Lemon Dream Layer Cake

with lemon cream

Long time, no see, right guys? I know I’ve been MIA recently, and I’ve even gotten a few texts/Tweets/emails asking when I planned to update the blog again. I know lots of people comment and read this thing, but somehow I still sometimes feel like nobody really cares too much about what I’m doing here (and I mean, honestly, why would they, it’s a blog, there are a million of them), so those of you that reached out, thank you for making me feel incredibly special and loved. Really! I can’t tell you how touched I am when someone asks where I’ve been or what I’m up to or whatever. I’m a part of something and it’s an incredible feeling, not to get too sentimental on you or anything. But yeah, I could blame it on work or whatever else, though I guess I just needed a bit of a break. By the time I get home at night, after being at work all day and then spending the evening either at some event, getting drinks with friends, or maybe even the gym, I get home, make dinner or do chores or whatever else it is that adults are supposed to do to lead healthy, normal lives, and it’s often hard to motivate myself to hop back on my laptop and start editing photos and writing recipes when all I really want to do is zone the hell out and watch some TV or talk to my husband for five minutes. I do miss working on the blog, though. Even sitting here right now, typing out whatever fluff pops into my brain, makes me feel good. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling that I can’t quite describe but after doing this for eight years now, it’s almost like putting on a favorite sweatshirt or listening to a favorite album. It’s weird, I know, but even being away for, what, two or three weeks, makes me miss blogging a whole lot. So I’m going to try harder to be here, to work on this little project of mine, because honestly, I need it. It’s my outlet, my baby, the thing I’ve come to view as a really big part of myself, and even if I’m tired or lazy or whatever, I should make time for it. I get to come here and talk, be it about something trivial like a movie I really liked recently, or more serious, like the anxiety I often feel and am alleviated from by taking photos and recipe testing. So hi, hello, I’m back! Thanks for sticking around.

lemon dream layer cake
I missed you guys, did you miss me?

There’s a bar near my apartment that Kramer and I frequent perhaps a little too much, but it’s basically our Cheers, so we like going. It’s super close and the bartenders are all incredibly friendly, the music is great, and there’s a big, beautiful backyard to hang out in when the weather is tolerable, which for New Yorkers, means anything above freezing. That’s why when one of my favorite bartenders asked if I could make a cake for her friend’s birthday party, I was like, “Yeah, duh.” I wanted it to be extra special, but I’m admittedly not an impressive cake-maker. I can whip up something ~rustic~ pretty easily, but decorating a cake is kind of a daunting task for me. That’s why I turned to lemons. I love a good lemon curd, or in this case, a dreamy lemon cream, and I figured that plus a solid lemon cake could do me no wrong. I did a bit of adjusting, specifically making my cakes a bit bigger because I wanted to make a four-layer cake and knew that my shaky cake-slicing skills would fail me if I tried to slice through a thinner 8-inch round, but otherwise, it was pretty smooth sailing. The directions look daunting, I admit, but this was a cake I spaced out over the course of a few days so as to not go insane. I made the lemon cream a few days ahead of time, and I even made the cakes themselves about a week ahead of time, froze them, and then thawed them out a day before I planned to assemble everything. This is something I highly, highly, highly recommend, because it actually makes for a more moist, yet more sturdy cake, and it gives you more free time on the weekends to binge whatever TV show you’re super into. I also discovered that just piping a bunch of extra buttercream and lemon cream all over your cake in random areas ends up looking pretty good, if I do say so myself, so there’s that. If you like lemon meringue pie or lemon bars or anything tart and sweet and bursting with flavor, then this is truly the cake for you, be it your birthday or otherwise. Thanks for asking me to make this, Anne! It was an honor.

lemon dream layer cake (more…)

