I FOUND you and I lost you,
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine,
And the land was full of May.
A golden bird was singing
Its melody divine,
I found you and I loved you,
And all the world was mine.
I found you and I lost you,
All on a golden day,
But when I dream of you, dear,
It is always brimming May.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
LONG TIME NO TALK.
I never expect to be gone as long as I am… I do find that sometimes it’s hard to sit down and write, as much as I want to. Gone are the days of free-flowing writing. They have been gone for a good, long while, actually.
I used to write poetry, jotting down notes every time a line or two came to me. Now, it all feels forced and terribly childish. I can’t bear to let myself alone with a thesaurus, for fear of everything reading like a middle schooler’s first essay.
In fact, the more I try to write, the more likely that the words won’t come, an inverse relationship that leaves me staring at a blinking cursor between pictures of cake.
Still, might as well give it my best shot.
May is quite the mixed month in my life.
Every year, a new, complicated layer seems to be spread over the top. It is hopeless to try to keep up with all of the different dates, but the whole month is permeated with emotions from each event.
May is (one of) my brother’s birthday month.
It is the month when a close family friend passed from here to the infinite.
It was my last class as a college student.
It was an anniversary, and now it isn’t.
It brims with spring and the promise of warmth.
It marks another year of this blog.
This is the first May in all my 22 years that does not demarcate a major change in scenery and activity for me. That is to say, I will keep working, I will stay in the same apartment, etc., etc., just in shorter skirts and fewer jackets.
There are no internships nor summer vacation for adults. I won’t be graduating or going to camp or home for an extended stay.
It is curious to feel static and still sense summer swelling.
Anyways. Abrupt change to cake because there’s nothing that really connects it to ~musings of May~.
This cake. I mean, dang. Couldn’t you just faceplant into those swoops and swirls of Nutella buttercream (because I could)?
It’s a banana snack cake, super moist with the addition of sour cream. The edges are slightly crisp from the high fat content, and the center is comfortingly squidgey and dense.
A great pile of Nutella buttercream, fluffy and heavily salted to cut the sweetness, is spread on top, without overmuch worry about it being perfectly smooth.
A pinch (or two) of sprinkles, and you have a happy snacking cake, easy to make, transport, and eat.
This is a good one to keep in your back pocket, folks.
Banana and Nutella are both total crowd pleasers, and for good reason.
(And now I am thinking about banana and Nutella crepes…)
Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting
cake portion adapted from Food52/ButterYum
makes 1 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ cake
for the cake:
130 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) sour cream
30 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (about 3 small or 2 large) overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
120 grams (1 cup) flour
for the frosting:
113 grams (8 tablespoons, 1/2 cup) butter, softened
75 grams (1/2 cup) Nutella
30 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
350 grams (2.5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk, as needed
sprinkles, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8″x8″ or 9×9″ pan liberally.
Cream butter, sugar, salt, and egg together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Stir in the sour cream and mashed bananas until about halfway incorporated.
Add the flour and baking soda and stir well to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
To make the frosting: whip butter on high speed for 3 minutes, or until very fluffy and light.
Add in Nutella and salt and whip for another 2 minutes.
Add in the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, stirring slowly and increasing speed after each addition.
Add in the milk or half-and-half 1 tablespoon at a time; whip frosting between additions until the spreadability and consistency of the frosting are to your liking (this can vary enormously depending on the humidity and heat of your kitchen).
Spread frosting thickly over cooled cake, and top with sprinkles as desired. SaveSave
I will teach my daughter
not to wear her skin like
a drunken apology.
I will tell her
‘Make a home out of your body,
live in yourself,
do not let people turn you into a regret,
do not justify yourself.
If you are a disaster,
it is not forever.
If you are a disaster, you are
the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.
Do not deconstruct from the inside out,
you belong here,
you belong here,
not because you are lovely,
but because you are more than that.’
—Azra T., Your hands are threads, your body is a canvas
March! Le Mars!Spring! Semi-warmer weather! Sunrises before 7am!
March is always fun for me as a food blogger: with pi day and St. Patty’s day and spring fruits starting to roll in, there’s lots of fodder for creativity.
It’s Lent right now and I’ve been trying to come up with a treat to send to my best friend, who gave up wheat and chocolate, which is also a good prompt for creativity: dreaming up ways to feed a friend with dietary restrictions.
I welcome it, because it’s a challenge that pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and also because I think everyone deserves to be able to eat delicious food.
I have given up purchased drinks: no boba, no tea, etc., even though I no longer consider myself a Catholic.
(Or maybe I’m just a bad Catholic. Honestly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: when asked what he would be giving up for Lent, my dad said “Lent.”)
I was mostly interested in how it would affect my spending habits; I have discovered that I didn’t make as many purchases at Starbucks and the like as I perhaps thought, so maybe I should have challenged myself more.
Still, it’s a good way to inform my budgeting, which I have been attempting to adhere to strictly since moving to the city that never-sleeps-but-still-pays-ridiculous-sums-for-the-apartment-that-barely-fits-its-never-used-bed. It’s all too easy to watch your money fly into the gaping maw of the expensive abyss that is New York City.
