“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit—stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
—Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Consider this an end to the radio silence that has dominated since La Pêche Fraîche turned four (still a crazy number to me)…
So much has happened since then.
I moved to a different city (hello, NYC friends, let’s play!) where I’m living with my BFF, started an amazing job at a new firm, AND flew back to Chicago to celebrate my awe-inspiring big’s graduation; I’ve even traveled to Washington for work!
My job keeps me busy, busy, busy, and my new kitchen is much smaller than my kitchen at school, which is smaller yet than the kitchen in my parents’ home.
This means I haven’t been baking at all; in fact, I’ve barely even been cooking.
But I planned ahead and stockpiled photos and posts for the summer. 3.5 weeks is bad enough; 3 months without stepping on my soapbox would be torturous.
Happy summer everyone! We’ve made it, miraculously!
I hope your days have been filled with the juiciest, sweetest produce imaginable.
I hope you’ve been reveling in sunshine ands greenery.
I made this post in the throes of spring, when the lilacs were fragrant and abundant and ripe strawberries few and far between; one has since disappeared for the year and the other, become ubiquitous and innumerable.
Lilacs are a Benjamin Button type of flower. The bushes erupt in tight buds that are small and brown-ish rather than green—wizened before they even bloom.
Eventually, their beautiful purple flowers open, perfuming the air and driving everyone crazy with spring fever, only to droop and fade as quickly as they appeared.
The good news is that this sheet cake can be a spring or summer affair, provided you can find some fresh, ripe fruit to decorate.
The cake itself is an unbelievably moist vanilla Texas-style sheet cake, buttery with a soft crumb.
It’s the perfect base for a thick layer of barely sweetened whipped cream, spread on in giant spoonfuls, and then a heap of ruby red, fresh and bright strawberries.
It’s a perfect treat to bring along to a picnic or barbecue, and it hold up pretty well for a few hours in the fridge.
Serving this with a mix of fruit—raspberries, strawberries, and fat peach wedges—would be next level.
Throw some fresh edible flowers or lilac sugar on top and you have a picture perfect summer cream cake!
Who else wants to sleep in that whipped cream cloud?!
Back sooner than later with pie! xo
Strawberry Cream Sheet Cake
makes 1 13×9 inch cake
cake portion adapted from Taste of Home
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
225 grams (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter
240 grams (1 cup) water
2 large eggs
120 grams (1/2 cup) yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the whipped cream:
360 grams (1 1/2 cups) heavy or double cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
edible flowers, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Stir flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt together.
Place butter and water in a pot and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Whisk eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together and alternate adding to the dry mixture with the butter.
Stir batter vigorously for a few seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Allow to cool completely.
To finish the cake, whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks.
Spread all over the cake, then decorate with lots of sliced strawberries and edible flowers.
Serve with extra powdered sugar and strawberries.
“Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?”
—From Sonnet 8, Shakespeare
And thus did the Month of Birthdays begin.
Within a 1 month period, my father, my mother, one of my brothers, my halmoni, my best friend, and I had our birthdays.
Let them eat cake, indeed.
(As you may well recall, however, my grandmother does not have a birthday anymore, or at least “refuses” to acknowledge her date of birth as a day of celebration…)
So much love goes into birthday cakes.
I spend weeks pestering everyone in my family about what kind of cake they want…
My dad knew immediately. My ma, not so much.
(But she figured it out, don’t worry—and it’s coming soon…)
There have been many, many birthday cakes on this blog.
My dad’s amazing, complicated modern black forest cake from last year.
(yes, I have a Cool Dad who likes pink. In fact, he’s wearing a pink oxford shirt as I write this.)
One of my favorite layer cakes ever!
Alexa’s salted caramel popcorn cake, from way back when.
One of the most popular recipes on this blog.
This was made before piling popcorn on cakes was in vogue, for the record…
Hana’s adorable funfetti and sprinkle cake, tiny and travel sized and absolutely lacquered in sprinkles…
My birthday pavlova, from my 18th birthday.
This fueled my rabid love of meringue cakes…
There was no going back after the first bite!
My birthday pavlova, unbelievably tall and opulent, from this year’s big 2-0, because duh.
How twee are the little flags on this cake?!
I made them from skewers and a few varieties of gold washi tape that I picked up at A.C. Moore.
I love that they’re all a little different, and they were so easy to make! They took the place of candles because I couldn’t find my tall white candles that are my favorites.
One thing that I will note is that washi tape sometimes doesn’t stick all that well, and it’s necessary to keep pressing it together before placing the flags on the cake.
Maybe it was just the brands I used…?
The recipe for this big old cake is a bit long.
But it’s a multi-step process, and it’s totally doable.
You can make the coconut and chocolate layers up to 3 days (or a week or so if frozen) before, just wrap them well in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge or freezer.
The coconut filling can be made 2 days before and stored in the fridge as well.
