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.

Snog

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head.
He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously.
“It’s often infested with nargles.”

—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I told you I had many holiday posts to share, even in the short time we have before Christmas day.

There’s lots I’ve been trying to fit in during my break; it feels quite truncated because when compared to my friends who are on the semester system, it’s 3 weeks shorter!
I reread one of my favorite series (the Inheritance cycle), chewed through a mystery book (Girl on the Train), and have watched 3, count ’em, 3 of the Star Wars movies.
(Not to mention catching up on Top Chef and RHOBH.
P.S. Just watched this week’s episode, Lisa Rinna is definitely my favorite housewife this season.
Okay I’m zipping it shut now; I purposefully never ever discuss reality T.V. on this here website.)

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Anything else I must get to over break during my luxurious free and empty afternoons and evenings?
I am intending on reading Sellout by Paul Beatty next; I’m seeing Star Wars VII on Christmas Eve, I think.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Virtually all of my cut-out cookies are based on the most simple recipe since pound cake.
If you can count to 3, you can make this recipe.
And if you can make this recipe, you can adapt it in an infinite number of ways to create whatever cookie your heart so desires.

3 cups of flour, 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of sugar. 1 egg, 2 teaspoons coarse salt (to taste), 3 teaspoons vanilla.
So simple.  Swap out some of the butter for coconut oil; some of the flour for cocoa; brown sugar for white, etc.
Make it your own; change it to suit your tastes.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing eggnog sugar cookies.
To make these, I swapped out the egg for 3 yolks, added brown sugar and a heap of fragrant, freshly ground nutmeg.
If I had some on hand, I would have swapped a couple of the teaspoons of vanilla for something boozier.
I guess these are virgin eggnog sugar cookies, as it were.  But methinks that’s unnecessarily wordy.

These are crisp but not too crunchy; the brown sugar keeps them slightly softer than some other cut-out cookies.
The extra egg yolks make them a lovely golden color, as well as making them even butterier than usual (if possible…!).
The nutmeg is fragrant even days later, post-icing; it really makes these taste like eggnog in a cookie form.

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I save the whites from these cookies in order to make the royal icing necessary for decorating.
More often than not, I use raw egg whites for making my decorated cookies; if this gives you the creeps, feel free to use meringue powder instead.

The recipe I use for raw egg whites is from Joy of Baking; it’s simple and effective.
The recipe I use for meringue powder is from Bake at 350; I use whatever brand of powder I have on hand.

Be patient and go slowly while tinting your icing and decorating your cookies!
This is definitely not a process to rush.
One of my best tips (which I did not actually use this year) is to add a tiny pinch of cocoa powder to colors to make them a little more realistic.
I prefer gel colors for tinting royal icing, but liquid works too (just don’t add as much water as you go).

Finally, have fun.
We all learned this as little kids decorating cookies by slopping icing and candies and sprinkles everywhere, but the ugly cookies in a batch taste just as good as the pretty ones.  And so it goes.
Except if you like to add red hots.  Those are gross, seriously… What’s wrong with you?!

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve linked back to all my other Christmas posts in my last two posts, so I’ll just copy and paste in case you’ve only found your way here.

This year: 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

Eggnog Sugar Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Eggnog Sugar Cookies
makes 36 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 egg yolks (save the whites for icing)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

royal icing for decorating, if desired

directions:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the salt and sugar and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the egg yolks, nutmeg, and vanilla and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour; stir until dough comes together.
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes as desired and place 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before icing.

Cloud Nine

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

—Rabindranath Tagore

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I always used to dream about sleeping in the clouds, with a giant white pillow on which to rest my head.
When I was younger, I would daydream out loud about it to my nanny.  Just thinking about it still calms me.
Clouds don’t always mean rain.

(Bob Ross’ happy little clouds are arguably the best example of how relaxing clouds can be…)

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing the cake equivalent of a cloud.

