Funfetti Birthday Cake

There are few people in this world who merit a 3-layer funfetti birthday cake. My sister in law, Devora, happens to be one of them. She’s the loveliest person and when she asked me to bake her birthday cake this year, I was honored. Devora is a huge sprinkle-lover (she introduced me to ordering vanilla milkshakes with rainbow sprinkles) and I knew immediately that her birthday cake had to be funfetti. Sprinkles just make people happy.  This cake tastes way better than the classic boxed cake version and elicits all the fond memories of that birthday cake you ate in 1998. While not for the faint of heart or organically-inclined (hello, butter!), this cake is perfection in every other way and enhances a birthday second only to cold-hard cash.  I decided to really go for it here and cover the entire cake in sprinkles. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, as it yielded the desired results – lots of oohs and ahhs, but my kitchen was a sprinkle massacre and hasn’t recovered yet from the whole ordeal. You’ve been warned.

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funfetti birthday cake recipe

funfetti cake recipe

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funfetti cake recipe

There’s something oddly ethereal about this pic.

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Funfetti Cake

Adapted from Molly Yeh’s recipe in her cookbook, Molly on the Range

Cake
2½ cups flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 large egg whites
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla (I used McCormick brand)
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup rainbow sprinkles

Frosting
1¾ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3½ cups powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons clear imitation vanilla
2 tablespoons whole milk

2 cups sprinkles for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8 or 9-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the oil and the vanilla extract. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry mixture and the milk in two or three alternating batches and mix until just barely combined.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the sprinkles until they’re evenly distributed. Distribute the batter among the cake pans, spreading it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. for cupcakes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Add the salt, extracts, and milk and beat to combine. Frost the cake and decorate with sprinkles as desired.

Key Lime Pie

Meal prepping is a lifestyle that’s just not right for me.  I respect the practice and know it has a lot of merit but it’s kind of depressing. First of all, who wants to spend a Sunday night boiling eggs and washing and chopping vegetables? The sunday scaries are hard enough.  Plus, you’re basically eating leftovers for a week straight. It sparks no joy in me. And if we were Marie Kondo-ing my life, we’d eliminate meal prep for this very reason.

At the opposite end of the spectrum in a place far away from 3-day old grilled chicken and quinoa is key lime pie. It’s decadent. It’s tropical. It’s fun!  It’s everything that meal prep is not and that’s why you should make one this week. 

Besides for the muscle required in juicing 10 limes, key lime pie is pretty easy to make. And the payoff is huge. Perfectly tart custard piled high with whipped cream all nestled in a buttery graham cracker crust. It’s sheer perfection as Mary Berry would say if she tasted a slice of my pie.

I used Alison Roman’s recipe from her cookbook, Dining In. This cookbook has quickly become a favorite – and I’m a discerning cookbook scholar. For the topping, Roman combines freshly whipped cream and Greek yogurt which yields a delightful tart yet rich topping which complements the lime nicely. She also uses coconut oil (in addition to butter) in the graham cracker crust for a nice tropical island vibe. Crank the heat in your apartment, turn on the reggae channel on Pandora and eat a slice of this pie on a Sunday night. It’s way better than meal prepping, I promise.

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Key Lime Pie

From Alison Roman’s Dining In

Crust
10 graham crackers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
A pinch of kosher salt

Filling
4 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons lime zest, plus more for garnish
1 cup lime juice, about 10 limes
Pinch of kosher salt

Topping
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt


Preheat oven to 350°. Using your hands, crush graham crackers in a large bowl until coarsely ground. You can also use a food processor but don’t pulverize it; you want some nice texture.  Add the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and salt and mix until well blended. Press the crust evenly in a 9″ pie dish. Use your fingers and work the crust up the sides of the pie dish. Bake crust, until lightly golden brown about 10 minutes. Let the pie crust cool while you make the filling.


Using an electric mixer on medium speed or a whisk beat the egg yolks until pale and light – about 5 minutes. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and beat for another 3 minutes until mixture is pale and frothy.  Whisk in the lime zest, juice, and salt. Pour into the crust. Bake pie until filling barely jiggle in the center – about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.


Whip cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Add in the yogurt and mix until just combined. Top the cooled pie with the cream leaving the outer rim exposed for a nice contrast. Garnish pie with lime zest.

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Blueberry Galette

In need of a supremely easy summer dessert that will impress your guests? Or just yourself? Look no further than the galette.  Not into artfully arranging fruit in a symmetrical pattern? This recipe is a straight mix and dump situation.  Top with vanilla ice cream for sheer perfection.

