Tag Archives: recipes

latvian birthday cake (or: i verbally abuse creepy people in costumes.)

22 Aug

confession time: i am terrified of people wearing costumes. halloween makes me nervous. larpers freak me out. furries send me running & screaming.

in my opinion, people in costume act differently than when they are uncostumed.  they act like they are someone else and therefore in ways they usually would not. normal social rules seem not to apply.  and if their face or eyes are covered? all bets are off and you are more than likely going to be accosted by this crazy costumed psycho.

true story.

i have facts to back this up.

last halloween i celebrated (albeit hesitantly) at a pub down the street from my apartment and encountered two guys hovering on the edges dressed as if they had just walked out of “world of warcraft: the movie.” one was dressed in a way i can only think to describe as a giant human-sized thumb wearing a sheet and chain mail. i have no idea how else to describe it. the other was wearing some sort of demon-orc hybrid complete with retractable giant wiggly tongue and severed arm prop.  the thumb kept to himself, but the demon-orc took to licking random female passers-by or making a show of licking the severed arm in a, dare i say, “erotic” fashion.  i have absolutely no doubt that under that costume was a socially-awkward, skinny, pimpled man-child who spends his days and nights making internet cash by selling his high-level video game characters. uncostumed i have serious doubts that demon-orc would have spoken to a woman not to mention lick her.

all of that being said, i don’t mind disguised objects: they aren’t sentient and therefore won’t try to attack me out of a false sense of security.

kitchen utensils that look like animals? adorable.
bookshelves that double as doors to secret rooms? both fantastic and delightfully mysterious.
a cake pretending to be a pretzel? into it.

this seems like a good time to segue into my recipe: the latvian birthday cake. i was doing an internet search for “weird cake recipes” in honor of my friend’s self-created holiday devoted entirely to cake, aptly named “cake day.” when i came across the latvian birthday cake, i knew i had to give it a whirl. who in their right mind creates a birthday cake from yeast and saffron and shapes it like a pretzel? the latvians, that’s who.  i had a hard time deciding whether this was a cake or sweet bread or a pretzel. i still don’t know. but you know what, it tastes awesome, so i don’t care. and neither should you.

latvian birthday cake from global table adventure

what you’ll need:

2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp saffron
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 tsp thin strips of lemon zest
2 tsp this strips of orange zest
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick 0f butter, softened)
5 1/2- 6 cups flour
1 cup raisins

for the topping: 1 egg for egg wash, 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds

1. dissolve yeast in warm water with the saffron and a pinch of sugar. (appx. 5 minutes).

2. meanwhile, since butter doesn’t come pre-softened (unless you count the sort in the tub i suppose), let’s soften your butter.  i don’t actually own a microwave… sooo desperate times lead to softening your butter on top of a toaster oven…

3. mix your yeast with the rest of your ingredients (except those for the topping) in the bowl of a standing mixer.  you may not need all of your flour–just enough to form a soft dough. so for goodness sakes, don’t just throw it all in like a heathen.

4. knead your dough for about 10 minutes. you will be, appropriately, using your dough hook for this. your dough may try to escape. just a warning.

look for your dough to come away from the sides of your bowl. it will look sticky, but won’t be super sticky. make sense? no? trial and error is a great teacher, i say.

5. let rise until doubled in size (about 1.5 hours).

6. we will now be shaping the dough into a pretzel shape.  roll out the dough into about a 3 foot long log, then tuck ends like one would for, a, you guessed it, pretzel. keep the holes about fist sized as they will close up while baking. allow to rise for another 30 mins.

7. brush your beautifully proofed pretzel-shaped latvian birthday cake with a beaten egg and then generously sprinkle with sliced almonds. the egg will give your pretzel/cake/thing a nice shine. the almonds will just be tasty.

8. bake at 350 degrees f for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. see above.

this cake is most happily enjoyed while still warm and with a nice dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  jam is also quite lovely as an accompaniment.

the verdict: i don’t know if i would necessarily call this a cake, but whatever it is–i am a huge, huge fan. i literally had to take to slapping my own hand to keep myself from grabbing more.  and please note that this recipe produced a big honkin’ cake, so there was a lot of hand slapping required.  the orange with the saffron and raisins gave it a wonderful flavor that i am having a challenging time figuring out how to describe (so just trust me), and upon reminiscing on this recipe (which i confess wasn’t baked yesterday or even in the past 2 months), my roommate declared it “so yummy.”


roasted banana cupcakes (or: what to feed a zombie)

