Category Archives: Birthdays

The Urban Farmer’s Dirty Thirty | Part II: Beet Upside Down Cake

“I’m baking this for Nina. She ate a lot of canned beets in grad school,” I lied.

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake //

Nina did (does?) eat a lot of canned beets in grad school, but the part about the cakes being a belated way for us to celebrate our respective birthdays? That part was a straight “fib.” I peeled, sliced, whisked, cracked, beat, folded and baked these cakes right under the Urban Farmer’s nose.

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake //

I packed up all the accoutrements in plain sight, promised to save him a slice and elaborated, “we’re maybe going to the park. I’m going to take Julep.” Out the door I went, in my farm clothes, with his birthday cakes in tow. I was on my way to set up his Dirty Thirty surprise party!

Gluten Free Beet Upside Down Cake //

In many ways, he should never trust me ever again. For at least a month, I “fibbed” and schemed, but in the end, I made him his own cake, inspired by his love of beets, roots and plants emerging from the dirt. Cake erases most conspiracies.



Gluten-Free Beet Upside Down Cake

About This Recipe: Don’t be alarmed by the lack of butter or oil in this recipe. The larger quantity of eggs yields a moist, spongey cake with sweet bites of beet and beet juices on top. Pair a slice with homemade whipped cream or organic vanilla bean ice cream. The cake also makes a great breakfast indulgence, since it’s not overly sweet.

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The Urban Farmer’s Dirty Thirty: Part I

There are people in this world who do not enjoy birthdays. Try though I might, I do not understand these folks. I LOVE birthdays, weddings, anniversaries… all those celebrations meant to make you and your love feel special. June 12th was the Urban Farmer’s birthday, the big 3-0! He was so busy with seeds, weeds and critters, he incorrectly argued with me which day of the week his birthday was. Though we celebrated his birthday with brunch, themed gifts and his dinner requests, it was completely low key. I didn’t even bake a birthday cake (peach tarts do not count!), and in the book of Quelcy, if I don’t bother to make you a birthday cake, you should start to suspect something is amiss. I may as well declare my indifference to you. Something was amiss however… major scheming!

Custom Illustration for a Dirty Thirty Surprise Party //

I have never seen the Urban Farmer’s eyes light up as much as they did when a group of volunteers came to the farm to get their hands dirty on his behalf. Since he wouldn’t be able to leave the farm for his birthday, the next logical step was to bring everyone to the farm. He is one of the most selfless and least materialistic people I know. Having his friends and family give their time and labor would make his heart soar, so the idea of the Dirty Thirty- a truly dirty thirty- was born!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

His family and I schemed and plotted secretly. I nearly had an anxiety attack when I sent the Facebook invite. Would he see it somehow? Could Facebook please stop suggesting I invite him!!! Flood warnings and a 100% chance of rain bested our first surprise attempt, and we had to postpone. Meanwhile, he tried to understand the mysterious appearance of a porta potty on the farm, not once, but twice. I bit my tongue and held back laughter as he hypothesized the reappearance of the porta potty was surely evidence of drug trafficking.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

After downplaying his birthday, fibbing and sneaking around, the sunny surprise day arrived, and we got him good…!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The poor guy’s first reaction was to throw his truck in reverse and escape the angry mob who surely had arrived to shut down his farm. Luckily, his brother was in the truck, patted him on the back and through laughter said, “Happy Birthday, man!” He emerged to hear the bagpipes blasting “happy birthday” and see an eclectic mix of friends and family ready to dig their hands in the dirt.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

Friends, family, farmers, novices… everyone got to work, and the farm never looked so good!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

Uncle Bob, the meanest weed-wacker I ever did meet!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

For once in his life, the Urban Farmer was able to drink beer and kick up his feet while the farm transformed before his eyes. Hillsides covered in a thick forest of weeds re-emerged with potential for planting, paths widened, and the vegetables had more room to breathe. After all that work, there was plenty to celebrate, plenty to eat and plenty to drink!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

There was also a very lucky Julep, who snagged a fallen sausage. It was a happy day for all!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

And finally… there was a birthday cake!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

Because cake is how I show I care, this farm-inspired, Beet Upside Down Cake was all for him, for the one I love!