Please do not ask me how much I have spent on Ubers/Lyfts/expensive-ass groceries from WF because it’s the only grocery store near me. Le sigh. I miss u everyday, Wegman’s.
This concept of giving things up for a period of time has been increasingly in vogue in the food world: Whole30s abound, juice cleanses proliferate, and soup/broth cleanses have appeared, as well.
As someone who has been plant-based for essentially half of my life, I’m no stranger to needing accommodations.
I have done a juice/smoothie “fast” once before, and my lovely mumma once signed me up for a soup subscription so that I would have nutritious food to eat when I was too busy with school to cook (AKA always). Neither felt like a lifestyle choice, though.
I wonder how sustainable any of it is: how much of “giving something up” is good for the long-term?
I personally think that by framing it as giving something up, one is more likely to feel frustrated by it.
My friend, N, (who did a juice fast recently) and I were talking about this last week. I forget who coined the exact phrase, but we called what she was doing a juice feast. A simple addition, but it sounds heaps less ascetic and much more healthy. She ended up really enjoying her juice feast!
I never feel or felt restricted when I gave up meat and fish, nor when I gave up milk. Increasingly, I have been eliminating dairy and eggs and leather, as well. I mostly only use dairy and eggs when I bake. Instead of feeling limited, I have found that I have gained a sense of purpose and satisfaction in my diet and lifestyle. I don’t mean to sound preachy, of course.
But when you think of what you gain, it’s a lot easier to make a lifestyle choice. You’d be surprised!
If you’re curious, you could try doing Meatless March! Or Meatless Mondays!
More and more, I’ve seen people who give up bananas (not for health reasons/allergies, but because of the sugar).
At the gym the other morning, I heard a très millenial conversation, in which one participant declared that he was only allowed one serving of domestic fruit a day, hence only having 4 strawberries in his smoothie. His friend immediately asked, what about international fruit? He said, sagely, those are too high in sugar, so I don’t eat any: I haven’t had a banana in 7 months.
I had to hold in my laughter. It just seemed like the silliest distinction. I’m all for healthier eating and limiting sugar, because Lord knows we get enough of it, but to use political borders to define your allowed fruits?!
I for one, am never permanently giving up bananas. Ever.
Banana cake is one of the best desserts ever, in my opinion, and you would be hard-pressed to find flavors that don’t go brilliantly with it!
This naked cake has a base of moist buttermilk banana cake, adapted from the dependable Milk Bar cookbook. Honestly, I think you could even add another half a banana in to punch up the flavor, although it is lovely and soft as is. (Too many bananas, and I fear you begin to slide into banana bread territory.)
The frosting is maple Italian meringue buttercream, and it’s all I want to eat for the rest of my life. I want every waffle or pancake I ever lay eyes on to be served with this, in lieu of butter and maple syrup. It is a fluffy cloud of heaven.
A smattering of pecans finishes the cake in a fittingly rustic manner.
Anyways, my friends, love yourselves. Eat a slice of banana cake once in a while. Everything in moderation.
And stop vilifying perfectly good fruits, damn it!
Banana cakes, previously:
My 22nd birthday cake, an over the top affair with banana cake, almond dacquoise, coffee pastry cream, and chocolate Italian meringue buttercream
Roasted banana and salted chocolate cupcakes Classic banana cake with speculoos glaze
Maple Banana Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake
cake portion adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar
for the banana cake:
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
110 grams (1/2 cup) buttermilk
25 grams (2 tablespoons) oil
225 grams ripe (brown) bananas, roughly two
225 grams (1 1/3 cups) AP flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
for the maple Italian meringue buttercream:
2 egg whites
40 grams (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams (16 tablespoons, 1 cup) butter
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Beat butter and sugar for 5 full minutes: mixture should be very light and fluffy and not gritty.
Add egg and beat for another 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the buttermilk and oil and stir until just starting to combine.
Mash the bananas very well and add to the mixture, again stirring a few times.
Add the flour on top of the batter, with baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top of the flour.
Stirring slowly at first, then increasing speed, mix batter until fully combined.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again for 20 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Portion the batter evenly into the three prepared pans.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs and the tops spring back when pressed.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the maple Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place maple syrup, water, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Begin whisking the egg whites.
Keep an eye on the syrup and egg whites; when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to barely-stiff peaks.
Pour the syrup into the egg whites while whipping on high speed (careful to pour down the side of the bowl to avoid hitting the whisk).
Whip on high speed until the meringue has cooled to room temperature and is glossy and shiny, about 6 minutes.
Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time while whipping on high speed.
Whip until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth, about 5 more minutes.
Fit a piping bag with a jumbo French star tip and fill with the buttercream.
Pipe a little frosting on the base of a cake stand, then place the first layer on top.
Pipe a layer of buttercream onto the layer, then top with a second and repeat with the third.
Pipe concentric circles on the third layer, then top with chopped pecans.
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Yesterday, my parents sent me the dreamiest bouquet of pale peach roses, white hydrangeas, and black and white anemones.
Last night, my instagram bio ticked from 21 to 22.
