Everything But

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Anaïs Nin, Henry and June

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Where to start with this carrot cake…

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

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Healthy Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Je Dépars

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.”

—Joan Didion, from Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This is where I say farewell.
Where I blow a kiss to the sparkling, blinking city lights that create a starry night all on their own.
Wave to the hustle and flow; the life that pulses, steady and indefatigable, through every street and avenue alike.
Bid adieu to the City of New York and watch as it shrinks to a speck in the rearview mirror.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Ten weeks flew by faster than I thought possible.
They also trudged along very slowly, slower than I thought possible.
Hindsight makes this paradox possible.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC at a great job, play acting an adult.
But I was ready to come home.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Stepping out of the car into the lush greenery was just as refreshing as I had hoped.
The air is so clean and fresh and green smelling here.
The water tastes very different, and will hopefully do good things for my messy mop of hair.
The sounds of night are crickets and birds and rustling leaves, instead of honking and screeching and the steady drone of AC.
It’s very cool in Ithaca right now, which is the cherry on top of leaving the hot, gritty city to come home.
Low humidity with a breeze that elicits just the slightest shiver in the evenings.  Heavenly.

I get to see Gwen, whom I hadn’t seen in what felt like years and what was certainly far too long.
I could not be happier to see my best friend, my soul sister, my forever.
It makes home that much sweeter.
In fact, she is, intractably, a part of my very definition of home.

I finally got to see my pup, too, who is no longer really a pup but a very old, creaky dog but who will always be my puppy.
Again, it had been too long.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I’m sharing a giant cookie here today—other than a quick loaf of banana bread, the last thing I baked in New York City.
A skillet cookie, if you will, but it’s made in a cake pan because I didn’t have a skillet and all it really requires is something round.

A buttery, soft cookie dough, heavily spiced with cinnamon and generously studded with dark chocolate chunks is pressed into a round and baked until the center is just barely set and the edges are golden brown.
You can slice it into pretty little cookie bars, or you can scoop some vanilla ice cream over it while it’s hot and go to town with a few friends.
Either way, it’s all the simple pleasures of chocolate chip cookies, just in a more convenient and quick form.
(Seriously, no scooping and freezing? Sign me up.)

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This would be good with any kind of mix-in, not just chocolate chips and cinnamon.
Take out the aforementioned spice and chips and add in a heaping handful M&Ms for a classic skillet cookie.
Brown the butter, add some rosemary and white chocolate chips for an herby, intriguing twist.
Keep the cinnamon and chips, lose a 1/4 cup of flour and throw in some raisins and a 1/4 cup of oats (if you’re like me and love raisins).  If you do this be sure to include a disclaimer while serving, or there will almost certainly be friends feeling betrayed.

Let your imagination go wild.
It’s just a giant cookie, AKA an endlessly customizable canvas for whatever your particular cravings may be.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

makes 1 9- or 10-inch cookie
ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup, 8 ounces) butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
200 grams (1 cup) brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an oven-proof cake pan or skillet.
Cream butter and sugars together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla extract and salt.
Beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda on top.
Slowly stir to incorporate.
When homogeneous, mix vigorously for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in the chocolate chunks and press the dough into the skillet.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until set and golden brown (careful not to overbake).
Slice as desired and serve with vanilla ice cream or chocolate ganache.

Stardust

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“If you came to me with a face I have not seen, with a name I have never heard, I would still know you.
Even if centuries separated us, I would still feel you.
Somewhere between the sand and the stardust, through every collapse and creation,
there is a pulse that echoes of you and I.

When we leave this world, we give up all our possessions and our memories.
Love is the only thing we take with us.
It is the only thing we carry from one life to the next.”

—Lang Leav

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My parents have been married for 29 years today,
and they have been best friends for even longer than that.

They have given me everything I have and taught me (most) everything I know.
Everything practical, at least.
Importantly, my parents have both taught me patience and forgiveness and understanding—each in their own unique way.
It takes patience to cultivate a relationship with someone that can last as long as theirs has.
(There has to be a Modern Love column about this…)

I can’t help but marvel at how much longer they have known each other than I have known them (or they, me).
How much better they must know one another than I know them, and in such a different light.

