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.

Venus

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

That’s Venus, September thought.
She was the goddess of love.
It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning.
Love keeps the light on all night.

—Catherynne M. Valente

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy February!
Here in Chicago, the month eased in with uncharacteristic rainy, warm days, leaving us wondering what Winter had left with which to rattle our bones.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February will start out with two exams and my little’s birthday, for which she demands cake but I have promised bran muffins.  Can’t spoil them too much, right?!

Later, there is Valentine’s day and my big’s birthday—she’s in France, and I’m going to have to figure out how to ship presents, edible and not, across the ocean.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I truly love Valentine’s Day, and so I am beginning to post appropriately adorable, twee, and chocolaty things here—we only have two weeks left, after all!
I’ve made, precisely, a ton of treats geared for this holiday.  There is a ridiculously long list that I’ve linked to below.

To start out this year’s desserts, I chose these brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes, decorated with dark chocolate and sparkly almond sanding sugar.
They’re light and airy, with crispy edges and nibbly insides; they’re mildly flavored with a whole vanilla bean and brown butter; the dark chocolate on the top adds a sweet contrast and the almond sanding sugar is the perfect crunch! (Plus, just look at those vanilla flecks inside!)

These are impossibly fast to pull together, and they store fairly well in an airtight container (up to 3 days, but by day 2, they’ll be crying out for a cup of tea to dunk in).
I actually had a few for breakfast with my morning tea—they are very light, a bit like madeleines.
Buttery, a little crumbly, and a very sweet little treat.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):

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 pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios.  One of my favorite recipes 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.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Teacakes
makes 12 small cakes; easily doubled

ingredients:
85 grams (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) butter
3 eggs
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
pinch sea salt
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
melted dark chocolate for decorating, if desired
almond sanding sugar for decorating, if desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour (I use baking spray) 12-15 little tins, whether they are mini muffin or mini tart pans.
Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Beat on high for 10 minutes, until extremely light and meringue-like; mixture should be airy and glossy and no longer gritty.
Carefully fold in the flour; once it is half incorporated, pour the brown butter over top and once again carefully fold in.
Batter will fall; be sure to be gentle but completely incorporate all of the butter (this make take a little while).
Portion out into the prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, until the center springs back and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Turn out from pans and allow to cool completely before decorating with melted dark chocolate and sanding sugar.
Serve with tea (of course)!

Stand Up

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

WE CAN BE but partially acquainted even with events which actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny.
There are innumerable other events, if such they may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds.
Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and fear, exultation or disappointment,
to afford us a single hour of true serenity.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Swan

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

LPF isn’t a whole digital diary.
I don’t come here to grouse about my own personal failures and hardships often.
This is not to say that these words are misleading or untrue or that this space is not filled with intimate parts of my thoughts.
(Or that I don’t whine about things…)

But who likes to describe their own missteps, shortcomings, their own defeats, to the black void of the internet?
How often do I share “flop” recipes or tell you about a royal Fuck Up in my relationship?
It is difficult to allow yourself to be seen as a loser to your readers, even for an instant.
This is Social Media 101 in 2016: share what’s picture perfect and keep the little bits of your soul that have shriveled in disappointment off the screen, for God’s sake.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

And in reality, I practice this careful shielding of the things that make me cry in my daily routines, too.
You wouldn’t have known Friday that I had been at the library until 3:30am the night before; that I had been informed of my falling short in a big way that morning.
No. I washed my face with cold water and put on my sturdiest pair of corduroys with which to pull myself up by the pant loops (as my boots have no straps).
I went back to the library and started what had been a very long, endurance-heavy process again.

It’s hard to talk about failures.
I don’t like to talk about them with anyone.  The worst is being probed in your sensitive spot by caring friends who couldn’t possibly know better because you haven’t told them!
When it is fresh, I allow myself the comfort of vagueness, giving myself room to breathe and recenter.

