bomb cyclone black sesame cake

January 16, 2018

When I moved to New York a few summers ago, I did nothing but complain about the incessant heat. Erlend often rolled his eyes at me. "Wait until winter arrives," he would say. "You'll be wishing for this heat." I would then point out that having lived in places like London, The Hague, and Portland, I was no stranger to the cold. He then shook his head. "Yeah, none of those places get as cold as New York."

So I took his warning to heart. I went to Paragon Sports and almost shelled out $900 for one of those fancy AF Canada Goose parkas, before I realized that I don't live somewhere that cold and that they trap wolves and kill geese in scary ways and that $900 is way too much money to spend on a seasonal jacket (I ended up with one of those cheaper, heat-reflective, and wolf-friendly puffers from Columbia Sportswear instead). I spent a considerable sum on waterproof leather boots that were nice enough to rock at a corporate office environment and a cashmere wool hat from Madewell. I was ready.

And then the winter of 2016 came and it was, well, NOT COLD. It snowed a grand total of two times; both days weren't cold enough for the snow to stick to the ground. I used my pricey leather boots so infrequently that they still haven't broken in properly over a year later. My high-tech puffer jacket was too hot and bulky to wear on the subway; I switched back to the thinner wool coat I wore in Portland. And before I could even get sick of the cold weather, summer arrived early (skipping spring all together, because honestly, there are only two seasons in New York now — summer and winter) along with the brutal humidity I hated.

Erlend jokes that I'm New York's warm weather lucky charm. I missed the polar vortex in 2015; I missed the bomb cyclone at the start of this year. I'm sure at this point, a handful of you guys are wondering: why on earth is this psycho girl complaining about missing the freezing cold weather? Truth be told, I probably wouldn't really enjoy it that much if I actually was in New York during the bomb cyclone (especially since the folks who ended up renting our apartment after us apparently lost all heat and hot water since our landlord was the absolute worst). It's more FOMO than anything. Because let's face it — while the photos of the snow dappled brownstones in Brooklyn and frosted trees in the park outside my old office building are very, very pretty, you know that shit would hurt IRL.

So my East Coast friends — this cake is for you. I know the bomb cyclone ended a few weeks ago, but I wanted to commemorate (and maybe commiserate) the occasion with a bomb cyclone layer cake. The frosting is partially inspired by this Wikipedia photo of a bomb cyclone hovering over Japan in 2013, but also this STORMBORN frosting design from Buttercream Bakery and this monochromatic beauty from Cake Ink (REAL TALK: why are Australians such talented pastry makers? How? Should I just move there already and learn all the skills?). The inside is just as dramatic too: an all-natural, all-black-erythang black sesame cake. And folks, you're in for a treat — this is the first recipe I'm sharing from my upcoming cookbook, Weeknight Baking, as it's actually a variation of one of the book's foundational cake recipes (White Wedding Cake, for those interested).



Some baker's notes:
  • You'll first need to roast the black sesame seeds before throwing them into the cake batter. You can also use un-roasted seeds, but your cake won't be as flavorful or colorful. Roasting the black sesame seeds takes about 15 minutes of active work (you'll need to toss them every five minutes or so to prevent them from burning), and then they'll need to cool to room temperature before you can use them in the batter. You can roast the seeds up to a week in advance before making the recipe though; just keep the roasted seeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. The sesame sugar mixture as a whole will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

  • For this recipe, it's especially important that all your eggs, butter, and milk are at the same temperature — the batter is especially finnicky and tends to curdle if some of the ingredients are colder than others. You're also going to be using the reverse-creaming method to make the cakes, which means that you'll be mixing all the dry ingredients in together with the butter, and then adding the liquids later. This method, while a little weird, tends to result in a more tender crumb that's perfect for more delicate cakes like the wedding cake recipe this recipe is based on. Note that once you pull these cakes out of the oven, there's a good chance that they'll pull away dramatically from the sides of the pan as they cool — don't worry about that too much! It tends to happen with reverse-creamed cakes (I have no idea why, but I'm working on finding out) and won't affect your flavor at all. 

  • The buttercream frosting recipe is adapted from super star blogger Sarah Kieffer's cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. The ratios will seem off at first because it's a lot of butter, not a whole lot of sugar, and zero liquid. But trust the recipe! It works. You just have to cream it for longer than what's typical for a traditional American buttercream recipe. The frosting is intensely buttery — I wouldn't recommend it with a butter cake, or really, any delicately flavored cake since it's basically just pure butter. That being said, it works beautifully with "strong-flavored" cakes like this black sesame one, since it sorta offsets the toasted, nutty (and almost slightly bitter) taste of black sesame. 

