Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

—Julia Child

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Thanksgiving!

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m crazy busy cooking and baking a feast for my family… I’ve been cooking since I got home on Tuesday night and I won’t stop until dinner tonight!

But nevertheless, I wanted to share this cake with you, since it is so easy and quick and could be a perfect last-minute addition to any holiday table.

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For any of you who might be curious, the menu I’ve created for today is as follows (and yes, I execute all of these dishes, with great help from my sous chefs Mom, Dad, and Grandma!):

Kale and raisin salad
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese
Roasted za’atar root vegetables with dijon aioli
Cauliflower mascarpone mashed potatoes
Mushroom, rosemary, lemon, and chicken sausage dressing
Cranberry-maple sauce
Tarragon and thyme butter roasted turkey
White wine giblet gravy
Seared maple brussels sprouts
Butternut squash snack cake with brown sugar fudge frosting
Maple cream shortbread tart
Butterscotch, poached pear, and apple pie in a cheddar crust

My “manifesto” AKA all of the written out recipes and schedules was a whopping 12 pages long this year.
We don’t play around with Thanksgiving in this household.

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m going to attempt to perhaps photograph some of the desserts, but no promises.  Things can get hectic!

The cake I’m sharing today is seriously, seriously, the best pumpkin cake I have ever tasted.

Even better, it only requires one bowl, comes together in a flash, and keeps like a dream.
It was inspired by a jar of pumpkin butter that Hana brought me from the apple orchard/pumpkin patch where she spent a brisk autumn morning.
She really is the best big ever!

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This pumpkin cake is dairy-free (and I used lactose-free cream cheese for the frosting), but you’d never know it.

Super moist and spicy, thanks to a double hit of pumpkin: both pumpkin butter and pumpkin purée go into the batter, along with a hit of brown sugar and a mélange of spices.
The frosting is creamy, drippy, and thick—slathered on generously.
I used Green Valley lactose free cream cheese to keep it Nati-friendly—it’s seriously amazing!
You cannot tell the difference in taste or texture whatsoever.

This cake batter comes together in 10 minutes, and then you can sneak it in the oven next to the turkey—a loaf pan is quite svelt, even in a crammed oven.

It would make a fantastic last addition to any menu!
And once again: happy Thanksgiving, all!

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Double Pumpkin Cake 
makes 1 9×5 inch loaf cake
cake portion adapted from Sweet Phi

for the cake:
180 grams ( 1 1/2 cups) flour
55 grams (1/2 cup packed) brown sugar
55 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
pinch cloves
pinch nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
270 grams (1 cup) pumpkin purée
430 grams (1 1/2 cups) pumpkin butter
28 grams (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese (I used lactose free)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
480 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed (I used cashew)

Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a loaf pan.
Whisk together flour, sugars, spices, and salt.
Make a well in the center and crack in the eggs; add the pumpkin purée, pumpkin butter, oil, and vanilla to the well also.
Carefully stir the batter together until a rough and mostly homogeneous batter results.
Scrape into prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs and the top is springy and golden.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the cream cheese frosting, whip cream cheese on high speed util creamy and no lumps remain, about 3 minutes.
Add in the salt and powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated; if mixture is too thick to spread, add the milk until it is of spreadable consistency.
Frost as desired.
Serve at room temperature.

Elegant Disorder

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The second law of thermodynamics… states that the amount of disorder in the universe will always increase.
“If we see alien science someday, they will have the equivalent equation,” Tufte said.
“That’s real elegance.”
(Tom Stoppard, in his play “Arcadia,” summarized this law as
You cannot stir things apart.”)

—Patrick House, “What is Elegance in Science?” from the New Yorker

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“That kind of self-respect is a discipline,
a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.
It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag.
As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that,
but the psychological effect alone is incalculable:
it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.
There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves;
imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal,
in a cold shower.”

—Joan Didion

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Balance, ever sought—ever fickle.

It seems—often in autumn—that I bite off a hunk that is, for the most part, far too tough to chew.
I gnaw my way through, tired, weak, cranky, and overwhelmed, drawn forward really only by the inevitability of Thanksgiving, of winter break;
by the measly promise of three full days outside of the library.

The majority of November has escaped me (and this blog)—and it’s long overdue that I stop back in to share some treats.

(It’s been three weeks of radio silence—cruel and longer than usual to be sure!)

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chicago has already had our first snow storm (the past two days have been quite the wintry mix), and UChicago’s fall quarter is only 2 weeks from done.
Which means autumn is well on its way out.
And no pies to show for it…!

Honestly, I’m not even sure where the time has gone, which is woefully typical of this quarter.
Last autumn, I went for about a month without a post because of school stress and Pinterest-related issues.

With the holidays approaching (I’ve already written my yearly Thanksgiving Manifesto, which usually rounds out at about 10 pages of recipes, lists, schedules, etc.), rest assure that I’ll be around far more often.

Gift-worthy cookies and cakes are on the way, from a sorry and guilty resident blogger.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For now, this is a birthday cake!

This cake was from mid-October, AKA Alexa’s birthday.
It appeared in the kitchen at a busy time, when there were other treats and people were busy.

As a result, it sat for an entire day, perfectly cased in smooth frosting and drippy caramel, before being sliced into.

I swear, you guys, this cake got better on the second and third days.  It was miraculous.
I made the cakes and caramel a week before, and froze/refrigerated them.

The cakes retained an incredible amount of moisture, and thawed into lusciously dense, tightly-crumbed specimens.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The layers are comprised of dense almond cake, buttery and subtly almond-esque.
The frosting is white chocolate and vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream, which crusts ever-so-slightly, creating a soft and creamy inside with a sugary, crunchy coat.
Lashings of salted caramel are poured over the top and allowed to drip all the way down (only to be swiped away by greedy fingers!), and covered with a dusting of gold luster dust and glitter stars and a few of my tallest candles.

Seriously, can you see those vanilla bean flecks?!

The flavor combination here—almond, white chocolate, vanilla, caramel, and cream cheese—is rich but far more interesting than a vanilla on vanilla cake.

