Monday, May 27, 2013


Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

Hey guys, no time no see. At least, it feels that way. I mean, last time I talked to you I was 3500 miles away. It somehow seems like just yesterday but also a lifetime ago. Since then I haven't had much time to relax. Running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to see people before they leave on their summer journeys.

For me, this summer will be similar to my last one. Living at home, interning here, and making a lot of cakes, for business and pleasure. I absolutely cannot wait, and I will be sure to keep you guys updated on that front. In some ways...I feel slightly guilty that I'm not doing something really crazy and bold and out there, like some of my other friends, but I think I need this summer to unwind after my adventurous semester. Do you think that's reasonable? 

If nothing else, I can still be daring in the kitchen! I'm pretty disappointed in myself because I just didn't have the resources to do April's challenge (which I will do in the future, now that I'm back and have my full arsenal of kitchen magic, haha). So even though I knew I'd be rushing to get it done, I HAD to do May's challenge - Princess Cake! It's been on my baking list for a while! Apparently the modern recipe is based on a series of recipes developed especially for the Swedish princesses in the 1930's by a home economics teacher named Jenny Åkerström, who taught the princesses. I like recipes with a story. And this cake is pretty incredible, I can see how it was a royal favorite. Layers of sponge cake meld with raspberry jam, custard, and a mound fresh whipped cream. The whole thing is then covered in green marzipan (dunno why, that's just how it is). Swoon, nom. I made mine all silly looking and covered it with plastic animals and big sprinkles so it sort of looks like a weird dinosaur egg. Cause that's how I roll. 


Servings: 8 – 10. Makes one 9” round cake.

Vanilla Custard

1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, divided
4 egg yolks from large eggs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream until smooth. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean and bring just to the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean pod, leaving behind the seeds. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the bowl with the egg mixture to temper the eggs.
2. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick like pudding and just comes to a boil. The mixture must hit a boil for the cornstarch to properly thicken the custard, and also to cook out any starchy taste. If it starts to look curdled or lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth, then return to the heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
(If desired, pass the custard through a fine mesh sieve before continuing.)

3. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cold. Can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Sponge Cake

Fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan (such as crushed panko)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) granulated white sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (65 gm) (2¼ oz) potato starch (or cornstarch)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Thoroughly butter a 9” (23 cm) round springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the buttered pan with enough breadcrumbs to coat the bottom and sides, just like flouring a cake pan. Set aside.
2. Place the eggs and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment until the eggs are tripled in volume and very light colored and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall from the beaters in thick ribbons. Don’t overbeat the eggs – once they form thick ribbons and stop growing in volume, stop beating. 
3. Sift the all-purpose (plain) flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. With a balloon whisk, fold the flour into the eggs until blended, keeping as much air in the batter as possible. Use large, gentle yet confident strokes, bringing batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Once mixed, the batter should be quite thick and smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake in the lower third of the preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes then run a knife around the edge and remove the sides of the springform pan. Don’t worry if it sinks a bit in the middle.
invert the cake onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. If the cake is lopsided, press gently to make it level, then allow it to cool completely before continuing. The cake can be made a day ahead and stored, well-wrapped in plastic, at a cool room temperature.

Marzipan Covering

10 oz (285 gm) marzipan
Green and yellow food coloring
Icing sugar, for rolling

 Knead the remaining marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar until it becomes softer and smooth (the warmth from your hands will help this).
2. Add a small amount of green food coloring (I used 3 or 4 drops of liquid food coloring) and knead it into the marzipan to get the desired shade of green. You might need to add a little more green or yellow food coloring to get the right color – anything from pastel green to bright spring green (just not neon green!) Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until you are ready to cover the cake (or store as directed on the marzipan package).

