Cherry Almond Cake

Adjusting to cooking/baking and figuring out when/where/how to shoot the results in the house has been an interesting process.  Back in the apartment, I did most of my shooting on the radiator cover in the kitchen because it was convenient, and it got good light.

Things in the house have been a little tricky, especially when we first moved in.  I keep the window shades drawn in the kitchen because the house next door (aka across the driveway, we do kind of live in a city) is being seriously renovated and I don’t need the men over there knocking down walls and such to judge me as I meticulously arrange food, photograph it, then put it away.

But of course, I had nowhere else to shoot really and I liked the look of the kitchen floors, so I started there.  Of course I forgot that there was one other obstacle that I’d never ecountered before…a pet able to roam the entire house.  And so my first floor shoot was photobombed by my rabbit.  Not fun.

Bunny photobomb.

So I decided to shoot on the porch floor, where the bunny is not allowed.  But getting certain shots on the floor is hard.  It’s great for overheads but that’s about it.  Finally, we bought a table from Ikea.  It now resides on the porch and is my official shooting table.  But I made this cake before I had the table, which is why it was shot on the kitchen island.  Which doesn’t get great light.  Thank goodness for the free version of photoshop I got for work in college.

This cherry cake was one of the first things I made in the house.  It was the perfect welcome-to-your-new-kitchen cake.  Which means it helped me figure out the temperature variations in the new oven.  Scary I know, but thankfully I didn’t burn it.  In fact, this melding of cherry and almond into a moist, sweet cake was just what I needed after moving heavy objects around all day.

Cherry Almond Cake

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Makes one 9” cake, about 10 servings

For the cake:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 ½ cups fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted and halved

For the almond streusel topping:

¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup almond paste, crumbled
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
pinch of salt

For the almond glaze:

½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or pie plate. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix until combined.  Gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Transfer batter to prepared pan and arrange cherries on top of batter.

Next make the almond streusel topping.  In a small bowl combine flour, brown sugar, almond paste, butter, and salt. Mix together with your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.

Bake cake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and just enough milk to make a pourable glaze. Remove cake from pan and drizzle the glaze over it, then let set for 10 minutes.  Cut and enjoy!



White Chocolate Strawberry Almond Muffins

I am not spontaneous.  Ok, wait, that came out wrong, let me try again from the other side.  I am a planner.  Some may even call me a compulsive planner.  I want to know about things happening well in advance; I like to make schedules, menus, to-do lists, etc.

So when things happen that I don’t plan for, like say, you go to get your pork shoulder out of the fridge to get it ready to sit in the slow cooker for 8 hours because you’re making dinner for your fiancé’s boss and his wife that night, and even though the sell by date on the meat is today, the edges of the meat are turning green.  Yes, green….bleck.

It’s 9am, and you need a pork shoulder in your slow cooker fast.  You’re still in your pajamas, and halfway to tears over the money you lost on the first pork shoulder.  You manage to pull yourself together, but then trip over your rabbit going up the stairs to change and scrape your elbow.  You then head to the grocery store, thanking every god known to man you only live 3 mins from Stop & Shop.  You sprint to the meat section, select a new, very pink pork shoulder and rush back to the check out area like a wide receiver running for a game-winning touchdown, cradling your precious pork shoulder right in the crook of your arm.

And then you’re back home at 9:20, slapping some serious dry rub on that shoulder, crisis averted.  *whew* But then you realize you totally forgot to write a blog post the night before because you were too tired after your dancing lesson. *cringe*  I’m only human guys.

Lucky for me I had a fantastic breakfast that morning by way of these muffins.  They combine white chocolate, strawberries and almond meal together in one perfect little parcel; not too sweet, and full of flavor.

White Chocolate Strawberry Almond Muffins

Adapted from Honey & Jam

Makes 8-10 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup almond flour or almond meal
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda

2 large eggs
¼ cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup honey
½ cup chopped white chocolate
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin.  Mix dry together ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine wet and dry until well incorporated. Gently fold in white chocolate and strawberries.  Divide batter into cups; you will most likely not need all 12.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes before removing muffins.


White Chocolate Brownies with Meringue

We have officially acquired a house.  Though we crossed the threshold yesterday as its new owners, it doesn’t feel like ours yet.  Maybe it’s because it’s vacant, its open spaces like a daunting, gaping maw ready to swallow us whole and envelop us completely in adulthood responsibility.

I think once we put some of our stuff in there it’ll feel homier.  I’ll think about the black hole of adulthood later, when the plumbing backs up, or a tree falls down on the house. (Knock on wood.)

Even though we’re not moving out of our apartment until the 14th, there’re already two realtors coming by today to show the place to potential lessees.  Anyone ever had their place being shown while they were still in it?  Like physically there.  I’m going to sit in the dining room and pretend nobody is judging how messy I am.  Sigh.

I’ve heard that baking cookies before showing property is beneficial, as the smell is welcoming and inviting, making people feel at ease.  Since we don’t own this apartment though, I’m not baking cookies.  Maybe I’ll set out a plate of these brownies, or maybe having people look upon my adorable house bunny will suffice.

