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
Continue reading “Kingly”

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.


Continue reading “Septième”

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

Continue reading “One That I Adore”

Here We Are Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tried and true recipes from Christmases past:

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

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

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

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

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

to assemble:
orange marmalade, if desired

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

Retrouvailles

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star.
It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.
Maybe the star doesn’t even exist anymore.
Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”

South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

In the throes of warm happiness; or the bleak confines of sadness; or the boiling, poisonous depths of anger, it is hard to imagine a stronger emotion than that which has caught you, in that moment, in a tight, isolating embrace.
But increasingly, I find myself believing that nostalgia is the strongest emotion.

When you think about it, of course it is. This revelation is indeed not one at all, for no other emotion so fluidly combines each of your senses, as likely to be triggered by the scent and taste of a food or someone’s neck as the sight of a landmark or beauty mark, or a chilled wind or brush of familiar fingers or the soundtrack of a particular time of your life.

The empty melancholy of nostalgia makes my brain vibrate with a painfully pleasurable resonance. I can feel it mushrooming through my body, as my chest walls and throat constrict, as if I am hugging myself ever closer, ever tighter.

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Wandering around the chilled campus of my alma mater for the first time since I gathered up all of my unknowns and heartbreaks and moved across the country, I felt that familiar emotion bubbling up aggressively, threatening to burst the tight seams that I have so much difficulty loosening.
I will admit to only a couple hot, confused tears borne of happiness and sadness.
Walking underneath the gates where we passed as first years, in our welcome ceremony, and then returned underneath to graduate into adulthood, I felt shivery and strange.
Always the students three years above seemed older, wiser, more ready. They left and I was temporarily sad, but the next year, life mostly just ticked onwards. It always felt far away.
In the end, I watched myself graduate into adulthood at essentially the same detached distance as I had all those who had gone before me, not because I wasn’t feeling intense emotions, but because it was simply a function of time passing, and naught can be done to stop that.
It happens whether you accept it willingly or not.

Still, the nostalgia I felt under Cobb Gate wracked me. My memories surprised me with their proximity. I yearned to be back in that time of my life, to be that person who I was when I first passed underneath the archway, or at least to be the person I was when I filed through for the last time.
I’m well past college at this point, emotionally and timewise.
Still, the nostalgia brought me back in an instant.

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

How lucky our species is, that possibly our keenest emotion is actually the dullest; the sharpest, clearest edges are smoothed by the blurriness of reminiscence.
I reckon perfect recollection would be a heavy burden indeed.

Instead, we sweep aside the boring and mundane entirely. We often view old flaming passions with bemusement. The trenches we trudged through seem much less deep and dark when looking backwards.
The gashes rent by grief, blessedly, are smoothed and filled in by fonder, treasured memories.
Even wild happiness is bridled in hindsight, as we shape it to fit what we know would come next; the magnitude of joy may stay the same, but there is little, if any, mystery or surprise to nostalgia.
Nostalgia is not an act of discovery. It is the opposite. It is an act of returning to a place—or a time, or a person—that feels like home.

RETROUVAILLES, subst. fém. plur. Fait, pour des personnes, de se revoir, en particulier après une longue séparation.

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The cake I’m sharing today is unexpectedly nostalgic; a bit of a surprise twist on a classic.

The base swaps carrots for parsnips, imparting an extra earthy softness to the flavor; it’s rounded out with nubbly coconut and a hearty hit of warming spices.
Miso caramel sauce, brought almost to the point of burning so that it retains a faint smokiness, is layered between the cake as well as mixed into the fluffy, creamy buttercream.
An extra pinch of salt here and there cuts the rich sweetness.

The frosting is swirled with extra caramel, and the cake is topped with the prettiest color-coordinated sprinkles.

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Thanks so much to Wilton Cakes for providing me with materials used to make this cake!
Speaking of nostalgic, I’ve been using Wilton products since I started baking from scratch—I literally bought all of my starter items from the AC Moore in Ithaca (before it closed!). They had 2 1/2 aisles of Wilton products, and whenever my mom would go to pick up scrapbooking supplies or frames, I would wander over and daydream about making fondant flowers, baking armies of cupcakes, and using every cookie cutter ever invented.

Below are some links to products I used for this project, and how they can help you create beautiful baked goods more easily.

First, this is a 6-inch round cake. It’s perfectly petite and my personal favorite size of cake to make. Here’s a link to the pans I used.
For the frosting, a drop of brown and a drop of yellow food coloring will help you get a beautifully even caramel color.
The easiest way to crumb coat the cake is using a large cake icer tip (Tip 789) and a turntable. You can get an even layer of frosting using the jumbo tip, and smoothing it out without disturbing the crumbs is easiest with long strokes—that’s where the turntable becomes so useful! (I also use these piping bags, and a new-to-me tool: piping bag ties!)
The sprinkles are a mix of these gorgeous pearlized gold sprinkles as well as these autumn sugar sprinkles.

Here are some other autumn ideas from Wilton, and be sure to check out their holiday ideas as well! 