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

29 years, 4 kids, 3 (4?) cities, 2 dogs, 2 cats, x gray hairs

I feel as though a year is this significant passing of time—I feel like my own relationship has grown and matured and deepened in color in just a handful of months…
I cannot fathom 29 years.  It is a testament.
It is humbling and a reminder that good things are worth working and waiting for.
I am so incredibly proud to be the product of my parent’s marriage.
I am so incredibly grateful for my parents love and dedication, to one another and to their family.
No one said it was easy, but I think they’ve done a damn good job.  Not that I’m biased or anything.

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This drippy, caramel-drenched cake was a true delight to make, decorate, and eat.
I’m posting it very late (I made this in… April?) because it’s a goody and it needed something special to be shared with.

And yes, while my parents can’t try this cake, even if I had made it yesterday, this way, they know I’m thinking of them while they get to spend their day relatively unbothered by their pesky daughter—I’ll let them have this special day mostly to themselves, I guess.
(Read: was I texting my dad at 2:30 AM last night?  Maybe…  Was he super thrilled?  Uhhhh. No. Did he respond? You betcha. Fewer annoying texts today, I promise. Love you Daddy!)

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The sum of this simple cake is much greater than the parts.
Just three components—all basic ingredients that you probably have in your pantry at this very moment—and a cake worthy of any celebration is born.

The base is my go-to, perfect vanilla cake, with a soft, dense crumb, wonderfully buttery, eggy, and sweet.
It’s paired with fluffy, tangy cream cheese frosting, sweet and uncomplicated and classic.
The whole thing is completely Pollack’ed with lashings of dark amber caramel hit with a generous dose of sea salt.
The cake is topped off with almond sanding sugar and gold luster dust, for a sparkly, starry finish.

I love cream cheese + caramel, because I find the sweetness and tanginess of the cream cheese is tempered by the complexity of the caramel.
A bite of this cake is soft and creamy and unfussily delicious.
You can’t go wrong with this much salted caramel.
You just can’t.

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy anniversary, guys.
You’re my favorite humans—I love you!

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Cream Cheese and Salted Caramel Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (1 stick) butter, soft
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
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the 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

for the frosting:
170 grams (6 ounces) cream cheese, soft
220 grams (1 cup) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
360 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) half and half, as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to decorate:
almond sugar
gold luster dust

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 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.
To make the caramel, heat the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt together over medium heat, whisking at the beginning just until they dissolve.
Stop stirring and allow to caramelize into an amber color (about 5 minutes), then remove from heat and quickly whisk in butter and cream, being careful of the splattering.
Whisk until completely smooth, then allow to cool before using.
To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese on high speed with the salt for 4 minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar and stir on medium speed while adding in the half and half and vanilla slowly (half and half as needed).
Beat on high speed until very fluffy and light, about 5 minutes.
To assemble the cake, stack layers with a thick coat of cream cheese, drizzling each with caramel as you go.
Decorate the top as is, dusting with gold luster dust and sprinkling with sanding sugar, if desired.

Raw

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This life will hit you, hard.
In the face.
Wait for you to get back up
just so it can kick you in the stomach.
But getting the wind knocked out of you
is the only way to remind your lungs
how much they like the taste of air.

If I should have a daughter, Sarah Kay

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

May is busy, busy for so many reasons.
It’s always an overwhelming month.
Lord knows, I have a lot to get done in May this year (even more so than past years).
Although, if I’m being honest, I can’t very well expect June or July to be any less busy.
Maybe September?  When I turn 2-0 and am one year closer to adulthood and will therefore automatically have my shit together and ship sailing smooth with no cares or worries, just success and an easy life, right?
Maybe September will be less busy.

A girl can dream.

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My father astutely pointed out the other day that I need a personal assistant.  He’s probably right.

I need someone to take my dry cleaning in (it’s more than a month old, now) and take my recycling out and vacuum my rug and do my laundry and go grocery shopping for me.
To pick up some advil and an extra blanket and inserts for my heels.  To buy flowers for my desk and water my tiny cacti.
To roast some sweet potatoes for dinner and figure out why the water filter tastes so… funny.
A real glamour job.  Any takers?