Really, you don’t have to know the details of someone’s stumbles to at least understand their willingness to try again; the number of times someone falls down only matters in the face of how many times they stood up.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

 But OK.  Rant over.  Now let’s talk about something that was a smashing success.
Namely, these cupcakes.

What do you do when you have a craving for banana cake but you have no old, brown, wizened bananas on hand?
We all know green around the edges or even perfectly blemish free bananas are more starchy than sweet and don’t make the best banana baked goods.

These cupcakes have the answer: roast the living heck out of peeled, bland bananas and they will make the fruitiest, sweetest dessert of your dreams.

Roasting is minimal effort: 30 minutes, tops.
The now flavorful bananas are mashed and then combined into a moist buttermilk batter that bakes up into dense, sweet and fruity little cakes.
Topped with a generous swirl of salted chocolate frosting, these cupcakes make for the perfect four bites of chocolate plus banana!

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. #Banana, previously.

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
cake portion adapted from Epicurious

ingredients:
for the roasted banana cupcakes:
3 bananas, peeled
150 grams (1 1/4 cup) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
113 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
120 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk or sour cream

for the chocolate buttercream:
175 grams (1 cup chopped or chips) bittersweet chocolate
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
500-625 grams (4-5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed

directions:
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Place the peeled bananas on the sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until slightly brown around the edges and very fragrant.
Remove from oven; mash and let cool.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and line 20 muffin cups with liners.
Beat butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the salt, sugar and vanilla; beat for 3 more minutes.
Once again scrape the bowl and add the egg and yolk; beat for a full 5 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or sour cream until half incorporated; add the mashed bananas and stir a few times.
Stir the flour and leavenings together; then add into the mixture slowly as you stir together.
Once the dry ingredients have been mostly incorporated, beat on high speed for 30 seconds to structure the batter.
Portion into the 20 prepared cups (you will use 2 of the cupcakes to decorate the others).
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out just clean.
Allow to cool.
Make the frosting: place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder and beat for 30 seconds.
Add in the chocolate in a slow stream while beating on high.
Scrape the bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt; while mixing on medium speed, add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Taste and adjust the salt as you like.
If the frosting is too thick, add in up to 4 tablespoons of cream while whipping on high.
If it is too thin, add up to another cup of powdered sugar to thicken.
Decorate cupcakes as desired; if you want, you can cut up 2 of the cupcakes roughly to make little pieces to stick on top.

Oh Deer

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Calvin: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery?
If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it?
And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbes: I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

—Bill Watterson

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope you all had a wonderful Festivus and Christmas Eve Eve, and are now prepared for Christmas itself.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

We have not even a single lick of snow around my hometown; it’s been 60s and sunny and utterly autumnal, despite the fact that it’s the end of December.

So today, instead of a winter wonderland cake, I’m sharing a woodland wonderland cake.
Seems legit.
(It’s actually just an excuse to use my adorable new Schleich deer figurines.)

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a dressed-up red velvet.

It’s a foolproof recipe, with a touch of cocoa and a generous amount of buttermilk; the batter remains moist with a tight crumb and the distinctive “red” velvet flavor.

The frosting is white chocolate cream cheese, my new go-to when it comes to a tangy frosting.
Adding a good measure of melted white chocolate to your standard cream cheese frosting gives extra body and allows the frosting to set better when chilled—it doesn’t run and become a drippy mess.
The white chocolate is subtle—the frosting remains tangy and creamy and rich, just thicker and more luscious on the tongue.

The cake is decorated with all sorts of “woodland” goodies: blackberries, kumquats, and sugared cranberries, little bundles of cinnamon and rosemary, pinecones, and that stinkin’ adorable mama deer and her fawn.
A dusting of powdered sugar finishes the cake off nicely.

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Normally, I wouldn’t put anything inedible on top of a cake, but I really was vibing on the woodland aesthetic.
This cake comes together very quickly, and can be decorated in any number of ways.

Whatever you’re baking for the holiday, I hope it comes out wonderfully and that you get the chance to share it with loved ones—that’s what I’ll be doing with my treats.
I’ll be back after the holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For one last and final time for the year, a quick Christmas post rundown (with treats easy and fast and long and arduous, too).

