Douze x Deux

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Every tick-tock is a second of life that passes by, that flees never to repeat itself.
And it holds such intensity, such interest that the only problem is knowing how to live.
May each person solve it as best they can.

—Frida Kahlo

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Welcome to my 24th (12×2=) birthday post.
Unfortunately, it’s coming on a Monday, which means that last night, the Sunday Scaries were particularly demonic and frightful.
We watched Tootsie to combat them. (“Don’t bother. It’s cheaper to get mugged. Let’s walk.”) Such a fun movie!

Although I am suffering (suffering) through 3 metabolism lectures today, my parents are both in town and we’re going to try to go to Olmsted (Mondays are walk-in only) with my grandma for dinner. Fingers crossed!
I’ve been lucky to knock quite a few restaurants off my to-try list this weekend, and Olmsted has long been on it.

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This weekend was the real birthday celebration.
On Friday, I had my second exam and promptly ran home to greet N as he arrived from the airport. Best gift ever.
That evening, dressed up and absolutely ravenous, we headed out to the West Village in pursuit of Italian food. Via Carota, sadly, quoted us a 4 hour wait. Um. Yeah. New York, I love you but I HATE YOU.
We trudged over, only slightly put out, to its older sister restaurant, I Sodi.
Ready to be disappointed, thumbs hovering over our Postmates apps, we inquired about the wait and were instead told to please come sit down. What a stroke of luck!
We feasted on fried baby artichokes, fatty burrata with tiny, sweet cherry tomatoes, the branzino for him and dreamy lemon pappardelle for me, all served alongside jealous looks from other forlorn, hungry, waiting patrons.

Saturday night, a few of my friends joined us at Chinese Tuxedo, a buzzy, contemporary Cantonese joint on Doyers Street that’s in a converted opera house (me? dramatic on my birthday? no, no, never).
Standout dishes of the night, in my opinion: the deep-fried baby eggplant in a sticky-sweet glaze and the (also deep-fried) churro-like youtiao bread with straight-up melted butter as the dip. Paula Deen could never, y’all.
Peachy’s (so on brand for me), downstairs, lit by a neon pink “there’s no town like Chinatown” sign, provided after-dinner drinks for a growing crowd of friends, and after a quick spin around the dancefloor of Pulqueria next door, the two of us collapsed happily and drunkenly (the latter, mostly me) into bed.

Sunday morning found us, a bit groggy and crusty and hungover, at Davelle in the LES with my mama for the cutest Japanese-style Hokkaido milk bread toasts and Katsu curry and noodles. My oatmilk matcha definitely benefited from a packet of sugar, but I will be dreaming of the toasty, crunchy outside and soft, chewy inside of the cinnamon sugar toast for weeks to come.
We went to a couple quintessentially LES establishments, which is to say a store that sold only pencils and a store that sold only socks. Yay, New York, you are so dumb and I love you again.
In the early evening, we hung out and ate grilled tacos and watermelon on N’s cousin’s rooftop in the UES. The view was nothing short of incredible and the weather was perfectly behaved.

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This year’s pavlova is a reimagined peach pie.

The base is a crisp and marshmallow-y meringue, one that melts in your mouth but avoids cracks in the oven thanks to a low and slow bake and a full drying in the oven overnight.
Layered on top of it are a thin swipe of buttery lemon cream curd and a puff of unsweetened, salted whipped cream, critical to be able to balance out the peaches and meringue, both of which are sugary sweet.
Soft and juicy brown sugar bourbon poached peaches infused with vanilla beans and lemon rind nestle gently on top, and crunchy, salty, buttery, addictive pie crumb (Christina Tosi, you genius) finishes it off.

Each bite is a full story in texture and flavor.
It’s exactly the cake I wanted when I blearily wrote “peach pie pavlova” on my recipe ideas list over a year ago.

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This recipe is admittedly very, very long. To be frank, it is about as easy as pie. Ha ha ha.
Each of the components is made separately and then thrown together right before eating.
The combination is certainly worth it, but I’ll be honest: the showstopper part of this dessert is the peaches + pie crumb. Having just those and some vanilla ice cream would be a divine dessert.
If you had the wherewithal to actual can/preserve the peaches, cracking open a jar of summer sunshine in the middle of dreary winter would be your ample reward.

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Thank you for indulging me in celebrating today and spending time here on LPF.
x

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthdays, previously:

23
22
21
20
18

Peach Pie Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Peach Pie Pavlova
makes 1 6-inch 2 layer pavlova
pie crumb portion from Momofuku Milk Bar
poached peach portion adapted from Food52

ingredients:
for the meringue shell:
4 egg whites
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vinegar

for the lemon curd:
2 egg yolks
65 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
40 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) lemon juice
pinch salt
70 grams (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

for the pie crumb:
120 grams (1 cup) flour
10 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
60 grams (4 tablespoons, 1/2 stick) butter, melted
10 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) water

for the poached peaches:
3 yellow peaches
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
240 grams (1 cup) water
50 grams (1/4 cup) bourbon (or sub white wine or more water)
3 strips of lemon rind (about half a lemon)
whole vanilla beans, optional

to assemble:
240 grams (1 cup, 240 mL) heavy cream, cold
big pinch salt

directions:
Make the pavlova shell: preheat oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheets with parchment; draw 2 6-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, tapioca (or corn) starch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Whip the vinegar into the meringue.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides, and piping extra decoration if desired.
Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees F, then turn down the oven to warm (or its lowest setting) and leave overnight, or until light and crisp and completely dry.

Make the lemon curd: place lemon juice, zest, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a bain-marie (a bowl over a simmering pot of water).
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Allow to cool completely before using.

Make the pie crumb: preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until homogeneous.
Add melted butter and water and mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
Spread the clusters on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, breaking them up occasionally.
The crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
Let the crumbs cool completely.

Make the poached peaches: place water, bourbon, and sugar in a heavy pot and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Bring the mixture to a boil, boil for 5 minutes, and reduce the heat to barely simmering.
Cut the peaches in half and remove pits.
Gently place the peach halves cut side down into the syrup.
Poach for about 3 minutes and then gently turn over using a slotted spoon.
Continue poaching for an additional 3—4 minutes, until soft (cooking time will depend on ripeness of peaches).
Carefully prick the cut side of the peaches to check for tenderness (if they are not tender, turn them over and poach for another 4 minutes. Mine took over 10 minutes total).
Remove the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon (save the syrup for cocktails and other fun things!).
When cool enough to handle, slide the skins off and discard.
Chop peaches roughly, and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble, whip cold cream with a big pinch of salt.
Place meringue shell down on a place and top with half of the lemon curd.
Spread half of the whipped cream generously on top, making a shallow divot in the middle.
Spoon the poached peaches over the whipped cream.
Sprinkle a few tablespoons of pie crumbs over the peaches.
Top with the second meringue shell and repeat: lemon curd, whipped cream, peaches, pie crumb.
Serve within an hour or two.
Leftovers will sadly not keep that well—but components can be kept separately in the fridge!

