• Birthday Cake Year 3

    I know. It’s been a month again, I KNOW. Here’s the thing. I tried to justify using our hard-won groceries for this blog, but at the end of the day, my fear of using all the eggs for something that didn’t work out kept me from cooking for fun during much of this quarantine. Also, to be frank, my sister and I were eating several variations of white beans for most dinners, and while delicious, they are not very photogenic. I know I usually keep these posts before the recipes on the short side, but what the hell, I have nothing else to do and I know you don’t either, so let’s chat! After returning to my parents’ house and spending a little over a week in ~light~ quarantine, I was finally allowed back in the kitchen last week, and I cannot emphasize enough how much it helped my mood. I put on my headphones, set up my laptop to play movies, and got to work doing what I love most- feeding people.

    I know that I am incredibly lucky to have a job while in quarantine, a roof over my head, and sweet and wonderful parents to take care of me even though I turned 25 last week. These are frightening times, and it’s okay to be scared! The most important thing to remember is that this situation, while it doesn’t necessarily feel like it, is temporary. That’s what I keep reminding myself, and as long as we all do our part and STAY INSIDE, we’ll be okay. So while it’s weird to not be able to run to the grocery store every time I want to cook something random, we’ll make do, learn to love beans, and sometimes have cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s quarantine, who cares!

    This brings me to the point of this post, which is this cake. I’m sure you’ve caught on by now that I like to make my own birthday cake. Every year they become more of a project – see years one and two– and this year was no exception. In a perfect world, I was going to take off from work, spend the day at the Met, and then come home and bake a cake, but alas. Now, I had to pour all my birthday energy into this one cake, and boy did I. Because I’m a nutcase and I love to plan things, I had a vision board of sorts where I’d save pictures of cakes over the course of the year as inspiration for my cake, and the one I kept going back to was a sweet pink one topped with maraschino cherries. It felt old fashioned and a little bit like a child’s birthday cake, so uh, the perfect way to ring in year 25. The almond cake is filled with apricot jam, because if it doesn’t taste like a petit four, what’s the use? And, because I’m an adult, I also made my sisters participate in a tea party lunch. Not bad for a quarantine birthday!

    It isn’t a proper birthday without birthday tea!

    Now, because we could all use a few things to be happy about today, here are not five, but TEN things:
    ONE. Those moments where you laugh so much that no sound comes out.
    TWO. Feeling a breeze through the open window.
    THREE. The first sunny day after days of rain.
    FOUR. Texting someone in the middle of the night to find out that they’re still awake too.
    FIVE. Lying in your bed in the dark and hearing the rain tap on the windows.
    SIX. Filling pages of a notebook with thoughts that only you will read.
    SEVEN. Stacks of cookbooks for every occasion.
    EIGHT. Reading a book so good that you finish it in one sitting.
    NINE. Going for a walk to be alone in nature.
    TEN. Driving around with no real destination, listening to music with the windows down.

    Without further ado, let’s bake!!

    Almond Sponge Cake Ingredients
    (from Molly Yeh’s Valentine’s Day Almond Cake)

    ½ cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    8 oz. (1 package) almond paste
    6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
    1 tsp vanilla
    ½ tsp almond extract
    Pinch of kosher salt
    ½ cup white sugar

    American Buttercream Ingredients

    7 cups confectioner’s sugar
    2 sticks butter, softened
    4-6 Tbsp whole milk
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    Food coloring, for decorating
    Apricot Jam, for filling
    Maraschino cherries (with stems), for decorating


    Steps

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment paper.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

    Using a stand mixer, beat together the almond paste (torn into pieces) and egg yolks until the mixture is thickened and uniform. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and set aside.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Then, add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, making sure not to deflate the eggs too much. Sprinkle the flour over top and finish by folding into the batter.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and loosen the sides of the cake away from the pans, but allow the cakes to cool almost completely in the pans before turning out. They may sink a little in the middles but it’s okay! That’s what frosting is for!

    While the cake cools, make the buttercream by beating together the softened butter and powdered sugar until combined. Add the vanilla, and the milk a few tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached, then the food coloring in whatever colors you feel like!

    To decorate, I didn’t trim the tops of my cakes but you can if you’d like, then place the flat side of one cake down. Fill the middle with your choice of jam and/ or buttercream, then place the second cake on top upside down, so that the flat bottom is the top surface. This will ensure that you have a neat, flat cake!