(I don’t have a Facebook anymore, so no messages will be received from acquaintances collected through the years. I’m, like, so off the grid. *rolls eyes*)
Tonight, I will drink and be merry with some of the best people I have ever and will ever know.
Today, though, I am taking time to reflect and relax into my new age by myself.
My atoms in their current arrangement have made the long trip around the sun twenty two times.
In this time, my body has grown, my mind has expanded, my hormones have been tamed (…kind of?); I have shed skin cells and old clothes and loves alike. I have been fortunate to see many corners of the world and optimistic enough to dream of other, unknown parts.
I have pushed and pulled and trudged my way through years of schooling and through an altogether too short stint at my alma mater. In the best of times, I have excelled and succeeded; in the worst of times, I have simply kept on moving.
Four years ago, on the cusp of 18, I left my childhood home and my parents for the first time; in many ways, I felt and was alone. The birthdays following were distinctly part of my college years.
So although 22 is a relatively unremarkable birthday, this one means a lot to me. It is my first birthday after college and striking out into the world. It is the bookend to the collection that began at 18.
Today, in a new city and in a different sense, I feel and am alone.
Is it sad or freeing to be alone on your birthday?
It is coldly realistic or melancholic to realize that we all age on our own?
We live our lives with ourselves. It is as simple and as difficult as that. Though none of us will ever stop changing, we have but one body and mind to live in and put up with.
It’s easy to wistfully romanticize our past lives and selves; it is also easy to make grand resolutions about our future.
I hope that everyone has the opportunity to fall in love with who they are in the present, which is a far harder endeavor, in my experience.
I hope that you have the chance, whether this year or in many years to come, to spend a birthday by yourself and not feel lonely.
I hope this especially for myself.
My twenty-second birthday cake is not a simple one. It’s not an afternoon affair, not something to whip up casually sans plan.
No one should be surprised by this, least of all readers of this blog who have seen my other involved creations. I have a flair for the dramatic and a birthday is an excuse to indulge both my creative urges and tastebuds.
This is all to say, I know that this recipe is more than a little ridiculous. A lot of effort went into making this cake just right. It is worthy of a celebration.
Make it for a loved one; make it for yourself. And prepare to impress.
This cake starts with a super moist banana cake—it is the least banana bread-y banana cake I have made, which I consider an achievement. There is a time and place for a lovely, dense banana bread. This cake is not that.
The layers have a swipe of silky, slightly bitter coffee pastry cream, flecked with espresso and enriched with egg yolks and butter. Hidden inside the cake are two layers of dacquoise; a crisp almond and meringue confection that softens and turns into a whisper of caramel and almond married with the coffee cream. It is the reason that this cake is better on the second day. The crunch is fabulous, yes, but the dacquoise becomes an ethereally light filling when it softens—just like meringue does in a pavlova or Eton mess.
The whole affair is finished with a cloud of rich, chocolaty Italian meringue frosting, my favorite way to ice a cake. I love that with each bite, you get a varying amount of chocolate. It makes eating a piece that much more interesting.
This cake is a labor of love, and its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavor combination is very unique—but it works so well. In fact, I like it so much that I am planning on dreaming up new ways to use banana, almond, coffee, and chocolate (to me, that sounds like a hella good muffin).
Note also that this can be made ahead of time; the pastry cream up to 3 days in advance, and the dacquoise up to 2 days. You could make the cake ahead and freeze it as well. It’s manageable. I mean, sort of.
Birthdays, previously (and no, I don’t know what happened to 17 and 19…):
for the banana cake:
150 grams (2/3 cup, 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) butter, softened
170 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
120 grams (1/2 cup) milk
200 grams (1 2/3 cup) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
for the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream: 3 egg whites
pinch salt, to taste
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
25 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) water
340 grams (1 1/2 cups, 24 tablespoons, 3 sticks) butter
170 grams (1 cup) dark chocolate chips or chunks, melted and cooled slightly
20 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder, as needed
First, make the dacquoise, up to 2 days in advance.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and trace 3 6-inch circles on a piece of parchment lining a baking sheet.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and begin to whip.
Once foamy, add in the first (150 grams, 3/4 cup) portion one spoonful at a time, and whip on high speed until the meringue is glossy and fluffy and stiff peaks have formed.
Whisk together the almond meal, remaining portion sugar, and salt, and gently fold into the meringue.
Pipe onto the circles you traced, and bake for 65-85 minutes, until the dacquoise is dry and slightly golden colored.
Remove from oven and let cool completely; you can store the baked dacquoise for up to 2 days in a moisture-free, air-tight container.
You will only need 2 dacquoise layers for the cake; the third is insurance in case of cracking (one of mine did, when I dropped it); you can trim them if they spread a little with a sharp knife so that they fit in the cake.
Make the coffee pastry cream: place espresso powder (or you could use whole beans, if you don’t like the grains) and milk over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and flour together.
Once the milk is just shy of boiling—it should be at a simmer—carefully pour in 1/3 of it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Place the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remainder of the coffee-milk, whisking all the while.
Heat over medium heat while whisking constantly, until thickened.
