It’s a pie! It’s a cake! It’s…It’s…

When it comes to dessert and baking, I generally think of myself as a less-is-more kind of girl.  I don’t believe that an extra layer of frosting, nuts, foam, candies or a trip to the deep fryer automatically makes something better.

But, every once in a while, I like to get a little crazy.  And this is one of those times.  Plus, the recipe includes the element of fire…which really…who can resist?

We’ll start with a loafed version of butter cake.

The batter is thick and rich going into the oven.

Golden brown and dense coming out.

And usually, this is where I stop.  On its own, this loaf cake is pretty wonderful.  It has a nice dense crumb and would be delightful paired with a cup of coffee and some fresh berries.  I like to make loaves like this and freeze them.  I have an as-yet-to-be-realized fantasy that someone will stop by unannounced and that I’ll serve them some nice cake and iced tea.  You know what the reality of this little fantasy is?  A freezer full of cake.

And vodka.

Every time I clean out the freezer (which is quarterly because, well, I’m  me), I am always delightfully surprised with at least two or three full or nearly so bottles of the stuff.   I think what happens is that  be planning a get together, I’ll look in the bar, see no vodka, think we are out of it, then buy more and stuff it in the freezer.  And then, I repeat the whole thing the next time people are coming over.

Perhaps there is a cake and vodka party in our near future.  But, I digress.

So, if you aren’t serving your butter cake with a shot of vodka, you could cut it lengthwise like so.

And fill it with lemon curd, like this.

And whip up some eggs whites and sugar into a stiff meringue as such.

Then, cover the layer cake with a nice thick white blanket of fluffiness.

Hey look–it’s an albino porcipine.

A little toasty toasty under the broiler.  Or better yet, get out the butane torch.

And you’ve got yourself a completely over-the-top lemon meringue cake.

Sometimes more actually is more.


Jimmy Buffet.  I thought this might be a parrothead worthy recipe.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Sunset Magazine, May 2009



  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • About 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded lemon zest

Lemon curd

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks


  • 1 cup egg whites (about 8 eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter until creamy. Crack eggs into a small dish (do not beat) and add vanilla. Add eggs to the butter mixture 1 at a time, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Beat in flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir zest into batter.
  2. Butter and flour a 5- by 9-in. loaf pan and pour in batter.
  3. Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then invert cake onto a rack. Remove pan and let cake cool to room temperature, at least 40 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make lemon curd: In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice over high heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and yolks. Slowly whisk hot lemon butter into egg mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Transfer lemon curd to a glass or plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
  6. Make meringue: Whisk whites and sugar together in a medium metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar feels dissolved, about 2 minutes.
  7. Scrape whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on high speed until light and fluffy and the side of the bowl feels cool to the touch, about 2 minutes.
  8. Assemble cake: Preheat broiler, positioning oven rack about 7 in. from the heat source. Using a serrated knife, trim brown exterior from sides and top of cake. Slice cake horizontally into 3 even layers.
  9. Place 1 cake layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with half the lemon curd mixture. Repeat with second layer and remaining curd. Top with last layer. Using a spatula, cover the entire cake with the meringue.
  10. Broil cake just until top is golden brown, being careful not to burn it, about 1 minute. Using 2 large pancake turners (sliding 1 under each side of cake), transfer cake to a serving plate.

Adventures with the Kitchen Gods

Over the holidays the Kitchen Gods had two very special visitors in the form of fiver-year-old twin boys, Nathan and Zachary.  There was running and pouncing and jumping and some nip.  And then after the Kitchen Gods were exhausted in 10 minutes (they are cats after all), we all went to the beach (well, not the Kitchen Gods).  This visit gave me an excuse to finally make a cookie recipe I had been saving for some time: langues de chats.  Langue de chats translates into cat’s tongues and I found the recipe once upon a time while looking for a way to use the bag of Belgian peal sugar I had sitting in my pantry.  The cookie is very simple and very easy to make.

A little butter, salt, eggs whites, flour and vanilla are all combined and then the batter gets chilled for half an hour or so.

And then piped-out onto a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with pearl sugar, or don’t, either way, these cookies are a perfect little favor for spending some time with the Kitchen Gods.

And of, course, no actual cat’s tongues are required.

Langues de Chat

adapted slightly from Bouchon Bakery as appeared at Langues de Chat


  • 4 TBS unsalted butter
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • Belgian pearl sugar for sprinkling


  1. Cream butter, sugar and salt.  Add vanilla and one egg white.  Mix to combined.  Add second egg white and mix until just incorporated.  Fold in half the flour, then fold in remaining flour until smooth.  Refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes.
  2. Put racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheet with parchment.
  3. Place the chilled batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 plain or fluted tip.  Pipe the batter into this strips, about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long on the baking sheets, leaving room in between as they will puff while baking.
  4. Sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired.
  5. Bake for about  3 minutes, then rotate baking sheets and bake for another 3-5 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool on racks.

