Look, Listen

“Toxic masculinity ruins the party again.”

—Karen Kilgariff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fruits De La Ronce

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

—Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, La Ronce

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Brown Sugar and Yogurt Berry Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

 

Septième

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

James Whitcomb Riley

Happy 7th birthday, La Pêche Fraîche.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellow Cake with Cherry Buttercream

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Frank Meyer

Meyer Lemon Bars | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

to assemble:
powdered sugar, if desired

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

One That I Adore

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

Jonathan Safran Foer

Happy lovers’ day, dear readers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valentine’s Day, previously:

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

2017:
Fluffy, ruffled princess layer cake with a cascade of marzipan roses
Thick, soft M&M cookies
Mocha cupcakes topped with fluffy swirls of vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream

2016:
Ginger, Malted Vanilla, and Hibiscus layer cake
Baby pink XO salty sugar cookies
Raspberry white chocolate and Nutella éclairs
Brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes

2015:
Fluffy, buttery copycat Lofthouse cookies
Chocolate covered strawberry cake with goat cheese frosting
Dolled-up red velvet cake
Mini pink princesstårta

2014:
Pink grapefruit possets with Ritz crunch and pistachios
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants
Strawberry pocky cake
Salty dark chocolate tarts

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

Stevie Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

Ambré

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

—Al Stewart

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

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

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

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

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

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies | La Pêche Fraîche

Brown Butter Molasses Cookies
makes 16 large cookies

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

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

Fancy Free

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

A. E. Houseman

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

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

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

A few tips about successfully making a raw cheesecake:

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

Raw vegan cheesecakes, previously:

Raw Blood Orange and Cranberry Cheesecake 

Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecakes

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

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

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

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

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Sweetest Surrender

The sweetest surrender of winter
She put up a flag it is waving
The thunder of summer is rumbling in
And I haven’t seen you in days
And my how that feeling has changed.
I have been homesick for you since we met.

A Father’s First Spring, The Avett Brothers

Honestly, I feel seen by this satire piece. A little too seen.
Why is the universe trying to @ me?!

OKso… Scroll to the bottom for the recipe for this fabulous, no-bake, super easy summer strawberry tart. And ignore the rest of my babbling. Thankyou.

No prose today, no chopped up “poetic” lines.
Just things that make my heart go thump. That are mostly related to food.

This cake, nothing short of glorious, from Michelle, who made it from Lyndsay’s new book Coco Cake Land stopped me in my tracks as I scrolled through instagram, enough so to make me immediately open up her blog on my computer so I could see it full screen.
While the oven is off, I’ve been making salads on salads, but mostly the same ones on repeat. This spicy sweet slaw with peaches may have to be entered into the rotation, because the combination of ingredients seems delightful.
This! Picnic! Has! Me! Inspired! Courtney’s posts always bring a smile to my face, and this one was no different. So dreamy and aesthetically pleasing: and that cherry clafoutis looks like a recipe I need to try stat.
In the same cherry vein, Scott’s rustic cherry galettes “kissed with cognac and floral orange” are simply divine, no? I haven’t made a single cherry thing this summer, which is sad indeed.
Jamie Beck of Ann Street Studio has to be one of the most brilliant creatives out there right now. Her photos make me want to say fuck it and pack up all my things and leave New York for the French countryside. Consider this a warning that they may do the same to you when you see them.
I’ve picked yoga back up and have been thoroughly enjoying the Y7 in my neighborhood. It’s a cracking good workout, and sweatier than you can believe.
Ariana Grande’s new album… (I didn’t particularly want to like it! But I can’t stop listening to the title track! Help-me-I-am-stuck-in-an-endless-pop-earworm.)
Quinoa tabbouleh with tons of lemon juice.
In season cherry tomatoes (the little orange ones, especially).
Raw walnuts straight from the freezer for snacks. I don’t know why I love this one so much.
Strawberriessssssssss.

Since Miss Summer’s tyrannical reign still grips New York City in sweaty, vice-like jaws, I have absolutely zero desire to even LOOK at my oven, let alone turn it on. I mean, yech.
This tart is thus happily no-bake. I made it in honor of dear Miss Naomi, who recently ditched me and broke my heart switched jobs to a fabulous new workplace. Hurrah!

Nilla wafers, with their sandy vanilla sweetness, are crumbled up and mixed with a hefty pinch or two of salt and plenty of melted butter. Pressed firmly into the pan, it’s just a titch different from a graham cracker crust—a little less nubbly, and with a stronger buttery profile.
It’s delicious and somewhat unexpected, and it’s a blank canvas for the fruity fillings.
Next, tart, lush lemon cream is spread thickly over the crust. It’s like a lemon curd that has been emulsified further with extra butter, rendering it super silky and smooth without losing the true, clean citrus profile.
Thinly sliced strawberries, brimming with juice and summer tidings, are carefully arranged on top and brushed with the thinnest layer of jam to keep them shiny.

This is a simple, easy-to-make tart, but it showcases the best of summer baking sans oven. I hope you love it as much as my friends did!

No-Bake Strawberry and Lemon Cream Tart
makes 1 9-inch tart

ingredients:
for the crust:
336 grams (12 ounces) Nilla wafers (or other dry vanilla cookie)
25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons) butter

for the filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) lemon juice
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cut up

to assemble:
1 pint strawberries
marmalade or jam, for brushing, optional

directions:
Make the crust: pulverize cookies into crumbs.
Mix in sugar and salt, then drizzle in the butter until texture is like wet sand and forms clumps when pinched (depending on the humidity of your kitchen, you may not need all of it. If things are still dry after 1 stick of butter, you can add a tablespoon of heavy cream).
Press into 9-inch tart pan and refrigerate.
Make the filling: place lemon juice, sugar, salt, eggs, and egg yolk in a bain-marie (a bowl over a simmering pot of water).
Whisk vigorously over medium-low heat until combined; whisk every 30 seconds or so to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook for 7-10 minutes, until thickened and at a low boil.
Remove from heat and pour into a blender canister or another bowl if you have an immersion blender.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pieces of butter in and blend on high speed until light in color and thick.
Allow to cool completely before spreading into tart shell.
Slice strawberries very thinly (about 1/8 thickness) and group by size.
Starting with the largest slices, ring the edge of the tart, points facing outward.
Repeat, making concentric circles with smaller and smaller sized berries.
In the center, place a strawberry cut into a heart.
Gently brush with warmed marmalade or jam, if desired (this will lock in the juices).
Tart best served the day it’s assembled, although it will last in the fridge overnight.

Full of May

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting | La Pêche Fraîche

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

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting | La Pêche Fraîche

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 | La Pêche Fraîche

Nutella, previously:
The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
Raspberry White Chocolate and Nutella Éclairs
Assorted Cupcakes I and
Assorted Cupcakes II
Mocha Cake with Nutella Italian Meringue Buttercream
Linzer Cookies

Banana, previously:
Maple Banana Cake
Banana Cake with Almond Dacquoise, Coffee Pastry Cream, and Chocolate Meringue Buttercream (AKA this girl’s 22nd birthday cake)
Roasted Banana and Salted Chocolate Cupcakes
Classic Banana Cake with Speculoos Glaze
Tropical Coconut Banana Cake
Vegan Banana Muffins

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting | La Pêche Fraîche

Banana Snack Cake with Nutella Frosting
cake portion adapted from Food52/ButterYum
makes 1 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ cake

ingredients:
for the cake:
130 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) sour cream
1 egg
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

directions:

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.
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