It’s best to make the buttercream the day of the assembly, but the cake itself can be assembled and refrigerated 12 hours to a day before.
Moral of the story: long recipe, but unintimidating process, I promise.
This cake is an amazing combination of flavors.
It all balances and works out to taste exactly like an Almond Joy candy bar, but in cake form.
My go-to rich, dense, moist chocolate cake is sandwiched with super rich coconut cake, made with a handful of shredded coconut to give a nubby, moreish texture.
Between each layer is a thin round of sweet almond paste, just sweet enough to avoid being cloying and with the right amount of chew.
On top of the almond paste is a thick custard, thickened with coconut chips and slivered almonds—it’s an eggier, creamier version of the filling in an Almond Joy.
Finally, the frosting is a shiny, glossy, cloud-like chocolate Italian meringue buttercream, swirled into fluffy circles, adding just the right amount of butter and chocolate to round out the coconut flavors inside. A chocolate ganache would be equally sinful, now that I think about it…
Each bite is a mélange of textures and a perfect balance of the trio of flavors: coconut, almond, and chocolate.
It’s not too sweet, though it’s very rich, and it will serve a crowd with ease.
Happy birthday Daddy! Sorry it took so long to post your cake…
Almond Joy Cake
Makes 1 4-layer 6-inch cake
for the chocolate cake:
220 grams (1 cup plus 2 teaspoons) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
45 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon) cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant coffee
80 grams (1/3 cup) boiling water
60 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla
105 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) full-fat coconut milk
15 grams (1 tablespoon) apple cider vinegar
for the coconut almond filling:
2 egg yolks
130 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
160 grams (2/3 cup) half-and-half or single cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
55 grams (4 tablespoons) butter
1 1/2 cups coconut chips (or unsweetened flaked)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
for the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
60 grams (1/4 cup) water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450 grams (2 cups) butter, soft but cool, chopped
350 grams (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
225 grams (8 ounces) almond paste
Make the chocolate cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, flour, cocoa powder, and instant coffee in a bowl.
Whisk the dry ingredients; make a well in the center and add the coconut oil into the well.
Pour the boiling water over the coconut oil to melt it fully; stir until approximately halfway incorporated.
At this point, add in the egg and egg white, vanilla, coconut milk, and apple cider vinegar.
Beat well until fully incorporated; batter will be thin.
Evenly portion batter into the prepared pans and bake for 20-24 minutes, until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched and a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Next, make the coconut cake: grease and flour 2 6-inch pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together; set aside.
Place butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on high for 3 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the salt and sugar; beat for 3 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the coconut milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
Mix until approximately half combined, then slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer running.
Beat on high for 30 seconds to fully incorporate the ingredients, then portion out into prepared pans.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs and the tops are golden brown and springy.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt together.
Whisk half and half and cornstarch together and place over medium heat.
When the half and half comes to a simmer, add the butter and allow to melt; pour over the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly.
Return the mixture to the pot and heat over low heat until thickened.
Stir in the coconut chips and slivered almonds and allow to cool completely.
Make the chocolate Italian meringue buttercream: melt chocolate in short bursts in the microwave until 2/3 melted; stir until completely melted and set aside to cool slightly.
Place egg whites and a pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Place water, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small pot over medium heat; begin to whisk the egg whites.
When the sugar syrup reaches 245 degrees F, the egg whites should be at stiff peaks.
With the mixer still running, carefully drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites; whip until cooled.
When the meringue has reached room temperature, begin beating in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once all the butter has been beaten in, whip on high speed for 5 minutes until the buttercream is fluffy and shiny.
3 minutes in, start to drizzle in the cooled chocolate until it has all been incorporated.
Scrape the sides of the bowl when the buttercream is fluffy, then whip on high for 30 more seconds to ensure it is homogeneous.
To assemble the cake, divide the almond paste into 3 equal portions and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness.
Cut 6-inch circles out of each of the portions of almond paste.
Stack the first cake layer onto a cake stand; top with a round of almond paste and a third of the coconut filling; pipe an edge of buttercream around the layer and top with the second.
Repeat until all 4 layers have been used; use 1 1/2 cups of buttercream to crumb coat the cake.
Chill for at least 20 minutes to set the crumb coat.
Decorate cake as desired with the remaining frosting.
Serve with a tall glass of ice cold milk.
“What is REAL?”
asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”
—The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
Since Life first unexpectedly sprung from unassuming, antediluvian and micellar murk on a planet wholly unrecognizable to us, so too did Death.
Organisms, animals—man and beast and plant alike—enter this realm and pass into the next.
And by the time sentience came into vogue, grief had entered the mix as well.
The unfairness of loss draws out our most innate and intimate emotions, primal keening and crying accompanied by
external, physical pain. It hurts.
