A few years ago, I realized that I’d told the same story about Valentine’s Day almost every year since blogging. I won’t go into much detail about it in this post (especially since you can read all about it in my posts from 2014 and 2015), but it was a story about how in seventh grade, I’d written an essay about how much I hated the holiday. I’ve switched it up in subsequent years (the story from 2016 about writing a failed Valentine to my last college crush is probably my favorite), but truthfully, every year, it’s a struggle to come up with something new.
This year, I thought about telling you guys the story of how Erlend and I met, but honestly, it’s kinda, sorta… boring? While we didn’t meet online via OkCupid (look at me, showing my age) or Tinder (let’s all stop for a hot second and think about the fact that, in the not so distant future, all the wedding stories will be about how the couple met online), it was still pretty unremarkable: we went to college together, were friends for a long time, and then eventually started dating. There was some drama around us getting together because he’d previously dated a mutual friend of ours, but it was honestly just the petty bullshit that you deal with when you’re in your early twenties. And maybe that makes for a more interesting story, but I genuinely don’t even remember most of it since it was so long ago and most of those folks are now completely gone from my life (which I am very, very thankful for). And there you have me and Erlend’s Meet-Cute in a nutshell — I told you it was unremarkable, lol.
So instead of focusing on Erlend, my past relationships and crushes, or re-telling my seventh grade story, I thought I’d try something different. Let’s talk about my love for Portland, Oregon. For ease, I always just say that I’m from Portland, but if you saw my Instagram Stories the other day (or are a close reader of my blog), you’ll know that’s not technically true. I was actually born in the Philippines and lived in a number of different places both abroad and in the USA; I eventually wound up in Portland because of college and ended up settling here again after stints in San Francisco, Denver, and New York.
My relationship with Portland is a flawed one and an incredibly hard one to explain. When asked what I like best about Portland, I can’t give a coherent or articulate answer. Instead, what sticks out are seemingly insignificant, maudlin details: the sound the trains make at night from my house; biking down Ladd on a quiet, misty morning; how the city seems to come alive on a lone, sunny day after many weeks of rain. It’s not a perfect place by any means — it’s far too white and homogenous, and is rife with the income equality, population growth, and limited infrastructure problems that seem to plague all the smaller cities that have come into fashion in the last few years. More and more, the things that make it special seem like relics of yesteryear too. But there must be something about it I really like, because cumulatively, I’ve lived in the city for about a decade. And whenever I leave, I always find a way to come back.
And although this isn’t the sweetest Valentine — I did spend half of it pointing out Portland’s flaws, after all — maybe it’s more real this way? True love isn’t a constant summit, but a valley of peaks and lows. You take the bad with the good, and the ability to recognize the bad and accept it anyway is one of the truest forms of love there is.
So Happy Valentine’s Day, Portland! This one’s for you.
- Unlike traditional donuts that are shaped and raised with yeast, these are cake donuts! They taste more like cupcakes and you bake then in a special donut pan to get that classic donut shape. To fill the donut cavities in the pan, I’ve found it’s easiest to use a piping bag (in a pinch, pour the batter into a Ziploc bag and snip off a corner — it doesn’t need to be fancy). Be sure not to go overboard, or your donuts will be too big and rise too much, losing that classic hole. Most recipes call for you to fill the cavities two-thirds of the way up, but I’ve found that’s still too much — halfway up should do the trick!
- Depending on how dry the temperature is that day, you might need more or less blood orange juice to get the glaze consistency right. You don’t want it to runny, or it’ll run down the sides of the donut and you’ll lose that clean, freshly-dipped look. You want just enough liquid so that it almost seems a little dry; aim for a very thick paste texture as opposed to a runny one. Once you dip a donut, flip it over quickly to avoid any excess dripping and immediately sprinkle the toppings of your choice on the glaze. I used these cute sprinkles from India Tree, goat-themed candy hearts gifted from Vermont Creamery, and freeze dried raspberries, but go wild and use your favorites!
- Unfortunately, these cake donuts tend to go stale fairly quickly as the bottom half of each donut is basically just unfrosted cake. Make sure you enjoy them within 24 hours!
Blood Orange Cake Donuts
- a donut cake pan
For the Cake Donuts
- 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
- fresh zest from one medium blood orange
- 1/3 cup (0.35 fluid ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (4.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Blood Orange Glaze and Toppings
- 2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) freshly squeezed and strained blood orange juice
- candy hearts
- freeze dried raspberries
For the Cake Donuts
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 (F). Prepare a donut cake pan by spraying lightly with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the fresh zest from one medium blood orange. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar becomes fragrant and clumpy — doing this helps release oils from the zest that ultimately infuse your sugar with more flavor. Whisk in 1/3 cup whole milk, 3 tablespoons canola oil, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 large egg until well combined. Sprinkle in 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and use a rubber spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet batter.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag and fill each cavity of a donut cake pan until half full. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until golden and the top of each donut bounces back when gently poked. Transfer the pan to a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out each donut to the wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat with remaining batter and cool completely to room temperature before glazing.
For the Blood Orange Glaze and Assembly
- In a medium, shallow bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 1/4 cup blood orange juice until well combined and a homogenous pale pink.
- Working with one donut at a time, dunk the top of each donut into the glaze, working quickly to flip over immediately (with the glaze side up) on a wire rack. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper to catch any excess drippings. Sprinkle glaze immediately with the toppings of your choice. Repeat with the remaining donuts. Allow the glaze to dry and set completely, about 20 to 30 minutes, before serving and enjoying. Happy Valentine's Day!