This year: eggnog sugar cookies
chocolate peppermint cloud cake
chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair.
People will insist on giving me books.”

—J.K. Rowling

Red Velvet Woodland Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Red Velvet Woodland Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake

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

for the frosting:
175 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
225 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (4 ounces) white chocolate, melted and cooled
450 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar

for decorating:
mini (sanitary) pine cones
kumquats
cinnamon stick bundle
mini animal figurines
sugared cranberries
berries
rosemary bundles

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter until soft and light, about 3 minutes if already softened.
Add in the cocoa powder, salt, and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes; the mixture should be glossy and very fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs, food coloring, and vanilla extract.
Beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should have tripled in size.
Scrape the bowl and dump the flour on top of the butter.
Place the baking soda over the flour.
Mix the buttermilk and vinegar together.
Start mixing the flour into the batter at a very low speed; simultaneously, start drizzling in the buttermilk.
Once all is incorporated, beat on high speed for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion out the batter equally into your 3 pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out nearly clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the frosting: place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 5 full minutes at medium speed.
Add the cream cheese and salt and beat for 2 more minutes; add the melted and cooled white chocolate and beat at high speed until  combined.
Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until combined, then beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Stack and crumb coat the cakes, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes (leave the frosting at room temperature).
Finish icing the cake.
To decorate, tie the rosemary bundles and cinnamon bundle together with some string.
Arrange the rosemary and figurines first, then add the cinnamon and fill in with berries, kumquats, and cranberries.
Dust with powdered sugar to finish.

Aux Myrtilles

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

–Pablo Picasso

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Can I tell you a secret?

Oh, bother—of course I can. I do it all the time, don’t I?
The rush—the relief—of spilling inky, irreverent and inwardly-felt thoughts into the incontrovertibly stained internet drives the very heart and soul of the blogosphere. I think.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The writing of this post began with sadness and loneliness pouring forth from a disquieted mind, with introspection and frustration and words that were important—questions about growing older that, inevitably, must be asked—but it fizzled, never reaching a boil but a rather disappointing simmer that belied the troubles beneath.

It took me so long to eke out a few tortured words.
The sentences clashed, metallic and hard-edged, and rather than producing the profound music I had hoped to hear, begat only dissonance and off-tune complaints.
Somewhere along the way I lost my thread of consciousness and the subtlety of the emotions thus came undone.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Without it, I was uncertain of the questions I was even trying to ask, or the tone I was trying to set.
This is just an elaborate way of saying: the writing sucked. It was bad. It was melodrama without substance and it was destined to develop into nothing. A half-assed staircase to understanding.

It’s not like I knew, firmly, what I wanted to write about. I was exploring as I wrote, as I often find myself doing in this space.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it; couldn’t quite convince each finger to tap out the required letters.

So I erased it, and sat in front of my computer, vexed.
I also simply don’t feel like putting effort into editing recent photos since I’ve moved (again)—it is such a pain, trying to document pretty food without any props and poor lighting and without my tripod.
It’s far more frustrating than not being able to articulate my anxieties, and that’s reflected in the photos.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m annoyed that my blog is lingering, stale crumbs lying stagnant.  The same post to see every time you click back. Boring!
I want freshness and excitement and movement, and yet I am swimming against what feels like an insurmountable tide of writer’s and photographer’s block to deliver even a single post.

I can’t wait to go back to Ithaca, where I have pretty linens and lots of plates and a huge oven etc. etc., if only to glean a little inspiration and rediscover myself in the big jars of flour and sugar.
Even if the trees cast green on everything up there.  Even if I have no pastry bags and piping tips or cake stands.  Even if there is a lot of cat and dog hair floating around in the summer air.
Even if these are all complaints I have lobbed previously, in indignant validity, they will vanish away when I’m back in the heart of my home—the kitchen. (Do I say this every time before I return home? Maybe.)