    If you’d like, lightly cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting to “crumb coat”, and chill for at least an hour, to overnight. Finish with a thicker layer of frosting, then decorate however you’d like! I went a little crazy on the piping, which I’m still trying to get better at, and topped it with cherries. Enjoy, and stay safe!!

    xoxoxoxD

  • Almond Bundt Cake with Candied Citrus Peels

    Since when is it April?? Literally where has the time gone? I’m all turned around and suddenly I’ll be 24 in a week? Yikes. But before I worry about that, I’m here to give you this life-changing recipe for an almond bundt cake so moist and so versatile that you may never need to make another cake again. Adapted from this recipe from Zoe Bakes, I tweaked a few little things and switched a blood orange glaze (I think they’re out of season now) with a lemon and orange one instead, similar to a frosting my grandma used to make when I was little. The combination of citrus and almond is heavenly and bright and springy and when I served this cake for dinner, there was not a single piece left over.

    Some notes about this cake- the recipe calls for cake flour, which is much finer than all-purpose, and as a result creates a cake with a smaller, denser crumb. For some reason I had a box of cake flour in my house that had baking powder and salt already mixed in, do not use this! You want to be able to control the amounts that you add in, so stick with the straight up stuff. Also, it’s important to use almond paste that’s relatively new/ fresh, because if it’s too old and dry, it won’t incorporate into the batter and you’ll end up with chunks of almond paste throughout. Finally, the base cake recipe is pretty customizable, you can add a touch of citrus zest to the cake itself, serve it with or without glaze, change up the fruits, it’s all up to you! But I myself am dramatic as hell so I decided to teach myself how to make candied citrus peels to go on top, and 10/10 would recommend you try that at least once yourself, it’s deceivingly easy and SO good. Everyone’s getting chocolate covered orange peels as gifts this year.

    Before we get started however, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. Receiving food as presents.
    TWO. Phone calls that accidentally last over an hour.
    THREE. The first day of the year that you can go outside without a coat and realize it’s comfortably warm. (Thanks Taylor!)
    FOUR. Naps on a rainy Sunday.
    FIVE. Spring cleaning.

    Let’s bake!

    SERVES: 8-9 people
    PREP TIME: 30 minutes
    BAKE TIME: 45-50 minutes
    DECORATING TIME: Unlimited!!!

    ALMOND CAKE INGREDIENTS

    ¾ cup cake flour
    ½ tsp baking powder
    1/8 tsp kosher salt
    7 oz. almond paste, diced into squares
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 tsp vanilla bean paste
    5 eggs, room temperature

    CITRUS GLAZE INGREDIENTS

    3½ cups powdered sugar
    Zest of two lemons
    Zest of one orange
    4 Tbsp. lemon juice
    4 Tbsp. orange juice

    CANDIED CITRUS INGREDIENTS

    Peels from 1 lemon + ½ orange
    2½ cups sugar
    1 cup water (plus more for boiling)

    ALMOND CAKE STEPS

    ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Generously butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan, tapping out the excess flour. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cubed almond paste until it breaks into tiny pieces. Add the sugar a little bit at a time until combined and grainy. Add the softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, until half is in, scraping the bowl with a spatula every now and then. Beat the mixture on medium speed until smooth. When the mixture is uniform, add in the rest of the butter, and beat until fluffy and light.

    THREE. Add the vanilla bean paste, and then the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. At this point, take the bowl out of the stand mixer and fold in half of the flour with a spatula. Repeat with the rest until just combined, don’t overmix!

    FOUR. Fill the prepared pan with batter, smooth out the top, and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


    CITRUS GLAZE STEPS

    ONE. In a bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and citrus zests, then add the lemon and orange juices, a few tablespoons at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. You may not use all of it if you want a thicker glaze, and that’s fine! Transfer the glaze to a measuring cup for easier pouring.

    CANDIED CITRUS PEEL STEPS

    ONE. Using a vegetable peeler, cut wide strips of peel from a lemon and an orange, avoiding the bitter white pith as much as possible. If you want smaller pieces, cut the peels into smaller strips, but you can also leave it as is.

    TWO. In a small saucepan, add the peels and enough water to generously cover them and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, strain the water out, add fresh water, and bring to a boil again, then drain again. Repeat this one more time. This process will take some of the bitterness out of the peels!

    THREE. In the same saucepan, whisk together 2 cups of the sugar and a cup of water, then bring to a boil. Add the peels and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the peels are tender and translucent, about 10 minutes, then drain.

    FOUR. In a small bowl, toss the peels with the remaining ½ cup sugar until they’re thoroughly coated, then remove one at a time, shaking off the excess. Allow the candied peels to dry before arranging or packaging.


    CAKE ASSEMBLY STEPS

    ONE. Set a cooking rack in a rimmed baking dish, then place the cake on the cooling rack. Pour the glaze over the cake*, coating as little or as much as you’d like. Let the excess glaze fully drip off into the sheet pan below, then transfer the cake to a stand or plate. Arrange the candied citrus peels on top, and serve!!

    *Tip: save the glaze that drips off onto the sheet tray, and use it to drizzle over the cake when serving!!

