Tag Archives: Cakes and Cookies

29 Cakes For 29 Years (A Birthday Cake Tradition)

February 2013

There is something about a celebration that calls for layers of cake, and there’s something about me that thought my own birthday called for a mini, layer cake for each year of life! I’m not old by any means, but that is a fair bit of cake! However, this layer cake tradition of mine continued (as did my twenties for a little bit longer).

29th-Birthday-Cake-Tradition

That last candle was a bugger! If you’re curious why I called upon a garden gnome for candle-blowing-out assistance, this should explain it. Recipe to follow in a subsequent post.

Time Flies When You’re Having Galette!

January 21, 2013

On Friday, a coworker gave me an early birthday surprise in the form of a Galette des Rois from La Gourmandine. The surprise of the cake warmed my heart, but the cake itself made me so [unreasonably?] happy. I was beaming, and people were noticing. First of all, this is what I call the almond croissant of cake, and everyone knows how obsessive I am about almond croissants. Secondly, my memories of France are flavored with this cake.

Galette and Lessons

As I strolled down my almond flavored memory lane, it finally dawned on me how much time had passed since I lived in France, and admittedly, I felt a little bleu.

Galette and Figurine

However, my Special One quickly assured me I most definitely have more French adventures in store. Furthermore, I can’t complain about six years that have been filled with friends, family and adventures to other parts of the world. Even furthermore, my birthday is starting with a slice of my favorite cake, a mug of French pressed coffee and an attempt to make my brain think en français again! January is all about daily French diligence (on one very big sheet of paper)!

Galette French Lessons

Additionally, this year’s galette bestowed upon me a little female baking partner for the little baker from last year. Allow me a moment of musing, and I propose these figurines are a sign! My next French adventure will be with my Special One, and it will be better than a birthday slice of galette (ie: most amaaaaaaaaazing!).

Galette Open Slice

I hope you all have a cake that makes you this happy, and I hope someone surprises you with that cake!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Ushering in the New Year with Donuts (Part II)!

January 2013

One of my first jobs was working as a game attendant for Harvest Days at Merrymead Farm. I was later promoted to face painter, which was a major accomplishment in my fifth-grade world (I was a working artist)! When my mind wanders back to those days, I am filled with the sounds of crying kids (as it turns out, it’s often the parents who want the kids to have their faces painted more than the kids), the sounds of tractors pulling hayrides, the sneezy breathing of the corn maze and hay “bounce,” the taste of pulled pork sandwiches, the warmth of hot cider and the accompanying cider donuts. Ever since I scored my donut maker at Goodwill, I have been wanting to make a cider donut. New Year’s Day was finally the time!

Cider Donuts

Does this version of a cider donut immediately transport me to the days  of my face painting “career?” Yes, but I did rewrite my history a bit. These little donuts have a more complex flavor in their sugar coating due to a kick of nutmeg and the more intense molasses flavor of brown sugar.

Cider Donuts
makes approximately 24 baby donuts 

Dry Ingredients

1 cup almond flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Ingredients

1 egg (local/free-range)
2/3 cup organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup local apple butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup wildflower honey
1/3 cup local apple cider
1/3 cup organic sour cream
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little extra for greasing your donut pan)

For the Donuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.

In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture and whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Preheat and grease (I used melted butter) your donut maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Sugar Coating

Ingredients

Organic, unsalted butter, melted
Organic brown sugar
Nutmeg
Cinnamon

For the Sugar Coating

Note: This is a game of approximating because you’ll probably have to refill your sugar dipping bowl a few times.

Combine brown sugar and spices in a bowl (to taste). Roll each donut in melted butter and then the sugar mixture.

Cider Donut

Enjoy the donuts and your own memories, wherever they may take you!

Pumpkin Without Chocolate is Just Pumpkin

November 2012

There are some bakers and eaters and general complainers who begin to grumble early in November and say, “I am over pumpkin!” To which I reply, “but what about pumpkin and CHOCOLATE?!?!” By that point, I am too consumed by the thought of pumpkin and chocolate to listen to the complainers anymore. I’m a baking super heroine with a chocolate force field!

Pumpkin without chocolate is just pumpkin, BUT pumpkin WITH chocolate is…

Whip The Kraken Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons Kraken Rum

Directions

Chill the heavy cream in a bowl in the freezer until it just starts to freeze.

Remove from the freezer. Add the maple syrup and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat until peaks begin to form.

Release the Kraken, and add the rum. Mix until combined.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cups organic raw sugar
4 eggs (local/free-range)
1 can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder

Directions

Makes approximately one 9-inch cake for taking to a friend’s and extra cupcakes for you to keep!

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Oil the springform pan, and line cupcake pan with parchment liners (about 6-12 cupcakes, depending on size).

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

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and espresso powder.

Whisk flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until well combined then transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Set aside to let cool then cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar, if you like.

… divine!

Butternut Brownies & Window Views

October 2012

How does the window delight in the season?

The winter window tries to protect our needs for sleep and nestling and hibernation. The winter window offers a curtain of darkness to keep us in a slumber, but the world forces us to push beyond the curtain to face the day. As the light emerges, we may catch quiet views in slow motion- a creek slowly flowing or neighbors slowly trudging.

