XXII

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Yesterday, my parents sent me the dreamiest bouquet of pale peach roses, white hydrangeas, and black and white anemones.
Last night, my instagram bio ticked from 21 to 22.
(I don’t have a Facebook anymore, so no messages will be received from acquaintances collected through the years. I’m, like, so off the grid. *rolls eyes*)
Tonight, I will drink and be merry with some of the best people I have ever and will ever know.
Today, though, I am taking time to reflect and relax into my new age by myself.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche FraîcheBanana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My atoms in their current arrangement have made the long trip around the sun twenty two times.
In this time, my body has grown, my mind has expanded, my hormones have been tamed (…kind of?); I have shed skin cells and old clothes and loves alike. I have been fortunate to see many corners of the world and optimistic enough to dream of other, unknown parts.
I have pushed and pulled and trudged my way through years of schooling and through an altogether too short stint at my alma mater. In the best of times, I have excelled and succeeded; in the worst of times, I have simply kept on moving.
Four years ago, on the cusp of 18, I left my childhood home and my parents for the first time; in many ways, I felt and was alone. The birthdays following were distinctly part of my college years.
So although 22 is a relatively unremarkable birthday, this one means a lot to me. It is my first birthday after college and striking out into the world. It is the bookend to the collection that began at 18.
Today, in a new city and in a different sense, I feel and am alone.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Is it sad or freeing to be alone on your birthday?
It is coldly realistic or melancholic to realize that we all age on our own?

We live our lives with ourselves. It is as simple and as difficult as that. Though none of us will ever stop changing, we have but one body and mind to live in and put up with.
It’s easy to wistfully romanticize our past lives and selves; it is also easy to make grand resolutions about our future.
I hope that everyone has the opportunity to fall in love with who they are in the present, which is a far harder endeavor, in my experience.
I hope that you have the chance, whether this year or in many years to come, to spend a birthday by yourself and not feel lonely.
I hope this especially for myself.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche FraîcheBanana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My twenty-second birthday cake is not a simple one. It’s not an afternoon affair, not something to whip up casually sans plan.
No one should be surprised by this, least of all readers of this blog who have seen my other involved creations. I have a flair for the dramatic and a birthday is an excuse to indulge both my creative urges and tastebuds.
This is all to say, I know that this recipe is more than a little ridiculous. A lot of effort went into making this cake just right. It is worthy of a celebration.
Make it for a loved one; make it for yourself. And prepare to impress.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake starts with a super moist banana cake—it is the least banana bread-y banana cake I have made, which I consider an achievement. There is a time and place for a lovely, dense banana bread. This cake is not that.
The layers have a swipe of silky, slightly bitter coffee pastry cream, flecked with espresso and enriched with egg yolks and butter.
Hidden inside the cake are two layers of dacquoise; a crisp almond and meringue confection that softens and turns into a whisper of caramel and almond married with the coffee cream. It is the reason that this cake is better on the second day. The crunch is fabulous, yes, but the dacquoise becomes an ethereally light filling when it softens—just like meringue does in a pavlova or Eton mess.
The whole affair is finished with a cloud of rich, chocolaty Italian meringue frosting, my favorite way to ice a cake. I love that with each bite, you get a varying amount of chocolate. It makes eating a piece that much more interesting.

This cake is a labor of love, and its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavor combination is very unique—but it works so well. In fact, I like it so much that I am planning on dreaming up new ways to use banana, almond, coffee, and chocolate (to me, that sounds like a hella good muffin).

Note also that this can be made ahead of time; the pastry cream up to 3 days in advance, and the dacquoise up to 2 days. You could make the cake ahead and freeze it as well. It’s manageable. I mean, sort of.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthdays, previously (and no, I don’t know what happened to 17 and 19…):