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I get asked fairly often what the trick to drippy caramel cakes is.
My most foolproof caramel drip is the result of completely cool caramel.
It’s best to make your caramel a full day ahead and leave it covered on your counter overnight.
This way, you ensure that it’s really at room temperature—it takes a long time, and it’s easy to try to cut corners.
But even slightly warm caramel will not give you the same result.
And if you are super worried about overly melty caramel, just decrease the cream by 1 or 2 tablespoons.

Happily, like I said, the cake and caramel here can be made up to a week ahead and frozen/refrigerated, respectively.
The frosting takes 15 minutes to whip together and once frosted, the cake is good to go for up to two days.
So you can assemble the cake the day before and stay cool as a cucumber, no matter what your party day looks like!

That’s what I call a celebration cake!

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

White Chocolate Almond and Caramel Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sky High

for the almond cake:
140 grams (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, soft
170 grams (6 ounces) almond paste, crumbled
270 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 egg whites
180 grams (3/4 cup) milk
270 grams (2 1/4 cups) flour
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the white chocolate vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream:
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened
225 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream, or as needed
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

for the salted caramel:
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
gold luster dust, optional
edible gold stars, optional

Make the salted caramel up to a week in advance: place sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Cook until the temperature reaches 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter and heavy cream.
Keep whisking until the caramel comes together fully.
Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature; cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and refrigerate until use.
Make the almond cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans well.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes, until fluffy and softened.
Add in crumbled almond paste, sugar, and salt.
Beat on high for 5 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla extract, egg whites, and milk.
Mix on low speed until halfway combined; the batter may look curdled at this point.
Add in the flour and baking powder on top of the battler and mix on low until homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 15 seconds to ensure even mixing.
Portion the batter out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
To make the frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on high for 4 minutes.
Add in the cream cheese, vanilla bean, and salt and whip for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, making sure all is incorporated before adding more.
Add heavy cream as needed; once all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, drizzle in the cooled white chocolate while whipping on high.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on a cake stand.  Frost with 1/3 cup frosting, then drizzle some salted caramel over top.
Add the next layer and repeat.
Crumb coat very well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before finishing the frosting.
Smooth the icing with a hot knife.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before drizzling the cooled caramel around the edges.
Top with gold luster dust, edible gold stars, and candles.

Spooky Spooky

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There’s a ghost in my lungs and it sighs in my sleep,
Wraps itself around my chest as it softly weeps.
Then it walks, then it walks with my legs
To fall, to fall, to fall at your feet.

There but for the grace of God go I
And when you kiss me, I am happy enough to die.

Ghosts, Florence and the Machine

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy almost-Halloweenie, my little ghouls, goblins, vampires, zombies, sexy cats, and everyone else in between!

It is the witching week.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Also, today is technically National Pumpkin Day, so this cake is perfectly timed.  Accidentally or not.  Whatever.
I am soooo seasonally aware.
Get on the autumnal train, people, or you will be LATE.

My advice is to do so with cake, not cinnamon-apple-scented Yankee Candles, but hey—à chacun son goût!
Grab your infinity scarves!
And tiny, tiny gourds!
And plaid, plaid, plaid.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So. 10/26: National Pumpkin Day.  Wauuuww.
As if we weren’t pumpkin obsessed enough already…!

But, to be fair, pumpkin spice lattes are, like, the ultimate representation of Fall, so National Pumpkin Day must be kind of, like, a big deal.

To be even fairer, though, there are so many amazing things about autumn that have nothing to do with a certain orange squash.  Keep your pants on, butternut, I’m not talking about you.
(Quick aside: I’m definitely making butternut squash mac and cheese for the third year in a row for Thanksgiving. So dang good.  Praise be to Jessica.)

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here, I’ve collected a boatload of sweet foody links, pumpkin or no, that strike me as particularly autumnal.

Speaking of pumpkin round-ups, Cake over Steak hosted an enormous pumpkin party.
So many amazing savory and sweet recipes!
No, seriously: so many.

Some of my favorites from the punkin’ party include:
Courtney from F2B made an amazing orange pumpkin brûlée pie—I had never thought of that combination before, but golly it sounds good now that I have…

HEY what’s up helloooo—Alana turned all my pumpkin cheesecake dreams into a fluffy, cloud-like Japanese ones, and then added caramel and pecans.

Cindy and I had the same thought process with the whole pumpkin + chocolate situation.  All those buttery crumbs make me reconsider my preference for layer cakes over coffee cake.

Speaking of chocolate and pumpkin, the hot cocoa glaze on Tieghan’s baked buttermilk pumpkin donuts is mesmerizing.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Maple syrup/maple flavored goods are my favorite fall/winter flavor, by far.
Laura’s quinoa porridge with maple roasted pears is such a glorious way to start the day.  Maybe at some point I’ll get my life together and be able to have a composed breakfast.

Alanna takes the best photos, my Lord.
And these maple chestnut pudding chômeurs are incredible.
Listen, the Québécois know autumn, and know winter, and they definitely know maple.  I trust their choice to have such a delectable, classic dessert.
(Fun fact/knowledge drop that Alanna included: chômeur/chômeuse means unemployed individual in French.  These puddings were said to bring comfort to these Québécois during the Great Depression.)

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Finally, chocolate and cakes are always welcome:
Megan’s wreaths would be so cute during the holidays, and they’re legitimately the prettiest brioche I have ever laid eyes upon.  Brava!

Michelle’s naked chocolate and hibiscus cake is so pretty.
Naturally pink frosting is particularly appropriate for breast cancer awareness month!

Yossy’s is the most attractive carrot cake ever.
Those process shots always impress and inspire me, since I never photograph them.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I told you that was going to be a lot of links.

But now, I’m going to bring it back around to my little contribution to Halloween/National Pumpkin Day.
This isn’t quite as scary as my heart cake was, but I think the poor unfortunate souls trapped in the salted ganache are adorable and just the right amount of spooky.
You may want to make the tops of your ghosts a little more rounded or folded over.  My piping bag may or may not have been uncooperative, leading to some not unkind, worried probes into what exactly these little white ~hoods~ were supposed to be.
Well. IMHO they are clearly ghosts.  So let that conversation be terminated, thank you and goodnight.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Little crunchy meringue ghosts haunt this cake.
They sit atop a wash of salted dark chocolate ganache that drips down the sides of a moist, heavily spiced pumpkin cake frosted with fluffy, 3-ingredient chocolate buttercream and filled with spicy sweet pumpkin butter.

