Never Too Late

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit—stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

—Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Consider this an end to the radio silence that has dominated since La Pêche Fraîche turned four (still a crazy number to me)…

So much has happened since then.

I moved to a different city (hello, NYC friends, let’s play!) where I’m living with my BFF, started an amazing job at a new firm, AND flew back to Chicago to celebrate my awe-inspiring big’s graduation; I’ve even traveled to Washington for work!

My job keeps me busy, busy, busy, and my new kitchen is  much smaller than my kitchen at school, which is smaller yet than the kitchen in my parents’ home.

This means I haven’t been baking at all; in fact, I’ve barely even been cooking.

But I planned ahead and stockpiled photos and posts for the summer. 3.5 weeks is bad enough; 3 months without stepping on my soapbox would be torturous.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy summer everyone! We’ve made it, miraculously!

I hope your days have been filled with the juiciest, sweetest produce imaginable.
I hope you’ve been reveling in sunshine ands greenery.

I made this post in the throes of spring, when the lilacs were fragrant and abundant and ripe strawberries few and far between; one has since disappeared for the year and the other, become ubiquitous and innumerable.

Lilacs are a Benjamin Button type of flower. The bushes erupt in tight buds that are small and brown-ish rather than green—wizened before they even bloom.
Eventually, their beautiful purple flowers open, perfuming the air and driving everyone crazy with spring fever, only to droop and fade as quickly as they appeared.

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche FraîcheStrawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The good news is that this sheet cake can be a spring or summer affair, provided you can find some fresh, ripe fruit to decorate.

The cake itself is an unbelievably moist vanilla Texas-style sheet cake, buttery with a soft crumb.
It’s the perfect base for a thick layer of barely sweetened whipped cream, spread on in giant spoonfuls, and then a heap of ruby red, fresh and bright strawberries.

It’s a perfect treat to bring along to a picnic or barbecue, and it hold up pretty well for a few hours in the fridge.
Serving this with a mix of fruit—raspberries, strawberries, and fat peach wedges—would be next level.

Throw some fresh edible flowers or lilac sugar on top and you have a picture perfect summer cream cake!

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Who else wants to sleep in that whipped cream cloud?!

Back sooner than later with pie! xo

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake
makes 1 13×9 inch cake
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter
240 grams (1 cup) water
2 large eggs
120 grams (1/2 cup) yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the whipped cream:
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) heavy or double cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

to finish:
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
edible flowers, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Stir flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt together.
Place butter and water in a pot and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Whisk eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together and alternate adding to the dry mixture with the butter.
Stir batter vigorously for a few seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
To finish the cake, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks.
Spread all over the cake, then decorate with lots of sliced strawberries and edible flowers.
Serve with extra powdered sugar and strawberries.

Quatrième

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create.
If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad.
If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it.
And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?
Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.
Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday to this little blog!
La Pêche Fraîche is four years old.
Which means I’ve been running this blog for 20% of my time on this earth. Don’t ask me how…

The blogiversary rundown:
3 years
2 years
1 year (Oy vey.)

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My blog has grown along with me, starting at the tender age of 16 and sticking with me as I graduated high school and left home for the first time to come to UChicago, got my first (and second) real job, moved to NYC all on my own, snagged a wonderful boyfriend etc, etc.
The coming year will see me turn 21, will see me finish up college (yipes), and more. If all goes as planned, there will be many, many sweet treats to share along the way.

You’d think that by now, I’d have gotten the hang of things, but every new post is a learning experience.

Take this post, for example.
Another blogiversary means another pink cake. It’s become tradition for me, although I do suspect that I will, at some point, run out of pink cake ideas. I didn’t have much time to make the cake so I tried to prep ahead; I didn’t have enough egg whites to make an Italian meringue buttercream so I went with American; my macarons were far from perfect (surprise, surprise). My chocolate ganache drip looked a bit wonky and I ended up disliking the minimal frosting look, although the entire cake together had a sort of eclectic charm.
All things to learn from, and not terrible goof-ups.
But then! I managed to leave my camera at 1600 ISO throughout the entire. stupid. shoot. And what’s more, I didn’t notice until the next time I pulled out my camera, meaning half a week later, when the cake was long, long gone. Damn.

And now, the majority of this post is going to be me complaining about this post. Hahahaha.
All in all, I actually prefer last year’s and the year before. Both the aesthetics of the cakes and the words contained within the post. So maybe go read those.

That being said, this cake was a runaway hit with everyone who tasted it, so I’ll count it in the successes, rather than the flops.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a mix of inspiration from Andy Bowdy, Don’t Tell Charles, and Cordy’s Cakes, all of whom you can find on Instagram, and all of whom make jaw-dropping cakes.

It’s a moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with raspberry buttercream, with layers of almond macaron shells, decorated with a river of toasted Italian meringue, dark chocolate ganache drips, coconut rafaellos, cocoa crumble, more macarons, and strawberries.

There are many components, but most can be made ahead, and it is really a delicious combination.

The macaron shells between the cakes are a magical touch. I had a few people come up to me after eating the cake who asked what in the world was between the layers that made the cake sooo damn good. I had forgotten to tell everyone that there were cookies inside the cake.
Surprise cookies are almost always magical.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you all for your continued support, love, and readership.
I appreciate everyone who visits this page, even when nothing exciting or new is happening.

La Pêche Fraîche may be my own folly, but in the end, it is for you.