Before long, spring breezes against the window, and it opens. The window stretches and awakens, perhaps creaking as it moves. The changes are not immediate but rather like a song filled with anticipation in its chords. The spring window shows more light, shows the neighbors as they too stretch and emerge from the more dormant months. The window sings with the birds and the bicycles and the children who play until the evening light slips away.

The window boasts in summer! The summer window is a full expression. Hot breezes, humming fans, active streets, and the rattling glass of an electrified sky.

Those warm breezes grow colder and begin to carry leaves until the window must close. The window grows quiet, but there is still pride in the dampening view it frames. The window is a hushed pause. It is a painting of bright hues in stark contrast with an interior darkness. The window is a temporary collector of condensation, the effect of cooling fall flavors…

Chocolate Butternut Squash Brownies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 oz. Ghirardelli 70% cacao chocolate, chopped

4 large eggs (local/free-range)
1 1/2 cups organic raw sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups almond flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cup local butternut squash puree
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a 9″x9″ cake pan with nonstick spray.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chocolate and remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth.

In a large bowl beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3-4 minutes, until thick and pale yellow.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt

Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and beat until just combined.

Put one third of the batter into another bowl. Stir in the squash puree, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Stir the chocolate mixture into the remaining batter and spread a little more than half of it into the prepared pan.

Top with the pumpkin mixture, then drop large spoonfuls of the remaining chocolate mixture on top. Swirl a knife through both to create a swirled effect.

Bake for 40 minutes, until just set and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: Cookie Cups & Cartwheels

September 2012

When is the last time you really went outside and played?

When is the last time you flew through the trees?

When is the last time you ran like a fool? When is the last time you did a cartwheel?

There’s something about being at the special cabin in the woods that simplifies fun. Maybe it’s because we’re removed from typical routines or because no one is watching, or maybe because we’re just plain weird [magical]? Whatever the impetus, there we were playing outside, laughing and seeing the world from all angles. It took me back to a time when fitness was just an afternoon spent outside with friends.

Perhaps it was all the play that incited my craving for cookies. Perhaps I was transported to the time when I’d run inside with numb fingers and find a kitchen table covered in warm, fresh, gooey, chocolate-chip cookies.

One of the advantages of being a baking adult is I can make cookies when the craving hits. This time I was inspired by the ol’ cupcake form. Another advantage of being a baking adult is I can also be inspired by bourbon!

Bourbon, Cranberry & Pecan Cookie Cups
Makes 20 cookie cups

Ingredients

3/4 cup raw cane sugar
3/4 cup organic packed brown sugar
dash of nutmeg
1 cup organic, unsalted butter, browned
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 Tablespoons bourbon
1 egg (local/free-range)

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped (leaving a handful whole for garnishing)
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 cup organic dried cranberries

Directions

Heat oven to 375ºF. Line a cupcake pan with natural parchment liners.

Mix sugars, nutmeg, butter, extracts, bourbon and egg in large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the egg mixture.

Stir in nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into lined cupcake pan.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until light brown.

Cool on wire rack, and go play!

weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Ushering in Autumn: Chocolate Chip Kuri Squash Cake

September 2012

Behold the Cucurbita maxima!

Aliases: Japanese SquashOrange Hokkaido SquashBaby Red Hubbard Squash, Uchiki Kuri Squash or simply Red Kuri Squash (I like the “Hubbard” option because it makes me think Old Mother Hubbard lived in a squash).

This brightly colored squash boasts a bold, sweet, nutty flavor. Unlike its more famed Jack-o-Lantern relation, which requires an arsenal of spices to accent its flavor, you can take a delicious bite of red kuri squash right after roasting (with a smidgeon of butter of course). With such a strong flavor, red kuri squash makes a great addition to autumnal recipes at both the sweet and savory ends of the spectrum.   Since my tooth swings sweet, my first kuri squash recipe of the season happened to be a cake for the sake of brunch. Since I could eat maple syrup everyday and have an affinity for bourbon, those elements conveniently found their way into the recipe as well.

Note: This cake will not last long! Even when my sole mission was to take a picture of the cake, I found myself slicing a piece and enjoying it with a cup of tea.

Chocolate Chip Kuri Cake
w/ Maple Glaze & Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

2 cups organic whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup organic brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger

2 cups organic kuri squash, roasted and puréed
3 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons organic molasses
1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup organic chocolate chips

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Oil the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan (or use a similar sized square or round pan).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

In a large bowl, mix squash, eggs, olive oil, and molasses until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until thoroughly combined.

Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before using a knife to loosen the sides of the pan, then removing it.

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Maple Glaze

Ingredients

1 cup pure maple syrup

Directions

While the cake is cooling, cook 1 cup maple syrup over heat for 7-8 minutes, or until it thickens/reduces slightly. Let it cool slightly, then drizzle over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature (the maple glaze will harden as it cools).