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been waiting to share these enchanting little cakelets with you, as I felt them deserving of more than just a rant.
Whatever.  I gave up, I gave in, and I realized that they were plenty good on their own.  Rant be darned.
Some pretty, flowery words would have been a lovely accompaniment to these ruffled pound cakes, but a cup of tea does just as well in their stead.  Take it from me.

In truth, these photos are old enough to go back to Chicago, where the lighting was good and I had all my favorite kitchen tools.
This might be the real reason why I am feeling almost reluctant to release them!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I have so many posts highlighting summer’s produce to share with you all!
I really must make haste, because at the rate at which I am posting, it will be pumpkin-spice-latte season and I will be shit out of luck with a bunch of purply-stained blueberry posts lurking in my drafts folder.
I’ll start here, with these lovely mini pound cakes.
The base is a dense lemon yogurt cake, fragrant with zest and moist and buttery–in spite of the lack of butter in the batter–the texture is all due to a generous scoop of yogurt.
Each mini cake is studded with a few juicy blueberries, which, as they bake, collapse in on themselves to become sunken craters of sweet, sticky fruit.
Each cake is dusted with a little powdered sugar; in just two bites, tangy lemon and sweet berries are brought together in the best of summer pairings.

These would be magnificent if made with raspberries or blackberries, and I can imagine that they would also behoove themselves to a ripe wedge or two of peach or apricot.
These are a perfect accompaniment to summertime tea–sweet or unsweetened.
They’re adaptable to whatever summer fruit you have in your pantry (a few white chocolate chips would also sub brilliantly) and simple to make, and they bake so quickly that you won’t even notice that your oven is on!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes
makes 15 mini cakes

ingredients:
2 eggs
135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
150 grams (2/3 cup) yogurt
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 1/4 baking powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup blueberries
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 15 mini muffin tins or mini tart pans.
Whisk eggs briskly with sugar.
Add yogurt, oil, and lemon zest and whisk briskly until fully combined.
Add in flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until the batter comes together.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared tins and press 2 or 3 blueberries into the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the blueberries have released their juices.
Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea.

Day by Day

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“The way you live your days is the way you live your life.”

—Annie Dillard

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I am trying to use my days to make my life into whatever the hell I’m pretty sure I think I want my life to be like.

I have a bad habit of looking too far in the future.  Of being too fastidious and anxious of a planner.  Sound familiar?
(“Wherever you are, be all there.”
—Jim Elliot)

Ahem. Remember what I said about reading more?
I’ve been reading more… online, though.
Needless to say, that wasn’t what I previously had in mind.

I have other habits on my kill list.
I’m determined.
Just you wait and see!

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

How long do they say breaking or forming a habit takes?  22 days?

I feel like that is completely achievable.
Of course, I am speaking naïvely from the outset of any of these break-ups or formations.

I have been writing in a little journal every night for the past month and half.  It’s a pipeline for random emotional anguish and rambling, bumbling thoughts from the day–perfect for when no one can be bothered to listen to me spout off for ages at 11pm!
Now that I’ve begun to develop this habit, I have the right mind to treat myself to a fancier journal, with creamy pages and a beautiful cover design.
Yes!—I am thinking of Rifle Paper Co.
How can one not fall in love with every pattern?  Anna creates the most mesmerizing designs.  I am in love.
You should follow her on Instagram, if you don’t already, for sneak peeks into future holiday cards and collections!
(Who here thinks I can motivate myself enough to invest in a 2016 planner?  I am notoriously bad at keeping planners intact and updated…)

I am trying to develop a habit (if it can be called that) of sleeping more.  That is, instagramming less at night.
I mean, really, someone give me a shout-out who also finds themselves idling away for HOURS on the discover tab.
I need an intervention!
My goal is to not touch my instagram/snapchat/facebook after 10pm.
I want to reserve time before bed only to check my email and send out my nightly volley of “goodnight; I love you; *kissy face**kissy face**kissy face*” texts.
(I say this as I write this post at 1AM on a weeknight, phone beside me…)

Don’t get me wrong. My bed is great as is.  That’s not what’s stopping me from sleeping.
In fact, as long as I have a pillow and a non-burlap set of sheets, I’m set.  But that hasn’t stopped me from drooling over certain Pinterest bedrooms…
Do you follow me on Pinterest yet (well, why not?!)?
I’ve been particularly active and I’m quite proud of the little spaces I have cultivated.
I’m always looking for more boards to follow though—which are your favorites?

