Some days are just bad. You wake up feeling blue and it continues until you finally stop moping and DO SOMETHING about it. I feel that way a lot recently – looking for work is a challenging and depressing venture with a lot of grasping straws and missed opportunities, or worse just not being good enough. That’s how I feel most of the time, not good enough. I keep hoping that something will change with every job application I submit but with every rejection (and there are a lot) I just feel overwhelmed. I feel like finding full time work that I find meaningful isn’t going to happen. So I retire to my kitchen and I bake. I listen to music and empty my mind a bit. The repetition of measuring, mixing, kneading, frosting – whatever is soothing and comforting. Like cuddling up to a good book, I know that kitchen time can make me feel better. So I try to force myself into the kitchen to bake, or cook, or just… be.
This cake is one of those I need to bake cakes. It got me into the kitchen and out of my head – singing along to some good music and methodically measuring out ingredients. I was soothed by the repetition – also the leftover grapefruit syrup, which made a delicious cocktail. I was calmed by the familiarity. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of grad school, but, honestly, I was not such a great student in college – my grades will hinder my grad school chances. How do I resolve that? I’ve been thinking going back to school for another BA, this was met by vehement and loud nos from all my grad school graduate friends. But I’m at a loss. I just feel not good enough for anything. Maybe I’ve lost perspective. Or maybe I should just eat more cake.
I should eat more of this cake. It’s not too sweet so you can eat a lot of it without falling into a sugar coma and with the grapefruit comes a subtle tang of bitterness that makes it a standout in really decadent ways. But – there’s no butter, it’s an olive oil cake and the citrus in it is only enhanced by the fruity oil. It fits exactly what I’m looking for in a cake right now – it’s unassuming and it delivers a lovely punch. It is a cake for tea time or dessert or breakfast or elevensies (the dictionary for WordPress tells me this is not a word. WordPress you are WRONG). Make it. Eat it. Indulge in it. But make extra of the grapefruit syrup and make a gin cocktail with it. I’ll come help you drink it.
I actually didn’t change a thing from Joanne’s recipe over on her blog, Eats Well With Others (she waited for her cake to cool completely before glazing, I didn’t – my time was tight). So just follow that. Then send me some of the cake. I could use a touch of sweet in my life.
My birthday lands right at the beginning of April – it’s a time when the temperatures can jump from 75 to 45 in a single afternoon and there’s more likely than not going to be a blizzard. Every year I keep my fingers crossed for a nice warm birthday – where I can wear a sleeveless dress and flip flops. I wish for a birthday that will see me sipping a cocktail on some patio in the warm rays of an afternoon. This is all entirely unrealistic. So, instead I settle for giving myself a day of baking – the kitchen is always warm with the oven on and it is quite sunny.
Each year I see my birthday as a baking challenge – a chance to try something I haven’t tried before that I’m daunted by. My birthday is an opportunity to try those recipes that could be potential flops – that way if I mess up someone’s birthday cake it’s MY birthday cake. No harm no foul, right? This year was no different. EXCEPT instead of going out for dinner with BF and my sister I chose to conquer Momofuku Milk Bar.
I threw a dinner party. I made a ton of pasta and asiago cheese riddled focaccia. I invited BF’s and my favorite people over, we drank wine and ate good food. Dan and Mandi made a great sauce that went perfect with the I-drank-too-much-wine-last-night day that followed. Megan made a lovely spinach salad and there was liberal pouring of wine and beer. It was, truly, the best birthday I could ask for. But, in my brilliance, I decided that making two cakes that both required at least three separate pre-made ingredients and a whole bunch of love was the best way to top off this grand evening of debauchery.
I made both of these cakes pretty much exactly according to the recipes – my variation was that I used liquid cheesecake in the chocolate chip cake instead of passion fruit curd. The cheesecake was WAY more accessible. I’m not sharing these recipes today – they are too complex and my pictures are MIA as my hands were typically too much of a mess to photo-document this process. SO all we have left of this cake is a remnant and these pictures. There were twelve of us at the party. We ate most of both of these cakes. I loved them.
And I will assuredly be baking from Momofuku Milk Bar again soon.
Sometimes you need something to aspire to. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and just have a book that you can look at and know, with certainty, that it’s a hair out of your range. That is why I own the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook. I find this book incredibly daunting – like a giant sundae when I’ve already had too much to eat. But I can’t stop myself from picking it up every few months and thinking I should give it a try.
For the record – I’m usually a show no fear kind of cook. I’ll try anything at least once – I’ve made my own bacon and babysat my own sourdough starter so I always think I can handle this cookbook. Which means I pull it out and look up a cake – now a cake in this book has at least four separate ingredients that must be cooked/mixed/pureed/blended before I even consider the possibility of putting it together. I did mention I found the book daunting, ya?