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Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2-3 Tablespoons bourbon

For the Whipped Cream

Combine all the ingredients except the bourbon in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to whip until peaks form. Add the bourbon and mix to incorporate. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Ushering in Autumn: The Brunch

September 2012

Bursts of warm colors
A mountainside palette
Warm days and cool nights
Thickly knit sweaters and scarves
Oddly shaped gourds and squashes
Scents of cinnamon from pine cones and brooms
Softly lit sunsets
Fall flavors…

These are just a few of the aspects I love about fall. Since I still tend to miss summer as it transitions, I hosted a brunch full of fall flavors to help myself embrace autumn.

Each brunch is such a happy reminder of the great people who surround me! In this case, the table hosted a green energy guru, a woodworker, an artist and community organizer, a writer, a bakery owner and activist, and a kite maker with a special delivery for me!

When it was time for round two of champagne, we discovered the second bottle to be quite frozen. We consequently discovered champagne slushees are a magical, magical beverage (though pouring requires some extra heft)!

Ushering in Autumn Menu

Red Kuri Squash & Chocolate Chip Cake w/ Bourbon Whipped Cream
Harvest “Nests”
Brown Sugar & Spice Apples
Black Forest Bacon
Tangerine Mimosas
Almond Milk Chai

(Recipes will follow in subsequent posts)

Yes, I said a kite maker was at the table. Deren brought me a kite made by a traditional Chinese kite maker (which my special one was quick to assemble)! My gift was a token for supporting her participatory art project called “Float” via Kickstarter.

Float is a participatory art/design/mapping project using air quality sensing kites. Through the poetics and playfulness of kite flying, Float sparks and initiates dialogue on urban environmental health issues, and gives agency to city dwellers to map, record and engage actively in the monitoring of their environment.

I’ve long admired Deren’s ability to bridge art and technology in playful and meaningful ways (like this project that harvests the energy of kids), so pitching into this project was an easy choice, and I was honored to have her join the brunching table. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Fall colors, soft light, scents of cinnamon and squash, champagne and a table of friends…fall really wasn’t so difficult to embrace after all.

My First Ever Wedding Cake (Part I): Proposals & Preparations

September 2012

Let me tell you about a woman I admire. She is intelligent and dedicated, as exhibited by her collection of degrees from Carnegie Mellon, Oxford, and one PhD from Berkeley in the works. She is disciplined and compassionate, having run multiple marathons for charity. She is sincere. She’s the type of woman who will listen to your woes and give very thoughtful and intelligent advice in return. She wants to make the world a better, more sustainable place. She is creative and talented, and I admire her immensely. Beyond admiration, I have the great fortune to call Renee my friend.

ReneeAndRamseyChristianWeddingImages-1287

Photo by Photographick Studios.

Now let me tell you about a man I know. We used to be neighbors, and he welcomed me to that block of row homes with a glass of wine and a warm heart. He chose to follow creative outlets in his life and put pen to paper in a substantial way.  Ramsey mixes a childlike spirit with an intelligent mind, and he has a way of filling a room with laughter.

Dashing Ramsey

Photo by Photographick Studios.

On one fateful day, these two amazing friends of mine reconnected in my backyard. I knew Ramsey wanted to marry Renee from day one. He couldn’t contain his adoration. It was only a matter of time until Renee saw a life partner in Ramsey as well, and I was so glad to share a small part in such a love story. When the engagement announcement came, I offered my baking efforts in addition to my congratulations. To my utter joy, my two dear friends said they could not think of a better person to bake their wedding cake! So it was I came to fulfill one of my longtime goals for two very dear people, and this is how that cake began.

Renee and Ramsey were the perfect pair for my wedding cake philosophies. They both truly value whole, natural ingredients, and they left the cake details to my creativity. It was a dream experience! I chose a vanilla pound cake accented with flavors of amaretto, brandy, rum and whiskey! I added a peach compote featuring local peaches to appeal to the couple’s love of local, seasonal ingredients. Since Renee and Ramsey are avid wine drinkers, and the wedding setting was a winery, I used a red and white wine combo for the compote. I was pretty nervous about the cake, but most people went back for seconds and supported me so enthusiastically. The memory still fills me with happiness! Thank you again to this beautiful couple for including me in your festivities!

Renee & Ramsey Wedding Cake Recipe
(cut everything in half if you’re not aiming for a 3-tiered wedding cake)

Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from Cake Love
Makes 3 layers

Dry Ingredients

5 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Liquid Ingredients

2 cups (16 oz) Sour Cream (from local dairy)
½ cup local heavy cream (from local dairy)
1/2 cup Brandy
2 Tablespoons Amaretto
2 Tablespoons rum
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons whiskey

Creaming Ingredients

1 lb (16 oz)- organic, unsalted butter, at room temp
6 cups raw sugar

10 Large Eggs (local/free-range)
2 Yolks (local/free-range)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate.

In a separate bowl combine all the liquid ingredients and whisk to combine.

Combine the butter and sugar and use an electric mixer to cream together on the lowest speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid mixture in 3-5 additions, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.

Move swiftly to avoid over mixing the batter. Scrape down the bowl and then mix for 20 seconds to fully incorporate.

Spray your pan (loaf, bundt,etc) with nonstick spray and then fill 3/4 of the way up with the batter.

Bake a 10” springform pan for 50-55 minutes and smaller muffin size loafs for 15 minutes.

******************************************************************************************************************

Classic Buttercream
Makes 5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks or 1 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
6-8 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
up to 8 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Instructions

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.

