Ayyyye Churro Macarona!

Can you believe that when I met him TD had never had a churro?  You think you know someone and BAM a little fact like that slips out.

On the one hand, I’ll admit it was pretty ethnocentric of me to believe that the churro was as ubiquitous in other parts of the country as it is in Southern California.  On the other hand, we’re talking about a man who lists the Choco Taco as a favorite dessert. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

Whether or not churros are a part of your cultural landscape, you can’t deny the allure of cinnamon and sugar together.  Add in a cinnamon infused cream cheese filling and you’ve got yourself an easy win.

Churro Macarons

cinnamon shells with cinnamon cream cheese filling and a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top

for the shells, makes 18-20 shells for 9-10 finished cookies


  • 60 grams almond meal
  • 100 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 grams egg whites
  • 20 grams granulated sugar

Note: I did not use food coloring in these guys because the little flecks on cinnamon were too pretty to cover up.


  • Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  I like to draw the circles with Sharpie on a couple of pieces of parchment as a stencil. In order to use them multiple times I lay another piece of parchment over the top.
  • Weigh and measure out all of your ingredients.  When I’m making multiple batches I actually weigh out the almond flour, sugar and any other dry ingredients into separate zip-lock baggies and label them.
  • In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together almond meal, cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.  Give it a few pulses then sift into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add the egg whites.  Beat on medium low until frothy.
  • Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar and pinch of salt.
  • Beat eggs until they form soft peaks.
  • Working in three batches, add first portion of almond meal mixture to the egg-whites.  Gently fold until just combined.  Repeat with the additional two portions of meal folding to combine while using as few folds as possible.
  • To test if the batter is ready to pipe, scoop about 1/4 tsp onto a flat surface.  The batter should act like lava and spread enough to lose its peak but not its shape.  I usually do this test several times starting at the point where everything is just combined.  If you under-mix the batter you can always give it a few more folds.  However, you are out of luck if you over mix.  So, err on the side of multiple tests.
  • When the batter is ready, pour it into your piping bag.  To be honest, I don’t bother with a tip, I just snip the bag about an inch or so from the tip.
  • Pipe your shells onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  • Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes or until the shells appear dry.  I have found this process is heavily dependent on the weather.  The more moisture in the air, the longer they need to sit.
  • Working with one sheet at a time, bake for about 20 minutes.  To test, gently grab one corner of the parchment and attempt to peel it from the shell.  A clean peel means the shells are done.  If they are sticky, back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
  • Let the shells cool but once cool, carefully remove from the parchment.  I have found that you don’t want to let the cooled shells sit on the parchment.

for the filling


  • 4 ounces cream cheese (I like to use a lower fat version to keep the filling from being too heavy)
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 4 TBS or so of cinnamon sugar for dusting (4TBS granulated sugar + 1 /2 tsp cinnamon)


  1. Beat the cream cheese with an electric hand-mixer until smooth.
  2. Add- in remaining ingredients and beat until combined.
  3. Once the sandwich cookies are filled, dip the finished cookie in a shallow dish of cinnamon and sugar.  The surface tension should be enough to keep some of the fine granules stuck to the cookie.


That’s-a-spicy cupa-cake!

They say print media is dying.  And while it is true that we don’t subscribe to The Los Angeles Times, TD and I have had the pink-plastic wrapped Wall Street Journal delivered for years.  TD, the excellent news consumer that he is, reads it every morning cover to news-printy cover.  Me?  Not so much.  But, I do enjoy their weekend editions and have, surprisingly, found the WSJ to be a source of some excellent recipes.  This is one of them.

Spicy and sweet, these cupcakes start out with a homemade chai blend.  I found my cardamom pods at Whole Foods.  Notice the peppercorns are black.  Not pink.

The spice mixture is used to scent and flavor a cake with a dense but moist crumb, perfect consistency for a cupcake in my opinion.

The aromatic cake is further enhanced by a ginger-infused cream cheese frosting that takes five minutes to throw together.

The Wall Street Journal version is actually a layer cake.  However, I think these cupcakes are just that much more festive.  And we are celebrating. At this posting, not only are TD and I leaving on a jet plane for the land of down-under, but I am also about to have one those events that involve blowing out candles.

Like, forty of them.


Amos Lee

Chai Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from the Wall Street Journal, February 2-3, 2013 (who adapted the recipe from One Girl Cookie, Brooklyn New York)

For the Cupcakes


  • 30 cardamom pods
  • 7 black (not pink) peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 12 ounces (24 TBS) butter at room temp
  •  2 ½ C sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ C sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line  2, 12-cup cupcake pans with liners.
  2. On a cookie sheet, toast cardamom, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant (about 8 minutes.  Once spices are cool, grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and ground spices.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a  paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar mixing until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Set mixer on low speed and add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Mix until fully combined, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Set mixer on low speed, add in flour in three parts alternating with sour cream beginning and ending with flour.  Mix until just combined after each addition.
  7. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 10 seconds.
  8. Scoop batter into cupcake liners adding until just under the top of the liner.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Test with toothpick.  Cupcakes are done when the toothpick comes up with moist crumbs.
  10. Allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 TBS of butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (more if desired)
  • 1 ½ TBS ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C toasted and chopped pistachios if desired


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat cream cheese, butter and salt on medium until smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, grounds ginger and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle chopped pistachios over top to garnish.

Because summer is for loafing

Due to a leap year and some unusual academic scheduling, it just happens to be summer in my world.  Of course no one told that to the intermidable marine layer that hangs around my little neck of the woods (to be fair, it does disapate at around 2:00 each afternoon.  Of course it returns again at 3:00).  But still, it’s summer.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it.  So, I’m celebrating now because by the time real summer rolls around in the lovely South Bay, students will be once again moving into the residence halls.

So then, let’s start the summer with a little loafing.  I came across this recipe for a cream cheese butter cake while researching another recipe.  Now, I know I have at least one other butter cake recipe on this blog but this one had to be made.  I simply couldn’t imagine what cake with not only butter but cream cheese would taste like.  Heaven?  Nirvana?  Paula Dean if you licked her arm?

True to its name, this loaf recipe starts with about 1 1/2 cups of butter and another cup of cream cheese.

If it makes you feel any better, all that dairy does go into two loaves.

And what comes out of the oven is beautifully buttery golden.

I knew that if the cake tasted anything like I’d imagined, we were going to need a acidy to counterbalance the heft of the crumb.  Enter fresh strawberries, some lemon juice,  a little sugar and some heat.

This recipe is solid and would stand up well to whatever summer fruit you’d like to throw at it.


I can’t stop listening to the Glee version of Shake it Out.  Don’t really understand it myself.

Cream Cheese Butter Loaf


  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Grease and line with parchment, two loaf pans.
  2. Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add-in sugar and beat an additional 3-5 minutes.
  4. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time.
  5. Gently fold-in flour until just combined.  Divide batter between pans.  Place pans on a jelly roll pan.
  6. Bake until inserted toothpick comes-out with crumbs.
  7. Allow to cool on racks for 10 minutes.  Run a butter or table knife around the edges of each cake.  Gently remove and allow to cool completely on wire baking racks.

Strawberry-Citrus Sauce


  • 1 1 /2 lbs strawberries, cleaned and halved.
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 TBS lemon or orange juice
  • zest of 1 lemon (or half a navel orange)


  • Combine all ingredients into a heavy-bottom sauce pan.  Simmer strawberries over medium heat until sauce reduces and becomes thick, 5-10 minutes.  Allow sauce to cool.  If desired, blend some of the sauce, leaving some strawberry chunks for texture.  Store in sealed container in the fridge.