La Noix de Muscade

“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.
We became too self-aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.
We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.
Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction—one last midnight—brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

—Rust Cole, True Detective

I suppose spring isn’t the right time to be referencing Rust Cole’s doom and gloom, but forgive for today my moody melodrama.
It comes alongside an excellent cookie recipe, so I daresay it’s worth it.
And besides, it doesn’t really feel like the season has changed yet. Winds are still whipping, snow is still falling upstate and in Chicago, blooms are still only mere suggestions of buds, and the sun’s warmth is not yet fully baked.
I, um, think we might need a reiteration of our stage directions here.

Exeunt March, in the manner of a lamb.
Exe! Unt!

On the first day of spring, a nor’easter hit NYC. It was m i s erable.
The day after, a finger of spring light, so faint that it might have been mistaken for an indoor flood lamp slipped out in the early morning and later opened up into a jubilant and blinding day.
I had to go to the NYU hospital for volunteer orientation; it’s a fair hike from my office and requires a long-ish subway ride.
As I have mentioned here before, I do my best people watching when on the subway, particularly when I’m a bit moody and would like to be out walking in the sun rather than hurtling away in damp underground tunnels.

My favorite scene of the day was of two elderly deaf ladies, seated across from one another on the uptown 6, silently gabbing at the speed of light. They paused only when Spring St. shoppers shuffled through their path, craning their necks around skinny teenage-d legs and crisply creased shopping bags to recommence their discussion as quickly as possible.
I also took note of and rolled my eyes at the baseless optimism of the two men who stepped, one in a sweatshirt and other in a proper-looking ivy cap, lockstep onto the subway as they loudly answered phone calls. Both expressed only the mildest annoyance when their signals inevitably dropped. Resigned, they pocketed their iPhones, and the rest of the car sighed in relief.

Today’s day started with a dripping, grey smear of a morning, with a forecast that threatened rain. I was up and out of my apartment earlier than usual—sneakers hitting the pavement at 6:05AM.
It was cold and the sun hadn’t yet bothered to rise, so I hustled towards the gym with my fingers jammed into jacket pockets and shoulders hunched over to ward off the chill.

There are only two people in all of New York City who are fully aware of my comings and goings, of the early trudges to the gym and the exhausted late night slogs home from the office (and, in all honestly, the occasional stumble home on boozy nights).
I have never spoken a word to either.
They are the men who run the coffee/pastry and halal carts on my corner, daily bookends so constant that I’m sure many of my neighbors think they can’t possibly move shop every day.
But I have seen the coffee cart open and the halal cart close.

This morning, through admittedly bleary eyes, I saw someone on the pavement laying out cardboard underneath the bright lights of the coffee cart. I thought, at first, that it was one of the two (friendly) homeless men who frequent the corner, but as I neared, I realized it was the man who runs the cart.
He took careful pains to straighten out the cardboard just-so, and smoothed the corners with the flat of his hand a final time before standing, then bowing and kneeling. He was praying.

I was struck by this intimate moment of humanity; prayers directed towards Mecca on a raft of cardboard in the middle of the dirty, slick sidewalk of 14th St. on a drizzling, cold April morning.

In a jaded way, I have been asking myself lately how much of my observation of others is not exposition, but self-centered projection.
How many of these brief moments of presumed humanness are really nothing worth a second glance—just my nosiness taking over?
I wonder if I only take note and mark them as special in order to feel a rush of omniscience, a weak inflation of my ego. How aware and poignant and poetic am I.
Are we not all just people leading our daily lives? And isn’t my daily life bland and beige from the inside?
By attempting to extract meaning from my examination of perfect strangers, I am selfishly wondering who around me is doing the same to the figment of myself that exists within their view.

Mostly, I think, because it is so hard to accept the routine boringness of everyday life; this has become increasingly true in the age of social media, where highlight reels are curated over days and months, so you can post a perfect throwback of a cake while sitting in your desk chair drinking your fifth black cherry seltzer.
It’s not dishonesty, exactly. It’s something else entirely, and the purpose is not only to impress our followers, but to fool ourselves.
And so I make up backstories in my head and curate my instagram. Hmm.

This cookie recipe is a bit of a throwback, itself.
I developed it for the Feed Feed/Bob’s Red Mill winter cookie giveaway way back in December, which was an altogether excellent time.
(Some cookies that were memorable: Patti’s always intricate decorated sugar cookies, which came in the shape of twee penguins with neck-scarves, ice-skates, and earmuffs; Rachel’s milk masala shortbread cookies; Erin’s vanilla sandwich cookies with vanilla bean marshmallow; Sarah’s pan-banging chocolate chip cookies (!!!), and others. Also, someone made soft gingerbread cookies with a cracklingly tart lemon glaze, and the memory of the cookies apparently has outlasted my good manners/memory of their creator. Oops.)

These little gems have a base of fragrant nutmeg shortbread, which is buttery and rich but not so short that it crumbles before you can get it to your mouth; it provides a sturdy enough base for transport or gifting.
Lashed to the butter cookie with a drop of good dark chocolate are ultra light, melt-in-your-mouth maple meringues. These are so crunchy and crisp and delicate; they really reminded me why meringue is one of my top three favorite desserts.
A dusting of powdered sugar gives them an (un)seasonally appropriate finish (ha, ha, ha, yes this everlasting winter is very funny) and provides nice color contrast to the shades of beige underneath.

