Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Have you ever read a line in book that has changed you? At least for a season of life? 

Well, I recently did, and it compelled me to be more mysterious, which is why I am taking an indefinite hiatus from this blog. I hope you understand.

"We need more true mystery in our lives, Hem," he once told me. "The completely unambitious writer and the really good unpublished poem are the things we lack most at this time."
-A Moveable Feast, Hemingway 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too: Lemon Speculoos Cake

I love making layer cakes, Josh hates eating cake or any dessert for that matter. But a wise woman once said, "You can't have your cake and eat it too." I know it was a woman who said that and not a man because the saying deals with matters concerning cake. I am not sure if she was wise though, because to this day I do not understand the saying, I just know that it applies in this situation.

So what did I do in this predicament? I made a cake anyways. But before you jump to conclusions of me being an insensitive wife, you should know that I made it with the forethought that Josh would have a whole plate of celebratory birthday bacon waiting for him at our next staff meeting.

It's a shame Josh doesn't like desserts that much, especially considering how tasty this cake was! It was composed of layers of moist and dense lemony cake covered in light yet spicy Speculoos Buttercream. 

And for those of you who don't know what Speculoos is, it's basically the consistency of peanut butter but it is made from Biscoff type cookies. That's why the call it "Cookie Butter" at Trader Joe's. Sounds delicious, right? I mean honestly, the inspiration to make this cake came from the fact that I had a jar of this Cookie Butter in my cupboard because no sane person can walk down the aisle of the super market and pass up a jar clearly labeled "Cookie Butter." Except for maybe Josh, but I've already exhausted that subject. 

I will say one more thing regarding that matter however. Josh couldn't have his cake and eat it too, but you CAN! So give this recipe a whirl.

Lemon Speculoos Cake
*adapted from Desserts For Breakfast
Makes one 8-inch, 3 layer cake

Lemon Cake Ingredients
2 3/4 cups (385 gr) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups 4200 gr) sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Speculoos Frosting Ingredients
2 1/4 sticks (18 Tbps) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup speculoos spread (available at Trader Joe's, called Cookie Butter)
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
9 oz. cream cheese, cold
colored or dark chocolate sprinkles

Lemon Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8x 2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment rounds and grease again and flour. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium.
4. Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add the flour in three additions, alternating each with milk and lemon juice.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes come out cleanly. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of the pans and cooling completely.
7. Cut each cake into 2 even layers (4 layers total). Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and store in fridge for at least an hour. If you will be composing the cake the next day add a layer of foil and plop them in the freezer.

Speculoos Frosting Directions
1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the speculoos spread and beat until well-combined.
3. Gradually beat in the sifted powdered sugar.
4. Gradually add small chunks of the cold cream cheese, beating well after each addition.
5. Frost cake, adding sprinkles between each layer and on top. (Directions on how to properly frost a layer cake here.)
6. I finished off the sides of my cake by taking a cake spatula and half-hazardly swiping it across the sides of the cake (see below). Then I swirled the top.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Anything But Vanilla: Life & Cake

Today is Easter. As a follower of Christ, today is the day I celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I go to church, I sing my songs, I eat my brunch or linner (by the way, don't in between time meals drive you crazy! I feel like I get cheated out of 1 of my 3 scheduled feedings) and then I go about my merry way on Monday, back to life as I know it, back to eating chocolate or whatever I gave up for Lent. As I reflect on the previous sentences glaring dully back at me from my screen, they seem rather scripted. Honestly, if Easter is that shallow, I think I'd vomit from the flavorless hum-drum of it all. But if I am honest with myself, I have treated the holiday just like that in the past. Like it was a day to recognize God is God because He can rise from the dead, but it has no implication on my life rather than wearing a floral dress and eating ham once a year. (That is a rather weird picture isn't it).

If Jesus's resurrection was just that, sure I'd give him a way-to-go one year, two years even but anything after that seems rather silly to continue commending a divine magic trick or display of power. No, there must be more to it, and that is exactly what I feel like God has been shaping me to understand and experience in the past year, and particularly in the months leading up to Easter.

I feel as if I have been in an incubator of learning about and experiencing the resurrection. On my other blog, Sing To Me, Muse I posted this quote about Easter that I recently read in a book I just finished called Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright. It goes like this...

