double chocolate crème fraîche cupcakes

By now, I'm sure most of you guys have your menus planned out, ingredients all chopped and prepped, your desserts made ahead of time, etc, etc. But today's recipe is more for the folks like me, the guys who left everything last minute, Team Procrastinators/There'sTooMuchGoingOnPlzLeaveMeAlone. I present to you — these cupcakes:

I know that cupcakes aren't really a traditional Thanksgiving dessert (if you want something more traditional, check out last week's recipe for pumpkin pie). But hear me out. From scratch, cupcakes come together much faster than any pie. And because they're almost always so pretty and darling, nobody will notice that you didn't bring a pumpkin or sweet potato pie. In fact, quite the opposite. Because everybody loves a good cupcake, right?

And these cupcakes are more than just good. They're friggin' great. The chocolate cake base has a healthy dose of crème fraîche, a cultured cream similar to sour cream, but milder in flavor. The crème fraîche in the batter acts in the same way buttermilk would, giving the cake a subtle tangy flavor and keeping its crumb incredibly moist.

But the real star of the show is the chocolate crème fraîche frosting. It's incredibly chocolatey, creamy, and velvety. And what's more, it's low maintenance — all you need to do is top each cupcake with a generous dollop of the stuff, and watch it set into a beautiful, shiny frosting.

And that's not even all. Because the best part is that the whole thing comes together in an hour or so. I promise. It's perfect as a last minute Thanksgiving dessert. And with cupcakes like these, who needs pie, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you to Vermont Creamery for sponsoring this post by providing compensation and ingredients for the recipe. I worked with them the entire month to provide recipes like red velvet cake and pumpkin pie centered around their amazing crème fraîche. It's genuinely one of my favorite ingredients to bake with, and I hope you guys give it a try sooner rather than later. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • After dividing the cupcakes, you'll likely have enough batter for one or two more additional cupcakes. DON'T, however, be tempted to use that leftover batter and fill the cupcakes some more. Because this batter creates such a light and airy crumb, overfilling the cupcakes in their tin will cause their tops to spread out weirdly across the pan. The ideal proportion is around 2 tablespoons per cupcake for that classic domed look. 

  • The frosting will initially seem too runny after you make it, but believe me — it will thicken as it cools. Just be patient and wait for the ideal texture. The ideal texture will be silky, spreadable, and will set into a beautiful gloss pretty soon after frosting. But also, beware! If you wait too long, however, the frosting will be too thick to spread. But don't worry — if that happens, you can always warm the mixture over a double boiler until it becomes spreadable again.

pumpkin pie with a speculoos cookie crust and a crème fraîche swirl

You guys — Thanksgiving is nearly here!!! Who's excited? I know I am!

Now, ordinarily Thanksgiving has always been a meh kind of holiday for me (blasphemous, I know, but neither of my parents are from the US so we never really celebrated it in my family) but I'm especially excited for it this year since Erlend will be in town for a few days visiting from New York!!!*

*Also, some unsolicited life advice: never do long distance. Just don't do it.

For the last few years, Erlend and I have always celebrated Thanksgiving in a very non-traditional way. We usually opt to roast a duck instead of turkey, and choose an accompaniment of Asian sides from the Pok Pok and Momofuku cookbooks instead of the usual stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, etc. This year won't be any different — Erlend will likely roast another duck using Mandy's kickass recipe, and I'm preparing some mushroom and toasted rice cake salad sides from the same two cookbooks from last year.

Because we've always celebrated Thanksgiving our way, it occurred to me that I've never really made the classic Thanksgiving dessert of pumpkin pie. I mean, I guess there was this chocolate pumpkin pie from a few years ago, and, while it was tasty, you can't really call a chocolate pumpkin pie traditional and classic. Because traditional pumpkin pie is pumpkin spice custard in a glorious, buttery flaky shell, period. No substitutions, no alterations, etc. And this year, it was time for me to make one.

But then as I started researching recipes to find the true classic, I kept seeing variations and adaptations that really called out to me instead. Things like a ginger snap cookie crust instead of an all-butter one, pumpkin custards swirled with other flavors, etc. Before I knew it, I found myself whipping up something that wasn't really the traditional thing at all. Instead of a traditional pie crust, I'd taken inspiration from all the ginger snap crust recipes but instead used speculoos (the Dutch spiced biscuits that seem to be all the rage at Trader Joe's). Also, instead of using a traditional pumpkin custard recipe, I borrowed a step or two from my favorite key lime pie recipe and instead mixed the pumpkin with sweetened condensed milk for a creamier filling.