21
20
18

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Banana Cake with Almond Dacquoise, Coffee Pastry Cream, and Chocolate Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3×6 inch layer cake
pastry cream adapted from the Kitchn

for the almond dacquoise:
4 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
65 grams (2/3 cup) almond meal or flour
40 grams (scant 1/4 cup) sugar
big pinch salt

for the coffee pastry cream:
1 tablespoon espresso powder
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) milk
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
hefty pinch salt
4 egg yolks
30 grams (1/4 cup) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) butter

for the banana cake:
150 grams (2/3 cup, 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) butter, softened
170 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
120 grams (1/2 cup) milk
200 grams (1 2/3 cup) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

for the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
pinch salt, to taste
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
25 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) water
340 grams (1 1/2 cups, 24 tablespoons, 3 sticks) butter
170 grams (1 cup) dark chocolate chips or chunks, melted and cooled slightly
20 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder, as needed

directions:
First, make the dacquoise, up to 2 days in advance.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and trace 3 6-inch circles on a piece of parchment lining a baking sheet.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and begin to whip.
Once foamy, add in the first (150 grams, 3/4 cup) portion one spoonful at a time, and whip on high speed until the meringue is glossy and fluffy and stiff peaks have formed.
Whisk together the almond meal, remaining portion sugar, and salt, and gently fold into the meringue.
Pipe onto the circles you traced, and bake for 65-85 minutes, until the dacquoise is dry and slightly golden colored.
Remove from oven and let cool completely; you can store the baked dacquoise for up to 2 days in a moisture-free, air-tight container.
You will only need 2 dacquoise layers for the cake; the third is insurance in case of cracking (one of mine did, when I dropped it); you can trim them if they spread a little with a sharp knife so that they fit in the cake.
Make the coffee pastry cream: place espresso powder (or you could use whole beans, if you don’t like the grains) and milk over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and flour together.
Once the milk is just shy of boiling—it should be at a simmer—carefully pour in 1/3 of it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Place the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remainder of the coffee-milk, whisking all the while.
Heat over medium heat while whisking constantly, until thickened.
You should be able to coat a spoon and draw a line with your finger that does not fill in with cream.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
Strain through a sieve, then blend on high speed with an immersion blender or in a regular blender (wait until it is cooled, though!) for about 20 seconds—don’t go too long with the blender, just enough to get it smooth.
Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and allow to cool completely.
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Place butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 4 full minutes.
Meanwhile, mash the bananas with the milk in one bowl and stir the flour and baking powder together.
Scrape the sides of the stand mixer and add in 1/3 of the flour mixture.
While you stir the flour mixture in, add in half of the banana mixture.
Add another third of the flour mixture, adding the remainder of the banana mixture and the remainder of the flour mixture one after the other while stirring on low speed.
Increase the speed to medium for 30 seconds, to ensure that the batter is homogenous.
Portion out into prepared pans and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.
Make the Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Portion into 4 separate portions—one portion should be slightly smaller than the other three.
Place one of the larger three portions back into the bowl of the stand mixer; while whipping on high, add about 3/4 of the melted and cooled chocolate and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
Whip until chocolate is fully incorporated.
Into another of the three larger portions of frosting, add about 3/4 of the remaining chocolate (so about 3/16 of the original portion) and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder; stir vigorously to combine.
Into the remaining of the three larger portions, stir in the remaining chocolate and 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
Into the smallest portion, stir in 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
At this point, tint any of the 4 portions as you see fit with a few extra teaspoons of cocoa powder.
To assemble the cake, place a dollop of pastry cream on a cake stand and place 1 of the banana layers on top.
Spread 1/8-1/4 cup of the pastry cream onto the banana cake; place one of the almond dacquoise layers on top and spread with another 1/8 cup pastry cream.
Top with a second banana cake, more pastry cream, the second dacquoise layer, more pastry cream, and the final banana cake layer.
Use a small amount of the three larger portions of frosting (the darkest three) to lightly crumb coat the cake—you don’t need a thick crumb coat here.
Using 4 pastry bags filled with each of the colors, pipe an ombre effect with desired piping tip (I used a single tip and 4 couplers).

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Flopsy

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

The little Flopsy Bunnies slept delightfully in the warm sun.
From the lawn beyond the garden came the distant clacketty sound of the mowing machine.
The blue-bottles buzzed about the wall, and a little old mouse picked over the rubbish among the jam pots.

—Beatrix Potter, The Flopsy Bunnies

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

It is irrevocably spring here in Chicago, finally.
It’s lovely and warm and sunny, and the cold grey drizzles and wind have, for the most part, stopped their daily doldrums. Of course, the 48 hours in which I am posting this have been very stormy. Typical.
We’re planning on doing a little gardening in Psi U’s front lawn this week—nothing sounds better to me than being out in the sunshiny weather.

