Mango Almond Chiffon Cake

When I moved back to Minnesota, one of the things that I was dreading most was it long, long, long and COLD, COLD, COLD winters. I’m not sure how to articulate to you just how cold -30 Fahrenheit feels like, but maybe the best way to describe it would be to confess that I wore two pairs of pants, a long-sleeve, a sweatshirt and a vest, plus fuzzy socks — indoors (yep.).

But, you know, I am back, and for the most part, thrilled to be close to my family, literally down the street from some of my friends, and happily employed. Even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for the majority of my life, the transition back from New York hasn’t been easy. It’s sometimes a little lonely to look out the window and not see a single soul, and can we talk about how I’m pretty sure I forgot how to drive, period. Learning to get back on the road again when I’ve always been an anxious driver has definitely been a challenge. For now, I’m taking it slow and counting driving safely to my local Trader Joe’s a win.

One of the things that I have forgotten about Minnesota (and leaves me breathless every time), are the beautiful fall colors. The swirling leaves of red, pink, orange, gold and yellow surrounded by pockets of green are for me, one of the best parts of fall and best parts of living in Minnesota. The golden-y hue of fall color is what inspired this Almond Mango Chiffon Cake. What is chiffon cake you ask? Well, it’s probably the lightest, fluffiest cake you’ll ever taste and it’s got nothing but eggs helping it rise. In my recipe, there’s a slight hint of almond, and a fruity aftertaste. Basically, fall and summer all in one.

I like to make them in 6 oversized muffin tins, but there’s nothing stopping you from turning this into an 8″ or 9″ cake either. In fact, there’s definitely nothing stopping you from making this cake and a cream cheese frosting or whipped cream topping to finish it off. The best part of this cake is that it’s dairy-free and good for breakfast, dessert or a snack.

Mango Almond Chiffon Cake (adapted from Epicurious) | Makes 6-8 slices (depending on how you cut)

Ingredients

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried mango slices
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cold water mixed with 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour*

*If you don’t have cake flour, you can always make your own using all-purpose flour and cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca starch. Just measure out a cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and add in 2 tablespoons of your starch.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350(F) and line either cake tin or muffin tin with parchment paper.
  2. Combine honey water and chopped mango slices – let soak to re-hydrate the dried mango.
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine egg whites and salt. Using a electric mixer, start on the lowest speed, beating for a minute on each speed until you have reached medium speed. Then, gradually add in 1/4 cup sugar and continue mixing. Once sugar has been fully added, beat on high speed until you get peaks that just barely hold their shape (not stiff, but not soft either).
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine your egg yolks and remaining sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp). Using an electric mixer, beat until mixture turns fluffy and pale yellow.
  5. With the electric mixer on medium speed, gradually pour olive oil into the egg yolk mixture and mix until incorporated thoroughly.
  6. Then mix in honey water+mangoes and almond extract.
  7. Sift cake flour into egg yolk mixture (the sifting is crucial! this will make sure your cake isn’t dense), and combine using a wooden spoon (not electric mixer).
  8. Fold whipped egg whites into egg yolk mixture in three batches, make sure to using a folding motion so you don’t deflate the egg whites.
  9. Pour mixture into prepped muffin tins or cake tin. Sprinkle top with sugar.
  10. Place into oven and bake for 25 (if using muffin tins) or 45 minutes (if using cake tins), until golden and toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Enjoy!

Taiwanese Cucumbers with Sesame Oil

“Pickled” cucumbers have always been one of my favorite summertime foods.  The moment it hits 80 degrees, I’m at the grocery store searching for the nearest display of cucumbers. When it comes to buying cucumbers, I prefer Persian cucumbers over English ones.  Persian ones tend to be less seedy and also less watery.  I also find them crunchier and overall just cuter, because who doesn’t like mini cucumbers? If English cucumbers are the only thing you have on hand, the recipe works just as well, but I’d definitely recommend trying to make them with Persian cucumbers one day!