Look, Listen

“Toxic masculinity ruins the party again.”

—Karen Kilgariff

What’s UP everyone?!
Boy, has my life changed since I was last posting here.
I’ve officially started school at NYU med, and I’m on my way to being a baby doctor. My first exam is this Friday, actually, which almost seems too impossible to be true.
I feel like a cartoon character when they grab a moving vehicle but most of their body stays put and they streeeeetch out. Everything is going so dang fast!

I am working on staying in a state of gratitude in order to crowd out the stress. It is, um, kind of working?
I dunno. It’s so hard to center yourself on thankfulness and counting your blessings when you’re studying all the time. And I’m not even in the HARD part of school yet. I’m in the easy-baby-we-already-studied-this-in-undergrad part. Which is terrifying me, I’ll be honest.

Only time will tell how this goes. Once I come to terms with that, I think I will be more calm. Ha. Hahaha.

Some of you may be aware of how obsessed I am with true crime, especially podcasts. I mean, who isn’t these days?
I love to listen to podcasts as I find it very calming and relaxing to hear other people speaking and not have to participate myself. Don’t ask me why the murder and violent crime subjects don’t make it any less relaxing for me. [Whispers: psychopathy]
On my constant rotation are My Favorite Murder, Crime Junkie, Small Town Murder, and lately, The Clearing.
(Obviously, I am also addicted to Mindhunter. I blew through the new season in record time. UGH!!! I need more.)

Primarily though, I consider myself a Crime Junkie and Murderino. I stay true to my favorite ladies.
I like to listen to the rapport between them, and though I like the two pods for different reasons, MFM can always make me crack a smile.
It is comforting that Karen and Georgia are open and honest about mental health, anxiety, and therapy. I feel like every fan ever says that, but it’s so true. Any act of normalization of mental health is welcome and frankly, still rare.
I need to get up my courage to write in a hometown murder and send them a picture of this cake!

If anyone has any other podcast or true crime recommendations, I’m all ears.

I was in the mood to make a whimsical cake, and now that MFM is back from a much-deserved but torturously long summer vacation, this inspiration struck me.

There were many good quotes to choose from (I mean, that’s kind of the whole schtick), but it was just my dad’s birthday, and this is one of the top 3 anyways, so here we are.
I will admit that “here’s the thing: fuck everyone” would have also been amazing and maybe will go on a future cake…

The cake itself is simple in a pleasant way: a classic yellow sheet cake, dense and moist and pleasantly sweet, with hints of vanilla and almond is topped with a tangy, rich cream cheese frosting, also lightly fragranced with almond extract.
Sprinkles and some decoration and you’ve got yourself a quick, easy, party cake!
Vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting is a pretty solid way to please most everyone.

Side bar, LORD does my cake writing need serious amelioration. What is up with my wonky letters????
I felt like a kindergartener writing this.

Remember folks, STAY SEXY AND DON’T GET MURDERED!

Classic Yellow Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
cake portion lightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

ingredients:
for the yellow cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
220 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, fully at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract, optional
80 grams buttermilk or sour cream, fully at room temperature
3 eggs, fully at room temperature

for the cream cheese frosting:
330 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but cool
400 grams (3 1/3 cups) powdered sugar (may need up to 2/3 of a cup more)
generous pinch salt
175 grams (6 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon clear almond extract, optional
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream or half and half (or milk)
sprinkles, as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×13″ baking pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
Whisk vanilla and almond extracts with buttermilk and eggs; set aside.
Beat butter on high for at least 4 minutes (set a timer!), until light and fluffy and doubled in volume.
Add in roughly 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat on high again.
Add in another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and with the mixer running, stream in 1/2 of the wet mixture.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
Again, with the mixer running as the dry ingredients incorporate, pour in the final 1/2 of the wet mixture.
Scrape the sides of the bowl again and beat briefly to ensure homogeneity.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, testing for doneness at 25 minutes (a tester should come out with only a few moist crumbs, and/or the internal temperature should be between 202 and 210 degrees F).
Allow to cool completely.
Make the cream cheese frosting: whip butter and salt on high speed until doubled in volume and lightened in color.
Add the powdered sugar and almond extract, and incorporate slowly, increasing speed when the powdered sugar is fully incorporated.
Add the cream cheese and whip until incorporated, about 45 seconds.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add cream in 1 tablespoon increments, as needed (I recommend starting very slowly since cream cheese frosting can go runny quickly).
Whip on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Spread frosting onto fully cooled cake and decorate as desired.

Fruits De La Ronce

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Pour me plaindre ou m’aimer je ne cherche personne;
J’ai planté l’arbre amer dont la sève empoisonne.
Je savais, je devais savoir quel fruit affreux
Naît d’une ronce aride au piquant douloureux.
Je saigne. Je me tais. Je regarde sans larmes
Des yeux pour qui mes pleurs auraient de si doux charmes.

Dans le fond de mon coeur je renferme mon sort,
Et mon étonnement, et mes cris, et ma mort.
Oui ! Je veux bien mourir d’une flèche honteuse,
Mais sauvez-moi, mon Dieu ! De la pitié menteuse.
Oh ! La pitié qui ment ! Oh ! Les perfides bras
Valent moins qu’une tombe à l’abri des ingrats.

—Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, La Ronce

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m not looking for anyone to pity or love me;
I planted the bitter tree with poisonous sap.
I knew—I had to have known—which frightful fruit
is born from a barren briar, painfully sharp.
I bleed. I am silent. I look tearlessly
into eyes for which my tears would be such sweet charms.

In the depths of my heart I enclose my plight,
And my astonishment, and my cries, and my death.
Yes ! I’d die of a shameful arrow,
But save me, my God ! From false pity.
Oh ! Pity that lies ! Oh ! Treacherous arms
Are worth less than a grave safe from the ungrateful.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

What a dramatique way to open a blog post, non?!
Well it’s been long enough that a good entrée is needed.
July is closing, and we enter the dog days of summer now. It was a long, busy month, with travels both pleasant and unpleasant, and time spent with dear ones and not-so-dear ones.
Is this a subtweet in the form of a salty blog post? Maybe.