Here’s to another year of love, happiness, and lots of cake.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion from Liv for Cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
56 grams (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk
180 grams (3/4 cup) hot coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the raspberry buttercream:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
600 gram (5 cups) confectioner’s sugar, as needed
30-90 grams (2-6 tablespoons) half-and-half or whole milk, as needed
1/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed into powder
drop pink food coloring, if desired

for the meringue:
2 large egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
pinch salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water

for the cocoa crumb:
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter, melted
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
20 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder

to decorate:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
sliced strawberries
rafaellos
1 batch macaron shells
crushed freeze-dried raspberries

directions:
Make a batch of macaron shells (I use Annie’s recipe and follow her directions to a T) ahead of time and store in a air-tight container.
To make the cocoa crumb: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stir together the melted butter with the sugar, then add the flour and cocoa powder at the same time. Carefully incorporate until the mixture is sandy and crumb-like.
Shake the crumbs onto the prepared pan and separate a little; bake for 5-6 minutes, until dry to the touch; allow to cool.
Crumb can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container.
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a big bowl; whisk together.
Add the oil, buttermilk, hot coffee, and salt and whisk vigorously until combined.
Add the eggs, whisking after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Whisk the batter together until it is homogenous; it will be liquidy.
Portion out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until very light colored and doubled in volume.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition.
Add in 2 tablespoons of half-and-half and beat on high speed to incorporate.
Scrape the bowl and taste the frosting; if it is too thin, add the next cup of powdered sugar; if it is too thick, add another tablespoon of half-and-half at a time.
If it is too buttery, add the extra cup of powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half and beat on high speed for another minute.
Add the crushed freeze-dried raspberries and food coloring, if desired, and beat to combine.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on serving platter and top with 1/2 cup of frosting; top with a few macaron shells and the next cake layer.
Repeat until last cake layer is used; frost with the remaining icing, leaving it semi-naked if desired.
Place in fridge while you prepare the toppings.
Melt chocolate 2/3 of the way in the microwave; microwave the cream until hot but not boiling.
Pour cream over chocolate and set aside for 1 minute.
Fill a few of the macaron shells with extra frosting; set aside or put in fridge to set.
Whisk the ganache together until very shiny, smooth, and uniform; set aside while you make the meringue.
Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Carefully pour hot syrup into whipping egg whites and whip on high speed until cooled, fluffy, and shiny, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove cake from fridge and decorate with a mound of meringue.
Arrange cocoa crumbs around the bottom, pour a little ganache down the sides to create a drip, and arrange sliced strawberries, more cocoa crumbs, macarons, and rafaellos around the meringue.
Torch meringue and sprinkle a little freeze-dried raspberry powder over the cake.
Serve within the day.

Honey In the Sun

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A half full moon in Mexico City I think of you
And when I saw the Southern Cross I wished you had too
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it’s as warm as saxophones and honey in the sun for you

—Camera Obscura

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I met Nati when we were both eighteen years old. We have seen three of his birthdays come and go (and two of mine).
Though we are still quite tender and young, our relationship has grown into something far hardier than the sweet spring shoot that it first was.

I mean, I’ve now spent 10% of my life fascinated by this boy (less the 2% spent frustrated by him). Side by side in the library, across dinner tables, passenger and driver in the car. Nearly inseparable.

That’s the beautiful thing about being in college and being in a relationship. We have all this time to spend together—no separate jobs or many demands outside the library. (Although we do average an obscene number of hours in the library every day.)
Of course, we are fortunate to have the same major and thus many of the same classes, but N and I have grown to be symbiotic beyond just doing problem sets together. It is easy—and comforting—to be together. We support one another and can always be there for each other.

No two relationships are the same, of course, which is why giving relationship advice and identifying with others can be tricky. What works for us is completely different than for our friends.

But what works, works.
And so, Sunday, we had dinner at Momotaro (probably our favorite restaurant) to celebrate today: our 2 year anniversary!

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So happy happy to my beloved. You make me melt like a helpless scoop of ice cream in the sweatiest parts of July.

I was inspired to make this by a super cute cake I saw on Pinterest (of course) a while back.
I assembled it as best I remembered, snapped my photos, and then spent some time sleuthing to find the person who created such an adorable cake.

I found the site, delighted and impressed by the stunning photography all over again, and then was terribly dismayed to find out (via an indignant comment section) that the blogger had actually completely and silently ripped the exact design (not even changing the FONT like I did) from an artist, with nary a mention or link back.

Honestly, as someone who has been the victim of this type of irritating internet inspiration theft, I was seriously bummed. It’s a terrible feeling, especially when the thief’s site is more visible and famous than your own (ahem, Studio DIY. Passive aggressive stink eye your way).
I mean, how much does it take to provide a link back to your original inspiration for your readers? If you didn’t outright steal their photos (which is a whole other issue), it costs you nothing. You used their beautiful content as inspiration for your own. It detracts not a single iota from your work!
It’s healthy and good to want to recreate someone else’s great content from time to time—just give them original credit or make your own damn stuff. So. With that rant out of the way…

This is the link to the original artist, Shanna Murray. I would just post this link to avoid sending more traffic to someone’s stolen goods, but I drew heavy inspiration from 79 Ideas’ cake version/photos of Shanna’s work, so it’s only fair. I simply recommend you click on Shanna’s site instead of 79 Ideas because we vote with our clicks, people.

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make for the inside of the cake, so I drew inspiration from N figured out what description would embarrass him the most and ran with it.

See, he’s naturally tall, dark, and handsome (lucky me!), so I wanted a very dark chocolate frosting to match.
He has the *best* caramel skin, so I toyed with the idea of a caramel or peanut butter cake, but upon opening my pantry and finding myself face to face with a big bottle of honey, I realized that a cinnamon honey cake would be perfect.

I added candied ginger as my contribution, because I tend to be spicy and toothsome while he runs as suave as ganache.
See? He’s totally embarrassed right now.

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, this cake is fabulously grown-up.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for kiddos or those who love sugary sweets because it’s the opposite of that.
It’s complex and subtle and very, very rich.