To my best friend, my honey bee, keeper of my secrets and sharer of my memories—
Know that everything you feel is Real.
Love, regret, anger, and sadness all roll together to become the acutely painful sensation of grief, which is, paradoxically, the balm and toxin during heartbreaking loss.
Know, however, that your heart isn’t breaking.
It is swelling so full of love and memories that it is fit to burst; the dull ache of each thump in your chest only serves to remind you how very full it is.
No matter how deeply it feels like it is rending, it is knit together tightly by years of love.
That much, my dear, I can certainly promise you.
“Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.
But he is deaf, this cruel god. There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march. Forward we go.
Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.
“She was speaking last night about a litter of cats she wanted to bring home, and the look of the moonlight on a lake.
Memories from the past resurfacing. When we are about to cross over, these thoughts are the things we take with us.”
This stunning tart is definitely one of the most delicious and beautiful things I have made yet this summer. Figs, to me, signal the dog days of summer: sticky, syrupy heat that produces fruit of the same temperament, as the season bleeds lazily into Autumn.
They are an unctuous, sensual fruit, and it is truly hard to beat a perfectly ripe fig.
Figs pair well, in my opinion, with savory flavors as well as bright, citrusy flavors.
This tart blends the two, with woodsy rosemary and tart lemon creating a perfectly harmonious backdrop for lots of thinly sliced, ripe figs.
For this tart, buttery crust, crisp and perfectly fluted (no shrinkage! Heh.)is hit with pine-y rosemary and molasses-y brown sugar to elevate it above a basic pâte sucrée.
The shell is filled with tart citrusy cream, rich with cream cheese, cut with a whole lemon’s worth of zest and juice.
When chilled, it sets into a sliceable form, solid enough to support any number of fresh or seasonable fruits.
I can easily imagine this tart/pie made with sautéed plums, or candied citrus, any type of berry, or many tiny apricots.
Here, I’ve chosen a bevy of super ripe, late-season juicy black mission figs, sliced thin and brushed with warm apricot jam for shine.
The effect is jaw-dropping, a spiral of late summer’s finest fruits, showcasing their orange-y pink centers—a veritable sunset of beautiful colors.
When figs pie, indeed.
Fig, Rosemary, and Lemon Tart
makes 1 8-inch tart
for the rosemary-brown sugar pastry:
180 grams (1 1/2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
130 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter
Whisk together 180g (1 1/2 cups) flour, 60g (1/2 cup) confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cut in 130g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter and whisk in an egg. Press into a tart pan and freeze. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Fill cooled shell with lemon cream: beat 130g (10 ounces) cream cheese with 90g (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Top with fresh, ripe fruit!
for the lemon cream:
130 grams (10 ounces) cream cheese
90 grams (3/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8-9 ripe figs, sliced very thinly
1 tablespoon apricot jam (optional)
Grease an 8-inch tart pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make the crust: whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, and kosher salt.
Cut in the butter and whisk in the egg.
Knead lightly until dough comes together but is still slightly crumbly.
Press into prepared pan, prick all over with a fork, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Weight with pie weights and parchment paper and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
Allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the lemon cream: whip cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar for 2 minutes until fluffy.
Add in the lemon zest, juice, and salt, and whip for 3 more minutes.
Fill cooled shell and chill for 15 minutes, until partially set.
Top with sliced figs or other fruit (berries, plums, candied citrus) and a brush of heated apricot jam for shine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely set.
Serve chilled (cut with a hot, sharp knife).
“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.”
—Joan Didion, from Slouching Towards Bethlehem
This is where I say farewell.
Where I blow a kiss to the sparkling, blinking city lights that create a starry night all on their own.
Wave to the hustle and flow; the life that pulses, steady and indefatigable, through every street and avenue alike.
Bid adieu to the City of New York and watch as it shrinks to a speck in the rearview mirror.
Ten weeks flew by faster than I thought possible.
They also trudged along very slowly, slower than I thought possible.
Hindsight makes this paradox possible.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC at a great job, play acting an adult.
But I was ready to come home.
Stepping out of the car into the lush greenery was just as refreshing as I had hoped.
The air is so clean and fresh and green smelling here.
The water tastes very different, and will hopefully do good things for my messy mop of hair.
The sounds of night are crickets and birds and rustling leaves, instead of honking and screeching and the steady drone of AC.
It’s very cool in Ithaca right now, which is the cherry on top of leaving the hot, gritty city to come home.
Low humidity with a breeze that elicits just the slightest shiver in the evenings. Heavenly.
I get to see Gwen, whom I hadn’t seen in what felt like years and what was certainly far too long.
I could not be happier to see my best friend, my soul sister, my forever.
It makes home that much sweeter.
In fact, she is, intractably, a part of my very definition of home.
I finally got to see my pup, too, who is no longer really a pup but a very old, creaky dog but who will always be my puppy.
Again, it had been too long.