Curried Beet Salad

with fava beans

Well, summer’s over, but we had one last hurrah in Virginia and it was phenomenal. Every year, Kramer’s dad and his girlfriend rent a house on the beach somewhere, and the whole family comes out to relax, sunbathe, eat, and do whatever else. I look forward to it every year, and this year was really something else. They went all out on the house, which was not only right on the beach, but had both an indoor and an outdoor pool. It was honestly insane. I felt like a dog with two toys. Which one do I pick? Kramer and I invited our friends Jeena and Taren to come along, since the house was huge, and we all drove down together, which was fun in and of itself. Who doesn’t love a good road trip, filled with snacks and music and rejuvenating car naps? It was great. I even got a slight tan, which is sort of amazing if you know me and my pasty white body. All in all, the vacation was exactly what we needed to end the summer. I’ve got more photos, obviously, but I’m sharing the first batch that I’ve gone through thus far. Yeah, we had a pretty good time.

curried beet salad

Kramer living his best life.

This salad was something I made a few months ago, but put on the back burner in favor of things like pies and cupcakes and whatnot. I don’t think fava beans are in season anymore, but no matter – you can easily sub chickpeas or black beans or any other legume that you’re fond of, and it’ll probably cut some steps out of the recipe, too, since favas have to be blanched and peeled. Either way, I was inspired by this salad from Bon Appetit, but used what I had readily available and made the dressing a bit sweeter, to my liking. I also added the beet greens from the beets, which I usually throw away, but I wanted to add something extra to this salad, preferably green, and wouldn’t you know it, beet greens are super good for you and tasty, too! So I quickly blanched those and added them to the mix. I was surprised at how well received this bowl o’ beets was by the people I served it to. I was even asked for the recipe, if you can believe it! See, people do love vegetables.

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Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes

with 7-minute frosting

Hey! Fancy meeting you here. I know I’ve been out of the game for a couple of weeks. I’ve been busy, work’s been cutting into my blog time, and honestly, summer’s sort of gotten the better of me. In a good way, for sure, but still, I really miss blogging so I’m going to try to make an effort to do better on that front. It’s just been so nice outside, all I want to do after work is grab a drink with friends and sit on a roof or in a backyard or something, not sit inside on my computer after doing that all day at the office. Not that I’m necessarily staring at a screen all day at work, though, I do have a pretty sweet gig. You can follow me on Instagram to see what I’m up to most days. It’s exciting, and it’s usually to do with some kind of delicious food. For example, yesterday, I went to a spot called Emmy Squared and did a video about their delicious gochujang-marinated fried chicken sandwich, followed by–get ready for this–a Rice Krispie treat ice cream sandwich. So yeah, I filmed that, interviewed the adorable married couple who own the restaurant, went to work, edited a video, wrote a script for another video, then did some recipe research, because today, I’m going into our test kitchen to work on some recipe videos. So yeah, life is good, but you can also imagine why the last thing I sometimes want to do when I get home is do more editing and more recipe testing. Summer’s coming to a close, though, so I imagine that means more indoor time and more cooking time. I do love cooking at home, obviously, but when you live somewhere with a summer as short as New York’s, there’s a slight pressure to enjoy it to the fullest before it’s allllll gone. AND guess what? I am low-key tan this summer. I’m not T A N, per say, but for me, I have some color for the very first time in my life, and I am extremely proud of myself for it. It’s the little things, ya know?

cinnamon toast crunch cupcakes

Summer stuff.