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

There were extra cakes for everyone else because I do care about them too.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

He also received his late Grandfather’s birdhouse and that creepin’ squirrel. When he was younger, he salvaged it from someone’s trash and snuck into his mom’s decor. Imagine her shock when she finally discovered it! Now the wide-eyed, weirdo lives in our home.

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer's Dirty Thirty Party on the Farm //

The Urban Farmer with his Grandmother and Father.

Here’s to his Dirty Thirty, to all the Urban Farmer has accomplished and all that’s in store, to his great big heart and the ways he makes us all better humans. I hope he felt special because he truly is, and everyone deserves to feel special when their birthday rolls around. Here’s to all the friends and family members too! The farm is sparkling like never before!

Check out the Beet Upside Down Cake recipe in Part II!



Spicy Fried Chicken Fit for a Farmer (The Urban Farmer’s Birthday!)

365+ days ago, I walked into the empty coffeeshop, like so many other days, and I took my place at the counter. On this particular day, the barista ignored me while she toiled laboriously on a green smoothie. I shifted weight from foot to foot, pretended to look at the art on the walls, scanned the perimeter in case I had missed some detail. She continued to blend, I repeated my routine, and the wait grew ever more ridiculous. Finally, a customer emerged from the back room to retrieve the damn smoothie. As I realized who he was, the room suspended in slow motion, but the monarchs fluttered sporadically inside my stomach, and my cheeks surely reddened. Suddenly, that smoothie was my favorite drink on earth. That smoothie was for the Urban Farmer.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

At that point, we’d only met briefly, but everything my matchmaking friend told me about him made me weak in the knees. This was a serendipitous encounter, while she plotted a significant setup. “Be entertaining. Be charming,” I thought while probably questioning what I was wearing and if my hair and the humidity were collaborating to betray me. I wanted to abandon my laptop and stare into his tan, smoothie-drinking face.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

As I pretended to focus on my work, the reason I had come to sit in that coffeeshop, I asked if he knew the date. “I do because it’s my birthday. It’s the 12th.” “Happy Birthday!” I exclaimed with too much enthusiasm while etching this date in my mind for the future. On that note, he had to pitch his smoothie cup and depart to meet his dad for beers. His dad. Even that sentimental detail made me swoon. I was left in the coffeeshop, head and heart a happy mess, pretending to regroup and focus, with a big, dopey grin stretched on my face from ear to ear.

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

That was a year ago. The coffeeshop cut smoothies from their menu, since they take a ridiculous amount of time to make. However, the monarchs in my stomach, the blushing cheeks, and the dopey grin stretched from ear to ear? Those all still exist! In the year since that chance encounter, our matchmaker friend worked her magic, and lucky, lucky me was able to join this man as he made the transformation from dreamer, to planner, to hands-in-the-soil, legit farmer. It’s a story, it seems, that was destined, little dog and all. Now to get that pony!

Gifts for an Urban Farmer //

We brunched, we farmed, and when it came time to eat something special for his birthday dinner, he requested fried chicken, mashed potatoes and whiskey drinks. There was a camera-shy peach tart with notes of whiskey, reminding me some desserts are meant only to be enjoyed with someone special and not blogged. Sorry friends, but I’m sure there’ll be more peach desserts to come, and I hope there will be many more birthdays to come!


Happy 30th to my Urban Farmer!

p.s: On a birthday & aging note, I recommend reading this little tale about growing old. It’s best when read while eating Chipotle, but it’s worth reading even without a burrito.