In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I’m sharing a giant cookie here today—other than a quick loaf of banana bread, the last thing I baked in New York City.
A skillet cookie, if you will, but it’s made in a cake pan because I didn’t have a skillet and all it really requires is something round.
A buttery, soft cookie dough, heavily spiced with cinnamon and generously studded with dark chocolate chunks is pressed into a round and baked until the center is just barely set and the edges are golden brown.
You can slice it into pretty little cookie bars, or you can scoop some vanilla ice cream over it while it’s hot and go to town with a few friends.
Either way, it’s all the simple pleasures of chocolate chip cookies, just in a more convenient and quick form.
(Seriously, no scooping and freezing? Sign me up.)
This would be good with any kind of mix-in, not just chocolate chips and cinnamon.
Take out the aforementioned spice and chips and add in a heaping handful M&Ms for a classic skillet cookie.
Brown the butter, add some rosemary and white chocolate chips for an herby, intriguing twist.
Keep the cinnamon and chips, lose a 1/4 cup of flour and throw in some raisins and a 1/4 cup of oats (if you’re like me and love raisins). If you do this be sure to include a disclaimer while serving, or there will almost certainly be friends feeling betrayed.
Let your imagination go wild.
It’s just a giant cookie, AKA an endlessly customizable canvas for whatever your particular cravings may be.
makes 1 9- or 10-inch cookie
225 grams (1 cup, 8 ounces) butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
200 grams (1 cup) brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an oven-proof cake pan or skillet.
Cream butter and sugars together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla extract and salt.
Beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda on top.
Slowly stir to incorporate.
When homogeneous, mix vigorously for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in the chocolate chunks and press the dough into the skillet.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until set and golden brown (careful not to overbake).
Slice as desired and serve with vanilla ice cream or chocolate ganache.
They had been elegant in the tree, tiny coquettes
blushing more and more until I picked them,
then they were minimalist and matte-colored
in wooden bowls, so barely furred one couldn’t
help but clothe them, enclose them with your hand,
caress each one thoroughly before taking a bite,
exploring the handsome freckles left
from some minor blight.
—Jennifer Grotz, Apricots
This is an interruption of the berry desserts that have smartly marched across your screen for what must feel like ages.
(Chocolate, long forgotten, is making an appearance soon. Promise. And then at least one more berry post. Oops.)
But this post...This post is devoted to stone fruits.
Peaches and drupes (stone fruits) are some of my most favorite fruits… of course, La Pêche Fraîche is a dead giveaway.
There haven’t been an overwhelming number of peach/apricot/plum posts, however.
(The last I mean to remedy when plums charge in in all their autumnal glory.)
There was this (pin-happy) celebration of 100 posts, an ombréed, OCD tart filled with all of the sweetest, ripest stone fruits I could find.
Or this giant slab pie, perfect for feeding a crowd, complete with an utterly absorbing, fun-to-make lattice and homemade vanilla ice cream (le duh).
This simple peach tart, made and shot quickly. Very much a throw-together tart, skin-on, that comes out as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. This old (old!) rendition of Cook’s Illustrated’s perfect peach pie. It was delicious, but still didn’t manage to convince me that peeling peaches for pie is utterly necessary (such a headache!).
So… This is not very many posts, seeing as I’ve racked up nearly 250 over the lifespan of the blog. Eeep!
I don’t quite have enough of my own links to really devote a link-love post to stone fruit, but fear not!
I have compiled a few absolutely mouthwatering peachy bits and bobs from around the blogosphere.
Let’s start with the unfairness that is Laura’s glut of peaches, no?
*Pouts* whyyyyyy don’t I have such beautiful peach trees bursting with life around me?! Add to those ripe peaches her maple coconut granola and that right there is a proper summer breakfast.
More elegant simplicity with the seasonal fruits: Kristin’s olive oil pound cake, tinged with citrus and served simply with fresh peaches and coconut whipped cream is a dream come true.
Uggghhh. Slay me, Michelle. Bourbon + brown sugar + peach pie. Give me the pie and 5 minutes and you will regret giving me the pie at all.
That thang is a work of beauty right there.
More bourbon + peaches, with brown butter and maple and melty vanilla ice cream, too.
Alanna always has the best photographs.
These in particular left me salivating and wondering why in the heck I haven’t made a thousand crisps and eaten them all hot with cold ice cream. This must change.
Be still my beating heart.
Custard cakes have been on my mind (read: pinboards) lately.
Then Sam went and added ripe, custardy in their own right apricots and my world turned upside down.
OMG. That vanilla bean custard layer…
(P.S. Can’t wait for that prune cake. I looove prunes.)
Today, I’m sharing a cheater’s simple stone fruit tart with you without a modicum of shame.
Yep, I used purchased puff pastry for the first time. And its convenience and dependability were awesome.
No fuss, stupid fast, beautiful, tasty, and simple.
