O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your branches green delight us! They are green when summer days are bright, They are green when winter snow is white. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your branches green delight us!
Let me just say what needs to be said: if you haven’t seen the most recent Carpool Karaoke with Ultimate Diva Mariah Carey, there’s no way that you’re adequately prepared for the holidays. I’ve watched that video at least 5 times. It’s so fun and energetic, and obviously, the song is infectious (in a good way the first 25 times you sing/hum the chorus out loud, then a worse and worse way each successive time your subconscious forces you to sing it).
To be quite honest, I haven’t done much other holiday prep other than that (and baking these cookies to send to my friends!). Since my family moved to NYC, we don’t have a Christmas tree or any of our normal decor (we have a lot more space in our house in the country than this loft in Soho, needless to say).
I’ll be making a Christmas cake closer to the actual date (only 5 days now, gah), but other than that, it looks like a lot of MCAT studying and not too much holiday-ing apart from, of course, spending time with my family.
These sparkly, highlighted Christmas trees were made with my tried-and-true butter cookie dough, which I rolled out extra thin so that they could survive being shipped. The frosting is an easy royal icing—just whisk together three ingredients.
I decorated my cookies with a little bit of gold luster dust mixed with alcohol, and then I dusted silver luster dust over the whole cookie once it was dry to give it a little sparkle and shine!
These are definitely my go-to holiday cookies. These (and gingersnaps) stay fresh since they’re nice and crispy, so they’re ideal for shipping and gifting—just not to anyone who has braces, ha!
Perfect Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
makes 10 2 1/2 inch cookies
112 grams (1/2 cup) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 medium egg (or half a large, whisked and weighed)
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
Beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the salt and sugar and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 full minutes.
Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes; scrape the bowl and beat until homogeneous again.
Mixture should be light and fairly fluffy.
Add in the flour and stir on low speed until fully combined.
Roll out to 1/4 inch-3/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into desired shapes and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Decorate with royal icing.
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create.
If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad.
If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it.
And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?
Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.
Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
My blog has grown along with me, starting at the tender age of 16 and sticking with me as I graduated high school and left home for the first time to come to UChicago, got my first (and second) real job, moved to NYC all on my own, snagged a wonderful boyfriend etc, etc.
The coming year will see me turn 21, will see me finish up college (yipes), and more. If all goes as planned, there will be many, many sweet treats to share along the way.
You’d think that by now, I’d have gotten the hang of things, but every new post is a learning experience.
Take this post, for example.
Another blogiversary means another pink cake. It’s become tradition for me, although I do suspect that I will, at some point, run out of pink cake ideas. I didn’t have much time to make the cake so I tried to prep ahead; I didn’t have enough egg whites to make an Italian meringue buttercream so I went with American; my macarons were far from perfect (surprise, surprise). My chocolate ganache drip looked a bit wonky and I ended up disliking the minimal frosting look, although the entire cake together had a sort of eclectic charm.
All things to learn from, and not terrible goof-ups.
But then! I managed to leave my camera at 1600 ISO throughout the entire. stupid. shoot. And what’s more, I didn’t notice until the next time I pulled out my camera, meaning half a week later, when the cake was long, long gone. Damn.
And now, the majority of this post is going to be me complaining about this post. Hahahaha.
All in all, I actually prefer last year’s and the year before. Both the aesthetics of the cakes and the words contained within the post. So maybe go read those.
That being said, this cake was a runaway hit with everyone who tasted it, so I’ll count it in the successes, rather than the flops.
This cake is a mix of inspiration from Andy Bowdy, Don’t Tell Charles, and Cordy’s Cakes, all of whom you can find on Instagram, and all of whom make jaw-dropping cakes.
It’s a moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with raspberry buttercream, with layers of almond macaron shells, decorated with a river of toasted Italian meringue, dark chocolate ganache drips, coconut rafaellos, cocoa crumble, more macarons, and strawberries.
There are many components, but most can be made ahead, and it is really a delicious combination.
The macaron shells between the cakes are a magical touch. I had a few people come up to me after eating the cake who asked what in the world was between the layers that made the cake sooo damn good. I had forgotten to tell everyone that there were cookies inside the cake.
Surprise cookies are almost always magical.
Thank you all for your continued support, love, and readership.
I appreciate everyone who visits this page, even when nothing exciting or new is happening.
La Pêche Fraîche may be my own folly, but in the end, it is for you.
Here’s to another year of love, happiness, and lots of cake.
An Eclectic Chocolate Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion from Liv for Cake
for the cake:
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
56 grams (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk
180 grams (3/4 cup) hot coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
for the raspberry buttercream:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
600 gram (5 cups) confectioner’s sugar, as needed
30-90 grams (2-6 tablespoons) half-and-half or whole milk, as needed
1/3 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed into powder
drop pink food coloring, if desired
for the meringue:
2 large egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
30 grams (2 tablespoons) water
for the cocoa crumb:
30 grams (2 tablespoons) butter, melted
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
20 grams (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
1 batch macaron shells
crushed freeze-dried raspberries
Make a batch of macaron shells (I use Annie’s recipe and follow her directions to a T) ahead of time and store in a air-tight container.