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

This past weekend, we jetted off to Portugal for my brother’s wedding. It was indescribably amazing (though the traveling itself was a nightmare—a story too long and too full of annoyances to recount). We flew into Lisbon and spent Saturday on Mariana’s family’s ranch (Herdade do Amendoiera) in Arraiolos. The wedding was beautiful, and I cried a lot. You couldn’t have asked for better weather or a lovelier location. Really. We were so lucky.

Sunday, Nati and I explored Lisbon on our own. Oh my gosh! There was so much we left unseen, and what we did see was fascinating. The city is beautiful, and has so many historical sites to see. We had a fabulous dinner at the Time Out market in Baixa, which was like a beefed up Eataly or like Chelsea Market (lots of restaurants and market stands). I cannot recommend it enough—the prices were good, the food was delicious, and the available variety was breathtaking.

Monday, we flew home—48 short hours in European paradise. I can’t wait to go back.

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

How cute are these little carrot cake petit fours?
I shared them on Instagram the day before Easter and people went crazy for them! I was all intent on getting the recipe up in time for Easter, but here we are, friends.
I think these are perfect for any spring occasion, though. I personally love carrot cake so I wouldn’t complain to see these bite-sized pieces at any time of year.

They’re moist, two-bite wonders, slightly sweet and chewy from the carrot and topped with a generous swirl of tangy cream cheese whipped cream. The best part, in my opinion, are the little marzipan and lime zest carrots on top—they add a nutty sweetness and a tiny citrus-y kick that really perks up the cake.
Too often, carrot cake is dense and heavy—by miniaturizing it, you avoid some of this, and by using a non-traditional cream cheese frosting (no butter, light on the sugar), you lighten the dessert up even further.

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

To bake these, I actually used an oven-safe ice cube mold. You could use a mini brownie pan or just bake them in a square 8×8 pan and cut them into shapes.

The marzipan carrots are easier than you think—just have a little patience and add the food coloring extremely slowly! I use Wilton and Americolor. For the lime zest leaves, I actually just zested a lime onto a plate and used tweezers to drop it onto the cake. That way, I had a little more control. You could also just sprinkle it on or make leaves out of marzipan.

Carrot Cake Bites | La Pêche Fraîche

Carrot Cake Bites
makes 12 petit-fours or 1 8×8 cake

ingredients:
60 grams (2 ounces, 1/4 cup) butter
50 grams (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 egg
30 grams (2 tablespoons) neutral oil
75 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 medium sized carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)

for the frosting:
120 grams (120 mL, 1/2 cup) heavy cream
140 grams (5 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
90 grams (3/4 cup) powdered sugar

to assemble:
30-60 grams (1-2 ounces) marzipan
orange food coloring
1 lime

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour your baking dish.
Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and egg together on high speed until doubled in volume and lightened in color.
Add in the oil and mix on low speed until homogeneous.
Add in the flour, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt and mix until batter just starts to come together.
Stir in the carrots and portion out into baking dish.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the baking dish—a cake tester should come out clean.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, shape the marzipan carrots and zest the lime.
To make the frosting, whip the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until fully mixed; whip the cream separately and then slowly mix the two together, being careful not to knock all the air out of the cream.
Frost the petit fours however you desire, and top with a marzipan carrot and a dusting of lime zest for the leaves.

Fogueira

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

—John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

—Very Unofficial UChicago football cheer

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Pi day!
And yes, I am going to share that chant every year on 3/14.
I love my ridiculous and nerdy school, lol.

Today was my last day of finals for the quarter, omg. Brutal! I have been so busy all weekend preparing. Luckily for me, this means I’m one step closer to spring break—I’m going to Brazil to visit my best friend and stay with her family! I am so excited. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated, even if it goes dark around here for a little while.

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

There were so many gorgeous pies shared by food bloggers all over the world today—I really want to get into making pie crust art like everyone else! Count me in on that bandwagon.

But today, I’m sharing a very unique pie—a vegan one!