Spicy Fried Chicken fit for a Farmer

About This Recipe: Choose a local, pasture-raised chicken as a farmer-approved foundation for this recipe. The cornmeal crust was golden, crispy and spicy. Since I was using Butt Pucker sauce (from this spicy themed gift), which has visible pepper seeds, I only added a few Tablespoons to the egg mixture. If you’re using a milder sauce, or you really want the heat, add up to a cup. Fry without the guilt by choosing a healthier oil such as organic, non-GMO safflower. It’s the fastest way to a farmer’s heart. It’s helpful to use a fry thermometer to avoid over-heating the oil. The Urban Farmer recommends eating this chicken with a drizzle of Honeysuckle Infused Maple Syrup.

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A Baby’s First Birthday Cake: Gluten-Free, Coconut, Banana & Maple Cake

June 2015

When I first began baking in earnest, it was to appease my own sweet tooth with more wholesome ingredients, but I quickly learned, eating desserts alone is selfish and usually wasteful. I began to share my efforts, and the rewards returned tenfold. There’s something magical in the way butter and sugar, flour and eggs, come together into morsels, layers and tiers, how they solidify occasions, brighten days, widen eyes and close mouths in blissful, savory silence. I’ve had the immense privilege of baking a wedding cake for dear friends, baking a birthday cake to send a lady back in time, and most recently, to bake a little one’s very first cake in his lifetime- his very first baked good ever! As a baker, this was perhaps one of my most exciting assignments to date!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

I wish I could remember my first cake experience, how puzzling this new, solid food would be, how it would feel between a minimal set of teeth. As a cake maker, maybe I place too much importance on this “first,” but collectively, maybe we aren’t placing enough importance on a baby’s first cake or young children’s diets in general. It’s all too easy to be lost in a sea of chemically-colored birthday cakes and let that first bite propel him or her to a sugary crash, giving an all new meaning to “it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

Baby Knox is the Urban Farmer’s nephew, and he’s a lucky little dude. His parents have prioritized his health even before day one. His dad, Dr. Alex, is on a mission to make our notoriously greasy, overweight city a lot healthier. After witnessing his grandfather, and then his father, in hospital beds, he realized he needed to make changes, so his future children would never experience that fear and helplessness. He and his wife Jena own and operate City of Bridges Chiropractic, where they use nutrition and proper spinal care to make major changes in people’s lives. I’ve heard Alex speak publicly, and I’ve met his patients, and the results of his work are truly inspiring!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

Whereas being healthy for his kids was once just a driving idea for Dr. Alex, today it’s a blue-eyed reality. I’ve had the privilege of watching Knox change from a sleeping bundle to a big personality, and as a non-blood relative, I can tell you, he is objectively cute!

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

Most recently, this kid has come to LOVE food! Remove an empty plate from his tray, and he’ll throw his head back in utter despair, longing for more bites to savor. So vast is his appetite, Jena has yet to discover his limit. Plate after plate, it’s comforting to observe Knox’s diet and trust everything is helping him grow bigger, stronger and healthier.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

As Knox’s first birthday loomed around the corner, the question of cake arose. Birthdays are celebratory times, deserving of treats and festivities, but does a birthday justify feeding a tiny digestive system new, unhealthy ingredients for the sake of smashing a cake in a photo? No, which is why Alex and Jena asked me if I would make Knox’s FIRST EVER BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was honored, and I of course said yes to such a momentous cake request.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

A baby turning one deserves his or her own cake, so my first thought was a towering layer cake, to which the Urban Farmer laughed and joked, “yeah, his own little ‘Fort Knox.'” The idea was born, and that’s how this little gluten-free, maple-sweetened cake came to be a tiny castle with turrets and a special flag for the birthday boy.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

Watching his chubby fingers fill his cheeks with cake was a pretty memorable moment. Like a king, he lifted his cake bites triumphantly and regarded his camera-wielding subjects with seriousness. He liked it, he really liked it! It’s moments just like these when I am reminded it’s better to bake for others.

A Baby's First Birthday Cake //

This Fort Knox Cake was a variation on a recipe from Rubies & Radishes, who elaborates why the ingredients in this cake are more fitting for a baby’s introduction to baked goods. If you have a special little one in your life, or even a special older one with dietary sensitivities, preheat your oven and start baking. You have a cake to make!