If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

******************************************************************************************************************

Peach Pinot Compote

Ingredients

10 cups fresh peaches, skinned and quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups white wine
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup red wine
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and 2 cups of the white wine. Mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir together the cornstarch and the 1 cup of red wine.

Raise the heat so that the liquid in the pan begins to boil.

Add the cornstarch mixture and stir for 1 minute, or until the liquid thickens and becomes clear.

Transfer to a serving bowl and add the vanilla.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Can be served on cake, on pudding or with whipped toppings.

Ice Cream Sammies & Self-Sufficiency

July 2012

I’m not a person who likes to take things apart in order to understand them and then put them back together again. I’m not a fixer-upper. I would never describe myself as “handy.” However, when I have a craving for a really rich, chocolaty ice cream sandwich at the height of a summer’s heat spell, I can be quite self-sufficient, and of that, I am proud!

“Self-sufficient” is not to say I eat the entire tower o’ ice cream sammy by myself. That would just be self-destruction, at least in the temporary, oh-god-whhhhy-am-I-so-full sense of self-destruction.

Chocolate, Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Note: I used about 3/4 of this batter in a 9×13 inch glass pan, which yielded more of a brownie, from which I could cut the circles to hold the heaping scoops of organic, mint, chocolate-chip ice cream. I used the remaining batter to make a stone pan’s worth of cookies. The sizing is flexible, but keep an eye on the oven to avoid a sad, burned catastrophe.

Ingredients

~1/2 lb dark chocolate (El Rey Bucare Bittersweet 58% Cocoa)

2 2/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup pure cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) organic unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons bourbon

3 large eggs (local/free-range)

1 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped
2 cups organic semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Melt dark chocolate using a Maria bath; stir until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

In a separat mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, vanilla extract and bourbon.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in melted chocolate.

Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Stir in almonds and 2 cups chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies are puffed.

Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

A Chance to Celebrate!

July 2012

When my next oldest sister made arrangements to take off  three weeks fromwork for a family vacation, her employer told her, “consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” Though her employer’s words were masking an impending stinginess with vacation days, his phrasing was right! She had indeed experienced the trip of a lifetime. Her winter planning resulted in a three-week-long road trip from the Philly area to Nebraska and back, from sister (me) to sister (the middle one) with a brother in between.

She and her three kids stayed at an inn converted from an old prison. They walked the Gateway Arch. They stared up the seemingly infinite facade of the Sears Tower (and stubbornly called it the “Sears Tower”). They clung to tubes behind a boat in Iowa. They went to the Pony Express station in the tiny, Midwestern town where I entered the world. They presidents immortalized in stone. They followed plans and changed courses spontaneously. Fortunately for me, I was a convenient stopping point on both legs of the trip. My sister’s birthday fell right in the middle of their wanderings, which meant their return to Pittsburgh called for a cake!

Incidentally, this was also the cake that convinced me to buy an air conditioner. You’ll note I added “melted white chocolate” to my cake batter. Though it did make for a subtle sweetness, this choice was both an experiment and the result of the ridiculous temperature of third-floor living in the height of summer. Feel free to use solid chips, should you live in a kitchen that doesn’t melt your chocolate and liquify your coconut oil. As I learned, this cake requires a lot of almond flour, so stock your cupboard accordingly should you want to this cake to be completely gluten free. That was my intention, but after all, life requires frequent changes, and I am the daughter of invention!

Blueberry Almond Cake
(makes 1-9inch bundt cake)

Inspired by this recipe on the beautiful Roost blog, though I veered at the many forks in the road.

Cake Ingredients 

4 1/2 cups Bob’s Redmill organic almond flour
1 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

6 eggs (local/free-range)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cups honey
2 tsp pure almond extract
2 tsp organic vanilla extract

3/4 cup white chocolate, melted
1 pint fresh blueberries

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9-inch stone bundt pan.

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl.

Whisk wet ingredients in a separate bowl then add to dry ingredients until a smooth batter has formed.

Stir in the melted white chocolate.

Gently fold blueberries into batter and pour into greased pan.

To prevent the cake from browning, cover with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the tinfoil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes.

Flip cake onto a cake stand or plate and drizzle with glaze.

Coconut Butter Icing

Ingredients

8 oz Neufchatel cheese (rBST free)
1/2 cup organic mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup wildflower honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Use an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients until thoroughly combined and creamy.

Garnish

Top with fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, raspberries)!

And remember…

Just because a cake is rather regal, doesn’t mean you have to be! Go craaaazy!

Happy Birthday Tosha!

Fit For A Piquenique: Lemon & Lavender Cake

July 2012

The Pursuit of Lavender:

Lavender: 1
Quelcy: 1!!!

After lavender officially beat me last time, I decided to put on my serious face, and I re-approached the challenge of baking a lavender cake with a new vigor. The issue was sourcing a larger supply of organic lavender. Contrary to the numerous suggestions I received, I wasn’t about to dig in Pittsburgh soil and “borrow” flowers. Pittsburgh was an industrial steel town [read: polluted]! Who knows what’s in most soils here?!? Fortunately, I found a Pittsburgh ally while shopping the vendors at the Farm to Table Conference. My sachet of organic, dried lavender was part of a horticultural therapy program for kids with autism. Suddenly my long pursuit seemed worth the wait!

