Blackberry Upside Down Cake + Decadent Chocolate Ganache…

As someone who loves to bake, I tend to find myself making my own birthday cakes. Which is totally fine by me 😛

This year for my birthday, my bf and I hosted a party at our place with about 20 friends, and I decided to go all out with two different kinds of cake for my party guests: blackberry upside down cake and a chocolate ganache cake. Yummm!

~Related exciting news~

Since starting this blog + instagram account, I’ve been working to improve my food styling and photography skills. To do so, I realized I needed to invest in a tripod in order to achieve a better degree of clarity and definition in my photos. Well, my wonderful boyfriend surprised me the morning of the party with a new tripod, just in time for taking photos of my beautiful cakes! So, the photos in this post are the first taken with my new toy (which I absolutely love)!

New tripod! (Set up to take a perfectly stable overhead shot)

But back to the cakes.

I decided to choose two contrasting cakes, to give people the option between fruity and chocolate, lighter and more decadent.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

I found this cake perusing what has become one of my favorite baking books – Bake from Scratch (Vol 2) – which I received as a gift a year back.

This cake turned out beautifully, both in taste and visually! By the end of the night, it was completely devoured by our guests.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Just look at that glossy chocolate ganache…

Rosana from Yoga of Cooking calls this “the best chocolate cake ever.” I tend to agree. I spotted this cake on my feed last week on National Chocolate Cake Day and instantly knew I had to make it for the party. Rich chocolate cake topped with decadent chocolate ganache, this cake is not for the chocolate shy.

Now chocolate ganache might sound intimidating, but it was so easy to make! This was actually my first go at ganache, and it was surprisingly simple. All in all, this whole cake comes together in just two bowls, one for the cake and one for the ganache. Delicious cake, minimal mess: would 100% recommend!

All in all, the cakes + our DIY paloma bar (recipe idea by Bon Appetit) + an amazing cheesy artichoke kale chorizo dip were all a great success… happy birthday to me! 🙂

My Favorite Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies

Dark chocolate. Sea salt. Fudginess. (Are you drooling yet?)

Super Bowl Sunday is soon upon us, so it’s time to break out the go-to, tried-and-true party favorites. And these brownies are it.

I’ve tried lots of different brownie recipes over the years: there are tons out there! Classic, blondie, with peanut butter, with nuts, with caramel… the list goes on and on. Some of my favorites have been Half Baked Harvest’s Crinkle Top Brownies, the zucchini brownies I alluded to in my previous post, and of course, my mom’s old recipe. But my absolute favorite recipe is these Fudgy Sea Salt Brownies by The Baker Chick (sorry, mom…).

Sometimes you just need that perfect center-of-the-brownie piece…

I’ve probably made these brownies at least 20 times (which is quite a few repeats on a single recipe given the multitude of amazing new recipes I’m constantly bookmarking to try!). And let me say, they never disappoint: always a crowd-pleaser at parties, potlucks, or any other occasion. They even won me a departmental baking competition at work one time!

These brownies are DECADENT. Incredibly rich, fudgy, and with a topping of sea salt that pairs perfectly with the dark chocolate. So even if you have a favorite recipe of your own, I recommend you try these out; you surely won’t be disappointed.

What are you making this Super Bowl Sunday??

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Let’s talk zucchini bread.

It comes in quite a few varieties: chocolate chip zucchini bread, zucchini banana bread, lemon zucchini bread, zucchini bread with pineapple… the list goes on and on. Today, I’m bringing you blueberry zucchini bread.

Zucchini is one of those great ingredients that you can add to a lot of different baked goods – breads, muffins, brownies – to incorporate an extra (secret) dose of greens with no one the wiser. One time, a friend of mine claimed there was no way I could add zucchini to brownies without him knowing; a few weeks later, I did and he ate about half the pan before I told him they indeed contained two full zucchinis 😛

This recipe is super easy for those times when you’re in the mood for something freshly baked, but with minimal effort (only one mixing bowl required for this recipe!)

And if you’re curious about some of the other types of zucchini bread I mentioned above, click here for a list of 18 other different ways to incorporate zucchini + bread. Let me know if you find a style you love (or even invent your own!)

And if you’re also experiencing this crazy drop in temps following winter storm Harper, stay warm!!

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Optional: honey (for drizzling)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar until combined.
  3. Add in the zucchini. Then add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. Gently fold in blueberries.
  5. Grease or line with parchment paper a 9″x5″ loaf pan. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Let the bread cool a few minutes before removing from the pan. Drizzle with honey as desired, and enjoy!

Apricot Cake (Marillenkuchen)

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about my time in Austria and discovery of the myriad of apricot dishes, especially in late summer. And while it’s not currently stone fruit season in NYC, it is a 3-day weekend and we’re expecting a snowstorm later this afternoon, so I decided to to dig out the recipe my host mom gave me for her amazing Marillenkuchen (apricot cake)!