To make the cocoa crumb: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stir together the melted butter with the sugar, then add the flour and cocoa powder at the same time. Carefully incorporate until the mixture is sandy and crumb-like.
Shake the crumbs onto the prepared pan and separate a little; bake for 5-6 minutes, until dry to the touch; allow to cool.
Crumb can be made up to a week in advance and stored in an air-tight container.
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch round pans.
Place cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a big bowl; whisk together.
Add the oil, buttermilk, hot coffee, and salt and whisk vigorously until combined.
Add the eggs, whisking after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of that.
Whisk the batter together until it is homogenous; it will be liquidy.
Portion out evenly into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 15-18 minutes in a 350 degree F oven, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until very light colored and doubled in volume.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition.
Add in 2 tablespoons of half-and-half and beat on high speed to incorporate.
Scrape the bowl and taste the frosting; if it is too thin, add the next cup of powdered sugar; if it is too thick, add another tablespoon of half-and-half at a time.
If it is too buttery, add the extra cup of powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half and beat on high speed for another minute.
Add the crushed freeze-dried raspberries and food coloring, if desired, and beat to combine.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer on serving platter and top with 1/2 cup of frosting; top with a few macaron shells and the next cake layer.
Repeat until last cake layer is used; frost with the remaining icing, leaving it semi-naked if desired.
Place in fridge while you prepare the toppings.
Melt chocolate 2/3 of the way in the microwave; microwave the cream until hot but not boiling.
Pour cream over chocolate and set aside for 1 minute.
Fill a few of the macaron shells with extra frosting; set aside or put in fridge to set.
Whisk the ganache together until very shiny, smooth, and uniform; set aside while you make the meringue.
Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft peaks.
Carefully pour hot syrup into whipping egg whites and whip on high speed until cooled, fluffy, and shiny, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove cake from fridge and decorate with a mound of meringue.
Arrange cocoa crumbs around the bottom, pour a little ganache down the sides to create a drip, and arrange sliced strawberries, more cocoa crumbs, macarons, and rafaellos around the meringue.
Torch meringue and sprinkle a little freeze-dried raspberry powder over the cake.
Serve within the day.
A half full moon in Mexico City I think of you
And when I saw the Southern Cross I wished you had too
I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew
But it’s as warm as saxophones and honey in the sun for you
I met Nati when we were both eighteen years old. We have seen three of his birthdays come and go (and two of mine).
Though we are still quite tender and young, our relationship has grown into something far hardier than the sweet spring shoot that it first was.
I mean, I’ve now spent 10% of my life fascinated by this boy (less the 2% spent frustrated by him). Side by side in the library, across dinner tables, passenger and driver in the car. Nearly inseparable.
That’s the beautiful thing about being in college and being in a relationship. We have all this time to spend together—no separate jobs or many demands outside the library. (Although we do average an obscene number of hours in the library every day.)
Of course, we are fortunate to have the same major and thus many of the same classes, but N and I have grown to be symbiotic beyond just doing problem sets together. It is easy—and comforting—to be together. We support one another and can always be there for each other.
No two relationships are the same, of course, which is why giving relationship advice and identifying with others can be tricky. What works for us is completely different than for our friends.
But what works, works.
And so, Sunday, we had dinner at Momotaro (probably our favorite restaurant) to celebrate today: our 2 year anniversary!
So happy happy to my beloved. You make me melt like a helpless scoop of ice cream in the sweatiest parts of July.
I was inspired to make this by a super cute cake I saw on Pinterest (of course) a while back.
I assembled it as best I remembered, snapped my photos, and then spent some time sleuthing to find the person who created such an adorable cake.
I found the site, delighted and impressed by the stunning photography all over again, and then was terribly dismayed to find out (via an indignant comment section) that the blogger had actually completely and silently ripped the exact design (not even changing the FONT like I did) from an artist, with nary a mention or link back.
Honestly, as someone who has been the victim of this type of irritating internet inspiration theft, I was seriously bummed. It’s a terrible feeling, especially when the thief’s site is more visible and famous than your own (ahem, Studio DIY. Passive aggressive stink eye your way).
I mean, how much does it take to provide a link back to your original inspiration for your readers? If you didn’t outright steal their photos (which is a whole other issue), it costs you nothing. You used their beautiful content as inspiration for your own. It detracts not a single iota from your work!
