Apple Frangipane Galette with Salted Caramel

Thanks to moving, prepping for baby #2, and some unusually mild Canadian weather, this summer has disappeared just like that. I can’t say I’m sad about it. While there’s nothing like summer produce, fall is by far my favorite season. I love the crisp mornings, changing colors, and chunky sweaters.

Oh, and apple pie.

I don’t usually make my first apple dessert until a little later in the year. But last week I took my little guy to a nearby farm, and to my surprise they had a couple varieties of apples ready for picking. I couldn’t resist taking home a small bag full of Zestars! (yes, the “!” is an official part of its name), which I’d never tasted before but read were good for eating and baking. And they are lovely — mildly tart and crisp with a firm texture that holds up well in the oven.

I didn’t quite have enough apples for a full-on pie, but these babies were just begging to be baked up in a buttery crust. (OK, maybe that was me begging.) And so this galette was born.

I know galettes are supposed to be unfussy and casual; and the many components of this one may be off-putting. But seriously. I think this is one of the best apple desserts I’ve ever made, and it really looks harder than it is. You could definitely use store bought salted caramel sauce if you wanted, but it’s so delicious and easy to make yourself that you really won’t regret cooking up a batch. (Plus, this recipe makes more than enough for the galette so you’ll have extra for stirring into coffee, drizzling over ice cream, or just eating from the jar.) I’m also having a moment with frangipane — not only is it just plain delicious, but in the case of a galette it acts as a moisture barrier, keeping the bottom crust beautifully crisp.

Speaking of the crust — it may sound weird to use sourdough starter in a pastry recipe, but trust me, it’s delicious! I really do believe sourdough adds a depth of flavor to pie crust; and if your starter is healthy and fresh you shouldn’t notice any tang. But if you don’t have sourdough starter lying around, you can certainly use your favorite pie crust recipe instead.

Apple Frangipane Galette with Salted Caramel

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the sourdough crust (makes enough for 2 galettes):

  • 300g flour (I use 100g whole grain, 200g AP)
  • 227g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 200g ripe sourdough starter, cold (100% hydration)
  • 2 Tbsp cold milk or water

For the salted caramel sauce:

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 54g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

For the frangipane:

  • 95g almond flour
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 20g flour (AP or whole grain)
  • 30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

For the fruit:

  • 3 medium-large baking apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp AP flour
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 c salted caramel sauce

To finish:

  • 1 Tbsp cream
  • 1 Tbsp coarse sugar
  • Salted caramel sauce

Method

For the sourdough crust:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and smash into flat pieces with your fingers, tossing to distribute evenly. Don’t overwork — you want to keep the butter pieces fairly large (nickel to quarter size) for flakiness.
  2. Use a fork to whisk the cold milk/water and starter together. Pour the wet mixture over the butter-flour mixture and, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, gently toss to combine. The dough will seem shaggy at first, but should hold together if you squeeze it. If not, dribble in additional cold water/milk a teaspoon at a time (tossing after each addition) until it does.
  3. Using the heel of your hand, take handfuls of dough and smear them up the side of the bowl (this “fraisage” method creates streaks of butter that makes for an extra flaky crust). Once all the dough has been smeared, divide the in half and gently press and flatten each portion into a circle. Wrap one half in plastic and chill or freeze for a future galette or pie. If your remaining dough feels at all soft or melty at this point, wrap it in plastic and chill for about 10 minutes before proceeding (you want it cold, but not hard).
  4. On a piece of floured parchment paper or Silpat, roll the dough into a circle about 12-14 inches in diameter, about 1/4-in thick. Roll from the middle and rotate the dough about 1/4 turn between rolls to help keep the shape and even thickness. Flour your pin and dough as needed to avoid sticking. When you’re done rolling, transfer the dough still on the parchment/Silpat to a sheet pan, cover with plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours before assembling the galette.

For the salted caramel sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan occasionally for even heating.
  2. When the sugar reaches a copper color, remove it from the heat and add the salt and butter, whisking continuously. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up! Return the pot to medium-low heat and whisk for a minute or so.
  3. Still continuously whisking, add the cream in a slow, steady stream — again, taking caution as the mixture will bubble and rise. Continue whisking over medium-low heat to thicken the mixture slightly.
  4. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat-safe container. Once cool, cover and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Rewarm in the microwave for about 20 seconds for easy pouring.