Finally, I swirled Vermont Creamery vanilla bean crème fraîche through the custard. Because truth be told, I recently found myself watching latte art competition clips on YouTube and was inspired to make my own creation. But, ya know, with pie instead of espresso, and crème fraîche instead of cream. I was going for a turkey to fit with the theme of Thanksgiving, but really it looks more like a daffodil. Or random swirls. Or whatever. Eitherway, it doesn't really matter, because it's delicious.

If you haven't had crème fraîche yet, GET ON IT, because crème fraîche is basically a milder, subtler sour cream that works in a ton of desserts. Use it in place of sour cream, whipped cream, as an accompaniment, as a topping, whatever! Because of its slightly tart flavor, it works especially well with sweet desserts like this pumpkin pie. And a special Thanksgiving treat, I'm giving away a Vermont Creamery goodie package (valued at $150) chock full of their vanilla bean crème fraîche, amazing goat cheeses, and cultured butters! Use the widget below to follow both Hummingbird High and Vermont Creamery on Instagram to gain contest entries — even if you already follow me and Vermont Creamery on Instagram, you'll still need to confirm that you do via the widget. The giveaway ends on November 23rd at 11:59 PM and is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Thank you all for participating! The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Melissa S!

Thank you to Vermont Creamery for sponsoring this post by providing the compensation and ingredients to make it happen. I'm working with them all month to provide crème fraîche dessert recipes — check out last week's recipe for a red velvet cake with crème fraîche frosting. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

Some baker's notes:
  • Vermont Creamery vanilla bean crème fraîche is available at some Whole Foods Markets; however, their regular crème fraîche is available in ALL Whole Foods Markets and more widely available in other major supermarkets like Safeway, Kroger, and Wegman's. Although I use the vanilla bean version for this recipe, you can easily substitute it with their regular crème fraîche for the same results. I also used Vermont Creamery's maple and sea salt cultured butter, which I found gave the cookie crust a subtle maple flavor. However, you can also use regular unsalted butter.

  • Speculoos is available in most major supermarkets, especially Trader Joe's. You can also purchase Biscoff, the branded version, online. In a pinch, you can also use ginger snap cookies, but you'd be missing out on that special speculoos spiced flavor.

  • This recipe works best if you use a 9-inch tart pan with high sides (around 2-inches) and a removable bottom; I used this one from Nordic Ware. You can also use a regular tart pan (most regular tart pans only have sides that only go up 1 inch or so), but you'll likely have extra speculoos cookie crumbs and pumpkin custard.

  • To get the swirly latte effect on the pie, I transferred crème fraîche into a piping bag and piped a pattern into the pumpkin custard, which I then manipulated with a sharp bamboo skewer to get that turkey/daffodil effect. It sounds complicated and impressive when I say that, but it's really not — Food52 has a great, visual guide that shows you the different marbling patterns you can achieve using this same method.

it's the weekend, it's the weekend!

above: donut and coffee hour, oh yeah!
To see more pictures of what I eat during the week, follow me on Instagram!


This Week's Menu
(yeah, living the raw deal — three course meal!)

by Chef Jessica of How Sweet It Is

by Chef Stephanie of i am a food blog

by Chef Alana of Fix Feast Flair



…  this is how we do it — PIE EDITION!  …
  • A taste test of the different baking fats (butter, shortening, lard, etc.) in pies. SPOILER ALERT: butter wins. As if there was ever any real competition.
  • Wondering why your pie crust shrank? Probably this.
  • All the best pie crust advice in one place.

…  take me on a trip i’d like to go some day  …

…  questions of science, science and progress  …

… if you are who you say you are — a super star …

And finally, some food-related links that I couldn’t find any lyrics to match with:

Have a good weekend folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, GIFs, or recipes I might have missed.

grilled cheese sandwiches with sage and apple-cranberry chutney

Is there anything more comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich? No, I really don’t think so. After a long, hard day of work, especially the kind when I’m too exhausted to cook myself a real meal, I usually make a grilled cheese sandwich. They’re my saving grace — easy and effortless, instantly comforting, and always tasty.

So today I thought I’d deviate from my usual baking and desserts recipes to share with you guys this humble grilled cheese sandwich. It deserves a spot on this blog, not only because it’s one of the recipes that has saved my life far too many times, but also because it’s simply delicious. And this one is particularly near and dear to my heart since a lot of the ingredients I’ve used are grown and made by yours truly. The sage comes from the herb box I’ve miraculously been keeping alive since Erlend’s departure, while the apple and cranberry chutney is one that I’ve made and canned myself to take advantage of this season’s bounty.