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, today I have an adorable little cake.
This post has been a long time coming, but I haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and write it.
(Although I could write out all the chemical mechanisms of cellular metabolism…)

Cookie dough ice cream was always my favorite as a kid—I loved the little chewy pieces, and it had just the right amount of chocolate.
I wanted to take some of those flavors—creamy vanilla, a touch of chocolate, and addictive cookie dough—and put them in a cake.

This cake is 3 layers of soft, fluffy yellow cake studded with mini chocolate chips.  It’s filled with rich vanilla American buttercream with pockets of safe-to-eat salty-sweet cookie dough scattered throughout, filled with brown sugar and more mini chocolate chips.
The top is finished off with little cookie dough truffles, which are dangerously poppable.

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake has just the right balance—not too much frosting, not too much cookie dough, a hint of salt to even out the sugar.
The cake base is incredibly moist and sturdy and will stay that way for a few days.
The buttercream crusts ever so slightly, giving it a very birthday-cakesque texture.
The cookie dough… well, it’s raw cookie dough, people.  It’s addictive and totally amazing.
Ok, that’s all for now: I’ll leave you with the recipes!

P.S. The pop-up that I hosted last week made $340 for the ASPCA!  Yay for puppies! Yay for cake!

Cookie Dough Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake
makes 1 3×6 inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
113 grams (1 stick) butter, soft
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
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

for the cookie dough:
113 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
105 grams (1/2 cup) light brown sugar, packed
45 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3- 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

for the frosting:
220 grams (1 cup) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
360 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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 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 and scatter the mini chocolate chips all over.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the cookie dough: beat butter with salt on high for 3 minutes to ensure no lumps.
Add in the brown sugar and beat for 5 full minutes until very fluffy and light colored.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour and powdered sugar; as you stir, add the vanilla and cream.
Once the mixture comes together, beat for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Set aside half of the dough for the inside of the cake, then make the rest into little round balls.
To make the frosting, beat the butter on high speed with the salt for 4 minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar and slowly stir while adding in the half and half and vanilla.
Beat on high speed until very fluffy and light, about 5 minutes.
To assemble the cake, spread a thin layer of frosting over each layer of cake, and crumble the reserved cookie dough all over (make sure to be generous!).
Smooth the top of the cake and frost as desired, then top with the little cookie dough truffles.
Serve in generous wedges with milk!

Pure Comfort

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Hagrid

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Some notes:

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

CASA x Theta!

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Seriously, guys—how important and special is that?

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

CASA Cupcakes | La Pêche Fraîche

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

xx

It Ain’t Broke

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist.
Keep fighting.
Keep loving.

—Leah Wilson

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

How is winter treating you lately?

We’ve had a string of not-so-terrible days, so mild, in fact, that parkas are forgotten, gloves and hats stripped off and left behind, where the prospect of a fresh salad for dinner doesn’t seem nearly as cold and uninviting of an idea as before.

I mean, gosh, 40 degrees F—anyone up for iced coffee?

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Actually, I’m still off of caffeine, miraculously.
In fact, I’ve used more caffeine in my Organic Chemistry lab experiments than I have actually consumed over these last few months.
Last July, I went off of coffee—I was drinking too much of it, and still feeling tired every day.
The transition was unpleasant (migraines, vomiting, etc.), but luckily for me, it was summer.  Sleeping until 12 wasn’t so big of a deal after all—and how can one really be grumpy when it’s sunny and warm?
(Don’t ask my parents, because they’ll tell you I was plenty grumpy sometimes…)

This December, I went completely off of caffeine—no black or green tea, no diet coke.
I’m still feeling fairly fresh in the mornings.  I think my body has transitioned well; not having that extra boost definitely pushes me to get more sleep, which is never a bad thing.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

So even though I sleep like a baby without the interference of the caffeine fairy who so conveniently likes to flit around right when you try to go to sleep, there is one thing that keeps me up at night:

N can’t eat anything that I make, since he’s lactose intolerant.

Life without butter and cheese is sad indeed (although that being said, he can eat truly prodigious amounts of food and not worry about the accumulation of a single ounce of fat, so don’t feel too bad for the kid…); but I daresay it might be worse if your girlfriend is, allegedly, some fanatic pastry blogger, and yet you never get to see even a single thing that comes out of her kitchen.