"The message of Easter, then, is neither that God once did a spectacular miracle but then decided not to do many others nor that there is a blissful life after death to look forward to. The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that now you're invited to belong to it."

Simply put, but powerful. I feel like why I have been learning so much about the resurrection as of late is because I have been experiencing more and more of the resurrection for myself. Obviously not in physical form, yet ;) (that could be a whole other blog post), but like N.T. Wright put it I have been taking a hold of the 'new world' Jesus unveiled by actively living as if I belong, because I do. 

A lot of times the Christian life to the outsider and insider can seem very vanilla, very bland. That is because we settle for it. We believe the lie that finding a full and illustrious life comes by doing exactly what pleases us the moment we need/want it. That being a Christian means saying a prayer and then going about 'life' as normal. But that is exactly why we miss life, why I miss life, because we aren't invited into a normal life anymore, we are invited into a new life, a resurrected life and to experience that resurrected life, which only comes through Christ accomplishing it for us first and then inviting us into it, is to live as if it exists. What I mean by that is to live as if this world wasn't it. To live as if Jesus really did conquer death (and I do mean physical death) and sin (anything that takes fullness of life from us) and that one day He is coming back to make everything right, but until then we are invited to be apart of heading in that direction here and now. 

N.T. Wright has more eloquent things to say on this matter...

"What you do in the present- by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself- will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are apart of what we may call building for God's kingdom."

Contemplating that this Easter and experiencing it more this past year as I have begun to let go of the "lack-of-life" I so dearly cling to, made this Easter and makes life very NOT vanilla. It makes it full, alive, what it is supposed to be.

You might be wondering how I will transition this into a post about cake, but I'm about to, so hold on tight.

The cake I made this Easter actually is a vanilla-vanilla layer cake, but the taste of the cake was so full of life it is "anything but vanilla." It's kinda like why people life Funfetti Cake. It really is just a vanilla-vanilla cake, but the flavor screams so loudly "I taste like cake!!" that you just love it for its pure unadulterated essence. That's what this cake is like, but way more gourmet ;)

Plus it is super cute and I am going to teach you the technique I used to frost it.

Anything-But-Vanilla Vanilla Butter Cake
*makes one 4-layer 6 inch cake
*adapted from Sweetapolita

2 large eggs (separated)
1 3/4 (210 grams) cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour two – 6 inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease and flour parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 15o grams (3/4 cup) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over-mix the batter or it will deflate.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan gently. Once the cakes of completely cooled, cut the domed top off of each with a serrated knife and cut each cake in half yielding 4 layer. Wrap each layer in plastic and place the cake layers in the fridge for at least two hours (to make filling and frosting the cakes easier).

Anything-But-Vanilla Vanilla Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
6 cups (750 g/1 lb + 10 oz) icing sugar (confectioners’)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
a good pinch of salt

Beat the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla, water, whipping cream, and salt, and whip on med-high speed until fluffy and smooth–about 4 minutes. If consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, then whip again for 30 seconds or so. (If using food coloring, add it in the last minute of whipping. For the shade of pink I used on my cake, you only need 1 drop of red food coloring.)

Transfer the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with an open star decorating tip (Wilton No. 22). If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can just use a spatula to frost the cake, which is pretty self explanatory so I'll let you figure that one out.

Take your cake layers out of the fridge and unwrap them.

Place the first layer (the sturdiest looking one) on a cardboard cake round and put the cake round on a spinny cake decorating table if you have one; if you don't, no worries it just makes things easier.

Step 1: Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the cake and fill in the middle with frosting using a spatula, making sure to keep it even. 

Step 2: Repeat the process till your cake looks like this one below.

Step 3: The crumb layer. Ice the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting to hold all the crumbs in place when you do the final frosting coat. Use a bench scraper, if you have one, to smooth it all out. Put the cake in the fridge for an hour to firm up. I also put my frosting in the fridge for like 15 minutes to get it back to proper piping consistency, but you don't have to unless you need it.

Step 4: While the cake is in the fridge, practice your piping skills. The technique I used is not complicated, it was my first time doing it in fact and it wasn't too hard. Start by making a closed C shape, bring it up and over the top of the C to curl back into the middle (kind like a heart I guess). Then the next shape starts on the top part of the last shape, that's how you get that layering effect.

Step 5: Take the cake out of the fridge and pipe this design vertically in columns around the cake. Frost the top normally. Then step back and appreciate all your hard work!