And yep, you read that right. Chutney that I’ve made and canned myself. While it sounds super crazy and impressive, it’s actually really freaking easy, I promise. I like to use the Boiling Water Bath Method to can and preserve foods. It sounds fancy and difficult, but it’s really not. At the end of the day, the mechanics behind canning are pretty straightforward — you simply fill sterilized jars with the prepared food that you want to preserve before covering and submerging the entire thing in boiling water. After you remove the jars from the water and they start to cool, heat escapes from the inside and takes with it all the air left in the jar. This escaping air pulls the lid down to create an airtight seal and just like that, you’ve preserved food that will last you for at least a year! Science — it’s pretty neat.

Without further ado, my guide to canning:

Hummingbird High's (Completely Non-Scary and Unintimidating) Guide to 
Water Bath Canning Fruits, Preserves, and Chutneys

To can, you’ll first need to gather and prep all your canning equipment. You don’t need a ton of fancy stuff, but there are definitely a handful of requirements:

  • Glass canning mason jars with metal lids and rings. This is the fun part! You can pick from a variety of sizes and shapes; if you’re working with a small batch recipe like this one, I recommend a variety of half-pint jars. However, if you’re using a variety of sizes, it’s best to have a couple or triple of the same bunch so that you can boil those jars in the same batch. I also prefer wide-mouth jars for easier funneling.
  • A large, deep stockpot. The pot doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be tall enough to hold enough water to cover the top of your tallest mason jar plus an extra inch or two of water.
  • A canning wire rack or a silicone trivet small enough to fit into the stockpot. Without a rack or trivet at the bottom of the large stock pot, you run the risk of ruining your preservatives by overcooking the bottom (and maybe even cracking the glass jar!). You can get a special wire rack for canning like I did, or you can use any waterproof trivets (think: silicone or metal) that you might already have lying around. A vegetable steamer also works!
  • Clean kitchen towels. When canning something, there’s generally a lot of dunking jars in and out of a vat of boiling water. Lining your countertops with clean kitchen towels is a great, easy way to minimize contamination, help prevent accidents, and makes for easy clean-up.

There are also other tools that are definitely “nice-to-have” when canning. These aren’t really necessary for the occasional cannist, but if you’re planning on making canning one of your hobbies and main sources of food preservation, I highly recommend investing in the following equipment:

  • Mason jar canning tongs. You can use a regular set of kitchen tongs as well, but they won’t be as easy to use/grippable as canning tongs. Good canning tongs will be covered in rubber at both the lifting end (to provide grip on the slippery, wet jars) and the holding end (to prevent the tongs from burning up your hand when held over the steaming hot stockpot).
  • Magnetic lid lifter. After sterilizing your canning jars, you’re supposed to handle the jars and lids as little as possible (or you run the risk of contracting botulism, YIKES). You can easily use the canning tongs to handle the jars, but it’s a little trickier to use them for the metal lids and rings. This is where the magnetic lid lifter comes in. But again, don’t be intimidated — this is just a nice-to-have! You can always use a clean kitchen towel to handle all these items after sterilization.
  • Wide-mouth canning funnel. This funnel is a godsend if you’re canning something particularly messy, especially if you’ve gone against my advice and used small-mouthed jars.
  • Cookie dough scoop. You can also use a plain old regular spoon or ladle, but the cookie dough scoop works the same way as the funnel by making your life much easier (especially if you’re working with a really sticky preservative).
  • A wire rack. A second, larger wire rack is handy in drying your canning equipment after sterilization and allowing the preservatives to cool evenly after processing.

After you’ve gathered all your tools, it’s time to sterilize your canning equipment. Line the bottom of your stockpot with whatever trivet you’re using. Place all the jars, lids, and rings that you’ll be using in the stockpot on top of the trivet, and fill both the jars and pot with enough water to just barely cover the tallest jar you’ll be using.

Add a generous splash of white vinegar to the pot to help prevent any minerals from depositing onto the canning pot or jars. Bring the entire thing to a boil over high heat, and boil for around 15 minutes, before using the canning tongs and lid lifter to fish out the mason jars, lids, and rings. Shake out any excess water over the towels and transfer to a dry wire rack to air-dry completely. Try and avoid touching the equipment after this point. It’s also best to keep the stockpot filled with the water and rack/trivet on the stove at a gentle simmer, ready to be used after you prep your preservatives.

While the cans are being sterilized, prepare your ingredients for your preservatives; in this case, our apple cranberry chutney for our grilled cheese sandwiches! You’ll find the exact ingredient quantities in the recipe below, but the prep is pretty simple: simply peel and dice the apples into ½-inch chunks, before combining them in a pot with the cranberries, granulated sugar, and water. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients together until the fruit is covered in a thick sugar syrup.