Each bite balances rich and salted chocolate with spicy pumpkin—it’s a more complex twist on the traditional cream cheese/pumpkin combination, and it keeps the cake from being cloying.
This cake is incredible with or without the crunch of the meringues, so don’t stress if you don’t feel like drawing faces on fifty thousand little cookies.
You can totally leave out the pumpkin butter if you can’t find any—just add a little extra frosting between the layers!

This would be such a cute centerpiece for a Halloween celebration!  It’s definitely an attention grabber.
It somehow tastes even better on the second day, so you can make it ahead (just leave the meringues off until before serving)—
this is the perfect spooky party cake!

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Meringue Ghosts
makes 1 3x6inch layer cake
cake portion adapted from Cooking Classy

for the cake:
55 grams (1/4 cup, 2 ounces) butter, soft
50 grams (1/4 cup) neutral oil
135 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
220 grams (7 1/2 ounces, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) pumpkin purée
30 grams (2 tablespoons) milk
195 grams (1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the whipped ganache frosting:
225 grams (8 ounces, 1 cup, 2 sticks) butter
180 grams (6 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon corn syrup, optional
small pinch salt

for the ganache drip:
45 grams (1.5 ounce) dark chocolate, chopped
45-60 grams (3 tablespoons-1/4 cup) heavy cream
small pinch salt

for the meringue ghosts:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1 tablespoon corn syrup, optional
pinch salt
black food writing pen

to assemble:
pumpkin butter, if desired

Make the meringue ghosts, up to 2 days before: preheat oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Prepare a piping bag with a round tip.
Place egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt into a small pot over medium heat, and start the egg whites to whipping.
When the egg whites reach stiff peaks, the sugar syrup should be at 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and carefully pour into whipping egg whites.
Allow to whip until somewhat cooled, about 4 minutes, then fill the pastry bag and pipe out little ghost shapes.
Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to dry in the oven overnight.
When dry, use a black food color pen to draw on little ghost faces!
Now, make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Place butter and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer with both sugars and the salt.
Beat on high speed for 4 minutes, until very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Add in the eggs, vanilla, and spices, and beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in pumpkin purée and milk.
When almost homogeneous, add in the flour and baking soda and baking powder all at once.
Stir for another minute or so until fully homogeneous.
Portion out into the prepared pans.
Bake for 22-25 minutes until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the whipped ganache: place butter, chocolate, corn syrup, and salt into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts until 2/3 of the way melted.
Whisk vigorously until smooth and shiny.
Allow to cool to room temperature.
Whip at high speed for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy and light in color.
Frost cake right away by spreading a tablespoon or two of pumpkin butter on a layer, then adding a 1/4 cup of frosting, then repeating until all layers are used up.
Frost with a generous layer of fluffy ganache, then refrigerate while you make the ganache drip.
To make the liquid ganache, place chocolate and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until 2/3 of the way melted.
Microwave the heavy cream until lukewarm, about 30 seconds, then whisk vigorously into the chocolate until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes until somewhat thickened.
Meanwhile, to get the mottled look that I’ve gone for, use a hot offset spatula to smooth and slightly melt the chilled frosting, then carefully pour the still-warm ganache over the edge of the chilled cake.
Refrigerate until the drip is set, then place the ghosts on top!

Cric! Crac!

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

—John Keats, from To Autumn

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

If given my choice of candy, with all calories nullified, I would always choose something milk chocolaty and, preferably, somewhat salty or, at the very least, not purely chocolate.
I do like truffles, but they rarely have enough salt for me—and with those, I have a very strong preference for milk and white chocolate, even though I know dark chocolate is technically better for you…
Among cheap candy, KitKats, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Whoppers, Junior Mints, M&Ms reign supreme.
It’s always so baffling to me when someone I know prefers fruity candy to chocolate candy.

Nati has an affinity for Sourpatch, which I can stomach and will even absentmindedly munch on, but there’s no way those are better than Goobers or M&Ms.
No wayyyy!  No how.
BUT celebrating Halloween with someone with opposite taste is lucrative, as I’m sure we all know.

I have so many memories of getting home after a long night of trick-or-treating (at, say, 9pm…!) and sorting through all my candy in my little plastic pumpkin to see which ones were best.

Perversely, and tellingly, I would always save the best for last, forcing myself to eat the “bad” candies first.
I still do this today—save the best bite for last!
I am a two marshmallow kid to the bone, people.
To the bone.

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I have some double chocolate cocoa krispie treats loaded with white chocolate chips and Reese’s pieces, because duh, PB+chocolate forever.

They’re as easy to make as regular rice krispies.
Melt, stir stir stir, press, eat.

Here, we use cocoa krispies and add an extra pinch of salt, with a hunk of dark chocolate to up our cocoa game.
White chocolate chips, milky and sweet, contrast the dark chocolate, and Reese’s pieces are salty, sweet, and crunchy.
The mix-ins totally make these rice krispie treats.  They add just the right amount of surprise to every bite!

(Plus this is a way to use up any ~extra~ Reese’s pieces that you might just have lying around post-Halloween.
Although if you do, who even are you?)

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Reese’s Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats
makes 16 bars

20 grams (3/4 ounce, 1.5 tablespoons) butter
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (5 ounces) marshmallows, mini or otherwise
4 cups cocoa krispies
1/2 cup Reese’s pieces
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment or wax paper.
Place butter, marshmallows, salt and chocolate into a bowl and microwave until all ingredients are melted.
Mix well until fairly homogeneous.
Stir in the cocoa krispies gently, followed by the Reese’s pieces and white chocolate chips.
Firmly press krispies into prepared pan and allow to set for at least 2 hours.
Cut into squares and serve.
Bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Bippity Boppity

Decorated Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Even miracles take a little time.”

