Relaxing in Stern Grove with Ok Go

Ok Go at Stern Grove

This past Sunday, I went with a group of friends to see Ok Go at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco. Every summer, the Stern Grove Festival hosts free concerts every Sunday in this beautiful park. Actually, it’s not so much a park as it is a forest… with tall trees towering over you as you walk through and wooded areas that you’d find in fairy tales. (At one point, I half expected the trees to start talking like in Lord of the Rings.)

Sitting amongst the trees (and pretending to be wood nymphs)

We got there fairly early, about 2 hours before the concert started. However, that was definitely not early enough. Some people were hardcore and arrived at 9am to snag the best spots in the park, right in front of the stage. With all of the lawn occupied by serious concertgoers, we ventured into the woods to find a decent picnic spot. Although we were hidden behind several trees, we still had a pretty good view of the stage and enjoyed a nice picnic while we waited for the show to start.

I first started listening to Ok Go in high school, after seeing their famous treadmill video. However, my favorite video remains to be their “A Million Ways” video, in which they perform an amazing choreographed dance in someone’s backyard. I distinctly remember watching that video whenever I wanted to procrastinate doing homework and secretly longed to get three friends to learn the dance with me. However, I could never convince my friends to do it. ūüė¶

The concert was great! Ok Go is definitely a fun band to watch live. They do crazy things on stage, such as play one of the songs only using hand bells and shoot water-soluble confetti out of giant cannons. The show was so entertaining and a majority of the crowd was dancing and rocking out. It was a great afternoon filled with food, music, and friends. Not to mention, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It’s days like those that make me absolutely, whole-heartedly love living in the Bay Area, despite all of the hardships and difficulties I’ve been facing in grad school. Even though grad school has been a tough journey, fun and relaxing days consisting of treks into the city and hanging out with friends make it much more enjoyable.

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Everything is better when it’s mini – Mini Cherry Pies

How cute are these mini pies?

For some reason, miniature anything is super cute, especially food. I mean, look at mini cupcakes, mini burgers, and mini donuts. Even, the MINI cars are super cute. I don’t know what about them makes them so appealing. Maybe it’s because small things are inherently super cute, like babies, puppies, and kittens. Or maybe it’s that people don’t feel as bad eating a mini dessert. (I know that’s true for me!)

One day, after seeing so many pictures of cute mini pies, I decided on a whim that I needed to make some right away. So I biked to Trader Joe’s on the way home to pick up frozen pie crust. I know, I know, it’s a lot cheaper and tastier to make your own, but I wanted it fast… which is ironic, since I had to wait over an hour for the crust to defrost. Sometimes my brain doesn’t think things out all the way through… ūüėõ

There were some cherries that were close to going bad in my refrigerator, so I decided to salvage them and make cherry pie. I have to admit though, cherry pie is not one of my favorites. It looks a little too fake to me with the bright, vibrant red cherries that glisten. Or maybe I’ve just seen too many advertisements that use fake cherry pies. But I do love the designs on the top crust of pies, from the woven lattice to the circular or heart shaped cut outs. Pies are definitely works of beauty.

This really isn’t much of a recipe since I didn’t make the pie crust myself and making the filling consists of stirring together cherries (or whatever fruit you want), some sugar, a bit of flour, and a splash of amaretto (you can leave this out – I just thought cherries and amaretto would go well together). I didn’t really make any measurements (gasp!), but I did consult some cherry pie recipes to get a feel for what goes into the filling. To assemble the mini pies, all you have to do is cut out circles of dough and place them in a muffin tin. Fill the crust with your filling and decorate the tops of the pies any way you want.

The best part about making miniature pies, was that instead of making one regular sized pie, I got to make four (mini) pies! So I got to make not just one pie crust design, but four! It made me super excited! ūüėÄ (Note: I didn’t use up all of the pie crust, I just got tired after making four and my creative juices ran dry for pie designs. :P)

I actually didn’t try any of these pies and wasn’t around when someone (I still don’t know who) gobbled them up. I’m assuming they were good since I couldn’t find a single trace of them! Like I said, no one can resist something when it’s mini!