For the frangipane:

  • Whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the egg and vanilla and mix with a spatula to combine.

For the fruit:

  • Juice the lemon into a medium bowl and add the apple slices, tossing to coat. Add the sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss to combine.

To assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge. Spread the frangipane evenly in a circle in the center of the pastry, leaving a 1.5-2 inch border. Starting from the outermost edge of the frangipane, arrange the apple slices in concentric, overlapping circles. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling to create a crust. Refrigerate the galette for 15-20 minutes to firm the pastry.
  2. When the pastry is firm, brush the crust with the heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Drizzle 1/4 c of salted caramel sauce over the apples (not on the crust). Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the pastry is a deep, golden brown and the apples are bubbling. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve at room temperature with extra salted caramel sauce.

Soft and Chewy Sourdough Pretzels

I have a soft spot for pretzels. I don’t know how it started; it’s not like we ate pretzels that often growing up. But every time I see pretzels on a menu there’s a good chance I’ll order them; and if I attend a baseball game I’m more likely to get a pretzel than a hot dog. What can I say? I have a weakness for warm, chewy carbs.

Making sourdough pretzels has been on my to-do list for awhile; and after quite a few batches I’ve finally come up with a version that I’m pretty pleased with. For awhile I was tinkering with an authentic pretzel recipe, which produces a more chewy and dense product. Call me inauthentic, but I like my pretzels a bit softer — so the recipe here reflects that. If you prefer a denser pretzel, you can use the ingredients below but skip the bulk rise — divide right after mixing, let the dough rest for 45 minutes, shape the pretzels, and refrigerate overnight. Then proceed with baking as directed below.

One final thing — I would love to try making lye-dipped pretzels because I hear it’s the bee’s knees, but I can’t find a reasonably priced source for food grade lye in Toronto (ordering online will cost me about $70). One day I’ll find a way to do it, but for now baked baking soda is my dip of choice. Just spread out a box of baking soda on a baking sheet at bake at 250F for an hour, then store in an airtight container to use whenever your pretzel cravings hit.

Soft and Chewy Sourdough Pretzels

Makes 8 | Adapted from various sources, including Tasting Table and The Fresh Loaf

For the dough:

  • 175g Pilsner-style beer (room temperature is fine)
  • 120g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 14g barley malt syrup (or honey)
  • 30g lard (or softened butter)
  • 360g flour (I use half bread, half all purpose)
  • 8g sea salt

To finish:

  • 1/4 c baked baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp milk/water (for egg wash)
  • Pretzel salt / flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

Day 1:

  1. Combine the beer, starter, barley malt syrup, and lard in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the liquid mixture and stir to combine with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Knead, by hand or with the dough hook in a stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and the gluten is well developed (about 10 minutes with a mixer, longer if by hand). The dough is fairly stiff and should be slightly tacky, but not sticky.
  3. Transfer the dough to an clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, folding once an hour. Refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours).

Day 2:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with a rack in the center and oil a large sheet pan.
  2. On a clean work surface, divide and round the dough into 8 equal portions, about 85g each.
  3. To shape, flatten a round into a rough rectangle about 3″ x 5″. Starting from a long edge, roll the rectangle up into a tight log and pinch to seal the seam. Roll the log out to about 12 inches and set aside to relax while you repeat the process with the remaining rounds.
  4. Once all the rounds have been initially rolled out, return to the first log and continue rolling it out into a rope roughly 26 inches long, tapering the ends slightly. If you’re having trouble getting enough traction, lightly mist your work surface with water (you don’t want to use flour, which will actually make it harder to roll out the dough).
  5. Form the rope into a “U” shape. Holding the ends, twist together twice about 3-inches from the ends, then fold the ends down and press them into the “U” at about 4 and 8 o’clock. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  6. When all the pretzels are formed, fill a large pot with 8 cups of water (I like to use the leftovers from the can of beer used to make the dough, plus enough water to equal 8 cups). Stir in the baked baking soda, then bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the baking soda is dissolved.
  7. Once the liquid is simmering, turn the heat down to medium to maintain a gentle simmer. Use a slotted spoon to dip the pretzels in one or two at a time for about 20 seconds each. Remove the dipped pretzels from the liquid, drain, and return to the baking sheet, spacing at least an inch apart.
  8. Brush the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, make about a 1-inch long slash at the thickest part of each pretzel (the bottom of the “U”).
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, or until pretzels are well browned. Transfer pretzels to a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving. Pretzels taste best within an hour of baking, but leftovers can be wrapped tightly with plastic and frozen for up to a month. Reheat for about 10 minutes in a 350F oven.

