white chocolate and raspberry sheet cake

August 16, 2017

One of my favorite things about New York is how, despite the city's enormity, you can take a corner of it and really make it your own. It also helps that each neighborhood is so different, with its own vibrant personality and scene. We're spending August in Erlend's parents Upper West Side/Morningside Heights neighborhood, and it's a world apart from our old place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

I liked BedStuy; it's not as well-known or popular as other Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Park Slope, but it has its own unique history full of grit and hustle. It is where both Jay-Z and Biggie grew up, after all. But this part of town feels more like what people think of when they think of New York: the buildings are taller, the avenues are wider, and the taxi cabs more plentiful. Grit and hustle? Not so much. But there's definitely a certain type that populates the UWS as well: pretty liberal, well-educated, and financially comfortable, but not quite as snotty and elitist as the old money on the Upper East Side.

And so this month, I'm pretending to be an official Upper West Sider: I bring reusable shopping bags to both Zabar's and Fairway Market, admiring the babka and loading up on all sorts of stinky cheese; I ride a Citibike through Central Park in my Birks, only to stop at the Museum of Natural History to check out the giant squid and the whale. AND I'm close to Shake Shack, Levain, X'ian Famous Foods, and Absolute Bagels (which, after a full year's worth of checking out all the bagel places in the city, are most DEFINITELY the best bagels in the city, COME AT ME).

But maybe the best part about living in this neighborhood is the fact that there's a farmer's market almost every day of the week just a stone's throw away from the apartment. In BedStuy, our closest farmer's market was in Fort Greene or Williamsburg — both were close, sure, but required a subway trip or hauling my bicycle down our walk-up. So almost every night, Erlend and I have been taking advantage, making fresh salads from the late summer greens (usually with lox from Zabar's thrown in) and eating an incredible amount of fruit for dessert. I love it.

I'd like to tell you that I made this cake with raspberries from the farmer's market around the corner from our apartment, but the truth is, I actually made this cake back when we were in Brooklyn and only got around to editing the photos and posting about it now. But it was so good that I'm seriously considering making it again, and I hope you do too! It's a quick weeknight sheet cake, but made incredibly moist by the crème fraîche in the base and decadent with the white chocolate frosting and tart raspberries. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • The white cake base uses a ton of crème fraîche, which makes it incredibly flavorful and much moister than most white cakes I've had in the past. I love it. In a pinch, you can use sour cream instead of crème fraîche, but note that your cake might have a slightly tangier flavor than if you were to use crème fraîche (as sour cream is more acidic than crème fraîche). This might be beneficial anyway, since the frosting is pretty sweet! 

  • I made this cake and frosting on a 90 degree+ day, so my frosting was super runny and hard to work with. If you're in a similar situation, stick the frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes or so! It stiffens it up and makes it easier to swirl and hold its shape.

  • I don't recommend serving this cake/frosting situation on its own without any tart fruit to balance it out — it's pretty sweet! You can substitute any fruit you'd like, but I suggest something on the tart side like raspberries or blackberries.

black tea and peach creamsicles

August 9, 2017

This post was done in partnership with Pure Leaf, who sponsored this post by providing compensation and the tea that you see in this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and my awesome sponsors!

How's everybody's summer been going? Has it been sweltering for everybody like it has been in New York? I've complained about this in previous posts, but I'm NOT a summer person. I'm a fall/winter baby all the way — I'll take a cold blustery day any day over a muggy summer one! Sweater weather forever!!!

So Erlend and I are back in Manhattan, camped out at his parents' place for the month of August while they hike the Colorado trail. And while their apartment is very, very lovely (it's right on the border of the UWS/Morningside Heights, just a stone's throw away from both Central Park and Riverside Park), their co-op building's temperature is centrally controlled and tends to run pretty hot (even in the summer!). We're set up with air conditioners, but it's still not really enough to beat the sun streaming in from their south-facing windows.

In Brooklyn, I escaped the heat by going on breezy bike rides along the waterfront and/or counting on one of the neighbor kids to pop the cap off a fire hydrant 😳😳😳. But because you can't really get away with doing that in Manhattan (well, the biking, sure, but definitely not the fire hydrant tampering), I've been trying to find other ways to stay cool in the city. Luckily, we're closer to a lot of the awesome food places you always see on Instagram serving crazy milkshakes, insane ice cream scoops, and yummy-looking cold things to help beat the heat!

