What do you get when you mix one part Carmen Miranda, two parts sugar, and equal parts royal icing, glitter, and morbidity?

I've been obsessed with El Día de Los Muertos since childhood (a little weird, I know), but this October marks the first time I've ever actually made a calavera of my very own. I'm quite proud!

I had the pleasure of taking a very informative and incredibly fun class from ReForm School, which I'm fortunate enough to live a block away from. After an hour and a half, I'm a semi-pro and fully addicted to making these things. (The big one even has rattling brains!)
The result: confections that are simultaneously flamboyant and celebratory while giving a nod to the dark side. I love!
Next up: muertos-inspired cupcakes. 
I'm leaning towards tres leches cakes with technicolor Calaveras piped on top; or spicy-cinnamon Mexican chocolate cakes topped with shimmery buttercream skulls... Or maybe just good old fashioned sugar cookies revamped as colorful skulls! The possibilities seem endless.
Calavera cookie (via Cake Central)

What do you think?


Pumpkin Season

Especially pumpkin carving.

Behold, my creations:

Cantankerous ole cultivar carcass

My beau's homage to Evil Dead

And the pièce de résistance: 
my beloved Harry Potter pumpkin!
My nerdiness knows no bounds...

But no carving session is complete without a proper snack.  (And nothing's more fun than sloppily eviscerating a gourd-like object and harvesting its contents.) 

Here's how to roast the best pumpkin seeds this side of the river Styx:

1 pumpkin's worth of seeds, rinsed and de-gooped
1/4 C Earth Balance (or even betterbutter), melted
Finely ground Pink Himalayan Salt or sea salt, to taste
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Rinse your plethora of seeds in a colander under cold water.  
  • Discard any orange goop/pumpkin guts.  Pat dry with paper towel.
  • Get your melted Earth Balance situated in a nice big bowl.
  • Add pumpkin seeds.  Coat well with buttery goodness.

  • Transfer seeds to parchment or foil-covered baking sheet.  Slop on any leftover Earth Balance.  Waste not!
  • Sprinkle liberally with salt.  (I'm obsessed with my pretty pink Himalayan salt, but sea salt is equally divine.)
  • Bake for  15 minutes, remove, stir seeds around, rotate pan, and bake 15 more minutes.

Snack on, you pumpkin-sculpting fiend, you!


Dream Cream

I've had an insatiable, almost homicidal desire for Horchata lately. It seems that no amount of the stuff can slake my thirst.  It's refreshing, sweet (but not too sweet), and a perfect balance between the warmth of the cinnamon and the light, cold creaminess of the drink itself.  I love it!!

Since moving to LA I've been in Mexican Food Heaven (everything is so cheap! And delicious! And on every block!) and chugging Horchata at every chance I get.

I was at lunch last week with with my lovely, health-conscious friend Lexi when suddenly we had a brilliant idea: why not make Horchata ice cream and take it to the next level? So I took a whack at it.

Here's what I came up with:
And here's how I did it:

Horchata Ice Cream

2 1/2 C milk
1/4 C ground almond (food processed)
Splash or 2 of vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom (if you have it)
1/3 C honey (I used creamed clover honey)
2/3 C rice (I only had brown)

Heat the milk to a low simmer.  Add honey, almonds & spices.  Pour the hot milk over the rice and let cool then refrigerate overnight (if you're in a rush 2+ hours will do).  You want your flavors to make friends!

Blend the mixture on high until it's a smooth as possible.

Pour the mixture through a strainer. Take a couple dollops of the coarse, grainy, almond-and-rice stuff that didn't go through, and stir it back in with the Horchata mixture. 

Discard the rest or, if you hate to waste all those lovely sweet, spiced rice & almond granules, incorporate it into this recipe for (gluten-free!) Italian Cornmeal Cake. Substitute your dregs for the almond flour, but add in with the ricotta and wet ingredients--not with the cornmeal!  You may have to experiment with decreasing the amount of ricotta so your batter is not too wet.  Anyway...

Stir the horchata mixture (approx. 1 1/2 C) in with 1 pint heavy cream. Pour into ice cream maker and let mix 25ish minutes till thickened.  

