Mêlé

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”

Joan Didion

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.

The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).

I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.

We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there. 
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.

I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)

My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:

“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.

I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Uh huh.

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!

The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.

The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!

Vegan Summer Fruit and Coconut Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
pinch salt
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar

to assemble:
fresh fruits
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!

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Quatrième

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honey In the Sun

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Camera Obscura

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Honey Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden of Thorns

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s, previously:

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

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

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

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Tanglewood Tree

Ginger Malted Vanilla and Hibiscus Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elegant Disorder

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Joan Didion

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Balance, ever sought—ever fickle.

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

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

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

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For now, this is a birthday cake!

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

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

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

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

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Seriously, can you see those vanilla bean flecks?!
Swoon.

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

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

That’s what I call a celebration cake!

White Chocolate and Caramel Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Troisième

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life.
He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead.
Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and, above all, become passionate about it.
Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either.
White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

—Roald Dahl

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

One more trip around the sun has served to ripen cette petite pêche, giving it a deeper, sweeter significance with each passing month and each published post.

One more trip around the sun has seen me splashing liters of digital ink across this page with endless photos and words that are too often few and far between.
Has seen me splashing tears and buttermilk on counters and in posts alike.

Another year has made me ever so much more grateful for everyone who populates this web page.
Has reminded me, with every post and every pin, how proud and devoted I am to LPF.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A blink is all it took for three years to pass me by.

I was in high school just yesterday—I swear—concentrating all my effort into thinking of a name that was just right for the wildly successful blog (*eye roll*, high schoolers) that I meant to start just as soon as, well… I thought of a name.
And yet somehow this year, old high school friends scattered across the country world will graduate from university.

And it was just yesterday that I made my first successful meringue buttercream, and my first (and only) batch of perfect macarons, and tasted the heaven that is pavlova.

Amazing how quickly time passes.
Every event that reminds me of a year passing—an anniversary, a blogiversary, a birthday, a tearful memory—pushes me back into perspective, squarely on my bottom.
And so here I sit, in wondrous rapture, as the pages of the calendar flip by comically quickly, as if blown by the breath of Father Time himself.
Awesome and deeply unsettling, isn’t it?

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.

I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.

I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.

I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.”

—Deuxième, May 29 2014

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gems from this past year.

This matcha cake, with early (too early) berries.
This lemon, black pepper, and strawberry tårta.
The ultimate chocolate-chocolate cake.
This crumbly, buttery vanilla bean and pine nut shortbread.
My daddy’s birthday cake: modern black forest (+macs!).
Speaking of macs, chocolate+summer fruit macarons.
Starred and striped red velvet roll-out cookies for the fourth.
Whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies.  For my Starbucks lovers out there.
Dark chocolate and honey spice “gingerbread” men!
Fat, fluffy Lofthouse clone cookies.
Elegant, chocolate dipped vanilla bean shortbread.

My two absolute favorites:

This nutso “souche de Noël,” with eggnog layer cake, chocolate ganache, marzipan holly, and adorably realistic meringue mushrooms.  An insane cake that took lots of dedication—but the end result was well worth it.

This red-fruited Victoria sponge, with drippy goat cheese and sour cream filling.  Another version of this, with fluffier filling, is on my to-make list this summer.  There are honestly few better ways to use a plethora of ripe, fresh fruit.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And of course, here’s the link to last year’s blogiversary cake.
(And the year before, I suppose.)

This adorable cake is worthy of a celebration in and of itself.
I knew this year had to include pink and sprinkles, in the same vein as last year.
I wanted candles, but couldn’t find any red “3” candles for a reasonable price (weird?) and I left my special tall candles (carefully saved from last year’s cake) back home in NY for God knows what reason.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And so, with a little planning and a lot of preparation, I made a cake with sprinkles, and a tinge of pink, and it was the happiest little thing I think has ever come out of my oven.

I knew I wanted to use the marzipan that I found beneath the coconut in my pantry (oops); I knew I wanted maraschino cherries, which compliment almond so well.
I knew that I didn’t want any almond extract, because even the slightest heavy hand makes that stuff unbearable.