Cherry Berry Almond Crumble

cherry berry almond crumble

Every summer I tend to have a fall-back dessert: something quick and simple that can easily be adapted to whatever fresh fruit is hanging out in the fridge. Previously there’s been cobbler and fruit crumb bars; and this year it’s a good old fashioned crumble.

cherries

It’s about as unfussy and simple as it gets: toss fruit with a little sugar and spice, and mix up a quick, buttery crumb to sprinkle on top. No softening of butter or mixer needed. Eat with yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for dessert, warm or cold. Repeat.

cherry berry almond crumble 2

Cherry Berry Almond Crumble

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • ~6 c cherries and/or berries, pitted and sliced/halved if necessary (I used equal parts sour cherries, sweet cherries, and strawberries)
  • 60-100g / 1/3-1/2 c sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit and preferably a mix of brown and granulated
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
  • 3 Tbsp arrowroot or tapioca starch

For the almond crumble:

  • 120g / 1 c AP flour
  • 4T almond flour
  • 113g / 8 Tbsp butter, cold and diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g / 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 25g / scant 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Stir together all filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside while you prepare the crumble.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together all crumble ingredients except for the butter. Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture begins forming crumbs. Squeeze the mixture together to form large clumps.
  4. Pour the filling into an 8×8 square pan. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top.
    Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Allow to cool for about an hour before serving, if you can.

Berry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Crumble

berry mascarpone tart with hand

I’ve been making a lot of tarts lately, partially because all my pie plates are currently packed away in preparation for our move in a couple weeks — but also because they’re just so fun, elegant, and easy. Tarts are a good vehicle for using up those bits of leftover curd, fruit, jam, etc. in the fridge. This berry mascarpone tart was no exception. I had a little bit of mascarpone left over from all the wedding cake adventures earlier this month, so I added it to some pastry cream and it was soooo good! Creamy but not too heavy and perfect with some fresh berries — basically, an ideal summer dessert.

The tart crust is similar to the one I posted a couple weeks ago, though the proportions are courtesy of Pierre Herme. A little almond flour adds wonderful flavor and slightly crisper texture. I prepared the crust the same way I did the last (mixing in food processor, rolling out right after mixing and freezing the dough in the pan before baking), and it worked like a charm. To add a little texture I mixed up a little almond crumble, because crumbs just make everything better.

One last thing: if you’ve enjoyed reading Cook Til Delicious this year, would you consider nominating it for a Saveur Blog Award? You can nominate for any category you think appropriate, though I’d love votes for Best Baking & Sweets Blog (use URL http://www.cooktildelicious.com) or Best Food Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/rushyama). Your support really means a lot to me. Thank you!

berry mascarpone tart no crumb

berry mascarpone tart

Berry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Crumble

Makes one 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the Almond Pate Sucree (makes enough for 2 tart shells):
Adapted from Pierre Herme

  • 245g AP flour
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 50g almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 143g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

For the Mascarpone Cream:
Adapted from Bake from Scratch

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 55g / 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 24g / 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 169g / 3/4 c mascarpone cheese, room temperature

For the Almond Crumble:
Adapted from Ottolenghi

  • 50g raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 25g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 38g flour (AP or whole wheat, or a mix of the two)
  • 25g brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

To finish:

  • 454g / 1 lb mixed fresh berries

Method

For the Almond Pate Sucree:

  1. Place the flour, icing sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Scatter the butter over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is cut in (you want irregular pieces ranging in size from a pea to a quarter).
  3. Whisk the egg and vanilla together lightly to combine. Add the egg mixture in stages, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in 10 second increments until the dough forms clumps (you don’t want it completely smooth). Once the dough reaches this stage, dump it onto a clean countertop or silpat and gently knead until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into two equal portions and reserve one for a future tart (well-wrapped, you can refrigerate it for a couple days, or freeze for a month). Place the remaining piece of dough between two Silpats (or pieces of plastic wrap) and roll it out into a roughly 12-inch circle of about a 1/4″ thickness. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  4. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart tin. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and let it stand for about 5 minutes, just to make it pliable. Turn dough into the tart tin and trim the overhang to about 1/2 an inch. Fold the overhang in to reinforce the edges. If there are any tears or cracks, use some of the extra dough to patch it up. Pierce the dough all over with a fork, then wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a piece of foil and fit it firmly over the chilled tart dough. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil (if the crust has risen at all press it down gently with the back of a spoon). If any cracks have formed, use some of the reserved dough to patch it. Bake crust for another 5-10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the Mascarpone Cream:

  1. Place the mascarpone in a medium bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over it.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk, and sugar together until smooth. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously to combine (ensure there are no lumps!).
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until just at the boil. Remove from heat; and slowly but steadily pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. When all the milk has been added, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium-low heat, still whisking constantly. Once the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, cook the mixture for a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. You now have pastry cream!
  4. Scrape the pastry cream into the strainer onto the mascarpone, pushing it through with a spatula or spoon. Let the mixture stand for ~30 seconds, then whisk to combine. Cover the mascarpone cream with plastic, making sure the plastic touches the surface of the cream so a skin doesn’t form. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour before using.

For the Almond Crumble:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and line a small baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Combine the almonds and flour in a small bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the sugar and salt.
  3. Pour the mixture into a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even baking.

To assemble:

  • Whisk the mascarpone cream until smooth and spreadable. Using an offset spatula, spread the mascarpone cream evenly in the tart shell. Top with fresh berries and crumble. Serve chilled with additional crumble on the side. Best served within a day of assembling, but leftovers keep pretty well in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days.

Summer Pesto Toasts with Strawberries and Bocconcini

summer pesto toasts

This post is created in partnership with Tre Stelle’s Great Canadian Cheese Summer Sweepstakes; as always all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

It’s officially farmer’s market season here in Toronto. Most Saturdays we head down to our local market and let the best looking produce dictate our weekend meals. And for the last few weeks, it’s been all about juicy strawberries and fresh herbs.

While dessert is usually the first thing that comes to mind when berries start cropping up, I also like adding berries to salads and savoury dishes for natural sweetness and pops of color. Since strawberries and basil pair so beautifully, I decided to take it one step further by adding strawberries to some pesto toasts. To complement the bright, sweet strawberries and sharp, herby pesto, I also added a handful of fresh Tre Stelle Bocconcini Pearls for some needed creaminess and texture. The result is a fresh summery toast that’s great on its own for breakfast or paired with a bowl of fresh tomato soup for lunch or a light dinner.

To celebrate the season, Tre Stelle is currently running their Great Canadian Cheese Summer Sweepstakes with over 150 prizes up for grabs — including 3 trips for two to the Tre Stelle cooking school in Niagara! To be eligible to win, purchase any specially marked tubs of Tre Stelle Feta or Bocconcini from your local grocery store and head over to the Tre Stelle website to enter now through August 31st. Good luck!

Note: You can make these toasts with store bought pesto, but I highly recommend hand-chopping your own. The texture and flavour is far superior to the pasty, flat-tasting types typically found in supermarkets. You can also use regular sized Bocconcini balls, sliced, to top the toasts — I just liked the festive look of the pearls!