The honey cake is crumbly yet moist, and the cinnamon shines through. The honey plays the important role of tempering the sweetness—less sugar is needed, and the flavor of the honey is less one-note.
Spicy candied ginger provides a thoughtfully chewy and bright bite between the cake layers.
The ganache is made ultra-smooth by using dark, bittersweet chocolate plus butter and cream, with a generous scoop of Nutella to round it out.

Overall, this is one of the more elegant layer cakes I’ve made. It is a special celebration cake, whether for a birthday or an anniversary or a graduation (*shudder*).

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Finally, I’ve never shared a picture of the two of us, but now is as good a time as ever:

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake
cake portion adapted from Love, Cake
makes 1 3×8 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
115 grams (1/3 cup) honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
250 grams (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk

for the ganache:
225 grams (2 sticks) butter
75 grams (1/3 cup) heavy cream
300 grams (11 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
100 grams (5 tablespoons) nutella
pinch salt

to finish:
handful candied ginger, chopped finely
1 tablespoon butter, soft
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream, as needed
pinch salt

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 8-inch round pans.
Place honey in a pot over medium heat for about 45 seconds, until it becomes fluid and runny.
Stir in the baking soda and stir with a spatula for another 45 seconds, until the mixture is very pale golden and foamy.
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs; beat for another 2 minutes before adding the honey mixture while stirring.
Add the buttermilk and stir once, until half combined.
Add the flour on top, along with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Stir until everything is combined and batter is smooth, about 45 seconds.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the ganache: place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Microwave in 10 second bursts until chocolate is 1/2 melted.
Stir and set aside; heat butter and cream for 30 seconds in the microwave, until melted and quite warm but not scalding hot.
Pour cream mixture over the half melted chocolate and allow to sit for 30 seconds.
Stir until cream is incorporated; add the Nutella and microwave for 10-30 more seconds, stirring well between microwaving, until the mixture is completely melted and is glossy and smooth.
Allow to cool to room temperature; place in fridge for 20 minutes until solid but still soft enough to be scoopable.
Whip or beat vigorously with a spoon or mixer until the frosting is fluffy and spreadable.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on cake stand. Spread 1/3 up of the ganache over the layer, then sprinkle half of the chopped ginger on top.
Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer and frost the outside of the cake with the remaining ganache.
Refrigerate while you make the white pipeable icing.
To make the white icing, beat butter with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt until mixture is smooth.
Add in the cream 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing is thin enough to be pipeable.
Decorate chilled cake as desired; serve at room temperature (take cake out of the fridge 1-2 hours before serving).

Buddy

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m sorry I ruined your lives

and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.

—Buddy the Elf

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy May! It is raining, grey, and 40 degrees here in Chicago.
HEY-O. Cut the whining because today, it’s gorgeously sunny, green, and perfectly cool—just right with a light jacket. Not too hot or muggy, just chilly enough to still have hot drinks. The way you might expect April to be, in a normal human habitat.

But the sunshine doesn’t affect me whatsoever, because pauvre moi is stuck in the library this week.
And I literally mean all week, because I’ve got neuroscience/statistics/physics exams Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, plus physics/statistics problem sets due Tuesday/Thursday.
Who gets tired of my college student whining? Probably all of you.

If you want a happier way of ringing in spring with cookies that are way more adorable than these (and less pouting to boot), go check out Courtney’s Aloha Rilakkuma cookies.
That is the best blog post I have seen in a while. I lost it at the tiny grass skirts and leis.
I mean come on, give the rest of us a chance!!! Ahhhh.

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These cute, kinda homely little cookies are perfect snack-y treats.
They’re a combination of peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, chocolate chips, and colorful sunflower seeds.
They’re chewy—not crumbly—and crunchy from the seeds, but stay soft on the inside.
The classic three ingredient PB cookies are good, but I don’t always love the sandy texture; this time, I wanted a chewy and soft cookie that would hold together when bitten in half. Luckily, I found the perfect recipe from Liv! It will be my new go-to.
You can easily adapt it into other types of peanut butter cookies; you could add M&Ms instead of the chocolate covered sunflower seeds, or add butterscotch chips, or throw in some candied ginger… Ooooh girl.

These will last in your freezer for a while, and bake up into perfect pillowy cookies in just 10 minutes.
If only I still had afterschool snacktime.
(What is this “after” school you speak of? School hasn’t ended for me in three long years. Ha. Ha.)

Okay, whiny baby out. I’ll be back soon with cake.

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Soft and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Liv for Cake
makes 15 large cookies

ingredients:
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
110 grams (1/2 cup packed) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
135 grams (1/2 cup) creamy peanut butter
113 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150 grams (1 1/4 cup) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chocolate chips

directions:
Place sugars, salt, peanut butter, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Begin beating on low speed until combined; increase speed and beat for 3 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the egg and vanilla extract; beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the flour and baking soda; stir on low until dough is homogenous.
Stir in the sunflower seeds and chocolate chips.
Portion out the cookie dough in 1/3 cup scoops onto parchment lined baking sheets (place cookies ~2 inches apart).
Freeze until ready to bake (at least 30 minutes).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies straight from freezer for 10-12 minutes, or until the center is just set and the edges are beginning to turn golden.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes on the pan; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lumi

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Hospital gowns never fit like they should
We yelled at the nurse, didn’t do any good
More morphine, the last words you moaned
At last I was sure
That you weren’t far away from home

—The Lumineers, Long Way From Home

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Ho! A blogger returns!

And I come with spring tidings, because it finally seems like we have changed seasons for good.

Two weeks ago we were still getting intermittent snow storms, a cruel reminder that March doesn’t always go out like a lamb.  This year, she left as an unchanged lioness.
Today, the lake is turquoise like the Caribbean, the sky is cloudless and baby blue, and the weather is a balmy 65 degrees.
The tiniest yellow daffodils nod their heads along the path to our library, and even the rhododendron saplings have fuchsia buds delicately emerging.  April pulled through in a big way.

