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.

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.

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.

An Olive Tree, An Emerald

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

He called her a melon, a pineapple,
an olive tree, an emerald,
and a fox in the snow all in the space of three seconds;
he did not know whether he had heard her,
tasted her,
seen her,
or all three together.

—Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Do you consider yourself a picky eater?

I’ve never been a picky eater. I do avoid an entire food group because I’m vegetarian, but that’s not because I didn’t like the taste of meat, but rather that I no longer cared to eat animals. (Phew, didn’t mean for that to sound accusatory. I just don’t want plant based eating to be conflated with pickiness!)
When I was a little kid, I didn’t like spicy-stinky kimchi, but that quickly faded, presumably because it would go against my very genetics to turn my nose up at kimchi.
I didn’t love blue cheese, but didn’t encounter it often enough to make a fuss when I did. I always loved beets.
Chewy, bouncy textures (common in Asian desserts) have always entranced me.
Red adzuki beans, broccoli stems, pickled lemons, mushrooms, eggplant, tofu, kale, egg salad: all on my favorites list.

However, I always thought I didn’t like olives. Wouldn’t touch the little buggers, green or black or kalamata.
I knew I already loved olive oil—one of my favorite snacks has always been crusty bread dipped in olive oil with salt—but I had always refused olives as an icky precursor to that pourable gold.
En fait, it wasn’t until college that I tried them, prompted by someone I trusted and an overwhelming desire not to embarrass myself in front of them with an uncultured palate.
I can hardly believe that I once didn’t like olives, since they are now one of my absolute favorite foods.

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So much dislike and hatred and fear of otherness is due to ignorance and inexposure. How much could be solved by a simple introduction of the unknown by the familiar or the trusted.
I mean, look how guzzl-able a green smoothie is. Add enough banana and a good helping of nut butter and even the most chlorophobic person won’t mind the spinach.
Our inability to see the fallibility of the assumption that if we haven’t directly experienced it—haven’t directly heard or tasted or seen it—that it doesn’t exist, or shouldn’t exist, or couldn’t possibly be good, continues to stun me.
We are all trapped within our own narrow umwelts.

Am I about to try to slop the metaphor of picky eating onto current events? MAYONNAI- MAYBE.
We should look to those whom we elect to be the trusted ones, to introduce us and bring us together rather than tearing us apart. They should vouch for us all, but not at the expense of others outside of our nation, either.
Bigots shouldn’t be allowed to hold office.
Discriminatory palates shouldn’t get to dictate what goes into the melting pot.
Those who wave the bible around to justify themselves would do well to remember that the commandment is to Love Thy Neighbor, not Choose Thy Neighbors Out Of People You Already Like.
The ridiculous fear-mongering over immigrants and POC and the denial of the Everywoman’s lived experience represents the worst of the assumptions we can make about others of backgrounds different than our own.

The (male) GOP candidate for senator in North Dakota said that #MeToo is leading women towards victimization.
The callous lack of empathy that he displays is hard to fathom. He does not deserve to be the representative of any woman or survivor.
Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent, said,
“‘I think it’s wonderful that his wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,’ she said. ‘My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.’
With tears welling in her eyes, Ms. Heitkamp stared intently at a reporter and continued: ‘And I want you to put this in there, it did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim. She got stronger and she made us strong. And to suggest that this movement doesn’t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.'”

Here’s the bottom line: today is the last day to register to vote in many states. Are you registered yet?
I urge you to take just a minute to check, or double-check.
No matter from which side of the aisle you will be heard; your voice deserves legitimate space.
Let’s not choose politicians who don’t think everyone’s voice has value, or who talk over others.
The incessant lying isn’t helping to open our minds. We must force ourselves out of our comfort zones: do your research, thoroughly.
Don’t rely on one source for your news. Do your best to empathize.
Try an olive, or two; extend that selfsame branch.

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Back to olive oil, now.
This cake was hailed by some as the best they had ever tried.
When I took my first bite of the slice shown in these pictures, the fork nearly dropped out of my hand.
The cake is outrageously soft and plush, with a moist, even crumb that is almost silly in its unbroken uniformity.
Creamy whole-milk ricotta combines with peppery, lemon-infused olive oil from Pasolivo to create a delightfully subtle flavor profile; almond flour adds softness to the structure, and a glaze made of yet more ricotta and olive oil adds continuity to the taste and a light crunch to the exterior of the cake.