It’s healthy and good to want to recreate someone else’s great content from time to time—just give them original credit or make your own damn stuff. So. With that rant out of the way…
This is the link to the original artist, Shanna Murray. I would just post this link to avoid sending more traffic to someone’s stolen goods, but I drew heavy inspiration from 79 Ideas’ cake version/photos of Shanna’s work, so it’s only fair. I simply recommend you click on Shanna’s site instead of 79 Ideas because we vote with our clicks, people.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make for the inside of the cake, so I drew inspiration from N figured out what description would embarrass him the most and ran with it.
See, he’s naturally tall, dark, and handsome (lucky me!), so I wanted a very dark chocolate frosting to match.
He has the *best* caramel skin, so I toyed with the idea of a caramel or peanut butter cake, but upon opening my pantry and finding myself face to face with a big bottle of honey, I realized that a cinnamon honey cake would be perfect.
I added candied ginger as my contribution, because I tend to be spicy and toothsome while he runs as suave as ganache.
See? He’s totally embarrassed right now.
Anyways, this cake is fabulously grown-up.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for kiddos or those who love sugary sweets because it’s the opposite of that.
It’s complex and subtle and very, very rich.
The honey cake is crumbly yet moist, and the cinnamon shines through. The honey plays the important role of tempering the sweetness—less sugar is needed, and the flavor of the honey is less one-note. Spicy candied ginger provides a thoughtfully chewy and bright bite between the cake layers.
The ganache is made ultra-smooth by using dark, bittersweet chocolate plus butter and cream, with a generous scoop of Nutella to round it out.
Overall, this is one of the more elegant layer cakes I’ve made. It is a special celebration cake, whether for a birthday or an anniversary or a graduation (*shudder*).
Finally, I’ve never shared a picture of the two of us, but now is as good a time as ever:
Dark Chocolate Honey Cake
cake portion adapted from Love, Cake makes 1 3×8 inch cake
for the cake:
115 grams (1/3 cup) honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
250 grams (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
180 grams (3/4 cup) buttermilk
for the ganache:
225 grams (2 sticks) butter
75 grams (1/3 cup) heavy cream
300 grams (11 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
100 grams (5 tablespoons) nutella
handful candied ginger, chopped finely
1 tablespoon butter, soft
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream, as needed
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3 8-inch round pans.
Place honey in a pot over medium heat for about 45 seconds, until it becomes fluid and runny.
Stir in the baking soda and stir with a spatula for another 45 seconds, until the mixture is very pale golden and foamy.
Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add in the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs; beat for another 2 minutes before adding the honey mixture while stirring.
Add the buttermilk and stir once, until half combined.
Add the flour on top, along with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Stir until everything is combined and batter is smooth, about 45 seconds.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the ganache: place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
Microwave in 10 second bursts until chocolate is 1/2 melted.
Stir and set aside; heat butter and cream for 30 seconds in the microwave, until melted and quite warm but not scalding hot.
Pour cream mixture over the half melted chocolate and allow to sit for 30 seconds.
Stir until cream is incorporated; add the Nutella and microwave for 10-30 more seconds, stirring well between microwaving, until the mixture is completely melted and is glossy and smooth.
Allow to cool to room temperature; place in fridge for 20 minutes until solid but still soft enough to be scoopable.
Whip or beat vigorously with a spoon or mixer until the frosting is fluffy and spreadable.
To decorate the cake, place one layer on cake stand. Spread 1/3 up of the ganache over the layer, then sprinkle half of the chopped ginger on top.
Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer and frost the outside of the cake with the remaining ganache.
Refrigerate while you make the white pipeable icing.
To make the white icing, beat butter with powdered sugar and a pinch of salt until mixture is smooth.
Add in the cream 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing is thin enough to be pipeable.
Decorate chilled cake as desired; serve at room temperature (take cake out of the fridge 1-2 hours before serving).
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but
people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It doesn’t really feel like my birthday today.
It couldn’t possibly be.
And yet here I am, turning twenty.
My body and soul have completed one more trip around the sun.
20 years old; 2 decades done and dusted.
Today is a very special day; it’s the day when all my Facebook friends will murmur their felicitations on my wall.
Hbd, hbd. Heartfelt. Ha. Ha.
But in all seriousness—and maybe it seems too cliché and millennial—these little reminders are a sweet part of the day; after all, people are taking their time out to send me a little wish.
It would be wasteful to not be thankful, although my friends and I no longer keep count the way we did in middle school.
As I age (o, le pauvre, j’suis vraiment trop vielle…), birthdays become a new sort of clarifying moment.
What becomes important and what falls out of magnification are telling.
That which I reflect upon, replaying over and over, and those minutiae that I let fall to the wayside simply because they are heavy are telling.
Somehow, the nights that bookend my Glorious Day of Birth find me in tears and astounded gratitude for my life/the world.
I aim more and more, these days, to take nothing for granted. To live and revel in what is important, and let all else go. In some ways, to depart from my hyper uptight nature.
When I was little (very little and even not-so-little), my birthdays would always, always end in a tantrum, in a great storm cloud of frustration and sadness and lots and lots of crying.