Bring to a boil over high heat, using a slotted spoon to skim off any foam that develops on top of the fruit and stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from burning. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cranberries pop and the apples soften. Add the lemon zest, juice, and balsamic vinegar and simmer until the liquid in the pot begins to thicken. Since both apples and cranberries are naturally high in pectin ( a kind of thick, gelatinous natural sugar), you don’t need to add anything else to help set the chutney. However, it is important that you keep cooking the mixture until it’s thick and syrupy — there’s no right amount of time for this, you’ll just need to eyeball it.

Once the chutney is ready, it’s time for another fun part — filling the mason jars with the preservatives. Before you fill your jars, however, prep your boiling water bath by bringing the water in the stockpot from a simmer and back up into a boil. While the water is boiling, transfer the chutney into the prepared jars using the wide-mouth funnel and cooking dough scooper. You’ll need to leave about a ½-inch between the preservatives and the top of the jar.

Now it’s time to cover and seal the mason jars. Wipe the rims with a hot paper towel before centering a lid on each jar and securing with a ring. It’s important that you don’t over tighten the rings as there needs to be enough space for the oxygen in the jars to escape. Only tighten as much as you can with the tips of your fingers, turning just until the ring meets resistance and no more.

Once all the jars have been filled and covered, return them back to the stockpot to process the preserves in the boiling water. Use canning tongs to lower each jar into the stockpot on top of the wire rack or trivet, ensuring that each jar is fully submerged and covered with about an inch of water. When the pot returns to a boil, boil the jars for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, use the tongs to remove the jars from the water bath and place them on either towels or a wire rack to let them cool. The jars should begin to *PING* soon after they’ve been removed from the pot — that pinging is the sound of seals being formed as the center of the lids will become concave as the vacuum seal takes hold.

After the jars have cooled to room temperature, remove the metal rings and check the seals by grasping the jar by the edge of the lid and lifting it an inch or two off the countertop. The lid should hold. Store your jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate all jars after opening and breaking the seal.

If the jars didn’t seal, there may have been a bit of product on the rim of the jar that prevented the lid from getting a good hold. Not a big deal though — simply refrigerate any unsealed jars and use first. Use them in these grilled cheese sandwiches, and all the grilled cheese sandwiches to come.

Thank you Tillamook for sponsoring this post by providing the compensation, ingredients, and equipment to make it happen. I fell in love with their butter, cheeses, and ice cream (specifically, the Tillamook Mudslide Ice Cream and their Oregon Strawberry Tillamookies) when I lived in Portland and all their products remind me of home. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I really do use Tillamook cheddar cheese for all my grilled cheese sandwiches. Apparently they’ve been using the same cheddar recipe for over 100 years, which is crazy to me. But at the same time, why change something that’s already so perfect?

Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

a naked red velvet cake with crème fraîche frosting for a blog birthday

Every year when my blog's birthday rolls around, I tend to get a little pensive when I talk about its beginnings. A reflection of things I learned along the way, how this blog saved me from a job I hated, blah de blah. And while all that is (still) true, this year, I mostly wanted to celebrate just one thing: the blogger community.

Because one of the main reasons I keep blogging and baking is because I love being a part of the blogging community. Bloggers tend to be some of the sweetest and the best people. I'm talking about the kind of folks who, when I post pictures of my trip to Singapore, invite me to a homemade peranakan feast despite never even having met me in real life! Or the kind of person who, when I write that I'm having trouble locating a specific kind of fruit in a new city, offer to take me on a train ride across the bay and help guide me through her favorite supermarket! I could go on and on about incredibly kind and generous moments like that, but you get the gist.

I don't know what it was about this year, but it was definitely the year in which all the online friends I met through my blog became "real" people. I mean, of course everybody was real before, but because we really only knew each other through social media and commenting on each other's posts, there definitely felt like a divide between "real friends" and "online friends".

But then there was the Saveur Blog Awards ceremony, which, let's be honest, was pretty much a lovefest for all us bloggers. And after that, there came a stream of real life meetings, reunions, and new memories. In London, there was dinner with Kathryn and brunch with Izy. In Amsterdam, there was a baking session complete with a photo shoot and a hilarious broken bicycle incident with Renee. In New York, there was sneaking out of work to feast on hipster pizza with Cynthia as we traded notes on how we balanced blogging with our full time jobs. And let's not forget the hours of long giggly text message conversations with Alana, Betty, Cindy, and Nik (who is quickly becoming one of my closest friends in San Francisco).