The sprinkly 3 that I fashioned out of white chocolate and a scavenged lolly stick was too large for my dainty cake.
I stuck it on for kicks at the end of shooting, but I didn’t like how it looked—too clunky, in my humble opinion.
(That’s okay… after all, it was just white chocolate and sprinkles, and tasted juuuust fine in little nibbles.)

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

What resulted was the fluffiest vanilla almond cake, flavored with a touch of almond milk and vanilla extract, kept soft and supple with a little cornstarch, with a baking time that, despite using only egg whites, kept the crumb moist.

I covered it in my favorite glossy, shiny Italian meringue buttercream, which is by far my favorite frosting.
It’s like a buttery cloud, ever so slightly sweet-and-salty, that compliments the fluffy cake perfectly.
Too heavy of a frosting would have weighed each bite down; I wanted a cake that would melt in your mouth and leave a whisper of sugar, vanilla, and almond behind.
I tinted a tiny amount of frosting with cherry juice and a drop of red gel coloring, leaving it a perfectly pale pink.  I used this around the bottom of the cake for a teeny-tiny amount of ombré.

The layers of the cake were each fitted with a perfect circle of chewy, sweet marzipan, which added the exact amount of almond flavor that I was hoping for, and kept the texture of each bite interesting.

Finally, a few lashings of milk chocolate ganache, creamy and decadent and, importantly, not overwhelmingly chocolaty, crowned the edges of the cake.

A handful of sprinkles, and 8 perfect maraschino cherries finished off the cake.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I think it looks rather like an ice cream sundae—cheery and happy—how can this cake not make you smile?

It was delicious, and the people with whom I shared it loved it (phew).

This is exactly the cake I wanted to create for this special 3-year blogiversary.
I want this blog to make people smile; I want to share yummy, beautiful things.

Who knows how long this blog will continue?
I hope for many years to come, but I don’t know.
We can only take each day and make the most of it.
I, personally, will have my cake and eat it, too, for as long as I possibly can.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you, friends, for supporting La Pêche Fraîche.
Every click, every visit—I appreciate you.
This blog would be nothing without you.
This blog is for you.

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.”

—Maya Angelou

Vanilla Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Vanilla Almond Cake
makes 1 4 layer 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
175 grams (6 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
240 mL (1 cup) almond milk
170 grams (6 ounces, 6 large) egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the frosting:
200 grams (7 ounces, 7 large) egg whites
200 grams (2 cups) sugar
75 mL (5 tablespoons) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
565 grams (20 ounces, 5 sticks) butter, cubed and softened

to assemble:
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) milk chocolate, chopped finely
45 mL (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
drop of red food coloring, if desired
sprinkles, if desired
jar of maraschino cherries, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch round pans.
Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add in the softened, cubed butter one piece at a time at a low speed until the mixture looks like sand and the butter is fully incorporated.
Whisk the almond milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract together, then slowly pour into the batter with the mixer running.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
To make the frosting, place sugar and water and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Simultaneously, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping them on medium speed.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be nearly at stiff peaks.
Carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites.
Continue whipping at high speed until the meringue has cooled to body temperature and is glossy and shiny.
Beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time, until it has all been incorporated into the buttercream.
Whip on high until the buttercream is fluffy, soft, and shiny, about 7 minutes.
To assemble the cake: roll out the marzipan to 1/8 of an inch thickness and cut 3 6-inch round circles out.
Layer a cake round, a 1/3 cup of buttercream, and 1 marzipan circle; repeat twice more, until you place the top layer on.
Crumb coat the cake and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove 2/3 cup of the buttercream and add a drop of red food coloring and 2 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice; stir well to combine.
Remove the cake from the fridge and finish frosting the top and 3/4 of the sides with plain buttercream, leaving the bottom 1/4 with just a crumb coat (reserve the rest of the plain buttercream)
Place the cake in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the ganache: place chopped chocolate and cream in a small bowl and microwave on medium power for 30 seconds-1 minute until the chocolate is 2/3 melted.
Whisk vigorously until the ganache has come together and is shiny and smooth.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Take the cake out of the fridge and add the cherry buttercream to the bottom 1/4, spreading it up to create a slight ombre effect.
Apply sprinkles to the bottom of the cake, as desired.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Carefully pour a little of the chocolate ganache around the rim to create drips.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Fill a piping bag with the reserved plain buttercream and pipe small swirls on top of the cake; place a maraschino cherry on top of each swirl.