You should be able to coat a spoon and draw a line with your finger that does not fill in with cream.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
Strain through a sieve, then blend on high speed with an immersion blender or in a regular blender (wait until it is cooled, though!) for about 20 seconds—don’t go too long with the blender, just enough to get it smooth.
Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and allow to cool completely.
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Place butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 4 full minutes.
Meanwhile, mash the bananas with the milk in one bowl and stir the flour and baking powder together.
Scrape the sides of the stand mixer and add in 1/3 of the flour mixture.
While you stir the flour mixture in, add in half of the banana mixture.
Add another third of the flour mixture, adding the remainder of the banana mixture and the remainder of the flour mixture one after the other while stirring on low speed.
Increase the speed to medium for 30 seconds, to ensure that the batter is homogenous.
Portion out into prepared pans and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.
Make the Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Portion into 4 separate portions—one portion should be slightly smaller than the other three.
Place one of the larger three portions back into the bowl of the stand mixer; while whipping on high, add about 3/4 of the melted and cooled chocolate and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
Whip until chocolate is fully incorporated.
Into another of the three larger portions of frosting, add about 3/4 of the remaining chocolate (so about 3/16 of the original portion) and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder; stir vigorously to combine.
Into the remaining of the three larger portions, stir in the remaining chocolate and 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
Into the smallest portion, stir in 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
At this point, tint any of the 4 portions as you see fit with a few extra teaspoons of cocoa powder.
To assemble the cake, place a dollop of pastry cream on a cake stand and place 1 of the banana layers on top.
Spread 1/8-1/4 cup of the pastry cream onto the banana cake; place one of the almond dacquoise layers on top and spread with another 1/8 cup pastry cream.
Top with a second banana cake, more pastry cream, the second dacquoise layer, more pastry cream, and the final banana cake layer.
Use a small amount of the three larger portions of frosting (the darkest three) to lightly crumb coat the cake—you don’t need a thick crumb coat here.
Using 4 pastry bags filled with each of the colors, pipe an ombre effect with desired piping tip (I used a single tip and 4 couplers).
Did you think I was a city big enough for a weekend getaway?
I am the town surrounding it, the one you’ve never heard of but always pass through
There are no neon lights here, no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder, for I make bridges tremble
I am not street meat, I am homemade jam thick enough to cut the sweetest thing your lips will touch
I am not police sirens, I am the crackle in a fireplace
I’d burn you and you wouldnt take your eyes off me
I am not a hotel room, I am home
I am not the whiskey you want. I’m the water you need
Don’t come here with expectations and try to make a vacation out of me.
Since we last connected, I escaped Chicago to warm, sunny California for the best spring break ever with my parents.
We first went to LA and stayed in Venice Beach for a few days—right on the ocean. It was beautiful, and the food we had was generally spectacular.
It’s much easier to find fresh produce and food when you live in California, where essentially everything grows!
We managed to go to Gjelina twice, once for brunch and the other for our last dinner in Cali. It is (mostly) as amazing as everyone says it is. I had 1 (one) disappointing squash blossom scramble that had too much mint for my taste, but that being said, my parents liked it.
The goat and cow labneh on toast with jam, olive oil, and sea salt was an absolute knockout of a dish: creamy, fatty, crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity etc. etc.
The lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote are another must.
My favorite from dinner was the charcoal gemelli, which was outstanding and incredibly well balanced despite being quite rich.
We also went to the Rose Café and tried boba from a few different places. Even the mediocre places were leagues above any Hyde Park slushie impostors.
(On that note, my wonderful boyfriend just bought me some dried boba and stainless steel straws so that I can make my own at home… Dangerous!)
We had a rented grey Mustang convertible, which we drove to the Coachella Valley. We stayed in Palm Springs, at the Saguaro, which is a fabulously retro motel-turned-hotel painted in all neon hues.
Our favorite breakfast place was definitely Cheeky’s, which seemingly always has a very long queue, but is totally worth it. The crispy buttermilk waffle tasted just like an ice cream cone and the cheddar scones were more like biscuits, with buttery, flaky layers that easily soaked up runny egg yolks.
We had date shakes at Great Shakes, because I was dying to try a date shake (the California desert has lots of date farms). Talk about dangerous—each shake comes with a mini cake donut on the straw, and the store front is filled with retro candies for just a few quarters each.
We headed back to LA the day before our departure.
I got to have lunch with lovely Courtney from Fork to Belly at Mendocino Farms, which has dooope sandwiches.
She’s in Iceland right now! I feel like Iceland is so photogenic, with all I’ve seen from Linda and Betty and Ashlae. I’m looking forward to seeing her photos, for sure.
Anyways, she’s the first blog friend I’ve met in person, and it was so fun! In a weird sense, it’s a novel way of interacting with people whom I already respect and in whom I take interest and, often, laugh along with weekly as I read their writing.
Definitely a great part of the trip.
Also during this trip, I found out that my Shamrock Shake Cake was chosen as a finalist in @feedfeed ‘s Bob’s Red Mill best home baker contest!
I didn’t end up winning, sadly, but I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me, and, of course, all of you who support me here by reading my blog!