These are really a special little cookie, elegant and understated, but with a flavor profile that will pleasantly surprise you, even in its subtlety. Oh, and the French word for nutmeg was too poetic not to provide you a translation of the full title:
Des sablés à la noix de muscade avec des meringues au sirop d’érable. Le sigh.

Nutmeg Shortbread with Maple Meringues
makes 50-60 1.5″ cookies

ingredients:
for the cookies:
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour

for the meringues:
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
60 grams (3 tablespoons) maple syrup
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar (can sub up to 50 grams (1/4 cup) maple sugar)

for assembly:
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate, melted
Powdered sugar, as needed for dusting

directions:
Make the shortbread: beat butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until fluffy and softened.
Add the salt, sugar, and nutmeg and beat on high speed for another 3 minutes; mixture should be lightened in color and not grainy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla; beat for 3 full minutes.
Scrape the bowl again and add the flour; fold a few times and then stir on low speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn out the dough and knead into a ball; refrigerate for 15 minutes (and up to 2 days).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut out 1.5 inch rounds and place on prepared pans.
Re-roll dough until all has been used up (I filled 3 baking sheets and baked them 1 sheet at a time).
Place in freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake straight from the freezer for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the meringues: Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
Place egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place maple syrup, water, and sugar in a small pot and place over medium heat.
Begin to whisk the egg whites, carefully watching the syrup.
The syrup needs to reach 240 degrees F (115 degrees C) when the egg whites are at soft peaks; adjust speed of your stand mixer or heat under the pot accordingly.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites with the mixer running, avoiding the whisk so that hot syrup does not splash.
Whip on high speed for 3-5 minutes, or until the meringue is fluffy, glossy, and holds stiff peaks.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a jumbo French tip and pipe small dollops on the prepared pans.
If you’re struggling with the parchment paper flying up and sticking to the meringue, just place small smears of meringue on the baking sheet at the corners as “glue” and stick the parchment down.
Once you have piped out your meringues, place them in the oven.
Bake at 275 for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees and dry for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and lift up off the parchment cleanly.
This can take much longer than 2 hours—it depends on the humidity in your home.
If need be, you can leave the meringues in the oven overnight (I left mine for a full 18 hours…!) at 200 degrees.
To assemble, use a small smear of dark chocolate to affix the meringue onto the shortbread and dust with a little powdered sugar for a snowy finish.

Promenade en Traîneau

Christmas Tree Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“I just like to smile.
Smiling’s my favorite!”

—Buddy the Elf

Christmas Tree Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Hello everyone!

I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season; I’ve spent a few extremely restful days with my family (except one of my older brothers, who had to stay back home), and I’m feeling very grateful for each and every one of them.
Christmastime holds many of my most cherished and vivid memories from childhood, and as I grow older and more sentimental, I realize increasingly why: not because of the material goods or the delicious food, but because it’s a time of gratitude and giving back and cozy, hygge nights with your loved ones watching Elf or playing fibbage.

Christmas Tree Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This Christmas tree cake continues my tradition of making a big Christmas cake for my family that we all end up way too full to even make a dent in. Having started the day with morning buns, banana bread, and having challah and scalloped potatoes for dinner last night… and going to see Star Wars and eating popcorn and candy this afternoon… we are all very satiated, to say the least.

Still, it’s always a fun creation and I enjoy making something whimsical that isn’t cookies (so. many. cookies.) that I can share.

Three years ago, I made the souche de Noël.
Two years ago, a woodland wonderland cake.
Last year, a golden spice cake.

And this year, I made a different kind of tree! An actual Christmas tree!
It’s made of dense, moist butter cake with eggnog cream filling (the secret ingredient is hard boiled egg yolks! Weird, right?) with brown sugar and chocolate Italian meringue buttercream and marzipan ornaments and presents.
It’s over the top and takes a bit of effort, but it is certainly a showstopper and centerpiece, and I am going to enjoy a thin sliver tonight.

Christmas Tree Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

P.S. For those of you wondering, promenade en traîneau means sleigh ride.

Christmas Tree Cake
makes 1 large, 4 tiered cake

ingredients:
for the yellow cake:
225 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

for the eggnog filling:
2 hard boiled egg yolks
113 grams (1 stick) butter, softened
380 grams (3 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream or half and half, as needed

for the brown sugar and chocolate frosting:
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
225 grams (2 sticks) butter
75 grams (2 2/3 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
75 grams (1/3 cup) heavy cream