Impressing Foodies – Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake

I’m very lucky to have a group of friends who love to cook and bake as much as I do. Having these common interests makes it a lot easier to get along with them and share my experieinces. However, it’s a little more challenging when you want to cook or bake something for people who love food as much as you do. Take my friend’s boyfriend for instance. He’s a self-proclaimed foodie who cooks and bakes much fancier things than I do. In fact, he wooed my friend with a three-course meal on one of their first dates. (Which reminds me, I need to find a guy like that.)

Anyways, his birthday was coming up and she wanted to make him something impressive. We all know he loves salted caramel and chocolate ganache, so once I found this recipe from Bon Appetit, I knew it was the perfect cake for him. This cake is the definition of richness with two layers of chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel. It was definitely the hardest cake I’ve made so far since it had so many components.

The first layer topped with chocolate ganache and salted caramel

Since my experiences with caramel haven’t been that great, I was a bit worried about making the salted caramel. It’s really easy to burn caramel, so keep an eye on it when it’s cooking on the stove. Since my friend and I were both a little paranoid about burning caramel, we may have took it off the stove a bit too early. So, the caramel wasn’t as thick as we wanted. To drive off some liquid, we kept it on the stove on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. After that, the caramel was the perfect consistency.

Assembling the cake was both the funnest, but the messiest part. First, we spread a layer and piped a ring of chocolate ganache on top of one of the cake layers. Then, we filled with ring with a generous amount of salted caramel and placed the second cake layer on top. Lastly, we frosted the cake with chocolate ganache and decorated it with toasted almonds and drizzles of salted caramel.

The cake was decadent and delicious, but extremely rich. So much that I could only take a few bites at a time. You’ll definitely want to have a glass of milk nearby to help wash down the cake. The caramel could have been slightly saltier, so don’t be afraid to add more salt. If you’re looking for a rich, decadent cake, definitely try this one. However, be warned, it’s a fair amount of work, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee
1 1/4 cups almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

For the caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of fine fleur de sel (we used fine sea salt)

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups heavy whipping cream

For the chocolate cake:
1. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
2. Add the milk, eggs, and melted butter and beat at low speed until blended.
3. Increase the speed and beat for 2 minutes.
4. Dissolve espresso powder in 1 cup hot water and add to the batter.
5. Beat until blended (batter will be thin) and divide batter between 2 pans greased and lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake the cakes at 350F until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes.
7. Flip the cakes onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.

For the caramel filling:
1. Stir sugar, 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in deep medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
2. Increase heat to medium; cover pan and cook 4 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan and increase the heat to high.
4. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber.
5. Remove from heat and add cream (mixture will bubble). Then, whisk in butter, then sour cream, lemon juice, and pinch of sea salt/fleur de sel. (We noticed that our caramel was pretty thin still, so we left it on low heat for 15-20 minutes to thicken up.)
6. Let cool completely.

For the ganache:
1. Place chocolate in large bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer in medium saucepan.
3. Pour cream over chocolate and let chocolate soften for a minute. Whisk until chocolate is smooth. Cool, then cover and chill.

To assemble the cake:
1. Spoon 1/2 of the ganache into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain round tip.
2. Pipe a ring of ganache around edge of layer.
3. Spread 1/2 of the caramel filling evenly inside ring.
4. Sprinkle the caramel with large pinch of fleur de sel and some almonds.
5. Top with second cake layer, ganache, ganache ring, caramel filling, fleur de sel, and almonds.
6. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Press remaining almonds onto sides and drizzle with caramel. Basically, just decorate it how you want to. 

Summer Blues


Summer is quickly coming to an end… at least it is for me, since classes start tomorrow! Eeks! How did time fly by so fast?

This summer, I traveled and ate my way through Boston, New York City, and San Diego.

Boston Done Right: Paul Revere, Cannoli, MIT, and the Charles River

Sights of the City: Times Square, Taxis on 80th St, View from Empire State Building, Downtown Manhattan

NYC Eats: Shake Shack, Chelsea Market, Momofuku, Doughnut Plant

Peaceful La Jolla

I also finally crossed off a few items on my baking to do list (but still haven’t tried making my own kimchi! need to do that soon!).