—Fairy Godmother, Cinderella

Decorated Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s October….!!! It’s October 15th….!!!
I have to start planning/making/prepping Alexa’s birthday cake, which means we’re definitely in mid-October and fast approaching Halloween.
Don’t ask me how.  I think September might have gotten sucked into a time warp.

I want to make some Halloweenie treats for the blog, as it’s one of my favorite holidays. I just hope I have enough time to prep + write them!
Especially a certain cake that I’ve been plotting since June or so.  Funny because I’m not joking lol.

(All of my favorite holidays are in the Autumn/Winter: Halloween, Thanksgiving, & Christmas.  Le duh.)

I also have to havetohaveto figure out what the heck I’m going to dress up as.  Any ideas?

Decorated Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

To get in the not-so-spooky spirit, I have these cute little pumpkin roll-out cookie for you today.
They’re not pumpkin flavored, unlike 99% of what will be floating around the internet for the next month and a half, but they’re pumpkin shaped and that’s practically as good.
I thought about putting pumpkin purée in my cookie base, but I knew it would be far too wet and wouldn’t give me a nice crisp cocoa cookie like I wanted.

So these are my simplest, go-to chocolate roll-out butter cookie dough, with a heaping spoonful of cocoa powder and a fair pinch of salt that plays off the super sweet royal icing, which is also simplified by using egg whites instead of meringue powder (which I seem to never be able to keep hold of.  Kitchen elves, I tell you.).
They’re rolled out extra thin to give extra crunch, shaped into pumpkins and baked off, then filled with royal icing, and given a scrawl of cursive and a swirly little vine to finish them off.
You can, of course, use meringue powder if you’re worried about the safety of the egg whites.  I will highly recommend Bridget’s recipe—when I have meringue powder on hand (never), it’s the one I will always choose.

These are very crisp, chocolaty cookies, with a bit more complexity than their decorated blonde cousins thanks to the extra hits of salt and cocoa.  Perfect and adorable for autumn with a cup of milk or tea!

One thing is for certain—by the time the clock strikes midnight, these will have disappeared!
Bippity boppity boo…

Decorated Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Decorated Chocolate “Pumpkin” Cookies
makes 20 2-inch cookies

for the cookies:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
60 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
225 grams (2 sticks, 8 ounces) butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

this recipe for royal icing

Make the cookies: line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly flour a flat surface, a rolling pin, and a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter (or whatever shape you want).
Whisk flour and cocoa powder together.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for 3 more minutes.
Add the egg, scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 5 minutes.
Scrape the bowl, add in the vanilla extract, and mix on low until combined.
Add in the flour and cocoa powder and stir until the dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut out shapes, then knead dough and re-roll.
Repeat until all the dough has been used.
Place cookie shapes onto the baking sheets and freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and crisp on the edges and the center is set.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the royal icing, place egg whites in a bowl with the cream of tartar and salt.
Whip on high speed until soft to hard peaks form.
Sift the powdered sugar over the egg whites, then whisk until completely homogeneous and no lumps remain.
Add water as needed, 1 teaspoon as a time, to get to a wipeable consistency.
Split out 1/3 cup for the green, and tint the rest orange.
Of the green frosting, split out 2-3 tablespoons to be the fill, and thin a little more to create runny frosting.
Of the orange frosting, split out 1/3 cup to be thick, pipeable consistency (don’t add water to this part), and thin the leftovers to a runny consistency.
To decorate, pipe an orange edge around the main part of the pumpkin.
Do the same with green on the little stem.
Allow to set for 5-10 minutes, then flood the orange part of the pumpkin.
Repeat with the stems.
Allow to set for 30-45 minutes, until matte.
Pipe a little vine from the stem coming down the main part of the pumpkin, then pipe thick orange frosting into pumpkin grooves or a little cursive “boo.”
Allow to set completely, 3-5 hours, before serving.
Cookies keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Please understand that I am in
full rebellion
against my own mind; that when I live
I live by impulse, by emotion,
by white heat.”

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The French, in their effortless elegance, make a difference between kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Un évier et une lavabo.

They draw the line at owl’s ears: ones with visible ears are les hiboux, while ones without are les chouettes.
There are three words for frost, seven for ice.
Five for window, four for wall.
There’s even a phrase in French for the phenomenon of the urge to jump off of tall buildings/cliffs/balconies/heights:
l’appel du vide.
(Literally: call of the void.)

There are other nuances threaded into the language that make translation tricky; this is one of the most fascinating parts of non-native languages, I think.
Idioms and untranslatables that might confuse anyone hearing them for the first time.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is totally autumnal, so in the same vein, here are some fantastic fall links for you to peruse.

OMgomgomg. Michelle made brown butter pumpkin cinnamon rolls with crème fraîche glaze and they are so fluffy and beautiful I am seriously losing my mind.

These ultra healthy sugar free apple, almond, and buckwheat muffins from Green Kitchen Stories look so comforting (that applesauce center wooooow) and I want to eat 3 for breakfast like, right now, please.

On the savory side, stew is my favorite kind of meal.
Customizable, easy, makes leftovers.
I gravitate towards middle Eastern flavors (za’atar is my go-to spice blend) when I’m cooking, and this squash and bean stew over brown rice is my idea of a perfect fall meal.
Side note: I really want SK’s Bowl + Spoon because, like I said, that’s the kind of cuisine/meal that just gets me.

See also: this butternut squash chili. Oyyyyyy so warm and spicy and squash-y.

Last one: drooling over this dutch apple pie with muscovado toffee sauce.  Crumbly and salty-sweet and layers upon layers of apple drenched in toffee sauce…
I am quite partial to a good apple pie.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

First of all, it is remarkable how well the mélange of ingredients mesh in this cake.
The sheer number of mix-ins might make one wary, but you absolutely must trust me, because the resulting cake is nothing short of phenomenal.

It is exactly how I like my carrot cake: moist, dark, spicy, fruity, and chock full of little surprises in each bite.
And lots and lots of carrot!