This vegan campfire pie is made with a shatteringly flaky, 1-bowl, no rolling olive oil pie crust with a healthy dose of salt. It would be a brilliant base for a number of sweet OR savory pies. It was so easy to whip together, and since I used good olive oil, it had a ton of flavor as well. The subtle savoriness and grassiness of the olive oil is a really nice contrast to the marshmallows.
As soon as it comes out of the oven, it is spread with dark chocolate to ensure that it doesn’t get soggy whatsoever; the pie crust will stay crispy when stored.
The filling is a chocolate pudding, made with almond milk and a spoonful of molasses for depth; it’s not too sweet while being quite rich.
The whole thing is topped off with halved marshmallows that are toasted—sweet, sticky, and the perfect, not-too-sophisticated touch that makes this campfire pie special.
(You can find vegan marshmallows at Whole Foods!)

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pie, previously:

Pumpkin meringue tart.

Brûléed citrus and lime pie.

Apple, pear, butterscotch and cheddar pie.

Pumpkin pie spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie.

Fig, rosemary, and lemon tart.

Coconut buttermilk chess pie.

Vegan Campfire Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Vegan Campfire Pie
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the olive oil pie crust:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
85 grams (7 tablespoons) olive oil
60 grams (1/4 cup) cold water

for the chocolate molasses filling:
30 grams (1/4 cup) corn or tapioca starch
66 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
25 grams (3 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
600 grams (2 1/2 cups) almond milk
2 teaspoons molasses
112 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

to assemble:
28 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate, chopped
vegan marshmallows

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and ready an 8- or 9-inch tart or pie pan.
Make the crust: whisk flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and olive oil together, then slowly pour in the cold water and knead until dough comes together.
Press into prepared pan and line with parchment paper and pie weights.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until toasted and golden brown.
As soon as the crust comes out of the oven, remove the pie weights and scatter 1 ounce of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the bottom.
Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate all over and set the crust aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk starch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together, then slowly pour in the almond milk while whisking.
Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until thickened and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add molasses and chopped chocolate; whisk until fully combined.
Pour into cooled shell and allow to set overnight in the fridge, or at least for 2 hours.
To serve, place halved marshmallows all over the top, then toast with a kitchen torch.

La Vie En Rose

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be la vie en rose

—Louis Armstrong, La Vie En Rose

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My hope for today is that it serves as a reminder for all of us to be more open and loving every day, to everyone. I love the badass, irrepressible origins of V-day, but I don’t really buy into the modernized and commercialized part of it (ha, get it?!).
Hug and kiss your loved ones extra today, if you can, but also remember tomorrow how nice it can be when a stranger flashes a smile at you, or pays a coffee forward, etc. etc.
Now that I contemplate that, is it too late to add to my 2017 resolutions?!

I never turn down an opportunity to bake something whimsical and fun, however, so here we are with pink everywhere for the last three posts and I regret nothing. Pink is awesome.

As an aside: microbes are also f*&#ing awesome. Check out this adorable (OK, maybe only adorable to me) piece in the NYT about the microbiome, perfect for Valentine’s Day. I maintain my stance that it is one of the last great frontiers left to us as the human race.

Also, shoutout to my wonderful roommate Alexa, whose adorable pink polaroid camera is featured in these photos. How cute, right?!

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

For this cake, I really wanted to play on the Swedish Princesstårta, or princess cake, which consists of a sponge, whipped cream, (sometimes) pastry cream, jam, and marzipan.
I made mini ones two years ago (gag, how is that possible), as you might have spied on my Instagram just a few weeks ago.

I bought this cookie cutter a while back, which purports to be the “easiest rose” in the world. I started dreaming of making roses out of marzipan, which I love with a burning, fiery passion, because I am somewhat turned off by fondant and gum paste.
So I hunkered down with a half-pound of marzipan last Friday and got to work; you will need a roller set and a foam board to properly create the roses. I also got through an entire movie and two hour-long shows before I was completely satisfied. I’m sure it could be done in less time—there is a slight learning curve, however! If you want to make your own roses, I suggest two things.
First, google “FMM easiest rose cutter how-to” or something along those lines in order to find a video that you can watch and learn from!
Second, if you want perfect, lifelike roses, do NOT use marzipan—use half fondant, half gum paste, or some other similar mix, because this will allow you to get thinner, non-ragged petals. Marzipan requires a slightly thicker petal, which obviously looks less true to life. You also may want to pick up some powdered colors, to dust on the edges of the petals—this makes it look very realistic.
All in all, my experience with the easiest rose cutter in the world was very positive, and I will be experimenting more with a sturdier mix of medium to make more realistic roses in the future!

