baby shower, cakes, and appreciation

my shower was last weekend! what a blast! we had it in a big old church turned into garden and community center. light shone in through the pastel colored windows, several tables decorated in green table cloths and egg-shaped candies that filled bird’s nests. adorable. my sister knows me too well, and everything i wanted, she executed perfectly! we had a pretty packed house, maybe 40 of my closest ladies were there.

we had food catered from our local middle eastern eatery. -my favorite hummus, a giant greek salad, and so many other goodies. i didn’t get photos of the food because i was busy having a blast, but it was set up in the most beautiful way. description would not do justice.

this baby is already spoiled. jogging stroller, baby magic bullet, high chair, cloth diapers, car seat, christening blanket,.. i can’t name a favorite. all i can say is that my friends and family are amazing and supportive. thank you to all of my pals who love this baby already! from the bottom of my heart, this joy of this whole pregnancy was totally illuminated at my shower.

my sis and i had a blast spending 2 full days in the kitchen, the first day baking 2 layer cakes, and the second filling and frosting the cakes and also making a lemon tart. we also whipped up a few bird’s nests, made from coconut and egg whites, to top the cakes with.

the first cake we made was an almond layer cake, filled with strawberry jam and frosted with fluffy cream cheese frosting.

the second was chocolate layer cake with chocolate filling and chocolate frosting.

they were both delicious, and i’m happy to say the leftovers were gobbled up quickly!

this recipe makes 2 round 8″ layer cakes.

almond layer cake with fluffy cream cheese frosting

ingredients

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/3 cup room temperature butter

4 cups almond flour

1 cup coconut flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

8 eggs at room temp

1 cup milk (i used whole)

2 tbsp vanilla

optional 1/4 tsp almond extract

1 cup strawberry preserves

method:

preheat oven to 350f, position racks in center of oven. prep 2 round 8″ cake pans with parchment rounds and nice coating of butter.

begin by creaming butter and sugar with electric mixer. once combined and fluffy, add milk, vanilla, and almond extract (if using it) at a low-speed, until it is all wet and combined. add eggs, a few at a time, and let it slowly mix.

combine all dry ingredients together.

add dry ingredients into wet ingredients. a fragrant, irresistable batter will form, and your fingers will find themselves into the bowl, scraping sugar and almond from the sides, and before you know it, you’re eating the raw batter! stop yourself.

pour violated batter evenly into 2 cake pans, and bake for 35 minutes or so. watch carefully as nuts burn quickly.

let them cool for a bit before loosening edges from pans and inverting onto cooling racks. these cakes are best served the day after, as the lovely flavors meld nicely with time. -like booze does.

i spread (thickly, may i add) some fancy, expensive strawberry preserves between the layers as a filling. i layed it on thick, spread it evenly, and then stuck the un-frosted cake into the refrigerator so the filling would stiffen up a little before icing it.

fluffy cream cheese frosting

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup cream cheese at room temp

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

method: whip cream until it is stiff.

in separate bowl, beat cream cheese until it is creamy. blend in sweetener and vanilla.

fold cream into cream cheese gently.

pipe edge around filling to help keep preserves contained in center of cake. place top layer on, use frosting to cover top and sides of cake. place in cool area for a few hours to help set up, then keep at room temperature to serve.

for the chocolate cakes

this recipe makes one layer, so double it if you are doing a 2 chocolate and single vanilla layer cake like i did.

adapted from the wholesome home

1/2 cup butter at room temp

1 cup sugar, minus a few tbsp

5 eggs at room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup coconut flour, sifted

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup strong brewed coffee at room temp

method: prep 8″ round cake pans using butter and lining the bottom with parchment round. preheat oven to 350f.

combine coconut flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. set aside.

crack eggs open and put in a bowl with a pouring spout. set aside.

combine milk, vanilla and coffee in cup with pouring spout. set aside.

using stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. yum!

after just a few minutes, turn on low-speed and add one egg at a time to the butter and sugar. plop. plop. until all the eggs are gone and well combined.

next, scoop about a cup of the flour mixture into the batter, then pour 1/4 of the milk mixture into the bowl. continue alternating additions until both are mixed into the batter. stop mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to reincorporate any butter or other stuff that may be sticking to the bowl. mix until evenly combined. pour into prepped pan.