5 ingredients, if you count the egg wash and pistachio garnish.
If you thaw your puff pastry the night before, you can have this beauty on your table in 25 minutes flat.
This really lets the fruit shine—there’s virtually no added sugar or other ingredients to distract.
For this reason, it’s vital to choose ripe fruits—a little bruise or droopy skin here or there is a-OK.
It will intensify the flavors of the tart.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick, sweet and fruity fix, or you want a fool-proof yet impressive dessert to serve to friends, or you have some droopy, slightly sad little drupes that are a day away from necessitating jam, this is the recipe to reach for.
Infinitely adaptable. Unendingly forgiving.
You can use any stone fruit or sliceable fruit that you wish, really: plums, apples, dry pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, cherries… all fair game.
Nothing too juicy or acidic, and you’re pretty much set.
The (store-bought!) puff pastry rises up, golden and shiny, in the oven; the weight of the fruit prevents it from getting too airy, which allows for a sturdy crust that can be eaten by hand.
The fruit becomes syrupy in the hot oven, bathing itself in sweet, sticky juice. A smattering of pistachios provides crunch, and a cool, creamy dollop of crème fraîche ties this simple summer treat together.
The tart comes out looking quite beautiful for the minimum amount of effort put in, with the bright, warm colors of the fruit foiled by green pistachios and pure, snow-white cream.
This, I think, is the definition of keeping it simple (stupid).
Don’t mess too much with perfectly ripe/slightly overripe summer fruit.
Let it pop against the backdrop of buttery pastry.
Highlight it only with a conservative touch of sugar and a few crunchy pistachios.
Indulge in a spoonful of cream to add richness and I think anyone would agree that this is a far more exciting use for droopy, tired fruits than jam…
Seriously Easy Stone Fruit Tart
makes 1 10×10 tart
1 sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge
4-6 pieces of very ripe stone fruit, of your choice, sliced thinly
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream or sour cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a very lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry until it is approximately 11×11 inches.
Trim the edges carefully , being sure not to rock the blade, to make an even square of 10×10.
Carefully transfer the puff to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Brush an inch border with the egg wash, and lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon over the center part of the pastry.
Carefully arrange your sliced fruit over the pastry.
Choose any design you like, but avoid layering one slice completely on top of another.
Sprinkle the tart with 1-2 more tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet your fruit is.
Pop in the oven for 25 minutes, until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is slumped and juicy.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with pistachios; serve warm with cold crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
“The way you live your days is the way you live your life.”
I am trying to use my days to make my life into whatever the hell I’m pretty sure I think I want my life to be like.
I have a bad habit of looking too far in the future. Of being too fastidious and anxious of a planner. Sound familiar? (“Wherever you are, be all there.” —Jim Elliot)
Ahem. Remember what I said about reading more?
I’ve been reading more… online, though.
Needless to say, that wasn’t what I previously had in mind.
I have other habits on my kill list.
Just you wait and see!
How long do they say breaking or forming a habit takes? 22 days?
I feel like that is completely achievable.
Of course, I am speaking naïvely from the outset of any of these break-ups or formations.
I have been writing in a little journal every night for the past month and half. It’s a pipeline for random emotional anguish and rambling, bumbling thoughts from the day–perfect for when no one can be bothered to listen to me spout off for ages at 11pm!
Now that I’ve begun to develop this habit, I have the right mind to treat myself to a fancier journal, with creamy pages and a beautiful cover design.
Yes!—I am thinking of Rifle Paper Co.
How can one not fall in love with every pattern? Anna creates the most mesmerizing designs. I am in love.
You should follow her on Instagram, if you don’t already, for sneak peeks into future holiday cards and collections!
(Who here thinks I can motivate myself enough to invest in a 2016 planner? I am notoriously bad at keeping planners intact and updated…)
I am trying to develop a habit (if it can be called that) of sleeping more. That is, instagramming less at night.
I mean, really, someone give me a shout-out who also finds themselves idling away for HOURS on the discover tab.
I need an intervention!
My goal is to not touch my instagram/snapchat/facebook after 10pm.
I want to reserve time before bed only to check my email and send out my nightly volley of “goodnight; I love you; *kissy face**kissy face**kissy face*” texts.
(I say this as I write this post at 1AM on a weeknight, phone beside me…)
Don’t get me wrong. My bed is great as is. That’s not what’s stopping me from sleeping.
In fact, as long as I have a pillow and a non-burlap set of sheets, I’m set. But that hasn’t stopped me from drooling over certain Pinterest bedrooms…
Do you follow me on Pinterest yet (well, why not?!)?
I’ve been particularly active and I’m quite proud of the little spaces I have cultivated.
I’m always looking for more boards to follow though—which are your favorites?
And now, to preach about sweets, which is why we’ve all found ourselves here in the first place:
Take advantage of Summer, friends, while her bounty is still plentiful!