P.S. Lumi really is a fun word.
In Finnish and Estonian, it means snow. But in Romanian, it means worlds. In Latin, it means lights.
And in Yoruba, it means hit me.  Cool.
Thank you Google Translate.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

In other April news, have you heard the Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra?
Some real gems on it. I recommend Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Long Way From Home. I just love their band!

More importantly, Game of Thrones is coming back in 7 short days. I am freaking out, to put it mildly. The show has now managed to overtake the books’ timeline, so some of what happens this season will be material even I have never seen.
~*fangirling~*~**~*

Less awesome news: I fucking got shingles this week.
If you are thinking, what the fuck?! you’re not 70 years old yet, then we share very similar sentiments, my friend.
Not only do I rarely get very sick, which I attribute to growing up in Ithaca and putting lots of dirt in my mouth, but I am 20—20!!!—and yet I got shingles, AKA a super painful, non-contagious reawakening of the varicella (AKA chickenpox) virus in your dorsal root ganglion (nerve roots) that emerges as an excruciating and somewhat debilitating rash (that can be very dangerous, even deadly, for immunocompromised individuals).
Luckily for me, work just started picking up (hi, UChicago) so this is totally the ideal time to feel simultaneously and relentlessly exhausted, itchy, and in pain.
But seriously, Universe. WHY.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t been feeling exactly bright and alive lately, but I’m trying to get in the kitchen as often as I can.
This, primarily, is because I haven’t been baking as much as I really like to, and because I have no clue as to how much I’m going to be able to do over the summer.

I’m also feeling the call to the kitchen because of my cravings for humongous, fresh salads, which require some time and patient chopping. Trying to dive into as many spring vegetables as I possibly can and saying Bye Felicia to winter squash and citrus.
Like, I love you. But it’s past time for you to go.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing a pretty little tart that has virtually no bake time and minimal effort required.
It’s totally adaptable—use whatever bounty of fruit you can get your hands on.
This could be made (and deliciously, I might add) with poached rhubarb or sliced plums or apricots.
Lemon and cream cheese never fail as a delicious backdrop.
Strawberries are cheap and abundant right now, as spring has long been arrived in more verdant parts of the globe (looking at you, California).
This tart would be fabulous with just strawberries.

You can check out another riff on lemon+strawberry (plus one of my most favorite poems that I’ve written) from eons ago two summers ago, here.

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of this tart is my beloved pâte sucrée. It’s like a buttery shortbread cookie, but not quite as sweet, and it holds its shape perfectly when frozen and weighted with some dry beans (my ceramic pie weights live at home).
The filling is smooth and rich—lots of lemon zest and juice is thrown in with cream cheese and powdered sugar. Equally delicious would be a substitution of mascarpone for the cream cheese. Nom.
On top, a bounty of berries, juicy and colorful, brushed with a little apricot jam for extra shine and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, if you should so desire.

Perfectly low-key, full of fresh fruit and flavor, this tart is a perfect way to officially ring in spring!

*Please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather, please don’t let this post jinx our beautiful weather…*

Cream Cheese Berry Tart | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese Berry Tart
makes 1 13×4 inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
112 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120 grams (1 cup) flour, plus 2 tablespoons if needed
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
120 grams (4 ounces) cream cheese, soft but still chilled
zest of 1 whole lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream
200 grams (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

to assemble:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon apricot jam
powdered sugar, as desired

directions:
Make the crust: place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high until doubled in size, about 4 minutes.
Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Stir in the flour and egg yolk slowly until a cohesive dough forms.
Press into the tart pan with your fingers and prick with a fork.
Freeze for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover tart shell with foil and weight with pie weights or dry beans.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and fully set.
Allow to cool fully.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: beat cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream on high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until incorporated; increase speed to high and beat for another minute.
Filling should be thick.
Spread into the cooled shell.
Decorate with berries, then brush hot jam over the berries with a pastry brush.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Gateaux À Gogo

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Did you think I was a city big enough for a weekend getaway?
I am the town surrounding it, the one you’ve never heard of but always pass through
There are no neon lights here, no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder, for I make bridges tremble
I am not street meat, I am homemade jam thick enough to cut the sweetest thing your lips will touch
I am not police sirens, I am the crackle in a fireplace
I’d burn you and you wouldnt take your eyes off me
I am not a hotel room, I am home
I am not the whiskey you want. I’m the water you need
Don’t come here with expectations and try to make a vacation out of me.

Rumi

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Hello friends!

Since we last connected, I escaped Chicago to warm, sunny California for the best spring break ever with my parents.

We first went to LA and stayed in Venice Beach for a few days—right on the ocean.  It was beautiful, and the food we had was generally spectacular.
It’s much easier to find fresh produce and food when you live in California, where essentially everything grows!

We managed to go to Gjelina twice, once for brunch and the other for our last dinner in Cali.  It is (mostly) as amazing as everyone says it is.  I had 1 (one) disappointing squash blossom scramble that had too much mint for my taste, but that being said, my parents liked it.
The goat and cow labneh on toast with jam, olive oil, and sea salt was an absolute knockout of a dish: creamy, fatty, crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity etc. etc.
The lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote are another must.
My favorite from dinner was the charcoal gemelli, which was outstanding and incredibly well balanced despite being quite rich.

We also went to the Rose Café and tried boba from a few different places.  Even the mediocre places were leagues above any Hyde Park slushie impostors.
(On that note, my wonderful boyfriend just bought me some dried boba and stainless steel straws so that I can make my own at home… Dangerous!)