ANYWAYS, Nati and I had a lovely time in Québec at the beginning of the month: we went to Montréal and Québec City. Lucky for us it was right as a heatwave hit, so we didn’t get the relief from sticky city summer until it passed. Yech.
I am impatiently waiting for our disposable cameras to hurry up and get developed by now. I mean my god, it takes 3 weeks! Did you know that? What a terrible tease.

In spite of my incessant going on about sunscreen and sun protection, a course of antibiotics and a day on the Southampton beaches last weekend has me sporting a truly god-awful sunburnt/tanned back, with quite possibly the most ludicrous tan lines of my life.
Woe is me.

Finally, I am on the cusp of my third move in the last 2 months (Friday!).
So. Much. Mind. Numbing. Packing. I haven’t the slightest idea how all of this stuff fit in my old apartment. I’ve managed to tetris together all of my kitchen stuff into… 6-ish boxes.
Cake stands really take up a lot of room. My beloved KitchenAid will have to be hand-carried on the subway, since I am not packing that heavy beast into a flimsy cardboard box. Ha.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today I’m sharing a simple summer cake, designed to bake quickly and highlight seasonal berries. It has a luscious, dense base made with brown sugar and yogurt, giving it a rich and balanced bite.
Brown sugar helps to retain some moisture, while giving a mild caramel flavor to the cake. A high ratio of butter means the edges crisp up in a fluted tart pan. The yogurt grounds everything with satisfying tang the way buttermilk would, but with more body.
Freeze-dried raspberries act as Nature’s sprinkles inside the cake, and the top is studded with fruits of those thorniest of briars: juicy fat blackberries and tart minxy raspberries.
A sprinkle of raw sugar and a quick spin round the oven, and a quick and easy and utterly delightful snacking cake is born.
I like to use a fluted tart pan here for those lush edges, but you could easily use a round one, or even perhaps an 8″x8″.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

You can really adapt this recipe in a million and one different ways, all to good results as long as you follow ratios and temperature.
Other mix-ins that would be welcome could be the zest of a lemon and the juice of half of it alongside a half punnet or so of blueberries.
Some halved apricots on top and a handful of chopped pistachios in the batter would be wonderful as well.
I think you could make cherries or peaches work as well, as long as they weren’t too juicy.
I needn’t even say this, but chocolate chunks would also be lovely in this—and most any—recipe.

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake
makes 1 loaf or 9-inch round single layer cake

ingredients:
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
142 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, 10 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
215 grams (7.5 ounces, 1 2/3 cup fluffed and spooned) flour
140 grams (5 ounces, 2/3 cup) plain yogurt
1 pint raspberries, picked over
1 pint blackberries, picked over
2 tablespoons crushed freeze-dried raspberries, optional
coarse sugar, optional

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a loaf pan or 9-inch round.
Place sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 4 full minutes, until light and fluffy with no graininess left.
Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each one to ensure they are incorporated fully.
Add in the flour in four portions and the yogurt in three; begin with the flour and alternate mixing the dry and wet.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on low for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Spread half the batter into the prepared pan, then top with half of the fresh berries and the freeze-dried raspberries.
Spread the remaining batter on top, then decorate with the remaining fresh berries.
Sprinkle coarse sugar over top, if desired.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean and the inside registers 200 degrees F.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.

 

Kingly

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years’ cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don’t think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he had run across it.”

― Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

June, June. My first month of funemployment.
Supposed to be relaxed, chilled out, not busy, etc. etc.
Uh-huh.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I left my job at Getty at the beginning of this month, with great aspirations to go to my yoga studio all the time and bake up a storm.
But as it turns out, three weeks go by impossibly fast when you have planned on making them go by slowly.
I already feel the familiar and childlike dread of summer, sweet summer, blowing by me.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

We moved Nati out of his apartment this past week, which brings my tally of moves this summer to two.
I tell you truly, if I never had to move again it would be too soon.
The stress created and effort required by moving make me feel absolutely unlike myself. I’m glad to be done for now.

Next week, we’re embarking on a vacation to Québec, and I’m extremely excited to get out of the city and explore new places and foods. I haven’t been to Montréal in over five years, and I’ve never been to Québec City.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake recipe has supplanted my previous holy grail of a yellow cake, which was from Sky High (I do so love that cookbook!) and had reigned supreme for some years now.
It’s the Classic Birthday Cake, which is King Arthur Flour’s Recipe of the Year.
It’s truly excellent and easy to boot! A yellow cake with fudge frosting, which seems like it should be easy to pull off, but really, really isn’t.

It is totally suitable for beginner bakers and any celebration; after all, who doesn’t like yellow cake with chocolate frosting?!
Even Nati liked this cake, which is no small feat for a cake given his disinclination towards all sweets.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake combination is irresistibly classic.
The cake is moist and finely-crumbed; it slices perfectly and stores very well (it was still soft and scrumptious four days after having been baked and refrigerated).
The frosting whips up quickly and lump-free, thanks to the use of hot water to dissolve the cocoa. It has a rich fudgy flavor that balances out the base nicely without being overwhelmingly chocolaty.

The almond extract in the cake isn’t strictly necessary, but it adds an excellent nostalgic box-mix like flavor.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

You can find the recipe for this cake over at King Arthur Flour.
They have it by volume, rather than weight, if that’s more your style.

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I was provided with product and compensated for this post, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own. Bisous!

Classic Birthday Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Classic Birthday Cake
makes 1 2×8-inch layer cake
recipe from King Arthur Flour

ingredients:
for the cake:
241g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
397g granulated sugar
14g vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract; optional, for enhanced flavor
227g milk (whole milk preferred)
57g butter, cut into pats
67g vegetable oil

for the frosting:
106g natural cocoa powder* (sifted if lumpy)
113g + 340g confectioners’ sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
74g hot water
14g vanilla extract
227g butter, softened

instructions:
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the center. Lightly grease two 8” x 2” or 9” x 2” round cake pans; for extra protection against sticking, line the bottom of the pans with parchment rounds (you can cut these yourself or use precut 8” or 9” rounds), and grease the parchment. If your 8” pans aren’t at least 2” deep, use 9” pans.
Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, either using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, if using, until thickened and light gold in color, about 2 minutes at medium-high speed. If your stand mixer doesn’t have a whisk attachment, beat for 5 minutes using the paddle attachment. The batter should fall in thick ribbons from the beaters, whisk, or paddle.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in the bowl and mix — by hand or on low speed of a mixer — just enough to combine. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix again briefly, to fully incorporate any residual flour or sticky bits.
In a saucepan set over medium heat or in the microwave, bring the milk just to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and oil, stirring by hand until the butter has melted.
Slowly mix the hot milk-butter-oil mixture into the batter, stirring on low speed of a mixer until everything is well combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly, just until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. You’ll use about 2 3/4 cups (about 580g) in each.
Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top feels set, 26 to 30 minutes for two 9” pans, or 38 to 42 minutes for two 8” pans; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the cakes should read 205°F. Remove the cakes from the oven, carefully loosen the edges, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Then turn them out of the pans and transfer them to a rack, right-side up, to cool to room temperature.

