Strawberry Wedding Cake with Swiss Buttercream Frosting


The first day of June started appropriately enough with the smell of barbecue smoke wafting through our open window. The night before, we turned off our rain-themed sound machine to find a good old fashioned thunder storm raging outside. Water splashed in fat droplets as we pressed our noses to the screen, drinking in that elusive smell of imminent summer. Spring in New Haven took its sweet, abundant time this year, with day after day of heavy iron-grey skies and sputtering clouds that finally gave way to cherry and magnolia blossoms. The peonies in our back yard burst into a beauty so extravagant, their own stems sagged with the weight of it.


These glorious first days of summer also marked my first professional baking assignment: the wedding cake for our roommates and best friends, who got married right here at our house in East Rock. The cake, (strawberry, six-layers, topped with Swiss buttercream frosting), fit Mike and Shea perfectly. Watching them cut into it, surrounded by loved ones, I felt unexpectedly proud and deeply fulfilled.


I won’t bore you with the entire process, as I doubt you are in the market to bake a wedding cake at the moment (let’s just say the amount of butter and sugar involved in all phases of testing this cake was nothing short of staggering), but should the urge ever strike you, Deb from Smitten Kitchen will walk you through the entire process with a kind and gentle hand.  I based my layers on her Pink Lady Cake and used her phenomenal Swiss Buttercream recipe as well. The frosting is easy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and works on any cake.

Stay tuned for some exciting news on the blog soon…It’s good to be back!

Little Sister Links:

  1. I made my second video!!
  2. I loved this list of the 100 greatest home cooks of our time.
  3. Olive oil? Lemon? Dark chocolate? This banana bread includes all of my favorite things…
  4. We were NEVER allowed Rice Krispie treats as kids, so I might just have to whip up this grown-up version to make up for lost time.
  5. Take a moment out of your day to read this poem.

5-Ingredient, 5-Minute Chocolate Bars

I’ve always had the opposite of a sweet tooth. As a little kid, I used to sneak sips of olive juice straight from the jar. I gravitated more toward taramasalata and extra sharp cheddar than Oreos or fruit rollups. My penchant for salt still disturbs many people in my life, including my brother, who has to avert his eyes when I’m applying salt at the table. Hey, it runs in the family! My grandma was known to salt everything from salads to grapefruit, and she lived to 92.

As I fall more and more in love with baking, I tell myself it’s just a side effect–you know, par for the course to sneak a spoonful of cookie dough here and there. But in the past two weeks, I’ve baked a chocolate babka, lemon poppyseed muffins, a grapefruit yogurt olive oil cake, peanut butter cookies, and a 3-layer strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I suppose I must confess–my proverbial tooth is sweetening.

Good thing I have a gym membership!

These days, even when I get home from work exhausted beyond the point of forming coherent sentences, my mind is already mixing batter, taking stock of the odds and ends left in my pantry, envisioning the next sweet treat I can force on my friends.

Recently while scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled on a photo of Erin Ireland’s puffed rice chocolate bar, made only with cocoa powder, coconut oil, and maple syrup. I rushed to my pantry and whipped up a batch in 5 minutes. I upped the maple syrup to balance out the coconut flavor and (of course) added a little salt.

These bars are SERIOUSLY delicious and perfect if you’re looking for a fun, easy, kitchen project, no baking involved. Chances are you already have the ingredients on hand!

All you have to do is mix, pour, add toppings, and chill. I opted for toasted cashews, sea salt, and rose petals on one bar and toasted quinoa and puffed rice on the other. But really, it’s up to you! Get creative with any odds and ends you have on hand. I’m already scheming about flavor combinations for my next batch…cardamom pistachio? Hazelnut brown butter?

The rich, velvety, not-too-sweet base has a fudge-y consistency and makes the perfect canvas for flavor experimentation. I guarantee these won’t last in your freezer for more than a day.

Have fun and let me know what you think!

Recipe adapted from Erin Ireland

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup pure grade A maple syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Topping suggestions:

  • For my take on a rice krispie treat:
    • About 1/4 cup toasted crisp rice
    • About 3 Tablespoons toasted quinoa
  • For my rose-cashew bar:
    • 1 teaspoons crumbled rose petals (found in bulk at most health food stores)
    • 1/4 cup toasted cashews, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1. Line a baking sheet, loaf pan, or any sized tart pan with parchment paper. If you want a thicker bar with a defined rectangular shape, use the bottom of a loaf pan. For a thinner, free-form bar, use a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil, cocoa powder and maple syrup until smooth and fully incorporated. Stir in salt and vanilla.
  3. Pour mixture into your prepared pans and chill in the fridge for a few minutes (just to bring the coconut oil down to room temperature).
  4. Remove from fridge and sprinkle desired ingredients on top.
  5. Chill in freezer until firm, about 10 minutes. Break off a piece and enjoy! Store in the fridge if you prefer a fudge-y consistency, and in the freezer for a more brittle texture.

Little Sister Links:

  1. I made my first video!!
  2. Here’s my reading list for the foreseeable future…
  3. It’s officially Spring, which means…RHUBARB! Here’s some inspiration for baking with my all-time favorite ingredient. Rhubarb tarte tatin, anyone?!
  4. Planning a road trip? Keep this list handy for the best bakery in every state.
  5. Looking for an amazing food blog? Check out my friend Daniela, whose Mexican and Korean-inspired recipes are approachable, creative, and insanely beautiful!