I’m not quite sure why, exactly.
There was always such a buildup of excitement and anticipation; I think we’re all familiar with the over-hype of a birthday.
I’m type-A, to say the least; even when I was 5, when the smallest thing would go wrong with the endless and carefully laid plans that my mom and dad had made, tailored to my obsessive specifications, I would melt (Princess hats must be more CONE-shaped, Mummy, and they must be pink satin).
My parents, patient pillars that they are, would herd the little party guests away from their red-faced, sobbing spawn.
When I think back on these times (and, curiously, I do remember snippets from these parties, though little else from that age remains in the dusty cabinets of my brain), I laugh and cringe and feel ashamed.
But mostly, I am moved and inspired by what my creators put up while at the mercy of my meaty little birthday paws.
I feel their love and forbearance even through the years.
I couldn’t ask for better birthday memories than those.
It’s strange to think of how old I have become.
Even stranger to think how it must look to others.
I am, after all, the baby of the family.
My brothers wonder that I’m not still 8; my parents marvel at the years that have flown by; my peers are suspicious that I haven’t been 23 this entire time…
I don’t know which age I perceive myself to be. I just know it can’t possibly be twenty—that number feels like an ill-fitting shoe on the wrong foot for now.
But it will wear in (gracefully, I pray), and by the time 21 and Adulthood roll around, I know that I shall be twenty through and through. Just in time to start over again.
A pavlova is my idea of a perfect birthday cake.
It is the ultimate dessert for me—no question about it.
So light, so airy and fluffy—the perfect cloud of dessert.
I, of course, prefer primarily fruity sweets to deep, dark chocolaty ones.
And my birthday cake is therefore appropriately fruitful.
A very sturdy, slow-baked meringue with a hint of salt forms the layers of the cake. Tart, buttery, and unmistakably fruity passionfruit-lemon curd is spread over, then topped with smooth, cool whipped cream. Jewel-like late-season raspberries accentuate each layer, as do light lashings of dark chocolate nutella ganache, a perfect rich and sweet foil to the tart fruits.
Each bite is a harmonious melange of textures and flavors. It’s a birthday cake perfectly suited to my tastes, and it is simply delicious!
P.S. I actually like making my own birthday cakes, because then I don’t have to feel a single ounce of guilt for cutting into it early for photographs!
Too bad pavs don’t cut very cleanly…!
I preemptively put this one in a bowl and used a spoon to scoop; the first cut rendered it utterly slippery and slidey and it was not long for the layered life.
Now, it’s an Eaton mess. And I ain’t even worried.
The monument of a memory
You tear it down in your head
Don’t make the mountain your enemy
Get out, get up there instead
You saw the stars out in front of you
Too tempting not to touch
But even though it shocked you
Something’s electric in your blood.
—Various Storms and Saints, Florence and the Machine
Passionfruit, Raspberry, and Chocolate Pavlova makes 1 8-inch pavlova
for the meringue layers:
100 grams (10 large) egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vinegar
500 grams (2 1/2 cups) sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch kosher salt
for the passionfruit curd:
125 grams (1/2 cup) passionfruit pulp, thawed if frozen
2 egg yolks
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
150 grams (6 ounces) butter, cold
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
45 grams (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
2 tablespoons nutella
pinch kosher salt
3 cups heavy cream, cold
Make the meringue: preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment; draw 3 8-inch circles on the paper.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the cream of tartar and vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixer in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a palette knife, spread the meringue into rough circles on the parchment, using the knife to create high sides.
Bake for 5 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the passionfruit curd: whisk passionfruit pulp, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and lemon juice together.
Place cold butter in a food processor or blender.
Cook over medium heat; sift cornstarch over while whisking; bring to a boil.
When curd comes to a boil and thickens, pour over cold butter; start the machine and process until the butter has emulsified.
Allow to cool completely, then press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until chilled.
To assemble, melt the chocolate, nutella, salt, and cream together, then whip vigorously until shiny and thick.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
Place 1 layer of meringue on a cake plate; secure the bottom with a dollop of curd if desired.
Spread a layer of curd onto the meringue, then a layer of whipped cream.
Drizzle a little chocolate sauce onto the whipped cream, then place a few raspberries.
Repeat the process with the remaining layers; finish the top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, if desired.
Best eaten the day it is made.
Let’s talk about busyness. Let’s talk about crazy sleep-deprived weeks and times when there just isn’t enough time.
Talk about my new coffee-free lifestyle and how damn hard it is to keep your eyes open in a darkened lecture room.
About blog malfunctions (WHy, Pinterest, wHyyyYYyy) that seemingly can’t be fixed, about being so frustrated that you don’t even want to try anymore.
Talk about sophomore year and living with best friends and becoming a Theta girl and bumps and ruts in the road.
Talk about all the millions of things that I’ve wanted to say here that I haven’t had time to put down in a post.