Purple Ombre Cake – Check!

Kolaches – Check!

And I spent valuable time and made amazing memories with my friends and family. Even though I was working everyday, this was actually one of my most fun summers.

To express my summer blues (and match my blue floral dress), I did a variation of blue ombre nails. I was inspired by this nail design from Miss Renaissance. I had slightly darker shades of blue than she did, but they worked well.


Although I’ll miss the laid-back, relaxing vibe of summer with the sunny days (well, only after the fog has burned off) and the rather peaceful feel of campus that comes with the absence of undergrads, I’m looking forward to what this new school year brings. Fall semester is always a fresh start for me – it feels more like New Year’s to me than January 1st. With a new season comes new friends, experiences, and memories. So, even though I’m a little sad to see my summer end, I’m excited to see what fall brings. Plus, I’ve been dying to make some pumpkin and apple desserts!

Celebrating in Style – Peach Tomato Mozzarella Crostini

My friend, Edwin, recently hosted a fancy dinner party for his birthday and asked me to make a summery, classy appetizer. So, when I saw this recipe for peach tomato mozzarella crostini from Joy the Baker, I knew I had the perfect dish.

It’s a very simple, but delicious appetizer. All you have to do is slice up some peaches, tomatoes, and¬†mozzarella,¬†toast some baguette slices, and then top the bread with the peaches, cheese, and tomato. And finish with a leaf of basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. This appetizer is very crisp and¬†refreshing, which is perfect for summer. The peach adds a nice sweetness and twist to the traditional caprese mix. Be sure to use fresh peaches and tomatoes as well as fresh¬†mozzarella. The freshness and quality of the ingredients definitely makes a difference.

Now, my friend Edwin is a very stylish, sophisticated guy. So it was no surprise that he planned an elaborate multi-course meal to celebrate his birthday. On the menu were peach tomato mozzarella crostini and broiled shrimp cocktail for appetizers, a quince and manchego endive salad, grilled asparagus with deviled quail eggs as a side dish,
and seared garlic peppered tuna with a wasabi honey lime sauce for the main course.
Broiled Shrimp Cocktail
Quince, Manchego and Endive Salad
Seared Garlic Peppered Tuna with Wasabi Honey Lime Sauce

The broiled shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce was a nice twist on traditional shrimp cocktail while the salad was a delicious combination of sweet from the quince paste and apples and salty from the manchego cheese. Although it did not live up to Edwin’s high expectations, the tuna was seared well, cooked but still raw in the middle, and tasted amazing with the wasabi sauce.

Quince Paste with Manchego Cheese

White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Sponge Cake

We finished the meal off with slices of manchego cheese topped with quince paste (again an amazing mixture of sweet and salty) and Edwin’s birthday cake. Rachel, the designated cake baker, baked him a white chocolate raspberry mousse sponge cake that was light and airy, the perfect summery dessert.

That night, we ate a sophisticated and delicious meal that rivaled any of those fancy restaurants in the city. And the best part of it was that we had made it all ourselves in celebration of a dear friend. Now that’s a dinner that money can’t buy.

This post was Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Night at the Museum – California Academy of Sciences

Last Thursday, one of my favorite bands (Of Monsters and Men) was playing a special show at Nightlife at The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I was so excited to go since the tickets were only $12 and the Academy of Sciences is such a fun museum. A cross between a science museum and a natural history museum, its major attractions include an indoor rainforest, planetarium, aquarium, and rooftop garden that looks like it’s straight out of The Teletubbies.

Every Thursday night, the Academy of Sciences hosts Nightlife where they open the museum up to the 21+ crowd, serving beer and cocktails as you wander through the museum. (They do check IDs, which I learned the hard way when I tried to sneak in when I was 19. What a rebel I was. :P) I’ve been a couple times before, but always missed the planetarium shows. So once my friends and I entered, we made a beeline for the planetarium to get tickets for their show on the landing of Mars Curiosity. The planetarium is an amazing half dome screen with seats so comfy, it’s hard to not sleep in them (the only other time I actually saw the show, I ended up sleeping through it since the seats were so comfy and I was dead tired… oops!).