    XoxoxoxoxD

  • Swedish Almond Tarts

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! Greetings from Connecticut, I hope that you have all enjoyed last nights festivities and are now tucking into a beautiful New Years Brunch. Maybe the thought of rising from your bed right now is too much to bear, but I hope these cutie little tarts change your mind. This week’s recipe is brought to you by one of my faves, Molly Yeh, and they are without a doubt the most photogenic and versatile little tarts I have ever seen. Called Mazariners, they are of Swedish origin, and feature a richly buttery tart shell cup, filled with what I can only describe as pure heaven, aka a dense, moist almond-y cross between a cake and a chunk of marzipan. Traditionally, it’s topped with a white glaze and a cherry (which btw, would be so cute), but following Molly’s recipe, I used a cranberry juice glaze for a hint of tart and a dose of natural rosy color.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my New Year’s resolutions this year, because most years I don’t make any, and then when I do, I ignore/ forget them approximately a week later. But now that I’m an adult, and have pretty much settled into life after college, I figured it was about time I held myself accountable for these things. I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s what I’ve got so far:
    Resolution #1: Get better with money. Seriously, STOP spending money I promise you don’t need that 12th sweater (me @ myself all the time).
    Resolution #2: Drink more water. For some reason I can’t get this one to stick, and even after countless reusable water bottles, I find myself reaching for my iced coffee instead, but it’s ENOUGH.
    Resolution #3: Cut down on waste. Ever since a particularly scarring episode of Blue Planet II I haven been trying to limit the amount of plastic that I use, but I know that I could be doing more to protect our futures and the safety of other inhabitants of this Earth.

    Okay that’s maybe good for now, I’m hoping that by putting these out there, I’ll actually have to do them because now everyone knows, so bring on 2019!! Anyway, let’s get this year off on the right foot and start with 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. When you fall asleep almost immediately after climbing into bed.
    TWO. The clean plate club.
    THREE. Tree branches coated in snow or frost and sparkling in the light of a streetlamp.
    FOUR. Having the song end right as you pull up to your destination.
    FIVE. Things you don’t have to work at to enjoy.

    Okay now let’s bake!!

    Makes: 12 tarts
    Prep Time: 45 minutes- 1 hour
    Inactive Time: 1 hour
    Bake Time: 30 minutes

    Butter Tart Shell Ingredients

    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1¾ cups flour
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    ¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
    2 egg yolks (save both whites for the filling!)

    Almond Filling Ingredients

    1 cup almond meal (aka almond flour)
    ¾ cup sugar
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    1 tsp almond extract
    1 egg
    2 egg whites (left over from tart shells above)

    Glaze/ Decorations

    1 cup powdered sugar
    1-2 Tbsp cranberry juice
    1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
    Assorted sprinkles, herbs, or sugared cranberries!

    Steps

    ONE. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until totally incorporated (you’re not looking for butter pieces in this dough). Add the egg yolks and mix until the dough comes together- it will take a minute, it will look like the dough is too dry at first but I promise it won’t be. Remove the dough from the food processor and form a rough disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour or overnight.

    Processed with VSCO with al1 preset

    TWO. In the same bowl of the food processor- it doesn’t even need to be cleaned out!- combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and butter until smooth. Add the almond extract, leftover egg whites, and whole egg, and continue to blend until the mixture is thick and smooth. Set aside while you form the shells.

    THREE. Grease a muffin tin generously. On a floured baking mat or surface, roll your shell dough to about a ¼ inch thickness, making sure that it isn’t sticking to any surface as you go. Using a 4-inch circular cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles (dough can be re-rolled once if you run out of room for all 12 at once.

    FOUR. This part takes some patience, so carefully take a pastry circle and place it in each cupcake tin, gently pressing so that it molds to the bottom and sides. I had some rips here and there, but don’t get frustrated!! Use leftover scraps and patch up any thin, ripped, or uneven places and no one will be the wiser! Repeat will all 12 circles, and place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes.

    FIVE. While the shells are setting in the freezer, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Fill the frozen shells evenly- I started with a tablespoon in each cup, and then added evenly from there. For me, it ended up being about 1½ tablespoons of filling per cup, You want it to be about ¾ of the way full, because the filling does puff up while it bakes. Bake the filled cups on the lower rack of your oven for 30 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and the tops and shells are lightly golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in their pan, and then gently lift each cup from the tin using an offset spatula and cool completely on a wire rack before glazing.

    SIX. To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, cranberry juice, and vanilla, adding more powdered sugar or juice until the consistency is pourable but quite thick. You want it to sit mostly on top of each tart without going thin or completely dripping down the sides. While the glaze is still wet, top with your desired decorations, and enjoy!!

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    HAPPY NEW YEAR!! xoxoxoxD