Jewelled

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

 “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the
most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

—Roald Dahl

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m writing this during the first thunderstorm of the season.
The kind of storm with big claps of thunder, early in the morning—great cymbals crashing in the sky—while a grey drizzle settles slowly down into dry winter bones.

The kind of storm after which, later in the day, the sun comes out and the heady scent of rain soaked earth fills the air.
The storm that reminds the trees why they’re budding, that urges grass to turn green.

One deep breath to fill your lungs with springtime.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Sixty degrees F todayyesterday, and marvelously humid from the rain.  My skin and hair are in happy places.

Little purple crocuses have popped up, seemingly overnight, fanning their petals wide and showing off their bright yellow centers for the world to see.

Back home, spring is the sunny daffodils that grow tall and strong up and down our block; it’s the budding of all the oaks and the giant melt, as the land thaws out, that leaves the waterfalls fuller than any other time of year.
Spring is the chirpy birds that flit around, robins and tiny chickadees and oh!—those cardinals, with nests being built in trees just outside my bedroom window.
Gosh, guys, I do miss having trees that greet me first thing in the morning with a long-branched windy wave.
(I’m afraid home is still blanketed with snow, though.  Oh, Upstate, you fickle lover, you.)

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I suppose spring means something different to each person (how bad are your allergies?) and is unique in each place.
I wish my spring had more flowers, more time in the sun, and, importantly, more baby goats.
Can I move to Ireland and live on a dairy farm? Please?

Don’t know if I could ever live in an environment that doesn’t have all four seasons.  I could do with a shorter winter, yes, and sure, a more temperate summer than Chicago boasts, but I can’t imagine not experiencing the changing of each season every year.

There’s something about the way our earth turns around the sun, slowly but surely, that makes you feel extra small
and extra alive, doesn’t it?

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Also HAHAHA did you see this article from the New Yorker?
“…Meanwhile, sprinkle each couple’s speech with “we” statements, adding a subtle flavor of competition to the mélange…”
Literal tears were cried while laughing at this one, folks.

Or this prank?  Reminds me of the similar Pepsi/Jeff Gordon one from a few years back
Girl power!

Opinions on the new Amazon Dash Buttons?
While they seem useful, they strike me as a bit unnecessary and seem to make online shopping that much more intrusive.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Speaking of shopping, at Whole Foods the other day (did I mention the mangoes!?!  My goodness gracious, those were just the most perfect mangoes in the world.), I saw some pretty sprays of purple hyacinths perfuming the flower section.
I snatched them up, brought them home, and placed them in a jar on my desk so that my whole room smells sweet.
Their springy feel and sweet smell sowed little seeds of seasonal inspiration in my mind.
An entire stalk was sacrificed for this cake, because I wanted some flowers for decoration.
No, I am not completely sure whether hyacinths are edible. I picked them off directly after the photos.
#trueconfessions

I also picked up some berries (and asparagus), because I am overly eager for spring produce and I frankly don’t give a damn if they are in season at this exact moment, because they’re too juicy and tempting to resist!

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

While rooting around in my pantry for brown sugar to make muffins, a little tin of matcha powder fell from the heavens and bonked me on the head.

Matcha, bright green and perfect for a springy cake with its grassy undertones!  The Gods were telling me something.
Thus was this cake born.

See matcha previously on this blog in this Chocolate Matcha Mochi cake (so chewy and moist!) or this Matcha Marzipan roll cake (so light and fluffy!).

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche
This is a cake perfect for noshing—little slivers taken repeatedly over the course of a slow afternoon—and goes brilliantly with a hot cup of any sort of tea, green or otherwise.

It’s delightfully dense, like a tightly crumbed, firm poundcake, but avoids the usual pitfall of dryness with a touch of cream, which keeps it moist even on the second day.
The matcha in the cake is not overpowering at all.  It adds a whisper of green tea, a little kick of grassy, springy brightness, but isn’t overwhelmingly bitter.
This is a perfect pound cake, buttery and not-too-sweet; little ruby berries and a dusting of matcha powdered sugar make the perfect accompaniment.