Most people look at this book for the pictures I think – okay the crack pie is fantastic and the compost cookies are extraordinary but the rest of the book is meticulous. Everything is weighed and soothed into the rest of the ingredients. But maybe that’s why I love it, it’s a book of challenges and dares me to break my boundaries a little bit.
I do plan on actually tackling a few of these recipes in the next couple weeks – I’ll share my results. Don’t you worry. Though I’m still a tad intimidated, at least I’m building my own birthday cake so I won’t wreck someone else’s birthday, right?
Last week I was invited to try out a Treat Cupcake Bar cupcake party with the Boston Brunchers. I was pleasantly surprised. I am not the biggest fan of the “Cupcake trend” that’s been pseudo-taking over recently. And Treat is not the most convenient of places to get to, but the party – was FUN. I loved being able to go and play with frostings and candies and fondant (note: I LOATHE fondant) with out having to make all of those ingredients myself. The party was very streamlined from decorating cupcake boxes, to decorating aprons, to decorating cupcakes everything lead into itself in a very smooth way. I thought Treat’s cupcakes were fine in flavor and texture but the experience was SO MUCH FUN. I would totally set this up as a kid’s party, with mini cupcakes though – the ones we left with were HUGE (and there were six of them!). You can learn more about Treat parties here.
This cupcake party was provided free of charge by Treat Cupcake Bar in exchange for this post. All opinions here are my own. I did receive six cupcakes but gave one to my cabbie on the way home, as a thanks.
I pretty much always have apples or pears in my kitchen, they come in my Boston Organics box almost weekly so there tend to be three or four kicking around at all times. But here’s the slightly annoying thing – I don’t eat much fruit, I’ll grab a piece occasionally, I even went through a fit of eating oranges for days this summer, but in general if I want a snack I will reach for a slice of cheese or a yogurt before i grab fresh fruit. I think part of it is that I just don’t like that first bite. I find it terribly unpleasant to bite into an apple or pear if it is the least bit chilled – I know this makes me an anomaly in the world of fresh fruit eating, but I’m an odd duck that way. So eating fresh apples or pears means a cutting board or at least a bowl and a paring knife. Because, in case you didn’t know, fruit is MESSY guys, juicy and sticky it gets everywhere unless you have a bowl to catch the juice in. But I digress.
So really, you must be wondering why I spend my hard earned money on fresh fruit if I’m not even eating it – I love to bake with it. I love the way really ripe fruit will soften and pool in a jammy bite in a cake or muffin. I am entranced by any apple-spice cake combination. And a baked good with apples or pears in it is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser, for whatever reason. SO I finally figured I would share this recipe with you all. This is a recipe I’ve been using since I first picked up Flour over a year ago – I make it once a month or so (seriously, I’m obsessed with this cake) sometimes I add berries or whatever fruit I have lying around. I tweak it, I mostly follow the recipe, I coddle it. It makes my apartment smell like heaven. And, mostly, it makes a great accompaniment to coffee at breakfast or for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
If you like my facebook page you will see this cake as my header there. That picture has been there for a while and I’ve had at least three readers ask for that recipe, this is it. The difference between this cake and that one – I overcooked this one a smidge, but it’s still delicious. I also think this cake would be improved by a little drizzle of your favorite caramel sauce, because, decadent. I really do love the pear here though, it’s sweeter and cooks down a little softer than the apples so you get a little internal texture variation, which I love. If I were making this for only myself I would kick up the ginger a bit more as well, give it a little more zip, but BF isn’t the biggest ginger fan so I try not to overpower all my baking with it.
Apple-Pear Snacking Cake
This recipe is adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook. I’ve had this cake in the bakery and homemade – and it’s perfect in both places. I am looking forward to Flour, Too so much I may offer to beta test a few recipes for Ms. Chang, that way I don’t have to wait! Ha!
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger (I think some finely minced crystallized ginger would be good here too)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
4 cups of fruit (at least 3 cups should be apples/pears the other cup can be berries or whatever you’ve got on hand)- peeled, seeded and chopped
Butter and flour a 10″ round or square cake pan, I use an 8″x11″ rectangle and it works perfectly. Preheat the oven to 350.
Sift the flour, soda, salt, and spices into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and butter. Combine at low-medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Turn the mixer on high and beat the batter until it is light and fluffy, about a minute. I find the batter a bit thick here, but don’t worry too much about it.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter gently, making sure there is a bit of batter on all the fruit. The batter will be quite stiff and look like it’s mostly fruit – it should, that’s a good thing. Add the batter to the prepared pan and even it out gently.
Bake for about 1 hour in the 10″ pan and check it at 45 mins in the 8″x11″ one. When it is done the cake with be a nice golden brown and will fell firm when pressed.
Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack (or somewhere that air can get around the WHOLE thing).
Serve the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
I find this is a cake best eaten slightly warmed, the fruit gets all jammy and fragrant and it’s much more like a warm hug.
Serve with coffee. As breakfast, to your favorite people.