Coconut, quinoa & cashew granola

During my senior year of college in the tiny town of Grinnell, Iowa, I lived with five other girls in a huge, rambling farmhouse on the edge of campus. Rent, if you can believe it, was under $200 a month. The house had creaky wood floors, no laundry, one working shower, and a terrifying basement I never set foot in (maybe there was laundry down there?!). I lived upstairs with Hannah, while Ellyn, Eliza, Carla, and Zoe lived downstairs. My room had five windows, two closets, and a small “office” (#RuralIowa). The tiny kitchen had about one square foot of counter space, but believe it or not, I couldn’t have cared less about food. While my housemates baked cookies and whipped up dinners that made the house smell heavenly, I was probably dipping Fritos in hummus in the student center grill. (You should try it sometime—it’s actually delicious.)

A few months ago, I got an email from Carla with a link to an old article from our college newspaper, the Scarlett & Black, describing our house dynamic and each member’s unique cooking style. Allow me to quote a particularly poetic paragraph:

While Leas cooks ‘random sh*t,’ Rodriguez’s style is ‘down home, whatever that means.’ Ochs likes ‘gourmet,’ but also ‘whatever’ and Eckland prefers ‘Southwest.’ Bauman enjoys a ‘Mediterranean diet’ and Mendel’s appetite can best be summarized by ‘cereal.’

…And, friends, it was true. I’ve always nurtured an undying love for cereal of all kinds, from Frosted Flakes and Reese’s Puffs to the “healthy” varieties called things like Harvest Yam Puffs and Ancient Maize Grains. I do not discriminate. My friends got used to me loading up my bowl with the dining hall’s signature granola and then methodically sorting through to remove the raisins one by one.

While I like to think my palate has developed slightly since my college years, I am still powerless before the supermarket cereal aisle. Luckily, I’ve figured out how to make granola at home to satisfy my nightly Cereal Course without all the terrifying additives, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients. Made with olive oil, coconut oil, and maple syrup, this granola is nutty, crunchy, and toasty. It’s not too sweet, not too complicated, and has just a hint of salt. It’s perfect on greek yogurt or eaten by the handful from the jar. The key is toasting the ingredients before combining and baking them. This lends the whole thing a warm flavor and allows the coconut flakes to stay extra crunchy. (By “toasting,” I mean tossing in a skillet on high heat until golden.) Try it and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
  • ½ cup raw unsalted cashews, roughly chopped, toasted
  • 2 ½ tablespoons uncooked quinoa, toasted
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • Hearty pinch coarse salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to. Add olive oil, maple syrup, and coconut oil and stir to incorporate evenly.
  3. Spread granola evenly on two baking trays and bake for 12 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the granola to make sure it doesn’t get too dark. You want a nice, toasty, golden brown, so if this happens before 12 minutes, feel free to take it out early.
  4. Remove trays  from oven and place on racks to cool. Stir one more time and allow granola to cool completely before snacking storing.

Little Sister Links:

  1. “Eat what you love.” This Great British Bake Off alum is preaching some serious words to live by
  2. For those who geek out on the subject of caramelizing onions
  3. Have you ever baked a babka? This one’s at the top of my list!
  4. Also on my list is this mysterious 3-ingredient stovetop mac’n’cheese that comes together in under 10 minutes. Can you guess the secret ingredient?
  5. Currently my favorite snap on the internet.

The Little Sister Gift Guide: 5 Essentials for Every Kitchen

When it comes to the kitchen, I rely most on the simplest tools. I’ve rounded up a list of my five favorites. Ranging from $10 to decadent splurge, I depend on each with faithful adoration. I hope there’s something here that inspires you! I read somewhere that this lemon press is Ottolenghi’s favorite gadget. Simple and affordable, it’s fully worthy of the poetic lemon. GET THE FULL LIST!

Kitchen Conversations: Baking with Bridget

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that as a child I was a very picky eater. I wanted nothing to do with the seven fishes stew my mom served on Christmas Eve. I wouldn’t touch the sugar-dusted Linzer tortes my sister baked, taking some unfathomable offense to the texture of jam. My sister has always been worlds ahead of me in this regard. While I munched on sugar cookies and inspected the presents under the tree, Bridget was improvising with spices for her latest batch of gingerbread or glazing a freshly baked poppy seed lemon bundt cake. …KEEP READING

Mastering the Art of Eating Toast

This morning my boyfriend asked me politely to inspect a giant wasp buzzing ominously around the shower. With a deft and well-trained hand, I scooped the long-legged insect into a glass and carried her safely to the great outdoors. This is one of the many things my New Jersey boyfriend had to get used to when he signed on to date a girl from the Berkshires. …KEEP READING

Walnut & Salted Caramel Tart

The first snow is always sacred. This year it fell steadily and softly, without any wind, just in time for Thanksgiving. I’m sitting at home with a cup of tea, marveling at the silent white landscape. …KEEP READING

Sweet Challah with Salted Honey Butter

Sometimes I wonder if I’m 25 or 80. At the moment, I’m knitting and waiting for my tea water to boil. I spent the day baking. There was a time when I may not have believed that my future self would be such a homebody, but when I look back, the signs were all there. …KEEP READING

Perfectly Rustic Apple Tart

Somehow—even though it feels like just minutes ago I was lying on a blanket in my backyard reading in the shade of towering sunflowers—it’s already November. A week ago I woke up to snow. I watched it with a cup of tea between my hands as visions of coziness danced in my head.  …KEEP READING

Tomato, cream cheese & avocado toast

I once made a grilled cheese sandwich for Yo Yo Ma. I’d heard from my co-workers that he tended to frequent the quiet little cafe where I worked one college summer, but that didn’t stop my heart from doing double time when he walked in one Sunday during brunch.  …KEEP READING