funfetti cake pops with milk chocolate tahini magic shell

June 21, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

I don't exactly remember how or when Molly and I became friends, but over the last few years, she's become a significant fixture in my life. We text about everything and anything — mostly swapping baking stories/gripes/tips and brainstorming recipe ideas, but also random stuff like whether or not a microterry bodysuit is a good idea, which KitchenAid mixer and Mosser cake stand colors are best, and which of our two remarkably similar cats is more loaf-like. She's like my summer camp pen pal who would be one of my bestest buds if only we lived in the same city and saw each other more than once or twice a year.

And unless you've been living under a rock and/or don't give a lick about food (in which case, uh, what are you doing on my site exactly...?), you probably know by now that Molly will be premiering her new show, Girl Meets Farm, on The Food Network this coming Sunday, June 24th. Our little SLAMM squad* is so freaking proud of her, we all literally can't even. Molly talks about it some in her blog post about the show, but it's been especially exciting to see the TV show unfold behind the scenes! I feel like I was there for the beginning of it all, right from when she was in Portland a few years ago, starting to flex her TV muscles in front of the camera crew following her around (and we all ended up going to a strip club together, AMA) to our more recent text threads during her shoot days when she and Nick were hangry and couldn't make dinner.

*SLAMM squad = Steph, Lily, Alana, Molly, Michelle (me), also seen in this Cake Toast post, last year's pudding pop Popsicle Week celebration, and the SLAMM text thread in our various iPhones.

To celebrate Molly's new show, we each decided to make some snacks for the occasion! The original idea was to develop a Molly-inspired snack recipe for her show's premiere (so, you know, lots of tahini and sprinkles, no bananas). I was going to make the za'atar monkey bread from her cookbook, Molly on the Range, but since it's been 90+ degrees in Portland AND it's Popsicle Week, I decided to make her famous funfetti cake into a cake popsicle! Unlike last year's Popsicle Week pop, which was strawberry ice cream with solid chunks of yellow funfetti cake, this year's pop is literally just Molly's funfetti cake crumbled and molded into these super cute ice cream bar molds. Then, I dipped each funfetti pop in a chocolate tahini magic shell situation that freaking ruled. I know I was supposed to save these pops for Molly's TV premiere, but they were so good that we busted through our entire batch throughout the week and only have two left for the show itself. OH WELL.

(above photo by brett and chantell!)

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Molly's OG cake recipe makes a double layer, 8-inch cake which I then cut in half to bake in a 8-inch square pan. I waited for the cake to cool, before breaking it down into different crumbs by hand and molding the crumbs into the popsicle molds in the style of Christina Tosi's funfetti birthday layer cake. If that seems like a lot of work, you can always go Steph's route and bake the funfetti cake in the popsicle molds themselves — I legit just didn't have enough molds to pull this off and opted for making the pops in batches throughout the day instead.

  • When molding the cake into the popsicle molds, you want to use a LOT of cake per cavity and really smoosh the cake crumbs into the mold to create a dense cake pop. A dense cake pop is easier to work with, and is less likely to fall apart when unmolded. The cream wash is essential to the recipe too — it helps keep the cake moist in the freezer, ensuring that the popsicles are surprisingly soft when eaten.

  • For the magic shell, be sure to use refined coconut oil, which is more neutral and flavorless than regular coconut oil. If you can't find refined coconut oil, regular coconut oil will do, but note that your magic shell will taste more distinctly like coconut than either milk chocolate or tahini. 

pink galaxy birthday cake

June 15, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

It's my 31st birthday tomorrow and I'm celebrating with a re-do of my 30th birthday (which I cancelled last year because I stupidly decided to hold my book auction that day and it was traumatizing; also, it was supposed to be a picnic and it rained). We're starting off with a meal with Erlend's parents at Ava Gene's and karaoke jello shots with a small group of friends. Then on Sunday, Lauren of @lokokitchen pie fame and I are getting brunch and talking about our upcoming pie class at Feast (tickets sold out within 10 minutes, THANK YOU TO ANYBODY WHO BOUGHT ONE, I still can't believe it)! I only hope I'll be in okay shape for it (unlike last weekend, where I accidentally had too many cocktails at a tiki cocktail making class at House Spirits, blitzed my way through my college reunion, then found myself at a media brunch taste testing biscuits for an upcoming article with Eater — woo!).