To make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, stir together – by hand or mixer – the cocoa powder, 1 cup (113g) of the confectioners’ sugar, and the salt. Stir in the water and vanilla, scraping the bowl if necessary.
Add the butter and remaining confectioners’ sugar, stirring to combine. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the frosting at medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightened in color and fluffy, stopping halfway through to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. When the frosting is ready, scoop out a bit on your spatula; does it seem nicely spreadable? If it’s too stiff, beat in water (1 teaspoon at a time) until it’s the consistency you want.

To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate; tuck pieces of waxed or parchment paper underneath the edge of the cake to keep the plate clean. Spread the bottom layer with about 1 cup of frosting, enough to make a 1/4” to 1/2”-thick layer. Center the second layer bottom-side up (for a flat top) over the frosted layer and press gently to set it in place.
If your schedule permits, place the cake in the refrigerator or freezer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours) to firm it up. This will make the layers less likely to slide around as you work, and the cake won’t shed crumbs as you frost. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip this step.

To finish the cake: For the best-looking cake, do the frosting in two steps. First, spread a very thin layer of frosting around the sides and across the top; this is called a crumb coat. You should be able to see the cake through the frosting in spots, it’s that thin. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to let this layer set. Again, skip this step if time is a factor.
Once the cake is chilled, use the remaining frosting to coat it thoroughly and evenly. If you have any leftover frosting, you can use it to pipe decorations on the top and/or around the base.
Store the cake, covered, at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if your kitchen is hot. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
Storage information: The cake will keep at room temperature, covered with a cake cover, for up to three days; in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week, or in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to one month.

 

Septième

The most essential factor is persistence—the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.

James Whitcomb Riley

Happy 7th birthday, La Pêche Fraîche.

It’s hard to believe how quickly these years have flown by. I would very much like to slow down, please.

Another trip around the sun as a food blogger, complete.
It’s funny; I feel as though every year when this time comes around, my life is swirling up around me, the organic chaos of a thousand thousand petals in the wind.
I am such a creature of persistent habit, and I don’t really adapt well to change in my personal life.
I am awkward, and stiff, and as much yoga as I do, my heart does not bend fluidly when confronted with unfamiliar circumstances.
Right now, many of my loved ones are moving, and the feeling that the comforting geographic composition of my family is disappearing is making me anxious.
No matter if it is a goodbye or a see-you-later; neither have ever been my forte. And so, I am forlorn and a little lost.
At the same time, all I want to do is to be able to count a million blessings that I know I am lucky to have, to genuinely enjoy the coming of spring and summer, to appreciate being able to feel this deeply, to cherish a life so filled with vibrant emotion, to celebrate all the little sunshiney things that make my soul smile.

My brain is always a tumultuous dichotomy, and I only ever put it in words here, on this page. Sometimes the words don’t come, and what I publish is only a few staccato sentences about the weather and how busybusybusy I am.
La Pêche Fraîche’s content and identity is not precisely how it was intended, but it’s too late now to go back.
The blog grew up, into and through myself, and my sense of self grew around it.
The two are truly inextricable.

Anyways, thank you all for sticking around with me.
I am truly grateful every day for the opportunity to build and create in this space.
It holds an extremely special place in my heart and soul, and I hope you enjoy spending time here.

I have a tradition now of celebrating this day with a cake that is at least somewhat pink.

Making this cake was an absolute delight. It was the first recipe I made out of The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. It is Sarah’s basic yellow cake recipe, and I barely barely adapted it by subbing in full fat cream and vinegar for the buttermilk and sour cream. I do so like the softness that cream adds to the crumb of cakes.

The cake baked up neatly, solid but not dry, with a toothsome crumb and a fair balance between sweet, rich, and salty. The tops did dome in the oven, so I had to level them out. I didn’t mind as I was making a three tiered cake, but if you’re going for a 2×8”, it may  be a tad shorter than you would expect.
It is a really solid, well-tested recipe.
It is great for beginners or those who are trying to convert from box mix as well!

After leveling the cakes, they are brushed with sticky, sweetened condensed milk and a few drops of amarena cherry syrup.
Stacking them all together is an Italian meringue buttercream, generously flavored with vanilla and another hit of amarena cherry syrup from my precious stash.

Since this was more of a sunset-washed cake rather than a precisely striped one, I just used a palette knife and a turntable and lazily layered up and blended the colors of frosting.
If you do want a more exact pattern, I suggest either using a cake comb and a small flat piping tip or a jumbo flat piping tip and piping out the stripes.

I always, always use a Wilton turntable, Americolor food coloring, and an Ateco palette knife.

I sourced the beautiful flowers for this cake in the Union Square greenmarket.
Lilacs in every shade, a glorious crowning peony, and brilliant corn flowers.

When I work with flowers, I generally layer up a large amount of frosting (here, I piped with a jumbo star tip) on top of the cake in order to anchor the flowers and also keep them from touching the actual eating-part of the cake.
I scrape off the layer before serving.
If you are working with flowers that you can’t absolutely confirm are organic and edible, I suggest you do the same to ensure that the flowers are not contaminating the food.
And thanks to a reader’s prompting (!) I also cannot fail to remind you to also wrap and seal the stems, especially if you are inserting them into a cake instead of laying them on top like in this cake. Never eat a flower that you’re not sure about, and always consult a medical professional when ingesting flowers/herbs.
Here, I have only used these for presentation, and they were taken off the cake quickly.  If you want to leave them on longer or insert them or eat them, please use your best judgment and utilize professional guides and medical advice when attempting!