More brownies for me that way.  While these bars aren’t the most photogenic (yeah, my meringue is a little strange looking) they’re still mighty tasty.  Imagine a dense, chewy brownie flavored by white chocolate and ground almonds.  Plus a crispy, slightly sweetened meringue shell on top.  You know you want to.

White Chocolate Brownies with Meringue

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Makes one 9×13” pan (about 30 brownies)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup finely ground almonds or almond meal

½ tsp salt

1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

2 tsp grated orange zest (I used lemon zest)

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the meringue topping:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

pinch of salt

½ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13” pan and place the pan on a baking sheet; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, and salt.  Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of only-just simmering water.  Put the butter in the bowl, top with the chopped chocolate and stir frequently until the ingredients are melted.  You don’t want them to get so hot that the butter and white chocolate separate, white chocolate can be finicky, so keep an eye on it.  Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan of water.

Working in another large bowl, rub the sugar and orange/lemon zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Add the eggs and beat for about 3 minutes, or until pale and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla.  Carefully blend in the melted butter and chocolate, then mix in the dry ingredients, stirring only until they disappear into the batter.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Set aside while you make the meringue.  (Or skip that step if you wish.)

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with a hand mixer on medium speed until they are foamy and just turn opaque.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream.  Whip the whites until they form firm, but still glossy peaks.  Gently spread the meringue over the brownie batter.

Bake for 30-35 minutes (mine ended up in the oven for close to 50), or until the meringue is browned and crackly and the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan.  To make sure mine were done, I looked at the bottom of the pan to see if the bottom of the brownies were uniform.  This will obviously only work with a clear pan.  Once yours are done, transfer the pan to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature in the pan, then cut and serve!

Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

This post has a disclaimer, which is, if you make this cake, and it sinks in the middle, don’t blame me.  I’ve made this cake twice, and it happened to me both times.

Obviously it wasn’t such a bad sinkhole that the cake was ruined, but it was, how shall I put this…less than pretty.  Hence all the pictures of evenly cut slices.  You don’t want to see the whole loaf.  It’s kinda of a mess.

But it’s a delicious mess.  Which is truly the only reason why I’m posting about a dessert that ended up ugly twice.  I think the sesame is the culprit, but I love the flavor of those delicate little seeds so much, I refuse to make this cake without them.

When I first saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, I knew I had to make it.  Even though you need a spice grinder (in technicality only because no, I do not own a spice grinder.) Instead, I used my mortar and pestle to grind the sesame seeds by hand.  Maybe that’s why it fell in?  To avoid buying a spice grinder or risking a sinking cake, you could buy black sesame paste at your local Asian market.

Why I am just thinking of that now?!?!?  Okay, seriously, this cake is so good, I’m going to go out and buy sesame paste and try it again.  The combination of black sesame, almond flour and pear chunks may sound strange, but it works.  It works so well I want this cake on hand at all times.  It works so well I implore you to make this cake even though it’s ugly.  I promise it’ll be worth your while.

Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2012

Makes one 9X5” loaf cake

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup almond flour or almond meal

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 Tbsp plus ½ cup black sesame seeds (or sub in ½ cup black sesame paste)

1 ½ cups sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

¾ cup buttermilk

1 medium firmly ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored and cut into ¼” cubes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9×5” loaf pan, or six 4×2” mini loaf pans and set aside.

Whisk 1 ½ cups flour, next four ingredients, and 2 Tbsp sesame seeds in a medium bowl.  Grind remaining sesame seeds in a spice mill (or mortar and pestle) to form a thick paste, about 2 minutes.  You can also try substituting ½ cup store-bought black sesame paste here.

Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined, 2-3 minutes.  Add sesame paste and beat until blended, 1-2 minutes.  Add egg and egg yolk.  Beat until pale and fluffy, another 3-4 minutes.  Beat the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Toss pears with remaining 2 Tbsp flour in a small bowl and fold into the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s) and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the top with brown sugar or turbinado sugar.

Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 1 hour 40 minutes for the large loaf and 45-55 minutes for small loaves.  Let cool in pans on a wire rack, then invert and serve.

Almond Poppy Seed Pancakes

50% chance of rain today, some of it could be heavy.  Fabulous…gym graduation here I come.  I decided to get up extra early and get a post in before I leave to sit in rush hour traffic for over an hour.

And then find a halfway decent place to park on the hilliest college campus on Earth.  Better wear my comfiest rain shoes.

Diego’s mom has a pillow, or maybe it’s a plate…either way, it says “When things are going from bad to worse, keep a cookie in your purse.”  That just resonates with me on so many levels.  I always bring snacks with me when I go out, though pancakes are a little tricky to transport.

So those are mostly for home snacking, which you all know I do quite often, and thus require a wide variety of pancake options.