Amazingly, the picture I shared on Instagram of these cupcakes to encourage my followers to vote for that contest garnered 735+ likes… Like, whoa.
Not that Insta is the best—really, it’s actually among the worst—metric of happiness, but that’s never happened to me before, so I was pretty excited.
I guess people still like cupcakes, even though they’ve been out of vogue for some time now.
The cupcakes shown are a sampling of the 200 I made for my sorority’s annual fundraiser for our sister charity, CASA (just like I did last year).
Lord, having done it once before did not make it that much easier this year—except that I had the foresight to buy an extra cupcake tin so I could make 24 at once.
Other tips if you ever want or agree to make an obscene number of cupcakes or baked goods for an event:
First of all, numbers are everything. Type or write out everything you need to make in recipe form, exactly how you’re going to make it (i.e. some of my recipes were for 12 cupcakes, I doubled them and wrote down the doubled recipe for 24).
Next, multiply each recipe by however many times you need to make it (I had to make 3×24 vanilla cupcakes) to calculate how much of each ingredient you’ll need for that particular flavor/recipe.
Doing this for all your recipes gives you the exact amount of flour/butter/sugar etc. you’ll need in total, so you can purchase just the right amount—not too much and not too little!
For example: I needed 64 ounces of buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt for the cupcakes, so I purchased a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt. I scraped it to the last gram on my last batch of cupcakes. So satisfying!
Secondly, plan ahead. When are you going to make everything? What can be made ahead? When does butter need to come out of the fridge to soften?
When things are made, where will I store them prior to the event or while other components are prepared?
How will I transport all these goodies?
I rely on my trusty plastic cupcake containers: they have very high domes, so no frosting ever gets mussed up in travel. They also seal very tightly, so cakes don’t dry out if made ahead.
They also are washable, so you don’t have to dispose of them after one use. Instead, you can use them over and over (they come in handy when gifting cupcakes!).
When they have reached the end of their lifecycle, you can recycle them. Perfect.
Third, make like a Top Chef and do your mise en place. Take out the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda before you start making your recipe.
If you’re using a scale, keep it out and turned on. Don’t bother putting away any of your ingredients until you’re done cooking for the day—fumbling in cabinets wastes time.
The flavors I chose to make were as follows:
banana cream cheese,
(Not pictured: lemon and caramel.)
I’m sharing the vanilla chocolate recipe today, because it’s my own perfected version (I’ve made a lot of vanilla cupcakes in my short time here on Earth) and I felt as though these came out the best out of all. I’m picky, though.
Recipes/references for some of the other flavors will follow.
The caramel cupcakes were the vanilla base with a vanilla frosting that had half of this caramel recipe mixed in, and more drizzled over top.
I used this recipe for red velvet cupcakes (doubled).
I used this recipe, which is perfect, for the chocolate cupcakes. These banana cupcakes are wonderfully moist and save well, to boot—so they’re my recipe of choice.
The mint frosting was similar to this cake.
The cream cheese frosting I used on the red velvet, banana, and lemon cupcakes was similar to this cake or this one.
So I made these cupcakes for the pre-event, which leads up to the actual Mr. University talent show that we host; it’s meant to heat up interest and donations the week before.
Nati kindly drove me, chattering and sweating and shaking with nerves—the cupcakes carefully laid out in the trunk of the car—to the event, where I unloaded box after box with mounting relief. Not a single smashed cake or a single errant swipe of frosting.
The event itself was hilariously fun, as always, and was more successful than ever: two years ago, Theta raised 40K for CASA of Cook County. Last year, 46K.
This year, we raised an astonishing 65,000 dollars in two and a half short, frenzied weeks.
We are so grateful for everyone who donated. More importantly, though, the kids whom this will benefit will be grateful, and more will have the chance to have an advocate in the court system, as they search for a forever home.
Everyone needs a measure of stability and warmth and love in their lives, especially in chaotic, lonely times like moving through the foster system. CASA provides this. And I’m proud to have been part of an event that supported such a fantastic organization.
This post has been lengthy, so I’ll leave you with the recipe.
These cupcakes are moist from the yogurt, bake up without any domes or uneven surfaces, are a one-bowl affair, and are just plain dependable. It’s hard to beat a good yellow cupcake with sweet and a little salty chocolate frosting.
The frosting has a generous amount of dark chocolate and cocoa powder in it; you can add up to 1/2 a cup of Nutella to it if you want to amp up the flavor even further.
These are simple but well-loved.
The recipe is tried and true—I hope you like and use it as much as I have!
P.S. The sprinkles are, IMHO, a necessity.
Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes
for the frosting:
560 grams (2 1/2 sticks, 10 ounces) butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
112 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
400 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) half-and-half or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil together.
Add in the yogurt and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt on top and carefully stir until homogeneous.
Portion out in 1/3 cup scoops into the papers and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high for 3 full minutes.
Add in the cocoa powder and beat for another minute, until no lumps remain.
With the mixer beating on high, stream in the melted and cooled chocolate; when incorporated, start slowly adding in the powdered sugar (turn down the mixer if the sugar is flying out).
Add the vanilla extract when the sugar is incorporated.