This is the pan I used, from Nordic Ware. I think it’s just gorgeous, with all its dramatic swooping swirls.
Additionally, it’s about half the size of a standard bundt pan, which means I can fit it in my cram-jam packed pantry and it bakes up much more quickly than a 10-cup bundt cake.
Just make sure, as with any bundt pan, to grease the edges, corners, and hidden nooks very well!

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Bundt Cakes, previously:
Dairy Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze
Dairy-Free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake
Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Chocolate and Matcha Mochi Bundt
Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
Perfect Banana Bundt
Twice-Glazed Citrus Honey Pound Cake

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Disclaimer: I was provided with a product in this post for free, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own.
Thanks to Pasolivo for the delicious olive oil. Bisous!

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Olive Oil, Ricotta, and Almond Pound Cake
makes 1 mini-bundt, or one 8- or 9-inch round cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
150 grams (2/3 cup) lemon-infused olive oil (such as Pasolivo Lemon Olive Oil)
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
375 grams (1 1/2 cups) whole-milk ricotta
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
75 grams (3/4 cup) almond meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

for the glaze:
2 teaspoons lemon-infused olive oil (such as Pasolivo Lemon Olive Oil)
2 teaspoons ricotta
115 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar
generous pinch salt
milk, as needed

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour a 6-cup capacity pan; use a mini bundt, or an 8 x 3-inch or 9 x 2-inch pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk olive oil, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until fully incorporated.
Whisk the eggs in, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add the ricotta and stir until it is halfway incorporated.
Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and baking soda on top of the batter, and stir to fully incorporate the dry ingredients and the ricotta.
Pour into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour for a mini bundt, and 35 minutes to 45 minutes for a round pan.
A tester should come out with a few moist crumbs and the internal temperature should register at 210 degrees F (begin checking at 45 minutes for a bundt, and 35 minutes for a round pan).
Allow cake to cool.
Make glaze: whisk olive oil into ricotta until smooth.
Whisk in powdered sugar and salt; it will be thick.
Thin the glaze until it is of pourable consistency using 1/2 teaspoon of milk at a time.
Place cake on a wire rack with parchment paper beneath it.
Pour glaze over the cake, then collect drippings (if desired) and pour over cake a second time.

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

Fancy Free

When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
‘Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

A. E. Houseman

I am awaiting the cool luxury of September and Autumn to sink into me, into my bones and the clouds and the breeze and the branches of the trees.
Instead, New York has gotten a miserable late-season heatwave. It’s a disgrace to my favorite month. Just yesterday, the heat index was 105 degrees F! Gross! I am legitimately just a puddle of sweat and skin cells. Lovely visual, I’m aware.

As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t be bothered in this heat to turn on the oven.
What’s more, last night my air conditioner broke… I was ready to jump out of a window. There is a unique hellishness about sitting in a tiny New York shoebox apartment in sweltering heat even after the sun has set, unable to open the windows for relief due to the drive shaft trash smell and the fumes from the pizza shop below me. Pizza scent may sound appealing, but 24/7 it is truly nauseous. Trust me on this one.
The heat makes me lazy and a little insane. I’m much more prone to losing my shit over little things; I am lethargic (still haven’t fully unpacked from LDW in the Hamptons…) and unmotivated. And mostly, I am antsy! Give me fall!
I am praying it won’t be this hot for my birthday, which is next Sunday! I think we should all expect a pavlova to show up on this page in honor of, well, me. /shrug/

This beaut of a cheesecake is raw, vegan, gluten- and sugar-free, and utterly virtuous.
I’ve made cheesecakes like this before, and I really enjoy them, even if I don’t follow a raw lifestyle.
The cashew and coconut milk base is ultra creamy. It barely need any sweetener, so a drop of maple syrup does the trick.
A bracing helping of matcha helps to balance the richness, and a salty-sweet date and almond crust provides a thoughtful chewiness to each bite.
I decorated mine with strawberries, freeze-dried raspberries, and chopped pistachios, because it’s what I had on hand. And, for the record, with this heat, it’s still summer fruit season so stock up on strawbs!
When I was home, I even picked and devoured some rhubarb. And the peaches I bought at the farmer’s market this week were better than the apples that I bought, so that says something.
Enjoy it while it lasts; you don’t know what you’ve got, etc. etc.