27 Apr

for the majority of my teens, sleeping was easily considered one of my top extracurricular activities. my study-abroad flatmates were actually selected based on the fact that we all filled out our questionnaires with the same sleeping preferences–go to bed early, wake up late–and during my high school days, my mother was forced to devise an elaborate (and frankly, inhumane) wake-up process that has caused lingering trauma.  (you try not suffering permanent damage after waking up every morning to someone flicking on your lights, and then with a speed usually reserved for vampires, simultaneously blasting the radio, ripping off your sheets, tickling your feet, all while bellowing your name.)

this being said, my decision to attend culinary school for a baking and pastry arts degree came as rather shocking news to those who were acquainted with my sleeping patterns. the ungodly hours of baking professionals are no secret. the school  recruiter asked me, as did almost everyone else i told, “are you an early-riser?” after a good laugh and recounting of my mother’s antics (see above), we determined that seeing as how there are few jobs that will lend to a sleep schedule to my liking, save mattress-tester or professional sleep-study subject, waking up at 4 a.m. doesn’t seem that much worse than 7 a.m.  (ok, it is… but i was trying to gain admittance.)

fast-forward four incredibly intense months of schooling on top of my 9 to 5 job, and you will find that it had been a very, very long time since i had truly engaged in my most favorite of pastimes.  essentially, i spent those 16 weeks as a member of the living dead.  my body was covered in bruises from bumping half-unconsciously into walls and filing cabinets, my stomach lining had a gaping hole from the vast quantities of coffee i had ingested, and i seemed to have developed permanent circles under my eyes to the point where i felt confident that if i joined a football team, i would not have had to bother with blacking out my cheeks.  there were moments when i worried that the overzealous might consider picking up one of the many “how to survive a zombie apocalypse” books flooding the shelves in order to protect themselves when i ambled by.  please note that moaning “brainzzz” is only funny to others when they aren’t half-sure you might be serious.

during these long months of sleep deprivation, i had often felt that i deserved luxuries that i normally (when fully functioning) wouldn’t allow myself.  (the starbucks barista who now refers to me as “her friend” can vouch for me on this one.)  therefore, i felt no moral compunction and needed very little self-convincing when i decided that these cupcakes were quite clearly more of an icing-topped muffin than an actual cupcake…breakfast, definitely not dessert…calorie-free as opposed to adding new dimension to my growing backside…the addition of bananas was all the justification that i needed.

this recipe comes from martha stewart’s cupcake cookbook and produces a cupcake so mind-blowingly delicious that i made some pretty inappropriate sounds when inhaling them.  because it calls for cake flour and there is more sifting than seems sane, the end product will be super fluffy and moist (and i am serious when i say moan-inducing…though you should be careful about this if people are already concerned you might be a member of the undead as you may just be reinforcing their convictions). the cupcake is then paired with a honey-cinnamon frosting that is truly sensational.

roasted banana cupcakes from martha stewart’s cupcakes

what you’ll need (for the cake):
3 ripe bananas (plus 1 or 2 more for garnish should you feel fancy)
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. preheat oven to 400 degrees f and line standard muffin tins with paper liners. place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast for 15 mins.

2. while these are roasting, sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (cake flour has a high starch content, so make sure you don’t skip the sifting. i know, i know, but it will be worth it.)

3. remove your now blackened, roasted bananas from the oven and let them cool before peeling. unless you enjoy burning your fingers or need to build up heat tolerance, in which case, knock yourself out. reduce the oven temp to 350.

4. cream the butter and sugar on med-high speed until it is pale and fluffy. add the three egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. scrape down the sides as necessary.

add the peeled, roasted bananas and try not to gag. yeh, i think we can all agree on what this reminds us of…  alright, that being said, ahem, beat to combine.

4. add the flour mixture and sour cream, alternating back and forth. you will do three flour batches, alternating with two sour cream batches. beat until just combined after each addition. if you beat too long, your cake will lose its fluff. beat in vanilla.

5. in a separate bowl, whip your egg whites to soft peaks with a mixer on medium speed.

fold in 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten. this basically means that you will sacrifice some of your whites so that your dense batter won’t snuff it all out. gently fold in the remaining whites in two batches.

6. divide the batter evenly among the lined cups. they should be about 3/4 full. bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. make sure you rotate your tins once half way through. once baked, transfer the tins to a wire rack to cool.

the cupcakes can be stored in air-tight containers at room temp up to 3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.

now for the honey-cinnamon frosting:

what you’ll need:
2.5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. on med speed, beat all ingredients until smooth.