If the frosting is too thick, add in the half-and-half one tablespoon at a time until it is the appropriate thickness.
Frost cupcakes as desired (add sprinkles)!
WE CAN BE but partially acquainted even with events which actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny.
There are innumerable other events, if such they may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds.
Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and fear, exultation or disappointment,
to afford us a single hour of true serenity.
—Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Swan
LPF isn’t a whole digital diary.
I don’t come here to grouse about my own personal failures and hardships often.
This is not to say that these words are misleading or untrue or that this space is not filled with intimate parts of my thoughts.
(Or that I don’t whine about things…)
But who likes to describe their own missteps, shortcomings, their own defeats, to the black void of the internet?
How often do I share “flop” recipes or tell you about a royal Fuck Up in my relationship?
It is difficult to allow yourself to be seen as a loser to your readers, even for an instant.
This is Social Media 101 in 2016: share what’s picture perfect and keep the little bits of your soul that have shriveled in disappointment off the screen, for God’s sake.
And in reality, I practice this careful shielding of the things that make me cry in my daily routines, too.
You wouldn’t have known Friday that I had been at the library until 3:30am the night before; that I had been informed of my falling short in a big way that morning.
No. I washed my face with cold water and put on my sturdiest pair of corduroys with which to pull myself up by the pant loops (as my boots have no straps).
I went back to the library and started what had been a very long, endurance-heavy process again.
It’s hard to talk about failures.
I don’t like to talk about them with anyone. The worst is being probed in your sensitive spot by caring friends who couldn’t possibly know better because you haven’t told them!
When it is fresh, I allow myself the comfort of vagueness, giving myself room to breathe and recenter.
Really, you don’t have to know the details of someone’s stumbles to at least understand their willingness to try again; the number of times someone falls down only matters in the face of how many times they stood up.
But OK. Rant over. Now let’s talk about something that was a smashing success.
Namely, these cupcakes.
What do you do when you have a craving for banana cake but you have no old, brown, wizened bananas on hand?
We all know green around the edges or even perfectly blemish free bananas are more starchy than sweet and don’t make the best banana baked goods.
These cupcakes have the answer: roast the living heck out of peeled, bland bananas and they will make the fruitiest, sweetest dessert of your dreams.
Roasting is minimal effort: 30 minutes, tops.
The now flavorful bananas are mashed and then combined into a moist buttermilk batter that bakes up into dense, sweet and fruity little cakes.
Topped with a generous swirl of salted chocolate frosting, these cupcakes make for the perfect four bites of chocolate plus banana!
for the chocolate buttercream:
175 grams (1 cup chopped or chips) bittersweet chocolate
225 grams (2 sticks, 1 cup) butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
500-625 grams (4-5 cups) powdered sugar, as needed
30-60 grams (2-4 tablespoons) cream, as needed
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Place the peeled bananas on the sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until slightly brown around the edges and very fragrant.
Remove from oven; mash and let cool.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and line 20 muffin cups with liners.
Beat butter on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the salt, sugar and vanilla; beat for 3 more minutes.
Once again scrape the bowl and add the egg and yolk; beat for a full 5 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or sour cream until half incorporated; add the mashed bananas and stir a few times.
Stir the flour and leavenings together; then add into the mixture slowly as you stir together.
Once the dry ingredients have been mostly incorporated, beat on high speed for 30 seconds to structure the batter.
Portion into the 20 prepared cups (you will use 2 of the cupcakes to decorate the others).
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out just clean.
Allow to cool.
Make the frosting: place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder and beat for 30 seconds.
Add in the chocolate in a slow stream while beating on high.
Scrape the bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt; while mixing on medium speed, add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Taste and adjust the salt as you like.
If the frosting is too thick, add in up to 4 tablespoons of cream while whipping on high.
If it is too thin, add up to another cup of powdered sugar to thicken.
Decorate cupcakes as desired; if you want, you can cut up 2 of the cupcakes roughly to make little pieces to stick on top.
You know what a loser is? A real loser is somebody that’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.
—Little Miss Sunshine
I recently tried something new and a little big magical.
It wasn’t quite perfect, but it wasn’t half-bad, either.
I learned a lot and I know now that I’m going to try it again—maybe even until I get those near-perfect results.
Maybe not. Depends on my patience.
Either way, it was supercool and blew my mind.
As some of you might be aware of, this past spring, a nasty outbreak of avian influenza has decimated populations of chickens and poultry, particularly hens kept in unsanitary and inhumane factory farms.
(Just being frank, friends.)
Michigan recently cancelled its poultry fair, as the first cases of bird flu spread to their state.
There’s no vaccine—so sick and healthy birds alike must be killed to try to stop the flu. Some 40 million of them, in fact.
This boils down to eggs being in shorter supply and the US agricultural economy taking a huge blow.
Think this is enough to get us all to stop and think about our farming practices and how animals and animal products are raised and made?
And how can we responsibly move forward as consumers and customers?
You all know my favorite desserts contain meringue (read: pavlova, daquoise, macaron, IMBC…).
And we all know that meringue can’t be made without eggs, right?