(Save for this cake that I made with him in mind, of course.)

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

So I made him cookies that he could enjoy without worry.
I went for the classics, because, honestly, there is no better cookie than a soft, still-warm chocolate chip.
(He can’t dunk them in milk, though! GAhhhh.)

These cookies are soft on the inside, but crisp on the bottoms; they’re rich and full of texture and flavor.
Made with plenty of brown sugar and rice-milk based chocolate chips, with Earth Balance and a hit of salt.
They’re everything you want chocolate chip cookies to be, just without the dairy.
The secret is to underbake them, and let them settle into little pillows of perfection.
I made them tiny, because it means you can eat 9 of them without a second thought, obviously.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Note: these cookies can easily be made with real butter and dairy-full chocolate chips.
But since you can eat dairy, might I suggest this divine, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread?
Or these softbatch peppermint cookies with buttery chocolate frosting?
Or even these extra-intense brown butter chocolate chip cookies, fat and fluffy and the opposite of dairy free?
Or dairy-full vanilla and chocolate roll-outs in the shape of dairy cows? (Mooo.)

Back soon (with butter)!

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 36 small cookies

ingredients:
113 grams (4 ounces, 8 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks (or other dairy-free butter sticks)
75 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) white sugar
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons, packed) brown sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I use RiceDream brand)

directions:
Place Earth Balance in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 full minutes.
Add in the white sugar, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and scrape the bowl; beat for 4 full minutes until fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl, add in vanilla extract and egg and beat for 4 more minutes (set a timer) until very light colored and glossy.
Scrape the bowl and add in the flour and, on top of the flour, the baking soda.
Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until dough comes together; it should be thick and require a little elbow grease.
At this point, taste, and if it needs more salt, sprinkle another 1/4 teaspoon over the top of the dough and either use your mixer or spoon to fully beat the dough.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Portion out in 2 tablespoon scoops onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Freeze for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Space cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the sheets and bake for 9 minutes; they will look puffy and still a little underbaked.
Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Serve with a cold glass of (almond) milk!

Just Like You

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“There’s no one just like you,” she said.
“That’s why we need to celebrate.”

—Karen Kingsbury
FAME

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”

—Julia Child

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

A birthday without cake is just another dreary day.
A birthday without cake, loves, is not a birthday at all.

Birthdays are for cakes.
(Note: cakes are definitely not only for birthdays, however.)

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m slowly curating the birthday cakes of my roommates (Daly’s birthday is 3 days before mine, so it always happens before we get to school, but a half birthday, perhaps?).
Alexa will love this—it tickles me pink how much she loves her birthday posts.  She also, for the record, loves pink.

Just for reference, here’s Alexa’s cake from last year, and the one from this year.

Dunno if I can possibly link back to that caramel popcorn cake one more time, but oh well.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

But this is a birthday cake (and post) for a girl who loves the color mint and Paris, soy lattes and Back to the Future, the Old Major sandwich at Z&H and puppies.
Who embodies the Duchess Kate Middleton and has the most brilliant hair and sleeps like Sleeping Beauty (yes, that deeply).

The one who inspired these whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies with her love of Starbucks.

Betsszzyyyy!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Elizabeth made it through 2 decades of life.

Obviously, we needed to celebrate with a very big, very chocolaty cake.
Thing is, her birthday was the day after we got back from winter break!  So I hadn’t prepared anything (usually I’ll bake the layers a day ahead or something along those lines, since the days can get so excitingly monotonously busy around here) the day of.
Still, I poked around in my kitchen for ~2 seconds and knew exactly what I had to make her.

A cake tailored to a few of her favorite things.
A cake just like her.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is really easy, and miraculously fast.
I had it imagined, made, decorated, and photographed within 2 and a half hours.  Not too bad, especially when you consider that the photography took longer than any of the other processes.

The cake itself is a springy dark chocolate and coffee—mocha—cake.  It’s soft and feels light yet rich at the same time, with a good balance of sweet and bitter from the coffee and cocoa.
It’s a one bowl, one whisk, and one measuring cup kind of recipe, perfect when you need a cake, stat!