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

We had a rented grey Mustang convertible, which we drove to the Coachella Valley.  We stayed in Palm Springs, at the Saguaro, which is a fabulously retro motel-turned-hotel painted in all neon hues.
Our favorite breakfast place was definitely Cheeky’s, which seemingly always has a very long queue, but is totally worth it.  The crispy buttermilk waffle tasted just like an ice cream cone and the cheddar scones were more like biscuits, with buttery, flaky layers that easily soaked up runny egg yolks.

We had date shakes at Great Shakes, because I was dying to try a date shake (the California desert has lots of date farms). Talk about dangerous—each shake comes with a mini cake donut on the straw, and the store front is filled with retro candies for just a few quarters each.

We headed back to LA the day before our departure.
I got to have lunch with lovely Courtney from Fork to Belly at Mendocino Farms, which has dooope sandwiches.
She’s in Iceland right now! I feel like Iceland is so photogenic, with all I’ve seen from Linda and Betty and Ashlae. I’m looking forward to seeing her photos, for sure.
Anyways, she’s the first blog friend I’ve met in person, and it was so fun! In a weird sense, it’s a novel way of interacting with people whom I already respect and in whom I take interest and, often, laugh along with weekly as I read their writing.

Definitely a great part of the trip.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Also during this trip, I found out that my Shamrock Shake Cake was chosen as a finalist in @feedfeed ‘s Bob’s Red Mill best home baker contest!
I didn’t end up winning, sadly, but I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, and, of course, all of you who support me here by reading my blog!

Amazingly, the picture I shared on Instagram of these cupcakes to encourage my followers to vote for that contest garnered 735+ likes… Like, whoa.
Not that Insta is the best—really, it’s actually among the worst—metric of happiness, but that’s never happened to me before, so I was pretty excited.

I guess people still like cupcakes, even though they’ve been out of vogue for some time now.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The cupcakes shown are a sampling of the 200 I made for my sorority’s annual fundraiser for our sister charity, CASA (just like I did last year).
Lord, having done it once before did not make it that much easier this year—except that I had the foresight to buy an extra cupcake tin so I could make 24 at once.

Other tips if you ever want or agree to make an obscene number of cupcakes or baked goods for an event:

First of all, numbers are everything. Type or write out everything you need to make in recipe form, exactly how you’re going to make it (i.e. some of my recipes were for 12 cupcakes, I doubled them and wrote down the doubled recipe for 24).
Next, multiply each recipe by however many times you need to make it (I had to make 3×24 vanilla cupcakes) to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need for that particular flavor/recipe.
Doing this for all your recipes gives you the exact amount of flour/butter/sugar etc. you’ll need in total, so you can purchase just the right amount—not too much and not too little!
For example: I needed 64 ounces of buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt for the cupcakes, so I purchased a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt.  I scraped it to the last gram on my last batch of cupcakes. So satisfying!

Secondly, plan ahead. When are you going to make everything? What can be made ahead? When does butter need to come out of the fridge to soften?
When things are made, where will I store them prior to the event or while other components are prepared?
How will I transport all these goodies?
I rely on my trusty plastic cupcake containers: they have very high domes, so no frosting ever gets mussed up in travel.  They also seal very tightly, so cakes don’t dry out if made ahead.
They also are washable, so you don’t have to dispose of them after one use.  Instead, you can use them over and over (they come in handy when gifting cupcakes!).
When they have reached the end of their lifecycle, you can recycle them.  Perfect.

Third, make like a Top Chef and do your mise en place. Take out the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda before you start making your recipe.
If you’re using a scale, keep it out and turned on. Don’t bother putting away any of your ingredients until you’re done cooking for the day—fumbling in cabinets wastes time.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

The flavors I chose to make were as follows:

vanilla sprinkle,
vanilla chocolate,
thin mint,
triple chocolate,
red velvet,
banana cream cheese,
lemon, and
caramel.

(Not pictured: lemon and caramel.)

I’m sharing the vanilla chocolate recipe today, because it’s my own perfected version (I’ve made a lot of vanilla cupcakes in my short time here on Earth) and I felt as though these came out the best out of all.  I’m picky, though.

Recipes/references for some of the other flavors will follow.
The caramel cupcakes were the vanilla base with a vanilla frosting that had half of this caramel recipe mixed in, and more drizzled over top.
I used this recipe for red velvet cupcakes (doubled).
I used this recipe, which is perfect, for the chocolate cupcakes.
These banana cupcakes are wonderfully moist and save well, to boot—so they’re my recipe of choice.

The mint frosting was similar to this cake.
The cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet, banana, and lemon cupcakes was similar to this cake or this one.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made these cupcakes for the pre-event, which leads up to the actual Mr. University talent show that we host; it’s meant to heat up interest and donations the week before.

Nati kindly drove me, chattering and sweating and shaking with nerves—the cupcakes carefully laid out in the trunk of the car—to the event, where I unloaded box after box with mounting relief.  Not a single smashed cake or a single errant swipe of frosting.

The event itself was hilariously fun, as always, and was more successful than ever: two years ago, Theta raised 40K for CASA of Cook County.  Last year, 46K.
This year, we raised an astonishing 65,000 dollars in two and a half short, frenzied weeks.
We are so grateful for everyone who donated.  More importantly, though, the kids whom this will benefit will be grateful, and more will have the chance to have an advocate in the court system, as they search for a forever home.
Everyone needs a measure of stability and warmth and love in their lives, especially in chaotic, lonely times like moving through the foster system. CASA provides this. And I’m proud to have been part of an event that supported such a fantastic organization.
Brava!

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

This post has been lengthy, so I’ll leave you with the recipe.
These cupcakes are moist from the yogurt, bake up without any domes or uneven surfaces, are a one-bowl affair, and are just plain dependable.  It’s hard to beat a good yellow cupcake with sweet and a little salty chocolate frosting.
The frosting has a generous amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder in it; you can add up to 1/2 a cup of Nutella to it if you want to amp up the flavor even further.