2. wipe off your brow, whew, that was tough.

use immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days in an air-tight container. if you refrigerate, make sure you bring it back to room temp and beat it smooth before using.

they can also conveniently be made baby tiny size as a nice post-brain snack.

baby tiny chocolate chip cookies (or: my love/hate affair with snow)

1 Feb

as a kid, you never expect that the things that are so life-shatteringly important to you at the time  will one day no longer matter. my ambition to marry prince william and become a princess for instance.  and for another, my constant and obsessive desire for snow. living in boston has gradually ruined snow for me …while prince william gradually aging ruined that little love affair for me… but more seriously, in my youth, snow represented the pinnacle of happiness. throughout december, i would perform elaborate snow dances involving a number of props and rhythmic chants. i was so committed that i would practice for snow by “sledding” down wet grass on a broken down cardboard box.  never in my life did i think the joy of snow would leave me. i mean, hell, i spent over half my life desperately beseeching nature for just a glimmer of it.

but as the old proverb says, when it rains it pours, and for boston, so it seems, when it snows it blizzards. 7 and a half years of freezing snot, brown 6-month-old snow refusing to melt, and hours of shoveling out my car just to have a plow re-trap it moments later… the magic has been decidedly snuffed out.

despite my whining and complaining, i can’t deny that in the first few hours when the world is still white and untouched, the childhood joy comes flooding back.  (probably a result of some serious mental blocking from the previous year’s traumas.)  and should work call a snow day? heavenly… you know, until the shoveling begins and all. but i’ll be glossing over that little factor when i text a multitude of photos to my brother in georgia (who only knows the joys of snow that melts after a day and is therefore not jaded like myself) so he is properly harassed and sent into a fit of depression.

…and then proceed to frolic until i’m numb. clearly. this particular snow day necessitated a lot of frolicking…once my roommates and i had played till our collective heart’s content, by which i mean, we could no longer feel most of our limbs, it was decided that nothing could perfect this day like a plate of cookies and a steaming mug of hot chocolate…because we are adorable and slightly cliche that way.  plus, unlike prince william and snow, chocolate chip cookies are never in danger of going out of style.

mini chocolate chip cookies: (a la ww)

what you’ll need:
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, dark-variety
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
1 large egg white
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda (not pictured…woops)
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 1/2 cup

1. preheat oven to 375ºf.

2. in a medium bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar. add vanilla, salt, and an egg white. mix thoroughly to combine.

3. in a small bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. mix in with the bowl of wet ingredients. add chocolate chips to the batter, and stir to distribute evenly.

around this point, you may notice that there is practically no dough whatsoever. i would have been surprised if it made 5 cookies, not to mention the serving size of 48.  looks like i had neglected to realize that by “mini,” they meant “practically invisible to the naked eye.”

i figured i should do some to-scale illustrations to really drive the point home.  what we have here is a recommended dough blob size that ends up being bigger than a nickel, yet smaller than a johnny cupcakes pin.

4. if you have recovered from the shock, proceed to drop 48 half-teaspoons of dough onto a large nonstick baking sheet leaving a small amount of space between each cookie. as you can see, i whipped out the big guns, aka toothpicks, to get these suckers out. more shocking than even the initial shock is that i managed to get 56 cookies from this. (guh!?)

5. bake cookies until golden around edges (about 4 to 6 minutes). cool on a wire rack.

beware: these baby tinies are highly addictive. when i normally could contain myself to one regular sized cookie (alright, fine, 3…but i’m just making sure they are safe), i found myself popping these bad boys like it was job.  20 mini cookies later…and my distended stomach was rather un-mini.

chocolate espresso angel food cake (or: i discover my grandma was a wildcat)

27 Jan

as a child, there were several things i could always count on when visiting my grandparents’ house: mashed potatoes for dinner, pecans tucked away in the freezer, and an angel food cake cooling on top of the fridge.  angel food cake will always remind me of my grandma.  the woman loooved her angel food cake, and instilled this very same adoration into me as well at a very young age.  it also helps that it is significantly lower in calories than most cakes. (but this wouldn’t become a factor until i went through those lovely puberty years… woe were those years.) 

grandma as a young firecracker

my grandma has always been my hero… that is when david copperfield (the magician) wouldn’t suffice on my school reports.  (i loved him, legitimately loved him.  the man can FLY.  i can’t tell you how many fights i have had with people over the years due to my insistence that he is the most glorious of all humans.  i was once physically separated from a boy in middle school who suggested that he used wires. WIRES? that boy should get some help.  he’s clearly delusional…)  now, my grandma was a real go-getter.  when her family needed money, she placed an ad for a boarder, found one, and set her up in the house… later on she informed her husband that their money problems were solved… and that they had a new housemate.  when her husband died, she found herself a job and raised my mom and uncle on her own.  my mom was only 11, so there was still a lot of raising to do.  point is: she was pretty fabulous.  and a posh dresser to boot. 

