Comfort and Joy

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Prayer of Saint Francis

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas Eve and a very happy first night of Hanukkah!
I have not yet wrapped my gifts nor done all the productive things I needed to do, but OH WELL that is just about how I expect 2016 to come to a close.

All my brothers are in town (though we are all staying apart since none of the four apartments where various fractions of us permanently live in NYC are big enough to fit the whole family), and tonight we’re heading to Brooklyn for Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma’s.
Last night, we all went bowling/drinking/for dinner at Brooklyn Bowl, which was fun. Although I was very salty at how bad at bowling I am, especially after a margarita. Ugh.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Tomorrow, we will exchange a few small gifts, eat some french toast (I kind of want to try making french toast with panettone. Is that frowned upon?!), and probably see a movie.

The past few years, I’ve made cinnamon rolls for Christmas day, but that’s not happening in our current kitchen. I’ve seen them all over Instagram this year though, and I think it’s a sweet tradition. Do you make anything traditional for breakfast? I try to keep it low-key and no-fuss since my family likes to just chill together.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This layer cake recipe is one of my new go-tos.  It’s more unique than just another vanilla or chocolate cake, and it doesn’t fall prey to the gingerbread trope, either.

It’s an almond and orange spice cake, and it’s really soft and moist from the almond meal.  It’s fragrant with spices and orange zest without being overpowering.  Between the layers, there is alternating apricot jam and orange marmalade, which are just a match made in heaven.  Sweet and fruity, with a hint of bitterness that complements the orange zest in the cake.  The icing is a simple cream cheese frosting with a tiny touch of maple syrup to round out the tanginess.

I decorated my cake with a mound of fruits painted with luster dust and bourbon because I am now officially way too obsessed with this technique. Someone stop me.

It would be just as yum with a few rosemary “trees” or a simple piped border and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

More Christmas cakes!

Last year’s cute Red Velvet Woodland cake.
Also last year: Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
The year before: the insane and super fun Souche de Noël.

Almond and Orange Spice Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Almond and Orange Spice Cake
makes 1 4×6-inch layer cake

for the cake:
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1 cup (120 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (32 grams) almond flour or finely ground almonds
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk

for the frosting:
12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (112 grams) cream cheese
12 ounces (330 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) milk or cream

to assemble:
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate arils, kumquats
luster dust, if desired

Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 2 6-inch pans.
Place butter, sugar, spices, and zest into a bowl and cream on high speed for 3 full minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and almond flour and stir gently until half mixed in.
Add the milk and beat until the batter is homogeneous, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out the batter into prepared pans and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely; meanwhile, make the frosting.
Beat butter and cream cheese on high speed for 3 minutes, or until doubled in volume and very pale in color.
Add in roughly half of the powdered sugar, the salt, the maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Beat on high speed until the frosting is very fluffy, about 3 more minutes.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar to taste, along with 2-3 more tablespoons of milk, if needed to make the frosting more spreadable, and whip on high speed until fully incorporated.
The frosting should be spreadable but not loose; add more milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken as needed.
To assemble, cut each of the layers in half.
Pipe a border of cream cheese frosting around the first layer, then spread 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in the center.
Spread frosting on top of the layer to cover the jam.
Add the second layer and repeat, except use orange marmalade instead of apricot jam.
Repeat with the third layer, using apricot jam again.
Top with the fourth layer and add a thin crumb coat of frosting on the outside of the cake.
Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Spread frosting thick on the top layer but thin on the sides to create a semi-naked finish.
Top with fruits dusted with luster dust or other decorations as desired.


Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy 2016!
I’m a cool seven days late, but no worries—that means we only have 51 weeks left of this year.
That’s not me being eagerly pessimistic, people.

It’s just a f-a-c-t.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Impossibly, it seems, I’m back at school.
Finishing up my first week of classes, actually.
From the outset—and let’s pray for the sake of my sanity and the number of delicious things I manage to make and photograph for the blog—it seems like this quarter will be less busy.

Of course, as I have probably stipulated before, this often has no correlation with how relaxed I feel.
The brain is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?!
…says the neuro major…

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting the year off with chocolate all but guarantees a pleasant January, which can be an altogether bleak and dreary month (it’s already abnormally slushy here in Chicago).