Sorry for shouting. BUT YOU GUYS some genius food scientist figured out how to make vegan meringue out of aqua faba, or bean water. Yes, the stuff that you drain off the top of a freshly opened can of beans.
Egg whites, in reality, are just water with suspended proteins; when they are whipped, the proteins form a net and the water is suspended, creating a foam (meringue!).
Using another type of protein solution, as it turns out, can work nearly as well.
So these eton messes are vegan.
And the meringue is made of chickpeas.
And I saved a couple eggs in the process.
It’s so, so simple.
Just use the drained water from a can of beans, and whip the living daylights out of it until it forms a foamy, fluffy meringue.
Stabilize with a little powdered sugar and starch, and you’ve got fluffy, pipeable meringue.
This was my first attempt, and my lovely fluffy meringues got all deflated in the oven, so that although they were crispy and light, they weren’t as tall as I wanted.
I’m going to try again, with different methods of stabilization and perhaps different beans.
The rest of the vegan eton mess was a bit of cold and creamy coconut whip, some sweet sliced bananas and crunchy toasted coconut, and a few golden star sprinkles for an extra magical touch!
Since my first vegan meringue didn’t come out quite perfectly for me, I’m still working on my own adaptations to the recipe I used so that the meringues stay super fluffy and tall, even after baking. They were delicious as is, though, so I want to direct you to the original recipe should you want to try.
Check it out here, at Wallflower Girl!
For coconut whip, check out Minimalist Baker (duh).
The making of these muffins was prompted upon my discovery of 3 sad, brown bananas that had been discarded into our trash (in a ~new~ trash bag, friends. Worry not.).
I snatched them up, whispering sweet reassurances of grand destinies, and these (vegan! whole wheat! wholesome!) muffins were born.
I am so not ready for life to have begun again.
I wish I were back in spring break mode, chilled out and tanned and full of fresh fruit and contentment.
(Side note: I bought some ataulfo mangoes, which come from Mexico, on sale at Whole Foods the other day and they are the MOST delicious mangoes (ataulfo or otherwise) I have ever tasted. Talk about transporting me back.)
Now that I’m back at school, anxiety has begun to sink its sharp little claws into my brain.
It’s only the third second day of school, for crying out loud.
But I have constant fears that I’ve forgotten an assignment, or left something somewhere etc. etc.
(I’ve already been at the library for, like, 5 total hours and it’s only day 2!!!!!!!!)
Do I need some sort of intervention? Maybe…
Anyways, back to the banana muffins.
I used a recipe from the fantastic blog Minimalist Baker. They looked so crumbly and so delicious.
The catch is that I found them to be not sweet enough.
I only used 3 large bananas, and I felt like they were needing the recommended fourth, or another 1/3-1/2 cup sugar.
They were a bit too bland for my taste.
(This may be due to the fact that I’m used to in-your-face banana bread. These were very subtle.)
I recommend, if you make the recipe, to add 1/3 cup more sugar, plus all 4 bananas.
The crumb topping was divine—sweet and salty and buttery—and the texture of the muffins was great—firm bite, but not rubbery, crumbly but not fall-apart dry, and a slathering of Nutella not only remedied the sweetness issue, but also added Nutella into the mix, hellooooo duh always delicious.
With a few small tweaks, this may become a winner in my book.
Head over to Minimalist Baker (gosh, I love their site) to get the recipe!
Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate! What a bit of luck! they’ll say,
Those that would not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply—you knew how to wait—
No one else but you.
—Konstantin Simonov, 1941, to Valentina Serova
I refuse to accept the fact that it is nearly November.
I mean, if it is, then
where are the Halloween spooks haunting my blog?
And where are the many festive fall recipes that surely I’ve shared on this page?
And why aren’t there cakes like this (bloody amazing, if I do say so myself) one or this (OCD-tic-inducing) one, or non-pumpkin treats like these cookies or even pumpkin treats, for God’s sake, because even a cliché is better than utter silence and the cold shoulder, isn’t it?!
Where in the world have I been?
Well, this last week I had 2 p-sets, a double lab report, 2 midterms, and a paper due.
Twice this week I have gotten 3 hours of sleep because there is simply too much organic chemistry and cell biology to learn. Far, far too much.
I’m humbled by this year.
I haven’t quite bitten off more than I can chew, but my mouth is certainly full.
I know the blog has been sadly neglected, but it’s not just because I’m busy. I promise I haven’t forgotten, either.
The developer I hired has fixed the Pinterest issue, I think, and if that’s true, I’ll be unreasonably happy and grateful.
I have a bunch of new, delicious cakes to share with you, and one of them is (ya, Alexa, this is your shoutout) this gal’s birthday cake.
For now, I’ve brought something comforting and cozy and warm.
Something buttery, full of warm spice, and covered in crackling glaze. Brown butter and banana and speculoos.
This is a classic banana cake, made with a combination of butter and coconut oil along with greek yogurt to keep it moist and tender, with four wizened old bananas to give it the most concentrated banana flavor.
It’s a go-to.