One of the perks of being a blogger-slash-video producer is that sometimes people send you random stuff. Nothing crazy, but occasionally I’ll get an unexpected package of, say, five pounds of fresh black cherries (that happened) or, in this case, a box of General Mills cereals. They were doing some kind of contest involving dressing your pets up, but I don’t have any pets, so I just figured I’d make something fun with the cereal. I got a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a box of Cocoa Puffs (still thinking on that one), and a box of Honey Nut Cheerios which I generously gave to my friend because I’m a good person. If you’re looking for cereal, come find me! Either way, my friend Ashlee was having a birthday party a few weeks ago, and while I r-a-r-e-l-y make cupcakes, like very rarely, I decided to give it a go. I wanted to use the CTC, after all, and Kramer was on a business trip at the time, so I had a free afternoon with nothing really going on. The verdict on these cupcakes? They’re freaking awesome. The cake was spongy and moist, and I loved the little surprise of cinnamon-sugar and cereal in the middle. I was going to go for a simple buttercream for the frosting, but at the last minute, switched to a 7-minute frosting, which is actually a lot easier than it sounds and creates this lovely marshmallow-like fluff that spreads like a dream and goes perfectly with the cereal. It’s almost like the milk you’d normally be missing, so I dug it. I topped everything with more cereal and cinnamon-sugar, and ta-da! Cupcakes I can be proud of, which is not something I can say very often, as I am terrible at decorating cupcakes, generally, but these turned out great, so hey! Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

cinnamon toast crunch cupcakes (more…)

Warm Blueberry Shortcakes

with flaky biscuits

I made these shortcakes over a month ago for the Fourth of July. They’re pretty patriotic-looking, aren’t they? They just scream “USA!” to me, which I suppose is perfect since we’re all watching the Olympics right now. Everyone loves strawberry shortcakes, so I figured, why not do the same thing with blueberries, which, in my opinion, are a superior fruit (sorry strawberries). Blueberries are wonderful in New York in the summer, and I love walking to work in the mornings, passing through the Union Square Greenmarket, and smelling all of the berries being warmed by the sun. I know that is literally the most twee sentence I could possibly write, but it’s true. The hot, humid, muggy summer air in NYC lends itself to only one good thing, and that’s trapping the scent of ripening summer berries. It really saves my soul after I get out of the awful, crowded subway.

warm blueberry shortcakes
I still have a few random photos from our California trip last month.

These shortcakes were, for lack of a better term, the shit. They were awesome. This is everything I want in a dessert: something flaky and buttery, something light and airy to cut through the richness of the aforementioned buttery thing, and fruit (lots of fruit). This was like the best deconstructed pie you could possibly imagine. I love peeled layers of these biscuits apart and topping each bit with a little whipped cream and a couple of juicy berries, enjoying each bite slowly because I know I probably shouldn’t go back for seconds (though I just might do that, anyway). I brought these to a barbecue to share with friends and they were all super into building their own shortcakes to eat. I used my favorite biscuit recipe this time around, but I do certainly hold a special place in my heart for those sweet, spongy packages shortcakes that you can buy at the store. My mom always bought them in the summer, and as kids, we’d fill them with sliced strawberries and Cool Whip. It was one of the best things ever, and I always waited just a little bit so the cakes would get a tiny bit soggy from the fruit before digging in. I recommend doing the same with these.

warm blueberry shortcakes (more…)

Raspberry-Cherry Galette

simple and rustic

Hello, old friends. I know I’ve been absent, but it’s been tough to get back into the swing of things after our glorious California vacation. We had a wonderful time on the other coast, soaking up the sun, eating our weigh in tacos (literally), and seeing a pair of good friends get married. We started in Sonoma, then worked our way down to LA. I’ve got plenty of photos to share at some point, of course, but for now, I proudly present the below photo of Kramer and me all dressed up and looking fine, if I do say so myself. We can look pretty good when we put the effort in, don’t you think? Funny enough, I’ve recently received a handful of comments chastising me for posting vacation photos. These particular readers feel that I am “forcing” people to scroll through too many vacation photos, and that it is “selfish” of me to do so. How dare I! How dare I post personal photos on my blog and not simply a recipe. How dare I use this space to not only write about the food I love to cook and bake, but share stories from my life? The nerve, really. I should have remembered that this isn’t my blog, but a public forum in which I am to test, develop, photograph, and write up recipes for the masses. That is apparently my only purpose, according to these jerks. That’s what they are: jerks. The vast majority of people who stumble across my little space are incredibly encouraging, super nice, and totally inspiring. So to you fine people, I say thank you very much for always making me feel like I can share and ramble and be myself here. To those few and far between who want to be rude: please just go somewhere else. The internet is full of wonderful places to find interesting things to cook. If you don’t want to stare into the sunglasses-clad eyes of my husband or myself, or gaze upon the mounds of tacos I ate in the past few weeks, I’m certainly not going to ~force~ you. For now, anyway.

raspberry cherry galette

What we look like when we try.