These cucumbers were a staple of my household growing up.  My grandma used to grow them in her garden, and even after we moved away from her and her weekly cucumber ration, my mom continued to serve these every summer.  There’s just something so refreshing about cucumbers. When I started helping out in the kitchen, this dish was one of the first dishes I was allowed to help out with.  Looking back, I guess it makes sense cause these cucumbers are so soft, I was able to use a butter knife to slice through them, ha!


If the “pickles” title makes you think of sour, dill-flavored pickles, you’re in for a (nice) surprise! These ones are flavored with soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and topped with sesame seeds.  They also happen to be ready to eat in 15 minutes. The combination of these three ingredients, seriously make for the most umami-packed and crisp cucumbers.  If you’ve noticed that I’ve left garlic out from these cucumbers and are wondering why, the Taiwanese cucumbers that I’ve ever had, never included garlic, so I’m going with the taste that I know.  If you’re dying to include some chopped garlic, go for it! Just beware that raw garlic packs a more spicy and pungent flavor, so use sparingly. The best way to eat these “pickles” are chilled and marinated for about 30 minutes or so, but they’re delicious right off the bat as well. 


Alright, well let’s get straight to it! One platter of crisp, savory “pickles” coming right up.

QUICK NOTE: If you don’t have white pepper, simply leave it out! Do not try and substitute it with black pepper.  White pepper and black pepper have distinct tastes, and while white pepper is much milder, adding in black pepper into these “pickles” will make it overwhelmingly peppery.

TAIWANESE CUCUMBERS WITH SESAME OIL | Makes 1 large plate, feeds 3-4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 Persian cucumbers (generally how many that come in a pack)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Slice Persian cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices and toss in large bowl
  2. Add in soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated
  3. Place in fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Before serving sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of “pickles”
  5. Consume immediately (and relish in the refreshing taste)

Enjoy!

Summer Strawberry Pavlova

 Pavolva is a f***ing beautiful dessert and I spent 22 years of my life not knowing it existed.  In addition to being gluten-free and dairy-free, the crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth exterior gives way to a fluffy, marshmallow-y filling that manages to be both life and fluffy by decadently rich.  To be one hundred percent honest, I only tried my hand at making pavlova because I had way (and i mean wayyyy) to many leftover egg whites from making tiramisu for a going–away party and because I needed another dessert to bring to the bf’s parents’ house since they were throwing me a going-away party as well (sssssssssshh!)


With two hours to spare until the party, I was literally peeing in my pants because I still hadn’t put  together a dessert and the house was covered in a layer of flour and cocoa dust.  I was seriously contemplating my dad’s suggestion of of getting a Whole Foods cake and then just putting in onto a nice plate to make it look “homemade”, when I had a #greatbritishbaking moment.  For those of you that don’t know, Great British Baking is literally my jam (pun intended).  I love it.  I’ve seen every episode, having favorite bakers and follow them on Instagram.  Needless to say, I’m pretty much devastated that the show isn’t going to be the same anymore.


Anyway, months ago, I stumbled along Mary Berry’s (one of the hosts of GBB) pavlova recipe.  I bookmarked it on my laptop intending to return to it, but never got a chance.  This pavlova recipe was inspired by her recipe, but I’ve made a couple tweaks here and there to customize it to what I needed (mainly making a smaller and more easily manageable pavlova).
I’m not kidding you, if you have a electric mixer of any kind, this dessert will come together in under 10 minutes and you’ll be free to go about your day like the amazing pastry chef you are. Since I’m a nerdy food scientist at heart, I’m always astounded that egg whites and sugar will whip up into such an amazing dessert with multiple different textures. What you should be careful with (and what I forgot) is that egg whites brown super easily! That’s why they say to brush pastries or pies with egg white so you get that nice brown color.  But for a pavlova, you want it to be as white as snow….SO, don’t forget to monitor the oven temperature and turn it down if it’s starting to brown you pavlova. Don’t worry, if it turns golden, it’ll still be just as delicious (same with if the pavlova cracks…in my opinion, the cracks just mean better nooks and crannies for additional whipped cream!)
So here’s to the end of summer, when you’re left wanting the days to go a little slower and the weather to stay a little warmer.  This strawberry pavlova is just what you need for a perfect end to summer (and just what I need to help jump start my school year).