to assemble:
(225 grams) 8 ounces marzipan

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch round baking pans, 2 cupcake wells, and 2 mini cupcake wells, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat butter on high speed for 3 minutes, until completely fluffy and no lumps remain.
Add the salt and sugar and beat for 5 full minutes; the mixture should be very light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and the egg yolks and beat for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the buttermilk and vanilla extract; gently stir with a spoon until about half is incorporated.
Add in the flour and baking powder and stir until incorporated; beat for 30 seconds on high to ensure homogeneity.
Spread the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the filling:
Cream butter until soft and fluffy.
Press the egg yolks through a fine sieve into the butter and cream on high until fully incorporated.
Add the powdered sugar, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and whip until fluffy and thick.
Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the eggnog buttercream is spreadable.
Meanwhile, make the brown sugar and chocolate buttercream: place egg whites 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 5 minutes.
Heat heavy cream to just barely boiling, then pour over the chopped chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes, or until mostly melted.
Whisk together until glossy and smooth and allow to cool slightly.
Whip the buttercream on high and stream in the ganache.
Add green food coloring as needed to get a dark green color.
Layer the tiers largest to smallest (you will have an extra cupcake and mini cupcake for snacks) and fill with eggnog buttercream; use a serrated knife to sculpt it into a cone shape.
Place the cake in the fridge and allow to harden.
Frost the outside with a thin layer of green, then use large and small french star tips to pipe needles.
Tint the marzipan with food coloring and dust with luster dust, if desired.
Shape marzipan into small ornaments and presents and a large star for the top of the tree.
Place them around the tree and use a lollipop stick or skewer to attach the star.

XXII

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Yesterday, my parents sent me the dreamiest bouquet of pale peach roses, white hydrangeas, and black and white anemones.
Last night, my instagram bio ticked from 21 to 22.
(I don’t have a Facebook anymore, so no messages will be received from acquaintances collected through the years. I’m, like, so off the grid. *rolls eyes*)
Tonight, I will drink and be merry with some of the best people I have ever and will ever know.
Today, though, I am taking time to reflect and relax into my new age by myself.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche FraîcheBanana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My atoms in their current arrangement have made the long trip around the sun twenty two times.
In this time, my body has grown, my mind has expanded, my hormones have been tamed (…kind of?); I have shed skin cells and old clothes and loves alike. I have been fortunate to see many corners of the world and optimistic enough to dream of other, unknown parts.
I have pushed and pulled and trudged my way through years of schooling and through an altogether too short stint at my alma mater. In the best of times, I have excelled and succeeded; in the worst of times, I have simply kept on moving.
Four years ago, on the cusp of 18, I left my childhood home and my parents for the first time; in many ways, I felt and was alone. The birthdays following were distinctly part of my college years.
So although 22 is a relatively unremarkable birthday, this one means a lot to me. It is my first birthday after college and striking out into the world. It is the bookend to the collection that began at 18.
Today, in a new city and in a different sense, I feel and am alone.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Is it sad or freeing to be alone on your birthday?
It is coldly realistic or melancholic to realize that we all age on our own?

We live our lives with ourselves. It is as simple and as difficult as that. Though none of us will ever stop changing, we have but one body and mind to live in and put up with.
It’s easy to wistfully romanticize our past lives and selves; it is also easy to make grand resolutions about our future.
I hope that everyone has the opportunity to fall in love with who they are in the present, which is a far harder endeavor, in my experience.
I hope that you have the chance, whether this year or in many years to come, to spend a birthday by yourself and not feel lonely.
I hope this especially for myself.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche FraîcheBanana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

My twenty-second birthday cake is not a simple one. It’s not an afternoon affair, not something to whip up casually sans plan.
No one should be surprised by this, least of all readers of this blog who have seen my other involved creations. I have a flair for the dramatic and a birthday is an excuse to indulge both my creative urges and tastebuds.
This is all to say, I know that this recipe is more than a little ridiculous. A lot of effort went into making this cake just right. It is worthy of a celebration.
Make it for a loved one; make it for yourself. And prepare to impress.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This cake starts with a super moist banana cake—it is the least banana bread-y banana cake I have made, which I consider an achievement. There is a time and place for a lovely, dense banana bread. This cake is not that.
The layers have a swipe of silky, slightly bitter coffee pastry cream, flecked with espresso and enriched with egg yolks and butter.
Hidden inside the cake are two layers of dacquoise; a crisp almond and meringue confection that softens and turns into a whisper of caramel and almond married with the coffee cream. It is the reason that this cake is better on the second day. The crunch is fabulous, yes, but the dacquoise becomes an ethereally light filling when it softens—just like meringue does in a pavlova or Eton mess.
The whole affair is finished with a cloud of rich, chocolaty Italian meringue frosting, my favorite way to ice a cake. I love that with each bite, you get a varying amount of chocolate. It makes eating a piece that much more interesting.

This cake is a labor of love, and its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavor combination is very unique—but it works so well. In fact, I like it so much that I am planning on dreaming up new ways to use banana, almond, coffee, and chocolate (to me, that sounds like a hella good muffin).

Note also that this can be made ahead of time; the pastry cream up to 3 days in advance, and the dacquoise up to 2 days. You could make the cake ahead and freeze it as well. It’s manageable. I mean, sort of.