These are simple but well-loved.
The recipe is tried and true—I hope you like and use it as much as I have!

P.S. The sprinkles are, IMHO, a necessity.

Cupcakes Galore! | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
225 grams (1 cup) vegetable oil
227 grams (1 cup) plain yogurt or buttermilk

for the frosting:
560 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
112 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
400 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

directions:
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil together.
Add in the yogurt and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top and carefully stir until homogeneous.
Portion out in 1/3 cup scoops into the papers and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 3 full minutes.
Add in the cocoa powder and beat for another minute, until no lumps remain.
With the mixer beating on high, stream in the melted and cooled chocolate; when incorporated, start slowly adding in the powdered sugar (turn down the mixer if the sugar is flying out).
Add the vanilla extract when the sugar is incorporated.
If the frosting is too thick, add in the half-and-half one tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate thickness.
Frost cupcakes as desired (add sprinkles)!

Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover,
is he lucky?

—Stanislaw Lem

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Also, happy last day of finals for me!  I’ll be taking my last test (neurobiology) this afternoon and then packing up to fly to California on Friday with my parents!
I’ll be spending a few days in L.A. (Venice) and then going to Palm Springs for the rest of the week.
I’m excited for rest, relaxation, and sunshine.

(Any restaurant/sightseeing recommendations would fall on eager, grateful ears!)

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Two holiday posts in one week, with Pi Day being only 3 days ago.
It’s feeling like Christmas or Valentine’s Day all over again!
I do become frustrated that my blogging occasionally morphs into this frenzy: bake bake bake right before a big day, barely and frantically squeezing every post out that I want to get to so I don’t miss it and have to wait a year.

It’s by virtue of my schedule and how activities have been prioritized in my life lately.  At the beginning of this quarter, I promised things would be different and more regularly scheduled.
That didn’t exactly happen, although my post frequency has been decidedly more consistent than the end of last year.

My frustration doesn’t stem from obligation—this is my space, it conforms to fit my needs and abilities, etc. etc.—but rather, from the fact that this journal is a part of myself, and neglecting it for too long leaves me itchy and antsy to create and indulge my suppressed artistic side.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m sharing something a little trashy with plenty of food dye in it today, because I’ve been plotting of this cake for ages and I’ll be damned if I miss St. Paddy’s again this year (as I did in 2014… Sigh).

Since Nati has a car at school now, I accompany him on his occasional late night McDonald’s runs.
I’m a strict vegetarian and eat fairly healthfully, so there’s nothing I get there (although I do usually mooch some fries, as is a girlfriend’s duty); about a month ago, though, I received some serious inspiration from none other than our local Mickey D’s.
That’s because early in the spring, the infamous harbinger of the change in seasons appeared on the drive through billboard:
the Shamrock Shake.

I’ve never had one (apparently it has 54 ingredients, which is a little scary considering it’s a milkshake), but I know its premise: a mint shake with a little cream and a cherry on top.

I knew it had to be cake.
Specifically, a St. Patrick’s Day cake.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This Shamrock Shake cake (Shamrock Cake?) was thus conceived and created.
It’s a dense, vanilla white cake, moist and dependable (and made with the reverse creaming method), frosted with an light ombré wash of pale, pastel green buttercream with a hit of salt and mint.
A drip of creamy white chocolate adds some sweetness and cuts the mint, and eight bright red maraschino cherries, dusted with a few gold stars for good luck, finish the cake perfectly.

It’s actually a very simple cake, but looks extremely pretty and appropriate for the time of year.
If your friends like mint flavored treats, then they’ll love you forever if you share this with them.
It got good feedback from mine, certainly.

In fact, my Irish friend Peter told me I could reference his praise and his homeland as testimony.
So, in spite of the somewhat trashy, very American origins of this cake, a real live Irishman appreciated and approved of it.
I call that a victory.

Shamrock Shake Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Shamrock Shake Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
5 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 grams (1 cup) milk
160 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) butter, cut into cubes

for frosting and assembly:
270 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon table salt
460 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed
1 teaspoon mint extract or oil
green food coloring

white chocolate

maraschino cherries
gold luster stars

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place butter in a bowl and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until very slightly melted and soft.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.
Whisk milk, vanilla extract, and egg whites together in a measuring cup.
With the mixer running, add the melty butter into the flour mixture a few tablespoons at a time; allow the mixer to run for about a minute, until the batter is coarse and sandy and no visible pieces of butter remain.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk and egg mixture; increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute until homogeneous and smooth.
Divide into prepared pans.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the softened butter for 3 minutes, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume.
Add in the salt and sugar and mix on low speed until combined; add cream slowly (spoonful by spoonful, mixing after each one) if the frosting is too thick.
Add the mint extract.
Divide the batter into two bowls; add a little bit of green food coloring to one of the bowls.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and top with 1/2 cup frosting.
Repeat until all 3 layers are stacked.
Working with just the green frosting, add it on in a thick layer to the bottom half of the cake.
Repeat with the white frosting for the upper half of the cake, saving 1/2 a cup for later.
Use a large spatula to blend and smooth the frostings together.
Once smooth, place in the fridge to chill.
Melt the white chocolate very gently in the microwave; pour or pipe over the edges of the chilled cake.
Using the extra white frosting, pipe some poofs on top of the cake with a french tip or a star tip.
Place a cherry on top of each poof and follow with some edible gold star glitter.

Suprème

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too. Rah.

—Unofficial UChicago football cheer

(See here for a fantastically written article about a very nerdy tradition at my school, which is the nerdiest of the nerdy)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

(Themistocles, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,
X squared, Y squared, H2SO4.
Who for? What for? Who we gonna yell for?
Go, Maroons.

Logarithm, biorhythm, entropy, kinetics,
MPC, GNP, bioenergetics!
Maximize and integrate, titrate and equilibrate—
Go, Maroons.)