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Blueberry Galette

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 stick cold butter
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons sugar plus extra for the crust
2 tablespoons milk or almond milk

Filling:

2 cups blueberries
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Using two forks, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes course in texture.  Slowly pour in the ice water, a little bit at a time until the dough starts to stick together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and form into a flat round disk. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Mix the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt in a bowl.

Roll out your dough into a 12-inch diameter circle on a piece of parchment paper. Dump the fruit in the center of the dough. Fold the edges toward the center of the galette. Brush edges with egg wash.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m on a cookie kick. It started last Sunday morning when I woke up to the sound of little girls shouting outside my window. “Girl scout cookies! Girl scout cookies! $4 a box!” It realllly made me want to start my day with a thin mint. But I have more self control than that. I held off until about noon, bought 4 boxes of cookies and then decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies. If you are ready to take your chocolate chip cookie to the next level, you need to add sea salt to the mix. Both in the dough and sprinkled on top  – sea salt delivers on flavor. In a big way. These cookies are also the perfect blend of crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Cookie nirvana. IMG_4353IMG_4352

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Heat oven to 360°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well. Beat in sea salt and baking soda until combined, then the flour on a low speed until just mixed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a tablespoon, scoop out cookie dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each mound with sea salt. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Let the cookies rest for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Apricot Galette

A galette is a rustic free form tart that can be either savory or sweet. She’s pie’s effortlessly chic cousin who jets off to Europe for the weekend. Is she as refined and put together as pie? No. Is she as sweet as pie? Not a chance (only 3 tablespoons of sugar in this whole recipe!). Is she a little flaky? Yes. But, in some ways her simplicity makes her more sophisticated. She’s rough around the edges and gives zero f***’s. Galette, ladies and gentlemen.

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Apricot Galette

From Food52

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 stick cold butter or margarine
1/4 cup ice water
12 apricots, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons sugar plus extra for the crust
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons milk or almond milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone in the oven.

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Using two forks, cut in the butter until the mixture becomes course in texture.  Slowly pour in the ice water, a little bit at a time until the dough starts to stick together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and form into a flat round disk. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Mix the apricots in a bowl with the sugar and cornstarch.

Roll out your dough into a 12-inch diameter circle on a piece of parchment paper. Lay the fruit in the center of the dough arranging artfully. Fold the edges toward the center of the galette. Brush edges with milk and sprinkle the sugar on.

Place the galette on the pizza stone and bake for about 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let the galette cool on a rack before slicing.

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Salted Caramel Bourbon Cheesecake Bites

This decadent dessert is the perfect treat for a New Year’s Eve party. It’s rich, luxurious, and a fabulous last hurrah bite before you kick off your diet. Unlike New Year’s Eve, this cheesecake bite won’t disappoint and leave you barefoot and full of regret. Perfect for a party, these bites can be topped with whatever you like – fruit, chocolate, or even plain they’re great. Happy 2015!

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Salted Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake Bites

Adapted from this recipe

For the crust:

  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 pounds cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the shortbread:

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in middle. Line an 8-by 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side.

Combine the pecans, butter, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is looks like a coarse meal. Press the mixture evenly into your baking dish and bake until golden brown on the edges, about 25 minutes.

For the cheesecake:

Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a standing mixer until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the processor then add the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and salt and mix until blended.

Pour the mixture over the crust and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean and the center of the cheesecake is just set (it will look like custard), about 40 minutes (mine took closer to an hour) Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the cheesecake cool for 15 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Let the cheesecake cool completely, about 1 hour then stick it in the fridge.

For the caramel:

Stir together the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is completely moistened. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Without stirring but swirling the pan occasionally, let the sugar boil for a bit then add the butter. It will turn a nice caramel color, about 5 minutes. Give the pan a few good swirls to make sure it’s evenly cooking, remove from heat, and carefully add the whiskey.  Immediately add the cream, and whisk until the caramel is smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, at least out 15 minutes.

