Strawberry, Thyme + Peach Buttermilk Cake

It was Jeff’s birthday last week and I wanted to make him a special cake. I’ve never made a layer cake before and felt it long overdue. So I picked up some cake pans and cake stand and made it happen. I remembered that Eva from Adventures in Cooking has a lot of nice cake recipes and this one caught my eye. Oh boy is this good! The mascarpone whipped cream frosting is just about perfect. It’s creamy, holds up really well and it’s not overly sweet. I have to say that’s one thing I’m not crazy about when it comes to cakes. That insanely sweet frosting that overshadows any other flavor. But with this cake you can appreciate all the flavors together, a bit of ginger and thyme in the cake, layered with fresh peaches, strawberries and the perfectly creamy not-to-sweet frosting. Since this was my first time cutting cakes into layers it was a bit lopsided but not too bad. One thing, I would double the frosting recipe, I only had enough for three layers and this should be a four layer cake. Overall it inspired me to make more cakes. There is something happy and fun about a layered cake, and I find myself dreaming up new ideas which are sure to be posted on this blog. Enjoy!

Strawberry + Peach Buttermilk Cake With Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 3 large strawberries, diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced fresh thyme leaves

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

(you might want to double this frosting for a 4-layer cake)

  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 peaches, cut into eighths
  • fresh fruit or flowers for garnishing on top

For the cake mix together the flour, baking soda, ginger and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper, set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lower the speed and add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until a batter forms, then stir in the strawberries, peaches, and thyme until just incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter between the 2 (8-inch) cake pans and bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake coms out relatively clean (unless you poked throughfruit bit), about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes before running a spatula around the edge of the pan and flipping the pan over onto a wire rack, removing the pan and allowing the cakes to cool completely on the racks.

For the mascarpone whipped cream, beat together the mascarpone, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment at medium high speed until fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Trim the top of the cakes so that you have a fairly flat surface. Then cut each of the cake layers in half horizontally using a sharp bread knife, you should now have 4 layers. Divide the mascarpone whipped cream into 4 parts and spread out 3 parts between the layers of cake along with the fresh strawberry and peach slices. Place the remaining fourth of the mascarpone whipped cream on top of the cake in a dollop and arrange fresh fruit or flowers around it, serve immediately. Will last a few days refrigerated.

Adapted from Adventures in Cooking

Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad with Breadcrumbs, Walnuts and Mint. I’m always on the lookout for new types of salads, so when I saw the headline “This Portland Cookbook Might Put Meat Out of Business. It’s That Good.” I jumped on it. Also because it’s Josh McFadden’s (chef at Ava Gene’s) cookbook coming out next month. The book “Six Seasons” has a look inside preview on Amazon and that’s where I found this recipe. The book looks really nice and I think I’ll probably get it. I’m not a vegetarian but I love side dishes or meals where the vegetables are so good you really don’t miss the meat. You might remember I’ve tried to recreate a couple of salads from Ava Gene’s, a Pear Fennel Salad and a Celery Salad. And speaking of celery salad I have a new favorite variation, it’s so simple I’m not sure it needs a whole blog post, but it’s basically chopped celery, feta, olive oil and salt. It’s best when using feta that comes in a block held in a brine. The pre crumbled feta I’ve been using forever just doesn’t have the flavor or texture of the real thing.

The original recipe called for raw asparagus (the early spring tender variety),  but I decided to do a quick blanch for mine since the stalks were on the larger size. The flavors are really good in this salad with the addition of mint.

I enjoyed photographing the asparagus. It has a unique look of color and textures. I started out with 105mm macro lens but switched to my 35mm, which I love, it’s such a great lens, very versatile for up close shots (Minimum Focus Distance 9.8”) as well as landscape. The sun started pouring in while I was shooting which was a real treat because we’ve had a very long dark winter/early spring. Some cloudy days are preferable for photography, but when it’s really really dark it can be a bit tricky getting a good exposure without using additional photography lighting. Well here it is, hope you enjoy the photos and recipe.

asparagus_salad-5.jpg

Asparagus Salad with Breadcrumbs, Walnuts and Mint

  • 1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried chili flakes
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the tough ends of the asparagus, then peel the asparagus about half way down on the stalk with a vegetable peeler. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and ice. Fill a large pot with water and a handful of salt, then bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for 2- 3 minutes until bright green and fragrant. Remove and immediately place in prepared ice bath. When the asparagus has cooled set aside on a dish.