Six years / vegan coconut and chocolate cake
Five years / simple chocolate cake
Four years / eclectic chocolate cake
Three years / vanilla almond cake
Two years / malted milk birthday cake
One year / yikes

Yellow Cake with Cherry Buttercream

makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake or 1 2-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

for the yellow cake:
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
230 grams (1 cup) heavy cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
250 grams (2 cups) flour
300 grams (1.5 cups) sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
227 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter, very soft at room temperature

for the cherry Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
340 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
up to 1/2 cup amarena cherry syrup
red food coloring, as desired

to assemble:
sweetened condensed milk
extra cherry syrup, as desired
red food coloring, as desired

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans very well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, cream, and vinegar together and set aside.
Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a deep bowl.
Beginning by slowly stirring, add 1 piece of butter at a time.
The butter should be very soft and incorporate into a rough “paste” with the flour mixture.
Once you have added the last piece of butter, turn speed up to medium and slowly stream in wet ingredients, making sure they are wholly homogeneous.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix together for another 15 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion batter out equally into the 3 prepared pans, and place in oven.
Bake for 22-28 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs and the tops are golden and domed.
Remove and allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Once cakes are cooled, level off the domed tops as needed and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: place sugar, salt, and water into a pan over medium heat.
Begin to whip egg whites on high; once the sugar syrup comes to 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Slowly stream the hot syrup into the whipping egg whites, being extremely careful to not splatter the syrup.
Whip on high speed until the meringue has cooled to close to room temperature (or fully room temp, if your butter is completely at room temp).
Add butter one piece at a time, whipping until fully combined.
Once frosting has come together fully, slowly add the cherry syrup one tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.
Taste and adjust syrup, adding up to 1/2 cup, as desired.
Portion out frosting into 3 roughly equal bowls and tint to desired color with a drop or two of red food coloring.
Place first cake on cake stand; brush generously with sweetened condensed milk, then brush with a small amount of cherry syrup.
Layer frosting and then the next cake on top; repeat the brushing step.
Finish with the top layer, brushing this one with sweetened condensed milk as well.
Frost with a crumb coat, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the crumb coat is set.
Using the darkest color, layer a roughly even band around the bottom of the cake.
Wipe off spatula, then make the next band out of the lightest color.
Finish the last part of the sides and the top with the middle shade of frosting.
Using a turntable, begin to spin the cake and smooth the bands together, blurring the lines and creating a watercolor effect.
Once finished, place cake in fridge once more and fill a piping bag with the remaining frosting.
Pipe a thick layer of blobs/stars on top of the cake, particularly if using flowers, with the piping bag.

Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

“Times certainly are sad and mad and from a scientific point of view so utterly unnecessary.”

—Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

Times have been mad, indeed. I have fallen right off of the face of the internet.
I abandoned Instagram almost entirely this past month and a half. I’m averaging less than an hour on it weekly.
This resulted in a loss of 100 followers (gasp!), but I really can’t say that I care deeply about that.

Digital detoxes are healthy, if only to remind yourself not to seek validation solely from internet points.
It’s hard given its ubiquity.
I sympathize with the generation who will grow up with it from elementary school onwards. My peers and I are addicted enough as is, and smartphones only came out when we were already middle schoolers.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

I also find it easier and easier to put away my phone since I have come to be in a happy relationship again.
Obviously, being busy at work helps during the day, but in the evenings I am far less tempted to veg out with my little screen in front of me (instead we veg out together with a bigger screen, duh).

Lately the vegging has been almost all basketball, with Sundays dedicated to our HBO shows.
Predictably, the final season of GoT has caused me to begin re-reading the books for the nth time.
My social media presence has been reduced to sullenly lurking on the r/asoiaf sub.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon bars and lemon tarts are by far my favorite dessert (other than pavlova, I suppose. They are tied for first.), and these are just the ticket for welcoming in spring while still enjoying the last of the winter citrus.

Turns out that meyer lemons are actually a blend between citron, mandarin, and pummelo, not just a cross between lemons and oranges. These happy, sunshiney bars are bright with their juice.
The filling is firm without becoming congealed (too much starch will tend to do that) or cracking (too many eggs will tend to do that).
The zest of two entire lemons makes them not only intoxicatingly fragrant with the honeyed, almost floral fragrance of the lemons but also bracingly tart.
A thin, crisp base with lots of butter balances the bars out perfectly.
This recipe was super lightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Lemoniest Lemon Bars. I absolutely adore using their recipes when I have no others in my past arsenal. In no other place can you find such thoughtful and meticulous recipes and directions.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

Some tips on getting the 90-degree bars your heart truly desires:
make sure your foil sling fully covers all the edges of your pan
adding a very light layer of grease to the sling will keep the edges crisp
allow the bars to cool completely in the pan (this takes hours!)
clean your knife entirely between cuts (and by entirely, I mean fully wash and dry it)
if you’re really concerned with clean cuts, chill the bars down fully in the fridge and then warm up your knife using hot water

You can make these in an 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan; here I’ve used 9×9″.

And a quick note, if you have any interest in food history and haven’t read this fascinating article about Frank Meyer, the intrepid, plant-obsessed, “agricultural explorer,” you should.

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

“[It] often seems that we do not live ourselves any longer but that we are being lived. Uncontrollable forces seem to be at work among humanity and final results, or possibly purposes, are not being revealed as yet, that is, for so far as I can look into this whole titanic cataclysm.”

Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

Meyer Lemon Bars
barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
makes 1 8×8″ or 9×9″ pan of bars

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (1 cup) AP flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, melted

for the filling:
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
15 grams (2 tablespoons) AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
zest of 2 meyer lemons
175 grams (2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) lemon juice (from about 2 meyer lemons + 2 regular lemons)
55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into small pieces

to assemble:
powdered sugar, if desired

directions:
Make a foil sling (going both directions) for the pan.
Very lightly grease the sling, using butter or spray oil.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Stir butter in until mixture clumps.
Press into prepared pan in an even layer.
Bake in oven until golden, about 20 minutes; rotate pan after 10 minutes.
Make the filling: in the same bowl used for the crust, whisk sugar, flour, and salt together.
Whisk in eggs and yolks vigorously, until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated with the egg.
Whisk in lemon zest.
Slowly whisk in lemon juice until fully incorporated.
Place in saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C), about 5-6 minutes.
Stir in butter vigorously until the butter is melted and mixture is homogenous.
Strain through fine metal sieve.
Pour filling over crust and gently shake pan until the filling is evenly spread.
Bake until the filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, about 10 minutes (start checking just shy of 9 minutes).
Allow bars to cool completely, at least 1.5 hours and more likely up to 2.5 hours.
Lift bars out with foil sling, dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and using a sharp knife, cut into bars (it helps to wipe the knife thoroughly between cuts).

Cherry Wine

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

It looks ugly, but it’s clean.
Oh momma, don’t fuss over me.
The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine;
open hand or closed fist would be fine.
Blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Hozier

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

3.14: happy pi(e) day!

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I was gifted two absolutely beautiful ceramic jars last year, and each contained treasure.
One is printed with bright red strawberries; the other with intricate royal blue patterns.
I have been trying to think of what to do with each of them for months now. They seemed too precious to crack open without a plan.
Every time I opened my cupboard, my eyes alighted on the jars, but I still couldn’t decide.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Finally, I decided to use the blue jar to help celebrate this faux, food holiday.