bake for 35 minutes or so. the center will be just set and no longer jiggly. do not over bake. please, for the love of all things good. cool in pan for half an hour or so. use a knife to loosen edges from pan and cool completely on rack.

cocoa frosting

adapted from bon appetit magazine, feb 2011

10 tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/3 cup light or golden brown sugar, packed

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

method: melt butter over medium heat. stir in sugar, cocoa, and salt. gradually stir in cream. continue to stir over medium heat until mixture is hot and begins to simmer around edges. remove from heat and stir in vanilla. stir off heat for a minute or two. put a lid on it. stick in refrigerator for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring occasionally.

after chilled, let stand at room temp for another hour, again, stirring occasionally.

frost and fill the cake liberally. do not keep cake cold, store at room temp.

it was a total honor to serve desert to all of the guests at the shower. this was a great way to greet everyone individually, which i really don’t think i would have been able to accomplish if i hadn’t served up the cakes myself.

normally, i don’t include many photos of myself in posts. but this is a special occasion, because i look at this as more of a photo of my baby! look at how big that thing is! so i wanted to post a photo of my big tummy in case anyone wanted to tell me what the sex of the baby is based on just looking. i love all of the guesses i’ve been getting, what fun!

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peanut butter & chocolate pudding pie

peanut butter & chocolate pudding pie

i have the best friends in the world. -no, seriously. i know you think yours are pretty awesome, but mine are the BEST. i mean, the kind of friends that come from San Francisco to see you. the kind that spend the last change of their money on a food co-op membership for your birthday. the kind that secretly remember to send you a sweet and sappy card in the mail across the country (seriously spm, i needed it so badly!). the kind that buy you fancy gin, just because they want you to experience new flavors. the kind that spend a sunday night at a late night bbq just to catch up… mom & dad, you are included in this. thanks for putting up with my craziness! you are all amazing, and i want to thank everyone for making last weekend an incredible party. i don’t care if it was to see emily, or for my birthday, what a great day.

by the way, this is the last birthday that starts with a “2” for me.., so next year, i want an over the hill party. can you hire a grim reaper to show up instead of a clown? anyone know?

more loco than four loco

most of our parties end up in a bonfire. when we ran out of logs to burn, we ended up burning the famous “mural doors” that came with the house. -they had wisteria and fairies painted on them. burning these awful things…. ughh…. very theraputic.

i made this peanut butter & chocolate pudding pie for my birthday this weekend, and it was killer. we all know chocolate and peanut butter will make my heart melt, but this was surprisingly delicious. i whipped it together hours before the party, just winging it as i went along. why is it that the things i throw together turn out better than those that are calculated?

this pie is naturally sweetened with honey, not sugar, which is always amazing with peanut butter. the peanut cookie crust is lightly salted, which is a nice contrast with the sweetness that comes through the honeyed crust and, the filling of the pie. the crust is a little crumbly, a little crunchy, and super dreamy. it held the filling of the pie well. i was surprised at how well the filling set up, because the arrowroot worked like a charm. i am always a little skeptical with puddings, but this firmed up perfectly, even the peanut butter pudding. you could use cornstarch if you don’t have arrowroot powder.

yes, it did turn out a little lumpy. i was being impatient.

lesson learned: let it cool for 3 minutes before adding arrowroot powder.

still delicious and silky.

i can’t say much more about this pie other than that it is everything you imagine it will be.

lumpy love

favorite pie? yes.

make again? duh.

peanut butter & chocolate pudding pie

for the crust:

3 cups roasted & salted peanuts

1/4 cup peanut flour or coconut flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

4 tbsp oil

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp vanilla extract

method:

preheat oven to 350f.

combine vanilla, oil and honey in a bowl and set aside. grind peanuts in food processor until they make a crumbly meal. add in dry ingredients and pulse a few times. add wet ingredients, and mix in processor until thick dough forms. don’t over process, or it will turn into a liquidy peanut butter.

press dough into spring-form pan, or something where the bottom drops out. bake for 8-10 minutes, until it smells like a giant amazing cookie. it should appear golden brown, not too dark, or it will taste burnt. cool for an hour or more before filling.

chocolate pudding:

1 can coconut milk (14oz)

pinch of sea salt

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips

method: in saucepan, heat coconut milk and salt over medium. once it comes to gentle boil, remove from heat for 3 minutes. now sift in arrowroot powder and whisk vigorously. i like to use a hand mixer for the arrowroot step. it will thicken, and should be relatively smooth. whisk in honey and vanilla.

once combined, whisk in chocolate until it melts. whisk, whisk, whisk, then chill for an hour or so, along with peanut butter filling.

peanut butter pudding:

1 can coconut milk (14oz)

pinch of salt

3 tbsp arrowroot powder

1 cup smooth, no stir, natural peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

method: in saucepan, heat coconut milk and salt over medium. once it comes to gentle boil, remove from heat for 3 minutes. now sift in arrowroot powder and whisk vigorously, again with a mixer if you have one. it will thicken, and should be relatively smooth. whisk in honey and vanilla.

finally, whisk in peanut butter until well combined and smooth. whisk, whisk, whisk, then chill for an hour or so.

chocolate pudding and peanut butter filling should cool at the same time.

to assemble:

fill pie by dropping heaping spoonful of pudding onto cooled shell. use a knife blade to swirl and marble. chill for at least 2 hours before serving. keep this pie cold, slice when cold, and serve cold.

i fully intended on serving this pie with bananas ice cream, but totally forgot by the time i was slicing, but i do know it would be an awesome addition.

ps, don’t forget about this:

click here to watch something wonderful!

chocolate tart with coconut almond crust

file this under the “unphotographical but ridiculously tasty” category. chocolate just does not photograph well for me. -so here is a lovely photo of the crisp, brown crust, because it turned out pretty attractively.

egg free and grain free has been an adventure that has taken me outside the comforts of my usual desserts of cupcakes, muffins, and quick breads. this tart is egg free, grain free and dairy free.

when i was little, i remember a phase i was going through that lasted a few years (is it a phase if it lasts that long????) where the only candy i ate was almond joys. i demanded them. i did not have the type of childhood where i was allowed candy often, if not just for special occasions. so when i did have it, it had to be almond joy. NOT MOUNDS. in my adult life, i am still really finicky about my candy, though i try to keep it as a special occasion treat. but i have been falling pretty hard for coconut things lately, eating coconut butter straight out of the jar and things the like. aye aye aye.

but those of us who love coconut are also hip to the flavor trinity that is coconut, almond, and chocolate. especially dark chocolate. cooling, savory, sweet, and warming, all at once, the profile of a combination like this is not unique, but it is classic and comforting.

so it goes without saying that this tart i made, this one here, is one of my favorite ‘zerts.

perfect.

i would not make any changes to this recipe at all. it was amazing the way it was, and i would be afraid that the addition of any toppings or flavors would destroy what this thing is about. the only thing i would make an exception for would be a light sprinkling of some salty almonds on top.

but that’s it. nothing more. seriously. i think it is my favorite.

the crust is really sturdy, a tad chewy, and flexible. it has the wonderful likeness of a macaroon. i think it is perfectly sweetened and flavored, but you could adjust the sweetener to your liking.

my recipe is adapted from elana amsterdam’s chocolate pie and the whole gang’s coconut cream pie. double the recipes for a full-sized pie.

this recipe calls for honey, but for a completely vegan version, use agave nectar or maple syrup.

chocolate tart with coconut almond crust

for the crust:

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup almond flour

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 tbsp honey or other liquid sweetener

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

method: preheat oven to 350f.

melt coconut oil with honey over low heat, whisking well to combine. stir in extracts and remove from heat.

separately, combine all dry ingredients.

combine all ingredients together until well combined. work quickly because coconut is pretty absorbent.

press into a, 8″ or 9″ tart pan. bake for 10-12 minutes, or until evenly browned. cool completely before filling, about an hour or so.

for the filling:

1 can full fat coconut milk

3 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 tbsp arrowroot powder

1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

method: simmer coconut milk over medium heat. add honey, salt, and extract. once everything is good and hot, quickly sift in arrowroot powder and whisk like crazy or use a hand mixer to blend. if you do not work quickly, it will get lumpy. be sure to scrape up from the bottom a few times. mix for about 2 minutes, until smooth. stir in chocolate chips until totally combined and glossy.