Today, I’m sharing a dark, moist sour cream chocolate bundt cake: it’s one bowl, it comes out of the pan looking simply magnificent and just as tender as a steamed pudding.
It stays soft and has a tight crumb, even over the course of a few days.
A few light lashings of vanilla cream glaze offset the chocolate nicely, although I could definitely see this paired with an equally chocolaty ganache.
Finally, the cake is topped with a golden crown of candied kumquat flowers, an auspicious, chewy, bitter, sweet, sour, and traditional treat for the Lunar New Year, which I have appropriated for this (Western) New Year cake.
Kumquat trees are a sign of prosperity and good luck in Chinese and Vietnamese New Year celebrations, and it couldn’t hurt to have some more of that in 2016, right?
Find more in depth (and a very detailed recipe) at the Kitchn.  I halved the recipe (I only made a couple handfuls of kumquats) and followed the instructions to a T and they were delightful.

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feelin’ good.

—Nina Simone

Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
cake portion adapted from Food52; kumquats from the Kitchn
makes 1 10-cup bundt

for the cake:
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
210 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
240 grams (1 cup) sour cream
240 grams (1 cup) black coffee
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the glaze:
2 tablespoons cream
225 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
pinch salt
drop of vanilla extract

Make the cake: spray a 10-cup bundt pan with baker’s spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, the coffee, the sour cream, the vegetable oil, and the vanilla extract.
Carefully stir to incorporate the wet ingredients, then whisk vigorously a few times to ensure homogeneity.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out and allowing to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk all ingredients together until no lumps remain and pour over the cooled cake.
Decorate with candied kumquats or orange rind.



In my dreams, I can fly eat cake whenever I so desire.


Welcome back, friends.  I’ve missed this little place for the last few days, but I’ve been off being very busy sleeping and reading and relaxing.  Ahhhh.

I hope you all had a couple marvelous days off from all your duties, whether they were for celebrating xmas or not!

I have so enjoyed being with my family.  It is a magical time of year, when we can all get together and all keep our heads calm.
Here’s to family!
And here’s a gif for my oldest brother who calls them “GIHFs,” even though it is clearly “JIFs.”
He is a lost cause.


These cakes, however, are not lost.  My mouth found them altogether too quickly.

These are the stuff of dreams!  Little coconut jewels, small and personal.  Like cupcakes, but better.

They’re simple, and not too sweet.
Buttery, and yet inconceivably fluffy.
Richly flavorful, but incredibly simple.

In fact, there are only two easy easy easy components to these little cakes!
Buttery coconut cake
 is baked in a sheet pan, then cut out and layered with coconut Chantilly cream.


A note on equipment, as these cakes require a couple finicky little pieces, i.e. a small jelly roll pan and some cake rings.

I used this sheet pan. (Cheap, semi-durable.)
I used molds similar to these cake rings. (Super durable.)

This is what I used to eat them.

May your dreams be full of cake!

P.S. For the loveliest of dreams, listen to this combination.  Makes me cry.  And smile.


Coconut Stack Cakes

makes 3 2-inch cakes (from a 10×15 inch sheet pan)
for the cake:
77 grams butter
167 grams sugar
40 grams brown sugar
2 eggs
63 grams full-fat coconut milk
10 grams lemon juice
50 grams grapeseed oil
8 grams vanilla extract
123 grams flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
big pinch kosher salt

for the whipped cream:
240 mL heavy cream
15 mL full-fat coconut milk
7 grams powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan.
Beat butter for 2 minutes to soften.
Add the sugars and beat for 4 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and beat in the eggs for 2 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the coconut milk, lemon juice, oil, and vanilla extract; beat until homogeneous.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on low until combined.
Scrape the batter into the jelly roll pan and spread out evenly.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool completely, then cut circles out with 3 inch cake rings.
You should get 12.
Whip cream to soft peaks, then gently beat in coconut milk and powdered sugar.
Place one cake circle in the bottom of a cake ring.
Spread 2 tablespoons of whipped cream onto the cake base.
Place another cake circle on top of the whipped cream and repeat so that each stack cake gets 4 layers.
Press down gently to release the cake, then top with pearl sugar, coconut flakes, and kumquats.

