Merry Happy

March Hare: A very merry unbirthday. 

Alice: To me? 

Mad Hatter: To you! 

March Hare: A very merry unbirthday. 

Alice: For me? 

Mad Hatter: For you! Now blow the candle out, my dear, and make your wish come true!

March Hare & Mad Hatter: A very merry unbirthday to you!

Today, La Pêche Fraîche turns 1.
That’s right y’all; we’re celebrating a blogiversary right here.  Right now.
And we’re doing it properly: with a very large, opulent cake.

It’s hard for me to believe that one year ago, May 30th, 2012, at 9:11 PM, I first hit publish.
I hit publish and I didn’t know what was going to happen.
I had a blog and I didn’t know what that really meant.
I sent a post into this space, my corner of the internet, and waited.
For what, I had no idea.
Now, 80 posts later, I’m not sure if I have any clearer of an idea.
It’s an interesting experience, to look back on this past year, to browse through the many posts, reminiscing (and cringing).
Many things have changed, some for the better, some the worse.
People have moved in and out of my life; 
things I always took for granted as constants fell away: cliffs sheared off, leaving me teetering on the edge; 
new experiences, new relationships, have nested snugly, precariously, on the crags and crannies left behind; 
triumphs have been trumpeted, flags left proudly waving on distant planets; 
losses have been suffered, sending me cowering in a corner, covered with tears and blood;
I survived even those which I thought I could not.

This has been a year of change, of growth, of progression, of learning.
This blog makes that uncomfortably clear.

Just looking back at some really terribly formatted, I mean really awful, posts and photographs, I cringe, yes, but also laugh and enjoy them, as embarrassed as I feel.
There have been times, I’ll admit it, when I have wanted to go back through and re-format all the oldest posts, but I refrained.  
That’s a rabbit hole which this little girl is most certainly not falling into.
This blog is a reflection of my journey, in life and photography and pastry.

I would rather celebrate and embrace that than change it and sand off all the rough edges.

Those rough edges are, um… charismatic.  Or something.  I don’t know.
Actually, I would really like to sand off those edges.  I just don’t have the time or energy.

Oh and, by the way? Don’t you dare look back at those older posts.  Stay right here.
Eyes on the prize.

So anyways!  Right!  It’s celebration time!
Look!  Cake!
My kind of cake, specifically.  Yep.  Greedy and selfish.  That would be me my tastebuds!

My favorite flavors and components are incorporated into this cake.
It’s a brown sugar and deep, rich chocolate marble cake, filled with a tart, buttery passion fruit curd, generously frosted with a barely sweet and wonderfully tongue-coating Italian meringue buttercream.
The filling and frosting of my choice, as in, my favorites!  Absolute favorites.  I could eat ’em straight.  And I did.
Things are getting real wild, as you can tell.

This is a special cake; it does take a bit of effort and time (this cake took me 4 hours start to finish, which is a long time for me… like a really long time), but it’s worth it.
It’s easy on the eyes and the tastebuds.
It’s a celebration cake, in all senses of the word.

Let me just say…
I am grateful for my family and my friends, those whom I keep so very close to my heart, who support me and kick me in the butt, albeit occasionally unnecessarily.
I am grateful for the chance to blather on and on while standing atop this blog soapbox, to share what I love most in this world (no, not whining.  Pastry.).
I am grateful, above all, for you lovely readers, my dears, mes chéries, because it’s your clicks and comments that keep this blog going; it’s because of you that this blog gives me any sense of satisfaction, and, honestly, it’s for you.  
This blog is for you.
Bon anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!  
Et mes chers lecteurs, je vous remercie de tout coeur.
Je vous adore.
Je vraiment vous adore.
My Kind of Cake
for the brown sugar marble cake:
adapted from Food and Wine
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
2 splashes vanilla extract
6 ounces (12 tablespoons, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups tightly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
2 ounces very good quality unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pam spray 4 6-inch cake pans (or 2 9-inch, or 3 8-inch).
Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together.  
Mix milk and vanilla extract.
Cream butter until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the sugar.
Cream for 2 more minutes, until super fluffy and smooth- not gritty.
Add in the eggs one at a time, while mixing on low.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low after adding all the eggs.
With the mixer on low, simultaneously add the milk mixture and the dry ingredients- go slow.
Once everything is mixed, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low again to ensure homogeneity.
Split the batter in two- by weight, you should have one half with 1 pound 5.5 ounces to which you will add the 4 ounces of chocolate.  By volume, measure out approximately 2 cups.
Stir in the melted chocolate into the batter that you just measured out.
Alternate placing scoops of the vanilla and chocolate batters into your pans; once all the batter is portioned out, swirl it well with a fork.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a paring knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

for the passion fruit curd:
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
55 g sugar
80 g passion fruit purée, thawed if frozen
pinch salt
56 g butter (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces)
Blend the eggs, sugar, salt, and passion fruit together, either in a standard blender or with an immersion blender. 
Transfer to a pot (if using a standard blender, clean the blender canister).
Place over medium high heat and cook, whisking (or blending, should you have a stick blender) all the while.
Cook for about 6 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and blend in butter (transfer to the cleaned blender canister and add the butter and blend, if using a standard blender).  
Allow to cool completely before using.
for the vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream:
from Joe Pastry: click through for an in depth tutorial
5 ounces of egg whites (about 5)
8.75 ounces of sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
2 ounces water
16 ounces (4 sticks, 32 tablespoons, 1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened but still cool
Mix the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until foamy.  
Add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks begin to form.  
Slowly stream in 1.75 ounces of sugar, mixed with the vanilla bean scrapings.  
Beat on high until stiff peaks form.  
Stop the mixer.
Meanwhile, mix the water and remaining 7 ounces of sugar together in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. 
Use a candy thermometer, and bring the syrup to 245 degrees F.
Remove from heat and pour into a glass mixing cup.  
Drizzle some of the syrup over the meringue, then whip on high speed for 5 seconds.
Continue in bursts like this until all of the syrup is used up.
Whip the meringue until it has cooled to room temperature (feel the side of the bowl for an indicator).
One tablespoon at a time, beat in the butter. 
Mixture may curdle and look separated; keep beating.  
It will come together, usually quite suddenly, and you will be staring into a bowl of the fluffiest, most delicious frosting ever.  
It will be shiny and smooth.  
There should be no butter lumps and everything should be homogeneous.
to assemble:
Torte (level) each layer with a serrated knife to create a nice, smooth, flat top.
Place a cake layer on your cake stand.
Pipe buttercream around the edge of the layer to create a dam.
Fill the center of the layer with a scant 1/4 cup curd, then place the next layer on top of that.
Pipe another dam and repeat with second and third layers.  
Place the fourth layer on top, and crumb coat the cake.
Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Use the rest of the frosting to create a smooth, even outer coat.

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