Summer Pesto Toasts with Strawberries and Bocconcini

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • Four 1/2” thick slices of crusty sourdough bread, toasted
  • 4 Tbsp pesto, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought
  • 4 large strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 container Tre Stelle Bocconcini Pearls
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  • Spread each slice of toast with a tablespoon of pesto. Top with strawberry slices and a generous handful of bocconcini pearls. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Enjoy!

hand chopped pesto

Hand-chopped Pesto

Makes ~1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 c pine nuts, toasted
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • ~1/4 c olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  1. Smash the garlic clove and chop along with a handful of pine nuts. Add a handful of basil and continue chopping, scraping your knife off as needed.
  2. Continue this process of chopping and scraping, alternating between adding handfuls of basil and pine nuts, until you’ve used them up and the desired texture is achieved (I like it fairly fine, but with some bigger chunks in there for texture).
  3. Transfer to a bowl and add a generous pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon. Stir to combine, then add a tablespoon of olive oil at a time until you reach your desired consistency. You don’t need a lot of oil, just enough to cover the mixture. Usually about ~1/4 cup does it for me.
  4. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Best enjoyed immediately, but you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for a few days. Just stir before using.

Project Wedding Cake

wedding cake love

When my little brother Timothy asked me to make his wedding cake, I was intimidated but also intrigued. While cake-making has become a hobby over the past couple of years, I’d never attempted a tiered cake or transported a cake more than an hour away (he and his now-wife Kelsey got married in middle Pennsylvania, a good 6.5 hour drive from us). But I figured I had some time to practice, plus it was an honor to be a part of their special day — so how could I say no?

Well, the big day finally rolled around last weekend. My baby bro is now married…and Project Wedding Cake was a success! I thought I’d share a little about the process, both for myself (should I — *fingers crossed* — get the chance to make another one) and for any other first-time wedding cakers out there.

wedding cake closeup

wedding cake cutting

Cake Flavors and Design

I had a bit of freedom with the cake recipes. Tim and Kelsey requested earl grey as one of the layers, but other than that the flavors were up to me. I eventually went with cardamom and strawberry for the top tier (6-inch) and earl grey and lemon curd for the bottom (8-inch). Both tiers were frosted with white chocolate mascarpone buttercream. I was initially nervous about using a frosting with cream cheese and mascarpone on a cake that would be in an non-air-conditioned room for several hours in the summer, but the lady who made my wedding cake (plus many others) recommended it — and it held up beautifully!

For the cake layers themselves, I developed recipes based off my favorite vanilla cake — a formula I love because it’s moist, sturdy, and keeps well for a few days refrigerated and/or frozen. Since we were traveling a fair distance, I made the cakes a couple days ahead of time and froze them, wrapping each layer in plastic wrap and foil. I also made the fillings (roasted strawberry balsamic jam and lemon curd) at home and brought those along. Kelsey’s family was kind enough to let me use their kitchen to make frosting and assemble the individual tiers, which I did the day before the wedding. Each cake layer was also brushed with simple syrup / earl grey syrup during assembly for extra moisture and flavor.

To match the overall wedding theme (they got married on a farm), I kept the decor simple with a rustic finish for the lower tier and a semi-naked finish for the upper. Their florist provided some gorgeous fresh blooms and I am thrilled with how the final design turned out!

Top tips:
If you’re using fillings, pipe a thick frosting dam! During my trial run some of the filling oozed out while I was icing (I just used a thicker layer of frosting on the outside so it was all fine in the end), so for the actual wedding cake I doubled up the dam ring just for extra security. No leaks! I also spread a thin layer of buttercream on each layer before piping the dam and filling with jam/curd, which added stability.

Use an inverted cake pan to store your cakes in the fridge between frosting coats. Normally I just keep my cake on the turntable between the crumb and final coats, but because I was doing two at the same time I didn’t have that luxury. Most fridges have a little lip on the edge of each shelf that makes it tricky to slide cakes out, so it’s definitely a good idea to pop them on something elevated to make your life easier.

Tiering and Transportation

Stacking and transportation were my biggest worries for this whole project, because prior to this month I’d never stacked a cake! To prepare, I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and ended up doing a trial run the week before just to put my mind at ease. The “dress rehearsal” really helped the real deal go very smoothly. (My sister-in-law and her fiance had a big BBQ the weekend before so there were people to help eat that one, hehe.) Plus, this cake was pretty small in the scheme of things — just two tiers. But a great size for a small (under 80 people) wedding and a beginning wedding caker!

wedding cake ready to decorate

I built the bottom layer on a very sturdy 10″ cake drum and used five bubble tea straws as dowels. I definitely recommend the straw method — they’re sturdy, cheap, and slid in really easily.

