Lemon Berry Cake

caketop

I was tasked with making a dessert for roughly 25-30 people attending a baby shower last weekend. The mom-to-be and I decided on a lemony berry-y concoction, and this is what I came up with. It was a bit precarious to transport, but it looked nice, tasted good, and fed the right amount of people. Success!

The cake is a basic 1-2-3-4 cake with a dose of vanilla and lemon zest added. I baked mine in the three-tiered wedding-style configuration—if you do that, just keep an eye on the layers since they’ll bake at different rates. Start checking them at 20 minutes. The easier way is to cook them in three 9-inch pans like the recipe calls for, but I didn’t have three. You work with what you got. Note that you can make the lemon curd beforehand (it’ll keep in the fridge for 1 week).

The combo of the sweet cake, tart lemon curd, fresh berries, and fluffy whipped cream is just so good. Technically you could leave out the berries or you could leave out the curd. It’d still be good, just not quite as good. But I get it if you don’t want to prep four things.

 

1-2-3-4 Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 lemons, zested
3 cups sifted self-rising flour*
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare your three 9″ pans by greasing and flouring well.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to mix well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and zest and mix well.

Add flour and milk alternately to mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 5-10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their pans and cooling completely.

* Make your own self-rising flour if you don’t have any. 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour, minus 2 teaspoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt.


Lemon Curd
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen/The Joy of Cooking

4 egg yolks
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small lemons, zested and juiced

Put all ingredients in a double boiler over boiling water. Don’t let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken ever-so-slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate it to thicken.


Berries

1 package fresh strawberries, washed and dried
1 small package raspberries, washed and drained
1 small package blueberries, washed and drained

Hull the strawberries and slice into 2-4 slices lengthwise, depending on their size. If your strawberries are not very sweet, you can toss them in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of sugar.


Whipped Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Chill a large, clean mixing bowl in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Add the cream and vanilla and whip using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer. Add the sugar gradually, a tablespoon at a time. Whip until stiff peaks form.


How to Assemble:

Place one cooled cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with 1/3 of the lemon curd in a thin layer, followed by 1/3 of the whipped cream and a single layer of berries. If you soaked your strawberries in sugar, be sure to drain them before using. Top with another cake layer and repeat twice. For the final layer, arrange the fruit in a pretty design. Or don’t! Whatever you want. Store in the refrigerator until serving.

cakeside

Lemon Berry Cake

Corn Chowder Salad

DSC_0732

I don’t know what the weather has been like where you are, dear reader, but it’s been give-me-a-break-UGH hot in LA. With a solid week skirting or topping 100 degrees, it’s been pretty miserable. That means I’ve been completely against turning on the oven or even using the stove for too long, so dinner options have been… salad, mostly. I was looking for new ideas when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s Corn Chowder Salad. It was hearty, used some seasonal produce, and didn’t require too much cook time. It was also great served at room temperature, so it won’t cause you to overheat. I made a couple of changes—smoked Gouda instead of bacon, served over a bed of arugula and turned into a main dish—but the concept is completely the same. Delish!

P.S. If you want to go veg like I did but want an especially bacon-y substitute, fry your gouda like bacon. So. Good.

Corn Chowder Salad
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from The Beekman Boys

Serves 4+ as a main dish

Olive oil
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6  or 7 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded smoked Gouda
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 lime
1 small bag of arugula

  1. Add a good glug of oil to a large skillet and preheat over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until they start to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for a few minutes longer, until almost tender.
  2. Add the bell pepper and stir. Cook about 5 minutes until both are tender.
  3. Add the corn and garlic and cook, stirring, for just a few minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and toss with the vinegar, lime, and another glug of oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve over a bed of arugula, dressed or plain, and top with Gouda (I added radishes to mine). Goes great with crusty bread and butter.

 

Corn Chowder Salad

Vegan Corn Chowder

vegan corn chowderI had a surplus of fresh corn recently (a good problem to have), and didn’t want any of the short-lived vegetable to go to waste. I had a few other veggies, my usual pantry staples, and a can of coconut milk. In less than 30 minutes, I had a really delicious, Thai-influenced corn chowder without a drop of cream.

Vegan Corn Chowder
serves 2-3

3 ears fresh corn
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
smoked paprika, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
about 1/2 can coconut milk
about 1 cup (plus extra) vegetable stock
1 teaspoon soy sauce
fresh lime
fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

  1. Shuck the corn and cut off the cob. Use the back of your knife to scrape the juicy bits of corn from the cob.
  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, heat a dollop of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and saute until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add garlic, sesame oil, paprika, and pepper flakes and cook a few minutes more.
  3. Add corn to the pot and add half coconut milk and half vegetable stock, just until liquid almost covers the veggies. Bring mixture to a low boil and lower to a simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t overcook, or corn will get tough.
  4. Turn off heat and add soy sauce, a generous squeeze of lime juice (to taste), and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, reserving some for the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until about 1/2 of it is smooth, leaving some corn and vegetables whole. Alternatively, pour about 1/2 of the mixture into a blender. Be careful to let it cool a bit before blending, and crack the top to let heat escape.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

vegan corn chowder

Vegan Corn Chowder

Ice Cream Cone S’mores

S'mores cone

While camping in Morro Bay, we put our fire pit to good use. After grilling up cheesy veggie flatbreads, we tried out a new trick for dessert. We each stuffed our own sugar cone to the top with a mix of dark chocolate chips and mini marshmallows and wrapped them tightly in foil (be careful not to be too rough, I broke one of my cones this way).S'mores cone

If you have a calmer fire, stick them in the grates like the photo above and let them heat up while you clean up your dinner mess. If your fire is pretty hot like our’s, I started them out on their side, rotating them after a couple of minutes, and then poked them through the grates to finish. This way the bottom won’t burn, but hopefully when you unwrap your cones, they’ll be nice and melty inside. Once you check and see if they’re done, be sure to let them cool for a minute before digging in.

It’s a great way to enjoy a s’more without the need for skewers, and they’re not quite as messy. We liked them so much we made two for each of us.

Ice Cream Cone S’mores

Corn Fritters

corn fritters

When I’m cooking savory (which is most of the time), I typically do not use a recipe. The recipes only come out when I want to make something unusual or special, and that’s honestly not very often. I feel fortunate that I’ve built up enough cooking experience to be approaching the stove with a basis of knowledge, and creativity and experimentation is what I love about savory cooking. Not all of my experiments work, but I learn from them and move on. And I rarely turn out anything inedible.

This past weekend we had a grill-out (like the rest of the country) and while cleaning up afterwards, I discovered I had forgotten to cook the 10 ears of corn sitting at the end of the counter. Whoops. I suddenly had A LOT of fresh corn on my hands, so the next day I shucked a couple of ears and made corn fritters for brunch. I took a photo because they looked (and tasted) so good, but do I have a recipe? No. I threw a bunch of stuff in a bowl. Will I one day figure out what the recipe is and post it? Yes. Until then, I’ll at least tell you what’s in them.

corn fritters

fresh corn (about 2 ears)
1 egg
tahini
fresh parsley
minced garlic
minced onion
cornmeal
pinch of baking soda
cumin
salt & pepper

I used just enough liquid ingredients and cornmeal to loosely bind it all together. If you cook them right, they’ll fuse into crispy patties.

The slaw was leftover from the barbecue, and contained:

shredded cabbage
broccoli slaw mix
radishes
green pepper
scallions
cilantro
avocado
jalapeno
sesame oil
lime juice
a little honey
not too much mayo
salt & pepper

Corn Fritters