Can we talk about how just the other day I saw a man and his young son sitting in the autumn sun, basking with eyes shut, hands folded, peaceful as can be, and it warmed my heart for one brief moment, almost as much as it warmed theirs, before bio lecture called and demanded that I rush onwards?
Time is cruel. My schedule is punishing.
But I’m still here, and I know you are all here, waiting, too.
I’ve hired a web developer to try to solve my Pinterest woes, but that still hangs heavy in my heart.
I put so much work into this blog, and all I want is for it to work and run smoothly like a well oiled machine.
I have some fabulous things to share here, but I’m reluctant since I know a big part of the meat of my blog (Pinterest traffic/interest) is missing in action!
Life is crazy busy; second year is hard; my roomies are busy and my boyfriend is busy and I don’t sleep anymore.
But it’s good. This life of perpetual motion and grinding work is one I chose; in the end, it’s fun and rewarding and there’s something deeply satisfying about being so exhausted that you fall asleep even before you’ve sunken all the way down into your fluffy, white, cloud bed.
These brownies are for Betsy.
She’s a Starbucks addict, and her favorite is a soy peppermint mocha (or an iced vanilla soy latte).
I was looking for an excuse to use my mini tartlette pans (remember these cute cakes?!), so I got to mixing up some quick brownie batter.
This batter takes the typical melted chocolate that’s added to brownies and replaces it with cocoa powder and butter—chocolate is just cocoa butter and cocoa powder, so why not replace the relatively flavorless cocoa butter with flavorful dairy butter?
Thank you Alice Medrich, for this impeccable logic.
Everyone else. Dooo it.
These brownies are fudgy, with shiny, crackly tops and the most satisfyingly chewy edges; the peppermint, salt, and espresso powder cut the richness and provide depth. The ganache is—literally—the icing on top, finishing the thick, rich brownie with a perfectly smooth counterpart.
PLUS they’re whole wheat, and no one had any idea.
My roommates’ verdicts?
“Christmas in a cupcake.”
“I think I’ve had thousands of peppermint mochas in my life, and this passes the test.” (Guess who said that…)
“Thin mint. Thin mint. Thin mint.”
I don’t like Starbucks (I HATE Starbucks tbh) but this flavor combo is a straight up killaaaaa.
It’s a must make for fall/winter bakers!
Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies
makes ~30 brownie bites, or 1 8×8 inch pan
adapted from Alice Medrich
for the brownies:
275 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder
250 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
70 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
80 grams (~1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour
for the ganache:
70 grams (~2.5 ounces) dark chocolate
28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
50 grams (~3 tablespoons) half-and-half, room temp
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour whatever pans or tins you are using.
Melt unsalted butter in a pan or in the microwave; stir in espresso powder and sugar.
Whisking vigorously, whisk in cocoa powder, salt, and extracts.
Whisk in eggs and then gently stir in flour until the batter is homogeneous.
Scoop or spread the batter into the greased tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool completely, then place in freezer for at least 45 minutes.
While the brownies are chilling, make ganache: place chocolate, salt, and butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Melt in 30 second increments until 3/4 of the way melted; remove from microwave and whisk the half-and-half in very vigorously.
Whisk until ganache comes together and is shiny.
Pour hot ganache over the frozen brownies (it should set on contact), then allow it to set and the brownies to thaw.
Serve at room temperature with a big glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!
You will hear thunder and remember me, And think: she wanted storms. The rim of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson, And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
Color of passion, anger, love, luck. Of seduction and danger and courage. Of fire and blood and the book on my bedside table.
(A Feast for Crows, obviously.)
Color of summer—raspberries, strawberries, cherries, red currants, tomatoes.
Just take a peek over on the right sidebar for proof.
(This post will soon be added to my little collection of summer’s bounty.)
Walking through the farmer’s market last weekend, ruby jewels in two forms caught my eye: lovely tart little red currants and fat, sweet cherry tomatoes in a veritable rainbow of shades.
This weekend, I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on some of the local corn that’s just now bursting onto the scene.
Lots of photographs today.
I simply couldn’t bear to cut any more from the hundreds I took; I was taken with the drama of the scene.
I took these photos during a fortuitous break in the rain on a grey day; it started drizzling again right as I packed up and came inside.
I stepped on a snotty, slimy slug while shooting. Panic and terror-stricken screaming ensued.
Still, I persevered, and I’m quite smug pleased with the outcome.
I just love how striking les fruits rouges are, both under the snowy blanket of powdered sugar and unadorned, in all their ripe, natural, juicy glory. (I do not love, however, how crooked my favorite cake stand is. I am realizing why all my photos with this thing seem so off-kilter. Sigh.)
I’ve been struggling to write lately. I have photos, recipes, ideas to share and the words refuse to come.
So I’ll let these photos, of which I am so proud, speak for themselves.
I’m doing my best to be patient with this temporary frustration.
These things always come to pass.