A few tips about successfully making a raw cheesecake:

Don’t line your pan with parchment paper unless you want divots in your final cake.
If you don’t have a high powered blender, soak your cashews in cold water for at least 8 hours. They should be swollen and soft, but not slimy. You can keep them at room temperature or in the fridge.
If you have extra crust, or want less crust, don’t toss it! And don’t lay it on super thick as it can get hard in the freezer! Just roll the extra crust into energy balls. They make for fantastic snacking and/or decoration for the cake.
Use any combination of fruit and nuts to decorate that you want. Green tea goes really well with stone fruit, berries,
nuts, and chocolate.
Use high quality matcha here: since the cake is not being baked, any overt bitterness won’t be covered up by sugar/butter.

Raw vegan cheesecakes, previously:

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake 

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Raw Matcha “Cheesecake”
makes 1 6-, 8-, or 9-inch cheesecake, depending on how thick you want it

ingredients:
for the crust:
150 – 200 grams (1.5 heaping cups) whole almonds
12 dates (or as needed)
big pinch sea salt

for the filling:
500 grams cashews, soaked overnight
big pinch sea salt
100 grams (7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) coconut oil
400 grams (1 2/3 cup) full-fat coconut milk
100 – 160 grams (1/3 – 1/2 cup) maple syrup
juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons matcha powder

directions:
Make the crust: pulse almonds with dates and salt until the mixture forms clumps and can be rolled into a cohesive mass.
Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 6-inch springform pan.
Place pan in fridge while you prepare the filling.
Place all ingredients for the filling except the matcha in a large blender; start with the smaller amount of maple syrup.
Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy with no lumps remaining, about 5-10 minutes.
Take out half of the filling.
Save approximately 5 tablespoons of the white filling and place into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and place in fridge; pour the remaining amount over the chilled, prepared crust and place in freezer.
Meanwhile, blend the matcha into the remaining half of filling; taste and add more maple syrup as necessary.
Once the white filling has completely set, pour the green filling over.
Freeze until fully set.
Decorate with piped stars and swirls of the white filling; arrange freeze-dried raspberries, strawberries, and pistachios over top as desired.

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Just To Say

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

—William Carlos Williams, This Is Just to Say

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I have no
energy for
writing a blog post
at this point in time

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I do not want
to talk about the weather
or my workload
or how fast 2018 has gone

(Where has 2018 gone?)

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I have ideas
but writing is tiring
my brain is
so heavy and slow
in the summer

Languidness drips
off of my life
like rivulets of condensation
on my AirCon

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

My mind is full
of politics
and other boring horrors
not much room for
confessions of
confection

Too many photos
and too few words to
fill the great white gaps

Sloth overtakes the writer
sloppy, chopped up text
the slowest death of all

Here, look at the color
of these plums

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Sweet, juicy, fuchsia plums
fill this pie
nestled into fragrant, buttery
frangipane

All encased
in shatteringly crisp
pastry casing
(Do not let that scare you)

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

She wants for nothing
Needs no accoutrements
save maybe,
just maybe,
a scoop of cold, lush
vanilla ice cream

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

This plum
and almond number
is one of the best recipes
on this site
and I can promise
it will not disappoint you
like this post has

Plum and Frangipane Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Plum and Frangipane Pie
frangipane adapted from Yossy Arefi
makes 1 double crusted 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
438 grams (3 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) flour
40 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
340 grams (3 sticks, 1 1/2 cups) butter, cold and in chunks
14 grams (1 tablespoon) shortening (or more butter)
106 grams (7 tablespoons) water, ice cold

for the frangipane:
90 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
72 grams (3/4 cup) almond meal or flour
1 large egg
2 teaspoons flour
splash vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the plum filling:
4 cups of fresh plums (about 6 plums)
70 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
30 grams (1/4 cup) flour
juice of 1 lemon