Three Cheers for Knox!

Coconut Flour Maple Banana Cake with Maple Buttercream & Strawberry Sauce

About This Recipe: This recipe bakes a 9-inch layer cake, and it calls for a LOT of eggs. This is not a typo. Coconut flour requires a lot of moisture, which the eggs provide in this cake. If you want to create the Fort Cake I feature, pour the batter in a parchment-lined 9×13 glass baking dish, bake for 40-50 minutes, and use a biscuit cutter to create the circular layers. Cut the turrets from the remaining edges of cake after using the biscuit cutter. Since this buttercream is mostly butter, it can be difficult to work with in hot, humid kitchens (i.e.: my third-floor apartment in spring). Chill in the freezer in between icing layers.

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Maple Pecan Chocolate Cake for a Birthday BFF

May 2014

“You are the only ab workout I need,” Sandra gasped in a fit of laughter.

The three of us met twelve years ago. TWELVE YEARS AGO! One was a sloppy drinker, another an angsty teen scorned by the lack of beaches, and me, an intense bitch who rarely looked away from her drawing board. First impressions, though somewhat true, faded, and we bonded in a way that flourished all the way that stomach-cramping laughter in a colorful dining room and this cake…

Chocolate Maple Cake

The last of our trio to bid her 20s farewell, we convened to celebrate Nina’s “Dirty Thirty.” We had set out to spend each of our birthdays together despite living in different cities. One Garnets & Ganache dessert social, one Maple Syrup Festival and one Maker Date later, we had achieved sweet success! We laughed, we teared up, and we hugged our way into this third decade. I’m so proud of where we are, where we are going and how close we have become.

Pecan Design

Thirty hasn’t fully sunk in for me yet, but sometimes I step back to appreciate the maturity and clarity we now mix with our old jokes and nostalgia. Our conversations have evolved to include mature topics we never imagined- relationship complexities, babies (holy F$%k!!!), home ownership (I’m only beginning to understand this)- all the twists and turns TWELVE years of trusted friendship brings. We have developed the confidence and closeness to inspire each other and tell each other how proud we are of one another. In short, we have grown together from girls to women.

Slice and Plates

For the girl who gave us the Maple Syrup Festival, for the thirty-year-old who makes 1,000s of positive things happen, I had this Chocolate Maple Pecan cake to give. I knew the birthday lady would give me a hard time if this cake did not include a boozy, whipped topping, so in between two layers of chocolate cake was a layer of a light, chocolate & Snap whipped cream.

Pecan Slice

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Maple Cake with Pecans
Yield: Makes a 2-layer, 9-inch cake


1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for pan
1 cup pure cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Turbinado raw sugar

2 large organic eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole-fat European style yogurt

Pecans for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch baking pan; line with parchment, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, maple syrup, and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of yogurt; beat until just combined.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with an offset spatula.

Arrange pecans in circular pattern on the surface.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack to cool completely.


Maple & Snap Whipped Topping


1 cup organic heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 oz light cream cheese
1/8 cup AITA Snap liquor


Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until well combined, light and airy. Keep chilled until ready to use.


To Assemble

Remove cake from pan and transfer to a plate. Use a long, serrated knife, such as a bread knife, to cut the cake into two layers.

Spoon the whipped topping onto the bottom layer of the cake. Use an offset spatula to smooth over the surface. Add the top layer, and serve!


Here’s to thirty years on this planet and twelve years together! xoxox

A Meal for the Birthday Dog (Julep’s First Birthday!)

April 2014

“Buy me a dog, or else!”

My extensive dog book collection and obsessive 101 Dalmatians watching culminated in threatening notes taped to my parents’ bedroom walls. Fortunately, my parents did not have me committed. Unfortunately, I did receive a stern reprimand explaining threats are not the means to achieving a goal. All my dog yearning, as well as any career in negotiation, would have to wait…a long time.