It can be on your table ready to be served in less than 45 minutes, and keeps brilliantly.  The last slice was that much better on the second day, as the cake had lost none of the flavor but become more moist overnight.

I could also see this being served with lashings of chocolate ganache or good honey, with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

For now, I kept it springy, simple, and light.

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Matcha Butter Cake
makes 1 6×3 inch cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup) butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 eggs
10 mL (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
30 mL (2 tablespoons) heavy cream
1 tablespoon matcha powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for decorating:
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
fruit and flowers, as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 6×3 inch pan liberally.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and salt and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the cream and vanilla extract; mix only until partially incorporated.
Add in the matcha, flour, and baking powder.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix to ensure homogeneity.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is puffed and springy and a tester comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To decorate, mix matcha and powdered sugar together very well.
Dust over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh fruit as desired.
Serve in repeated thin slices with hot tea!

Red, Red

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day!

Here is another cake to add to your to-make-for-loved-ones list.
Other cakes I can think of for V-day:

this most recent chocolate covered strawberry delight
this red-berry strewn cake, accompanied by my favorite poem
these pink and red cakelets, fluffy and elegant
or, for a chocolate fix,
these sexy, whole-wheat (didn’t think those could go together? Think again.) brownies with glossy ganache
or, for a French dessert fix,
these petites Madeleines, soaked in tart lemon syrup, sticky and dense and delectable.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Things that have moved me lately (laugh, cry, feel, and love, love love):

How to fall in love with anyone.
/How to fall out of love with anyone. (lol)

This beautiful, heartwrenching photo story about a couple who both have cancer.  Beautiful.

These terrible valentines.  #6.

This adorable duo.  The tiniest kitten and his best doggie friend.  True love and friendship.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Food I’ve been drooling over lately:

Ohhhh, these scrambled eggs. These are love on a plate and if I woke up to these with fresh squeezed orange juice and hot, toasted, crispy baguette I would be the happiest girl alive (too bad N doesn’t read my blog, this is a gimme).

While I maintain that pie is always love, this pie is extra.
Salty/sweet/floral depending on your honey.
From Four and Twenty Blackbirds, so you know it’s good.
(+added bonus of pie tips!)

Churros. You can never go wrong with churros.
Sam, won’t you come live with me please?!

This is the most lovely heart shaped bundt cake in the world; and I am the world’s biggest sucker for lemon glaze.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a 1950s dream.
Red velvet, creamy white frosting, dark chocolate malt balls.
It’s the kind of cake you would see in a diner or, if Kerri Russell ever made cakes, one that she would whip up.

Red velvet, in all its dyed and bright glory, is worth the few teaspoons of red No.5 that you will ingest.
Beet cakes will never be red velvet.
I love you, I love beets, and I’m sorry, but they won’t be.
When I want a traditional cake, I want it made right.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

So that’s what we’re doing here.
Making it the right way.

The red velvet cake is adapted from Magnolia (you know it’s going to be good!), and is lusciously moist, with a fine crumb and a distinctive, slightly cocoa-y, buttermilk tangy flavor.
The frosting is a fluffy cloud of cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream, not overly sweet and firm enough to pipe, with a balance of the buttery flavor of a traditional European buttercream and the very necessary and traditional American cream cheese frosting, without which red velvet would not be the same.
The cake is dolled up with lashings of dark chocolate ganache and dark chocolate malt balls, toasty and sweet, and a shower of powdered sugar to finish.

Each thick slice is a little piece of cake heaven, with the traditional flavors of red velvet, made better with extra butter and a touch of chocolate (totally necessary for Lover’s day, right!?).

It really is red velvet in all its glory!

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

A few notes about this recipe:
You could top this cake with sprinkles or truffles or really nothing at all, the frosting alone is a statement.

If you’re not 100% absolutely confident in meringue buttercreams, do not make this one.  It is tricky.  Start with a non-cream cheese meringue buttercream first (like this beautiful pink one), or make a cream cheese frosting like Rosie’s or a cooked milk frosting like Pioneer Woman’s.