SUMMER STRAWBERRY PAVLOVA | Serves 8-10 depending on how generous you’re feeling

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs whites – room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1 tsp vinegar -any kind, you won’t be able to taste it!
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract or 2 tsp vanilla extract (almond extract is stronger so you need less)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries – hulled and halved

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 (F).
  2. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites on low speed until they begin to get frothy. Then add in salt.
  3. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer while you add in a tablespoon of sugar at a time until egg whites have been beaten into stiff shiny peaks. You’ll know if it’s done by holding the whisk upside down.  If the tip of the peaks don’t fold over, you’re good to go.
  4. Add in cornstarch, vinegar and extract, then gently fold in with a rubber spatula.
  5. On a piece of parchment paper, draw out an 8″ circle with a pencil.  Then turn the parchment paper over onto baking sheet (so the pencil won’t touch the pavlova mixture) and spoon mixture into the circle, trying not to let the mixture spill outside of the drawn circle. Try to flatten the top and smooth the sides, but it’s okay if it’s a little messy, as the swirls will make it look elegant and beautiful once baked.
  6. Place pavlova in oven and immediately reduce temperature down to 300 (F).
  7. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, but keep pavlova inside oven with the door open until pavlova is fully cooled before handling.
  8. While pavlova is cooling, beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until soft peaks form.  Keep an eye on the whipped cream as it can quickly turn from light and fluffy to curdled.
  9. To assemble, gently tap the top of the pavlova a couple times to create an indentation for the whipped cream.  Top pavlova with whipped cream and sprinkle strawberries on top.
  10. Pavlova can be make 1-2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container, but once you assemble, it must be eaten within the day otherwise the crunch exterior will soften.

Enjoy!

Raspberry Frangipane Buttermilk Cake

 A layer of juicy and sweet raspberries, a layer of almond-y frangipane filling and a layer of oh-so-moist and light buttermilk cake. It is basically the best one-bowl cake (aka lazy summer dessert) that you could make with fresh berries that is still so elegant.  If you look closely, you can see that the layers separate into 3 different layers and it makes it extremely beautiful when you slice into the cake. The thing that makes this cake is that it truly highlights the flavor of the raspberries. During the summer, I try and use fresh raspberries since they are in season, and it really brings the flavor to a whole other level, but using frozen raspberries works just as well!


Because you are baking this cake upside down and then flipping it right side up, the raspberries sort of become jammy and acts like a glaze for the cake, meaning that it does not need anything to top it! No frosting, no icing, no glaze, not even whipped cream.  It’s actually perfect just by itself, which I love since I’m not a huge fan of heavy frostings.  That being said, I think that this cake would also be delicious with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and sprinkle of berries.


Not going to lie, the idea for this cake actually came from a dream.  I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for this cake in my mind and frantically scrambled around in the dark looking for a piece of paper and pen to jot down the idea before it slipped from my mind. 


So the bf works at a clinic in St. Paul and since I’ve been shoveling all my excess baked goods at the nurses and doctors that work at the clinic, I figured I should probably bake one last cake to say thank you to them for putting up with all my testing of baked goods before moving to New York City for graduate school.  Since I’ve been so busy packing, I wanted to make a cake that was a breeze to make but also looked stunning. GUYS, this is IT! I swear, it took me like 15 minutes to put everything together and then I threw it into the oven and got back to attempting to shovel my 20 pairs of shoes into one suitcase (it’s harder than it looks…). When the timer buzzed, all it took was a nice cake stand and a little cooling time to put it all together.  Did I mention that every bite feels like you’re eating summer?

Fun food science facts: The frangipane helps keep this cake extremely moist because it is mainly ground almonds which do an awesome job retaining moisture and keeps the cake from getting to dry.  Ever make volcanic eruptions in elementary school? Believe it or not, that’s what makes your cake light and fluffy! The acid in this case is the buttermilk, and just like in elementary school, the base is the baking soda. These two ingredients in the cake batter help produce lots of air to keep the cake from getting too dense.