After the show, we wandered through the three-story rainforest, admiring the foliage on each level and the beautiful butterflies flying about.

Next, we walked through the massive aquarium that houses a huge variety of aquatic life, including jellyfish (of all different colors), beautiful coral reefs, and an albino alligator!

The California Academy of Sciences is a fun museum that caters to both adults and kids. And their Nightlife event is definitely a great night to spend with a date or hanging out with friends. As a kid, I had always wanted to be in a museum at night and thanks to Nightlife, I’ve finally experienced it as an adult. If you’re ever in San Francisco, you should definitely make sure to pay a visit to this awesome museum.

Homesick for Texas – Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches

Despite not having grown up in Texas, I still consider myself to be somewhat Texan and associate with Texas all the time. I suppose living in Texas for four years brainwashed me. ūüėõ The funny thing is that when I first arrived in Texas, I wasn’t its biggest fan. I felt like I had been transported to another planet (ok, maybe that was a little exaggerated, but Texas does feel like a foreign country sometimes).

Living in Texas also introduced me to new foods, from real southern BBQ (before moving to Texas, I thought BBQ was hamburgers and hot dogs) to Tex-Mex.¬†One of my favorite foods I discovered in Texas was the kolache – a breakfast pastry similar to to the danish, but made with bread dough instead of danish/croissant dough. Even though it was originally brought over by Czech immigrants, Texans have made the kolache their own by putting their own twist on the fillings and even the¬†pronunciation. Texans say “kol-ah-chee” while the Czech¬†pronunciation¬†is “kolach” (with a silent “e”).

For some reason, kolaches are rather difficult to find outside of Texas. I’m sure they’re available in the Mid-West, but in California, no one has heard of them. So, feeling homesick for both the delicious pastry and Texas, I decided to make my own kolaches. I looked up a few recipes and found these from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Kolaches consist of a basic sweet dough that are shaped into rounds or squares and filled with whatever fruit topping you like. Some people even stuff them with sausage. Common fruit fillings include apricot and blueberry. However, since I only had peaches in the house, I made peach kolaches instead. I also had an expiring block of cream cheese, so I made cream cheese kolaches as well.

This recipe was really easy to follow and straightforward. The only little problem (if you can call it that) was that I made the kolaches a tad too big. I thought I had shaped them into fairly small balls of dough, but boy was I wrong. They ended up rising quite a bit in the oven and became gigantic kolaches. Another difficulty I encountered was filling the wells. I suppose I just tried to put in too much filling because for every kolache, the filling spilled out of the well and down the sides. So make sure you put parchment paper underneath, which makes cleaning up extremely easy.

One of my fondest memories of eating kolaches was right before finals. Each semester, the Women in Engineering program hosted a pre-finals feast, consisting of Texas’ finest foods: breakfast tacos, chips and queso, and of course, kolaches. The fluffiness of the bread and the sweet filling of the kolache comforted me as I grew nervous about my imminent exams. After only four years, I’ve fallen in love with many traditions and cultural¬†idiosyncrasies of Texas, with kolaches being near the top. Making these kolaches brought back good memories and brought a bit of Texas to California.

Peach and Cream Cheese Kolaches
Adapted from Homesick Texan and Confections of a Foodie Bride

For dough:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

For cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon

For peach filling:
2 peaches
peach jam (I used apricot jam)

For posypka:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water, then sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
3. Add 1 cup of flour and yeast to the egg mixture and mix.
4. Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
5. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface.
6.¬†Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size‚ÄĒabout an hour. (I left in the refrigerator overnight and let the dough warm up the next day before using it.)
7. After dough has risen, punch it down. Pull off egg-sized pieces (maybe even smaller!), roll into balls, and then flatten to about three inches in diameter.
8. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
9. While waiting for the dough to rise, make the fillings and posypka. To make the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest. To make the peach filling, cut up the two peaches into small pieces and mix with peach/apricot jam. (I microwaved the jam to make it more liquidy.) To make the posypka, crumble the butter, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together with your hands.
10. After second rising, gently make an indention in the center of the dough with two or three fingers. Fill each well with peach filling or cream cheese filling (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle with posypka.
11. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes and serve warm. Kolaches are best eaten warm and fresh from the oven, but they also taste good the day after.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Recreating Old Favorites – Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes

While waiting for the purple ombre cakes to cool and bitten by the baking bug, I decided to whip up some cupcakes. I searched the kitchen and found half a bag of frozen berries left in the freezer as well as my roommates’ leftover raspberries and blueberries sitting in the fridge. So, I decided to make berry cupcakes again (which were a hit on July 4th) But since I don’t really like to make the same thing twice, I added in some cream cheese filling to spice up the cupcakes.

I loosely followed this recipe for berry cheesecake muffins. Once you’ve made cupcakes (or any recipe for that matter) several times, you know the basic steps for making any kind of cupcake. In that sense, I feel that baking is very loose and not as restrictive as some people think. In my opinion, all cakes, cupcakes, and cookies follow the same basic recipe. You just vary what you mix-in to change it up.

For these cupcakes, I decided to change it up by adding in a cream cheese filling. I filled the cupcake liners about 1/3 full of the berry cupcake batter, then added a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture, topped it with a raspberry and blueberry, and filled up the rest with batter. Since I only wanted to use one muffin tin, I filled each liner full to the brim with filling. Seeing how full they were (i.e. on the verge of spilling out of the liners), I was worried that the cupcakes would rise too much while baking. But my worries were for naught. The cupcakes did rise quite a bit while in the oven; however, when I took them out and let them cool, they deflated down to regular sized cupcakes. So bottom line: don’t be afraid to fill up your cupcake liners – the cupcakes will deflate anyway.

I had leftover blackcurrant buttercream frosting from the purple ombre cake, so I used that to frost these cupcakes. However, any frosting would be good with these cupcakes, such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry or even lemon frosting.

When I got to my last two cupcakes, I ran out of the blackcurrant frosting. Luckily, I had leftover cream cheese frosting in the fridge and used that for the last two. (I don’t usually have frosting just lying around. It just so happened that I was baking and decorating a lot of cakes that weekend. :P) Also, I highly recommend decorating these cupcakes with fresh berries if you have them. The fresh berries make the cupcakes absolutely gorgeous!

These cupcakes ended up being so delicious that my friend’s mom declared them the best cupcakes she had ever had! (However, that may be a bit of a hyperbole since she tends to exaggerate things.) These cupcakes were definitely some of the best I’ve made in both taste and presentation. The cream cheese filling was rich and creamy and tasted very similar to cheesecake.¬†The berries inside were refreshing and their tartness helped cut some of the richness of the cream cheese filling as well as the sweetness of the frosting.

These cupcakes are a nice twist on regular berry cupcakes and beautifully combine the flavors and textures of cheesecake with those of cupcakes.¬†Just by adding a heaping spoonful of cream cheese filling, I created a delicious hybrid of cupcake and cheesecake. Try playing around with some of your favorite traditional recipes – you’ll create a new dish while still enjoying the old one.

Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Adapted from chef-in-training

For the cupcakes:
1/3 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A bag (or half a bag) of frozen berries (you can always use fresh berries too)

For the cream cheese filling:
6 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

For the buttercream frosting:
1 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 jar of blackcurrant, raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry jam

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add one egg a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
3. Beat in the milk.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture just until moistened.
6. Fold in berries gently.
7. Fill paper lined muffin cups one-third full with the cupcake batter.
8. For the cream cheese filling, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth.
9. Drop a heaping tablespoonful into the center of each cupcake.
10. Place fresh berries in the center of each cupcake.
11. Fill up the rest of the liner with the cupcake batter.
12. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
13. Let the cupcakes cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack.
14. To make the frosting, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar. Gradually add in the rest of the sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in the jam and continue beating.
15. Frost cupcakes with the buttercream frosting and decorate as you wish. Then enjoy!

Pink Ombre Nails

In honor of Rachel’s birthday cake, the purple ombre cake, I decided to try out the ombre nails trend. Well, that and I finally had enough shades of red and pink to do it!