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthdays, previously (and no, I don’t know what happened to 17 and 19…):

21
20
18

Banana, Almond, Coffee, and Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Banana Cake with Almond Dacquoise, Coffee Pastry Cream, and Chocolate Meringue Buttercream
makes 1 3×6 inch layer cake
pastry cream adapted from the Kitchn

for the almond dacquoise:
4 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
65 grams (2/3 cup) almond meal or flour
40 grams (scant 1/4 cup) sugar
big pinch salt

for the coffee pastry cream:
1 tablespoon espresso powder
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) milk
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
hefty pinch salt
4 egg yolks
30 grams (1/4 cup) flour
15 grams (2 tablespoons) butter

for the banana cake:
150 grams (2/3 cup, 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) butter, softened
170 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
120 grams (1/2 cup) milk
200 grams (1 2/3 cup) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

for the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
pinch salt, to taste
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
25 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) water
340 grams (1 1/2 cups, 24 tablespoons, 3 sticks) butter
170 grams (1 cup) dark chocolate chips or chunks, melted and cooled slightly
20 grams (1/4 cup) cocoa powder, as needed

directions:
First, make the dacquoise, up to 2 days in advance.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and trace 3 6-inch circles on a piece of parchment lining a baking sheet.
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and begin to whip.
Once foamy, add in the first (150 grams, 3/4 cup) portion one spoonful at a time, and whip on high speed until the meringue is glossy and fluffy and stiff peaks have formed.
Whisk together the almond meal, remaining portion sugar, and salt, and gently fold into the meringue.
Pipe onto the circles you traced, and bake for 65-85 minutes, until the dacquoise is dry and slightly golden colored.
Remove from oven and let cool completely; you can store the baked dacquoise for up to 2 days in a moisture-free, air-tight container.
You will only need 2 dacquoise layers for the cake; the third is insurance in case of cracking (one of mine did, when I dropped it); you can trim them if they spread a little with a sharp knife so that they fit in the cake.
Make the coffee pastry cream: place espresso powder (or you could use whole beans, if you don’t like the grains) and milk over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and flour together.
Once the milk is just shy of boiling—it should be at a simmer—carefully pour in 1/3 of it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Place the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remainder of the coffee-milk, whisking all the while.
Heat over medium heat while whisking constantly, until thickened.
You should be able to coat a spoon and draw a line with your finger that does not fill in with cream.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
Strain through a sieve, then blend on high speed with an immersion blender or in a regular blender (wait until it is cooled, though!) for about 20 seconds—don’t go too long with the blender, just enough to get it smooth.
Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and allow to cool completely.
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 6-inch baking pans.
Place butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 4 full minutes.
Meanwhile, mash the bananas with the milk in one bowl and stir the flour and baking powder together.
Scrape the sides of the stand mixer and add in 1/3 of the flour mixture.
While you stir the flour mixture in, add in half of the banana mixture.
Add another third of the flour mixture, adding the remainder of the banana mixture and the remainder of the flour mixture one after the other while stirring on low speed.
Increase the speed to medium for 30 seconds, to ensure that the batter is homogenous.
Portion out into prepared pans and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.
Make the Italian meringue buttercream: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar, salt, and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Whisk in 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, beating until the frosting comes together into a glossy, fluffy, light mixture.
Portion into 4 separate portions—one portion should be slightly smaller than the other three.
Place one of the larger three portions back into the bowl of the stand mixer; while whipping on high, add about 3/4 of the melted and cooled chocolate and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.
Whip until chocolate is fully incorporated.
Into another of the three larger portions of frosting, add about 3/4 of the remaining chocolate (so about 3/16 of the original portion) and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder; stir vigorously to combine.
Into the remaining of the three larger portions, stir in the remaining chocolate and 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
Into the smallest portion, stir in 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder.
At this point, tint any of the 4 portions as you see fit with a few extra teaspoons of cocoa powder.
To assemble the cake, place a dollop of pastry cream on a cake stand and place 1 of the banana layers on top.
Spread 1/8-1/4 cup of the pastry cream onto the banana cake; place one of the almond dacquoise layers on top and spread with another 1/8 cup pastry cream.
Top with a second banana cake, more pastry cream, the second dacquoise layer, more pastry cream, and the final banana cake layer.
Use a small amount of the three larger portions of frosting (the darkest three) to lightly crumb coat the cake—you don’t need a thick crumb coat here.
Using 4 pastry bags filled with each of the colors, pipe an ombre effect with desired piping tip (I used a single tip and 4 couplers).

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To the Gold Mine

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“You have no idea how hard I’ve looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What’s the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the ocean. Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.
It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.”

―Jalaluddin Rumi

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I am trying to luxuriate in my last few weeks here at the University of Chicago; I get extremely choked up when I think about graduating. I have often struggled with feeling too deeply and getting lost in my emotions. I hate goodbyes more than anything.

My dad used to commute to Dartmouth to teach at the business school; he had to leave home at 5 in the morning to make his flight on Monday mornings. I would often wake up when he was leaving and pad downstairs, crying, behind him. I never wanted him to leave.

It’s similar now, only I am padding around campus, feeling lost and lonely. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the jumble of emotions that come with goodbye. I’m nostalgic, introspective, frightened, excited, dragging my feet while trying to lean in, etc., etc.
I am clinging to anything, right now, just like I used to cling to my dad.
(Truth: I still cling to him. I will always be his remora, can’t change that. I can feel my mom and dad shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at that, and that makes me smile.)