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi Day!
3.14, and I’m posting this at 1:59 so we get 3.14159.
(Last year, 3/14/15, at 9:26:53, the date was 10 digits of Pi!)

Pretty much every baking/food blogger is sharing a pie today.  It’s only right, right?
Shamefully, I’ve never shared a pie on Pi day.
I haven’t shared many pies at all, truth be told.  Which is weird, because I really like making and eating pie.
My last pie was made at Thanksgiving, and it was this insane apple, poached pear, butterscotch, and cheddar cheese beaut.  It was even shared on Buzzfeed (woot!) but has since faded into the recesses of my mind/tastebuds/blog archives.

If you want real (and regularly scheduled) pie envy, go see Michelle, who has undertaken a pie a month for 2016. Color me inspired! Her pies are gorgeous and her photography of late has been b o m b.
High fives, Michelle! Keep being the most impressive, please and thank you!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing today is definitely worthy of reviving the pie portion of my site.
It’s a creamy, custardy lime pie, full of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a crunchy, buttery, toasty graham cracker crust topped with brûléed suprèmes of white and ruby red grapefruit and a navel orange.

It’s mostly the classic key lime pie (less the key limes) from the back of the sweetened condensed milk can, with the addition of a non store-bought graham crust and a heap of torched, bittersweet citrus segments.
The creamy filling contrasts brilliantly with the slightly bitter, sour fruit and the sweet, wheat-y crust.
Key lime pie has always—and will always—be in my personal favorite top 3 pie flavors.

I dropped this off at N’s fraternity house, and it was demolished. According to one ~taste tester~, my good friend Colton, it was “unreal” and “like an addiction,” as in, none of them could stop eating it, even if they tried.
Not only does this make me very happy, but it’s also a good indication of how yummy this combination is!

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

One last note about this pie…
In spite of the title of this post, there is no need to suprème your fruit. Seriously.

Unless you’re thinking to yourself: “YES. this is what I went to culinary school for 2 years for!  My time to shine!” or
“what’s the big deal about suprèming? I do it every Sunday for my weekly goat cheese, blood orange, and arugula salad!”
then it’s probably not worth it.
Slice up your peeled fruits like this, or cut ’em like this.

If, like me, you’ve seen this technique done on T.V. but have never had any formal knife skill training and are still silly enough to want to try it, please buy extra citrus fruits.
Because it’s kind of a pain and you’ll probably mash a lot of segments along the way. I know I did.

No matter how the citrus is arranged on top of the pie, it will be delicious and beautiful.  Just a word of warning advice.

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Brûléed Citrus and Lime Pie
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
300 grams (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
112 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, melted
pinch salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

for the filling and topping:
400 grams (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
135 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lime juice (I used 2 limes and 1 lemon)
5 egg yolks

1 white grapefruit
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 navel orange
turbinado sugar, optional

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and ready a 9-inch pie dish.
Stir graham cracker crumbs, butter, salt, and sugar together until sandy and coarse.
Firmly press into pan using your fingers and a measuring cup.
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks together vigorously until a smooth and homogenous mixture forms.
Pour into cooling pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 1 hour + some time in the fridge.
In the meantime, suprème your grapefruits and orange and arrange on a plate the way you want them.
When the pie is cool, lightly dry each slice of citrus with a paper towel and arrange on top of the pie.
Sprinkle some turbinado sugar on top (liberally) and brûlée with a blow torch.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Bonne Maman

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

And the Wild Things said,

Oh please don’t go—
we’ll eat you up—
we love you so!

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

March—in like a lion, out like a lamb.
We hope, at least. It’s been both warm and sunny and frigid, snowing, and icy. And it’s only the 8th!
The weather is sending some seriously mixed signals to Chicago.  But then again, what’s new about that?

I disappeared for the second half of February, but I’m back with spring-y feelings and and lots of bright whites and pastels. My holiday Pinterest board is flooded with delicately dyed eggs and bunnies. I’m really, really ready for spring.

I do wonder about these 3 weeks—the blog lying fallow and outdated dressed in its Valentine’s day best—because I’ve had pictures and recipes to post, but an absence of words to fill the blank space. Three weeks of quiet silence, of empty, unremarkable days and hands folded on top of my keyboard. Nothing to type.
Somehow my silences are always precipitated by a lack of words, rather than a dearth of new recipes.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, as I mentioned in my long-forgotten last post, Hana’s birthday is at the end of February.
Her 21st birthday cake is one of my favorites ever—a little 6-inch number completely covered in happy sprinkles.

She’s totally the best friend/big/Theta mama in the world and she definitely deserves treats on her 22nd birthday!
Here’s the thing: she’s in France right now, and has been for this whole quarter. *pouts*
I did NOT want her to go but she’s been having an absolutely fabulous time in Paris and Europe and I can’t fault her for that, even with how much I miss her.
I guess I’ve forgiven her for leaving me!

My solution to not being able to give her a cake and gift in person was to bake and ship her some sturdy cookies, which still only had a small shot in making it there unharmed.

Good news! My plan worked! These cookies, carefully packed, made it all the way across the Atlantic without breaking into a thousand million crumbs. Thank goodness.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

To make these, I whipped up a half batch of my perfected roll-out sugar cookie recipe: buttery, a little salty, and cut thick so as to not break any teeth.
You’ve seen it before, in many forms. It’s pretty failproof—doesn’t spread, keeps in the freezer for an eternity, etc.

To decorate them, I used egg white royal icing. Instead of just flooding them with thin icing, I kept a small portion very thick. I used a tiny French tip to pipe the most minuscule of roses, then I set them to dry while I decorated the cookie base.
I’m not totally happy with how my watercolor rose effect came out and I think my technique needs some perfecting before I share it here, but the whole set together had the look I was going for. In the future, I’m going to experiment more with wet-on-wet icing techniques.
A little “H” and a few roses and leaves on each one rounded them out nicely.