Annnyway, galettes! Who doesn’t love a galette? I was recently inspired to make some of my own after working on this galette video with Yossy of Apt. 2B Baking Co. She makes it look so easy, and while I don’t find it quite as breezy as she seems to (you go girl), I do love that a galette is totally free form and open to interpretation. You don’t need to worry about much when you’re setting out to make a galette. It’s totally rustic, and meant to have that not-so-perfect charm to it. Folding over the edges of a galette is a wonderful dream compared to the pain in the ass that is folding over the edges of a pie that you are worried about making looking ab-so-lute-ly perfect, you know? In the summer, I know it can be daunting to turn on your oven, but there are often random cool days in between the sweltering ones, and on those days, I highly recommend turning the oven on for 45 minutes so you can bake yourself two of these golden, bubbling treats. I used cherries and raspberries here, but really, you can use any summer fruit you like, and in the fall, maybe hit up some pears and apples in place of the stone fruit. It will be equally delicious and smile-inducing, I promise.

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Baked Coconut Curry Wings

with mango chutney

Welcome to the last photos from our trip to Nevis last month. I can’t believe it’s already been a full month since we were laying on the beach with rum cocktails and no other humans in sight. Nevis ruled. I look at the photos and I can almost pretend I’m still there. Almost. I’m definitely ruined for other beach vacations after this trip. Having a friend on the island who knows everyone and knows where everything is was absolutely fantastic, and the fact that we didn’t have to share the beach with hundreds of other tourists was especially wonderful. At times, it really felt like we were the only people on the entire island. I’ve never experienced that before, but I hope that we can go back again soon (hint, hint McHobbys). While these are the last of my glorious tropical vacation photos for now, they won’t be the last of them forever. I’ll weasel my way back–you’ll see!

baked coconut curry wings

It’s only fitting that I share this recipe for coconut curry wings with you today, as I used Amanda’s mom’s mango chutney, which she makes with mangos from the island itself, as a marinade. I actually made these months ago, but here we are–time really does fly. The chutney added a nice amount of acid to the wings, as well as the right amount of sugar, which helped the chicken really crisp up and caramelize as they baked, which is why they are so perfectly crispy and charred. I had never used anything sweet like this in a marinade before. Usually I’ll add maybe a touch of honey or a teaspoon or two of sugar, but I went in with a full half cup of chutney with these. Paired with the coconut milk and curry paste, I was a big fan of how these came out. If you’re not lucky enough to have handmade mango chutney that your friend’s mom gifted you, not to worry! You can use apricot preserves or orange marmalade instead, and you’ll achieve very similar results. It’s a great way to use up that last bit of jam that’s been sitting in your fridge. Enjoy!

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Apricot, Plum, and Rhubarb Shortbread Crumble

a summertime dessert

Happy July 4th! We’ve had a really fun weekend so far, and we’re headed to a barbecue later this afternoon to round it all out. The weather has been absolutely perfect and we’ve seen fireworks everywhere we’ve been, too, which has been so great. We went out for sushi, spent the day at Governors Island, and even went to a wedding! We usually go out of town for the holiday, but we’ve got a vacation planned in two weeks, so we decided to stay around this year. I think it might be our first 4th of July in the city since we moved here, if you can believe it. The nice thing about being in town for holidays is that New York really clears out. I would imagine that Manhattan is crowded with tourists and whatnot, but our neighborhood is pretty empty and it’s great. You sort of feel like you have the whole city to yourself. I will, of course, have more photos to share, but for now, I’m going to bombard you with more of our Nevis trip. I can’t help it!

apricot plum rhubarb shortbread crumble

Kramer enjoying Nevis.