cover and chill for half an hour.

pour into baked crust. if you want a nice and smooth top, gently press plastic wrap to the top of the filling. filling will set up in about an hour. store chilled until ready to disassemble tart pan and serve.

lemon tart

super lemon, oh so sweet!

i have something for you. i think you’ll really like it.it’s a recipe for spring. i know it’s still cold outside. anyway, you should taste spring. i promise it will help. are you ready? its lemons+honey+pistachios. wait, that isn’t a recipe, its math. sorry.this yellow beauty was served for dessert at the tapas dinner brian and i hosted for our parents last week. since giving up chocolate for lent, i’ve had to indulge my sweet tooth in a lighter, perhaps more modest manner. it’s always difficult for me to work my way back into the spring desserts from the rich, dark, and decadent flavors that are embraced during the cold months.i guess this was the first spring dessert i really made this season, so let this be the beginning of many more pies, tarts, shortcakes, and bars. what a welcome change of flavors this indulged me in. sour lemons and sweet honey balance each other perfectly to make the curd filling on the buttery pastry base. it was really hard to stick to one thin slice here, so i just kept ’em coming all night.like this:oh, walking to the couch? i better grab a slice of tart. forgot to shut off the kitchen light? i should clean up the edges and neaten the tart while i’m in there. dad, you wanna take some home? i better take another little sliver for myself. i know. i have a problem. -but guys, gimme a break. i quit chocolate. so, i guess what i actually did here is give up chocolate to become a glutton.

on to business.

i used the pistachio shortbread cookies recipe to make the base. one recipe made the perfect amount for this. i sugared the crust for effect, but it worked nicely because it also caramelized slightly during baking, making a little “crunch” with bites of the outer crust.i use the whole egg to make the lemon curd. -don’t be scared off by that. here are a few things to think about: using the whole egg eliminates the waste of unused egg white, using the whole egg produces a lighter textured curd, using the whole egg is a little easier, skipping the steps of separating the yolk from the white.the main reason many curds are made with yolks only is because yolks and whites cook at different rates. yolks cook much more slowly. -think fried egg, the yolk is runny, the white is set-the science behind the protein cooking at a lower temperature than the fat can actually be worked with, though, by bringing the heat of the eggs up slowly, and keeping the whisk in your hand the entire time. also, straining the curd to separate any whites will cover up any little mistakes you may make here.

let’s get started. bake the base a few hours before you need it, keeping in mind the curd shouldn’t be poured into it until the base is completely cooled for the pistachio base before i bake.

this crust recipe makes 2 8″ or 9″ round tarts.

for the crust:

1 3/4 cups coconut flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter, room temp

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup pistachios, ground up in food processor

a few extra tablespoons sugar for dusting the crust right before baking

method:

preheat oven to 350. line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

mix together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

cream together butter and sugar. add eggs one at a time, add vanilla extract. add pistachios, followed by flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time.

continue to beat until completely mixed together. if dough seems really dry, you may add a little extra butter or splashes of milk to moisten. just don’t over do it.

stick it into refrigerator for at least an hour to stiffen.

preheat oven to 350f.

remove dough from refrigerator and press evenly into a 9″ tart pan. sprinkle with sugar. make a few small slits in the bottom of the crust or the whole thing will puff up when it bakes.

bake for 6 minutes, rotate, and bake for another 6 minutes or until golden brown. allow to cool for a few hours.

curd

for the lemon curd:

6 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup honey

zest of one organic lemon

1 cup of lemon juice

12 tbsp coconut oil or butter

method:

whisk first 3 ingredients in a bowl. transfer to sauce pan and, over low heat, whisk like crazy until it gets a little pale in color. remember, you don’t want to be making scrambled eggs here, so low and slow is the key here.

add coconut oil, whisk for a few seconds until melted, then quickly whisk in lemon juice.

cook over medium heat whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and a few bubbles rise from the mixture.

remove from heat immediately after you see your first few bubbles, and pour through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a clean bowl, pushing mixture through. discard pulp in sieve.

stir the curd that is now in the bowl. allow it to cool for just a few minutes before pouring over cooled tart base. allow to cool for several hours before slicing, as it will stiffen up a little and set up really nicely over a few hours. sprinkle with pistachios to serve.