My go-to dark chocolate cake, not-too-sweet and rich with fruity cocoa flavor, studded with peppermint bark chips is covered in the fluffiest dang frosting I have ever tasted.
It’s a vintage icing—colonnade frosting—it’s similar to a meringue, but with a greater amount of sugar syrup and a hit of powdered sugar added in at the end.
The result is a very stable frosting that is as light as a meringue but has as much body as a marshmallow; it develops a very slight crust after setting, but remains soft on the inside.
It’s quite sweet, so it is the perfect offset to the dark chocolate cake.
The cake is topped with a few spare pieces of peppermint bark.  The whole thing ends up being a very sophisticated, non-toothpastey version of a Junior Mint.

It feeds a crowd and it’s quite festive.
Little slivers with a cup of hot tea are a brilliant way to finish off a wintry night.

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A word on this (fantastic) frosting: it sets up rather quickly, and when it does, it becomes sticky and somewhat of a pain to work with—similar to marshmallows.
Thus, make the frosting only when you’re totally ready to finish the cake; this will decrease the likelihood of this irritation.
That being said, it’s still spreadable when it’s sticky, but it will not be smooth and shiny (see my photos—mine set up before I started with the swoops, so they look a little rough).

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Peppermint not your thing?
Other Christmas/holiday posts as follows.

This year: 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

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sweetapolita
frosting adapted from Joe Pastry

ingredients:
for the cake:
220 grams (1 3/4 cup) flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
240 grams (1 cup) hot coffee
240 grams (1 cup) buttermilk
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup peppermint bark chunks or chips, plus extra for decorating

for the frosting:
600 grams (3 cups) sugar
155 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
80 grams (4 tablespoons) corn syrup
4 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
22 grams (7 tablespoons) powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
Place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make 2 wells in the flour and pour the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in one well; place the hot coffee in the other.
Whisk vigorously to combine the batter; it will be liquidy.
Stir in the peppermint bark chips.
Portion into the 3 pans and bake for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a pot over medium heat.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar and whip on medium speed; whites should be at stiff peaks when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, so increase or decrease speed as necessary.
Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully pour into the egg whites while whipping at high speed.
Whip the meringue until cooled a little, then carefully add in the powdered sugar a little at a time.
Whip until fully incorporated, then stack and frost the cakes.
Move quickly, because the frosting sets fairly quickly.
Decorate with a few more chopped pieces of peppermint bark.

A Covey of Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Today, me will live in the moment
unless it’s unpleasant, in which case
me will eat a cookie.”

—Cookie Monster

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

For me, baking Christmas cookies for all my loved ones is a necessity as much as a tradition.
As I said in my last post, I usually make quite a mélange so that in case someone doesn’t like {peppermint, crunchy cookies, soft cookies, spicy cookies, sweet and salty cookies, etc.} they can find at least a couple goodies in their box.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche FraîcheChocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Recap (same as last post):

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I’m gifting Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, and eggnog sugar cookies!

Today, I have 4 of those 5 recipes.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

Russian teacakes have just about a million and one alternative names.
You might know them as butterballs, snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies/cakes, polvorones, Italian wedding cookies.
No matter what you call them, they’re little powdery spheres of über rich butter cookie dough.
The dough contains no eggs and barely any sugar—the main flavor is really of the butter.
Flour acts as a binder to keep them from crumbling on the way to meet your mouth, but once on your tongue, they melt like so many snowflakes.
They are utterly delightful and seriously dangerous.
I make them extra small and poppable, but other than that, the recipe is consistent across generations, cultures, and nearly every food site on the internet.
Simple, delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t ever made snickerdoodles.
I rarely have even eaten them—for some reason, I fear biting into just one more dry, crumbly cookie with no flavor other than sugar and cinnamon would end my love of spiced cookies right then and there.
Snickerdoodles should be chewy and soft—not as soft as Lofthouse, but more like a chewier version of a chocolate chip.
Here, I’ve taken a very good base recipe, chewy and soft and spicy and made it a tad bit more interesting with a few pinches of 5-spice.
This ups the intrigue just a little, and makes you seem superfancy to boot.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

The chocolate peppermint shortbread goes marvelously with a cup of tea or hot cocoa to dip; dark, fruity chocolate cookies that are crunchy around the edges and studded with many little pieces of peppermint bark.
(You can buy these as Andes peppermint chips to save yourself needing to chop up the bar.)