Victoria sponge cake—a classic for a proper English tea.
Layers of fluffy sponge, filled with jam and whipped cream.
Here, the typical sponge cake is kept dead simple: eggs, sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder. Tangy and rich goat cheese cream fills the center, accented with strawberry preserves and fresh strawbs. Finally, the cake is piled high with des fruits rouges and showered with plenty of powdered sugar.
The cake gets better as it ages, as it soaks up the flavors and moisture and everything softens and melds together.
I won’t lie, this kind of sponge cake is not as moist as, say, a nice devil’s food cake, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.
It’s supposed to be eaten with a nice spot of tea, little chickens. Serve it with good, hot, black tea (this tea from Taylors of Harrogate is my absolute, unequivocal favorite) with cream and a touch of sugar.
Victoria Sponge Cake
cake portion adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
makes 2 6-inch layers
for the cake:
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) butter, very soft
6 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
3 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
for the goat cheese cream:
3 ounces goat cheese, soft
5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sour cream
3 ounces (3/4 cup) powdered sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) powdered milk
1/4 cup good quality strawberry preserves
strawberries, cherries, redcurrants, etc.
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and liberally grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans.
Beat butter, salt, and sugar together until very fluffy and nearly white, about 4 minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time and beat for 5 more minutes on high speed, until the mixture is totally smooth (it will be somewhat runny).
Sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and gently fold in; mix until the batter is homogeneous.
Divide the batter into the two pans and smooth the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the golden and the center is springy—a tester should come out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans; once partially cooled, flip onto racks and allow to cool completely.
Once your cakes are cooled, make the goat cheese cream: beat goat cheese and sour cream together until smooth and soft, about 3 minutes.
Sift the sugar and powdered milk over the mixture and stir together until homogeneous.
Level the cakes if need be, then spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam.
Spread the cream over (be generous, it will spill over but its moisture is needed in the cake) top and layer with some sliced strawberries.
Place the top layer on and decorate with fruits as desired; finish with a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Eat as part of a proper tea!
“Great cooking is not for the faint of heart.
You must be imaginative. Strong hearted.
You must try things that may not work.
And you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.
What I say is true: anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great.”
Has it been this long, really?
How could it possibly have been this long?
Such a funny, dual-sided feeling, this one.
I have been writing this blog for my whole life, and, at the same time, have been writing for all of two days.
How can this be?
I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.
I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.
I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.
I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.
And yet here I am, still standing knee neck-deep in flour and sugar and butter.
Here I am, crying as I write this post, laughing at myself and at this silly, silly little space.
For I may have doubted this blog, doubted my writing, my work, my thoughts, myself,
but oh, oh, I have loved, loved, loved.
188 posts prior to this one.
65 about chocolate, 55 about cake (32 about “cakes”), 50 for cookies.
43 posts in which I whine, 7 rants, 22 “stupid,” 13 diva moments.
25 brown butter, 25 holidays.
19 winter posts, but only 11 each of spring and autumn, and a sad 7 spring.
7 starry-eyed dreams, 7 cases of the blues.
39 love and 38 crazy. Coincidence? I think not.
I always talk whine about this, but the growth and development on this blog is remarkable to me.
Look through the archives, and the most tangible improvement– photography– is undeniable.
I won’t lie, some of the photos on this blog are downright scary.
Out of focus, underexposed, unappetizing coloring, terrible angles, lack of styling… Good grief.
However, I remind myself as I cringe, the bad photography is only a testament to my willingness to learn, to try new things, to start from nothing and improve myself. I am proud of this blog, damn it.
I am proud of how much I have learned, both on the pâtisserie and photographic sides.
I am beyond happy to celebrate the start of a third year.
I have no intentions of stopping or slowing down.
I don’t know where this blog is leading me. I don’t know where my life is leading me.
I don’t even know where this post is leading me, for Pete’s sake.
Right now is a volatile and dynamic time in my life, and I’m doing my best to ride the waves, blind and fearful as I am.
Nevertheless, onwards I press, keys tapping and oven creaking.
I have faith that I shall better understand where I’m headed in the future.
I have faith that one day, I’ll figure my shit out.
And I have a strong suspicion that La Pêche Fraîche will be a part of it.
It’s true that there have been times when I have been scared or reluctant to press “Publish.”
There have been posts so raw with emotion that I worry what my readership will think of me.
But you have stuck with me, through all the painful changes and exciting developments.
You’ve borne all my typos and rants and sappiness.
You’ve continued on with me during the slowed down times– I can see you clicking around, probably hungry for fresh material, tired of stale old crumbs. I see you. And I appreciate you.
You’ve read through too-long and too-short posts, through my geek-outs and freak-outs.
So sometimes, goes the moral of this story, you have to let go of the pan and let the oven work its magic.
Thank you, readers, for being my oven.
Thank you for demonstrating, with your clicks and searches and comments, that it is fine for me to press publish, to let go of the pan, to reveal insecurities and intimacies to an invisible audience.