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Parsnip and Miso Caramel Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the parsnip cake:
1 cup (120 grams) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (approximately 3 small-medium sized) parsnips
42 grams (1/2 cup) shredded sweetened coconut
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
112 grams (1/2 cup) canola oil
2 eggs

for the miso caramel frosting:
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) water
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) heavy cream
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso
big pinch salt, to taste

225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
650 grams (5 cups plus 3 tablespoons) powdered sugar, as needed
60-80 grams (1/4 – 1/3 cup) heavy cream, room temperature, as needed
big pinch salt, to taste

to assemble:
Wilton sprinkles

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grate parsnips finely, using a cheese grater or a food processor with the shredding blade.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt together.
Stir sugar and canola oil together, then whisk in the eggs one at a time.
Gently stir in the shredded parsnips and coconut, being sure to break up any large clumps.
Add the dry ingredients over the wet, and gently fold in, stirring firmly once or twice at the end to ensure homogeneity.
Portion out the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs and the cakes are golden and the tops springy to the touch.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.
Make the caramel for the frosting: place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat.
Cook the caramel until it reaches an amber color; immediately remove it from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream and butter.
Whisk vigorously until the mixture is homogeneous, then pour into a bowl and add the miso and a pinch of salt; whisk again until the miso has broken up and incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, then add salt to taste if needed.
Make the frosting: whip softened butter for at least 3 minutes, until light in color and fluffy and smooth.
Add 1/4 cup of the miso frosting and start mixing on low speed.
Add in 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar at a time, stopping regularly to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Once 4 cups of the sugar have been incorporated, add 1/4 cup of heavy cream one tablespoon at a time.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and whip on high for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Add the remaining amount of powdered sugar if the frosting is too thin; add an additional few tablespoons of heavy cream is the frosting is too thick.
Place 1/3 cup frosting on the first cake round; drizzle on about 2 tablespoons of caramel.
Repeat with the next round, then crumb coat the whole cake.
Frost the cake thickly, placing dots of caramel randomly around the cake to swirl into the frosting as you smooth the outside.
Pipe decorations on top as desired, then decorate with Wilton sprinkles!

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!

Proportion

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s Autumn.
The days are cool and bed is extra cozy.
Finally, even New York City is bearable.

It’s time to embrace pumpkin everything, Beloved!

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Things in my life have been happy-crazy-busy, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Taking time to create can sometimes add extra scheduling stress, but when I make something I’m truly happy with, I’m reminded why I love blogging and baking so much.

I’ve been planning to make a hexagonal cake for ages now—but it’s remained on my ideas/to-make list, gathering dust.
When I finished the photos and stepped back, mouth full of a bite of cake, I was overcome with an indescribably proud and excited wave of emotion.
I love sharing things here, with you. I can’t imagine life any other way.

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

I had my heart set on using dulcey chocolate here, and I couldn’t find it anywhere, frustratingly.
I decided I’d take the extra step and caramelize white chocolate myself, but I had inadvertently put time constraints on myself (this post had to be done today, to be part of the virtual pumpkin party!), and worried it wouldn’t come out perfectly.
I always worry when I try something new for the first time in the kitchen.

Luckily for me, I stopped at a different Whole Foods on my way home from work one night. The lines were all super long, and I resigned myself to one that didn’t quite seem interminable.
Much to my surprise, the side section of this line had many containers of dulcey fêves. I snatched one up and silently thanked the universe.
This serendipity made making this cake even more satisfying.

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake is a classic pumpkin base, soft and moist without being dense.
It’s carved into hexagonal shapes and briefly frozen to ensure crisp edges.
The cake is enrobed in spiced Italian meringue buttercream, silky smooth and redolent with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, balanced with a hit of salt.
A modest drizzle of Valrhona dulcey chocolate ganache, which bewitchingly tastes like caramel and white chocolate at the same time.

Sliced and served with an extra swirl of dulcey chocolate, this is autumnal heaven.

Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Here’s the link to the 2018 virtual pumpkin party!

Big thanks to Sara (Cake Over Steak) for hosting this party again! It’s such a fun way to share with other food bloggers and our readers.

Last year, I made a No-Bake Checkerboard Pumpkin Cheesecake.
The year before that, I made Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes.


Hexagonal Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream | La Pêche Fraîche

Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3×8 inch round cake or 1 3×6-inch hexagonal cake

ingredients:
for the pumpkin cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup, 1 1/2 sticks) butter
42 grams (3 tablespoons) neutral oil
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
20 grams (1 tablespoon) molasses
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 eggs
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
400 grams (1 3/4 cup, ~1 can less 2 tablespoons) pumpkin puree

for the spiced meringue buttercream:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
226 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter

to assemble:
84 grams dulcey chocolate
70 grams (4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) heavy cream

directions:
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 8-inch round pans.
Whip butter and oil together until smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
Add in sugar, molasses, salt, and spices and whip on high for 3 more minutes.
Scrape sides of bowl and add in one egg; beat for a full minute before scraping sides again and adding the next.
Repeat once more so that all the eggs have been fully incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda on top of the batter.
Add the pumpkin on top of the dry ingredients.
Slowly start to stir; mix on low until the pumpkin and dry ingredients are mostly incorporated.
Scrape the sides of the bowl once more and stir on medium speed to ensure that everything is homogeneous.
Portion out batter evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 30-40 minutes; a tester should come out with a few moist crumbs and the internal temperature of the cake should register around 210 degrees F.
Allow to cool completely.
If carving the cake, wrap and freeze the cakes for at least one night.
Carve the cakes into a hexagonal shape using a template and freeze again.
Make the icing: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Add the spices, then beat in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Make the ganache: heat heavy cream until simmering, then pour over chopped chocolate.
Allow to sit for 3 minutes, then whisk quickly until the ganache comes together in a shiny, smooth, homogenous mixture.
Allow to cool while you frost the cake.
Frost the cake with a crumb coat, then chill for a few minutes.
Finish frosting the cake and chill for at least 15 minutes.
Pour the ganache over the cake as desired.
Decorate with edible flowers!

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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