to assemble:
heavy cream or an egg wash, for brushing
coarse sugar

directions:
Make the dough: whisk flour, salt, and sugar together.
Cut and mix the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the largest piece is pea-sized.
Sprinkle on the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time so that you can gather the dough into a cohesive mass.
Divide dough into two disks and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the frangipane: beat softened butter with sugar; stir in remaining ingredients until a thick paste forms.
Set aside until ready to assemble.
Roll out one disk for the bottom crust portion on a lightly floured surface; transfer to pie plate, leaving a little overhang, then refrigerate.
Roll out top crust as desired: I rolled mine to the same size as the top of the pie, then used cookie cutters to make cut outs (you can do the same if you want lattice: roll it out and cut strips in the desired size).
Place top crust in the fridge.
Spread frangipane over the prepared bottom crust and place in the fridge.
Slice plums and place in a large bowl with the sugar, flour, and lemon juice (taste a slice before adding all the sugar: you may need +/- 1 tablespoon of sugar).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and ready a baking sheet to place the pie on.
Remove top crust from fridge so that it warms up slightly to become pliable.
Remove bottom crust lined with frangipane from the fridge; pour plum mixture over top and smooth to flatten.
Place top crust over bottom crust and trim to fit; crimp bottom crust as desired or place cut outs around the edge to create a decorative border.
Brush with cream or egg wash and sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, placing aluminum foil around the edges if they brown too quickly.
Lower temp to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 60 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden and browned.
Allow to cool completely, preferably overnight.

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Laberinto

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape one day,
and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going,
but you never do it.
You just use the future to escape the present.

—John Green, Looking for Alaska

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I think about the labyrinth of the present, of my mind in its current state, constantly. Impossible to escape, despite all attempts to invent oneself out of now and into another time. I do it all the time.
I look backwards, wistfully, elevating everything into bliss and wiping away traces of messy, imperfect reality.
The best days are always behind me.
I look forward, greedily, skimming over the years until I land on a future fantasia, where the disordered threads of my life have converged and become a disciplined ensemble.
The tidiest days are always ahead of me.

Living in the moment is something I often declare as a goal. It is an intention I have set, deliberately, at the outset of most inflection points during my time on Earth. I tell myself I will:

Spend more time with myself as I am right at this instant, and learn to feel comfortable in that state, one of constant evolution, yes, but also one of acceptance. Embrace all my past and future selves, real or invented or embellished, as they fold up into an origami soul.

Spend more time with real, live people. Friends, family, lovers. Admire them more for all their flaws. Hold their hands, feel their skin, covet their smiles and tears, kiss faces and foreheads, and look at them. Really look: even the harshest stare is softened into a misty gaze when directed at those about whom you truly care. Waste more time with them. Let pointless moments collect like droplets, with the full knowledge that the heart and mind can never overflow with happy, vague, little memories like these.

Most importantly, spend less time in raptured jealousy on the internet, poring over curated existences. This is the most difficult aspect of appreciating the moment, because it’s what sucks me out of the present most often. To divorce myself from technology, even for a few hours a day, is nearly unfeasible. Anything less than ultimate determination, and I find myself scrolling, absorbed but not absorbing. And without this final aspect, the first two fail with certainty.

I will, I will, I will. I promise. I try. I fail. Repeat.

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

All this begets a larger question:
How do you determine your self worth? How do you self-actualize and self-conceptualize in a super-saturated, 4K world, sodden with content and people and their highlight reels?
Is it such a wonder that so many struggle with it?

You hear it over and over again, that connecting with people is different now, in our online world. We simultaneously feel present in thousands of people’s lives, and can share intimate details of our own, from the comfort of our bedroom, but spend little time—if that—physically with others.
When we do, we are all nose-to-screen.
Pantone has it wrong. The color zeitgeist of this entire generation won’t change year to year, and it isn’t Ultra Violet or Radiant Orchid. It’s a pulsating, pale blue, the glowing whisper of an LCD.
It already has a Pantone-like name: Liquid Crystal, weakly illuminating—and connecting—the entire world.

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

If finding yourself among the superabundance of the internet is difficult, sourcing inspiration that allows you to be individually creative without being iterative can feel nigh impossible.
What hasn’t been created before? Where is your voice? And what is your signature?

Is it worth it to expend so much energy fighting algorithms? Competing to carve out your niche while millions do the same is invariably exhausting, but laughably easy to obsess over.
Most of us accept likes, clicks, comments as engagement. We chase it. Is there a better way for us creators to measure how much we make people feel? Is that not what we’re supposed to care about when we create?
I have to actively remind myself that it doesn’t matter whether people like my art or not. But I have the advantage of separation; this blog is an outlet, not an occupation. I am lucky. I sympathize with and admire those who have to learn how to exploit social media algorithms, or avoid their cold, ruthless chopping blocks.