For a twist on rice krispies treats, I subbed out the puffed rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which is way too sugary and addictive to keep in the house for any significant period of time.  I could eat a boxful without blinking (and then have a terrible stomachache, but whatevs).
The result is a cinnamon-y, chewy, soft, crunchy marshmallow treat that is comforting and cozy.
You can use a little less cereal if you want a more pillowesque treat; you can also use homemade marshmallows if you’re really going for the jugular.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

But wait!  There’s more… I still have 2 cakes and 1 batch of cookies to share with you!
The crazy week of baking continues—I hope you’ll stick around to see what I have in store!

P.S. Shoutout to Courtney from the wonderful Fork to Belly, who made the absolute dreamiest variety of cookies for the holidays.  Sign me up for 2 of those boxes, plznthx.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Marshmallow Treats 
makes 1 9×9 inch pan

ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 ounce bag marshmallows
6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or other type of cereal)

directions:
Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.
Place butter, cinnamon, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Add the marshmallows and microwave until the marshmallows are melted.
Stir to combine the butter and marshmallows and then gently stir in  the cereal.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to compress it slightly.
Allow to set completely (a few hours), then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
makes 24-30 2 inch cookies
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peppermint bark pieces

directions:
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 for 3 minutes.
Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and salt and vanilla and beat for another 4 full minutes.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and then stir into batter, increasing speed until homogenous.
Stir in the peppermint bark pieces, then portion out with a cookie scoop onto the baking pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and fragrant, then remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Russian Teacakes
makes 36 1 inch cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker

ingredients:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Add in the flour and almond meal and stir to combine.
Scoop out in 1 teaspoon portions, roll into little balls, then roll in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before re-rolling in the powdered sugar and allowing to cool completely.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 30 2 1/2 inch cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks

ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon 5-spice (for rolling)

directions:
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 for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugars and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for a full 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Stir flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices together, then stir into the dough until homogenous.
Scoop out 2 teaspoon sized portions and roll into even balls.
Stir the sugar and spices for rolling together, then lightly coat each cookie by rolling it around.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Des Guimauves Tressées

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—
things I had no words for.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m doing my best to unravel, slowly, and allow my brain to melt into a pool of relaxation.
I even took a hot bath last night.  Who am I?  The luxury!

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

Okay, and yes, I am SO behind on holiday posts!
But here is the first, and there are many yet to come as well.

Now that I’m home, I’m baking up a storm, trying to squeeze in all these ideas that I have.
(My idea of relaxation…)

BTW: I really wish I had gotten my life together to the point that I could make some sufganiyot for Hannukah, but alas, I was busy being too big of a nerd to take my head out of my books for a little while. Next year, I promise.

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

Today I’m sharing a confection that’s perfect for gifting and is really quite cute.
Vanilla marshmallow ropes, long candy cane-esque cables of fluffy mallow goodness!

I was inspired by Heather’s pastel marshmallow ropes, and I thought it would be sweet to make them red and white for Christmas season.
These are really easy to customize for an event—they can be any shade of any hue that you desire!
(Just have lots of food coloring on hand.)

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

Are you giving any edible gifts this holiday season?

I usually make a few little boxes of various cookies to gift to friends.
This year, I’m doing Russian tea cakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, peppermint chocolate shortbread, and cinnamon cereal treats (and perhaps some eggnog roll-and-cut as well).

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

As you can see, I like to make lots of different kinds of cookies to lend some variety to the gift boxes!

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

These marshmallows would make a perfect gift, especially if they came with a little jar of homemade cocoa mix on the side!
They keep very well and are definitely unexpected.

They’re quite simple to make—the twist comes from just piping and winding long cables of mallow together.
(Pun intended.)