It is for you that I write LPF, and it is thanks to you that it continues to grow.
Thank you for supporting this blog, replete with sugar and silliness. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From La Pêche Fraîche– from me.
A birthday–blog birthdays included– demands cake.
Cupcakes, cookies, pavlovas, pudding and custards, ice creams, etc., will simply not do.
It must be cake. I assure you, it must. be. cake.
Last blogiversary (May 2013) I made a brown-sugar/chocolate marble cake, filled with passionfruit curd and covered in fluffy, shiny clouds of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream.
The flavors were amazing– some of my absolute favorites– but I think the cake was left in the oven 3 minutes too long.
It wasn’t (ohhhh God, here it comes…) *moist* enough, in my opinion.
So though there have been many cakes in the last year, today’s cake demonstrates one way to keep your cakes from being dry and crumbly, in honor of last year’s semi-dry cake.
This year’s is a 1 bowl cake. (The frosting requires an additional pot, but whatever.)
This is a virtually fool-proof cake.
(ATTN: nerd alert. Skip to the recipe at the bottom if you don’t want to have to listen to me geek out.)
All is due to the FP FFP scheme that I have deployed here.
Fool Proof Fat Flour Paste. Sound disgusting? Well, yeah.
The idea here is that by creating a paste of the flour and fat, you coat essentially of the fat particles with starch particles.
Following this observation, then, it becomes clear that all of the starch particles are associated with fat particles, which prevents them from forming too much gluten when moistened.
Adding sugar in the form of cane sugar and milk sugar (lactose) further inhibits gluten formation.
Since all of the ingredients are thoroughly beaten together, the batter is completely homogeneous and the dry ingredients are very evenly distributed, preventing pockets of dryness or bitterness where flour or baking soda didn’t fully incorporate, and making over-beating cake batter a thing of the past.
Once moisture is added, some gluten forms, which maintains the structure of the cake.
Plenty of egg whites are added, since they contain albumen, a structural protein, that help enhance the gluten structure, ensuring the cake is sturdy, not crumbly.
Basically, by preventing too much gluten from forming, we ensure the cake is very tender and fine-crumbed, and since the fat particles have been evenly suspended in starch, as they melt, they create a very moist, soft cake.
In sum total: this cake is a tall, four-layer beauty, with a base of malted milk cake, redolent of nutty malt and laced with a hint of salt, butter, and buttermilk. The crumb is fine, tender, and soft.
The frosting is sweet and salty vanilla Italian meringue buttercream, glossy and fluffy, swaddling the cake in buttery goodness.
Finally, and most importantly, 39 ( and exactly 39) handfuls of sprinkles are thrown, haphazardly, at the cake.
The pattern that results is organic in shape but very much artificially dyed and flavored.
Sprinkles are just so happy and fun and bright and colorful and they, along with the pink frosting, make this cake so damn twee.
Once I pull out that 1 pound jar (no, I am not kidding), there’s no stopping me.
The soles of my shoes have been tracking sprinkles everywhere since I made this cake.
I may have gotten a tad bit out-of-control. Just a tad, though.
Joyeuse anniversaire, La Pêche Fraîche!
“I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I do better.”
Malted Milk Birthday Cake
makes a 4 layer 6-inch cake or a 2 layer 8- or 9-inch cake
for the vanilla Italian meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites
3 drops (1/8 teaspoon) white vinegar
350 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
big pinch kosher salt
90 grams (6 tablespoons) water
660 grams (6 sticks, 1 1/2 pounds, 3 cups) butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
drop red gel food coloring, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 6-inch pans or 2 8- or 9-inch pans.
Place flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
Add in the softened butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, mixing until a flour-fat paste forms– it will be thick like cookie dough.
Stir together the sugar and malted milk powder, then add to the flour paste, stirring slowly at first, then beating until fluffy.
Whisk together the vanilla, egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and water, then add to the batter, stirring very very slowly at first, then increasing speed to beat at high speed for 30 seconds.
Batter should be thick and creamy; if it is a tiny bit curdled, don’t worry about it.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes, until springy in the center and a tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely, then trim and level as needed.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place egg whites and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Place sugar, salt, 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 1/2-2/3 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, and add sprinkles to your heart’s content!
“Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live?
Why, in that instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?”
—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
More green. I’m afraid I’m the worst.
I really was displeased with the way this cake looked. I originally topped it with those little green meringues, in the hopes that it would be springy and light and lovely, but it looked reallyfuckingweird, guys.
The meringues did NOT mesh with the aesthetic of the cake, and the colors were all off.
They looked like white and green diseased dog shit on top of an unnaturally colored cake.
Sooooo ugly. Tooooo ugly. I gave up photographing the cake and plucked all the meringues off to photograph.
