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.

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!

I Know Not

알 수 없는
(unknowable)
miso caramel
matcha black sesame shortbread
lychee sorbet
black sesame brittle
create an animated gif
This past week, I’ve been hemming and hawing over my WISE project.
We were assigned old journals to read and review, and I received a very strange journal which is not really relatable to my project.
I felt confused as I flipped through the pages; its author and I not only have very different projects, but very different writing styles and ideas of what a WISE journal should consist of.
 
Cue panicked tailspin.
The first thoughts through my head: Am I doing it wrong?!
What happens if I am?!
Why isn’t mine like that?!
I went and talked to my mentor, Mr. B.
He shut those ideas right down; relax, you’re doing fine, everyone’s different and all projects are different, I’ve seen lots of others, etc.  Relax.
Breathe.
So here’s the thing, then: I know my journal is doing fine, and my weekly blog posts are alright, too.
I just can’t get this nagging voice out of my head when I sit down to write:
Are you doing it right?
Do you sound educated?
People will be reading this and judging you, you know.
Are you sure you want to say that?
No, no, no!  Start again.  Start over.  Rewrite that sentence; rewrite that post.
I’m sorry that this post is so long overdue.  
By now the dessert has run into the recesses of my mind; it has hidden in the depths.
I don’t know if my WISE project is right or good or whatever.
I can’t know; it is such a part of me that my own critical judgment falls by the wayside.
It is a part unto my whole, and it is thus that I am blinded.
 
“Freeing oneself from words is liberation.”
-Bodhidharma
I put the other journal away.  I’ll read it sometime next week, perhaps next weekend.
For now, I will write.
알 수 없는:

for the miso caramel:
adapted from food52
ingredients:
25 g sugar
10 g water
20 g heavy cream, room temperature or slightly warmer
1 teaspoon shiro miso
directions:
Put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.  
Allow to cook until the caramel is deep amber; remove from heat and immediately stir in heavy cream, whisking all the while.
Mixture will splatter and bubble and steam; beware.
Once all the cream is incorporated, stir in the miso.
If you want a slightly thinner sauce, you can stir in up to 2 tablespoons more heavy cream.

for the matcha shortbread:
ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha powder
pinch sea salt
5 drops vanilla extract
5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon milk
black sesame seeds for mixing in, if desired
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream the butter and sugar together until very fluffy and pale.  
Add the matcha, vanilla, and sea salt and mix to combine.  
Add in the flour and milk and mix just until homogeneous.
Stir in up to 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds.
Roll out to 1/8- 1/4 of an inch thickness.  
Cut small rounds using the back of a pastry tip.
Bake for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant and firm to the touch.
(Larger cookies will take longer; perhaps 7 or so minutes per batch.)

for the lychee sorbet:
ingredients:
1 can lychees in light syrup
directions:
Drain half the syrup, discard.
Purée the fruits and the rest of the syrup, then press through a sieve.
Freeze the resulting juice in an ice cream maker.

for the black sesame brittle:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
directions:
Place the sugar in a small, heavy bottomed pan.  
Line a sheet pan with a silpat (cannot use parchment).
Caramelize the sugar until it is amber colored; working quickly, stir in the sesame seeds and spread as thinly and evenly as possible on the silpat.
Take caution, as the caramel is extremely hot.
Allow to cool completely, then break up into organic shapes.

to assemble:
Schmear the miso caramel.  
Add a few matcha shortbread cookies, then a few scoops of sorbet.  
Finish with the brittle.  
Serve immediately.

Seedy

Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever written.  I say that with utter conviction.  
I have read every single strip multiple times and I still get a kick out of them.
As kids, my brothers and I would fight over our Calvin and Hobbes collection to read during breakfast.  The pages of all the books are accordingly sticky and stained with milk and Lucky Charms crumbs.
The losers of the fights would have to read Foxtrot.
What a life.
 


This past summer, I endeavored to reread all the Calvin and Hobbes books we have.

Hoo boy!  That was the greatest week.  They are endlessly enjoyable and hilarious… I mean, seriously.  Love!

So, I have this weird thing where whenever I think of the word “seedy,” I think of Calvin and Hobbes. I think it’s because when I was younger, I saw it in the comics and didn’t fully understand it.
My brain works in strange ways, people. 
 
 
Anyways, I decided to make a seedy pound cake, combining a few flavors that at first glance might not go together.
 
I love lemon-poppy seed baked goods.  The poppy seeds add that extra crunch and visual appeal; not much in the way of flavor, but whatevs.  They’re pretty.
 
I also love matcha.  It’s earthiness and subtle bitter and sweet notes always dance around my mouth, leaving me wanting more.  
 
Why not lemon and matcha?  The tart citrus plays off beautifully against the intense green tea.
 
I decided to really get the party started and added some sesame seeds to the matcha batter. Matcha-sesame seed mixed with lemon-poppy seed!  Sign me up.
(P.S. I also snuck some brown butter in.  Why?  Because I can, so hush.)
 
In hindsight, I wish I had swirled the loaves to create more of a marbled effect.  I got a layered effect because I didn’t do much mixing- I was a bit nervous to mix too much, but I ended up mixing barely at all.  Oh well.  C’est la vie.
 
I was sending these loaves off to my brothers, but I snuck a piece before I did.  
Buttery, sweet, and chock full of flavor, this is a pound cake to remember.  
Share it with your favorite tiger.
 

 

Lemon Poppy Seed and Matcha Sesame Seed Pound Cake
makes 2 loaf cakes, easily halved
adapted from Gale Gand
ingredients:
6 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 sticks butter, browned
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
big splash vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 to 5 tablespoons matcha powder (depending on strength of your matcha)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 2 six cup loaf pans.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until they form thick, light yellow ribbons.  
Stir in the butter and vanilla.  
Stir in the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt, but don’t fully mix.
Divide the mixture into two, and into one, add the lemon juice, zest, and poppy seeds.  Into the other, add the buttermilk, matcha powder, and sesame seeds.  
Beat each one (by hand, so you don’t overbeat) until homogeneous.
Pour half of the matcha batter into each prepared pan.
Top with half of the lemon batter.  Swirl with a skewer or fork as desired (if you don’t, your loaf will have a pattern similar to mine).
Bake until the center is raised and a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs; 65 to 70 minutes.
To make an optional glaze, stir 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to make a pourable glaze.  Once the cakes are out of the oven and mostly cool, poke a few small holes in the top and brush/pour the glaze all over the cakes.