And just like that, all the folks who had been leaving comments on my blog for so long became real-REAL. We weren't just online friends anymore; we were actual friends.

Which brings me to now. Four years ago, it never would have occurred to me that I would develop deeper connections with the folks I met through my blog than with the folks I know in real life. Maybe it's a sign of my age, but for me, there's always been a weird stigma about meeting friends online. It sounds a little desperate or something, like I've been sitting in a dark room for the last four years trolling Reddit. But maybe that's just in my head, because honestly, who cares? A lot of my blogger friends have been there for me, supporting and encouraging me through the good times and the bad ones, when friends from college, high school, and other real life people didn't. And there's something to be said about that. I'm incredibly proud and grateful to be a part of this wonderful community.

With all that said and done, let's celebrate everything and everyone with this glorious (and oh-so-naked) red velvet cake. If you've been following my blog for sometime, you'll know that I've been working to perfect a red velvet cake recipe (based on this delicious cake I had one time in New York). I think I've finally mastered it! The red velvet cake is gloriously moist, with an open, airy crumb and strong hints of buttermilk, chocolate, and orange. Since I'm currently obsessed with the naked cake look, I've lightly frosted it with a crème fraîche (a thick, cultured cream similar to sour cream but with a milder tang) frosting made with a beautifully Madgascar vanilla bean flecked crème fraîche from Vermont Creamery. It's creamy, tangy, and delicious, rounding out the cake's sweetness perfectly.

Here's to another four years, guys!

Thank you to Vermont Creamery for sponsoring this post by providing the compensation and ingredients to make it happen. Another one of the perks from blogging is, in addition to meeting all these cool people, I get to work with companies that I support and believe in. Vermont Creamery is one such example; they're a small dairy out in Vermont making the best goat cheese, butter, and one of my favorite baking ingredients of all time, crème fraîche. I'm working with them all month to provide crème fraîche dessert recipes (including a giveaway!), so keep your eyes peeled and keep it fraîche.

As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting Hummingbird High and all my sponsors!

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • It can be quite difficult to frost this cake because its crumb is so open, light, and airy. I recommend making the cake the day before serving, wrapping each layer in plastic wrap, and refrigerating overnight to chill all the layers. Chilling the layers will help the crumbs stay together and not beak away from the cake when you frost it. If opting for a fully frosted cake, I definitely, definitely recommend covering the cake with a crumb layer first before frosting. Also, make sure to double the frosting ingredient quantities if going for the full look.

  • Vermont Creamery vanilla crème fraîche is available at some Whole Foods Markets; however, their regular crème fraîche is available in ALL Whole Foods Markets and more widely available in other major supermarkets like Safeway, Kroger, and Wegman's. If you can't find the vanilla version, I recommend buying their regular crème fraîche and spiking it with a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract or a teaspoon or two of ground vanilla bean powder, as well as a teaspoon or two of granulated sugar as it's slightly sweetened. 

portland, je t'aime: a culinary guide

above: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (with its iconic sign making a cameo in a Taylor Swift video!)

I’ve lived in Portland on-and-off for almost a decade. During that time, Portland, Oregon single-handedly started the bean-to-cup coffee revolution, popularized Northern Thai food, and brought food carts into the mainstream. Portland transformed from a sleepy, unsophisticated town with a handful of espresso machines to something else completely. These days, the city has a world class food scene that attracts some of the most renowned chefs from around the country.

In case you couldn’t tell, I love Portland. It’s where I learned to love food the way that I do, and for that, I’m forever indebted to the city for helping define my tastes and high standards. So without further ado, here’s a culinary guide to my fair city, to the restaurants, dishes, and people who taught me what good food really, truly, is. It’s by no means complete — there are plenty of places that have come and gone, more that I wish to include in future lists, and many that I have yet to try — but it’s a start.

it's the (halloween) weekend, it's the (halloween) weekend!

above: a Nutella donut from New York City's Eataly
To see more pictures of my adventures, follow me on Instagram!


This Week's Menu
(yeah, living the raw deal — three course meal!)

by Chef Alida of Simply Delicious

by Chef Brooke of Chocolate + Marrow

by Chef Kathryn (who is getting HITCHED!) of London Bakes

by Chef Ashley of Sugar & Cloth



… it was a graveyard smash, it caught on in a flash …

… this is how we do it …

… cash rules everything around me …

if you are who you say you are, a superstar

is it too late to say sorry now

who run da world?! GIRLS!!!

And finally, some food-related links I couldn’t find any lyrics to match with:

Have a good weekend folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, GIFs, or recipes I might have missed.