Today, I am inspired by Serena Garcia Dalla Venezia, a Chilean artist who creates beautiful sculptures composed of tiny, undulating balls of fabric. Her work is mesmerizing, organic, and utterly unique.
One of the most popular cake artists on Instagram, Tortik Annushka, creates some cakes inspired by Serena that just blow my mind.
The mythical algorithm delivered this inspiration to me, and I couldn’t help but accept it and try to recreate it in my own kitchen, derivative or not.

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

So I’m sharing, today, this cake. It has my signature, but isn’t my invention.
It isn’t perfect, but I won’t let comparison, that thief of joy, in for even a minute.
Anyways, she’s not too special in flavor or make, in all honesty. A sturdy, trustworthy cake, with a time-tested frosting.
But gussy this simple almond and lemon cake, with a light crumb and subtle flavor, enrobed in a lemon Italian meringue buttercream, with pearls of marzipan covered in gold leaf, and suddenly it is not only striking, but a piece of art.

I hope we can all continue to be inspired, rather than overwhelmed, by the digital world. There’s so much out there to explore—more than ever before—as long as we’re careful not to lose ourselves.

Lemon and Almond Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Lemon and Almond Cake
makes 1 2×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
60 grams (1/2 cup) flour
25 grams (1/4 cup) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
zest of 1 lemon
60 grams (1/4 cup) yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk (save the white for the frosting)
40 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) neutral-flavored oil

for the frosting:
2 egg whites
200 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
15 grams (1 tablespoon) lemon or lime juice
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
1/4 teaspoon salt
212 grams (1/2 cup, 2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces

to decorate:
marzipan
gel food coloring
gold leaf

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease two 6-inch rounds.
Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together.
Rub the lemon zest and sugar in a bowl with your fingers until it becomes fragrant; add to the flour mixture. Add the yogurt, eggs, and oil, and mix together.
Bake for 22-27 minutes, or until the cake springs back to the touch and is golden.

Make the frosting: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, citrus juice, and water in a small pot.
Begin to heat the sugar mixture on high as you whip the whites on medium speed.
When the syrup reaches 245 degrees F, your egg whites should be at firm soft peaks (almost hard peaks, but not dry).
Drizzle the syrup into the meringue with the mixer running; whip on high until cooled to body temperature.
Beat in butter one or two tablespoons at a time.
Beat buttercream on high speed until thick, glossy, and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
If buttercream is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To assemble the cake, stack layers with 1/3-1/2 cup frosting between them.
Use about 1 cup of frosting to crumb coat and level out the cake; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Finish the cake with the remaining frosting as desired, leveling out as best you can.

To decorate: divide marzipan into a few pieces.
Knead each piece with a varying amount of food coloring.
To achieve greys and purply-blues, I used white food coloring (titanium dioxide), black food coloring, and a little bit of purple.
Roll into different sized balls.
Cover some with gold leaf, using a brush or your fingers (careful not to breathe too hard!).
Smush the marzipan together into a cohesive shape, a tiny bit taller than your cake (measure it!).
You can use a little bit of water to make sure that the sculpture is stuck together.
Place it on the cake, then use any extra balls you have to decorate the top of the cake and add embellishments around the main part of the sculpture.

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Temptation

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

With strawberries we filled a tray,
And then we drove away, away
Along the links beside the sea,
Where wind and wave were light and free,
And August felt as fresh as May.
And where the springy turf was gay
With thyme and balm and many a spray
Of wild roses, you tempted me
With strawberries!
A shadowy sail, silent and grey,
Stole like a ghost across the bay;
But none could hear me ask my fee,
And none could know what came to be.
Can sweethearts all their thirst allay
With strawberries?

—William Ernest Henley

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Do all my posts start with a remark about how quickly time passes? Am I getting so predictable and old that it’s the only source of small talk I have to share with you all?
…But, whoa, February is halfway gone already?!
I was just remarking to my dad how February is the shortest month by far, seeing as it not only has 28 days, but it also comes directly on the heels of the incontrovertibly longest month.
Grey, dreary January.
Here in New York City, however, February has been greyer by far than January.
Rainy, gloomy days that keep me snuggled up in bed. Not that I mind.
In fact, re-emphasizing rest and self-care has led me to inadvertently stay dry for most of January and February thus far. I do like going out for drinks or enjoying a bottle of wine over dinner with my friends, but it’s always an eye opener to spend weekend mornings not feeling hungover. While I’m not consciously staying away from alcohol, it’s something on which I am going to try keep a close eye.
I’ve been tracking a bunch of different habits on a homemade bullet journal, and I find it very interesting to look back and see the shape of my days. I just finished the first side yesterday, and I’m very excited to turn the page over and start on a fresh sheet.
If you’ve never tried using a bullet journal, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s an awesome way to keep track of your life, especially for people who like to stay organized. There’s a sense of a completed to-do list at the end of each day, when you get to X off boxes all along a column. Very satisfying, indeed.