I did some stamping around the edge of the cake board in honor of the occasion.

It was delicious! 

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Into Raspberry & Anise Marshmallows

Here in San Francisco, Spring has sprung. The birds are chirping, the sun is out and the cherry blossom trees are shooting stars!

With the levity of season comes also a levity of dessert. My taste buds begin to transition from craving rich, warm and decadent dessert to lighter, fresher, cleaner tastes.

So what better way to lighten up Sweet Lady Sass than with marshmallows!

Just to keep it interesting, I gave 1/2 a raspberry flavor and the other an anise flavor for the more adventurous. 

You can really make them any color or flavor you want! The recipe is here. Just omit the vanilla bean and cardamom and replace the vanilla extract with whatever flavoring you want! For the raspberry  I used 1 tsp of extract and for the anise I only used 3/4 tsp.

So put down the Peeps and opt for something a little more magnfique!

Oh, also, marshmallows make great gifts! Wrap them up in some parchment, tie a bow and give em' away!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(A+) Blackberry, Lemon And Thyme Muffins

If I had to make a list of my favorite foods in the whole wide world it would start with 1. Chocolate Chip Cookies 2. Muffins 3. Grapefruit. This post picks up at #2; a quite outstanding #2. 

If you eat as many muffins as I do, you begin to appreciate a really good muffin when you eat one. When I say really good, I don't just mean flavor. Of course that is a major component, but as any muffin connoisseur knows, there is so much more to it. Like muffin top quality, density, moistness, proper sweetness, etc.

It is in light of this muffin grading scale that I present to you an A+ muffin: Blackberry, Lemon And Thyme Muffins to be exact. Is it any surprise that the recipe comes from LA's famed Cake Monkey? The lovely store front-less bakery that sells their delicious treats at places like Intelligentsia and Umami Burger. Known for their perfect execution of every element of their desserts and high quality ingredients, you can't not love them. And the same is true of these muffins; they bare the same high quality seal as their sister treats. 

Do me a favor and please enjoy them for yourself.

Blackberry, Lemon And Thyme Muffins
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed, drained) blackberries (about 6 ounces), halved lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
special equipment:
Eight 4-ounce paper muffin molds, or 12-16 standard muffin liners

Crumble Directions
Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add butter. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until pea-size lumps form. Add egg yolk; stir to evenly distribute and form moist clumps. (Crumble should resemble a mixture of pebbles and sand.) Chill for at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Preheat oven to 325°. If making standard-size muffins, line 12-16 1/3-cup molds with paper liners. 

Whisk 1 cup all-purpose flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated, 2–3 minutes longer. Whisk eggs and vanilla in a small bowl to blend; gradually beat into butter mixture. Continue beating until light and fluffy, 3–4 minutes. Combine buttermilk and lemon zest in a small bowl; gradually beat into butter mixture. Add dry ingredients; beat just to blend (do not overmix).

Toss blackberries and thyme with 2 Tbsp. flour in another small bowl; fold into batter, gently crushing berries slightly to release some juices. 

Spoon about 2/3 cup batter into large paper muffin molds, or divide between prepared muffin pans. Top each large muffin with 2 Tbsp. crumble or each small muffin with 1 rounded Tbsp. crumble. Sprinkle tops with extra chopped thyme.

Bake until tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 20-30 minutes for standard-size muffins. Let cool in pan at least 20 minutes, then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store cooled muffins airtight at room temperature

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Catch Me Lucky Charms Cereal Milk Ice Cream!

If you were raised like any good American child, you grew up feasting on hearts, stars and horseshoes, clovers and blue moon, pots of gold and rainbows and me red balloons at least once or twice a week. If you weren't, as a result, your diet is probably much healthier than mine as an adult and you probably consume way less sugar on any given day because you were taught the importance of nutrition at a young age. To you I would say, was it worth it? To sacrifice the joy that fills your heart when you see that mischievous little leprechaun's face come out of the grocery bag, the sense of satisfaction you get when you were disciplined enough to eat all the cereal pieces first in order consume huge spoonfuls of only marshmallows afterwards and the overwhelmingly- sweet flavor experience as you polish off the taupe colored cereal milk?