What a strange, out-of-body experience growing up is turning out to be. I wonder at how quickly time passes. It brings me to tears, frequently, and shakes me to my core. I am a confident, stubborn, perseverant person, but I am oft reduced to a puddle of quivering jelly when I realize that I can never get back what’s gone.
Not only the boundless energy and carefree schedule of a child, not only people and pets, but also emotions, like the sheer, unbridled joy I used to feel when the seasons were changing—each one felt brand new and just as exciting, with no jaded cynic inside me to put a damper on those feelings, yet.
How many wistful words have been written by those who come face to face with time’s fleet feet? I rarely feel that it would be of much use to anyone for me to write my own, infinitesimal terror out on this page.
But here is where I repeatedly find myself, cursor blinking, as these thoughts storm in my mind.

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Other things (other than self-indulgent moping, that is) with which I’ve been occupying myself:

Nati got a Nintendo Switch! And Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to go along with it. Oh my goodness, y’all, it is the most gorgeous game. I could watch him play for hours. It is 100% absorbing. So fun!

I (finally) read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. A quick read, but chilling, and a classic. Maybe I’ll watch the Hulu series now, who knows.

Speaking of T.V., Nati finally watched Game of Thrones with me (this is now my 5th? 6th? time watching the show); he enjoyed it, although is not as obsessed as I am. Then again, is anyone? It just made me even more excited for season 7! I can hardly wait!

Catch me in UChicago’s newspaper, The Maroon, in a style feature (whaaat). Big thanks to MJ Chen, Chris D’Angelo, and Christian Hill for making me seem like a cohesive human being. It takes a village, people. But seriously, they were a dream to work with and I’m so flattered and grateful! So go check it out, heh.

Also, I’ve been baking more dairy-free treats lately. But more on that soon!

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

This matcha and black sesame cake had been on my to-make list/I’ve been dreaming of the combination of these flavors for a while now.

The cake itself is a close-textured, moist butter cake, sweet and rich with grassy, bright notes from the matcha. The cake is brushed with a honey syrup to keep it moist, then topped with black sesame Italian meringue buttercream, which is silky soft and nutty in a delightfully unexpected way; it was almost like a peanut-butter frosting, with a little more depth and bitterness from the sesame. I finished the cake up with some gold leaf, which is, like, the biggest pain in the ass to work with, and is most certainly not necessary to make this cake a showstopper.
Seriously, all you have to do is breathe and the stuff goes everywhere. Next time any of you see me pinning or liking photos of gold leaf, knock me upside the head. I always get suckered in.

It’s actually quite a simple cake, but the decoration + the surprisingly beautiful and vibrant interior make it gorgeous.

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

The matcha for this cake was kindly sent to me from Happy Matcha, which is a small Australian start up selling organic matcha powder.
The tea is a lovely green and finely milled; it maintained its bright, strong flavor even when baked, which was what I was hoping for. I think it’s a bonus that it’s organic; honestly, when buying this type of powdered tea (and face masks, for that matter), I like to be able to completely trust it to be safe and from a good distributor.
If you haven’t tried good matcha before (i.e. not Starbucks, which is mixed with sugar, I think), I do recommend Happy Matcha. At this point, they only ship within Australia (but they do it in a carbon-neutral fashion, which is dooope), but we can all hope for worldwide shipping in the future!

As for the black sesame paste, I used this paste. Note that it isn’t black sesame tahini, which is made with raw sesame seeds and has a different flavor profile.

Black Sesame Matcha Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Black Sesame and Matcha Cake
makes 1 3×6-inch layer cake, or 1 2×8-inch layer cake

ingredients:
for the matcha cake:
225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
300 grams (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons vinegar)
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons matcha powder

for the salted and black sesame Italian meringue buttercream:
3 egg whites
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
45 grams (45 mL, 3 tablespoons) water
336 grams (1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons roasted black sesame paste

to assemble:
25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons honey
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) water
gold leaf, if desired

directions:
Make the cake: grease and flour 3 6-inch cake pans; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat butter on high speed for 3 full minutes, until light in color and fluffy.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for 2 more minutes; scrape the bowl.
Add in the eggs and egg yolks and beat on high for a full 3 minutes.
Stir in the buttermilk or curdled milk.
Add the flour, baking powder, and matcha powder and beat until combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Portion out evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the honey syrup: place sugar, honey and water in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, or until the sugar is just dissolved.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream: place egg whites 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 5 minutes.
Divide buttercream into two portions (about 60-40), leaving the larger portion in the bowl of the stand mixer.
Add in the black sesame paste to the larger portion and whip on high until completely homogeneous.
To decorate, first level the cakes and cut off the brown cooked portions; brush with the honey syrup.
Pipe a border of white buttercream around the edge of the cakes, then fill with the black sesame buttercream.
Frost the bottom (plain) half first, keeping an approximate line in the middle of the cake, then stick in the fridge until completely hardened.
Frost the top half with the black sesame buttercream, being careful not to go too much over the white buttercream edge.
Cover the edge with gold leaf and decorate the top with piping as desired!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a product in this post for free, in exchange for my honest and fair review. All opinions are my own. Bisous!