Put the breadcrumbs, parmigiana, walnuts and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes. Toss to combine.

Cut the asparagus on sharp angles and add to crumb mixture. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss. Taste and adjust flavor with more salt, pepper, chili flakes or lemon juice. (I ended up using the juice of one whole lemon)

Add the mint and 1/4 cup olive oil, toss until combined. Taste again (he’s all about the taste testing as you go along and build the flavors!)

Adapted from Six Seasons

Scofflaw

Last week we had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant Nonna. We started with cocktails and I ordered the Scofflaw. I liked it enough to try and make it. It’s sort of like a whiskey sour, sweet and tart. I googled the ingredients and found that it’s not some new fancy cocktail but in fact has been around for a very long time, created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during prohibition

Here I found two recipes, I started with the modern version and found it to be too sweet. So I adjusted the ratios a bit and came closer to what I had at Nonna. I think it could be even better with maybe equal parts of rye and dry vermouth but you can adjust to your taste. Some recipes use lemon rather than lime, I chose lime since that’s what they had at Nonna. 

And because it’s spring I’m sharing some blossom photos, I clipped these from our tree out front. It’s a strange looking tree, the previous owners had grafted a cherry tree to a weeping cherry tree, so it’s cherry on the top and weeping cherry on the bottom. It’s a tree with an identity crisis. Still not sure whether to keep it or not because we’d like to plant some other trees, and the bigger it gets the weirder it looks. Oh well, cheers to spring!

Scofflaw

  • 3 oz rye
  • 2 oz dry vermouth 
  • 3/4 oz lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 3/4 oz grenadine 
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add all the ingredients and give a good shake. Strain into two cocktail glasses. Garnish with orange peel.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

This is a pile-on-the-chocolate type of cookie. I’ve named this Triple Chocolate Cookies but technically it could be considered a Quadruple Chocolate Cookie, but that sounded kinda crazy so I didn’t name it as such. The cookie itself is adapted from a previous post I did from a Blue Bottle Coffee recipe for Double-Chocolate Cookies. That recipe was for nine enormous cookies, but here I decided to roll the dough in parchment to be sliced into smaller cookies, and they’re not that small actually, the recipe below will yield 18 cookies. The topping was adapted from Sprouted Kitchen’s Triple Chocolate Cookies. So here you have it in all its messy chocolaty glory.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup natural (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3.5 ounces dark chocolate, 62%-70% cacao, coarsely chopped or chips

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda into a medium bowl and whisk together.

In large bowl beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and beat for a few minutes until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk for a minute or so until incorporated. 

Add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl until color is a uniform brown. Add the chopped chocolate and with a wooden spoon mix until pieces are mixed though out. 

Roll the dough in parchment paper in a 2" in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 5 days. (The cookie dough roll makes it easy to slice and bake for uniform size cookies, the original recipe says to just refrigerate the dough in a disk shape and later make balls of dough before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, cut the roll into about 1/2” thick slices and arrange with 2” spacing all around. Bake for 11-12 minutes, until the cookies are slightly firm to the touch and the surface is no longer glossy, rotating the pan midway through the baking time. 

Let the cookies cool on the pan for 10 minutes or so. 

Topping

  • 3 ounce dark chocolate bar, melted down
  • 1/4 cup cocoa nibs or shaved chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or microwave. Drizzle the cookies with the melted chocolate and sprinkle the shaved chocolate on top to stick before the chocolate cools.

They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, recipe will make about 18 cookies

Cookies adapted from Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee and topping from Sprouted Kitchen