I built the top layer on a six-inch cake board taped to an eight-inch board, just for easier moving. I moved the individual tiers to the venue in cake boxes in a cooler (they fit really snugly) and stacked them at the venue the evening before the wedding. The cake was kept in the venue kitchen overnight, and the final decorations and moving were done the morning of the wedding around 9am. The cake was cut and eaten around 2pm. Yay!

Top tips:
Chill, chill, chill. It really helped to chill the cakes as much as possible — before doweling, before moving, before stacking. Cakes are so much sturdier when cold, and you can handle them with your hands without worrying about messing up your frosting.

Use cake boxes for transportation! They were inexpensive and honestly took the stress out of moving the tiers. Just make sure you get sizes that exactly fit your cake boards so they’re super snug!

Use a cake board to mark out where your tier is going to land. To make sure the top layer was centered, I just plopped a six-inch board on top of the frosted and chilled bottom layer and marked a few spots with a knife as guide marks. Way easier than trying to eyeball it.

Have a repair kit on hand. I packed extra frosting, a piping bag with a small tip, my offset spatula, and an icing comb for touch ups at the venue. I didn’t need to do any repairs, but I did pipe a bit of frosting on the bottom layer to “glue” the top layer on, plus some around the seam where the two tiers met.

All in all, Project Wedding Cake was a fantastic experience. Developing the recipes and planning the execution was a fun creative challenge; and it was so satisfying to see the final product come together. I’m grateful to my husband for patiently listening to my cake ramblings and helping with the moving and child-wrangling, and to Tim and Kelsey for entrusting me with this part of their special day. Congrats again, kids!

wedding cake backlit

Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles

This recipe is part of the Virtual Midsummer Potluck for Peace, hosted by Saghar Setarah of Lab Noon. Check out the links at the bottom of this post for other delicious potluck recipes from other bloggers!

We attended a lot of picnic BBQ potlucks growing up; and if you’ve ever picnicked with Asians you may have discovered we take our BBQs pretty seriously. There may be hamburgers and hotdogs, but it doesn’t stop there. Crockpots with congee, sticks of fish balls, plates of sushi — all par for the course. And of course — lots and lots of noodle dishes.

This is one of my go-to noodle salads for picnics, car trips, or — let’s face it — hot days when you don’t want to spend much time cooking. It takes all of 10 minutes to slap together, and is great on its own or as a base for a full meal (just add some shredded chicken, diced tofu, sliced raw veggies, etc.). If you have a peanut allergy, you can also sub out the peanut butter for tahini and that works great as well! Feel free to switch up the type of noodle you use too — my favorites are Yet-Ca-Mein (white Chinese wheat noodles) and dried shrimp egg noodles (the type you typically see in won ton noodle soup).

Cold Sesame Peanut Noodles

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 8-10 oz. dried Chinese egg or wheat noodles
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter (or tahini, or a combination of the two)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp chili-garlic sauce (more if you like it extra spicy)
  • Thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

Method

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients from the rice vinegar to the chili-garlic sauce. Taste and adjust dressing for desired level of sweetness/spiciness.
  2. Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse under cold water to cool them down completely. Transfer noodles to a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Top with desired garnishes. Served chilled.

More delicious potluck recipes:

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

rhubarb frangipane tart before bake

I know, I know. Rhubarb is so April/May and I should be baking all the berry pies and strawberry shortcakes right about now. But to be honest, I saw my first good batches of rhubarb just a week ago. Maybe it’s the Canadian weather, but I find we’re a month or two behind everyone else when it comes to produce. Strawberry picking usually starts at the end of June, and peaches come up right around Labor Day. The good news is that if rhubarb season is long over where you’re living, this versatile frangipane tart base adapts well to other seasonal fruits. Apricots, nectarines, raspberries, figs — whatever looks good in your area, use it!