Time Enough

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.
—Rabindranath Tagore

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy New Year my friends!
I am as belated as anyone could expect (1/24 of the year is already gone) of my sporadic blogging schedule.

Nevertheless, I hope your year has started out brilliantly and smoothly. And I hope whatever resolutions you resolved have been a fulfilling part of the beginning of 2017. May they become habits and continue for the long run!
I have been studying non-stop for my MCAT, which will be mercifully finished in exactly 4 days/96 hours… Annnndd cue the oh-my-god-that-is-terrifyingly-soon panic attack.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Anyways, I haven’t done much of anything fun or new in 2017. I’ve been getting back into a regular gym/lifting routine after doing yoga for all of December, and that feels damn good.
(On that note, anyone have any really good music they’ve been grooving to at the gym? I need to update my playlist ASAP.)
I want to clean out my closet (especially since I’m leaving it in just a few short months, ACK!) and give my room a deep clean, but right now I’m barely getting laundry done, let alone dusting and wiping and organizing.
I guess my fresh start will come more towards February! Or March! Or… It can always be Spring Cleaning.

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Starting off the blank slate of this year with something light and lemony feels right.
Three years ago (HOW) I made this pavlova with Greek yogurt, thyme, and berries for the same reason.

These cute little tarts are made of a buttery, whole wheat shortbread base (the WW actually adds a nice hint of nuttiness), filled with simple, creamy lemon curt, and topped off with some sweet, toasted (~er… burnt) meringue.
I love the shape of the rectangle tarts—I used a silicon mold—but you could definitely make this in an 8-inch pan.

It’s a quick recipe that’s sure to impress, and perfect for a lighter January treat!

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Back soon with cake! And Valentine’s treats, hopefully. x

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole Wheat Lemon Meringue Tarts
makes 8 small tarts or 1 8-inch tart

for the crust:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
120 grams (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
225 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the lemon curd:
3 medium egg yolks (or 2 extra-large)
240 grams (1 cups) water
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
28 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
27 grams (1/8 cup, 2 tablespoons) butter
zest of 1 lemons
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (approximately 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
45 grams (3 tablespoons) water

directions:
Make the crust: place butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for 5-6 full minutes, or until completely homogeneous, fluffy, light in color, and doubled in volume.
Stir in the flours until dough comes together; roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and line tart pans/pan of choice.
Prick all over and then freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; bake tart shells lined with foil and weighted with pie weights, dry rice, or beans for 8-12 minutes, depending on size and thickness of crust.
Crust should be dry to the touch, golden, and fragrant when done.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
Fill cooled tart shells with chilled lemon curd.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue onto the tarts, then torch if desired.

Reconnaissant

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.

William Cullen Bryant

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The word for grateful in French, reconnaisant, is derived from the verb reconnaître: to recognize or acknowledge.

To be thankful is to share your appreciation.
I have so, so many thanks to give this holiday season, in spite of the fragility of 2016 in the face of so many tragedies, differences, and disagreements. I feel strongly that acknowledging good and allowing our spirits to be lifted by it is just as important and crucial to progress as discussing what we feel is wrong or problematic.

I choose to feel lucky and count my blessings, because there are so many people around the world who have too few.
I am grateful for my family, for my partner, for friends near and far, for my school and the opportunities afforded to me, for clean water and laundry and a quiet bed to sleep in at night.

My life and heart are full, and yet I keep space enough to hope for peace and unity, for universal rights and equality, and an end to the bombings of hospitals and schools in Aleppo.
I pray for women and girls around the globe, for animals losing their homes and environments, or in zoos, shelters, or abusive homes, and I pray for Mother Earth.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

I thought I’d share a few (mostly food) links that have made me smile, or pause and think, or drool lately. I’m thankful for the food blogging community and the creativity that thrives in it.
Inspiration is good for the soul!

Thalia turned 21! She baked herself a glorious chocolate and hazelnut and praline cake (that frosting, omg bye) and also wrote a beautiful post (with pie) about self-transformation.

Michelle wrote some realness about the election and having work to do. So refreshing when so many have just gone on posting about yummy cakes etc. If you didn’t read her 5th blogiversary post either, definitely check it out for some food for thought about what’s really important about being a blogger.

Cindy’s apple + marionberry marzipan crumble with “chewy bits of almond paste throughout the crisp topping” sounds like the best thing, ever. Definitely want to try this over the winter!

Speaking of things I want to try, Jen made an apple rose tart that is perfection embodied. Those swirly slices! I need to try making fruit roses, especially in a dessert, yum.

Adam Ellis is a cartoonist for Buzzfeed and his instagram is guaranteed to make you laugh. Hehe.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The frosting on Sam’s hazelnut cake, holy cow. So shiny and chocolaty! I love the idea of using sour cream to add a slight contrast to the sweetness. Plus, the post is part of a campaign for No Kid Hungry, which is doubly awesome.

Erica made a beautiful pear bourbon pie and shared a sad story and her own urgings for us all to acknowledge and work together to move forward after a divisive political season. I completely understand her hesitation to say anything about politics in a space usually reserved for happy musings, but I applaud her for being bold and sharing some of her feelings.