I straight up could NOT open it. I used a rubber band, I used a shirt, I heated up the cap with hot water and tried. I was sweating and swearing and very put out.
So I put the jar down and walked away, disgruntled. I watched some Mari Kondo (that show heals me spiritually).
I gave it one more try and pop! it opened.

Inside were the most fragrant cherries, slightly boozy and mesmerizingly black.
I fished one out to try it—the almond flavor was pleasantly strong and complimented the slightly bitter cherries perfectly.
Definitely worth the struggle.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

They were no ordinary cherries; they were Amarena cherries, from the historic Italian company, Fabbri.
The company is 114 years old, and was started by Gennaro Fabbri as a distillery.
The cherry recipe was his wife Rachele’s: there was a wild black cherry orchard near the store in the small Emilia Romagna town of Portomaggiore. She picked and slowly cooked and candied them in syrup.
The cherries were so delicious and precious that Gennaro bought an intricate ceramic jar from Riccardo Gatti, an artist from Faenza, for his wife to store them.
Since then, Amarena cherries have remained popular and are still made of wild black cherries and sold in the iconic white and blue jars.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

While not necessary to make a delicious cherry pie, the luxurious addition of these cherries really is lovely.
I also love to have a piece of history in my kitchen; I will keep the gorgeous jars for flowers and my own preserves.

I adore the combination of cherry and chocolate (an especially classic way to use Amarena cherries), but I wanted to have a baked pie rather than a chocolate cream one.
I’d never made a black bottom pie, so I set my heart on creating one.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

To make a black bottom pie, a thick layer of rich dark chocolate ganache is spread over the bottom crust.
For the filling, sweet black cherries are combined with Amarena cherries, demerara sugar, and tapioca starch.
The glossy cherries tumble over the ganache, and a tight-woven lattice blankets all.

After baking, though it loses some shapeliness, the crust becomes shatteringly crisp and the filling marries with the chocolate at the bottom.
The cherries are round and juicy without being messy and rolling around willy-nilly.
The slicing of this pie is rather easy and clean thanks to the ganache, which keeps the bottom crust together and allows for laughably easy transfer to a plate (a moment I usually attempt with breath bated and a single drop of sweat rolling down my temple).

The combination of flavors and textures is heavenly, and almost naughtily rich.
It would be devilishly good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream gelato.
I still have a large portion of Amarena cherries left, and I believe a black forest cake is in my future.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

A few tips on this pie (and others):
Using a thermometer can really improve your pies. It gives you a sense of certainty and takes some of the scary guesswork out of pies.
I like glass pans or dark metal pans; I don’t use ceramic pans often.
I baked this pie in a 9.5 inch pan, and it resulted in crisp, thin dough. This was definitely not the most stress-free way to make the pie, since it requires rolling out the dough very thinly and may seem like you don’t have enough to stretch to fit. It also makes the dough more likely to snap back (see the below picture to see where shrinkage happened). If the idea of all of this stresses you out, just use a 9-inch pie pan.
Stella Parks has discussed why she prefers tapioca start for pies, and I fully agree. In fact, for the vast majority of pies I bake, I use tapioca starch (and sometimes a tablespoon of flour). It’s unobtrusive in flavor and predictable in behavior. Plus, I just sub it in for cornstarch in almost every recipe where cornstarch is called for.

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pi day, previously:
2018: Brown Butter Smoked Salted Honey Pie
2017: vegan campfire pie
2016: brûléed citrus and lime pie

Pie, previously:
2018: plum and frangipane pie
2017: perfect peach pie
2016: pumpkin meringue tart
2015: apple, pear, butterscotch, and cheddar pie
2015: fig, rosemary, and lemon tart
2014: coconut buttermilk chess pie
2014: peach slab pie
2014: American pie
2013: Pumpkin spice brown butter chocolate pecan pie

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

P.S. Because I vowed to share this silliness every year on this day:

Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Square root, cube root, BTU,
Sequence, series, limits too.
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
(And apparently also shared among other famously nerdy schools? Who knows where this even came from?)

Black Bottom Cherry Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Black Bottom Cherry Pie
gently adapted from the brilliant Stella Parks
makes 1 9-inch or 9.5-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
225 grams (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) sea salt
225 grams (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold
120 grams (1/2 cup) cold tap water

for the filling:
115 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
790 grams (28 ounces, 5 heaping cups) pitted cherries

50 grams (1/3 cup) amarena cherries, drained
200 grams (1 cup, 7 ounces) demerara sugar
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
40 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon) tapioca starch

to assemble:
1 large egg

1 tablespoon heavy cream

directions:
Make the dough: stir flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Cut butter into cubes, and toss with dry ingredient mixture.
Smush each cube flat by pinching it.
Stir in the water, then knead dough gently until it comes together in a shaggy ball.
(Stella notes that the dough temperature should register between 65 and 70 degrees F; refrigerate if it’s warmer.)

Roll dough into a rectangle.
Do a double book fold: imagine a line that divides the rectangle in half, then fold over each side to meet there (i.e. fold in quarters, with the edges meeting in the middle).
Fold over the two leaves to get another rectangle.
Roll the rectangle out once more, and repeat the double book fold.
Divide in half.
Roll out one half into a 12-14 inch circle, then transfer to a pie plate and refrigerate (it’s okay if the sides hang over).
Roll out the other half into a large rectangle, then use a pie or pizza cutter to cut thin, even strips. Refrigerate until assembly.
Make the ganache: place chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a small bowl.
Microwave for 15 second intervals until mostly melted; whisk together until shiny and smooth.
Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
Stir cherries, amarena cherries, sugar, salt, and tapioca starch together.
Smooth the ganache into an even layer over the bottom of the chilled crust.
Scrape the cherry filling into the prepared bottom pie shell.
Trim edges and crimp as desired.
Top with lattice strips, weaving to make a tight pattern.
Refrigerate and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk egg and cream together.
Brush over chilled top crust.

Place pie on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until crust is golden, about 1 hour.
Tent with foil as necessary to prevent burning.
Continue baking until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes more. (Stella notes that you should bake until pie reaches an internal temperature of 213 degrees F on a digital thermometer.)

Cool pie until no warmer than 85 degrees F on a digital thermometer, about 3 hours depending on the type of pie plate (at higher temperatures, filling will be runny and thin).

One That I Adore

I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,
and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else,
and never will love anyone else.

Jonathan Safran Foer

Happy lovers’ day, dear readers.

I do adore Valentine’s day.
How wonderful to have a day set aside expressly to celebrate love, especially in the doldrums of winter?
Even last year, after posting about what felt like my irreparable broken heart in late January, I was still happily baking for the holiday, and enthusiastically celebrating it.
As a child, Valentine’s was always exciting; I remember one year hand-carving linoleum stamps with my mama to print cards to give to my classmates alongside a little piece of candy.
Somehow v-day candy was more exciting than Halloween candy. I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for pink.