I found another game changer via Brooklyn: Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon Simple Syrup!  For foodies like me, who are obsessive about sourcing and the ethics of food, Royal Rose comes with quite the guarantee.

Royal Rose promises…

We use only 100% organic, fair trade cane sugar made from evaporated cane juice. We make our syrups by hand, in small batches, using whole ingredients. All of our herbs and spices are organic and fairly traded. Royal Rose sends all of its products to an independent laboratory for analysis to ensure a consistent, high-quality product. We recycle our waste and re-use cardboard boxes. No chemical preservatives, added colors or artificial flavors, ever. We source our ingredients and packaging materials for the highest quality and the best price possible.

This cake was filled with so many good intentions, including my own. I was making it for a relaxing, Sunday brunch with friends. This cake was my Fleatique Piquenique spotlight offering!

Lemon Lavender Almond Cake

Ingredients

1 cup turbinado sugar, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 Tablespoons dried local lavender flowers, divided
[Next time I’d probably use 3-4 Tbs to push for a real burst of floral flavor)
~2 Tablespoons lemons zest (from two organic lemons)

1 cup organic butter, softened
5 eggs (local/free-range)
1 cup wildflower amber honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons organic almond extract

1 cup (8 ounces) Neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup organic heavy cream

2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Grease a 10-in. stone bundt pan and sprinkle with flour; set aside.

Place 1/2 cup turbinado sugar, almonds and 2 Tablespoons lavender in a food processor; cover and process until finely ground. Add the lemon zest and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter, remaining ½ cup turbinado sugar until light and fluffy; add the honey and continue to beat.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

In a small bowl, combine the Neufchatel cheese and heavy cream

Combine the flour, almond mixture, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with Neufchatel mixture, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lavender Glaze

½ cup organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lavender simple syrup
2 Tablespoons wildflower amber honey
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
little bit of filtered water

Directions

Whisk together all the ingredients except the water.

Whisk until smooth. Add water to thin if necessary.

Drizzle over the cake.

Sprinkle with dried lavender.

**************************

Take some time to fully appreciate the notes of lavender and the companionship cake brings!

Fleatique + Piquenique (Tarentum, PA)

July 2012

There is a field where many different personalities gather, on the third Sunday of the warmer months. Some come bearing the collections they have gleaned from old homes, markets, antique stores and other treasure-guarding nooks and crannies. Some come to scour each table and to bargain until they walk away with a new addition to their own collections.

Fleatique is what brings all the personalities to the field, and after last year’s Fleatique, I found a new way to enjoy that third Sunday. There’s something so peaceful about the green, grassy patch of land, under large shade trees, where each table holds an oddity, a curiosity or a trigger for a memory. I extended that peacefulness in the best way I knew how- a picnic!

As we set up our spot, a rather grizzly yet friendly man stopped his white, Ford truck to ask us, “Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?” It made my morning!

Each jam jar arrived ready for a splash of Italian Moscato wine. After partaking in the bubbly, we refreshed with a tart, berry lemonade.

Muddled Blueberries + Lemon Slices + Lemon Juice + Lavender Chamomile Tea + Great Company

When a cake is made with whole grains, wildflower honey, lavender, lemon and almonds, it’s ok to eat cake for breakfast! That’s exactly what we did!

(I will share this recipe in a subsequent post)

Effie’s Oatcakes + Sour Cherry Goat Cheese + Fresh Cherries. There was also fresh cantaloupe in the spread because even if the breakfast cake is on the healthier side, one should still eat extra fruit.

After wrapping the picnic into its wooden cases again, it was time to explore the offerings…

My pal Dino, the baker & music maker, was there selling fresh, warm paczki. The exterior was sweet, and a bite revealed a yellowy, sweet dough with plump raisins. Full from the picnic, these dense delights were reserved for Monday morning, and they made the return to the real world all the better!

*Side note: If they weren’t as delicious as they were, and a surplus mounted, I mused about a paczki food fight. Those donuts could really fly!

Until the next Fleatique… Better safe than zombie!

(stay tuned for the cake recipe)

Cake & The Beanstalk!

May 2012

Having felt the fatiguing effects of a brunch bourbon (judge me not, it was brunch!), it was the perfect time to take a quick stroll and discover a whimsical little coffee shop called Cake and the Beanstalk.

Cake and the Beanstalk
1112 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Neighborhood: Washington Square West

The colors were bright and cheery, the sizes were silly, and the chairs provided a wee bit of entertainment.

Oh how happy was I to see Lucy the Margate elephant again…this time on a cute, little chair!

Of course there had to be a chair routing for the hometown team.

I was also partial to the Queen, not for any power issues, just the alliteration…I swear!

So if you’re looking to satisfy your adult need for caffeine and your inner child’s need for color and playfulness, Cake and the Beanstalk is the perfect place! And the drinks are good too (sorry we didn’t have room for cake after the beautiful garden brunch)!