Those seeking comfort and solace should turn to Beeta’s classic chocolate chip cookies, which look pillowy and soft and full of chocolate. I could totally go for a warm cookie and cold milk right about now.

Ellen crying while getting a Medal of Freedom from Obama made me tear up, to be honest. She is so wonderful and this was a momentous honor.

Finally, my pictures are in a Belgian magazine!
You can check out the issue from Creacorner here—spot my Yule Stump cake!

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

The pie I’m sharing with you guys today comes together in a flash and doesn’t require any rolling of crusts, which is something that I know many people dread.

Instead, this creamy, spicy, sweet pumpkin pie has a brown butter graham cracker and cinnamon cereal crust (you know your inner child wants to try this) and a thick swirl of torched, marshmallow-y Italian meringue.

This comes together in a flash and doesn’t require any ingredients that aren’t already in your pantry.
It’s not an enormous tart/pie, so it’s good as part of a holiday dessert spread.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I urge you to give your loved ones an extra squeeze and don’t be afraid to share what you’re thankful for this year.

Pumpkin Meringue Pie | La Pêche Fraîche

Pumpkin Meringue Tart
makes 1 8- or 9-inch tart or pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
300 grams (2 1/4 cups) crushed graham crackers and/or cinnamon cereal
25 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter, melted or browned

for the filling:
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
pinch nutmeg
40 grams (1/3 cup) dry milk powder (Note: you can sub 7 ounces evaporated milk for the dry milk powder and water)
120 grams (1/2 cup) water
75 grams (5 ounces, 1 small can) evaporated milk
420 grams (15 ounces, 1 regular can) pumpkin purée
2 eggs

for the meringue:
2 egg whites
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) water

directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Make the crust: crush the graham crackers and cereal into crumbs, then pour into a bowl.
Stir the sugar and salt into the crumbs, then pour the brown butter over and stir until the mixture will stick together when pressed.
Pour into an 8- or 9-inch tart or pie pan and press into an even layer.
Place the pan on a sheet pan lined with parchment.
Bake for 10 minutes, until fragrant.
Meanwhile, whisk sugar, spices, and dry milk powder together.
Add the evaporated milk and water while whisking, then stir in the pumpkin until homogeneous.
Whisk in the eggs, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything has been incorporated.
Pour into the hot crust and place back in the oven.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 20-30 more minutes, or until the center just barely jiggles when you shake the pan a little bit.
Allow to cool completely.
Make the meringue: place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.
Begin to whisk egg whites while syrup heats up.
Once syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at semi-stiff peaks.
Pour the hot syrup into the meringue while beating at high speed.
Whip until the meringue is glossy and cooled to body temp.
Spread the meringue over the pumpkin pie and torch it as desired.

Vingt-Et-Un

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

“Strange is our situation here upon earth.
Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose.
From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Three years ago, on the cusp of adulthood—18 starry-eyed years come and gone—I was packing up to come to UChicago.
Growing up in two big ways, simultaneously.
I was scared and melancholy to say goodbye to my so-called childhood and my home, my whole body jangly with nerves.

Things are very different this time around: I’m turning 21, about to start my last year of college—comfortable in my home away from home.
I’m supposed to already be an adult, but I’m not at all sure if I’m more confident in where my life seems to be heading. The only thing I’m certain of is that time has, miraculously, begun passing much, much faster.
I always feel this way on my birthdays (but it’s not a feeling exclusive to my b-day. Because, neuroses and all).

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

This is the first birthday that I will not spend in Ithaca, in the home I grew up in.
It feels a little strange, to be sure, to not be sitting at the kitchen counter writing this and eating cake.
It’s also the first birthday I will spend away from my amazing parents, who have given me everything and more over the years.
When I’m not with them, I never don’t miss them. But I’m indulging in a ~little~ extra pining today. It is the first, after all!

Luckily for me, I got to FaceTime them this morning and this afternoon, Nati surprised me with flowers, so I know I won’t feel too discomfited today.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Pavlova is my favorite dessert, which is why I like to have it for my birthday cake!

I kept this one simple and classic, with three layers of crisp meringue, marshmallow-y on the inside, fluffy whipped cream, tart, luscious lemon curd, and strawberries and raspberries.

They almost inevitably crack and begin to slide and crumple when you try to cut a slice, so I usually go the loser route and stick the whole thing in a bowl when this happens.
Voilà, Eton mess!
If the prospect of your lovely pastry ending up a wonky mess in a bowl makes you nervous, take a couple shots and just cut the damn thing. With determination, I think it can be done.

Otherwise, pavlova taste just as good when scooped with a spoon.
Take it from me.

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche

Birthday pavlovas, previously:
18 years old
20 years old

(…And a New Year’s pavlova, for good measure.)