This shortcrust tart dough is adapted from Dorie Greenspan. I love how it comes together so easily and doesn’t shrink on me. Whereas I like making my pie crusts by hand, I typically use a food processor for tart dough. I like my tart crusts to be more crispy than flaky, so I’m not as concerned with big butter pieces and keeping all the ingredients super cold. That being said, if you don’t have a food processor or prefer not to use one, you can mix this dough by hand too (just do it as you would pie dough). Definitely don’t skip the chilling and freezing steps; it’s what keeps the dough from shrinking! At any rate, if you do have some cracking and shrinking, you can use any leftover dough to do a quick patch job after you take the foil off during the pre-bake step.

rhubarb frangipane tart after bake

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry

  • 188g / 1.5 cups AP flour
  • 63g / 1/2 c icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 128g / 9 Tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

For the frangipane

  • 115g / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130g / 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

To finish

  • ~1/4 c strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1/2 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ~2-3in. pieces
  • Honey or confectioner’s sugar, for serving

Method

For the shortcrust pastry

  1. Place the flour, icing sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Scatter the butter over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is cut in (you want irregular pieces ranging in size from a pea to a quarter).
  3. Add the egg in stages, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in 10 second increments until the dough forms clumps (you don’t want it completely smooth). Once the dough reaches this stage, dump it onto a clean countertop or silpat and gently knead until the dough comes together. Place the dough between two Silpats (or pieces of plastic wrap) and roll it out into a roughly 12-inch circle of about a 1/4″ thickness. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  4. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart tin. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and let it stand for about 5 minutes, just to make it pliable. Turn dough into the tart tin and trim the overhang to about 1/2 an inch. Fold the overhang in to reinforce the edges. If there are any tears or cracks, use some of the extra dough to patch it up. Pierce the dough all over with a fork, then wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a piece of foil and fit it firmly over the chilled tart dough. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil (if the crust has risen at all press it down gently with the back of a spoon). If any cracks have formed, use some of the reserved dough to patch it. Bake crust for another 5-10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the frangipane

  1. Beat butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the first in thoroughly and scraping down the bowl before adding the second.
  3. Stir in the almond flour, followed by the vanilla and salt (either by hand or on the lowest mixer setting).

Finish the tart

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spread the jam evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Spread the frangipane over the jam using an offset spatula. Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top and gently press them into the frangipane.
  2. Bake the tart for 35-45 minutes, or until frangipane is puffed and golden. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with a sprinkling of icing sugar or a drizzle of honey. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.

Cardamom cake with roasted strawberry jam

cardamom cake

This cake. Oh, this cake. I spent a lot of time imagining the different components before actually baking it, and was so happy that it just worked. It’s actually one of the layers of my brother’s upcoming wedding cake, where my guidelines were cardamom plus something fruity. The cake part was pretty easy — just a slight tweak to my favorite vanilla cake was all it took. For the filling I finally settled on a very lightly sweetened strawberry jam. Strawberries + balsamic is a favorite in our house, and I think it matches well with that woodsy cardamom flavor. Next time I’m making a double batch of jam — it’s so delicious, whether spread between cake layers, stirred into yogurt, or just eaten out of the jar. Not to mention easy — just mix and roast!

This white chocolate mascarpone buttercream is a grown-up version of cream cheese frosting. Normally I don’t care much for white chocolate, but here it offsets the tanginess of the cheeses nicely. (Definitely don’t skimp on the quality of chocolate, though! Good chocolate will make or break this frosting.) The mascarpone mellows out the flavor, though you can replace with more cream cheese if you prefer. This frosting spreads and pipes well if used right away too — and no icing sugar means no grittiness! Winning.

cardamom cake top

Cardamom Cake with Strawberry Jam and White Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

Makes one 3-layer, 6-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Cardamom Cake
Adapted from Cake Paper Party

  • 100g all-purpose flour
  • 113g cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2.5 large eggs, at room temperature (I crack an egg into a bowl to weigh it, beat it with a fork and add half to my other eggs. The rest gets used in omelets or for an egg wash.)
  • 170g / 6 oz. sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 113g / 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
  • 4 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil

For the Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam

  • 1 pound strawberries, tops trimmed and halved (frozen is fine; keep whole and no need to defrost)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the White Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

  • 255g / 9oz best quality white chocolate, chopped
  • One 8oz package regular or light cream cheese, softened
  • 4oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 113g / 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)

To Finish

Method

For the cardamom cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of three 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease and flour the pans.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  3. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and sugar in a medium bowl and mix on low 30 seconds to blend.
  4. Add butter and vegetable oil to flour mix and mix on low for 30 seconds to moisten dry ingredients. The mixture should look like wet sand.
  5. Add half of egg mixture and beat on medium-high for 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture and beat on low for 30 seconds more.
  6. Divide evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset palette knife. Bake for about 25-35 minutes until the cake is well done (the top should feel springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean). Cool 10-20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting; wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate/freeze if using more than a day later. (I definitely recommend chilling the cakes completely before assembling.)