it wasn’t until i was helping my mom clean out my grandma’s townhouse at the tender age of 11 that i discovered another shocking aspect of her life—in the form of a disturbingly sexy leopard print lingerie set.  i don’t mean to be airing any dirty laundry here… i mean, it was totally clean… but there was a definite “…grandma!?” moment as i looked up at my mom, my eyes round in confusion.  at this point in my life i still believed that i was the product of an immaculate conception and, at the furious insistence of my next-door neighbor and best friend, that people stopped having sex by the seemingly ancient age of 35.  the mechanics of “old” people copulation was too fearsome for our young minds to comprehend.  i think in response to my discovery my mom must have muttered a bit and looked away… perhaps there was an awkward cough or two.  mom was always pretty mum about the whole birds-and-the-bees thing.  thank god for public school and 6th grade math class or i’d probably still believe in the stork.  (seeing as how at the age of 24 the topic never comes up.) 

reflecting back on that tumultuous day in which i realized grandma still had a libido well into her 80s, i realize that i too am something of a wildcat.  for instance, i was once the second choice for a threesome.  i declined, but still, it was nice to be asked… second.  i even was propositioned for a booty call recently… maybe.  well, he texted around 3 am (while i was soundly sleeping) and said “hey, what are you doing?” so i am just going to go out on a limb here and assume.  you might be thinking that these two points aren’t exactly wildcat material, but you know what, forget you!  just give it to me, ok?  i’m grasping at straws here.  

my latest recipe pays homage to both my grandma and her leopard print nightie.  i found the recipe in a recent cooking light magazine under the bold headline “naughty or nice,” which basically means it is right up my alley.  in spirit of grandma’s wild side, i added some pizzaz to the original chocolate angel food cake recipe by throwing in some espresso powder.  it really gives it a nice little kick.  i’ve made this cake both ways—boring (espresso-free) and kick-ass (espressolicious)— and much prefer the latter.  something about espresso and chocolate is just too glorious (not david copperfield glorious, but pretty close).  so if you are feeling wild, like grandma… and me (come onnn, give it to meee)… i suggest you do it up.  without further ado, i give you: 

chocolate espresso angel food cake 


what you’ll need: 1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10), 1 cup cake flour, 2 cups sugar (divided), 1/2 cup baking cocoa, 1 1/2 tbsp espresso powder, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp salt 

1. place egg whites in a large mixing bowl; let it stand at room temperature for 30 mins. (i always forget about this 30 minute wait period and it gets me every time.  cries of anguish can be heard emanating out of my apartment. so at this point, you should crank up the stereo and do some shimmies around the kitchen.  grandma would have wanted it that way.) 

meanwhile, upon beginning the lengthy process of egg white separating, i discovered that there are several methods to this depending on how messy you like to get. 


 my lovely assistant is a “let it slide between your fingers” kind of gal, while i am more of a “let the eggshell do the dirty work” girl myself.  also, new fun fact: according to my new alton brown cookbook , it is best to crack eggs on a flat surface as opposed to an edge, thereby avoiding shell pieces and bacteria from entering your egg.  who knew?  

2. sift together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, espresso powder, and the cocoa.  repeat for good measure and then set aside. 

3. add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites.  


4. beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. gradually beat in remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and the sugar is dissolved.  it should look something like this: 


5. gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.  make sure you fold, rather than stir. my assistant got a delicate slap on the wrist around this point.  yes, i abuse my helpers. eh, ya got something to say? 


6. gently spoon into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan. 


7. cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. 

8. bake on the lowest oven rack at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and the entire top appears dry. immediately invert pan. cool completely for about 1 hour.  (more dancing and shimming ensues… or you turn on “center stage,” because it a timeless treasure of a movie.) 

9. run knife around side and center tube of pan. remove cake to a serving plate. 



what you’ll need: 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 3 tbsp half & half cream 

1. in a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and cream. stir until smooth. 

2. drizzle over cake.  i recommend pouring the glaze into a ziplock bag and then cutting a bit of the corner off.  it makes it significantly easier to drizzle than say, if you used a spoon, like i used to do back in the day while i cursed the baking bloggers who exceled at the art of the drizzle.

once all steps are completed, you will have yourself an amazing cake.  congratulate yourself with a hefty slice or eight.  i won’t tell anyone…. especially seeing as how i find myself infused with uncontrollable urges to grab hunks with my bare hands when near this cake and left to my own devices.  i’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind.

the angel food cake queen herself with a baby tiny me.