Well, there might be hope for you yet and a blissful recollection for those of us who grew up eating Magically Deliciousness! I give you Me Lucky Charms Cereal Milk Ice Cream. Complete with the 3 essential elements of the Lucky Charms Experience: 
1. Cereal Pieces 2. Marshmallows 3. Lucky Charms Cereal Milk

Not only is it an amazing ice cream, it is also super fun to make. To start you get to actually buy Lucky Charms. I hadn't purchased them in years, so it was really exhilarating. Then you get to pick out all the marshmallows from the cereal pieces, kinda like when you were a kid treasure hunting through your bowl. Lastly, you end up with extra marshmallows so you can munch on them as you concoct your magical ice cream.

With that said, I invite you to try it out for yourself and relive, or live for the first time, your childhood.

Me Lucky Charms Cereal Milk Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups Lucky Charms cereal
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 - 1 1/2 cups Lucky Charms marshmallows

Toast just the cereal pieces in a 325 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Soak only 2 cups of the cereal pieces in milk for 15 minutes. Reserve the other 1/2 cup for later. Drain the cereal from the milk through a sieve and put milk in a medium pot with the sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Also, prepare an ice bath that another medium bowl can rest in. Pour the cream into that medium bowl that will rest in the ice bath and place a sieve over the top.

Heat the milk sugar mixture over medium heat until scalding to the touch. Whisk very slowly into egg yolk bowl, making sure to whisk constantly as you add so the eggs don't scramble. Add the egg yolk mixture back into the pot on the stove. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens into a custard and coast the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and pour through the sieve into the cream. Stir over the ice bath until cool, stir in the vanilla.

When mixture is cool, cover with plastic wrap leaving a slight opening at the top and place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. 

Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufactures instructions. When it reaches a good consistency, fold in the marshmallows and remaining 1/2 cup of cereal. Transfer to tupperware and put in freezer to firm up a little more.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Banana Kumquat Cake With Cardamom Buttercream

I have been a little addicted to creating things lately. Whether it's homemade bread, playing around with Photoshop or making dessert. I feel a little bit more like who I am created to be when I am creating. I have actually come to realize it is a big way I connect with God, which is why I decided to make this cake last Friday. I needed some quality connecting time.

I was inspired by a package of kumquats at Trader Joe's, some overly ripe bananas in my cupboard and the way Miette frosts their Tomboy Cake. What I ended up with was a moist, delicious and interesting Banana Kumquat Cake w/ Cardamom Buttercream. Oh yeah, I also threw in a little Marie Antoinette in there by stamping the edge of a cardboard cake round with her 'infamous' line "Let them eat cake". (She may have never actually said that, but it sure does look cute on the edge of my cake board.)

It's a multi-part recipe, so hang in there. But take heart! Each component is relatively easy to put together. 

Candied Kumquats
2 cups kumquats, halved and de-seeded                      
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Drop kumquats in a large pot of boiling water.  Boil for 3 minutes; drain. (To remove bitterness from the fruit.)

In a small pot combine water and sugar.  Heat until sugar has dissolved and add previously boiled kumquats. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Until liquid is almost all gone.

*You can do this in advance and store in the fridge if you want

*You will only need 1 1/2 cups for the cake. You can use the other 1/2 cup on top of some crusty bread and goat cheese for a tasty snack or appetizer

Banana Kumquat Cake
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 super ripe bananas, peeled and mushed
1 1/2 cups candied kumquats

Butter and flour a 6-inch cake pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or a handheld mixer beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color, 3-5 min. Reduce the speed and add the oil and mix until combined.  Add the mushed bananas and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the kumquats by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 45-50 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool before inverting on a cooling rack.

Cardamom Buttercream
1 stick butter, room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted for any lumps
2 Tbsp milk 

Cream butter until fluffy and very pale in color.

Add vanilla and cardamom and mix thoroughly.

Continue beating while adding in sugar one cup at a time alternating with milk, beating until smooth in between each addition.

Composing the Cake
Level off the top of the cake using a serrated knife. Cut the cooled cake in half using a serrated knife or thread.

Pipe a thick single layer of buttercream using a wide star tip in a swirl starting from the outside edge of the cake working in to the center. Smooth the inner rings of frosting but leave the outermost ring untouched.

Top with the other half of the cake.

Make the same swirl design with the frosting on top of the cake. Using an offset spatula and a little bit of pressure, turn the cake to smooth out the ridges of the swirl.

Top with the two dried off candied kumquats coated in sugar.