My Special One’s Birthday: Maple Mousse Pie

April 2012

Birthdays may call for cake, but this maple mousse pie was worthy of trumping traditions (plus my special one and I have a shared maple memory).  The salty pecan crust pairs perfectly with the fluffy, frozen, maple, mousse layer, but I was also tempted to snag extra bites of crust to savor its flavor solo.  Top it all with a blueberry and cherry port wine sauce, and… birthday cake shmirthday shmake.  Pie please!

When I was little, I saw everything prior to and following the moment of eating as a chore. What I see now is an old man at sea…that is to say… the kitchen is a wonderfully creative place where our best intentions transform into something memorable for the special people in our lives.  I am beginning to understand why my mother spent so much time preparing the many memories I cherish.

Maple Mousse Pie w/ Port Wine Berry Sauce
Adpated from Food & Wine

Crust Ingredients

2 cups pecans
3 Tablespoons organic light brown sugar
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, browned
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Mousse Ingredients

1 cup pure grade B maple syrup
2 large egg whites (local/free-range), at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups chilled organic heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Port Wine Berry Sauce Ingredients

1 cup organic brown sugar
1 cup port wine
10 oz frozen organic cherries, thawed
12 oz fresh blueberries

For the Crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking stone, and bake for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans, brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and almond extract until the nuts are finely chopped.

Add the butter, and pulse to incorporate.

Press the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer.

Refrigerate until firm.

For the Mousse

In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until slightly reduced and a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup registers 235 degrees, about 8 minutes, being careful not to let it boil over.

For the meringue: In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until firm peaks form. Slowly add the maple syrup, while continuing to mix at a medium speed, until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and beat the meringue until cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.

For the Whipped Cream: In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with the vanilla until soft peaks form.

Fold the meringue into the whipped cream until blended.

Scrape the mousse onto the crust, and spread evenly.

Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours but preferably overnight (the mousse will not freeze solid like ice cream).

For the Sauce

Combine the port wine and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, and continue to simmer until sauce has slightly thickened and reduced.

Remove the saucepan from heat. Add the berries.

Keep refrigerated until use.

Quite a regal looking birthday dessert! Stay tuned, and I’ll show you some more ways to use that boozy berry sauce.

The Comforts of Solitude & The Pleasures of Company

April 2012

A lovely friend had an idea for a quiet gathering on a Saturday afternoon.  The Cafe at the Frick has a delectable menu offering and an even more stunning garden setting.  Though we lamented the rain at first drop, a funny thing happened as the droplets drizzled down our window.  Being surrounded by flowers weighed by water droplets became the ideal way to enjoy the garden views, the clink of tea spoons, the hum of little girls in tutus drinking tea like royalty and the tiers of lovely little foods.  It was a perfectly peaceful way of enjoying the rain, as if we were tucked away at a fancy country cottage without a care in the world.  Rather than dissect the delectable tiers of pretty foods, I’d rather just reflect on the powers of tea and good company.

A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea,

which is one you forget about afterwards.

~A.A. Milne

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude

and the pleasures of company.

~Author Unknown

Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.

~Honoré de Balzac

The first sip of tea is the always the best…

you cringe as it burns the back of your throat,

knowing you just had the hottest carpe-diem portion.

~Terri Guillemets

Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that,

being offered to persons that have already dined well,

it supposes neither appetite nor thirst,

and has no object but distraction,

no basis but delicate enjoyment.

~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin,

The Physiology of Taste

Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious,

and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise,

and will not use abstinence.

~Samuel Johnson

Bread and water can so easily be [scones] and tea.

~Author Unknown

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.

~Catherine Douzel

Thank you lovely friend for suggesting such a deliciously romantic respite from the rest of the rainy gloom.

A Taxpayer’s Salvation in the Form of Chocolate & PB!

[That dreaded time in] April 2012 

After last year’s tax debacle (scorn you 1099!), my tax savior told me, “This year, I’ll just do them for you.”  Friends, if you want to know what magic sounds like in my ears, let the following statement resonate, “I’ll do your taxes for you.”  Of course, no good tax deed should go unrewarded.  My tax savior is a cheesecake man, so this recipe began with Neufchatel intentions.  In the end, it tasted a lot more like an oversized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup than a cheesecake, but full mouths do not argue semantics [they do, however, manage to fight for more dessert).  Call this decadent dessert whatever you like!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tax Relief

This recipe is for a 9×13 version, from which I made some smaller fancies.  The beauty of cutting away smaller fancies is you’re left with plenty of dessert for yourself and further sharing.  Unlike taxes, this dessert was a gift that kept giving.

Crust Ingredients

2 cups unsalted almonds, chopped
1 cup butter, browned
3/4 cup almond meal
4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon organic almond extract

Filling Ingredients

4 8-ounce packages Neufchatel cheese, softened
2 cups organic creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
6 eggs (local/free-range)
3 cups organic semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup organic whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Grease and line a glass 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.

Combine chopped almonds, browned butter, almond meal, turbinado sugar and almond extract.

Press mixture into the bottom of baking dish; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat 2 packages of Neufchatel cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in peanut butter and ½ cup honey until combined. Fold in 2 lightly beaten eggs; set aside.

In a saucepan stir chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Cube remaining cream cheese; add to chocolate. Stir to combine.

Stir in milk and vanilla until smooth.