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

And now, to preach about sweets, which is why we’ve all found ourselves here in the first place:

Take advantage of Summer, friends, while her bounty is still plentiful!
Even non-farmer’s market, non-woodland (I’m looking at you, Dominique Ansel) strawberries and berries and other summer fruits are amazing right now.

I used mine to make des petits gâteaux au fromage et aux fraises.
Soft and fluffy little baked cheesecakes, laced with strawberry jam so that you get a hint of sweet fruitiness inside the cake itself.
The base is the butteriest graham cracker crust, with plenty of salt and brown sugar.
Each mini cake is topped with a tangy, creamy sour cream topping and a perfect half strawberry for a summer punch.

I love cheesecake. There is no denying that. But, arguably, I love mini cheesecakes even more.
So poppable! So party-friendly! And sooo easy. No cracks, no problems.
Let there be cheesecake.  Amen.

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Summer strawberries, previously:
Center stage, in a lemon-black pepper-strawberry tart.
Crowning jewels on a Victoria sponge, with goat cheese and tous les fruits rouges.
Embellishments on the fluffiest of coconut cupcakes, cutting through the sugar and adding a bite of freshness.
Playing the perfect foil to the most magnificent matcha butter cake; adding a pop of color and fruitiness to a simple, dang delicious pastry.

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes | La Pêche Fraîche
Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

makes 6 mini cheesecakes
ingredients:
for the crust:
5 sheets of graham crackers, broken up into crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar

for the cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons of high-quality strawberry preserves, warmed in the microwave for 15 seconds

for the topping:
2 tablespoons sour cream
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 large strawberries, halved

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 6 cupcake wells with paper liners.
Stir the melted butter, salt, and brown sugar into the graham cracker crumbs; mixture should hold its shape when pressed together.
Press a tablespoon of crust into each cupcake liner, pressing firmly to pack it down.
Make sure the cream cheese is completely at room temperature (I let mine sit out overnight), then whisk briskly while pouring in the sugar.
Whisk vigorously to completely incorporate the egg.
Pour the warmed strawberry preserves into the mixture and stir gently to combine.
Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling into each cupcake liner.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool completely.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To top the cheesecakes, whisk the sour cream and powdered sugar together until it loosens up.
Dollop over the cheesecakes, and top with a half strawberry.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Ad Lucem

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

“One star in the sky leads sailors home.
A butterfly can start a hurricane.
A grain of sand begets a landslide.
You are important, and the universe is empty without you.
Believe me.”

—Abigail Cicero

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

After a thorough routing from my finals, and a great lack of sleep and bruised tailbone ego, I have made it to spring break.

How lucky!  How blessed and grateful I am!
For I am in Playa del Carmen, México, with my mama.
It is 86 degrees F and we must take breaks from the all-powerful sun to ensure that we do not get fried to little frico crisps like parmesan cheese.  As greedy as I am for the sun, I must remind myself not to sit and bake for too too long.

Taking breaks from the sun.
How different from in grey Chicago…

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve been eating heaping tons of fresh fruit (all the sweet pineapple! all the sour guavas! all the fuschia prickly pears!) and enjoying every bite of their sun-infused tropical flavors before I have to head back to cold, fruit-barren, snowy Chicago.
Uchhhhh.

Someone sitting next to me at the pool today kindly informed me that it snowed 4 inches + flurries in the last few days back home.  The thought of having to slog through that to classes again makes me weepy and whiny.
Do I really have to leave the luxury of Mexico to go back?!

(I can already hear my daddy’s resolute “Yes.”)

