Tag Archives: bake

ITS A GIRL!

Image

I’ll take any excuse to bake. Any family event, obscure holiday or (even, on occasion) less cryptic conventional birthday – I’m your girl to stock up the dessert table. Qunceñera? Bar Mitzvah? Filipino Debut? Holler! (I happen to specialize in celebrations of acute cultural rites of passage.) Just give me a reason to party and I’ll whip up 10-20 of my most crowd-pleasing sweets, no questions asked. I lived up to this promise this past weekend, and was promptly schooled in the most recent craze to hit the Pinterest boards of mothers-to-be across America: the Gender Reveal Party.

photo (9)

I’ve been lucky to have been informally adopted by the best Mexicans this side of the border (if I’m an honorary Mexican, I can say that right?), one of whom which is expecting! To commemorate such an exciting event, we decided to kick off the second trimester with a Gender Reveal Party, á la chic-mama-of-2013. Here, the doctor contacts a third party while the mother- and father-to-be are kept in the dark about the baby’s gender. That third party (a very responsible, extremely reliable, and incredibly trustworthy person) creates some type of big reveal shrouded in blue or pink to announce the gender amongst friends and family at said Gender Reveal Party. I (naturally having all the qualities listed above) was honored to be chosen to create the big reveal.

IMG_2063

Typically, the parents-to-be cut into a deceivingly iced cake that is blue or pink on the inside, so I was the clear Panadero China for the job. This was my first attempt at making a layered cake, so being the neurotic baker that I am, I did my research. Turns out you just need to utilize your freezer and channel your inner zen: lots of patience and lots of taste-testing. Its really not that difficult, actually – especially when you’re baking for such a momentously fun event. I was just a little off-put by the radically saturated food coloring, but the damn thing still tasted pretty bomb, if I do say so myself.

IMG_2083

I ramble like the cake was the centerpiece of the party, but it was really just a vestibule to announce the greatest news thus far in 2013. I am so insanely excited for the parents-to-be and their new baby girl, and was just so happy to be included in their fabulous celebration! I also designed the invitations, baked three types of brownies, two types of shortbread and got my mom to bake for the event – but that’s all small potatoes, really. I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET YOU, BABY LEE!

IMG_2081

Strawberry White Chocolate Layered Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake:
4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
1 lemon’s worth of zest
Optional: pink food coloring

For the Filling:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon’s worth of zest
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped white chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

For the Icing:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 lemon’s worth of zest

Butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients. Add half of the buttermilk and beat until just combined.  Add the remaining flour and buttermilk and beat until just  combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and finish incorporating the batter with a spatula. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure there is no butter or flour hiding down there. Fold in the chocolate chips. Add any food coloring if need be.

Divide the batter among the cake pans. Spread batter evenly in each pan then rap each pan on the counter top to help the batter settle and eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until bubbled and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Insert a skewer into the center of the cake. Cool cakes in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cooled completely, place on cake boards, wrap in saran wrap and freeze for 30 mins to an hour.

To make the frosting, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, cream cheese and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once soft peaks form in the whipped cream, keep an eye on it. Continue beating just past the soft peak stage.

To assemble the cake, place three strips of parchment paper onto a cake plate or cake stand. Place one cooled cake round atop the parchment paper. Level with a large knife. Spread a generous amount of whipped cream atop the first layer. Arrange half of the sliced strawberries atop the whipped cream and sprinkle with half of the finely chopped white chocolate.

Level the second (middle) cake layer and place atop the frosted layer. Top with more whipped cream, the remaining sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with the remaining white chocolate. Top with the last cake later. Spread whipped cream across the top of the cake and smooth along the sides. This is your “crumb coat.” Freeze the entire cake for 30 minutes.

Make the icing: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest. Take the naked cake out of the freezer and gently smooth the icing over the gently frozen crumb coat? Wasn’t that easy?

I decorated with shaved white chocolate and fondant flowers brushed with edible gold powder. NBD.

Advertisements

Fueling up

Title_Image_1

Although I am prone to baking sweet sweet desserts, every so often I do make something savory (and that I actually consume instead of pawn off to coworkers and friends). I thought about bringing this dish to thanksgiving to moderate the carboload, but quickly reconsidered to avoid having to defend quinoa to my entire extended family. Japanese people take their grains very seriously.

photo (3)

This is a second-hand recipe from 101 Cookbooks, grandfathered from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman is more or less a prophet of the plant-based diet, his NTY column his prophecy. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks is also a veg goddess in her own right, and I’ve made many of her recipes to stellar reviews. Her SF-based blog is also an aesthetic inspiration, with great photography that really captures the misty and magical essence of her city.

The butternut squash quinoa bake you see before you is a deliciously hearty vegan recipe that I made entirely with ingredients from my CSA box! Whenever I am able to use 80% of my produce the first week it feels like a major feat… It’s the small things!

photo (5)It’s time to fuel your body well in these final weeks of the year! Your body will thank you after you’ve wrecked havoc on it with a champagne diet on NYE, which is a completely acceptable social diet when you’re used to spinach, quinoa and kale the rest of the year, right? RIGHT??

Mark Bittman’s Autumn Quinoa Bake
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup quinoa (Bittman and Heidi both use Millet, but I had quinoa on hand)
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (learn to appropriately cut a butternut squash here)
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced thyme and/or rosemary
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed water (or stock) over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes. (Don’t forget to cover! I did the first time and needed to add a lot of water to make up for the dryness)

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned, another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like).