I had never thought to combine poppy seeds and almonds, but this is one great fusion.  I really like poppy seeds, even if they get stuck in my teeth, and then I start chewing on one later and it tastes weird.  They lend a certain earthiness that is hard to find elsewhere.  Wouldn’t a nice stack of these babies be tasty this coming weekend?  I’ll let you decide, but I vote yes.

Brain shaped pancake.

Almond Poppy Seed Pancakes

Adapted from Cooking Classy

Makes 15 about pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup almond flour
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 ¼ cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp applesauce
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, egg, vegetable oil, applesauce, almond extract and vanilla extract until evenly combined.  Pour buttermilk mixture into dry mixture and stir just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy (just be careful not to over-mix so you’ll have fluffy pancakes).  Grease a large skillet or griddle and set it over medium low heat.  Pour about 1/4 cup mixture at a time onto the skillet.  Flip the pancake when golden on bottom and bubbles start to form on the surface.  Cook opposite side until golden.  Transfer pancakes to a large plate and serve with your favorite toppings.

Almond Green Tea White Chocolate Bars

Check out this sweet screen shot.  You see that awesome muffin photo?  Yeah, I took that.  And now it’s on a website that doesn’t belong to me.  Living the dream.  (Oh, and thanks KA!)

Yesterday Luke called me from work to tell me his boss had just brought in some parsley for our little Izzy.  Goodness knows that rabbit would eat her weight in parsley everyday if she could.

I told him to keep it in the work fridge then bring it home with him.  Upon his arrival at the apartment, he promptly dropped a supermarket sized paper bag in my lap.  It was half full of parsley.  Packed parsley.  Oh my, the rabbit will feast well.  Even though I had just fed her, we gave her some anyway.  Seeing her chomp on a big sprig of parsley is just about the most adorable thing ever.

Watching me eat these bars, however, is not so adorable.  Like Izzy, I’d very much like to eat my weight in these bars…if I could figure out how many times I’d have to make the recipe to accomplish that.

Or maybe I’ll just make them over and over and over. This is the second time I’ve made them, and I swear they taste better this time around.  Green tea, almonds and white chocolate is one of those interesting, but amazing combos.

The flavors are distinct, yet complimentary, and meld together in your mouth like nothing else.  I’m definitely going to try playing around with these flavors more in the future.

Green Tea Almond White Chocolate Bars

Adapted from Hungry Rabbit 

Makes one 8X8” pan

For the almond batter:
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

For the green tea batter:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp matcha (green tea) powder
1 large egg
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang and grease.

Whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and extracts; mix until combined. Add flour mixture, and mix carefully, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined. Fold in white chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, granulated sugar, butter, flour, green tea powder, egg, and extract until fully incorporated.

Pour half of the almond batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Spoon 3/4 of matcha mixture on top, and spread evenly. Pour remaining batter on top and spread slightly. Top with dollops of remaining matcha batter, about 1 inch apart. Run a knife through layers to create a swirl pattern.

Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 45-55 minutes. Cool bars in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, lift bars from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Meyer Lemon Cake

Whoa, it’s Leap Day.  That’s exciting?  It’s also hump day, Wednesday, that middle day that tells us to keep going, we’re almost done with the week after this day.  As a hump day keep me up, here’s a cute bun pic.  Maybe this’ll become a thing.  “Hop Day” with Izzy.

Another way to revitalize yourself as winter drags on into March is winter citrus.  My mom took a trip to CA a while ago and brought back some meyer oranges from her friend’s backyard.  Gosh I wish I had fruit trees at my beck and call.  How neat would it be to go just go outside your front door and pick some amazingly fresh fruit?!?!

Maybe someday when Luke and I actually own property.  Right now my dreams of lush gardens and orchards are beings buoyed by the tiny shoots of the herb garden I’m starting.  Hey, they’re green and alive, so who cares if they’re only 1 ½ inches tall.  Not me, I can see the fresh thyme, dill and rosemary (among others) already.

Anyway, back to lemons.  My mom, being the lovely lady that she is, saved a few of the lemons for me, and I wanted to do something nice with them.  So I made a cake.  An almond and meyer lemon scented cake.

I added lemon curd in between two layers of the batter, but I couldn’t really tell if it made a difference in the way the cake tasted.  Which was awesome, by the way.  Super moist, with just the right balance of almond and citrus.

I enjoyed this cake on a fancy place accompanied by a steaming cup of afternoon tea.  And also off my bare palm at 8am. Oh yeah.

Meyer Lemon & Almond Cake

Adapted from Always with Butter

1 cup cake flour

1/3 cup almond flour (or you can finely ground almonds in a food processor)

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

zest of 2 meyer lemons

1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla extract)

2/3 cup sour cream


Grease/butter a 9” springform pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all dry ingredients (flour-salt) in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated after each one.  Add zest and almond extract and stir to combine.  Gradually mix in dry ingredients, then fold in the sour cream.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-45 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I added swirls of lemon curd after adding a little batter, then poured the rest on top.  After the cake had cooled, you could not tell that the curd had been added, so don’t feel like you need to do this…it was just a little experiment.