Marie Antoinette got me thinking…

A few posts ago I made an indirect reference to a famous quote allegdly spoken by Marie Antoinette: let them eat cake.  I knew at the time that this saying was of dubious origin, and even dubious existence. But, it fit my theme and so I exercised my own creative license.  Whether Jean-Jacques Roussea, the author who claimed that Marie said what she said was telling the truth, the literal translation from French is actually: let them eat brioche.

So, not only did I mis-attribute a quote, but I misquoated the quote (well, the English language mis-interpreted the quote, I’m simply guilty by association).  To make amends for my own historical transgressions, I sentenced myself to an attempt at baking brioche.

In The Bread Bakers Apprentice, author and bread baker extraordinaire provides three brioche recipes of increasing “richness.”  Playing the role of a typical American, I chose the middle-class recipe.  Less butter but also (supposedly) easier to work with.

As a yeast levaned bread, brioche begins with a sponge: a little flour, some yeast and a little warm milk.

Which, if you make the middle-class version as I did, gets a slightly extended fermentation time of 30-45 minutes.

While your yeast is getting its feast on (see what I did there?),  the remaining ingredients get assembled: eggs, more bread flour, a little sugar, a little salt and, oh yeah, that which makes brioche, brioche–butter.

After  sponge has risen and falls (see the second picture), eggs are added.  If you are a rock star this can be done by hand.  Apparently I’m more of an easy listening girl and used the paddle attachment and a standing mixer.

In go the dry ingredients.

And finally, the butter, two tablespoons at a time.

Reinhart describes the dough at this stage as smooth and soft.  Well, mine was that, but it was also alarmingly sticky.  Into a greased dish, covered tightly and then rested in the fridge overnight.

When ready to make the bread, remove the dough from the fridge.  The first time I attempted to make brioche, I stopped here. After 12 hours of cooling and arrested fermentation time, the dough lost none of its stickiness.  And, when I attempt to roll-it, much of the dough stuck to my hands.  Thinking I failed, I tossed the whole thing out.  And started again.

The second time around, the dough came out the same.  So, I liberally dusted my hands with flour and then took a stab.  Ahha!  Success.  I decided to make briohes a tete (why yes, this does translate to how it looks).  Reinhart suggests that the mold be filled no more than half, so I made one to appropriate size, weighed it and then weighed-out the dough accordingly.  This recipe will make 12-16 1 1/2-2 ounces brioche a tetes.  My molds were smaller so the batch made about 2 dozen.  The idea is to work with cold dough.  So, either quickly form your balls or put the dough in the fridge and work in batches.

The tops get a misting of oil and then are covered loosely in plastic wrap where they proof for an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the almost fill the mold.

Next comes a gentle egg wash and another 15-20 minutes of proofing.

Then, they finally go into a hot (400 degree) oven for 15-20 minutes until dark golden brown.  The rolls should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

They’re pretty in the mold but will stand up just as well naked.

While a true pastry chef would probably laugh at  the texture (the pockets should be larger), I don’t think it’s too shabby for a first try.  Let them eat cake, I’ll take this brioche.


Wilco with Billy Bragg. California Stars reminds me of camping in the middle of the summer…a nice little bit of nostalgia for the middle of winter.

Middle-Class Brioches a Tete

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart.  Ten Speed Press, Berkeley California.



  • 1/2 C (2.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tsp (.22 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1/2 C (2.25 ounces) wold milk lukewarm (90-100 degrees F)


  • 5 large (8.25 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 C (13.75 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 TBS (1 ounce) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp (.31 ounces) salt
  • 1 C (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1 egg, whisked until frothy, for wash
  1. To make the sponge, stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a standing mixer).  Stir-in the milk until all flour is hydrated.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and ferment for 30-45 minutes or until the sponge rises and then falls when you tap the bowl.
  2. To make the dough, add the eggs to the sponge and whisk or mix using a paddle attachment until smooth.  In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add this mixture to the sponge and eggs and stir on low speed for about two minutes, until all the ingredients are hydrated and evenly distributed.  Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes (to get the gluten going).  On medium speed, gradually work-in the butter, about 2 tablespoons at-a-time, waiting until each addition assimilates before adding more.  Once all butter has been mixed-in, continue mixing for another 6 minutes or until the dough is very well mixed.  You will need to scrape-down the bowl from time to time because the dough will cling to the sides.  The dough will be very soft and smooth (and sticky).
  3. Line a sheet pan or casserole dish with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.  Transfer the dough to the sheet pan, spreading it to form a large, thick rectangle measuring about 6 inches by 8 inches.  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and cover the pan with plastic wrap.  Immediately put the pan/dish into the refrigerator and chill overnight.
  4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it while it is very cold.  If it warms up or softens, return it to the fridge.  Divide the dough into 12-16 inch pieces for petite brioches a tete (if making 1 1/2 to 2 ounce rolls).  Shape each portion into two small balls of about a 1:3 ratio.  Place larger ball into a greased mold, make a slight indent on the top-center with your finger and place the smaller ball in the divit.
  5. Place the molds on a sheet pan, mist with oil spray and loosely cover with plastic wrap.  Proof the dough until it nearly fills the molds (1 1/2 to 2 hours).  Gently brush the tops with egg wash.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof a final 15-20 minutes or until the dough fills the molds.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the rack in the middle slot in the oven.
  7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  The internal temperature should read 180 degrees (I didn’t do this I just went by sight).  The bread should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom and be golden brow.
  8. Remove brioches from the pans as soon as they come out of the oven and cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Tickled pink