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you want to infuse wherever you are with a little sunshine, try out one (or a few, or all…) of these bright, summery recipes that I’ve been eyeing:

Pineapple sangria from Jessica—can I have a poolboy please please get me one of these, stat?!

Banana buttermilk bread from Beth—beautiful as always! (Wow, that alliteration.)

Chocolate passionfruit cupcakes (my favorite combination!) from Laura.  Cake is always the best way to celebrate, and congratulations are in order for her!

Key lime pie.  Probably my favorite kind of pie, and this cream-cheesy one looks especially delicious.  Bless you, Zoe.

And if you want to be transported to Méx sans fruit, try Sam’s droolworthy pepita/honey/orange caramels or Kylie’s chocolate and cinnamon donut muffins.
Either way, make extra 4 me plz.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you think me lazy for posting lists two posts in a row?
Then you thought right, friend.
Between finals and vacation, I’m checked out.
Link love lists it is!

At least the last one was more about clothing and cosmetics, and this one is all about food.

#dealwitit

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, to add another item that you could make to take your tastebuds away to the tropics…

These adorable double coconut vanilla cupcakes.
The coconut flavor is super subtle, with just a tiny, non-offensive hint playing in the foreground of each bite.

The cake itself is supremely soft and moist, thanks to the coconut oil infused batter—the crumb is tight and each bite is meltingly tender.  You could toss in 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened, to up the coconuttiness.

The frosting, piled high in great swirly mountains, is very fluffy and very buttery, with a hint of coconut murmuring through it.  Vanilla and cream and a pinch of salt claim the loudest notes, but the coconut oil woven through plays off them in a delicate balance that becomes addictive after the first taste.
More is more, here.  Trust me.

I added a fresh strawberry for a bright note, but topping these off with another fruit or a shower of toasted coconut or lashings of ganache, white or dark, would be equally wondrous.
The subtlety of these cupcakes goes with anything.

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I’m off to edit GoPro videos (yes!!  I got one!! And we love it!) and then to slather myself in aloe and then climb into a soft, fluffy, hotel bed.
Hopefully I will have soft, fluffy dreams about cupcakes with clouds of coconut frosting.

Hasta pronto! x

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Double Coconut Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

ingredients:
for the cakes:
175 grams (1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
70 grams (5 tablespoons) butter, soft
45 grams (3 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
120 mL (1/2 cup) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:
180 grams (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil, solid
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
500 grams (4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
60 mL (4 tablespoons) heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

directions:
First, make the cakes: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with liners.
Whisk flour and baking powder together.
Place butter and coconut oil and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Stream in the sugar and beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in each of the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla.
Mix until partially mixed in, then add the flour mixture.
Beat on high for 30 seconds, until fully homogeneous.
Scoop in 1/3 cup portions into the muffin tin.
Bake for 18 minutes, until fluffy and a tester comes out with just a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: beat butter, coconut oil, and salt together for 10 minutes, until super fluffy and light.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and sift in the powdered sugar.
Mix in halfway, then stream in the heavy cream.
Beat on high for 1 more minute.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired, and top with toasted coconut or fresh fruit!

Pure Comfort

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“What’s comin’ will come
and we’ll meet it when it does.”

—Hagrid

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Because peanut butter is like a big hug.
And because I need a big hug (it’s finals, oh yes it is).

My brain is too fried to tell you about the hell that are finals here at good old UChicago.

Instead, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve been loving lately; things that are so nice they wrap me up in a big hug all on their own.

First of all, these soft silk camisoles from J. Crew. I have three of them, and wear them under sweaters or blazers with pants or skirts or whatever I so please.
Ridiculously versatile, unbelievably soft and well-made.
Love them.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Secondly, I purchased these konjac face sponges from Sephora on a whim, because they intrigued me, and because I never feel like washing with just my fingers gets my face completely clean after a long night.
They’re magical—they puff up and become soft and supple, and they are gentle but effective at removing dirt and grime.