If you do decide to use marzipan, rest assured that no matter how the roses look, they will be delicious: an advantage of marzipan is that it maintains its delightful chew even if prepared ahead, and it actually tastes good, unlike gum paste.

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The base of the cake is a simple milky white cake. It’s not too eggy, which is my main problem with many sponge cakes. It has a soft, fine crumb and doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors.
An almond simple syrup is amply brushed over the cake, in order to retain moisture: another problem I have with many traditional white/yellow/sponge cakes is that they tend towards dryness.
Over that, I spread a thin layer of all-fruit apricot preserves—I use an all-fruit, no-sugar version because 1) it’s what I always have on hand and 2) there is a lot of sugar going on in this cake, so it provides a nice, slightly tart contrast.
The frosting is an incredibly fluffy salted mascarpone buttercream, which is creamy just like the traditional whipped cream and which provides another type of contrast to the sweetness. I really wanted a big ruffly cake, so I laid an extremely thin crumb coat down and then piped big shells with a star tip to create a thick layer of frosting without overloading the cake itself. (Pro tip: fill in any small spots with a mini star tip and leftover frosting. The cake is very busy, so no one will notice any little patchwork you do.)
Finally, the chewy, sweet, and fragrant marzipan roses adorn the cake as the perfect accompaniment.

This cake takes all the classic flavors present in princess cake and updates the components. I’m thoroughly pleased with the results. It makes a stunning centerpiece to any celebration. I think this would be SO cute for a tea party or Galentine’s day or any princess’s party.

Sending love to all of you! xx

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously:

2017:
Thick, soft M&M cookies
Mocha cupcakes topped with fluffy swirls of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream

2016:
Ginger, Malted Vanilla, and Hibiscus layer cake
Baby pink XO salty sugar cookies
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies
Chocolate covered strawberry cake with goat cheese frosting
Dolled-up red velvet cake
Mini pink princesstårta

2014:
Pink grapefruit possets with Ritz crunch and pistachios
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants
Strawberry pocky cake
Salty dark chocolate tarts

Princess Layer Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Princess Layer Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 teaspoon salt
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 eggs
35 grams (1/3 cup) milk powder
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, soft
400 grams (3 1/4 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams (8 ounces, 1 cup) mascarpone, room temperature
60 to 80 grams (1/4 to 1/3 cup) heavy cream, room temperature

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
drop almond extract
80 grams (1/3 cup) water
apricot or raspberry or strawberry preserves
8 ounces marzipan, tinted and rolled as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Make the cake: cream butter, salt, and sugar together until light and fluffy; add in each of the eggs and beat on high until doubled in volume.
Add in the milk powder and buttermilk and stir until batter is homogeneous; it will thin out.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir to combine.
Portion out into prepared pans and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: cream butter on high speed for 5 full minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir slowly until combined; it will be very thick.
Add in the salt and mascarpone cheese and beat until homogenous.
Add in the heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed in between each addition, until frosting is thin enough to be pipeable but thick enough to hold a peak,
Make the syrup: place sugar and water in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, or until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the almond extract and set aside.
Trim the cake as needed to level it; brush each side with ample sugar syrup.
Layer the cake, placing plenty of syrup on each layer; spread 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves on top of each layer, then 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the preserves.
After adding the final layer, add a very thin crumb coat of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Using the rest of the frosting, pipe ruffles or flowers as desired.
Decorate with marzipan shapes!

Softie II

Soft M&M Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

“Love wins. Every time.”

—Taraji P. Henson, SAG Awards Speech

Soft M&M Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

One of the greatest loves of my life was a blanket named Softie.
She was orange-yellow patterned fleece blanket (really just a piece of fleece), with bright blue, purple, and fuchsia flowers and spots all over. She was soft, once, but became ragged and pilly as she was loved. I slept with her in my bed every night and cried into her just as often. She was rough, and less-than-clean, and not all that fleecy.
My parents bought me a Softie II (really just another piece of fleece) as a gift, maybe for a birthday, and I was totally surprised. I still called it Softie, because it was not a replacement for me—the first Softie still lived in my closet—and I sought just as much comfort from the second blanket as the first. I loved it as much, and cherished it as much, if not more. It was just a bit softer.
A new form of my old friend.