The month of January has always reminded me of grapefruit.  Never mind the fact that these global citrus beauties are in-season and criminally inexpensive at the grocery.  For me, the smell of grapefruit is the smell of a new year.  It is bright and lively but also slightly bitter and undeveloped around the edges…like something waiting to unfold.  The scent is a promise that the darkest part of the year is behind us and, if we wait patiently (well, in Southern California, we need be less patient that in other locals) new and delicate things wait just around the corner.

Which is why I thought it appropriate to start the year out with a triple grapefruit treat.

We’ll start with some candied grapefruit peel.  Unlike the heartier orange peels I made for the holidays, these are fine and curly.  For this, I braved my complicated and rather abusive relationship with the citrus zester.  Every time I use this baby, it asks for a piece of flesh as payment.  And this time was no different.

Finer strands of peel means significantly less boil time.

It also means that they emerge from their final syrup bath a bit like tangled spagetti.

These would be difficult to dip in chocolate, but the results are sculptural and perfect for the purposes at hand

Next up: ruby red grapefruit curd.

I’ve made citrus curd utilizing both a stainless saucepan as well as the non-stick variety.  For curd, where continuous whisking is a necessity, I have to admit that I prefer a non-stick pan.  It seems to temper the heat a little better and reduce the opportunity for burned curd.

And now on to the cake portion of this goodie.  Angel food cake is always fun to make and while I generally associate this confection with April and strawberries, I thought the texture would be perfect for what I had in mind.

Glossy and stiff egg whites are gently combined during the final steps along with a little grapefruit zest for good measure.

Airy and light you wouldn’t think something that went into the oven looking like this.

Would come out looking like this.

And now it’s time for the grapefruit hokey pokey.  Each little cake gets a divot.

That is filled with curd.

Then topped by a simple grapefruit icing and accessorized with candied grapefruit peel.

This is going to sound odd, but by the time I have planned-for, made and cleaned-up after whatever it is I’ve created, I’m generally not all that interested in eating it.  This is generally where TD comes in.  But.  I did taste these.

For photographic purposes of course.  And was really surprised at how lovely they are.  When baked, grapefruit mellows-out and can become very subtle.  So, the triple (well, quadruple) effect isn’t overpowering.  My tastebuds also enjoyed the contrast of textures and flavor tones (good lord…did I just say that?)–creamy, springy, crunchy, sweet and puckery.


P!nk.  Of course!

Triple-Quadruple Grapefruit Cupcakes

Recipe credits: Grapefruit Curd, adapted from Sunset Magazine, May 2009; Angel Food Cupcakes adapted from Cooking Light, September 2006

Makes 18 assembled cupcakes


  • Candied citrus peel (reduce final syrup stage to 10-20 minutes and adjust ingredients as needed for amount of zest making)

For Curd

  • 1/2 C freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks

For Cupcakes

  • 1/2 C cake flour, sifted
  • 3/4 C powdered sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp grated grapefruit zest

For Icing

  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 TBS-1/4 C grapefruit juice depending on desired consistency


For Curd

  1. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter with grapefruit juice over high heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and yolks. Slowly whisk hot grapefruit butter into egg mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Transfer curd to a glass or plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

For Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place 16 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups. Set aside.
  3. Lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour and 3/4 cup powdered sugar into a medium bowl; repeat the procedure 2 times.
  4. Beat egg whites and salt with a mixer at high speed until frothy (about 1 minute). Add cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg white mixture, 1/4 cup at a time; fold in after each addition. Stir in vanilla and rind.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack.


  1. Add sugar to a medium bowls and slowly whisk in juice until you reach desired consistency

To Assemble

  1. Using a serrated knife, carve out about 1/2 tsp divits in top of cupcakes.
  2. Fill a pastry bag or ziplock with curd and fill divits with curd.
  3. Ice each cupcake (be careful of the curd).
  4. Top with candied grapefruit peel or other crowning elements.