Prinsesstårta Assembly

2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, chilled
granulated white sugar, to taste (scant 1 tablespoon is plenty)
Sponge Cake, cooled
1/3 cup (80 ml) seedless raspberry jam (or regular jam pressed through a sieve to remove seeds)
Vanilla Custard, chilled
Marzipan Covering
Icing sugar, for rolling and dusting
Optional: melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel

1. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste (keep in mind that the rest of the cake components are sweet, so the whipped cream should be very lightly sweetened at most) and continue whipping the cream until stiff. You want it to be sturdy enough to provide structure to the cake, but not over-whipped enough to make butter. Set the whipped cream aside.
2. With a long serrated knife, slice the sponge cake into three even layers. This cake is very delicate, so do this as carefully as possible. Use a gentle sawing motion to move the knife through the cake instead of trying to pull it through the cake. Use a spatula to help you lift off each layer after you cut it. Set aside the middle layer – this will become the top layer of the assembled cake as it is the most flexible and therefore easiest to bend into a dome over the whipped cream.
3. Place one of remaining layers on a cake board or serving platter and spread it evenly with the raspberry jam. Spread or pipe half the chilled custard over the jam in an even layer, leaving enough room around the edges so that it doesn’t spill over the sides of the cake.
4. Top the custard with another layer of cake. Spread or pipe the remaining custard evenly over it, again leaving some room around the edges.
5. Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the stiffly whipped cream. Pile the rest into a mound on top of the custard. Spread it into a thick layer with a thin, flexible spatula or off-set spatula, then hold the spatula at an angle to shape the whipped cream into a dome, piling it up in the middle of the cake as much as possible.  
6. Place the final layer of sponge cake (the one cut from the middle of the cake) on top of the whipped cream. Do not press on the top of the cake – instead, gently tuck the edges of the cake layer into the whipped cream, so that they are flush with the cream. This will create a smooth, seamless dome on top of the cake.
7. Gently spread the reserved ½ cup (120 ml) of whipped cream over the entire cake to fill in any cracks and even out the surface. If necessary, refrigerate the cake to firm it up before continuing.
8. Dust your work surface with icing sugar and press the marzipan into a 6-inch (15 cm) disc (knead it a bit to warm it up first). Coat both sides with icing sugar and roll it out into a 14” (35½ cm) diameter circle less than 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, you can roll the marzipan out between two wide sheets of parchment paper (still use plenty of icing sugar).
9. Use the rolling pin to drape the rolled-out marzipan sheet over the cake and smooth it around the cake gently with your hands.

If it seems like it wants to fold or buckle around the cake, gently lift and stretch it away from the cake with one hand while smoothing it down with the other.
Trim the excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake with a paring knife or spatula blade.
Decorate how you wish. You can make a marzipan rose, or leaves, or stick things to it with glucose like I did!
11. To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a large, sharp knife (run the blade under hot water and wipe it clean after every cut for neater slices). The cake can be served immediately but will be easier to slice after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farewell, Ireland

I'm kind of overflowing with emotions at the moment, so please excuse me if I'm being incoherent. I can't believe it's over. This time tomorrow I'll be in the car with my mom, incredibly jet-lagged but so happy to be home. My dog will probably get so excited that she'll pee all over herself (and me). Honestly, I'm okay with that.

This experience was so much more fulfilling than I expected. I didn't think I'd make real friends, but just hoped that I'd meet people tolerable enough to travel with so I didn't have to be by myself. I was so wrong. I'm a pretty reserved person most of the time,'s rare that I meet people that I click with so fast. And as lucky as I am to have stumbled upon these fantastic relationships, it makes saying goodbye really, really hard. Yesterday I spent a good 30 minutes sobbing uncontrollably. I haven't cried like that in years. But I guess I'm happy I have something so special that it makes me cry.

I don't like to say goodbye because it has such an air of finality to it. And I can't handle that. So I prefer to simply say "talk to you later", or something of that nature. Of course I'll see them again. I'm making it a priority. It's too easy to lose contact but I cannot let that happen. They are far too important to me.