Many years later, I made my most adult and most rewarding decision. I was ready for a dog of my own. After months of failed leads, I was on the verge of embracing anything resembling a dog and sacrificing all the attributes I had prioritized. Then I saw these eyebrows…


…and that was it! Those little eyebrows, the tiny spots, the chubby baby belly… I knew in my core she was my Julep! A week later, I took a drive to a farm where the air was pure, and the people were sweet, and there I found the minty puppy who would fill my life with immeasurable joy! Those little eyebrows had taught me a huge lesson in patience, a lesson in waiting I try to remember in all facets of my life- dating, employment, travel, etc. When you know what you truly want, you might have to endure some waiting along the way.


Finding my perfect puppy emphasized the importance of patience. Waking up at 5am to potty train a tiny bladder reiterated the importance of calm, deep breaths in spite of utter fatigue and playful, juvenile defiance. Walking this joyful creature challenged me to see the good in people. She assumes people are good until they prove otherwise, an approach which usually results in a belly rub.

Waiting Patiently

She brings joy to those she encounters with her sweet demeanor, wags her whole body with excitement, smiles with her whole face, and observes the world with wonder. She’s a cuddling companion and a zen coach in one, long-legged body.

Julep Bday Dinner

The list of lessons grew since her arrival, time flew at full speed, and before I knew it, my little one turned one! I take birthdays pretty seriously, even birthdays of the four-legged sorts, so my growing lass ate a little fancier, and I snuggled her a little more (and maybe looked at that puppy pic 1,000 times more).

Going For It


Julep’s birthday meal was a crock-pot combination of grass-fed beef, organic barley, local spelt, organic corn, quail and a savory dog treat on top! A dog’s diet can be a loaded debate, but after feeding the birthday girl homemade food, her fur took on a sensational softness, so I’ve been feeding her more and more crock-pot concoctions, usually involving brown rice, a protein and a vegetable like broccoli or peas. If you’re curious about the specifics, ask away!

Though I love my little dog more than words (or a blog post!!) can fully describe, she is a huge responsibility. I was very careful in selecting a combination of breeds (Australian Shepherd & Lab) with which I was familiar. I had a schedule that enabled me to check on her, and I made sure to talk to several dog owners before making the leap myself. If you’re considering a dog, please, please, please make sure you are ready for everything a dog entails!


Happy Birthday to my Little One!

ps: I am well aware I have made the leap from “I like dogs” to “I am a crazy dog lady,” and I am perfectly content with that transition.

Birthday Pancakes at the Annual Maple Syrup Festival

April 2014

There is a wooded place that brings me great joy.

Wooded Spot

This elation does not stem from communion with nature or the serenity of the woods. No, my joy stems from the activity stirring in this woodland once a year: the Annual Maple Syrup Festival!

Mullet Love

The festival provides yellow school bus transportation from parking to the site. You might find mullet love along the way!

This year marked my 4th time experiencing the wonder of this festival! Why do I mark my calendar months in advance? What makes pancakes and syrup so much more special in a barn, in the woods? Why do I wake up early on a Sunday to beat the lines?

Words may fail to fully convey the answers, but I keep attempting to articulate the merits anyway…

Best Friends Bus Ride

My crew for this year’s festival rivaled my zeal! Sandra (middle) drove all the way from DC to join us, and Nina (right), who attended as a child, was the girl who introduced us to this magic in the first place. Plus we had Erin and Pam along for the ride. They were newbies, and we were about to show them something unforgettable.


The flag and the Civil War reenactments should offer a pretty clear frame of reference, but lest you forget, this festival takes place in America!

Is it worth waiting in line for pancakes? Is it worth waiting in line for an hour? If that line is at the Maple Syrup Festival, then yes, indubitably!

Tickets and Souvenirs

Should you want to commemorate the festival, there are plenty of XXL tshirts, as well as maple syrup and locally milled flours available for purchase. I stuck to buckwheat, wheat & cornmeal in lieu of a new shirt-dress.