Even non-farmer’s market, non-woodland (I’m looking at you, Dominique Ansel) strawberries and berries and other summer fruits are amazing right now.
I used mine to make des petits gâteaux au fromage et aux fraises. Soft and fluffy little baked cheesecakes, laced with strawberry jam so that you get a hint of sweet fruitiness inside the cake itself.
The base is the butteriest graham cracker crust, with plenty of salt and brown sugar.
Each mini cake is topped with a tangy, creamy sour cream topping and a perfect half strawberry for a summer punch.
I love cheesecake. There is no denying that. But, arguably, I love mini cheesecakes even more.
So poppable! So party-friendly! And sooo easy. No cracks, no problems.
Let there be cheesecake. Amen.
Summer strawberries, previously:
Center stage, in a lemon-black pepper-strawberry tart.
Crowning jewels on a Victoria sponge, with goat cheese and tous les fruits rouges.
Embellishments on the fluffiest of coconut cupcakes, cutting through the sugar and adding a bite of freshness.
Playing the perfect foil to the most magnificent matcha butter cake; adding a pop of color and fruitiness to a simple, dang delicious pastry.
Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes
makes 6 mini cheesecakes
for the crust:
5 sheets of graham crackers, broken up into crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
for the cheesecake:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons of high-quality strawberry preserves, warmed in the microwave for 15 seconds
for the topping:
2 tablespoons sour cream
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 large strawberries, halved
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 6 cupcake wells with paper liners.
Stir the melted butter, salt, and brown sugar into the graham cracker crumbs; mixture should hold its shape when pressed together.
Press a tablespoon of crust into each cupcake liner, pressing firmly to pack it down.
Make sure the cream cheese is completely at room temperature (I let mine sit out overnight), then whisk briskly while pouring in the sugar.
Whisk vigorously to completely incorporate the egg.
Pour the warmed strawberry preserves into the mixture and stir gently to combine.
Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling into each cupcake liner.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool completely.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To top the cheesecakes, whisk the sour cream and powdered sugar together until it loosens up.
Dollop over the cheesecakes, and top with a half strawberry.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.
—Gandalf the Grey
Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs. I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly. OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.
I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part. That wild, soulful, curious part.
I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day. I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.
I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.
Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week. Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.
These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!
Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice. A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.
Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies. When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.
Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.
“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination,
every mistake, every word, all of it.”
—Goodbye to All That, Joan Didion
(Spoken with a heavy sigh threaded through each looping letter.)
There’s nothing harder and more painful than saying goodbye—or even “see you later”—is there?
Say no, please. Indulge me.
Exams ended a mere week ago, and I uprooted myself only four days ago and have gone and moved a thousand miles away from what I have now begun to consider my home.
1000 miles away from my other half—my partner in crime and most closely held confidante—my best friend.
Why in the world did I willingly do that?
Four days and I have started at an exciting, challenging new job in an exciting, challenging new city.
One thousand lonely miles and four lonesome days and my heart feels as if it has been rent in two.
Who knew you could drown in tears cried in your deepest, quietest dreams?
Is this too much for a blog where I only refer to my beloved by the first letter of his name, out of some unspoken fear that typing it in full will cause him to disappear, a smoke-and-screens magician chased away at the mention of himself?
I fear this is the type of weepy writing that we as Modern Humans like to hold at full arms’ lengths, prefer to keep, safely, in quickly-closed tabs, away from eyes and clicks and minds.
It is too much, simply.
And yet, I have to tell you: I have puddled to the floor like a scoop of cool, smooth ice cream in the wavering New York heat.
It took mere minutes removed from the comfort of the envelope of his arms and impossibly soft skin for my constitution to soften, and weeping and melting followed suit.
I scratch messy notes on scrabbled pages of a journal, and live for the dreams where he lays next to me.
I count the days feverishly, feeling like a madwoman.
I cry to my daddy, because I’m hundreds of miles from my steadiest rock, and he, poor thing, can do nothing to console his daughter who has lost her mind in loneliness and love.
Too young, half of my readers will scold and shake their heads, and here is where I can only try to explain how my heart feels so tight when I lay my head on the pillow at night that I can’t breathe in fully without risking a few tears being squeezed out, and all because I cannot see and hear and feel him next to me.
Do I sound like a teenage melodrama?
Pish on that. I’m terribly lonely, and deservedly so—I feel like I am only a half in what has been a constant whole.
Okay, okay. I get it. Enough.
Since it’s summer, and not a single one of us can be bothered to spend extended periods in the kitchen tending to complicated things without running the risk of puddling to the floor (pining heart or no), I have a simple, elegant, summery cake today.
The batter comes together quickly, and a handful of strawberry slices take no more time to be thrown haphazardly on top.
Strawberries are ludicrously in season, little juicy ruby red jewels that burst on the tongue and coyly reveal sweet-tartness.
