sugar until the mixture is no longer gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the top of the mixture and beat just until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is homogeneous.
Spread the mixture over the crust, making sure it covers the entire thing.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed, golden, and crackly, with only a slight jiggle in the center.
Remove from oven and let cool; PLACE IN FREEZER for at least 4 hours, and up to one night.
To serve, remove from freezer and immediately slice; dust with plenty of powdered sugar.

DNase1L3

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This post is for my oldest tormentor nemesis brother Ben.

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He’s doing his oral qualification exam for grad school today!
He’s a big science nerd, just like me, only taller and sassier smarter.

(His paper is very complicated and scary… He’s researching DNase1L3.  It’s very impressive.)

Apparently, the tradition is to bring some delicious baked good to your quals, so he asked me to be his “favorite person” and bake him something “ridiculously elaborate.”

HOW COULD I SAY NO!?

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These cookies were inspired by Not So Humble Pie’s Gel Electrophoresis cookies from her Science Cookies series.

Um, as a nerd, I love all the science cookies.  Obsessed.

I actually wanted to make some to send to my brother, and then, miracle of miracles, he asked me to send him baked goods!  It was meant to be.  I had my heart set on these little guys.

They’re supposed to look like a gel that’s been run and is under UV light; the loading dye glows slightly pink, and the gels are a lavender/blue color.

I did my best to replicate these colors in the cookies.
I piped the pink color while the blue was still wet, so that there would be no lumps and bumps in the final cookie.
This technique can be a little scary, in terms of bleeding, but I didn’t have any issues.
I also didn’t pipe a border around my gels, so they look a little melty.  It’s ok.  They’re wiggly in real life too.

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This cookie dough is among my most beloved recipes.

It took a while to get just right, but now it is perfect.  It produces crisp edges and buttery centers with hits of salt and vanilla.  Flat cookies, perfect for decorating.

It’s taken countless iterations, from thumbprints and meltaways to jammers and decorated cookies.
I adapt it for chocolate cookies, cinnamon cookies, gingersnaps, etc.

It is so, so simple.
Count down from 3, then count back up.

3 cups flour, 2 sticks butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 3 teaspoons vanilla.

There’s no need to refrigerate the dough before rolling– just roll and cut, then freeze your shapes.
You can bake them off in 30 minutes, or you can wrap them well and bake them in a few weeks.

I also used egg white royal icing– no meringue powder//preservatives here!  Just egg whites and sugar and water.  Easy and pipes like a dream.

Good luck to you, Ben!  Love you and miss you! xx

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3-2-1 Cookies with Egg White Royal Icing

ingredients:
for the cookies:
3 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher or other coarse salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
for the royal icing:
2 egg whites
pinch salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
water, as needed
food coloring
directions:
Make the cookies:
Beat butter, salt, and sugar together until softened and pale yellow, about 3 minutes
Add in the egg and beat until super fluffy and shiny and not gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the vanilla extract and beat for 20 seconds.
Add in all the flour and stir slowly, mixing until a homogeneous dough forms.
It should not be overly sticky, nor should it be very crumbly.
Roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface and cut it into desired shapes.
Refrigerate or, even better, freeze, for at least 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until golden and easily lifted from the sheet.
Make the royal icing:
Whip egg white and salt until soft to slightly stiff peaks form.
Sift the sugar over the meringue and whip until everything comes together homogeneously.
Add water as needed to get to flooding consistency (see Bridget’s post here for FAQs).
Tint as desired and decorate cookies!
Allow to dry completely before packaging cookies.