The cake is healthier than most carrot cakes, which are always touted to be calorie bombs in disguise.
The amount of refined sugar is drastically reduced by using coconut sugar, which is dark and a little smoky tasting.  It lends the cake an extra deep, caramel flavor.
The cake itself is dairy free, with MCT-rich coconut oil standing in for butter.

The frosting has a cracked, shiny, swirly top.
It’s lusciously rich on the tongue, with butter and brown sugar creating an extremely rich caramel flavor.
It’s good while soft and melty and fantastic when cold, which firms it up into a fudgy consistency.
It’s a rich frosting to pair well with the dense, moist cake beneath.  A wimpy frosting would have no impact and no chance of competing with the cake.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake is filled with grated carrots and apples for earthiness and a firm bite; coconut sugar and flaked coconut add a whisper of the tropics and a hint of caramel and smoke; candied ginger and a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves add a spicy note; juicy golden raisins are sweet and unexpected; finally, toasted chopped walnuts give an ever-so-slight bitter nuttiness to each bite.

The frosting deserves a whole host of adjectives of its own.
This is seriously the best frosting of this sort (spread over warm sheet cake) I have ever in my life tasted or imagined.
Unlike the cake, it is in no way healthified.

It’s made of copious amounts of butter and brown sugar, and is literally liquid fudge that is spread over the warm cake and then allowed to set into luscious, creamy goodness.
It’s sweet and salty and a little caramel-esque, with a crunchy, shiny top layer and a buttery center below.
I want to spread it on every single sheet cake I ever make.
This would be incredible with applesauce cake, or chocolate cake, or caramel cake, or coconut cake… or a spoon, or cardboard.  You get the point.  It’s good.

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting
makes 1 9×9 inch cake
frosting adapted from KAF

for the cake:
2 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
170 grams (3/4 cup) coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (1 cup) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
200 grams (1 1/2 cups grated) carrots
2 small granny smith apples, grated
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins

for the brown sugar fudge frosting:
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter
130 grams (2/3 cup) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon plus big pinch kosher salt
60 grams (1/4 cup) milk
275 grams (2 1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar

Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×9 inch pan; line with parchment and grease the parchment as well.
Whisk eggs, sugars, oil, and salt together until homogeneous and light in color.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices on top.
Fold in until halfway incorporated, then add the grated carrots and apple on top and fold until completely uniform.
Stir in walnuts, coconut, raisins, and candied ginger.
Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.
Make the frosting: melt butter, brown sugar, and salt together until completely incorporated.
Whisk in the milk and powdered sugar until a thick frosting comes together.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then spread over the partially cooled cake, swirling with a palette knife as desired.
Serve cake room temperature or slightly chilled for denser cake.

Back At It

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

“The world owes you nothing.
It was here first.”

—Mark Twain

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

Whoa. Back-to-school definitely just happened.

I’m done with my first week of classes, and just about to start on my second.
9 days now of being a 3rd year/junior.  Weeeeiiirddd.

They aren’t joking when they say that your college years fly by, are they?  Yesterday, I turned to Nati and reminded him that we’ve been dating since we were freshmen, and he literally did a double take.

First year feels like just yesterday.
Major events jump out through the haze of the past, but I wonder as to where the blurry boring milieu floated off.
I contemplate the “junk” DNA that fills up the gaps between the punctuation often.
The genes are indelible, irrevocable memories that I revisit as I please, but the everyday substance escapes me—the stuff that made up the hours and minutes between heartbreak and joy and the return of exam results (which generally falls somewhere between those two former emotions).

This, of course, is well known—that the mundane is forgotten and the local maxima and minima become more exciting and depressing, respectively, as the x-axis of life extends, great stalactites and stalagmites rising out of the mist of the (not-so) tidy records of the mind.
What is arresting is that I am now old enough for the forgotten stretches to comprise years.
That I might think of the majority of the 700 or so odd days between the ages of 18 and 19 with a warm, familiar sense of blurry disorientation, the way you might feel when you see that Actor Whose Name You Cannot Ever Recall but whom you quite like in an unexpected role—say, buying dishwasher detergent in the supermarket.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

And here is where the little chime sound rings or the channel changes or whatever you want to envision for a 180 degree turn and the scene changes completely.
No sure why I associate that with a chime sound.  #Pavlov
No witty ending for the musings up above, mostly because I tried my hardest to eke one out but what little humor I possess has begun to recede—the world’s lowest volume tide—as UChicago and its infamous work load begin to ramp back up and my All Important Busyness butts its way back into center stage.

All Important Busyness, I should note, is extraordinarily familiar and disconcertingly, instantaneously nauseous, like slipping into a  comfy lambskin slipper in which a passing kitty has deposited a wet hair ball.
This has never happened to me.
Not because my cats are above this sort of behavior, but because I don’t own lambskin slippers.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

So onto the 180:
In my current boring day to day life, which I wish I could skip past and forget about, I am sick with a nasty little rhinovirus that has invaded my head and made me deaf in my left ear in doing so (God, I hate colds).
My poor little puppy N is also sick, since I forced him to take care of me while I was still contagious.
What a girlfriend…!

I’m taking Financial Accounting at the business school, which is boring and 3 hours long but a necessary evil.
(I’m sitting in class right now shhhh.)

I’m in a neuroscience class and developmental biology and physics, all of which are OK but not stellar and all come back-to-back-to-back on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Brutal schedule.  However, I have Fridays off, so that assuages my suffering slightly.
But only slightly.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

This weekend is Recruitment for sororities here on the UChi campus, and it’s going to be quite a process.
I’m very excited to be on the other side of it this year (last year I was joining as a new member!), and even more excited to meet the baby kites who will be joining Thetaaaaaa.
That being said, probably don’t expect to hear from me until next Monday when I have F.A. again.
(I’m only sort of kidding…)

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

These here pastries are a grown-up, sugared-up Frenchified version of the (schoolyard and beyond) favorite combo:
peanut butter and jelly.

Start with a magical, eggy base of pâte à choux that puffs up into glorious golden globes of chewy pastry.
Bake them with a brown sugar craquelin topping, crunchy and sugary and pretty, to add some extra flavor.
Fill with peanut butter cream, nutty and rich and the perfect balance of salty-sweet.
Add a dollop of strawberry jam and a few fresh strawberries, plus a light dusting of powdered sugar, and you have the ultimate peanut butter sandwich in pastry form.