  • To decorate the cake, I used first created a base frosting layer using an ombre frosting techinique, coloring the bottom half of the cake with buttercream gray buttercream. This tutorial from my incredibly talented friend Tessa is great and has step-by-step photos. I then put random dollops of white buttercream and random, teeny drops of navy blue and black food coloring throughout the cake before frosting it smooth. I think this is called the watercolor technique? I don't really know. One day I'll do a video of it so you can see, but for now, check out Tessa's tutorial on how to do the watercolor technique — it's great, it has GIFs!  

an accent wall for #casahummingbirdhigh

January 11, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that I hung up wallpaper in #casahummingbirdhigh some time at the end of last year.

I never thought that I would be the kind of person to use wallpaper in my home decor. Especially because I don't consider myself to be a risk taker. My home reflects that: my color palette is full of white and gray and my furniture is made of neutral fabrics and leathers. It's timeless (to the point of almost boring). Wallpaper is the complete opposite. It's funky and quirky and screams for you to notice it. Patterns go in and out of style as fast. In fact, my childhood bedroom was lined with the stuff. It never bothered me as a child, but as I grew up, I began noticing how old-fashioned and claustrophobic the paper made my room look.

But times have changed — there are a ton of great companies out there producing modern wallpaper (see the bottom of the post for my favorite wallpaper sources!) with fresh patterns for this decade. And I think I've figured out the trick: keep it minimal. All four walls of the same pattern can quickly imprison and overwhelm you. But one wall? It's just right:

It's the perfect solution if you love the idea of wallpaper but are scared to take the leap. It's even better if you stick it in a lower-traffic room like a pantry or back entryway. I'm a fickle person — seeing the same pattern every day would make me sick of it, fast. My wall is in the back entryway, which also doubles as a storage room for all the countertop appliances and bulk groceries that don't fit in my kitchen. I don't see it very often, so when I do, it actually makes me smile.

Plus, it makes for a great selfie wall. And we all know that's what matters. 😜


Here are some answers to questions that will inevitably be asked: 

Where did you find your wallpaper? Where should I find wallpaper?
My wallpaper is a Rifle Paper Co. collaboration with a wallpaper company called Hygge and West; you can find the exact pattern in the link above.

Hygge and West is one of my favorite wallpaper companies; they frequently work with up-and-coming designers and influencers like Justina Blakeney and Kate Arends to design patterns. Chasing Paper also has a great selection (including temporary paper that you can peel yourself and remove more easily than traditional wallpaper!). And don't forget about Anthropologie!

Did you install/hang it yourself? If not, how much did it cost to have a professional do it? 
Nah, I am the least DIY person you'll ever meet. I'm not actually sure how much the work cost because it was part of a bundled package with the rest of the back entryway and living room. I'll be doing a post on that soon, and I'll talk numbers then!

What color are your walls? 
The walls are Benjamin Moore Gray Owl and the trim is Benjamin Moore Simply White

sumac creme caramel

January 8, 2018

Is everybody settling into the new year okay? Personally, I'm doing okay, just okay. I got hit with a nasty bout of food poisoning right before Christmas that lasted all throughout the holiday week up until now. It was the sickest I'd been in a while — between the stomachaches and bathroom trips and my stupid broken toe (oh, yeah, I complained about this a lot on my Instagram Stories but never actually mentioned it here — I broke my toe, lol), I confined myself to the couch alternating my time between napping with my cat and half-heartedly watching The Walking Dead. I'm not usually one for resolutions, but now I have two for 2018: avoid shellfish (I have this new theory that the more fancy the restaurant is, the more dangerous the shellfish is) and find new, less grim TV shows to watch. Recommendations welcome.

I'm only now just getting back into the kitchen to work on Weeknight Baking and develop recipes for this blog. The good news is, I have a bunch of recipes that I've been working on from last year that I never got around to posting. Like this sumac creme caramel!

Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that tastes a little like dried lemon zest, except a little more flavorful and a touch funkier (in a good way). Although it's frequently used in savory dishes to add a citrusy kick to meats and hummus and salad, I've been using it in sweet dishes like donuts and pie as of late.

This sumac creme caramel, as simple as it seems, actually took me a few tries to get right. The first time I used my grandma's Filipino leche flan recipe, but found that the custard was too dense and creamy for the sumac. The second time around, I used the ginger creme caramel recipe from Ottolenghi's SWEET cookbook as a base. Their recipe has a higher ratio of milk to cream than most creme caramel recipes, leading to a lighter custard that works wonderfully with the sumac.