I was really frustrated; I had been very excited about this mint and chocolate cake and yet to me, the cake looked like the cartoon version of Frankenstein’s monster, green skin and black-brown hair with weird sideburns.
UGH. (I am actually laughing out loud at how creepily similar this cake is to the monster. Good god.)
I chopped it up, ready to throw in the dish towel, but then I ended up half-liking how it looked all cut up into fat wedges, so I plonked it back on the table and took a few shots.
And that’s the riveting story of this monstrous cake.
Here’s the story of the interior:
The fastest chocolate cake EVER (accidentally vegan!) provides a tender, moist base.
Sandwiched between the layers is whipped chocolate ganache, deep and dark and lovely.
The cake is frosted with the silkiest, lightest mint Italian meringue buttercream, refreshing and buttery and NOT toothpaste-y in the least (at least I’ve got that going for me). Hot, melty ganache is dripped along the sides of the cake, for extra va va voom and shits and gigs.
Someone in my house triple texted me, begging for a slice after they caught a glimpse of it sitting in the kitchen.
By the time I got home, the thing had been decimated by a pack of hungry monsters college students.
I take that as a sure stamp of approval, ugly or not.
Mint Chocolate Cake
for the chocolate cake:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
for the mint Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks, softened but cool
drop peppermint extract
drop green food coloring, if desired
for the ganache:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
big pinch salt
1 ounce (heaping tablespoon) corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter
Make the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda together.
Add all the wet ingredients at once while whisking.
Pour batter (will be liquidy) into prepared pans and bake for 20-22 minutes, until springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean; allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place salt, water, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat; begin whipping the egg whites.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be at soft to stiff peaks. Carefully pour the hot syrup over the whipping egg whites, avoiding the whisk so that there is no splattering.
Whip meringue until it has reached body temperature; whip in butter 2 tablespoons at a time.
Add in the peppermint extract and food coloring and beat until buttercream is shiny, fluffy, and smooth.
Set aside while you prepare the ganache: melt all ingredients together in a microwave or double boiler.
Place in a blender or blend with a stick attachment until smooth, shiny, and glossy, about 1 minute.
Remove 1/3 of the ganache and set aside.
Place the rest of the ganache in the fridge and allow to set softly, about 30 minutes.
Remove from fridge and whip until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
To assemble the cake: spread first layer with 1/3 of the whipped chocolate ganache, then place the next layer on top and repeat.
Frost the exterior of the cake with a crumb coat of the buttercream, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set.
Finish icing the exterior of the cake with the remaining buttercream, then place in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
If the reserved ganache has set, simply microwave it for 10 seconds until it is smooth and flowing once more; drip or pour the ganache over the edge of the cold cake; it will set as it drips down the side.
Allow the cake to come to room temperature, and serve!
If you’re staring at the screen like what-the-fuck-is-she-kidding-me-right-now, I get it.
I feel your eyes burning into me across the vastness of the interwebs. So stop.
Don’t look at me like that. I know, ok, I know.
I gave you candy canes in January, pears and apples in March, and now, this.
St. Patrick’s day was just a few weeks ago, and here I am giving you GREEN meringues.
It’s not even April Fools Day, so this really isn’t funny.
No, I’m doing this seriously.
SOorrRRyyyYYy. not sorry.
My blog, my rules, bitchez. You should be used to it by now.
These meringues were meant to top a mint-chocolate cake (coming soon), but looked ugly as hell.
They were too pretty to not photograph, though, so I decided to make two mint/green posts, as a nice big fuck you to all my wonderful, beloved readers.
Just kidding!!! I love you. But I am still smushing green into your faces post-St.-Paddy’s-Day, so I obviously don’t love you that much.
I’m sorry. I am a bad blogger.
The meringues are flavored with peppermint, and are perfectly crisp and crackling on the outside, with the interior still marshmallowy and soft.
The mint makes them a little cooling, and dangerously snackable.
The green makes them extra pretty, and extra unseasonable.
Just what I was going for!
makes 10 large meringues
3 (90 grams) egg whites
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 drop peppermint extract
green food coloring, if desired
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, and ready a piping bag with a plain tip.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and begin to whip.
When a foam starts to form, slowly stream in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
Add in the salt and peppermint extract when the meringue is reaching stiff peaks.
Beat until meringue is stiff and glossy and shiny.
To make your meringues striped, take a paintbrush dipped in green food coloring and carefully draw lines on the inside of your pastry bag.
Carefully fill the pastry bag with meringue, being careful not to smudge the food coloring too much.
Pipe meringues as desired, then bake for 2 to 3 hours, rotating periodically. (This seems like a ridiculous range of baking times, but humidity and size of meringues can really wreak havoc. To check if meringues are cooked, carefully try to lift one of the cookies off the baking sheet; if it lifts off cleanly and not sticky at all, the meringues are done. If it is syrupy or soft, leave them in.)
Turn the oven off and crack the door; allow meringues to cool completely within the oven.