If you’re headed to a picnic or a BBQ today, this crumble is the perfect thing to make. It’s incredibly easy to throw together, and you can use any random fruit you have laying around. I went all out for this one: apricots, plums, rhubarb, and cherries that I had in my freezer. Pies are all well and good, but you have to plan ahead for that. You have to make the crust, chill it, bake the pie, and then let it cool for a few hours before you can slice into it. This crumble is the lazy man’s pie, and I’m fine with that! Toss your fruit together, add it to a baking dish, crush up some cookies and throw them on top, bake, and serve. If you have some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, hey, all the better. No worrying about cutting up the perfect slice here–just scoop and eat! You’re welcome.

apricot plum rhubarb shortbread crumble (more…)

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

rich & creamy

Long time, no see! Apologies for ghosting you all, but I was in the Caribbean last week, enjoying the sun, sand, and surf of Nevis. Nevis is an absolutely wonderful island where my friend Amanda and her family have been vacationing for her entire life. Her parents even own a home there, so when Kramer and I were asked if we’d like to join them for this past trip, we couldn’t buy plane tickets fast enough. It was absolutely dreamy and I keep looking at our vacation photos, trying to put myself back there. Amanda’s parents’ house is beautiful, with a big, white kitchen, a big patio, a pool, and a neighbor with the best dog ever named Snooker (not pictured below, but don’t worry, I’ll post photos of her, soon). Kramer and I felt like true VIPs during our trip, since Amanda and Matt knew everywhere to go and everyone to talk to. We didn’t have to do any of our usual vacation research, we just showed up and they told us where to eat, which beaches to go to, and where the best grocery stores were. It was perfect. Amanda’s mom’s kitchen was also amazing, obviously. There was a big, wash-basin-like sink (one of my many kitchen dreams), all of the tools you could possibly need, and, of course, an ice cream maker. Kramer insists that we don’t have room for an ice cream maker in our 650-square-foot Brooklyn apartment, and while he may be right, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have one anyway! That discussion is for another day, though, because I finally got to use an ice cream maker for the first time in my life and I was probably a little too excited about it.

toasted coconut ice cream

Kramer and the most chill beach dog we’ve ever encountered. Kramer and her quickly became besties.

I figured that I should start out with this toasted coconut ice cream, seeing as how it evokes tropical thoughts…and also, we had a bag of coconut to use. I meant to put the coconut in some cookies I made the night before, but I forgot and just make regular ol’ chocolate chip cookies, so my forgetfulness was actually a blessing in disguise (for once). I read over the recipe and figured, there’s never a better time than the present. I had never made ice cream before, not even the sweetened condensed milk, no ice cream maker variety, so I will admit I was a little wary. What if it didn’t freeze? It’s pretty hot and humid in the Caribbean, after all! But I went ahead with my little project anyway, figuring that if it didn’t work out, oh well, I’m on vacation, nobody has to know. Thankfully, the only hiccup came when I was churning the final mixture. It just wasn’t solidifying the way that ice cream should. So, I decided I’d put the ice cream in the freezer overnight. That’ll show it. And guess what? That’s all I needed to do, because the next day, it was perfectly frozen, but still creamy and custardy and absolutely delicious. Having said that, I do recommend making this the day before you plan to serve it, just in case you need some extra chilling time, like I did. It’s worth thinking ahead for: homemade ice cream rules. It’s so rich and luscious and unlike anything you could ever possibly buy in the store, probably because it’s only got a few ingredients, all of which are full-fat, full-sugar, and full of tasty goodness. I couldn’t resist buying sugar cones to scoop the ice cream into, and we all enjoyed ice cream for dessert on our final night in Nevis. Maybe this will finally convince Kramer to let me buy that oh-so-coveted ice cream maker after all?

toasted coconut ice cream (more…)

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