Some baker's notes:
  • Plan ahead for this one! This recipe has you infuse the milk and cream with sumac and vanilla overnight. After you've made the custard and poured it into its mold, it will need another 24 hours to set. In a pinch, you can skip the infusion, but your custard won't be as flavorful as mine was. 

  • To get the fluted edges on the creme caramel, I poured the custard into this fluted porcelain baking dish from Staub. I had a little extra custard leftover that I then poured into two ramekins. If you want to just use one dish for the caramel, use a 10-inch pan instead.

  • To bake the creme caramel, you'll need to create a water bath. You'll need a pan wide enough to fit a 10-inch pan comfortably; it also will need to have high sides to contain enough water to go at least halfway up the sides of the creme caramel pan. I don't have any baking dishes that big and wide, so I ended up using a turkey roasting pan with the wire rack removed (this is the kind I have). It worked well enough, though if you don't want to be janky like me, you can probably source a large disposable aluminum roasting pan from your grocery store. 

#weeknightbaking leftovers vice cream

January 3, 2018

So... similar to my last recipe for champagne glazed shortbread cookies, today's post was supposed to be a completely different post. I tend to plan my editorial calendar for my blog months in advance, and for my first recipe in 2018, I was going to cater to the New Year's Resolution masses and develop a recipe for grapefruit detox popsicles. Whatever that means (Because a detox popsicle? Really? Who am I kidding?).

But because I've been working slowly and steadily on my book, Weeknight Baking, I always have a ton of ingredients leftover from the recipe testing. Leftover doughs, good-but-not-quite-perfect cakes, 1/4-cup of some ingredient here or there. The worst was when I was working on the white cake recipe. There was about a week in which I always had about a dozen egg yolks leftover at the end of the day that I didn't know what to do with.

At first, I was using the egg yolks in custards: a key lime pie requires four, this egg yolk chocolate chip cookie recipe can be adapted to use another four. But that still left me with another four. And repeating the tests the next day would leave me with another 12, leading to 16 yolks total. Four per recipe wasn't enough to keep up with the volume of egg whites I was using. I needed to find the heavy hitters — my grandma's leche flan recipe used 12 egg yolks, Miette's yellow cake recipe used another 10 (for a six-inch cake; crazy huh?). Thomas Keller's vanilla ice cream recipe in the Ad Hoc At Home cookbook? Calls for 10 yolks.

I've had that recipe bookmarked for ages, but of course, never actually made because well, ya know, it required 10 egg yolks. And guess what? My version uses 12. If I'm being honest, I'll be very surprised if any of you guys make this recipe, because, well, 12 egg yolks. I get it. But it's good, and 100% worth making if you ever find yourself in a situation with 12 leftover egg yolks. All those yolks lead to a thick, creamy, hearty custard base that's unparalleled by most other ice creams. And for good measure, I threw in some leftover dulce de leche and Stella Parks' cookie dough nuggets.

So much for detox popsicles. This ice cream is pretty much the opposite of all that. It's vice cream.

scallop plate || enamel dishes || ice cream bowl || tulip jar

Some maker's notes:
  • To make this recipe, you'll need some special equipment: an ice cream maker (I love Breville's ice cream makeryou don't need to freeze the bowl beforehand to use it!), and a set of medium and large bowls that can nest inside each other. The nesting bowls are used to create an ice bath that will help cool the custard down quickly and prevent it from cooking further. 

  • This recipe uses egg-free cookie dough nuggets made with corn syrup to bind the ingredients together; corn syrup is used instead of egg to prevent illnesses and help keep the dough a sticky, biteable texture (because regular frozen cookie dough would actually probably chip your teeth if you tried to bite into it. The recipe is adapted from Stella Parks' book, Bravetart; her original recipe instructs you to scoop the dough with a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, but I found it was too sticky and hard to work with. I ended up freezing the dough instead and using a sharp knife to cut it up into nuggets instead. But if you're pressed for time, definitely go for the scooping method! 

  • Other ingredients of note in this recipe include vanilla bean powder and dulce de leche. Vanilla bean powder is made from pulverized vanilla bean pods, and is basically a cheaper version of the real stuff — find it online and in specialty stores. In a pinch, use a real vanilla bean pod! As for the dulce de leche, I used homemade dulce de leche left over from these brownies; you can find the canned variety at any Latino supermarket or use your favorite caramel sauce instead.

hummingbird high's 2017 review

December 30, 2017

Can you believe another year has come and gone, just like that? Time for my annual lookback, where I review your favorite recipes and my favorite recipes. Ready for it? Here goes!