Love lasts through change. Don’t ever be afraid that you cannot carry its thread through transformations that feel scary or surprising.
True love will always be a familiar friend.

These soft, pillowy cookies are like being hugged—enveloped in a blanket of irresistibly salty-sweet, buttery molasses dough.
They are so easy to make, and they are legitimately the most fail-proof, dependable, trustworthy recipe for chocolate chip cookies I have ever encountered.

One bowl—no mixer required—10 minutes, and 9 very simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry are all you need to make these incredible cookies!
I freeze mine so that they don’t spread too much, but you don’t really even need to do that; if you’re in a rush, you can skip that step and bake them right off after mixing the dough together.
The cookies that emerge after a short stint in the oven are soft and thick, tinged with a little salt and a lot of butter and molasses goodness, pocked with crunchy, milky M&Ms, and have golden, slightly crispy edges. I promise that not only will you reach for more than one cookie in the batch, you will continue to reach for the recipe whenever the occasion calls.

I probably don’t need to say this, but these can be made into any type of chip cookie you want—add chocolate chips, or butterscotch, or peanut butter chips, or add some chopped walnuts or toasted coconut or chopped heath bars or sprinkles—they will be good no matter what the mix-ins are.

Soft M&M Cookies
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

ingredients:
170 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) butter, almost entirely melted
235 grams (1 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon molasses
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
280 grams (2 1/4 cups) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca or corn starch
1 cup M&Ms or other chocolate/nut mix-ins

directions:
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.
Place butter, sugar, salt, and molasses in a bowl and whisk until combined.
Add in egg and egg yolk and whisk until lightened in color and fully emulsified.
Add flour on top, followed by baking soda and tapioca starch, and stir until dough comes together.
Stir in the M&Ms or chocolate.
Portion out with a 1/4 or 1/3 ice cream or cookie scoop and place on prepared pans about 2 inches apart.
Freeze; meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
When oven is at temperature, bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the tops are barely set and the edges are golden brown.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Burning

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

My blood is a rushing river.
My heart is a burning bridge.

—Pavana

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

February, how did you come so quickly?
And how is it so warm? It is freaking everyone out. I don’t want to enjoy too much, given that we’re supposedly guaranteed another six weeks of winter (although we haven’t truly had any winter here in the Windy City).
Today, it’s 50 degrees and raining, and all I wanted this grey morning, what with the soft patter of rain on my windows, was the pull the covers back over my head and sleep for the entire day.

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I am going to keep is short here, today.
My theme of the month is humble and grateful love.

I want to share it with those who matter the most to me, but also with everyone in the orbit of my life.
We could all do with more widespread love. Share some with your partner, your neighbor, your friends and your frenemies.
Show someone that you are thankful for everything they have given you—their energy, their attention, their love and affection—and give it back in kind.
Put some effort into an unexpected act of kindness. No need to brag or tell anyone about it.
It will make you feel amazing too.

Humble. Grateful. Love.


Today’s treats are these simple mocha and vanilla bean cupcakes.
They’re cheekily festive, with their pastel pink frosting and bright sprinkles on top, but you could leave out the food coloring and come away with a very elegant black and white cupcake.

The base of the cupcakes is my go-to: one bowl, one whisk, comes together in 15 minutes and bakes in just 10. The cake is moist and fluffy, and it is the perfect base for a big swirl of frosting.

The frosting is an Italian meringue buttercream: like a cloud of light, whipped buttery goodness. Its flecked with the seeds of two full vanilla bean pods and a big pinch of salt—dreamy.

These cupcakes are simple but adaptable—swirl different flavors into the frosting to customize it, and top with whatever sprinkles or chopped bits you so desire.