A cream puff in sandwich clothing.

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

These are so light and fluffy, with a good bite from the craquelin tops.  I can pop them one after the other.

Choux batter is super easy to make, just follow the directions for baking carefully (really let them dry in a low oven to prevent de-puffing!) and I think you will find yourself with a successful, puffy batch of choux!

Happy eating, friends. xx

PB&J Choux au Craquelin | La Pêche Fraîche @rachelhsally

PB&J Choux au Craquelin
makes 30 small-medium pastries
choux recipe adapted from Joe Pastry

for the pâte à choux:
60 grams (2 ounces) butter
120 grams (1/2 cup) water or low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
2 large eggs

for the craquelin:
60 grams (2 ounces) butter, soft
70 grams (1/3 cup) brown sugar
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour

for the peanut butter cream:
90 grams (6 ounces) butter, soft
150 grams (1/2 cup) smooth peanut butter
175 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon half and half or milk, if needed

to assemble:
strawberry preserves
fresh strawberries
powdered sugar

Make the craquelin: cream butter and sugar together until a smooth paste forms.
Stir in the flour until dough comes together.
Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper.
Cut out circles in approximately the size you want your choux puffs to be.
Freeze on baking sheets lined with parchment.
Meanwhile, make the pâte à choux: preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place butter, milk, salt, and sugar in a pot over medium heat.
When the mixture reaches a boil, whisk in the flour and allow to cook until thick and a film forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes more.
Remove from heat and beat in each egg with a wooden spoon, stirring vigorously to incorporate the first before adding another.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and pipe small domes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Press down any peaks with a wet finger and place a frozen round of craquelin on top of each of the puffs.
Immediately bake for 12 minutes at 425, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for 20 minutes more, or until completely golden brown and crisp.
Turn off oven and prop open with a wooden spoon; allow to cool completely in the oven before removing to avoid collapse!
Meanwhile, make the peanut butter cream: beat butter and peanut butter on high speed for 3 minutes, or until extremely light and fluffy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and salt and beat to combine; there should be no lumps.
If the cream is too thick, add in half and half or milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the cream is pipeable and fluffy.
To assemble, cut open the choux and fill with a tablespoon of peanut butter cream.
Add 1/2 a teaspoon of strawberry preserves, if desired, and finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Almond Joyous

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?”

—From Sonnet 8, Shakespeare

Almond Joy Cake 070_01

And thus did the Month of Birthdays begin.
Within a 1 month period, my father, my mother, one of my brothers, my halmoni, my best friend, and I had our birthdays.

Let them eat cake, indeed.

(As you may well recall, however, my grandmother does not have a birthday anymore, or at least “refuses” to acknowledge her date of birth as a day of celebration…)

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So much love goes into birthday cakes.
I spend weeks pestering everyone in my family about what kind of cake they want…
My dad knew immediately.  My ma, not so much.
(But she figured it out, don’t worry—and it’s coming soon…)

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There have been many, many birthday cakes on this blog.

My dad’s amazing, complicated modern black forest cake from last year.
(yes, I have a Cool Dad who likes pink. In fact, he’s wearing a pink oxford shirt as I write this.)
One of my favorite layer cakes ever!

Alexa’s salted caramel popcorn cake, from way back when.
One of the most popular recipes on this blog.
This was made before piling popcorn on cakes was in vogue, for the record…

Hana’s adorable funfetti and sprinkle cake, tiny and travel sized and absolutely lacquered in sprinkles…

Betsy’s mocha and Nutella cake, and The Ultimate chocolate layer cake it spawned.
Both perfect for b-days.

This blog’s birthday cakes!
This year’s, pink ombre and almond vanilla ice-cream sundae cake.  It was heavenly and so happy to look at!
Pink and malted and sprinkled, 2 years ago.

My birthday pavlova, from my 18th birthday.
This fueled my rabid love of meringue cakes…
There was no going back after the first bite!

My birthday pavlova, unbelievably tall and opulent, from this year’s big 2-0, because duh.

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

How twee are the little flags on this cake?!

I made them from skewers and a few varieties of gold washi tape that I picked up at A.C. Moore.
I love that they’re all a little different, and they were so easy to make!  They took the place of candles because I couldn’t find my tall white candles that are my favorites.

One thing that I will note is that washi tape sometimes doesn’t stick all that well, and it’s necessary to keep pressing it together before placing the flags on the cake.
Maybe it was just the brands I used…?

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The recipe for this big old cake is a bit long.
But it’s a multi-step process, and it’s totally doable.
You can make the coconut and chocolate layers up to 3 days (or a week or so if frozen) before, just wrap them well in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge or freezer.
The coconut filling can be made 2 days before and stored in the fridge as well.
It’s best to make the buttercream the day of the assembly, but the cake itself can be assembled and refrigerated 12 hours to a day before.
Moral of the story: long recipe, but unintimidating process, I promise.

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is an amazing combination of flavors.
It all balances and works out to taste exactly like an Almond Joy candy bar, but in cake form.

My go-to rich, dense, moist chocolate cake is sandwiched with super rich coconut cake, made with a handful of shredded coconut  to give a nubby, moreish texture.
Between each layer is a thin round of sweet almond paste, just sweet enough to avoid being cloying and with the right amount of chew.
On top of the almond paste is a thick custard, thickened with coconut chips and slivered almonds—it’s an eggier, creamier version of the filling in an Almond Joy.
Finally, the frosting is a shiny, glossy, cloud-like chocolate Italian meringue buttercream, swirled into fluffy circles, adding just the right amount of butter and chocolate to round out the coconut flavors inside.
A chocolate ganache would be equally sinful, now that I think about it…

Each bite is a mélange of textures and a perfect balance of the trio of flavors: coconut, almond, and chocolate.
It’s not too sweet, though it’s very rich, and it will serve a crowd with ease.