Readers' Favorite Recipes of 2017
The following recipes are YOUR favorites from the year — that is, the most viewed recipes of mine from 2017. In years past, you guys have been focused on all things chocolate, especially cakes and cupcakes. It's a little more varied this year but it turns out you're still cake people, since two out of the top three most popular recipes on my blog this year were cake recipes:

1. Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake

Honestly, those swirls though — it really does look like iced coffee that's just been stirred! It was no wonder this recipe was so popular. I've loved seeing your renditions on Instagram, so please continue to tag me as you make this cake (or really, any one of my bakes)!

2. Black Tahini Morning Buns

I was a bit nervous about sharing this recipe since black tahini (that is, tahini made with black sesame seeds instead of regular ones) can look a little scary and tar-like. You guys LOVED this recipe though, which is inspiring because I love black tahini and plan to use it in more of my baked goods next year!

3. The Absolute Best Birthday Cake in New York City

This recipe isn't actually my own, but instead adapted from Butter & Scotch, a bakery/bar in the neighborhood adjacent to my old one in Brooklyn. Is it the best birthday cake in New York City? That's what Grubstreet claims, at least. All I know is that it's pretty darn good. Plus, hear me talk about my secret long-term plans in this post! Hopefully I'll be able to share more in 2018. 😜


My Favorite Recipes of 2017
Similar to previous years, it was really, really hard to narrow it down to just three recipes. Talk about choosing between your children! Here are the three that made the shortlist, but really, this is just a small selection from a great year's worth.

1. Dinosaur Fossil Cookies

Remember that time I fulfilled my childhood dreams of becoming an archeologist a paleontologist by creating this fully edible dinosaur fossil dig site? I do.

2. White Chocolate and Raspberry Sheet Cake

This was the cake that, when Erlend brought the leftovers to the hospital he was working at, the scary Russian nurse who never smiles at anybody apparently cornered him in the break room and told him very seriously to never let me go since not all women can make cakes like this one. Too bad it's not actually my recipe, but Sarah Kieffer's. 😂😂😂

3. Blood Orange Curd Linzer Cookies

Prior to this recipe (from the talented Jen Farley of Savory Simple's cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen), I avoided rollout cookies like the plague. I thought they were too messy and just, well, (whispers) not very good. This is the cookie that changed my opinion — super buttery, with a perfect shortbread-like texture —and opened the door for the other rollout cookies of 2017: dinosaur fossil cookies, pink champagne Oreos, gingerdead men, and dark and stormy sugar cookies.


Other Highlights

1. Moving Back to Portland + Weeknight Baking

I dropped a double-header bombshell in this post: after brief stints living in San Francisco and in New York, I moved back to my adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon to write a cookbook about the years I spent balancing my day job with this blog. Yowza.

2. My 30th Birthday + #humhibirthdaymonth

I turned 30 this past June and celebrated by a) having my book go into auction that day (100% would NOT recommend this to anybody — I'll talk more about it once I finally get over the trauma years from now), and b) creating birthday-themed baked goods inspired by Drake and others. See: this cake, birthday cake blondies, pink champagne Oreos, and strawberry yellow cake pudding pops with the SLAMM crew.

3. NPR + Purple Sweet Potato Pie

I made my first radio appearance as a guest on NPR's James Beard- and IACP- award winning podcast, The Four Top. Listen to me talk life and munch on this purple sweet potato pie with the badass boss ladies of Kyra's Bake Shop and Quin Candy Store.

4. Lisbon and Porto

Erlend and I took our first adult vacation not related to family or friends and spent a few days in Portugal. It was beautiful and I would 100% recommend to everybody.


Your Favorites on Instagram

More and more, it seems that Instagram is playing a larger part in our little online food community. There are pros and cons to this (which I've discussed in the past), but for better or worse, it's a great tool to discover new folks and share my bakes on the fly. And according to that Best Nine machine that pops up at the end of the year, you guys gave me nearly half a million likes to 241 posts in 2017. Thank you for all your support!!! My blog would not exist without you guys.

Not all of the photos in my Best Nine are recipes on my blog, but here are links to the ones that have them: Vietnamese Iced Coffee Cake; Picture-Perfect Cheesecake; Passionfruit and Blueberry Cream Tart; #bangonapan chocolate chip cookies; Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with a Carrara Marble GlazeCake Decorating 101; Ube Crinkle Cookies (not a recipe, but a cookie party!); and salted caramel Twix tart (from this book).

Happy New Year's, you guys! Thanks for following along and be sure to check out the highlights from the previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. Let's keep baking in 2018!
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