Speaking of clean and fresh, my Pinterest “Space Inspiration” board is leaving me with white-washed dreams, full of greenery and subway tile.  I could get lost in any of those homes.

This butternut mac and “tease” is all I want in my life.
It looks so, so good—like WOW.

I’ve been making baked sweet potato fries as a quick meal lately—a bunch of sweet potato, cut super thin and rolled in lots and lots of coconut or olive oil with a heavy sprinkling of salt, tossed onto a foil lined baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes at 450.
After you’re done, turn the oven to 350 and bake kale chips while you eat your sweet potatoes.
Double yum!

And since today’s recipe involves PB, I have to link to Mandy’s jaw dropping sticky rice balls in green tea—stuffed with runny peanut butter!  Now I’m craving sticky tang-yuan, too.
(Or mochi.  We had killer mochi ice cream at Sunda the other day.  I could live off of mochi, no lie.)

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, for the peanut butter sweets included in this post:
These cookies are really tiny little cakelets—like whoopie pies, but eensy-meensy.
Each little cookie sandwich is a soft and fluffy dream.
The base is a rich, chocolate butter cake with a fine crumb and the perfect amount of dark cocoa flavor—there’s just enough of it surrounding the cloud of peanut butter frosting to make you take another bite, and then another cookie.
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is timeless—talk about a comfort combo.
There’s plenty of salty-sweet action going on in these cookies, and a they strike the perfect balance between fluffy rich cake and fluffier, salty-sweet frosting.

Plus, I love that they’re only two-bites big.
It gives you an excuse to eat 5.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Some notes:

I used an oversized French pastry tip to get the starburst pattern on my frosting dollops.
This is by far my favorite pastry tip right now—you’ll see it in action on some cupcakes very soon!

I got my cookies to be perfectly even by using a small round cookie cutter to trim the edges of each cookie as it emerged from the oven.  You don’t need to do so if you don’t want to—just match up your cookies by approximate size and wonkiness.

The peanut butter frosting has a nearly equal ratio of butter to PB—you need to whip this mixture up wildly in order for it to be totally fluffy and amazing, so just set a timer and let your mixer do the work.  And don’t forget the salt!

The consistency of the frosting, due to all that PB, is really dependent on what type of peanut butter you use.  Be ready to add in an extra few tablespoons of powdered sugar or heavy cream, since your PB might be runnier or thicker than mine was.
(Oh, and if you use natural peanut butter?  Please don’t forget to stir, or you’ll have an oily mess on your hands!)

I need to go finish writing a paper and begin studying for Genetics, so wish me luck and send me positive vibrations and brainwaves.
I’ll pay you back in cupcakes next week.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies
cookie portion adapted from Saveur
makes 24 cookie sandwiches

ingredients:
for the cakes:
8 tablespoons butter, very soft
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup milk

for the peanut butter frosting:
6 tablespoons butter, very soft
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (or as needed) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream

directions:
Make the cookies: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and beat for 2 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for 4 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the cocoa powder.
Beat on high speed for 30 seconds.
Scrape the bowl; add in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; only stir until half combined.
With the mixer running on low, stream in the milk.
Once fully incorporated, beat on high speed for 15 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Scoop out portions of the batter with a 2 teaspoon (or whatever size you want) scoop.
Make sure to leave plenty of room between cookies.
Bake for 11 minutes.
Immediately after removing from oven, use a small round cookie cutter to clean up the sides if you desire.
Allow to cool while you make the frosting.
To make the frosting, place butter and peanut butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes (set a timer!).
Sift in the powdered sugar, add the cream, and stir slowly until fully incorporated.
If the icing is too runny (the consistency is dependent on your peanut butter), add in up to 3/4 cup more powdered sugar.
If it is too stiff, add in up to 3 more tablespoons of cream.
To frost the cookies, flip half over onto their backs and, using a pastry bag filled with the peanut butter frosting or just a butter knife, dollop a generous amount of frosting on each cookie.
Place the top cookie on the sandwich and enjoy!

CASA x Theta!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Seriously, guys—how important and special is that?

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

xx