Beyond maple syrup and pancakes (which are incentives in and of themselves), the festival features a field of vendors and attendees, ie: my people-watching happy place! Here are just a few of the wonders that transpired around the line and made the long wait pass in the blink of an eye…

Families with matching mohawks
Plenty of “real tree” ensembles
A baby goat
“Arts” & “Crafts”
What we called “narrative sweaters” (fleeces featuring wolves, or eagles, etc)
A face tattoo or two
A jean jacket with a wolf patch (You know she didn’t buy it that way!)
Kitsch and lots of it!
What I presumed to be a Shania Twain cover band
Boy scouts looking like German youth (it’s weird. This aspect is never not weird)
A random regal couple- were they wayward Europeans?!? How did they get there?
A ridiculously attractive Civil War soldier (ALL of us agreed, and our tastes are different to say the least)

Maple Syrup Arrival

OJ and Flapjack Flipping

It’s not every day Boy Scouts and troop leaders make breakfast for you!

The $8 fee covers coffee (but don’t bank on a caffeine boost from this watery java), orange juice, three sausage links (additional links are available in $.50 increments- a real bargain!), all-you-can-eat buttermilk and buckwheat pancakes plus pure maple syrup! Whole grain pancakes and real maple syrup are a fast track to my pancake-loving heart.

Birthday Pancakes

The real reason why this Maple Syrup Festival was magical? It’s tradition! My best friends and I first attended in college as some weird thing to do to escape our stresses and celebrate Sandra’s birthday.

The Real Reason

I bet if we had looked a little harder, we could have found the same boy scouts!

YEARS later, we are still close friends! Celebrating Sandra’s birthday with commemorative, syrupy goodness and a people-watching goldmine was the perfect way to usher in the big 3-0.

Maple Syrup Fest Place Setting

Epic Rat Tail

Likely the least attractive pancake pic I have ever posted, and the MOST EPIC rat tail I have ever seen! My face lit up like Christmas morning when I realized this kid was sitting behind me.

The "Sugar Shack" conveys why maple syrup costs so much money by explaining the process from tree to pancake. The aging, handmade graphics are not to be missed!

The “Sugar Shack” conveys why maple syrup costs so much money by explaining the process from tree to pancake. The aging, handmade graphics are not to be missed!

We ate until we were full, and we laughed until we cried. Much like the festival itself, I can’t fully convey what made us laugh, but when I think of the festival and those moments, I feel as happy as a kid on a merry-go-round!


Perhaps I’ll see you at the festival next year?


May Your Syrup Be Pure & Your Traditions Sweet!

Whole-Wheat, Red Wine Chocolate Cake w/ Honey Whipped Mascarpone

April 2014

You know that voice. Even if it’s via text, you know it.

Like a mother recognizing her baby’s cry, you know your best friend’s tipsy tone. You know it, and you love it because you love her and all the memories that slight slur conjures.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

In the case of my wine-sipping friend, those memories span to a time when we didn’t even drink, to celebratory glasses on a 21st birthday (while taking in a spectacular view), to too many cachaças poolside in Argentina, to fancy southern sipping while on a Bonnaroo-bound roadtrip, to wedding toasts!

Cherry Topped Chocolate Cake

As my wine-sipping Sandra put it, our best friend trio is “ride-or-die.” One by one, each of us is hitting the big 3-0, and we’re spending each of those birthdays together, with wine in hand. I couldn’t let Sandra’s 30th pass us without a little something rich and fancy [cake, I am talking cake], and I thought, “why not have our wine and eat it too?”  Here’s to the brilliant woman who is always by our side to listen, to laugh and to love!

Blogpost_Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Honey Whipped Mascarpone
Yield: two 9-inch cake layers


1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter, softened
1 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup organic evaporated cane sugar

2 large organic eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup organic greek yogurt

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup organic cornstarch
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch springform pans (or bake, cool, rinse & repeat if you only have one).

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

Beat in the wine and yogurt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add to wine mixture slowly, mixing until just incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan(s) and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake bounces back slightly.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Honey Whipped Mascarpone

1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey


In a medium mixing bowl, whip mascarpone, heavy whipping cream, and honey until soft peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use.



Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Add a large spoonful of the mascarpone filling to the surface of the cake. Use an offset spatula and a lazy suzan cake stand [ideally] to spread and smooth the topping, adding more as needed. Top with the other cake layer. Add a dollop of mascarpone topping to the surface. Garnish as desired (I used morello cherries).


May our lives be filled with many more tipsy phone calls, tear-inducing fits of laughter, and CAKE!

Garnets & Ganache: Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

February 2014

Long ago, I made my sister a cheesy, craft-fair style plaque boasting “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter.”

Quelcy 30th-0005

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

As country craft as that little plaque may have been, truer words about our family were never spoken. Persistance and chocolate were probably secretly woven into our Kogel crest, so my birthday would not have been complete without an element of chocolate, especially when the theme for my 30th was Garnets & Ganache.

Quelcy 30th-0011

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

As part of my birthday cake tradition of making one, miniature, beautiful cake for each year of life, I used a large cupcake pan and inverted the cupcakes to create these decadent cakelettes. Follow suit if you’re feeling fancy, or follow the instructions for a layered 8-inch cake (which is fancy in its own right).

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Cake with Espresso Ganache


Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for pans
2 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
3/4 cups pure cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup organic greek yogurt
1/4 cup organic milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 extra-large, organic eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee or espresso


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans or cupcake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Pour warm ganache over the cakes and form a layer cake, or spread evenly over the cupcakes.


Espresso Ganache

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1 heaping teaspoon instant coffee granules

3/4 cup heavy cream


Bring the cream and coffee granules to a boil, in a saucepan over medium heat.

Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking to combine. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over cake.


Bon Appétit!

Garnets & Ganache: Cranberry Almond Cake with White Chocolate Ganache

February 2014

Collaboration is at the heart of so many of my endeavors. Having another brain at work not only keeps me sane, but partnerships have that way of pushing and prodding an idea toward a better solution. When I told my Harvest & Gather partner about my Birthday Cake Tradition, he proved once again how a fresh set of eyes can challenge the norm.

Quelcy 30th-0006

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

Since I was 26 or so, I have been celebrating my birthday with a fancy mini cake for each year of life. This is my tradition and any “rules” involved are of my own making. When I explained this, Thommy very simply asked, “Can the cakes be different varieties?” It was such a simple question, and yet, I had never really though to add variety to my ever growing number of sweets. Sharing, however, was always a must. Thus, I came to add a few more recipes to the collection, and hence the steady flow of garnet reds and ganache on this little corner of the interwebs.

Quelcy 30th-0017

Photo by Joey Kennedy.

Almond Cranberry Cake with White Chocolate Ganache

Note: The recipe calls for a bundt pan. I used a smaller springform pan and cupcake pans for the remaining batter in an effort to have many, smaller cakes. If you also decide to use a different pan, adjust the baking time accordingly.


3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic almond milk
2 organic eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup organic greek yogurt

3 cups homemade cranberry sauce


White Chocolate Ganache (recipe below)
Slivered almonds


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; sift together.

In a separate bowl combine milk, eggs, oil, almond extract and yogurt; whisk together.

Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and stir together (this batter will be very thick).

When liquid and dry ingredients are completely incorporated together, stir in cranberry sauce.

Pour cake batter into a well-greased Bundt pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes; until toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes in Bundt pan, remove cake from pan and place on serving plate.

Allow cake to cool completely on serving plate.


White Chocolate Ganache


8 ounces good quality white chocolate (such as Callebaut)
3/4 cup organic heavy cream


Using a sharp, heavy serrated knife or a chocolate chopper, finely chop the chocolate. It’s important to chop it finely so that it melts quickly. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Bring heavy cream just to a boil, and pour over chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Stir the mixture vigorously until it reaches the desired thickness or consistency.

*Note: I drizzled the ganache over the cakes when it was still quite warm and liquid, making it more like a glaze. Allowing it to cool more will result in a more solid spread. 


Bon Appétit!