The glaze is bananas… Unbelievably addicting. You will spoon it straight into your mouth, unless you have a remarkably ascetic type of willpower. Ahem. Butter is browned until it’s fragrant, then showered with lots of fat flaky sea salt shards. A few spoonfuls of cookie butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon are whisked in; next comes milk (or cream, you minx) and a pile of powdered sugar. The whole shebang is glossy, shiny, and sexy. It’s thick and pourable and cools into a shattering glaze that perfectly complements the soft banana cake underneath.
You must use all of it. It seems like a lot.
You must persevere, friends.
Happy Halloween! Let’s eat some cake.
Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
cake portion adapted from Hummingbird High
makes 1 bundt cake
for the cake:
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) butter
4 ounces coconut oil
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 blackened bananas
1 cup greek yogurt
for the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon)
3 tablespoons cookie butter (speculoos, biscoff)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
~1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan very well.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the sugar and salt and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the eggs and beat for 5 full minutes, until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and pale white—it shouldn’t be gritty.
Mash the bananas with the yogurt and vanilla extract, then add them into the bowl (don’t mix yet).
Place the flour and baking soda on top of the bananas, then gently stir to combine everything, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Pour batter into pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out completely clean; allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: brown the butter in a sauce pot, then add in the salt and speculoos and whisk vigorously to melt the speculoos.
Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and milk; whisk in powdered sugar until no lumps remain (you may want to sift it in).
While cake is just barely warm, pour the warm glaze all over it.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cut into fat wedges and serve with milk and tea.
Then a calm, solemn pleasure steals
into your inmost mind;
a quiet aura your spirit feels,
a softened stillness kind.
It’s been a bit quiet around here, unusually so. Have you missed my whining?
But I’m back anyways! Sort of.
Finals are over! I can now melt into a puddle of delicious laziness; I can and I promptly will.
Lord, does it ever feel good to relax.
I’m on vacation for spring break.
No, not an SBK2014-rage-your-face-off-throw-up-on-the-beach-by-day-club-hop-by-night type vacation, but a quiet, revitalizing trip.
(The former isn’t quite my style or speed, in case you hadn’t realized.)
I’m in Mexico, having an utter blast and seriously luxuriating in the heat.
I plan on getting tan (sorry mama!) and drinking a lot of piña coladas (not sorry), exploring the beach and eating a ton of fruit.
(Also, Netflix. Currently watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Um, Orlando Bloom. Swoon.)
All in all, this is shaping up to be a swell break.
Since I’ve now forced my happy, warm, tropical vibes into your mind, I’ll share some with you, in the shape of a delicious cake. Huzzah!
This cake is wholly dairy-free, and could easily be made vegan with a flax egg or egg replacer and vegan chocolate for the frosting.
This cake is part whole wheat, and is chock full of good fats from the coconut and macadamia nuts.
Coconut comes in three forms: oil, meat, and milk.
This is a one bowl cake, with an ideal texture for banana cakes: a good bite, moist and sweet, but not mushy or cloying.
The frosting is not sweet at all, and adds good bitter notes to the dessert.
This is a winner, for sure.
Some notes on the recipe:
Use brown, brown, nasty looking bananas. The browner, the better. Brown, spotty, mushy ones will be sweeter and more flavorful in the finished product, though they are gross eaten out of hand.
This is because the sugars have begun to break down, creating flavor and scent molecules which enhance the cake.
You can use 1 can of full-fat coconut milk for this recipe; refrigerate it overnight and scrape off 1/2 cup of the thick cream at the top for the ganache, then whisk the rest together and measure out 3 tablespoons of this milk for the cake.
Scraping the cream for the ganache is the same procedure as making coconut whipped cream; here are two good tutorials— just skip the whipping part.
You can easily use sweetened flaked coconut in place of the desiccated, if that’s all you can find. Use a little over 1/2 a cup to get the same amount of flavor.
Feel free to leave the macadamia nuts out; I think they add a lovely tropical flavor, but some people don’t like them.
You can use a mixture of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, but definitely don’t use milk chocolate. It will be too sweet.
So hello, hello, from the tropics. I’m glad to be back– I’ll be posting, even from down here, so don’t you worry.
Just start with this cake. More on the way.
Tropical Coconut Banana Cake
cake portion adapted from The Galley Gourmet
makes 1 8×8 inch cake
for the cake:
4 ounces (approximately 1/2 cup) coconut oil, solid
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 extra large egg, at room temperature
3 medium bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cups plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
for the ganache:
1/2 cup coconut cream
5 1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8×8 inch pan.
Place coconut oil, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 4 minutes, until fluffy and light.
Scrape the bowl and add the egg; beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the mashed bananas; mix slowly just to start to incorporate the bananas.
Add in the coconut milk, vanilla, and vinegar and stir once or twice to start to incorporate the wet ingredients.
Dump the flours on top, then the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Mix on high, starting slow and working up, until batter is completely homogeneous.
Stir in coconut and macadamia nuts.
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
To make the ganache, heat the coconut cream until bubbling, then pour over chopped chocolate.
Whisk (or blend with an immersion blender) until shiny and smooth.
Allow to cool until spreadable, then frost cake.
Allow ganache to fully set before cutting cake.