RASPBERRY FRANGIPANE BUTTERMILK CAKE | Makes 10-12 slices
INGREDIENTS


for frangipane

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

for cake

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) softened unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • one 8″ cake pan

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F)
  2. For the frangipane, mix together almond flour, all-purpose flour and sugar in a small bowl. Then work softened butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles a soft dough.
  3. Add in eggs and vanilla extract before mixing well.  Set mixture aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together.
  5. Add in egg and whisk to combine.
  6. Add in buttermilk and vanilla extract and mix well.
  7. Then add in flour, salt and baking soda and whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients until well-incorporated.
  8. Grease and line cake pan bottom and edges in parchment paper for easy removal.
  9. To assemble the cake, spread raspberries evenly on bottom of cake pan. Pour frangipane over berries and spread  it evenly. Finally pour cake mixture on top and smooth top.
  10. Bake cake for 70-75 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  If cake top looks like it’s browning too quickly, cover in aluminum foil.
  11. Let cake cool for 15 minutes before inverting cake and cooling fully.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake

If you know someone who is gluten-free, then you probably know all the pains that accompany a gluten-free lifestyle (including how difficult it is to find a decent cake that is gluten-free!). At a friend’s house the other week, I learned that it was going to be her little sister’s birthday soon and that she so dearly wanted a tres leches cake from Cafe Latte (a neighborhood bakery). Unfortunately, Cafe Latte’s tres leches cake wasn’t gluten-free. I jumped at the chance to bake her a birthday cake and try my hand at some gluten-free baking. I wanted to bake her the perfect birthday cake – exactly identical to Cafe Latte’s, but just gluten-free!


Well, ladies and gents, here is the final product taken by her wonderful father! He was so kind and wonderful to take some professional photos for me 🙂 While I never got to taste it, her family ended up loving it. The recipe is fairly simple and can be adapted to fit any sort of sponge cake that you may want to bake for your gluten-free friends (or just ALL your friends!). I stumbled upon this recipe from one of my favorite websites, Food 52 and I’ve adapted it for my own uses.


The key to light and fluffy sponge cake is to make sure your eggs are at room-temperature. Room-temperature eggs end up holding more air when you beat it, leading to a lighter and fluffier cake. I hope your adventures in gluten-free baking bring you as much joy as mind did!


TRES LECHES CAKE (SPONGE ADAPTED FROM EMIKO’S FOOD 52 RECIPE)
INGREDIENTSfor the Cake (makes two 8inch cake layers)

  • 150g (~1 cup) Potato starch
  • 150g (~2/3 cup) Sugar
  • 6 Eggs (at room temperature)

for the Tres leches syrup

  • 1 can Evaporated milk
  • 1 can Condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup Heavy cream

for the Whipped cream

  • 3 cups Heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 cup Powdered sugar
  • Box of raspberries
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS for the Cake 

  1. Sift potato starch in a bowl and set aside
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and mix 1/3cup of the sugar in with the egg yolks
  3. Using an electric mixer, mix all 6 egg whites on low speed for 2 minutes, medium speed for 2 minutes and then add in the remaining sugar. Then beat on high until the peaks formed are stiff (check by taking the whisk off the mixer and inverting. If the point on the egg whites don’t droop or fold over, then stiff peaks have formed).
  4. Beat the yolks and the sugar together for about 10 minutes, or until the yolks are lightened in color and the mixture has become creamy
  5. Alternate folding in the potato starch and the egg whites into the egg yolks until you have a well-combined batter (do not over mix!)
  6. Pour batter into lined cake pans and bake at 350 ºF for 20 minutes or until golden brown
  7. Invert and cool cakes

for the Tres leches syrup

  1. Mix together entire can of evaporated milk, entire can of condensed milk and 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I find it is easiest pouring this all into a large water bottle and shaking well)
  2. Once cakes are cooled, divide syrup mixture evenly between cake layers and soak (the cakes will absorb more liquid than you think they will!)

for the whipped cream

  1. Mix heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer
  2. Beat until cream has reached your desired consistency (I usually beat it for about 4-5 minutes, or until cream is medium-stiff).
  3. When cake layers have soaked in all the syrup, assemble the cake layers and outline the edge of the cake in raspberries cut a big slice and enjoy!