This year, my heart feels more full of love than ever. It is like a fat, happy cat lazing about in contentment within me, purring and basking in the warm glow of joy.
How lucky and blessed I feel for all the relationships around me.
I surely must have done something right in a past life.

Remember that today is not necessarily about romantic love, or even platonic. Self-love is an extra-good thing to practice today, whether you’re in a relationship or not.
Have a bath, or a glass of wine/whiskey/kombucha, or a Real Housewives marathon. Have an extra slice of delicious cake.
(The latter can only make your pants hug you even tighter, and they deserve love too, right?)

This sweet little cake has a base of buttery, vanilla-almond funfetti cake, soft and moist without being dense or heavy.
Sandwiched between each layer is a sliver of sweet, sugary marzipan, and the cake is frosted with a salted tahini icing.
The tahini provides a slight bitter nuttiness and the salt balances the sweetness handily.

I used large heart sprinkles inside the cake, and a Wilton cakes mold to create the bauble border.
I always use Americolor for red/pink food coloring.

I realize that I frequently use marzipan for my Valentine’s treats.
I’m not exactly sure why, but there’s something about a lightly sweet almond and vanilla dessert that is awfully romantic to me. It’s my answer to the chocolate overload of the holiday, I suppose.

Anyway, I hope you get the desserts you want (or don’t want) today. And if you don’t like the holiday, I assure you that this recipe is a cake for any celebration!

Valentine’s Day, previously:

2018:
Kawaii mini strawberry cakes with olive oil and balsamic chocolate cake, strawberry jam, and marzipan

2017:
Fluffy, ruffled princess layer cake with a cascade of marzipan roses
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

La la la la la la, la la la la la la
My cherie amour, lovely as a summer day
My cherie amour, distant as the milky way
My cherie amour, pretty little one that I adore
You’re the only girl my heart beats for
How I wish that you were mine…

Stevie Wonder

Funfetti Cake with Marzipan and Salted Tahini Frosting
makes 1 3×6-inch cake

ingredients:
for the funfetti cake:
180 grams (1.5 cups) AP flour
20 grams (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
260 grams (1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
130 grams (4.5 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
180 grams (3/4 cup) almond milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
sprinkles, as desired

for the salted tahini buttercream:
200 grams (1 3/4 stick, 14 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (just shy of 3 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
55 grams (1/4 cup) tahini
drop red food coloring, if desired

to assemble:
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
red food coloring
powdered sugar, as needed

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add in the softened, cubed butter one piece at a time at a low speed until the mixture looks like sand and the butter is fully incorporated.
Whisk the almond milk, eggs, and vanilla extract together, then slowly pour into the batter with the mixer running.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat on high speed for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in sprinkles gently.
Portion batter equally into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
Before assembling the cake, tint your marzipan red: using gloves or a sheet of plastic wrap, incorporate red food coloring by kneading and stretching the marzipan.
Add powdered sugar to your hands as needed to prevent sticking.
Shape the marzipan into a border (I used a mold) and letters for the top of the cake.
Use the remaining marzipan to roll into 2 5.5-inch diameter disks for between the layers.
Carefully and lightly cover with a sheet of fresh plastic wrap and set aside.
To make the frosting, whip butter and salt on high speed for at least 5 minutes, until super fluffy (doubled in volume) and shiny.
Sift in powdered sugar and slowly stir, increasing speed once the sugar is mostly incorporated.
Slowly drizzle in tahini, whipping on high speed, then allow mixer to whip for about 3 minutes, until the frosting is very light and fluffy.
Frosting will be a very pale beige.
Set aside a small amount (3 tablespoons) to add little stars to the top of the cake later.
Add a single drop of red food coloring (or pink) to the rest of the frosting to tint it a light shade of pink.
Place the first cake layer on a plate, then top with a small amount of frosting, one of the marzipan disks, and then the next cake layer.
Repeat with remaining layers.
Crumb coat with about 2/3 cup of frosting, then refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Decorate the top with the red marzipan baubles and add little decorations on the top with the reserved white/beige frosting.
Serve cake at room temperature.

Ambré

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

The evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming.

—Al Stewart

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’m glad to no longer be living in the Midwest this week.
The last time the Polar Vortex flew through, ripping rents through cozy winter scenes, was in 2014, when I was a freshman at UChicago.
It was right after my grandfather had passed, and I remember the dark chill running deeper in my life than just the winds outdoors.
Back then, I made my first pavlova, light and lemony and so very sunny, to counteract the cold.
I actually wrote and created a lot, to keep myself busy.

These days, in New York, it’s been cold as well. Today, it’s 10 degrees F.
I won’t be too dramatic about that given that my friends back in Chicago are suffering -9 degrees F, which probably feels balmy compared to what they’ve had in the last stretch of days.
I rather like to stay inside, cozied up with a good TV show, a warmed up cinnamon scroll, and my love.

Alas, work has been calling, and calling, and calling.
I am so worn down from my job (remember a few months back, when I claimed everything was going to be happy-busy-busy-happy? Um… I was wrong. It’s more like busy-busy-busy-patently unhappy), I feel like my entire perspective on it has changed. It has taken so much of my mental energy, protruding further into my brain space that it has any wont to.

I haven’t been on this page in a long, long stretch, and it is almost entirely due to work.
Not that I don’t have time here and there to eke out a post, but that my fingers are weary of typing, and my eyes are tired of staring at blue screens.
My oven hasn’t been turned on in ages. A dark chill in my life, indeed.

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

These craggy cookies are one of the best winter cookies I could ever imagine.

They are supremely chewy, thanks to a heavy hand of molasses and a slight underbaking; they stay soft for days due to these same methods.
No spices here—they’re not gingerbread cookies. They are truly pure molasses cookies.
They taste of browned butter, slightly nutty and very rich.
The molasses provides a deep, almost bitter caramel flavor, and a light touch of vanilla is really the only other flavor they need.

I implore you to make these. You don’t even have to wait for your butter to soften! Just throw it in a pan and watch it burble away happily.