When baked on top of a soft, gently vanilla-scented whole-wheat butter cake, they soften and melt and meld with the cake, edges crisping ever so slightly while getting syrupy in their centers.
Baking it is easy—just stick it in the oven and wander out of the kitchen to a room with a fan, or better yet, aircon, for a little less than an hour.
The scent of strawberry-vanilla will draw you back in at just the right moment.
A few lashings of good quality dark melted chocolate, and you have a weeknight-approved cake that is glamorous with its bejeweled, striped top, and yet is deceptively unfussy and simple in the best way possible on the inside.
Definitely serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That is not optional, people.
(P.S. Is it true that ice cream helps to soothe desolate long-distance relationship participants who miss their partner?
P.P.S. Scratch that. N is dairy free. Sorbet it is.)
130 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, soft
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) sugar
180 mL (3/4 cup) milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
280 (2 1/4 cups) white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
6 large strawberries, hulled and sliced
pinch of sugar, for topping
1 ounce melted dark chocolate, for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a loaf pan well.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugar and salt and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs; beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the milk and vanilla; stir gently just to begin to combine.
Add the flour and baking powder on top, and slowly stir until the batter starts to come together; increase speed and beat on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fully homogenized.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, layer strawberry slices until the top is covered, and top with a sprinkle of sugar.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs.
Allow to cool completely, then drizzle melted chocolate all over.
Serve with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life.
He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead.
Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and, above all, become passionate about it.
Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either.
White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
One more trip around the sun has served to ripen cette petite pêche, giving it a deeper, sweeter significance with each passing month and each published post.
One more trip around the sun has seen me splashing liters of digital ink across this page with endless photos and words that are too often few and far between.
Has seen me splashing tears and buttermilk on counters and in posts alike.
Another year has made me ever so much more grateful for everyone who populates this web page.
Has reminded me, with every post and every pin, how proud and devoted I am to LPF.
A blink is all it took for three years to pass me by.
I was in high school just yesterday—I swear—concentrating all my effort into thinking of a name that was just right for the wildly successful blog (*eye roll*, high schoolers) that I meant to start just as soon as, well… I thought of a name.
And yet somehow this year, old high school friends scattered across the country world will graduate from university.
Amazing how quickly time passes.
Every event that reminds me of a year passing—an anniversary, a blogiversary, a birthday, a tearful memory—pushes me back into perspective, squarely on my bottom.
And so here I sit, in wondrous rapture, as the pages of the calendar flip by comically quickly, as if blown by the breath of Father Time himself.
Awesome and deeply unsettling, isn’t it?
“I have stumbled and stubbed toes, sliced fingers and scrubbed dishes; I have burned wrists and knuckles and cookies countless, have made nine thousand messes and used an entire herd of cows’ butter; I have dropped cakes and dropped things on cakes, have cried and sworn and studied and laughed on the kitchen floor.
I have planned meticulously and tasted liberally and danced in sheer delight; I have spat out failures and hoarded successes.
I have moved and survived, have mourned and celebrated, have resisted and adapted, have failed and succeeded.
I have given in and given up.
I have poured my heart and soul and dozens of cups of cream into La Pêche Fraîche.
I have closed my eyes and stuck the pan in the oven and then, terrified, let go.”
—Deuxième, May 29 2014
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gems from this past year.
This matcha cake, with early (too early) berries. This lemon, black pepper, and strawberry tårta.
The ultimate chocolate-chocolate cake. This crumbly, buttery vanilla bean and pine nut shortbread.
My daddy’s birthday cake: modern black forest (+macs!).
Speaking of macs, chocolate+summer fruit macarons.
Starred and striped red velvet roll-out cookies for the fourth.
Whole wheat peppermint mocha brownies. For my Starbucks lovers out there.
Dark chocolate and honey spice “gingerbread” men!
Fat, fluffy Lofthouse clone cookies.
Elegant, chocolate dipped vanilla bean shortbread.
My two absolute favorites:
This nutso “souche de Noël,” with eggnog layer cake, chocolate ganache, marzipan holly, and adorably realistic meringue mushrooms. An insane cake that took lots of dedication—but the end result was well worth it.
This red-fruited Victoria sponge, with drippy goat cheese and sour cream filling. Another version of this, with fluffier filling, is on my to-make list this summer. There are honestly few better ways to use a plethora of ripe, fresh fruit.
This adorable cake is worthy of a celebration in and of itself.
I knew this year had to include pink and sprinkles, in the same vein as last year.
I wanted candles, but couldn’t find any red “3” candles for a reasonable price (weird?) and I left my special tall candles (carefully saved from last year’s cake) back home in NY for God knows what reason.
And so, with a little planning and a lot of preparation, I made a cake with sprinkles, and a tinge of pink, and it was the happiest little thing I think has ever come out of my oven.