Love you guys.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Peanut Butter Pie

Of course the weather gets nice when finals time comes around and I have to buckle down and study. I can't complain too much though. The workload compared to my classes at home is significantly lighter. Adjusting back may be a little bit rough. But still, I want to be outside! I...have less than two weeks before I go back to the US. Wow. That just hit me. But you can understand that I want to spend that precious little time as wisely as I can. 

As far as I know, these cookies have no bourbon in them.

Spending that time wisely doesn't necessarily mean going on elaborate adventures all the time (though those are nice too). It can mean simply cherishing the moments you have with friends who you likely will not see again for a long time. Sad truths. Aw. Now I've lost my train of thought. Point I was trying to make is to enjoy what you have while you still can. 

Making whipped cream in a jar is not as hard as I expected.

Tying into that nicely is Peanut Butter Pie. I don't think I will ever be able to separate them from this. Almost two years ago Jennifer Perillo lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. In a gesture both beautiful and heartbreaking, she asked bloggers to make his favorite dessert, peanut butter pie. So to me, it will always be this food filled with love. And making it was a labor of love; I did everything by hand, from whipping the cream to crushing the cookies for the crust. As usual, sharing it, just taking a moment to sit back and enjoy with my friends, was the best part. 

Peanut Butter Pie

8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 - 3/4 cups milk 
16 ounces heavy cream

(My crust was really thick, but I like it that way. Adjust accordingly)
24 chocolate sandwich cookies
1/4 melted butter

Crush cookies finely. Place in pie tin (or, like me, a 7x10 rectangle. Work with what you have.) Pour butter over the crumbs and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. I took some crumbs and saved them for sprinkling on the top. Your call. Pat down into a dense layer with the back of a spoon, your hands, a cup, whatever. Set aside. 

Beat together cream cheese and confectioners' sugar. Mix in peanut butter and milk. Beat until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon onto crust. Top with reserved crumbs if you wish. Freeze until firm.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Barcelona: To My Parents.

Sorry again for the short gap in posts. Last week was brutal, but things should return to normal now. I just returned from a wonderful trip to Barcelona, and I have something I'd like to say...

Thank you, mom and dad, for giving me the world. Without your love and support, I have no idea where I would be. Thank you for giving me the chance to travel for a whole semester, though it means maybe you won't get to take a trip of your own. Thank you for making sacrifices for me, for continuing to help me over the years even when I take it for granted (which is too often). I'm so incredibly grateful for everything you have done for me, and I have no idea how to convey that. No matter how heartfelt my words, or how artistic my pictures may be, it can't replace the experience of actually having you here. I try my best but it's just not adequate. But I'll keep trying anyway. Come and experience with me. 

You would have loved the Parc Güell. Huge gardens intermingled with the bizarre and whimsical architecture of Gaudi. It was originally supposed to be a housing site, but no one really expressed interest in living there. Only Gaudi and his family ever resided in the park. A wonderful place to take a walk and slow down for a while.

Casa Batlló

The Sagrada Família is absolutely stunning and unlike any other church I've ever seen. Makes you just kind of want to lie on the floor and stare up for a while. I don't think I fully appreciated it when I was here five years ago. So much has changed!

I know you have a soft spot for sangria, dad, so you would have enjoyed this immensely. Sangria was everywhere in Barcelona, in varying degrees of quality, from something like the above picture with slices of lemon and orange in it, to this rather disgusting convenience store variety purchased for less than two euros.

Black pasta! Garlicky cuttlefish goodness.

Fresh coconut and pitahaya (dragon fruit) juice from La Boqueria

Mom, you would have loved La Boqueria. I could have spent hours wandering through, looking at all the amazing fruits and vegetables, chocolates, marzipans...the list goes on.

Spanish tortilla sandwich! So delicious <3

Tapas! Croquettes, patatas bravas, and sausages!

Mm, paella. That rice. So good. 


And of course, the beach. I know how much you like walks on the beach. And I do too, even if I did squirm and complain as a child. 

Someday, I'm going to give back to you. I promise.