ACV or white vinegar will work in the recipe.
Make sure to chill your cake before pouring hot ganache over it.
Set a timer for beating your eggs/butter (I usually underestimate the time it takes to fully cream butter and sugar).

Red food coloring: I use Americolor.  I know it incorporates seamlessly and it gives me great color with a small amount.
That being said, you could use liquid (you’ll need more, maybe ~2 tablespoons) or Wilton (I’ve had plenty of success with their red food coloring, but it comes in small tubs so I’ve a huge bottle of Americolor now).
Cocoa: don’t use extra dark cocoa, as it might tint your cake darker than you’d like.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“The sexiest thing in the world is being really smart.
And thoughtful.
And being generous.
Everything else is crap.”

—Ashton Kutcher

Red velvet cake with cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Dolled-Up Red Velvet Cake
makes 1 6-inch layer cake
cake portion adapted from Baking in Pyjamas

ingredients:
for the red velvet 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 cream cheese Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
125 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
pinch salt
3 tablespoons water
2 sticks of butter, soft but still cool and cubed
225 grams (8 ounces, 1 block) cream cheese
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

for the ganache:
140 grams (10 tablespoons) butter
60 grams (1/4 cup) half-and-half
pinch salt
200 grams dark chocolate, chopped finely

to assemble:
malt balls
powdered sugar

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 buttercream 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.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese meringue buttercream: whip cream cheese until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Scrape into another bowl and set aside (leave at room temp!).
Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the sugar, water, and salt into a small pot over medium heat.
Begin to whip the whites as you heat the sugar syrup; once it reaches 240 degrees F, your whites should be nearly stiff peaks.
At 242-245 degrees F, slowly and carefully drizzle the sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites.
Beat until nearly body temp; add in the slightly soft butter 1 cube at a time.
Continue to whip (even if it looks curdled!) until the buttercream comes together and makes a whapping sound against the bowl.
Scrape the whipped cream cheese into the buttercream and add in 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar.
Slowly mix the icing, increasing once it is nearly homogeneous.
Don’t beat too much.
Place in fridge for 5 minutes if needed to slightly firm up.
To frost the cake, do a crumb coat then freeze.
Apply the rest of the frosting, then freeze again.
Use a knife dipped in hot water and then dried off to smooth the icing perfectly, then chill until you drizzle the ganache.
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl.
Heat the butter and half and half until boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, whip with a whisk until the ganache is glossy and shiny.
Pour over the edges of the cake.
Pipe little stars on the edge of a cake, then top with a malt ball and a shower of powdered sugar.

Une Souche de Noël

Une Souche de Noël | La Pêche Fraîche

 Mais non, mes chéris, pas une bûche!  Vraiment une souche!

That’s right, we just upended the Yule log—literally.
Took the classic bûche de Noël and made it into a souche de Noël.
A stump!  A stump de Noël.

 This cake is an endeavor.  It’s intricate; it’s large.
But while detailed, it’s also charmingly rustic.
It doesn’t have to be perfectly made—rough scratches around the bark make it all the more realistic.
Fallen moss and dirt add character to the forest floor.
Crooked mushrooms—perfect.  They don’t pop out of the ground white and symmetrical, after all.

Basically, this cake can be a little rough around the edges and still sparkle and shine.
The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

The first component of the cake is a buttery, yolk-rich eggnog cake, redolent with nutmeg and whiskey (traditionally rum, but peruse your own liquor cabinets for anything boozy).
It comes out of the oven as fragrant as can be.

Brushing with maple-whiskey syrup adds more flavor and ensures that the cake stays moist.
It also adds a nice kick, hey-o!

The whipped ganache that covers the cake is rich and thick, with a touch of salt and deep, dark bittersweet chocolate.
The cream keeps it light and fluffy, so that you don’t have a big brick of solid ganache bark.

The dirt is made from chocolate cookie crumbs and the moss from chopped pistachios.  Both add a little crunch and texture and a realistic touch.
Also, both are good to snack on.  Just saying.