I knew I wanted to use the marzipan that I found beneath the coconut in my pantry (oops); I knew I wanted maraschino cherries, which compliment almond so well.
I knew that I didn’t want any almond extract, because even the slightest heavy hand makes that stuff unbearable.
The sprinkly 3 that I fashioned out of white chocolate and a scavenged lolly stick was too large for my dainty cake.
I stuck it on for kicks at the end of shooting, but I didn’t like how it looked—too clunky, in my humble opinion.
(That’s okay… after all, it was just white chocolate and sprinkles, and tasted juuuust fine in little nibbles.)
What resulted was the fluffiest vanilla almond cake, flavored with a touch of almond milk and vanilla extract, kept soft and supple with a little cornstarch, with a baking time that, despite using only egg whites, kept the crumb moist.
I covered it in my favorite glossy, shiny Italian meringue buttercream, which is by far my favorite frosting.
It’s like a buttery cloud, ever so slightly sweet-and-salty, that compliments the fluffy cake perfectly.
Too heavy of a frosting would have weighed each bite down; I wanted a cake that would melt in your mouth and leave a whisper of sugar, vanilla, and almond behind. I tinted a tiny amount of frosting with cherry juice and a drop of red gel coloring, leaving it a perfectly pale pink. I used this around the bottom of the cake for a teeny-tiny amount of ombré.
The layers of the cake were each fitted with a perfect circle of chewy, sweet marzipan, which added the exact amount of almond flavor that I was hoping for, and kept the texture of each bite interesting.
Finally, a few lashings of milk chocolate ganache, creamy and decadent and, importantly, not overwhelmingly chocolaty, crowned the edges of the cake.
A handful of sprinkles, and 8 perfect maraschino cherries finished off the cake.
I think it looks rather like an ice cream sundae—cheery and happy—how can this cake not make you smile?
It was delicious, and the people with whom I shared it loved it (phew).
This is exactly the cake I wanted to create for this special 3-year blogiversary.
I want this blog to make people smile; I want to share yummy, beautiful things.
Who knows how long this blog will continue?
I hope for many years to come, but I don’t know.
We can only take each day and make the most of it.
I, personally, will have my cake and eat it, too, for as long as I possibly can.
Thank you, friends, for supporting La Pêche Fraîche.
Every click, every visit—I appreciate you.
This blog would be nothing without you.
This blog is for you.
“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.”
Vanilla Almond Cake
makes 1 4 layer 6-inch cake
for the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
30 grams (1/4 cup) cornstarch
350 grams (1 3/4 cups) sugar
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
175 grams (6 ounces) butter, soft and cut into pieces
240 mL (1 cup) almond milk
170 grams (6 ounces, 6 large) egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
for the frosting:
200 grams (7 ounces, 7 large) egg whites
200 grams (2 cups) sugar
75 mL (5 tablespoons) water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
565 grams (20 ounces, 5 sticks) butter, cubed and softened
200 grams (7 ounces) marzipan
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) milk chocolate, chopped finely
45 mL (3 tablespoons) heavy cream
drop of red food coloring, if desired
sprinkles, if desired
jar of maraschino cherries, if desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 4 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, egg whites, 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.
Portion batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
Cool completely on a rack.
To make the frosting, place sugar and water and salt in a small pot over medium heat.
Simultaneously, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping them on medium speed.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240 degrees F, the egg whites should be nearly at stiff peaks.
Carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whipping egg whites.
Continue whipping at high speed until the meringue has cooled to body temperature and is glossy and shiny.
Beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time, until it has all been incorporated into the buttercream.
Whip on high until the buttercream is fluffy, soft, and shiny, about 7 minutes.
To assemble the cake: roll out the marzipan to 1/8 of an inch thickness and cut 3 6-inch round circles out.
Layer a cake round, a 1/3 cup of buttercream, and 1 marzipan circle; repeat twice more, until you place the top layer on.
Crumb coat the cake and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove 2/3 cup of the buttercream and add a drop of red food coloring and 2 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice; stir well to combine.
Remove the cake from the fridge and finish frosting the top and 3/4 of the sides with plain buttercream, leaving the bottom 1/4 with just a crumb coat (reserve the rest of the plain buttercream)
Place the cake in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the ganache: place chopped chocolate and cream in a small bowl and microwave on medium power for 30 seconds-1 minute until the chocolate is 2/3 melted.
Whisk vigorously until the ganache has come together and is shiny and smooth.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Take the cake out of the fridge and add the cherry buttercream to the bottom 1/4, spreading it up to create a slight ombre effect.
Apply sprinkles to the bottom of the cake, as desired.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Carefully pour a little of the chocolate ganache around the rim to create drips.
Refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
Fill a piping bag with the reserved plain buttercream and pipe small swirls on top of the cake; place a maraschino cherry on top of each swirl.