Let me make this super quick, because it's Friday and I know you have better things to do: if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that this was originally supposed to be a banana birthday cake, lol. Similar to the lime fiasco of last month (in which I accidentally bought 10lbs worth of limes from Costco before remembering I'd already developed the key lime pie recipe for #weeknightbakingbook and subsequently had to get rid of them by throwing an impromptu margarita party), I found myself with 10lbs of extra bananas after the recipe development for the banana cream pie went by super quickly. It turns out banana pie is really really good (soweeee Molly) and doesn't really need too much tinkering beyond adding a cookie crumb crust, say whattttt.

So I was determined to make myself a banana cake (especially after a bite of Palomar's rum-soaked banana cake at the Feast launch party this past week, yum) with the leftover bananas, but then found myself with with 6 extra egg yolks leftover from a lemon meringue pie #weeknightbaking book shoot. That seemed to me like a sign from the baking gods telling me that yellow cake was the way to go, especially since bananas freeze well in a way that egg yolks do not.

So let's talk about this cake! Remember how a few years ago, galaxy desserts were all the rage? I was recently reminded of this as I was reading a recent pop science article about how new stars turn galaxies pink. The pretty photos of the pink stars inspired this buttercream design because I have this weird thing about turning natural phenomena into cakes (see: this bomb cyclone cake and that cherry blossom cake).

But really, I'm mostly excited about the cake because underneath all that pink and magenta frosting is the tastiest yellow cake you'll ever eat. At first glance, it seems like it uses a scary number of egg yolks (8 total!), but don't panic. I'm not going to leave you with a bowl of egg whites to eat throughout the week for sad, healthy omelettes (or at least, that's what I reluctantly do with all my leftover egg whites). Instead, I've been on a Swiss meringue buttercream kick ever since making my friend's feminist birthday cake last week — usually, I find Swiss meringue buttercream to be a pain the butt because a standard recipe requires so many egg whites. In this case, it actually makes the perfect companion to this yellow cake since it uses up most of leftover egg whites from the cake recipe! Since I had a ton of leftover strawberries, blueberries, and cherries from various #weeknightbakingbook projects, I spiked the buttercream with fruit puree for some subtle summertime flavor. Enjoy!

Some baker's notes:
  • Okay, if you looked at the yellow cake recipe and got scared off by the number of yolks required (which again you will be needing for the frosting, so really, this panic is unnecessary, but whatever, I get it), you can substitute 3 large whole eggs for the 8 egg yolks and still make a perfectly good yellow cake! If you go that route, you'll need 6 large whole eggs total for the cake recipe. 

  • Because I was baking for a crowd, this cake is bigger than what I usually prefer and bake for myself. In retrospect, I probably should have baked the recipe in three 9-inch pans as opposed to 8-inch ones. You can still opt for 8-inch pans, but just make sure they have tall sides that are at least 3-inches; Amazon has a great selection.  

  • This recipe uses Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, which can be time consuming and finicky to make but produces a silky frosting that is a dream to pipe. For this recipe, it's important that all your ingredients are at the temperature required for the recipe, especially the butter and berries. If you add cold berries to the buttercream, there's a chance that the frosting can curdle and separate. To ensure that this won't happen, I actually zap the berries in the microwave for 15 seconds just to make sure that they'll fully incorporate. If you find your frosting curdling, no worries! Microwave a rough 1/4 cup (you can eyeball it) of the frosting in a separate bowl for about 30 seconds, or until its melted and liquidy, warm but not hot/boiling. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted frosting back into the larger batch — that should fix any curdling! If you have the opposite problem and your frosting is too liquidy, stick the entire batch in the fridge for 10 minutes to stiffen, then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes until silky smooth. As for the berries themselves, I used a mix but recommend you just commit to one fruit that's super ripe and juicy (I recommend strawberries — I initially tried cherries, but found them to be too dry and flavorless); using the mix I did sorta drowned out an overall flavor.  