The final touches are the mushrooms and the holly branches.
The mushrooms are made of Italian meringue, dried in the oven until super crunchy and crispy.
They’re sweet and soft on the inside, like marshmallows, but have a crisp shell which is brushed lightly with cocoa powder to mimic real mushrooms.
I got the idea from the wonderful, brilliant Stella of Bravetart.
They’re pretty damn cute, I must say.

The holly branches are made of marzipan, colored with a touch of cocoa for depth and plenty of food coloring.
I’m addicted to marzipan—the sweet almond taste is so good!  When you add a hint of cocoa, it only gets better.
Adding a tiny bit of cocoa is a great way to deepen the color of food coloring and make it seem more realistic.

The end result is five layers of golden cake, wrapped in dark chocolate ganache and garnished with magical little touches of the forest.
A sprinkling of snow brings the whole thing to life—it’s an enchanted cake, really.

It’s also a showstopper.  Definitely worthy of Christmas dinner, the necessary showpiece dessert that sparkles and shines and captures all eyes.
It may be a bit of work, but not much more than any regular layer cake.  And in my humble opinion, it’s worth it.
It’s a cake to show off and take many pictures with; it’s a cake of which to be very, very proud.

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…”

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Love, your resident holiday-crazed blogger.

Souche (Stump) de Noël
cake portion adapted from Joy of Baking
makes 1 large 8-inch cake

for the eggnog cake (you’ll need 1.5 times this recipe, to make 5 8-inch layers and 4 cupcakes):
2 2/3 cup (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) cornstarch
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 large egg yolks (110 grams)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) rum or whiskey
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla extract
1 cup (240 mL) milk

for the maple soak:
1/3 cup (80 mL) maple syrup
2 tablespoons (30 mL) whiskey or rum

for the whipped ganache (may need to double; a reader found she needed approximately twice as much frosting):
18 ounces (500 grams) bittersweet chocolate
2 pinches kosher salt
2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream

for the meringue mushrooms:
3 egg whites
small pinch cream of tartar
3/4 cup (300 grams) sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) water
cocoa powder, for dusting

to assemble:
marzipan holly branches
chopped skinned pistachios
crushed chocolate cookies
powdered sugar, for dusting

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 4 8-inch round pans and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the butter for 3 full minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar, nutmeg, and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the eggs and beat for 5 full minutes, until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and pale white—it shouldn’t be gritty.
Whisk vanilla extract, milk, and whiskey then beat slowly until partway combined.
Place the flour, cornstarch and baking powder on top of the batter, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Portion batter out into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
Allow cakes to cool completely. (You’ll need to make another half-batch of batter, baking 1 8-inch round and 4 cupcakes.)
Meanwhile, bring maple syrup and whiskey to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Brush cooled cakes with the whiskey syrup.
Make the chocolate ganache: chop chocolate finely and place in a bowl with the salt.
Heat cream to boiling, then pour over the chocolate and let sit for 4 minutes.
Whisk the chocolate and cream together, starting slowly, speeding up until the ganache is smooth and shiny.
Allow to cool until room temperature, then whip with a mixer until fluffy.
Frost two cupcakes into a tower to make the small stump; put 1/3 cup frosting between each layer and also place a crumb coat on the cake.
Using the rest of the frosting generously, to frost the cake roughly.
Use a fork to scrape the sides to look like bark, and swirl the top to look like the top of a stump.
To make the meringue mushrooms, preheat oven to 225 degrees F.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Start to whisk the egg whites.
By the time the egg whites are at stiff peaks, the syrup should be at 240-245 degrees F.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while whisking at high speed.
Pipe the meringue into stem and cap shapes on parchment paper-lined sheets.
Bake for 2 hours, turning the oven to 175 degrees F after 90 minutes.
Allow to dry in the oven until mushrooms peel off the parchment paper.
Dust the caps with cocoa powder and rub in with your fingers.
Use your cocoa-y hands to lightly rub the stems to make them slightly colored too.
Decorate the stump with chocolate cookie crumbs around the bottom, pressing some into the sides of the cake.
Place mushrooms and holly branches around the cake, and press some chopped pistachios into the bark to be “moss.”
Dust a little powdered sugar over the top, and then impress all your friends and family with your very own stump de Noël!