I’ve kept her original recipe intact except for the addition of a bit of lemon zest, just to give the cake a bit of that zesty flavor to really complement the apricots.

If fresh apricots are hard to come by, a great thing about this recipe is that you can also make it with peaches, raspberries, or most other fruits that might be in season/locally available.

And in case you haven’t figured by now, Marille means apricot in German. 🙂

Recipe:

Note: Since this recipe is straight from Austria, the ingredients below are measured in grams. If you have a kitchen scale, no problem! If not, I’ve also included approximations of measurements in standard American conventions.

Ingredients

  • 200g butter, softened at room temp (~1 1/2 stick)
  • 200g powdered sugar (~1 5/8 cup)
  • 5 eggs
  • 200g flour (~1 3/8 cup)
  • 8g vanilla sugar (1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4g baking powder (1 tsp)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 5-6 apricots

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Rinse and quarter apricots.
  3. Beat together butter, half the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and egg yolks. Then add in flour and baking powder.
  4. In separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy, then add in second half of sugar until mixture is peaked and stiff.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into first mixture.
  6. Grease 9″ round baking pan/pie dish and sprinkle with flour. Pour mixture evenly into pan.
  7. Bake for 25 min or until cake is starting to firm. Line the top of the cake with apricot pieces in whatever pattern you like. (If you put the apricots on the cake from the beginning, they will likely sink to the bottom! This happened to me once…)
  8. Bake for additional 15 minutes, or until cake turns golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool a few minutes and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Oatmeal Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemons lemons lemons! The past couple days I’ve seen a theme of lemon recipes on my Instagram feed – particularly Meyers lemons – which makes sense since winter is citrus season. So in keeping with this prevailing theme, I bring you: oatmeal lemon white chocolate chip cookies! A spin on a classic, these oatmeal cookies satisfy your sweet tooth with the white chocolate while the lemon adds that twist of citrus.

Not a fan of oatmeal? You can also make them as regular old lemon chocolate chip cookies! Just leave out the oatmeal and add an extra 1/4 cup flour or so (else the batter might be a bit runny).

Did I mention your kitchen will also smell lemony fresh while you bake these cookies? All the more reason to whip up a batch today!

Recipe: (makes ~24 cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (softened at room temp)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 – 1 cup white chocolate chips (depending how sweet you like them!)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Using a mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until creamy.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix until creamy and combined.
  4. Add flour, salt, and baking soda until incorporated. Then mix in oatmeal and chocolate chips by hand.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Mixed Berry Ricotta Cake

It is cold. This morning when I woke up, it was “feels like 11°F” outside. And yes, the “feels like” is important – one thing I definitely learned when moving to NYC is the effect of the wind in making winter all the more bitterly cold. In my first studio apt, I could literally hear it howling outside around the corner as it gusted through the street.

So. What better way to remedy the cold than staying indoors with a nice slice of warm berry ricotta cake?

The cake is so light and fresh, you could eat it for breakfast with a cup of tea (or coffee), late afternoon treat, or evening dessert! Find this great recipe by Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain here.

And stay warm!

Mini Cakes & Austrian Apricots

A few summers ago, I lived in a small town – Feldbach – in southeast Austria with the most wonderful host family anyone could ask for. During that summer, I first experienced baking with the metric system: no measuring cups nor tablespoons nor other American conventions, only host mom’s digital kitchen scale. Converting recipes from cups to grams was a bit of a pain (though if you’re ever in this sort of situation, here’s a helpful guide!), but once that was done, measuring everything in grams is actually quite convenient. No hassle of needing 1/4 cup vs 1/3 cup; having to use the 1/2 tsp for vanilla, then rinse/drying it for 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Just measure everything out into the same bowl on the scale!

I returned to visit host fam the following summer for a couple weeks, and while there I decided to make these mini fruit cakes for my family, taking advantage of the famous fresh Austrian apricots (Marillen) available in late summer. During my first summer in Austria, I discovered (and became obsessed with) the apricots of Lower Austria and the numerous dishes in which they use this fruit: MarillenknödelMarillenkuchen, Marillenmarmelade, Marillentorte

The cakes were nice and light with a vanilla cream cheese frosting on top, and the mini size was perfect for popping in your mouth in one bite! They turned out so beautifully, even better than I had hoped. And I know host fam (particularly host dad) thoroughly enjoyed them.

New Year of Baking

New year =new goals, right?

With the start of 2019, I’ve decided to create this baking and food photography blog. It’s something that I’ve half-jokingly/half-seriously talked about for quite awhile now, so finally, here it is!

My dream of course would be to one day turn this into a full-time career and have the opportunity to create photos for restaurants and work with other food bloggers and brands. In the meantime though, I hope you’ll enjoy my photos of home-baked goods, made right here in South Harlem 🙂

Two of my favorite things: baking and succulents