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday Daddy!
Sorry it took so long to post your cake…

Almond Joy Cake | La Pêche Fraîche
Almond Joy Cake
Makes 1 4-layer 6-inch cake

for the chocolate cake:
220 grams (1 cup plus 2 teaspoons) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
45 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon) cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant coffee
80 grams (1/3 cup) boiling water
60 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla
105 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) full-fat coconut milk
15 grams (1 tablespoon) apple cider vinegar

for the coconut cake:
120 grams (1 cup) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
60 grams (2 ounces) butter, soft
30 grams (1 ounce) coconut oil
175 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) coconut milk, full-fat
85 grams (3 ounces, 3 large) egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

for the coconut almond filling:
2 egg yolks
130 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
160 grams (2/3 cup) half-and-half or single cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter
1 1/2 cups coconut chips (or unsweetened flaked)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

for the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450 grams (2 cups) butter, soft but cool, chopped
350 grams (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

to assemble:
225 grams (8 ounces) almond paste

Make the chocolate cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, flour, cocoa powder, and instant coffee in a bowl.
Whisk the dry ingredients; make a well in the center and add the coconut oil into the well.
Pour the boiling water over the coconut oil to melt it fully; stir until approximately halfway incorporated.
At this point, add in the egg and egg white, vanilla, coconut milk, and apple cider vinegar.
Beat well until fully incorporated; batter will be thin.
Evenly portion batter into the prepared pans and bake for 20-24 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched and a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Next, make the coconut cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together; set aside.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on high for 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the salt and sugar; beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the coconut milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
Mix until approximately half combined, then slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer running.
Beat on high for 30 seconds to fully incorporate the ingredients, then portion out into prepared pans.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs and the tops are golden brown and springy.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt together.
Whisk half and half and cornstarch together and place over medium heat.
When the half and half comes to a simmer, add the butter and allow to melt; pour over the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Return the mixture to the pot and heat over low heat until thickened.
Stir in the coconut chips and slivered almonds and allow to cool completely.
Make the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream: melt chocolate in short bursts in the microwave until 2/3 melted; stir until completely melted and set aside to cool slightly.
Place egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place water, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small pot over medium heat; begin to whisk the egg whites.
When the sugar syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at stiff peaks.
With the mixer still running, carefully drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites; whip until cooled.
When the meringue has reached room temperature, begin beating in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once all the butter has been beaten in, whip on high speed for 5 minutes until the buttercream is fluffy and shiny.
3 minutes in, start to drizzle in the cooled chocolate until it has all been incorporated.
Scrape the sides of the bowl when the buttercream is fluffy, then whip on high for 30 more seconds to ensure it is homogeneous.
To assemble the cake, divide the almond paste into 3 equal portions and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut 6-inch circles out of each of the portions of almond paste.
Stack the first cake layer onto a cake stand; top with a round of almond paste and a third of the coconut filling; pipe an edge of buttercream around the layer and top with the second.
Repeat until all 4 layers have been used; use 1 1/2 cups of buttercream to crumb coat the cake.
Chill for at least 20 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Decorate cake as desired with the remaining frosting.
Serve with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

Decade II

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

She said,
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but
people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It doesn’t really feel like my birthday today.
It couldn’t possibly be.
And yet here I am, turning twenty.
My body and soul have completed one more trip around the sun.
September 16th.
20 years old; 2 decades done and dusted.
Today is a very special day; it’s the day when all my Facebook friends will murmur their felicitations on my wall.
Hbd, hbd.  Heartfelt.  Ha. Ha.
But in all seriousness—and maybe it seems too cliché and millennial—these little reminders are a sweet part of the day; after all, people are taking their time out to send me a little wish.
It would be wasteful to not be thankful, although my friends and I no longer keep count the way we did in middle school.
Thank God.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

As I age (o, le pauvre, j’suis vraiment trop vielle…), birthdays become a new sort of clarifying moment.
What becomes important and what falls out of magnification are telling.
That which I reflect upon, replaying over and over, and those minutiae that I let fall to the wayside simply because they are heavy are telling.
Somehow, the nights that bookend my Glorious Day of Birth find me in tears and astounded gratitude for my life/the world.
I aim more and more, these days, to take nothing for granted.  To live and revel in what is important, and let all else go.  In some ways, to depart from my hyper uptight nature.
Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I was little (very little and even not-so-little), my birthdays would always, always end in a tantrum, in a great storm cloud of frustration and sadness and lots and lots of crying.
I’m not quite sure why, exactly.
There was always such a buildup of excitement and anticipation; I think we’re all familiar with the over-hype of a birthday.
I’m type-A, to say the least; even when I was 5, when the smallest thing would go wrong with the endless and carefully laid plans that my mom and dad had made, tailored to my obsessive specifications, I would melt (Princess hats must be more CONE-shaped, Mummy, and they must be pink satin).
My parents, patient pillars that they are, would herd the little party guests away from their red-faced, sobbing spawn.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

When I think back on these times (and, curiously, I do remember snippets from these parties, though little else from that age remains in the dusty cabinets of my brain), I laugh and cringe and feel ashamed.
But mostly, I am moved and inspired by what my creators put up while at the mercy of my meaty little birthday paws.
I feel their love and forbearance even through the years.

I couldn’t ask for better birthday memories than those.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche FraîchePassionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s strange to think of how old I have become.
Even stranger to think how it must look to others.
I am, after all, the baby of the family.
My brothers wonder that I’m not still 8; my parents marvel at the years that have flown by; my peers are suspicious that I haven’t been 23 this entire time…
I don’t know which age I perceive myself to be.  I just know it can’t possibly be twenty—that number feels like an ill-fitting shoe on the wrong foot for now.
But it will wear in (gracefully, I pray), and by the time 21 and Adulthood roll around, I know that I shall be twenty through and through.  Just in time to start over again.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

A pavlova is my idea of a perfect birthday cake.
It is the ultimate dessert for me—no question about it.
So light, so airy and fluffy—the perfect cloud of dessert.
I, of course, prefer primarily fruity sweets to deep, dark chocolaty ones.
And my birthday cake is therefore appropriately fruitful.