They’re very fluffy and light; chewy enough to not dissolve straight-away in your mug, not to mention totally adorable, duh.

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

If you’ve made marshmallows before, these will be a real breeze—they’re only marginally more effort than square marshmallows due to the piping.

You’ll notice that I went ahead and divided the ingredients for the red and white marshmallows for you—this way, it’s less confusing because you don’t need to halve the batch and tint it, but rather, make two completely separate batches and tint one.
This decreases the likelihood of making silly measuring mistakes
(take it from me, who had to make 2 batches before getting it right…!).

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche

Note: you’ll need about 1 standard packet of gelatin for these, as 1 packet contains ~2 1/4 teaspoons of gelatin.
That being said, I’d advise you to keep 2 on hand, in case you get a packet that has closer to 2 teaspoons in it!

Marshmallow Ropes | La Pêche Fraîche
Marshmallow Ropes
adapted from Shauna Sever
makes 40-50 1 inch marshmallows

ingredients:
for the coating:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the white marshmallows:
1 1/8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cool water
2 tablespoons corn syrup, divided in half
1 tablespoon water
pinch salt
3 tablespoons sugar

for the red marshmallows:
1 1/8 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cool water
2 tablespoons corn syrup, divided in half
1 tablespoon water
pinch salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
red food coloring

directions:
Sift the powdered sugar and cornstarch together; set aside.
Make the white marshmallows: sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cool water and set aside until bloomed, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the other tablespoon of corn syrup, 1 tablespoon water, the salt, and sugar into a small pot.
Place over medium heat and heat until temperature reaches 240 degrees F.
While the sugar mixture is heating, place the bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 20 seconds, until melted.
Place into the bowl with the first tablespoon of corn syrup and whip on low speed while the syrup heats up.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, carefully pour into the whipping gelatin.
Increase speed to top speed and whip until tripled in size and opaque white; about 5 minutes.
While the marshmallow is whipping, prepare a pastry bag with a plain round tip and lay out a large piece of parchment.
Dust the parchment with a little of the coating mixture.
When the marshmallow is cooled and fluffy, place into the piping bag and pipe long ropes onto the parchment.
Dust with a little more of the coating, and make the red marshmallows.
Make the red marshmallows: sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cool water and set aside until bloomed, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and add some red food coloring (about 1 teaspoon) and the vanilla extract.
Place the other tablespoon of corn syrup, 1 tablespoon water, the salt, and sugar into a small pot.
Place over medium heat and heat until temperature reaches 240 degrees F.
While the sugar mixture is heating, place the bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 20 seconds, until melted.
Place into the bowl with the first tablespoon of corn syrup, food coloring, and vanilla, and whip on low speed while the syrup heats up.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, carefully pour into the whipping gelatin.
Increase speed to top speed and whip until tripled in size and opaque reddish pink; about 5 minutes.
While the marshmallow is whipping, prepare a pastry bag with a plain round tip and lay out a large piece of parchment.
Dust the parchment with a little of the coating mixture.
When the marshmallow is cooled and fluffy, place into the piping bag and pipe long ropes onto the parchment, about the same length as the white mallows.
Again dust with more coating, then allow to set completely, at least  2 hours.
To wind the ropes together, pin one of the red ropes and one of the white ropes together with a toothpick at one end.
Gently wind the ropes together, pinning with another toothpick at the other side.
Repeat until all of the ropes have been twisted.
Allow to set for 24 full hours (this will ensure the ropes are bound together and won’t come apart) before clipping the ends off and cutting the marshmallows into small pieces that will fit into a mug!
Marshmallows will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Abóbora

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Julia Child

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Thanksgiving!

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Double Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Spooky Spooky

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Ghosts, Florence and the Machine

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

It is the witching week.

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Spooky Chocolate Pumpkin Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

to assemble:
pumpkin butter, if desired

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

Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

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

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Decade II

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

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

—Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine

Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

3 cups heavy cream, cold

raspberries

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