Let Them Eat Cake

Hey y’all!
I hope you guys had a wonderful slew of holiday celebrations.
I’m here to give you some marvelous news: the good times keep on rollin’. 
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Today is Epiphany, the celebratory feast of the last day of the twelve days of Christmas.  In the past, upcoming religious observances like Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Easter Sunday, were announced on Epiphany, when calendars were not readily available.
In France, today, Epiphany is often celebrated with one of two special cakes: un gâteau des rois or une galette des rois.  
The gâteau des rois (literally, cake of kings- indeed, this is where the New Orleans King Cake, which is eaten to signal the beginning of Lent, originated) is traditional in Provence, and consists of a brioche ring topped with crunchy pearl sugar and candied or dried fruit.  
The galette is a much slightly more indulgent affair, traditionally comprised of two rounds of buttery puff pastry sandwiching a layer of sweet almond frangipane. 
Now, keeping in mind the holiday feasts which have just passed, I chose to make un gâteau des rois, because brioche has about one tenth of the butter and far less sugar than puff pastry, and I used part whole wheat flour for an small but appreciated health boost.
So there you go!  You can have your cake, and eat it too.  Even if you’re in an early-January post-resolutions funk.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.


Gâteau des rois avec les kumquats confits
recipe lightly adapted from Tartelette
75 mL (1/3 cup) milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast
75 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 small egg or 1/2 a large one (beat it and either weigh it and divide in two, or just eyeball it.  If you have jumbo eggs, a yolk will do just fine.  And if you cannot be bothered, just throw the whole egg in.  What I’m trying to say is that such a small amount of egg makes little difference here.)
small pinch sea salt (use 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon orange juice, or orange blossom water
140 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour (I used half white-whole wheat and half all-purpose)
35 g (2.5 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon cream or milk, for egg wash
3 tablespoons jelly or preserves (I used a mix of meyer lemon and apricot)
Honeyed kumquats (see below)
Large pearl sugar (I used Belgian and Swedish)
Measure out the warm milk in a glass measuring cup or bowl.  Stir the yeast and sugar in gently.  Let foam up for 5 or so minutes, then pour into the bowl of a stand mixer or just a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg, sea salt, and orange juice and mix until all combined.  Begin to add in flour (if you aren’t using a stand mixer, use a wooden spoon and gather all of your kneading strength and courage), until all is combined.  Knead for 1 minute, then begin to add in the butter, piece by piece, waiting until the previous piece is incorporated before adding the next.  Now, knead for at least 8 minutes.  It is a wet dough, so be aware.  Once the 8 minutes are up, the dough should be barely sticky and supple, and smell like sweet butter and yeast.  Either place in a lightly oiled bowl with plastic wrap pressed right onto the surface, and allow to age and mature overnight in the fridge (this will make for better flavor), or continue right on.  Divide the dough into 8 equal weight chunks- mine were 51 grams each and were approximately 1/4 cup in size.  Roll the chunks into smooth balls, (put a dried bean in the middle of one) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Make a circle of balls, then place a jelly jar in the middle of the ring.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Allow the brioche to rise until doubled in size and very puffy, about 1 hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  Fill the jelly jar with water, so it does not crack in the oven, then brush the dough with the egg wash and bake until the internal temperature is 190 degrees F, or the dough is shiny and deep golden.  Remove from oven and let cool, then carefully remove the jelly jar.
Heat up the jam until liquid, and strain out any large pieces of fruit, if using preserves or jelly.  Brush hot glaze all over brioche, then sprinkle on pearl sugar and place the candied kumquats on each little bun.  Enjoy!

Honeyed Kumquats
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 pint fresh kumquats, washed and cut into thin rounds
place the honey, sugar, and water in a heavy, medium sized pot and bring to a boil.  Once the syrup reached 234 degrees F, place all the kumquat slices in and allow them to cook for 8-10 minutes, until translucent.  (If you double the recipe, do this in two stages so as not to overcrowd the pan.)  Remove from syrup with a slotted spoon, and place on a sheet of parchment until needed.