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

I will be back soon.
I can’t miss Valentine’s day. It’s one of my very favorite holidays for baking and creating.
x

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies
makes 16 large cookies

ingredients:
200 grams (14 tablespoons; 1 3/4 sticks) butter
450 grams (2 1/4 cup) sugar
100 grams (5 tablespoons) molasses
255 grams (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

directions:
Brown butter in a pan: melt butter over medium heat, then stir while cooking until the butter foams, the foam subsides, and then the bits at the bottom turn golden brown and the butter itself is deepening in color.
Pour butter into a bowl; allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir sugar with molasses vigorously until the mixture is uniformly caramel in color.
Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture in a shallow bowl, pan, or rimmed plate.
Pour the rest of the sugar and molasses mixture into the cooled brown butter and whisk until combined.
Add the egg and the egg yolk and the vanilla; mix until lighter in color and fluffier, about 1 minute.
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and stir together until homogeneous, about 1 minute.
Scoop out 1/3 cup balls and roll between your palms to create smooth balls.
Drop into the remaining sugar and roll around to coat.
Place onto prepared pans with about 2 inches between each one.
Bake for 11 minutes, until puffed and golden on edges.
Remove from oven, drop pan on stovetop or oven rack once to deflate the cookies, then allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Here We Are Again

“Here we are again!
Bless me, I believe I said that before—but after all you don’t want Christmas to be different each year, do you?”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters from Father Christmas

Christmas for my family was different this year.
One (1) of my three (3) brothers couldn’t come to the East coast for Xmas.
We’re celebrating in the city, rather than upstate, which means an apartment and a baby tree rather than a big house with a fireplace.
And we have the cutest, most adorable mini addition to our family with my baby niece, Emilia.

I honestly can’t believe how perfectly cute she is.
Cannot get enough of her chub!

So although we didn’t have some of our traditions this year, we still had a lovely time together.
Gifts were opened, brunch was had (I made Belgian waffles, my mom made a delicious polenta dish, we all drank mimosas and coffee), and much cooing over the baby was done.

Now that I’m not a kid anymore, I am reminded each year that what I love most about Christmas is being with my family.
This year, I am especially reminded that home is where your family is.

So, about this cute little pastel Christmas cake.
Technically, everything except the reindeer’s ribbon scarf is edible. (No toothpicks used here, just uncooked spaghetti lol.)
The decorations are made of (non-gelatin) fondant that I added tylose powder to to make it more like gumpaste (firm and quick setting/drying).
Sculpting the reindeer took days, as I did each piece in turn.
I painted it with gold food coloring and used pink luster dust to add the blush.
The gingerbread house is made of a new recipe of gingerbread that I created, which has no eggs or water so that it doesn’t bubble and maintains its shape. It’s much more building-friendly, and although it doesn’t taste quite as good, it is still far more delicious than “construction” gingerbread.
Let me know if you want the recipe!
I stuck the gingerbread house together with melted white chocolate, and I will never use anything else! It is far more dependable than royal icing, because it sets quickly and, importantly, is just a little bit pliable when it sets—you can avoid things cracking and falling all apart because of a little push or drop here and there. It even survived a subway ride where it was rattling around in a tupperware a little.
A simple royal icing made the piped decorations, the snow on the trees, and the icicles.

My inspiration was the endlessly creative and cute Juniper Cakery, a bakery in the UK.

I hadn’t worked with fondant in so SO long, and while it’s not the tastiest thing in the world, it’s not entirely inedible, either. It also makes sculpting work so enjoyable and smooth.
For making something like a gingerbread house or a figurine that is unlikely to be eaten and isn’t integral to the cake, I really recommend it. You might be surprised as I was!

The cake itself is a soft-crumbed, lightly fragranced orange spice cake, redolent with cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and cloves, with orange and lemon zest.
It’s made using a reverse creaming method, meaning that you beat very soft butter into the dry ingredients, including the flour, before adding the wet.
Bittersweet orange marmalade is spread between the layers to add an extra hit of citrus.
Finally, salted chocolate buttercream, made with unsweetened chocolate and extra cocoa powder to really amp up the chocolate flavor, enrobes the cake.

Orange, chocolate, and spice is a warming, cozy combination that evokes winter and Christmastime to me. If you’d rather leave out the citrus, a chocolate spice cake would also be delicious.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And to those who don’t celebrate this holiday, a peaceful and happy day.

Tried and true recipes from Christmases past:

Cakes:
My pride and joy, the most elaborate cake on the blog: la souche de Noël.
A different, more whimsical take on a tree cake: this eggnog-filled, bauble-bedecked Christmas tree.
Golden and gleaming, an almond and orange spice cake.
A classic: red velvet with a winter woodland theme.
The fluffiest of cakes, a chocolate and peppermint cake with marshmallow frosting.
Oldie but a goodie: chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with peppermint buttercream.

Cookies:
Super intricate and crunchy maple and black pepper gingersnaps.
Luster-dust highlighted sugar cookie Christmas trees.
Very grown-up chocolate orange Linzer cookies.
Festive eggnog sugar cookies, decorated with royal icing and sprinkles.
Twists on the classic: honey spice and dark chocolate sugar cookies, perfect for cutting into shapes.
Pepparkakor with lemon royal icing, decorated with mehndi-inspired swirls.
Chocolate peppermint macarons… Finnicky little buggers.
Classic Linzer cookies with different fillings.
Maple, nutmeg, and rye sugar cookies, dressed all in winter white.
Chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies; grapefruit butter cookies; and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps, all crammed into one post.
Cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, chocolate peppermint shortbread, Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, another post bursting with recipes.
Whimsical peppermint marshmallow ropes; not cookies per se, but great for gifting.

Orange Spice and Chocolate Cake
makes 1 2×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the orange spice cake:
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground anise
113 grams (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) butter, extremely soft

for the chocolate frosting:
175 grams (1 1/2 sticks, 12 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 grams unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
340 grams (12 ounces, 2 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons cream or milk, only if needed

to assemble:
orange marmalade, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk eggs, egg yolk, and buttermilk together.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, zest spices, and salt together.
Beat butter into the dry ingredients until it’s fully incorporated; mixture should be clumpy but there should be no large pieces of butter at all—aim for more of a paste, without overmixing.
Slowly stream in the wet ingredients while whisking.
Once fully incorporated, scrape the bowl and whisk another few times.
Portion evenly into the two prepared pans.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the buttercream: whip butter on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, gently melt the chocolate over low heat with a bain-marie or in a microwave, going in small bursts.
Add the salt, half the powdered sugar, and cocoa powder to the butter; whip until incorporated.
With the mixer running, slowly stream in the melted chocolate.
Once fully incorporated, add the other half of the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time.
If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk (I didn’t have to do this) and whip to incorporate.
Level the cakes if they have domed and spread 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade over the bottom cake.
Crumb coat the cakes with the frosting, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
Frost the rest of the cake thickly; I had about 2 tablespoons of frosting leftover, so if you want to add decorative piping, frost the cake a little more sparingly.
Decorate with fondant if desired!