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day. Every year, I get very excited to make special baked goods.
Many people say that your first Valentine’s Day out of a relationship is torturously difficult, but it’s not so for me. Single or no, the idea of a day set aside to remind us all to celebrate love and hold our dear ones tighter is something I cherish.

Somehow, these last two years I have managed to do something insane with marzipan.
Last year’s cake, which I just ‘grammed, took me hours and hours to complete.
I tend to get these fanciful ideas in my head, especially ones involving marzipan and gold leaf, and they completely wipe out my better judgment and time-worn experience that would hit the brakes when it comes to delicate little projects like this. Remember when I asked you to keep me away from gold leaf?
Yeah, well… In addition to today’s mini cakes, I have a cake with marzipan AND gold leaf coming your way soon. Évidemment, je n’aie jamais compris la leçon.
I never fail to get suckered in.

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

These happy little cakelets are just the cutest, aren’t they?!

These are strawberry cake truffles.
They’re made of balsamic vinegar and olive oil chocolate cake, velvety and damp, with the faintest savory notes threaded through it.
Sweet strawberry buttercream is folded into the cake crumbs, and they are shaped into little naked strawberries.
Tinted marzipan, chewy and toothsome, blankets the truffles. It is accented with little dots of royal icing that harden to a hint of crunchiness, just like what you would expect from tiny strawberry seeds.

The overall effect is unbelievably kawaii, and these are sure to charm anyone you give them to. If you have Serious Chocolate Lovers in your life, you could even dip them in melted chocolate to make chocolate dipped “strawberries.”
(You know, if this recipe isn’t extra enough for you already. Ha!)

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Lots of love, darlings! I hope you all have a happy, contented Valentine’s Day.
xo

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Valentine’s Day, previously:

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

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes | La Pêche Fraîche

Strawberry, Chocolate, and Marzipan Cakes
makes 36 mini cakes

ingredients:
for the balsamic olive oil chocolate cake:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
60 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
114 grams (1/2 cup) olive oil
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) hot coffee
15 grams (1 tablespoon) balsamic vinegar

for the strawberry buttercream:
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
227 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) milk or cream, or as needed
170 grams (1/2 cup) strawberry jam

to assemble:
336 grams (12 ounces) marzipan
food coloring, as desired
royal icing (meringue powder + water), as desired

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and sugar in a bowl and whisk together briefly.
Slowly stream the hot water or coffee into the dry ingredients; once it’s mostly incorporated, whisk vigorously while you add in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Scrape the bowl to ensure homogeneity, then portion evenly into the two pans.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few crumbs and the tops are springy.
Allow to cool completely before continuing.
Once cool, cut off any crusty edges and crumble the cakes into fine crumbs.
Set aside.
Make the frosting: whip butter with powdered sugar and salt until light and fluffy; add in the milk while whipping so that the mixture is thick but spreadable.
Fold in the jam until combined; it may curdle (that’s okay!) due to the amount of jam.
It’s all just for binding, anyways, so it won’t matter.
Add the frosting into the cake crumbles and stir until the mixture is a cohesive ball.
Scoop out teaspoon – 2 teaspoon measures and roll into conical strawberry shapes.
Refrigerate until hardened, at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, tint the marzipan; here, I used Americolor and Wilton colors in red, black, and green, and added a touch of cocoa powder to the leaves to temper down the brightness.
Once the cakes are hardened, roll out a knob of red marzipan to 1/8 of an inch thickness.
Wrap the marzipan around the cake gently, pinching off excess at the seams and gently smoothing with your fingers.
Place the cake seam side down and return to the fridge.
Repeat with all the red marzipan; once that is all finished, roll out the green marzipan to 3/16 inch thickness.
Using fondant flower cutters, cut out the top leaves for the berries.
Affix to the top of the berries, using a tiny amount of water if needed.
Decorate the berries with a toothpick and white royal icing to create little dots as seeds.
Serve at room temperature the day they are made (marzipan will get a bit soggy if left in the fridge too long).