I’m actually pretty late jumping on this trend because, although it may seem rather trivial, getting enough shades of a color is pretty difficult. It turns out that two shades of pink looked exactly the same, even though they came from two different bottles! Oh well. It just gives me another excuse to buy more nail polish! ūüėõ

Q: How do you Impress a Master Cake Baker? A: With a Purple Ombre Cake

One of the best things about grad school so far has been the¬†camaraderie¬†amongst all of my classmates. We’re a class of 25 students, relatively large for our department. But somehow, nearly all 25 of us have managed to be friends and hang out with each other at least once a month. One of the main reasons why we hang out with such regularity is that we have created a tradition to celebrate each person’s birthday together with a homemade cake baked by my friend Rachel.

For every birthday since mine in October, Rachel has made a birthday cake. Somehow, she became the designated cake baker for our class. She’s made some pretty amazing cakes, including a banana chocolate chip cake (for yours truly), a peanut butter chocolate monkey cake (from smitten kitchen), a red wine chocolate cake, a super red velvet cake, and many more.

My birthday cake (aka the inaugural cake)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Monkey Cake!

So, when it was Rachel’s birthday last weekend, I knew I had to return the favor and bake her an amazing cake. Obviously, it couldn’t be just any old cake. It had to be beautiful, delicious, and most important, memorable. If you’re active on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen this gorgeous purple ombre cake from rasberri cupcakes. The minute I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it. And Rachel’s birthday was the perfect¬†occasion! Especially because she loves the color purple. ūüėÄ

4 shades of purple (instead of 50 shades of grey…bad joke i know)

I enlisted the help of my friend Lin because there was no way I could have done all the work myself. Steph’s recipe was actually very simple and straightforward. One of the more difficult steps was coloring the batter. Making darkest and lightest layers were fairly easy, but making the other two colors were a bit trickier since they were harder to distinguish from each other. We started with the darkest batter; however, we should have started with the lightest batter since it’s easier to make the batter darker rather than lighter. ūüėõ Another minor difficult we encountered was removing the parchment paper from the cakes. I allowed them to cool on cooling racks, but when I peeled off the paper, a substantial amount of cake came off with it. Luckily, the layers were fine and I got to taste test the cake from the bits of cake left on the paper.

      

Since Rachel actually likes currants, we followed Steph’s recipe to a T, using the blackcurrant jam as the filling between the cakes. However, I’m sure this cake would taste delicious with blackberry or raspberry jam. Or to make it a bit more colorful, you could use lemon curd or even mango curd (to make it more exotic). We also decided to make a blackcurrant buttercream from another of Steph’s cake recipes. The buttercream was a beautiful pink color and chockful of currants.

Topping the cake with frosting

The funnest part was decorating the cake. I let my creative self come out, which doesn’t happen very much when you work in a technical field :P. First, I spread on a thin crumb coat first and then covered that layer with more frosting. With lots of frosting leftover and a box of blackberries in the fridge, I decided to place dollops of jam along the outer edge of the cake, pipe dots of frosting on top, and top them with blackberries. The only trouble I ran into was that the frosting melted a bit on top of the jam. I also added a few raspberries to the center to add another pop of color.

The finished product! Looks a bit professional, right?

The most satisfying part about making this cake was seeing everyone’s reaction, especially Rachel’s, when she cut into it. I was worried about how the inside would look, since I had no idea until the cake was cut. Luckily, it was a major success!

The cake layers were gorgeous shades of purple and the cake itself was pretty delicious. However, if I were to be extremely critical, I would say the cake was a bit dry. That was probably because we had made the cake the night before so Rachel wouldn’t see it. I’d suggest if you can schedule it right, make the cake the day you’re planning on serving it. As I assembled the cake, I scraped up the bits that were stuck to the parchment paper for the sake of taste testing and thought the cake was pretty moist.

This cake is quite a bit of work, but it’s so worth it. I received many compliments and Rachel absolutely loved the cake, which was the sweetest reward. I’ve found that the most enjoyable things in life aren’t given to you as gifts or presents. Instead, you receive the most satisfaction and joy in making others happy.