A very sturdy, slow-baked meringue with a hint of salt forms the layers of the cake.
Tart, buttery, and unmistakably fruity passionfruit-lemon curd is spread over, then topped with smooth, cool whipped cream.
Jewel-like late-season raspberries accentuate each layer, as do light lashings of dark chocolate nutella ganache, a perfect rich and sweet foil to the tart fruits.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Each bite is a harmonious melange of textures and flavors.  It’s a birthday cake perfectly suited to my tastes, and it is simply delicious!
P.S. I actually like making my own birthday cakes, because then I don’t have to feel a single ounce of guilt for cutting into it early for photographs!

Too bad pavs don’t cut very cleanly…!
I preemptively put this one in a bowl and used a spoon to scoop; the first cut rendered it utterly slippery and slidey and it was not long for the layered life.
Now, it’s an Eaton mess.  And I ain’t even worried.

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

The monument of a memory
You tear it down in your head
Don’t make the mountain your enemy
Get out, get up there instead
You saw the stars out in front of you
Too tempting not to touch
But even though it shocked you
Something’s electric in your blood.

Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova
makes 1 8-inch pavlova

for the meringue layers:
100 grams (10 large) egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vinegar
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch kosher salt

for the passionfruit curd:
125 grams (1/2 cup) passionfruit pulp, thawed if frozen
2 egg yolks
3 eggs
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
150 grams (6 ounces) butter, cold

to assemble:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
45 grams (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons nutella
pinch kosher salt

3 cups heavy cream, cold


Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 being sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the cream of tartar and vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides.
Bake for 5 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the passionfruit curd: whisk passionfruit pulp, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon juice together.
Place cold butter in a food processor or blender.
Cook over medium heat; sift cornstarch over while whisking; bring to a boil.
When curd comes to a boil and thickens, pour over cold butter; start the machine and process until the butter has emulsified.
Allow to cool completely, then press a piece of plastic wrap against  the surface and refrigerate until chilled.
To assemble, melt the chocolate, nutella, salt, and cream together, then whip vigorously until shiny and thick.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Place 1 layer of meringue on a cake plate; secure the bottom with a dollop of curd if desired.
Spread a layer of curd onto the meringue, then a layer of whipped cream.
Drizzle a little chocolate sauce onto the whipped cream, then place a few raspberries.
Repeat the process with the remaining layers; finish the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if desired.
Best eaten the day it is made.

Love is Real

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“What is REAL?”
asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Since Life first unexpectedly sprung from unassuming, antediluvian and micellar murk on a planet wholly unrecognizable to us, so too did Death.
Organisms, animals—man and beast and plant alike—enter this realm and pass into the next.
And by the time sentience came into vogue, grief had entered the mix as well.

The unfairness of loss draws out our most innate and intimate emotions, primal keening and crying accompanied by
external, physical pain.  It hurts.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

To my best friend, my honey bee, keeper of my secrets and sharer of my memories—

Know that everything you feel is Real.
Love, regret, anger, and sadness all roll together to become the acutely painful sensation of grief, which is, paradoxically, the balm and toxin during heartbreaking loss.

Know, however, that your heart isn’t breaking.
It is swelling so full of love and memories that it is fit to burst; the dull ache of each thump in your chest only serves to remind you how very full it is.

No matter how deeply it feels like it is rending, it is knit together tightly by years of love.
That much, my dear, I can certainly promise you.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

“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.

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.”

It Gets Better, 2014

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I must share this beautiful snapshot of writing:

“She was speaking last night about a litter of cats she wanted to bring home, and the look of the moonlight on a lake.
Memories from the past resurfacing.
When we are about to cross over, these thoughts are the things we take with us.
Philip Eastman

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

This stunning tart is definitely one of the most delicious and beautiful things I have made yet this summer.
Figs, to me, signal the dog days of summer: sticky, syrupy heat that produces fruit of the same temperament, as the season bleeds lazily into Autumn.

They are an unctuous, sensual fruit, and it is truly hard to beat a perfectly ripe fig.
Figs pair well, in my opinion, with savory flavors as well as bright, citrusy flavors.
This tart blends the two, with woodsy rosemary and tart lemon creating a perfectly harmonious backdrop for lots of thinly sliced, ripe figs.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche FraîcheFig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

For this tart, buttery crust, crisp and perfectly fluted (no shrinkage! Heh.) is hit with pine-y rosemary and molasses-y brown sugar to elevate it above a basic pâte sucrée.
The shell is filled with tart citrusy cream, rich with cream cheese, cut with a whole lemon’s worth of zest and juice.
When chilled, it sets into a sliceable form, solid enough to support any number of fresh or seasonable fruits.
I can easily imagine this tart/pie made with sautéed plums, or candied citrus, any type of berry, or many tiny apricots.
Here, I’ve chosen a bevy of super ripe, late-season juicy black mission figs, sliced thin and brushed with warm apricot jam for shine.
The effect is jaw-dropping, a spiral of late summer’s finest fruits, showcasing their orange-y pink centers—a veritable sunset of beautiful colors.

When figs pie, indeed.

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart
makes 1 8-inch tart

for the rosemary-brown sugar pastry:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
1 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
130 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter
1 egg
Whisk together 180g (1 1/2 cups) flour, 60g (1/2 cup) confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cut in 130g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter and whisk in an egg. Press into a tart pan and freeze. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Fill cooled shell with lemon cream: beat 130g (10 ounces) cream cheese with 90g (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Top with fresh, ripe fruit!

for the lemon cream:
130 grams (10 ounces) cream cheese
90 grams (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

to assemble:
8-9 ripe figs, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon apricot jam (optional)

Grease an 8-inch tart pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, and kosher salt.
Cut in the butter and whisk in the egg.
Knead lightly until dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly.
Press into prepared pan, prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Weight with pie weights and parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the lemon cream: whip cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and salt, and whip for 3 more minutes.
Fill cooled shell and chill for 15 minutes, until partially set.
Top with sliced figs or other fruit (berries, plums, candied citrus) and a brush of heated apricot jam for shine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
Serve chilled (cut with a hot, sharp knife).