“You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

—Warsan Shire

Mocha and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
cake portion lightly adapted from Sweetapolita

ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
95 grams (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
150 grams (3/4 cup) superfine sugar
60 grams (1/2 cup) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk, room temperature
80 grams (1/3 cup) coffee, hot
42 grams (3 tablespoons) vegetable oil
1 egg

for the frosting:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
335 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
scrapings of 2 vanilla beans
few drops pink food coloring

directions:
Make the cupcakes: line 1 cupcake tin with liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Pour in the buttermilk, coffee, and vegetable oil and whisk until half incorporated; add in the egg and whisk until the batter is all combined.
Portion out into the liners (about 1/4-1/3 cup per cupcake), and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, and water 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 vanilla bean and pink food coloring until tint is as desired.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Decorate cupcakes as desired, and top with sprinkles!

Comfort and Joy

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Prayer of Saint Francis

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve and a very happy first night of Hanukkah!
I have not yet wrapped my gifts nor done all the productive things I needed to do, but OH WELL that is just about how I expect 2016 to come to a close.

All my brothers are in town (though we are all staying apart since none of the four apartments where various fractions of us permanently live in NYC are big enough to fit the whole family), and tonight we’re heading to Brooklyn for Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma’s.
Last night, we all went bowling/drinking/for dinner at Brooklyn Bowl, which was fun. Although I was very salty at how bad at bowling I am, especially after a margarita. Ugh.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Tomorrow, we will exchange a few small gifts, eat some french toast (I kind of want to try making french toast with panettone. Is that frowned upon?!), and probably see a movie.

The past few years, I’ve made cinnamon rolls for Christmas day, but that’s not happening in our current kitchen. I’ve seen them all over Instagram this year though, and I think it’s a sweet tradition. Do you make anything traditional for breakfast? I try to keep it low-key and no-fuss since my family likes to just chill together.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This layer cake recipe is one of my new go-tos.  It’s more unique than just another vanilla or chocolate cake, and it doesn’t fall prey to the gingerbread trope, either.

It’s an almond and orange spice cake, and it’s really soft and moist from the almond meal.  It’s fragrant with spices and orange zest without being overpowering.  Between the layers, there is alternating apricot jam and orange marmalade, which are just a match made in heaven.  Sweet and fruity, with a hint of bitterness that complements the orange zest in the cake.  The icing is a simple cream cheese frosting with a tiny touch of maple syrup to round out the tanginess.

I decorated my cake with a mound of fruits painted with luster dust and bourbon because I am now officially way too obsessed with this technique. Someone stop me.

It would be just as yum with a few rosemary “trees” or a simple piped border and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

More Christmas cakes!

Last year’s cute Red Velvet Woodland cake.
Also last year: Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
The year before: the insane and super fun Souche de Noël.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond and Orange Spice Cake
makes 1 4×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1 cup (120 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (32 grams) almond flour or finely ground almonds
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk

for the frosting:
12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (112 grams) cream cheese
12 ounces (330 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) milk or cream

to assemble:
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate arils, kumquats
luster dust, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place butter, sugar, spices, and zest into a bowl and cream on high speed for 3 full minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and almond flour and stir gently until half mixed in.
Add the milk and beat until the batter is homogeneous, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out the batter into prepared pans and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely; meanwhile, make the frosting.
Beat butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 minutes, or until doubled in volume and very pale in color.
Add in roughly half of the powdered sugar, the salt, the maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Beat on high speed until the frosting is very fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar to taste, along with 2-3 more tablespoons of milk, if needed to make the frosting more spreadable, and whip on high speed until fully incorporated.
The frosting should be spreadable but not loose; add more milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken as needed.
To assemble, cut each of the layers in half.
Pipe a border of cream cheese frosting around the first layer, then spread 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in the center.
Spread frosting on top of the layer to cover the jam.
Add the second layer and repeat, except use orange marmalade instead of apricot jam.
Repeat with the third layer, using apricot jam again.
Top with the fourth layer and add a thin crumb coat of frosting on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Spread frosting thick on the top layer but thin on the sides to create a semi-naked finish.
Top with fruits dusted with luster dust or other decorations as desired.

Épicé

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Always winter, never Christmas.”

—C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

If you need some last-minute inspiration for your cookie boxes, I have rounded up some links of cookies that I’ve been stunned by lately. I guarantee we can all find some inspo from these amazing creations!

Cindy @ Hungry Girl Por Vida made really gorgeous and creative linzer cookies—with pistachios and lemon curd! Lemon curd is my favorite, so I’m keen to try this flavor combination out.