One of those places I'm referring to is the Pure Leaf Tea House. Pure Leaf actually opened up a Tea House in SoHo back in July, and I was lucky enough to snag an invite to their opening party to try all their drinks. They have tea mixologists on-site to make a variety of real-brewed artisanal Pure Leaf Tea creations. My personal favorites though were a super tart, vibrant purple iced tea and a creamy, iced black tea latte flavored with cardamom and clove:

And today I've partnered with Pure Leaf to bring you these easy-peasy and incredibly tasty black tea and peach creamsicles. The popsicles are made with two types of peach flavor: Pure Leaf's Iced Black Tea with Peach (Pure Leaf's Home Brewed Iced Teas are new!) and are fresh, ripe peaches at the peak of their season. All of this wonderful peach flavor gets paired with a honey-infused Greek yogurt and cream base for the classic peaches and cream combination.


also featured:
glass || popsicle mold || pitcher

Some maker's notes:
  • It may seem like there's a lot of honey in the recipe, but note that the tea layer is unsweetened and that flavors tend to get muted when frozen — reducing the quantity is possible, but will likely lead to a less flavorful popsicle. Ditto for the tea steeping — the recommended steeping time for Pure Leaf Iced Black Tea with Peach Flavor is actually 3 minutes when making a beverage, but I upped it up to 15 minutes to get an extra strong tea flavor for the popsicles.  

  • This was my first time making multilayered popsicles, and I was... bad at it? I foolishy poured in the first layer and let it freeze without the popsicle sticks embedded into it, thinking that I would be able to jam them in once frozen. Yeah, that didn't really work (it turns out solid ice is difficult to jam tiny wooden sticks into without a mallet), so I suggest freezing the first layer with the popsicle sticks already in place. You can easily pour the second layer on top of everything without affecting anything when the first layer and popsicle sticks have set! 

sour cherry streusel cake

August 2, 2017

I once spent a summer biking across the country. I did it through a program that raised money for Habitat for Humanity; along with 29 other kids from colleges across the country, I vowed to raise a dollar for every mile I biked. We started in New Hampshire, dipping our bicycle wheels in the Atlantic sea. Three months later, we concluded our journey in Vancouver, Canada and dipped our wheels into the Pacific. We each biked around 4000+ miles total, and my group raised over $100,000 for Habitat that summer.

But if I'm being honest, philantrophy wasn't my main motivation for biking. I'd just finished a particularly rough year in college, both physically and mentally. I'd gained a lot of weight, and felt lonely and isolated. The boy I liked had graduated and moved to New York, my best friend was studying abroad in Paris, and my roommate was dating a deadbeat who constantly hung around our apartment leaving bad vibes.

I'm usually a cynic — I'm type-A through and through. Always early. The kind of person who is described as needing to let her hair down, or having something up her well... you know what. Biking across the country seemed like a way to get out of my funk. I vowed that I would make the most of this crazy adventure that I had committed myself to, for better or for worse.

So that summer, I found myself saying "yes" to every opportunity that the trip and my teammates offered. I was living the Year of Yes before it became a thing: I found myself spontaneously jumping into Lake George in my full cycling gear, helmet and all; I found myself agreeing to bike 10 miles off course to find the best ice cream in small town Wisconsin; I found myself spending the night huddled in a public restroom to escape a sudden and intense thunder and lightning storm in the Badlands.

How is this relevant to this recipe? It's not, not really. But the first time I ever had a sour cherry was on that trip. We were in a secluded country road somewhere in Pennsylvania. My friend Lindsey and I were towards the back of the group when we came upon a gaggle of our other teammates at the side of the road. Some of them had hopped the fence separating the small country road from the orchard on the other side. Lindsey and I followed and shoved as many cherries as we could into the back pockets of our jerseys, giggling at our rebelliousness and constantly looking over our shoulders to see if we would get caught.