Fold in 4 lightly beaten eggs. Spread half the chocolate mixture into pan. Carefully spread all the peanut butter mixture over layer. Evenly spread remaining chocolate mixture.

Bake 60-70 minutes or until top is set when lightly shaken. Outer 2 inches of the top will be slightly puffed and dry-looking; center will look darker and wet.

Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Use a small sharp knife to loosen crust from sides; cool completely on rack. Cover and chill for 4 hours.

Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Garnish with almonds, and give not a care to the government.  

You don’t have to think about taxes for an entire year!

Fin!

Easter Dinner (Part II)

April 2012

The air was crisp, but the sky was brilliant blue!  It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for an Easter meal.

Two handsome gents arrived, and they had put a lot of effort into meticulous matching, right down to their identical socks (yes, you read it correctly- identical socks!).

Fortunately, I had set an Easter table worthy of such fastidiously fashionable fellas.

It was time to eat, but joining my table usually includes a rite of passage.  I’ll give you a hint- it rhymes with “if tile”… (please pardon my laser beam death stare!  Where did that come from?!?!)

The Easter Menu Breakdown…

Easter Ham Glaze

~2 1/2 cups Turkish apricots (all natural)
~ 1/2 cup Rum (Kraken)
1/2 cup organic orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Bonne Maman peach preserves

Directions

Slice the dried apricots into fourths and soak in rum overnight.

Heat the apricots and rum in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.

Reduce to a simmer and add orange juice concentrate, maple and peach preserves. Stir until well combined.

Add to black forest ham slices and bake in oven to warm the ham.

Pommes Anna
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review

Pommes Anna

Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick
5 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Grated pecorino romano cheese
Fresh thyme

Directions

Toss the potato slices with melted butter in a large bowl until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat the skillet bottom, and set the skillet over medium-low heat.

Begin timing, and arrange the potato slices in skillet, starting in the center to form the first layer.

Sprinkle evenly with approximately ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the second layer of potatoes, working in the opposite direction of the first layer; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper as in previous step.

Repeat layering potatoes and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until no slices remain.

Continue to cook over medium-low heat until 30 minutes elapse from the time you began arranging the potatoes in the skillet.

Use a 9-inch cake pan or a metal spatula to press down the potatoes firmly to compact them.

Cover the skillet, and place it in the oven.

Bake until the potatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender when a paring knife is inserted in the center, and the potatoes near the edge of the skillet are browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, line a rimless cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet with foil and coat it very lightly with oil.

Drain off the excess fat from the potatoes by pressing the potatoes into the skillet with the bottom of the cake pan or metal spatula while tilting the skillet to pour off the fat.

Set the foil-lined cookie sheet on top of the skillet. With hands protected by oven mitts or potholders, hold the cookie sheet in place with one hand and carefully invert the skillet and cookie sheet together.

Remove the skillet carefully.

Carefully slide the potatoes onto a platter.

Cut into wedges and serve with pecorino romano cheese and a thyme garnish.

Roasted Champagne Mangoes

Ingredients

1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons organic agave syrup
4 champagne mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into long slices

Garnish

1/4 cup crème fraîche or yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add mango chunks; toss to coat. Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place mango in a cast iron skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast mangoes for 15 minutes. Turn, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes. Drizzle remaining marinade over; let cool slightly.

Eat plain or garnish with greek yogurt and pistachios.

Sauteed Asparagus with Sesame Lime Dressing

Ingredients

juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

You remember that cake!  I already talked about that lovely little layer cake.

The Cake Comes First (Easter, Part I)

April 2012

Around these parts, dessert is a priority, so when it comes to planning a meal, the finale very often comes first! Thus Easter scheming began with this friendly carrot face and a bright orange cakeventure!

I have a love affair with the color orange (as does Pantone this year!), especially when orange comes undiluted from nature.  Easter was the perfect occasion to use my juicing powers for good [cake coloring]!

Easter inspired the carrots.  My chocolate cravings inspired the chocolate.  The beautifully rendered video for Snap inspired the blackstrap molasses, and lastly, the special occasion inspired the layers! There you have it…

Chocolate Gingerbread Carrot Cake!

Chocolate Gingerbread Carrot Cake
w/ Snappy Frosting 

Ingredients

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamum
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup turbinado sugar
5 large eggs (local/free-range)

3/4 cup organic frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup organic sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups carrot pulp from juicing (or shredded carrot)

1/2 cup all natural, unsweetened raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Filling

Chopped walnuts, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and line a 13x9x2-inch glass baking pan.

Combine cup whole-wheat pastry flour, almond meal, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, ground cardamum, ground cloves, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to blend.

Use an electric mixer to beat the turbinado sugar and eggs until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.

Add the orange juice concentrate, honey, molasses, sour cream and olive oil in large bowl until smooth.

Beat in dry ingredients.

Stir in carrots, raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Cool cake completely in pan.

Snappy Frosting

1 8-ounce package Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (2 stick) organic unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
4 Tablespoons AITA Snap
1/4 cup fresh carrot juice
1/4 cup organic powdered sugar

For the Frosting

Use an electric mixer to whip the Neufchatel cheese and butter until creamy. Add the vanilla, honey, Snap, carrot juice and powdered sugar. Continue to beat until all blended and creamy.  *If you want to have a similar two toned cake, reserve some frosting before adding the carrot juice.