  • To decorate the cake, I first layered the cakes and crumb coated the entire thing for a solid foundation. I then divided the leftover frosting into three batches, dying each a varying shade of pink from this awesome Americolor food coloring set. I then put dollops of the shades of pink randomly across the cake, before frosting the entire thing smooth. I think this is called the watercolor technique? Tessa, one of my best baking buddies, has a great tutorial on how to do it, complete with super helpful GIFs. After the frosting set, I used my fingers to press edible gold leaf and gold leaf stars randomly across the cake. Woohoo! 

yogurt shortcake

June 6, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

The recipes for #weeknightbakingbook are all done and I am so very excited. Don't get me wrong — there's still lots left to do. Headnotes and essays still need to be written, photos still need to be taken, etc, etc. But recipe development was definitely the most time consuming portion of the book and my body is happy to be taking a break from all the taste tests for the time being. It turns out my 30-year-old body (31 next week, ugh) cannot handle all that sugar the way it used to, eeeeep.

This weekend, Erlend and I went to the Portland Farmers Market and a nice elderly lady convinced me to line up at the Unger Farms stall to buy a half flat of strawberries. I was worried that it was still too early in the season (we went last week and although strawberries were out, they were fake ripe and not sweet at all), but a taste test revealed otherwise (so much for being done with taste tests, lol). The berries were perfectly sweet and juicy. I spent the rest of the weekend baking the fruit into pies for #weeknightbakingbook, a feminist birthday cake for my name-twin friend Michelle, and this yogurt shortcake from my friend Melissa's new(ish) cookbook, The Minimalist Kitchen:

If you don't follow Melissa (a.k.a. The Fauxmartha) on her blog or her Instagram, you're missing out! She writes about all things minimalist — recipes, interiors, general life living — and does so in an approachable and attainable way. Like this yogurt shortcake! It's perfect because you'll likely already have the ingredients needed for the cake on hand, and the recipe only really requires two bowls. Despite this simplicity, it produces a cake with a wonderful light crumb and a subtle tangy flavor that works well with the berries and cream.

I'm not sure exactly when Melissa and I became friends, but last year we finally had the chance to hang out IRL in New York (we were very basic: dinner at Parm, banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery) and Melissa is every bit as funny, smart, and talented as she is online. Her new cookbook captures her philosophies perfectly, filled with simple but tasty everyday recipes and tips for organizing your kitchen minimally and more. Enjoy!

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Maceration refers to the process of tossing berries in sugar and, traditionally, a little bit of alcohol to encourage them to release their juices. Your berries might not need this if they're super ripe and juicy — if you macerate super ripe and juicy berries, they might turn too mushy. It's best to serve super ripe berries as they are. The process really only works best with slightly underripe berries that are not at their best and are a little crunchy, so use your judgement! Also, note that the more underripe your berries are, the longer the maceration process will take, so plan accordingly.

custard yo-yos with rhubarb buttercream

May 30, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

If you live in the US, it was Memorial Day this past weekend and all of us folks got treated with a three day weekend. Did everybody enjoy themselves? I kicked it off by stupidly signing up for a hardcore workout class at 5PM on Friday evening, thinking to myself that since it was a holiday weekend, only a handful of folks would show up. NOPE. Because do you know who else signs up for a 5PM Friday evening workout? All the super scary and intense people, that's who. So after I got my ass kicked at the gym, I spent Saturday hobbling around my kitchen making buttermilk pies for #weeknightbakingbook, and on Sunday proceeded to continue my tour of Portland's best biscuits (article for Eater coming soon!) before abandoning a planned hike to throw an impromptu margarita night instead.

Since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in the US, I'd say that it was a pretty good kickoff to the season. Part of the reason why I quit working my tech job full time last summer was because I'd burned myself out. I'd was working too much at my day job and my blog, neglecting my health and social life. The start of summer this year means that nearly almost nine months have passed since I quit, and it seems like I'm definitely back on track in terms of working out on a regular basis and seeing my friends more and more. I'm still working a ton (especially on that pesky cookbook of mine), but I feel like life is better and I am here for it.

This weekend, we also stopped by Portland's largest farmers market to check out the produce in season. Although there were a ton of stalls selling strawberries, they were kindof... (whispers)... bad?! I think it's still too early in the season for the super sweet, bursting-in-your-mouth, diabetes inducing (in a good way) variety. The rhubarb was looking dope though, so I picked up a batch to turn into frosting for these custard yo-yos:

This recipe comes from Ottolenghi's dessert book, Sweet. I've had the recipe bookmarked for ages, but was scared to try anything since the first edition had a crazy ton of mistakes and they actually had to resend everybody a new copy (😬). With the new edition though, the recipe for these cookies came out perfectly! The cookies use custard powder, a Very British ingredient that gives them their sunny yellow color and a perfect vanilla flavor that compliments the sourness from the rhubarb perfectly. Be sure to check out my Baker's Notes below for sources; enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • Custard powder is an ingredient that is apparently ubiquitous in the UK and Australia, but not so much in the US — I had to do some digging around to find it, and eventually found a tin at World Market and Amazon. Think of it as the British version of instant pudding mix, but classier and more vanilla-ey. The powder results in a pretty pale yellow custard, which you can also see in the cookies. In a pinch, you can substitute with cornstarch but you'll need to up the amount of vanilla extract to the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon and add a few drops of yellow food coloring to achieve the color. You can probably try using instant pudding mix too, but I haven't done that myself so I can't personally vouch for it.

  • To shape the cookies, you'll need to pull out your Play-Doh skills from kindergarten and roll the dough up into perfect little balls and use a fork to smoosh them to get their signature lines. It helps to have a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion out the dough; you'll be sandwiching the cookies together, so it really helps to make sure you're getting equal sizes!

wellesley fudge cake

May 23, 2018

Portland, OR, USA

When I was a teen, I got it stuck in my head that I would go to college in Boston. I'm not exactly sure why — before applying for colleges, I'd visited Boston exactly once during my freshman year in high school for a Model UN trip (I'm a nerd, I know). Although I spent the majority of my time there in a stuffy lecture hall at Harvard, I guess the city must have left enough of an impression of me to want to spend the next four years there.

So I applied to a bunch of colleges in the city, and while I got into a handful, none of them were really my first choice. One of those colleges was Wellesley College, an all women's liberal arts college. Although Wellesley is a wonderful school (it's where some of my feminist heroes like Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright graduated from), I wasn't sure I was ready to spend the next four years in an estrogenfest (I know, I know — I'm sure I'm going to get some angry women's college grads emailing me about how this isn't the case at all, but keep in mind that this was pre-Tinder and I was 17 when I was making these decisions).

And, if I'm being completely honest, the gender thing was actually a secondary concern. I was more alarmed by a campus legend that told the story of Wellesley's (male) founder, Henry Durant, declaring that, "pies, lies, and donuts should never have a place in Wellesley College." Aside from the obvious angry/exhausted feminist POV ("Why is some dude telling a bunch of women what not to eat?"), I worried that the school cafeteria might secretly put all its students on a secret, insidious diet without our consent (though this is obviously not the case — what can I say, I was a weird/neurotic 17-year-old, in case you couldn't already tell from the Model UN participation).

Anyway, this campus legend apparently has some basis in fact because Wellesley women apparently defied this Henry Durant dude and spent some time underground baking in their dorms to develop this Wellesley Fudge Cake. Wellesley Fudge Cake is a chocolate buttermilk defined by its square shape and chocolate fudge frosting. It's absolutely delicious.

Because the original recipe was apparently pretty labor intensive, the crazy talented America's Test Kitchen family updated the recipe in 2010 in a Cook's Country issue and modernized the cake to include more chocolate flavor and a silkier frosting. They did such a good job that Wellesley College itself uses a variation of their recipe in their own kitchens!

This recipe is included in America's Test Kitchen's new(ish) book, The Perfect Cake, a cookbook dedicated to all things cake. The book features a host of cake recipes, ranging from the modern favorites today (they have a gluten-free funfetti cake, y'all!) to classics like this Wellesley one. Enjoy!

A big thank you to America's Test Kitchen for sending me a copy of The Perfect Cake!


Some baker's notes:
  • This chocolate frosting is distinct from other frostings since it's technically a fudge candy frosting — this means that you'll need to cook some of the ingredients to create a fudge toffee situation, before stirring in chocolate and sugar to make it into a frosting. The recipe yields a frosting that is harder than traditional buttercream recipes, but with the fudge and silkiness of old school fudge candy. To make the very best frosting, be sure to sift the confectioners' sugar‚ if you don't do so beforehand (like I did the first time around, because I hate sifting), the frosting will come out a lumpy. It also helps if you stir in the confectioners' sugar when the chocolate mixture is still hot. Also, let me warn you that the fudge frosting will harden if not used fast enough; be sure to frost the cake within 10 to 15 minutes of making the frosting. And finally, the recipe makes a lot of frosting — don't be afraid to use a lot in the middle of the cake!

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