Assembly:

Pour the lukewarm caramel over the cooled cheesecake, then place in the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 2 hours. When ready to serve, cut into slabs or squares using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. Garnish with sea salt and serve. It can be difficult to cut, but try and stay patient and dip your knife in hot water, it really helps.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Every June in Lanesboro, Minnesota (the rhubarb capital of Minnesota and also my dream birthplace) the annual Rhubarb Festival goes down.  While most of my peers are purchasing tents for Bonnaroo, I’m looking up flights from JFK to Fillmore County Airport for the Rhubarb Festival. Music? Rhubarb Festival’s got it. The Rhubarb Sisters have been crooning about rhubarb since 2006. Sport? Run the Rhubarb 5k to build up your appetite for pie. There’s even a Rhubarb Rant Speakers Corner for those who want to pontificate on rhubarb. Enjoy rhubarb chilis, jams, chutneys, cakes, pies and more. It’s basically heaven and hopefully one day I will get to go to the Rhubarb Festival. But until that day comes, I’m going to have my own Rhubarb Festival in Washington Heights. First thing on the to-do list, make this insanely delicious strawberry rhubarb crisp. Next up at the festival— take your photo with Ruby and Ronald Rhubarb (me and Oliver).  This crisp demands to be served hot with a perfect scoop of really good vanilla ice cream (Haagen-Dazs) on top. Your life just got a whole lot better. Make this every day until rhubarb is no longer in season. Mourn the day when it goes out of season.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

From the goddess of fine living, the Barefoot Contessa

4 stalks of rhubarb cut into 1 inch pieces

4 cups of strawberries, halved

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp corn starch

1 cup flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup quick cooking oats (not instant oatmeal)

1 1/2 sticks of cold hearted butter, diced

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest and 3/4 cup of sugar together in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice. Add to the fruit mixture. Put the fruit into an 8 x 11 inch baking dish. For the topping, mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, the brown sugar, salt and oatmeal together in a standing mixer. On low speed add the diced butter and mix until the mixture becomes crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit until it covers the fruit completely. I got a little nervous here and didn’t put all the crumb topping on top. Mistake. Load it on because the fruit WILL bubble over, so you want a good solid roof of buttery crumble topping to keep the fruit at bay. Bake for 1 hour until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Thank God you are alive.

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Marry me, you beautiful creature.

 

Baby Babka Buns

I have babies on the brain.  No, not in a maternal, newly married kind of way— this blog is not becoming the Pregnant Princess anytime soon. More so in a youngest child with pregnant older siblings kind of way.  (Speaking of baby fever, check out this amazing website my pregnant sister in law, Miriam, alerted me to. Instant mood booster.)  A few weeks ago, a new arrival, Baby Emily, joined the family and I thought what better way to welcome the little nugget of joy into the world than baking Baby Babka Buns in her honor? And for the still pregnant ladies in my life, these will keep your chocolate cravings at bay. And I promise not to judge you when you eat the whole pan. But let’s get real, I’m going to make you work for this. You’re going to want to do some lamaze breathing for these labor intensive indulgences. They don’t take exactly nine months to make, but close to it. Trust me though, the result will be worth the wait. Spirals of gooey, chocolatey-cinnamon in a rich, heavenly dough. And this bun in the oven doesn’t poop, cry or spit up. A dream dessert, really.

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Believe it people. Believe it.

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Baby Babka Buns

From Smitten Kitchen. Because really, who else could dream up these delights? Makes 12 buns.

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1/2 cup milk (girl, put that skim down. Clear eyes, whole milk, can’t lose.)
1/4 cup plus a pinch of sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted room temperature butter, plus more for bowl and muffin tins.

Filling
3 tbsp room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
pinch of salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Egg Wash
1 egg
2 tsp milk

Dough Prep: Warm the milk  and a pinch of sugar in the microwave for 30 seconds.  You want it warm but not too hot to the touch. Stir in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk together egg and 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly whisk in the yeast mixture. Combine flour and salt in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on low and slowly add the egg mixture. Add the butter and mix until combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment and turn mixer on low and let it go for 10 minutes. Butter a large bowl and place dough in the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes or until it doubles in size.

Filling: Place chocolate chips, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until chocolate mixture is very finely chopped. Add butter and pulse until butter is mixed into the chocolate mixture.

Assembly: Take the dough out of the bowl and deflate lightly with your hands. Let it sit for 5 minutes. On a well floured surface (such as your dining room table), roll out the dough into a large rectangle that measures about 11 x 15-20 inches. Sprinkle the filling over the dough evenly. Tightly roll the dough from one short end to the other. With a serrated knife cut the log into 1 inch pieces and place pieces into a buttered muffin tin. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 25 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350. Whisk up egg and milk and brush onto the buns.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. Take a nap. Eat one first though. These truly are a labor of love.

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Too bad this little guy won’t grow up to be a full sized babka…