The frosting is a Nutella Italian meringue buttercream, so conceived because I had no confectioner’s sugar but lots and lots of bittersweet chocolate.
It’s impossibly light and buttery while still maintaining plenty of chocolate flavor, which I always find is missing in chocolate egg-based buttercreams.
First, a plain Italian meringue buttercream is whipped up, one big glossy cloud.  Then heaps of cooled chocolate get whisked in, and a fair dollop of Nutella, too.
The color change is mesmerizing: from the palest yellow to a red-brown cocoa.

The end result is seriously amazing.
It’s salty and sweet, chocolaty and a little bit nutty.
Italian meringue buttercreams are so silky—they pair perfectly with a cake that has a soft, tight crumb.

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

 This is a cake that’s perfect for a birthday.
It’s fun (sprinkles!), has flavors that everyone will like, and makes the right size cake for sharing with friends.

It frosts like a dream and will look impressive no matter how you decide to finish it up—just don’t forget the candles.

But seriously—don’t the adorable candles on this cake practically beg for extra sprinkles?!

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy belated birthday, Elizabeth darling.
xx

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3-layer, 6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the mocha cake:
1 2/3 cups (190 grams) flour
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder
1 5/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5/8 cup (200 mL) buttermilk (or milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup (120 mL) coffee (or hot water plus 1 tablespoon espresso powder)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (105 mL) vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

for the Nutella Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 mL) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) unsalted butter, soft but cool
8 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (~120 grams(?)) nutella

sprinkles, for decorating

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Whisk buttermilk, oil, coffee, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then whisk wet ingredients into dry.
Portion batter out evenly into pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out nearly clean and the cakes are springy to the touch.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the icing: 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.
Slowly add in the cooled chocolate while whipping, then add in the Nutella.
Scrape the bowl and whip for another minute to ensure homogeneity.
Frost cooled cake as desired, and add sprinkles!

Crunchy

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

—John Lennon

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Welcome, brand new baby year, fresh and bright white and snow covered.
Welcome, welcome 2015!!

(I’m back in Chicago, and it’s snowing a fair amount.
Class starts tomorrow.
It’s going to be below 0 deg F on Wednesday.
Le sigh.)

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

My mama loves granola.  She eats it for breakfast almost every day.
My mama is *ahem* particular about her granola.  She likes maybe one out of every 5 she tries.

So before I left to come back to school, I made a whole bunch of simple, healthy granola for my mom.
Heaps of oats, plenty of maple syrup, rich and buttery coconut oil, a hint of spice.

This batch fills up an entire large canister of rolled oats, and it uses about half of one, so it’s a perfect way to finish off the jar floating around your pantry.

It’s utterly delicious with cold milk—cow’s or otherwise (I recently tried hazelnut-almond-cashew and fell in love)—and fresh raspberries or strawberries, difficult as they are to source in the depths of winter.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

This granola is crunchy, sweet, with a whisper of salt.
It’s toasty and full of almonds and coconut.
It’s simple—a hint of cinnamon, maple syrup to sweeten, and that’s pretty much it.
It’s vegan and gluten-free if you want it to be—just make sure all your ingredients are certified vegan or GF either way.

It’s super easy to customize: add a tablespoon of vanilla extract or replace the almonds with hazelnuts or pecans, use coconut chunks or chips instead of flakes, toss in dried mango or raisins or cranberries or banana chips.

Anyways, this is meant to be a nourishing first post of 2015 (!) but also a short one, as I have to unpack and settle into our little home here in Chiberia.

Granola | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond Coconut Granola
gluten-free, vegan
makes ~6 cups of granola

ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats (certified GF if necessary)
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (or use unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or ghee)

directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir oats, almonds, and coconut together.
Stir salt, maple syrup, and coconut oil together, then pour wet ingredients over and stir with a spoon until all is coated.
Spread oats out onto baking sheets and tamp down lightly to pack.
Bake for 15 minutes, then lightly stir with a spatula and rotate sheets.
Bake for 15 more minutes, then stir and rotate again.
Bake for 10-15 more minutes, until evenly and lightly browned and toasted.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheets.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.