These would be perfect for a baby or bridal shower, Easter or anything springy, and the birthday of someone special, of course!

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy March, everyone. May spring come soon.
And a very happy belated birthday to Hana! May Spring Quarter come so I can hug you, friend.

Decorated Rose Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Perfect Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
makes 10 2 1/2 inch cookies

ingredients:
112 grams (1/2 cup) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 medium egg (or half a large, whisked and weighed)
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour

directions:
Beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt and sugar and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 full minutes.
Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes; scrape the bowl and beat until homogeneous again.
Mixture should be light and fairly fluffy.
Add in the flour and stir on low speed until fully combined.
Roll out to 1/4 inch-3/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into desired shapes and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Decorate with royal icing.

Garden of Thorns

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love:
the more they give, the more they possess.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day, dearest readers!
Today, I am feeling lazy and so I want to share some links that I’ve been loving this year.

As some of you might remember, way back in the day, I made conversation heart cookies.  I’m not posting a link because it was 1) before I knew how to make decorated cookies and 2) before I knew how to use a camera in any sort of appetizing way.
Better than those, then: Stephanie made ombre conversation hearts with CUTE AF messages.  I die.  I want to add, like, a million emojis to emphasize my point.

Molly’s annual almond Valentine’s cake with its trail of marzipan hearts has the best backstory and gets more adorable every stinkin’ year.

Remember how I said that V-Day is the perfect excuse for gold leafing everything?  Well, Heather went and added pink champagne AND gold leaf to a cake and truly perfected the pink + gold + white color scheme!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alana poured blood orange glaze over a double chocolate loaf cake and made me drool all over my keyboard.  She is carving wooden spoons with her beau to celebrate Valentine’s Day and now it is all I want to do in life, along with smushing chocolate orange cake into my face, of course.

Sarah dressed up a cake in pretty two-toned pink ruffled frosting.  Such a simple yet elegant way to decorate.

Courtney made croissant dough into cinnamon buns which is one of the most brilliant mashups I’ve heard of AND they’re heart shaped. I mean come on. 10/10 would prefer a crinnamon bun over a cronut.  Dominique Ansel, I’m lookin’ atchu.

Jen’s classic chocolate souffles with raspberry puree are swoon-worthy—and a perfectly light + chocolaty way to end a meal!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My sweet contribution of the day is this little pink and white number accompanied by the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous garden roses I have ever laid eyes upon.
I had never seen them in person before and they remind me of a peony mixed with a standard rose.
Those ruffled petals!  Be still my heart.

The cake itself is a lightly spiced and toasty ginger malted vanilla cake, dense and buttery, frosted with a super fluffy and subtle hibiscus-ginger Italian meringue buttercream and topped with drippy white chocolate ganache and every manner of bit and bob I had—light, crispy white and pink meringues, pink sugar pearls, white chocolate, and creamy, coconutty rafaello truffles.

It really is stunning.  And how could anyone NOT love a pink and white cake on this holiday?
The hibiscus ginger frosting is the product of using a Bang Candy simple syrup in my Italian meringue buttercream.  When poured into the whipping meringue, however, it turned blue (!?!), so I had to add a drop or two of pink food coloring to get it back to a rosier hue.  You could easily use a few tablespoons of strong hibiscus tea in its place, but keep the food coloring unless you want blue frosting!

The cake looks a lot more complicated than it really is, because the toppings make it looks fussy and fancy—but they really only require a trip to the baking aisle of a supermarket.
The cake and frosting, for their part, come together very quickly.

This is a happy little cake for a happy holiday: consider it a token of all my love and appreciation for all who visit my humble little corner of the internet.
Gros bisous pour tous!

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s, previously:

2016:
Baby pink salty sugar cookies dressed up in Xs and Os are very giftable and quite moreish.
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs are the most silly, sinfully indulgent pastries, dotted with gold leaf because all I see are dolla signs.
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes.  Fragrant and light—the perfect accompaniment to tea!

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies, with swirls of pink buttercream and handfuls of sprinkles!
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.

2014:
The cutest, most pinnable pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes/posts ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used.  Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Love is a garden of thorns, and a crow in the corn
and the brake growing wild
cold when the summer is spent in the jade heart’s lament
for the faith of a child
my body has a number and my face has a name
and each day looks the same to me
but love is a voice on the wind, and the wages of sin
and a tanglewood tree

—Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Tanglewood Tree

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake, or 2-layer 8-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) buttermilk
3 tablespoons malted milk powder
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger (or a small grated fresh piece)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
3 tablespoons hibiscus syrup or tea
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
335 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
few drops pink food coloring

for decorating:
112 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
30 grams (2 tablespoons) heavy cream, hot

rafaello truffles
chopped white chocolate
meringues (use your favorite recipe)
pink sugar pearls

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round baking pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat butter on high speed for 3 minutes, until completely fluffy and no lumps remain.
Add the salt and sugar and beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should be very light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and the egg yolks and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the buttermilk, malted milk powder, ginger, and vanilla extract; gently stir with a spoon until about half is incorporated.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until incorporated; beat for 30 seconds on high to ensure homogeneity.
Spread the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and hibiscus syrup/tea in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in pink food coloring until tint is as desired.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
To frost, place 1 layer of cake on a serving platter, then top with 3/4 cup of frosting; repeat twice.
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Finish icing the cake, then refrigerate for at least 30 more minutes.
Meanwhile, make the white chocolate ganache: Heat chocolate and cream together until 1/2 melted; then stir vigorously until a glossy ganache forms.
Carefully pour over the chilled cake sides, being careful not to put too much in one spot (it will melt the frosting).
Allow to cool/set, then top with whatever you desire!