It was only later, when we were far enough away from the farm to be found guilty, that Lindsey and I tried them. We were riding together and shoved a handful of cherries into our mouths at the same time; we immediately stopped our bikes and spat them out. They were sour cherries!!! Too tart and acidic and sour to be eaten on their own, but great in pies and bakes like this one:

This recipe comes from Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef's cookbook, Classic German Baking. If The Great British Bakeoff is America's de facto guide to British bakes, Luisa's cookbook should be our guide to German baked goods. The only problem is that some of the recipes use ingredients that are more commonly found in Germany than they are here. This particular recipe for sour cherry streusel (kirschstreuselkuchen, in German) uses preserved sour cherries, but I've adapted it to use the fresh ones that are currently abundant in all of New York City's farmers markets. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • Sour cherries are pretty region-specific; I remember having a hard time finding them when I lived in both Oregon and California. In a pinch, you can substitute regular cherries but know that your cake might be a little sweeter than mine since your fruit will be less acidic. 

  • The cake recipe doesn't seem like it will make enough batter for the pan, but trust the recipe! Spread it out evenly across the pan (it will seem like there's barely enough, but there should be enough to have an inch of batter spread across the pan), and it will rise beautifully into a fluffy cake. 

  • It can be hard to tell when the cake is done; the best markers are if the fruit topping is bubbling slightly and if some of the streusel has turned into a golden brown color. You can also stick a skewer inserted into the center of the pan — if any fruit comes out with the skewer, it needs more time as the fruit topping should be fairly set at the end of the baking process.

overnight new orleans style iced coffee

July 26, 2017

This post was done in partnership with Gevalia Coffee, who sponsored this post by providing the compensation and cold brew concentrate ingredients in this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own — thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

A few years ago, when living in San Francisco, I found myself hooked to a local coffee shop's New Orleans-style iced coffee. What makes a coffee "New Orleans-style"? The addition of chicory, a spice made from a floral root. Chicory in coffee has a long, sordid history in New Orleans; in the past, it's been used as a substitute for real coffee, or as an additive to bolster the flavor of weak coffee. I personally like it in my coffee for flavor — chicory gives the coffee an added richness and sweetness that's hard to mimic. Indeed, despite no recent coffee bean shortages or scarcities, several coffee shops in New Orleans continue to add chicory to their roasts and concentrates for the added flavor.

But recently I was back in San Francisco and was excited by the chance to retry New Orleans-style iced coffee from that same coffee shop. I was surprised to find myself disappointed. The coffee tasted incredibly sour, and the chicory was almost imperceptible! Plus, an hour later, my stomach was in knots from the coffee's intense acidity.

After that less-than-perfect experience, I've been making a low maintenance version at home that matches my standards and the coffee I remember from many years ago. I start with Gevalia Cold Brew iced coffee concentrate. Gevalia makes their concentrate from Arabica coffee beans; these beans undergo a cold brewing process that results in a naturally concentrated coffee without the bitterness or acidity of typical cold brews. There's none of the sourness you get from other brands, and it definitely doesn't give my stomach the tummyache I sometimes get when drinking other coffee brands. I infuse the concentrate with cinnamon and chicory overnight (the vanilla flavor works especially well with those spices), and in the morning, I'm greeted with the New Orleans iced coffee of my dreams.


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Some maker's notes:
  • If you live in the South, you should be able to find chicory easily (sold as Instant Chicory) near the instant coffee selection in the coffee and tea aisle in any major supermarket. It's harder to find in coastal states, so I recommend sourcing the spice online via Amazon. New Yorkers — I was able to get a generous pack for cheap at Kalustyan's.

  • Plan ahead for this one! To infuse the Gevalia Cold Brew iced coffee concentrate with additional spices, I poured the amount needed into a small mason jar with cinnamon sticks and a generous amount of chicory and let steep overnight. Because it's a cold infusion, it'll take longer to actually infuse the coffee concentrate than if you were to boil the concentrate with the spices. I don't suggest cooking them together as I find it tends to affect the concentrate's flavor, and I like it as it is! 

a picnic cheeseboard

July 19, 2017

Remember Birthday Month, and how I was supposed to have a fancy picnic lunch at the William Vale rooftop garden? Well, that ended up not happening due to some pesky rain/personal drama/big life decisions (which I'll tell you about soon, I promise, I promise). And then one of my Portland besties was in town, and my mom, so... here we are in July, celebrating with a very belated birthday picnic!

Erlend and I live just around the corner from Herbert Von King park, so we ended up calling some friends over one Sunday afternoon for a low key celebration with frozen sangria and a cheeseboard! I know there are a bazillion guides and tips for how to put together your own cheeseboard, but I figured I'd put together my own favorite tips and guidelines:
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