I’m sure you already saw these all over Instagram, but Tessa (Style Sweet CA) made perfect (as always!) spritz cookies in a collab with Wilton.

Snowballs—buttery and covered in powdered sugar—are always a weakness of mine. Christina (Dessert for Two) made gluten-free matcha and pistachio snowballs, and I want to try these so bad. I can only imagine how well the bitter, greeny matcha tastes when in a butter cookie!

Elizabeth from Brooklyn Supper made cardamom orange sugar cookies, and I’m intrigued.  They look delicate and lovely.

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Jes from Whisk and Wanter made these sparkly, adorable girly evergreen cookies. I’m inspired to step up my sugar cookie game after seeing her gorgeous creations!

These super comforting peanut butter and chocolate crinkle cookies from Tieghan @ Half Baked Harvest are a must! The flaky sea salt on the milk chocolate kisses, swoon.

Last year I made some eggnog roll out cookies which were a hit, as well as chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch treats, and Russian teacakes.
The year before, it was honey spice and dark chocolate cookies, among others. You can find links through to years even before that, as well, if you really want to do a deep dive!

The fact that I only made two batches of cookies this year makes me feel like a bit of a loser, ugh. I have to remind myself to step back and enjoy what I can—the holidays are a time to be with family and relax, not worry too much about cooking (this isn’t Thanksgiving, ha!).
Besides, baking in a different (tiny) kitchen can be frustrating.

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Still, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that brings me as much winter cheer as gingerbread, and if there was a single cookie I’d like to make and smell baking in my home, it would be these.
I just love the warm spiciness of gingerbread, whether in a layer or bundt cake or cookies crisp or soft.

These gingerbread cookies are crispy and thin—good for gifting and safe for shipping—and they stay fresh for a long time.
They are made with maple syrup and black pepper for a spicy little twist!
These are very similar to Swedish pepparkakor, or ginger thins—they’re not as dark and spicy as American style gingerbread, but rather a little lighter in color and in the spices added.
I think they’re absolutely addicting and cute, however you choose to decorate them!

 Black Pepper and Maple Syrup Gingerbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Maple Syrup and Black Pepper Gingersnaps
makes ~60 2-inch cookies

ingredients:
3/4 cup (6 ounces) butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (6 ounces) maple syrup
3 cups all-purpose flour

directions:
Cream butter for 2 minutes to soften.
Add in the spices and sugar and cream for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg and vanilla and cream for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the maple syrup.
Beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
Scrape the bowl and add the flours.
Mix on low speed until a dough forms.
Knead once or twice, then wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface and cut shapes as desired.
Place on baking sheets and refrigerate for 15 more minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes, depending on desired level of crispness.
Decorate with royal icing, if desired.

O Tannenbaum

Christmas Tree Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

Christmas Tree Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Let me just say what needs to be said: if you haven’t seen the most recent Carpool Karaoke with Ultimate Diva Mariah Carey, there’s no way that you’re adequately prepared for the holidays. I’ve watched that video at least 5 times. It’s so fun and energetic, and obviously, the song is infectious (in a good way the first 25 times you sing/hum the chorus out loud, then a worse and worse way each successive time your subconscious forces you to sing it).

To be quite honest, I haven’t done much other holiday prep other than that (and baking these cookies to send to my friends!). Since my family moved to NYC, we don’t have a Christmas tree or any of our normal decor (we have a lot more space in our house in the country than this loft in Soho, needless to say).
I’ll be making a Christmas cake closer to the actual date (only 5 days now, gah), but other than that, it looks like a lot of MCAT studying and not too much holiday-ing apart from, of course, spending time with my family.

Christmas Tree Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These sparkly, highlighted Christmas trees were made with my tried-and-true butter cookie dough, which I rolled out extra thin so that they could survive being shipped.  The frosting is an easy royal icing—just whisk together three ingredients.

I decorated my cookies with a little bit of gold luster dust mixed with alcohol, and then I dusted silver luster dust over the whole cookie once it was dry to give it a little sparkle and shine!

These are definitely my go-to holiday cookies. These (and gingersnaps) stay fresh since they’re nice and crispy, so they’re ideal for shipping and gifting—just not to anyone who has braces, ha!

Christmas Tree Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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