Top with a natural sour gummy from your local Whole Foods or natural grocer.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Easter fête!

Once Upon A Sticky Toffee Time in London

November 2011/March 2012

In the back of my mind- in the very back of my mind- I knew he was going to London with his family.  The front of my mind [clearly this post is steeped in "neuroscience"] was focused very intently on escaping my home base, adventuring and feeling very, very far from certain sad gray clouds hovering over me.  I looked at flights to Paris very longingly, but I concluded I owed it to myself to try a new locale.  That’s when London popped into my mind, and once I get an idea like that in my head, all the best to you should you try to stand in my way!

I had already set my idea into motion when the back and front of my mind began working in conjunction again [even more neuroscience].  Oh yeaaaah… he‘s going to London too! The “coincidence” of my destination choice seemed questionable since I had joked about wanting to be a member of his family (whose travel history included a family vacation on the Amalfi Coast!!!  Pick me!!!), but I am sticking to my story- his trip was unrelated to my planning!

The motives of my story became all the more questionable as the two of us grew closer.  At first, we were two friends who happened to be traveling to the same major metropolis at the very same time.  We thought we’d meet up and maybe share some London sightseeing, but as the trip approached, our friendship became something far more significant!  I had unknowingly arranged to travel to London with my SigFig to be and his entire family!

Who does that?!?  This girl!

So it was I came to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in a foreign land with my new boyfriend’s family.  With any other family, this may have been odd or intrusive, but my special one comes from a tremendous family who generously included me in their wanderings and explorations of one of the most captivating cities on earth!

Thanks to the sister/tour guide, who had been exploring London for an entire semester, I came to experience a phenomenon called “sticky toffee pudding,” which isn’t all that sticky, nor is it really pudding.  Oh those Brits!

My first sticky toffee encounter occurred at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub, which is notable for a few reasons:

1.  Its age!  It was rebuilt in 1667 after The Great Fire of London, meaning some semblance of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub existed even earlier than that!

2.  The entrance is quietly tucked away from the commotion of the street, marked by a beautiful sign and surrounded by beautiful brickwork.

3.  To arrive at the cellar requires an acute awareness of one’s body in space, as the winding stairwell is narrow, and the ceilings are quite low.

4.  The rustic wood!  There was wood everywhere, and “rustic” does not do justice to the age in those dark wood grains.

5.  The concept of the British pub is brilliant in general- good drinks and comfort food in a unique and dignified setting!  To eat and drink at a pub is like eating mom’s Sunday dinner in the den of an old fashioned gentleman (It’s the style I channeled for this shoot).

Why, oh why America, do you not adopt such a concept en masse?!?

The sister/tour guide was wide eyed and very nearly drooling as she ordered “sticky toffee pudding” at record speed (try saying it five times fast!).  Her eagerness was intriguing. Beyond my bowl of creamy corn soup (again..such delectable food for a bar!) was the answer to my question, “what is sticky toffee pudding?”  My bite from the shared bowl provided the answer:  warm, spongy cake in a pool of custard with a sweet surface layer.

Part of why I travel is to be inspired creatively and culinarily, and that bowl of sticky toffee pudding sure did inspire!  The special cabin in the woods was the perfect place for my first attempt, and my special one was the perfect partner for sharing dessert.  Not surprisingly, the recipe inspiration came from the delicious photos of one of my favorite blogs, Tea With Me.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Recipe adapted from Tea With Me. 

Dates!  Who knew?!?  Dates are one of the prominent ingredients in sticky toffee pudding, so it’s really a wonder this traditional dessert did not come to be known as “caramel date cake.”

The sneaky Bear-Pig tried to nab the dates as they soaked, but his attempts were foiled!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Ingredients

1 cup dates, pitted
2 cups boiling water
1 tsp baking soda

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup organic, unsalted butter
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg (local/free-range), beaten

1 Tablespoon AITA Snap

For the Sticky Toffee Pudding

In a separate bowl, pour boiling water over dates and baking soda. Let sit until all or most of the water is absorbed (ideal time for a forest wander).  Add a splash or two of AITA Snap for an extra kick.

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

Cream butter and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Beat in egg gradually.

Fold in the flour mixture.

Add the date mixture.

Mix in the Snap.

Pour in a greased oven proof glass baking dish.

Bake on the middle rack for 250 degrees F for 40 min.

Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup organic, unsalted butter
1 cup organic brown sugar
4 tbsp organic heavy cream

For the Caramel Sauce

Melt butter in a pan, add sugar and cream, stirring all the time for about 3 minutes.

Cut a slice of pudding, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzles of caramel sauce.

Snap Whipped Cream

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
2-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 Tablespoons AITA Snap

For the Whipped Cream

Combine all the ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

More To Come…!

I’m not about to offer the sister/tour guide my first ever attempt at sticky toffee pudding, especially since this version reminded me more of my mother’s banana bread than my afternoon at that wooden table.  Thus I see much more sticky toffee experimentation on my horizon.  There is also so much more of my London wanderings I intend to share, so…

Stay tuned!