For the Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Jam:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a roasting pan and stir to combine well. Allow mixture to sit for 15-30 minutes to macerate. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 275F.
  2. Roast for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally. The mixture should look dark and syrupy.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before transferring to a jar and refrigerating. I let the jam cool completely in the fridge and puree it in a food processor before using as cake filling. You can strain the jam beforehand if you like a thicker jam, though I didn’t find this necessary. If you choose to strain, definitely reserve the syrup for brushing on cake layers / adding to drinks / drizzling on ice cream!

For the White Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream:

  1. Place white chocolate in a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is mostly melted. Before chocolate is completely melted, stir until smooth allowing the residual heat to finish the melting process. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place softened cream cheese, mascarpone and butter in a large bowl and beat on low speed until creamy.
    Beat mixture on low speed until creamy and well combined.
  4. Add melted white chocolate and continue mixing on low to incorporate. Scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Add in lemon juice and beat until smooth. Use immediately.

To Assemble:

  1. Tint your buttercream and level cakes if desired. Place one cake round on a cake board and brush generously with simple syrup.
  2. Pipe a dam of buttercream around the edge and fill the center with about 1/4 c strawberry jam. Repeat process until all layers have been used, placing the last layer cut side down.
  3. Spread an even layer of buttercream over the entire cake to seal in the crumbs. If you’re doing the ruffle pattern as pictured, I suggest doing a thick crumb coat (i.e. try not to have cake layers visible). Chill cake for 20-30 minutes to set the frosting.
  4. Complete frosting as desired. I followed this tutorial for the ruffle pattern. For the top, I tinted the buttercream slightly darker and used an open star tip to pipe rosettes and stars, then finished with a light dusting of white sprinkles.

cardamom cake 2

Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache Drizzle

banana bundt
Summer is almost upon us and that means BBQs, picnics, and backyard get-togethers! While I love me a good layer cake, sometimes you just want a simple, unfussy dessert to take to a potluck; and this is is just that sort of cake. This delicious banana cake is a snap to whip up, and it’s totally fine to make ahead — it actually gets more moist after an overnight rest. Do use your blackest, deadest bananas for this recipe for the best flavor. Typically I keep a bag of overripe bananas (peeled) in the freezer and just defrost what I need in the microwave.

I made this cake in my 6-Cup Nordic Ware Heritage bundt pan. It’s my favorite shape because it’s dramatic and doesn’t really need any embellishment; but chocolate + banana is always a good idea so this cake got a little chocolate sour cream ganache drizzle. If you have a 10-12 cup bundt pan, double all the ingredients.

Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache Drizzle

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the Banana Bundt Cake:

  • 210g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Heaped 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 113g butter, room temperature
  • 200g / 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 115g / 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 325g / about 2 large very ripe mashed bananas

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache:

  • 40g good quality chocolate, milk or dark, chopped
  • 40g sour cream

Method

For the Banana Bundt Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl or jug, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, and bananas. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Add the egg and mix in thoroughly.
  4. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Gently mix in the sour cream/vanilla/banana mixture until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Pour into the prepared bundt pan and level the top with an offset palette knife. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil to prevent scorching.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before turning out of the bundt pan. Allow cake to cool completely before glazing.

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache:

  1. Combine the chocolate and sour cream in a heatproof bowl and heat over a bain-marie. Whisk constantly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in 20 second increments in the microwave, then whisk in the sour cream. Just ensure that the sour cream is at room temperature; otherwise, the ganache may curdle.
  2. Allow to cool at room temperature slightly before drizzling over the cake.