Birthday Pavlova | La Pêche Fraîche
Lemon Berry Pavlova
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

ingredients:
for the meringue:
8 egg whites
1 tablespoon vinegar
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for the lemon curd:
5 egg yolks
480 grams (2 cups) water
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
56 grams (1/2 cup) cornstarch
55 grams (1/4 cup, 4 tablespoons) butter
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 3 lemons (approximately 1/2 to 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

to assemble:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 punnet raspberries
10-15 strawberries
powdered sugar, optional

directions:
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 vinegar and start to whip.
Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together.
As the egg whites become frothy, add the sugar mixture in tablespoons, until the meringue is glossy and shiny and all of the sugar is incorporated.
Using a piping bag fitted with a French or star tip, pipe the meringue into circles on the parchment.
Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and allow to cool inside the   oven to prevent cracks.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: place water in a pot over high heat; bring to a boil.
Stir in the cornstarch and sugar and bring back to a boil while stirring constantly; mixture will be quite thick and opaque.
Remove mixture from heat and, whisking vigorously, add the egg yolks.
Return to heat and bring back to a boil while whisking the entire time.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter; whisk until an emulsion forms.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
Allow to cool completely, pressing plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
To assemble, whip the cream to stiff peaks, then stir in the starch and sugar.
Layer the meringue disks with lemon curd, then whipped cream, then a few berries in between; pile the rest of the berries on top and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Quatrième

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“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.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Happy birthday to this little blog!
La Pêche Fraîche is four years old.
Which means I’ve been running this blog for 20% of my time on this earth. Don’t ask me how…

The blogiversary rundown:
3 years
2 years
1 year (Oy vey.)

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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.

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

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 | La Pêche Fraîche

An Eclectic Chocolate Cake
makes 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
cake portion from Liv for Cake

ingredients:
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 eggs
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
pinch salt
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

to decorate:
60 grams (2 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
60 grams (1/4 cup) heavy cream
sliced strawberries
rafaellos
1 batch macaron shells
crushed freeze-dried raspberries

directions:
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.

Cloud Nine

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

—Rabindranath Tagore

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

I always used to dream about sleeping in the clouds, with a giant white pillow on which to rest my head.
When I was younger, I would daydream out loud about it to my nanny.  Just thinking about it still calms me.
Clouds don’t always mean rain.

(Bob Ross’ happy little clouds are arguably the best example of how relaxing clouds can be…)

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I’m sharing the cake equivalent of a cloud.

My go-to dark chocolate cake, not-too-sweet and rich with fruity cocoa flavor, studded with peppermint bark chips is covered in the fluffiest dang frosting I have ever tasted.
It’s a vintage icing—colonnade frosting—it’s similar to a meringue, but with a greater amount of sugar syrup and a hit of powdered sugar added in at the end.
The result is a very stable frosting that is as light as a meringue but has as much body as a marshmallow; it develops a very slight crust after setting, but remains soft on the inside.
It’s quite sweet, so it is the perfect offset to the dark chocolate cake.
The cake is topped with a few spare pieces of peppermint bark.  The whole thing ends up being a very sophisticated, non-toothpastey version of a Junior Mint.

It feeds a crowd and it’s quite festive.
Little slivers with a cup of hot tea are a brilliant way to finish off a wintry night.

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

A word on this (fantastic) frosting: it sets up rather quickly, and when it does, it becomes sticky and somewhat of a pain to work with—similar to marshmallows.
Thus, make the frosting only when you’re totally ready to finish the cake; this will decrease the likelihood of this irritation.
That being said, it’s still spreadable when it’s sticky, but it will not be smooth and shiny (see my photos—mine set up before I started with the swoops, so they look a little rough).

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Peppermint not your thing?
Other Christmas/holiday posts as follows.

This year: chocolate peppermint shortbread, 5-spice snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, and cinnamon cereal marshmallow treats
festive marshmallow ropes

1 year ago: honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies
chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
peppermint and chocolate cupcakes
souche de Noël (eggnog layer cake with ganache)

2 years ago: pepparkakor
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies
gingerbread layer cake

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake | La Pêche Fraîche

Chocolate Peppermint Cloud Cake
makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake
cake portion adapted from Sweetapolita
frosting adapted from Joe Pastry

ingredients:
for the cake:
220 grams (1 3/4 cup) flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
90 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
240 grams (1 cup) hot coffee
240 grams (1 cup) buttermilk
112 grams (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup peppermint bark chunks or chips, plus extra for decorating

for the frosting:
600 grams (3 cups) sugar
155 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
80 grams (4 tablespoons) corn syrup
4 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar
22 grams (7 tablespoons) powdered sugar

directions:
Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
Place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Make 2 wells in the flour and pour the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in one well; place the hot coffee in the other.
Whisk vigorously to combine the batter; it will be liquidy.
Stir in the peppermint bark chips.
Portion into the 3 pans and bake for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool 15 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a pot over medium heat.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tartar and whip on medium speed; whites should be at stiff peaks when the syrup reaches 240 degrees F, so increase or decrease speed as necessary.
Once the syrup reaches temperature, carefully pour into the egg whites while whipping at high speed.
Whip the meringue until cooled a little, then carefully add in the powdered sugar a little at a time.
Whip until fully incorporated, then stack and frost the cakes.
Move quickly, because the frosting sets fairly quickly.
Decorate with a few more chopped pieces of peppermint bark.

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