And for your listening pleasure, here is the lovely Vampire Weekend song, named after our favorite eponymous beverage:

So charming and catchy; I like it almost as much as the drink itself!


What does BBC stand for?

I'm pretty sure it must be Bitchin' British Cake.  Seriously.
Rachel Manley, charming Brixton blogger and contributor to the brilliant BBC Food website, has completely seduced me with this ah.mazing recipe for Almond & Yogurt Cake with Blood Orange Curd (via Design*Sponge).  

Lately I'm obsessed with "every day cakes"--unassuming cakes with fewer ingredients that surprise you with sumptuous, delicious flavors despite their simplicity.  This almond & yogurt confection takes the cake.  The blood orange adds a hint of glamor and zest that makes it so...spring!  It keeps and travels well, making it basically the perfect picnic cake.

My only issue?  It's not gluten-free!  But with a few tweaks, I managed to make it sans gluten and with a slightly lower Glycemic Index.  Check out my remix below:

Blood Orange Curd* (make a day in advance)
  • 2 blood oranges, zest and juice (should end up being about 1/2 C of juice)
  • 1/3 cup honey (lately I'm obsessed with creamed)
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter, cut into cubes)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
Place orange zest and juice, sugar and coconut oil/butter into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Don't let the base of the bowl touch the water.
Stir the mixture until the oil/butter has melted. Slowly whisk eggs into the mixture. Stir constantly but slowly as it cooks, until the curd has thickened.  (DON'T LET IT BOIL.) This should take about 10 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes; the mixture will thicken slightly.
Strain the curd through a sieve into jars or tuperware and let cool completely.  Store in the fridge.  After a couple of hours, the curd should look like thick custard. Keeps for a couple weeks.
*Delicious alternatives: lemon or lime curd (which you could make using the above recipe), raspberry jam, or fig spread...all scrumptious, complementary, and available in a jar!
Whipped Cream
Mix 1/2 C whipping cream with a splash of vanilla.  Whip till peaks form...but don't overdo it!  We're not making butter.

Almond and Yogurt Cake
  • 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, such as Chobani or Fage
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C GF flour, such as Arrowhead or Bob's Red Mill
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp + a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds or almond meal
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with PAM.
Mix wet ingredients (whisking in eggs one at a time); in separate bowl mix dry.  Fold almond-and-flour mixture into the wet mix.  Divide batter between the two pans and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake rises and the top is springy to the touch.  WATCH CAREFULLY!  Honey browns more quickly than and alternative flours can require longer bake times.
Remove cakes from the oven and let cool in pans for five minutes. Turn cakes out on cooling rack and let them finish cooling.
Place one of the cakes onto a serving plate or cake stand and spread with curd or jam, then whipped cream. Top with the other cake, upside down so that you have a nice, flat top.
Dust with powdered sugar and nibble alongside huge swigs of Lady Grey Tea!

Photography by Kristina Gill via Design*Sponge.


Technicolor Dream Cake

This January marked more than just the start of a new decade...it was also my golden birthday! 24 on the 24th?!  That must be good luck or something.  So, to celebrate, I recreated my favorite childhood birthday treat:
This foot-tall treat was the most successful, MOST delicious thing I've ever made. Ever.  Six layers of hyper-pigmented, rich, dense, delightful cake...pure technicolor heaven!

I loosely used this posting from the lovely 17 and Baking blog as a guide--but of course glammed it up gluten-free style.  I'll post my actual recipe once my moving boxes arrive in LA and I can get into my cookbooks again!

Here's the progression:
...it looks like I'm cooking slabs of PlayDoh
Layered with buttercream...
Très artistic crumb coat...
Final product:

So lovely!  So delicious!  And so tall!
A perfect way to ring in my 24th year, for sure.

UO Cook Book!

So, I realized I never posted the link...just teased you all horribly and left you hanging!  In my defense, it's been an insane last few months--tours and holidays and a move...OH MY!  That's right, lovelies.  I am no longer an NYC resident.  Bye, bye Brooklyn.  Onto LA, baby!

But back to baking.  Here, after many moons, is the link to my debut in the Urban Holiday "Cook Book":

Now go forth and make some cider cakes of your own!  Ain't they sweet?