Saturday, September 26, 2009

Luci's platypus cake

My friend Shin and I have a wonderful system worked out.
After meeting her in Chicago over 12 years ago, she now works in one of the top five salons in NYC and is a genius with curly hair. Since we are friends, we've moved past a proper payment situation to a barter--cakes for the family, for haircuts for the family. My favorite part of the whole deal is when her older daughter Luci dreams up her birthday cake.

Over the years, I have made a mermaid, a white cat, an Elmo cake for her little sister, and this year the idea finally became a challenge--a platypus. I had to do a bit of research to truly capture the subject matter, and found myself fascinated with the animal. Its in its own species category as its one of the remaining prehistoric animals. For reasons far beyond my understanding, Luci has an obsession with platypus, as do many of her alpha Manhattan classmates at the party.

Shin and her two daughters and husband are so loving and creative, and it makes me so happy to make a cake for someone who really appreciates it from both the mom and child perspective.
I will cherish this note from Luci forever. Makes my heart swell that I have really made it in the world.
Happy 7th Birthday Luci!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kim's cake

My wonderful friend, Kim Ficaro has a birthday today.

one of Kim Ficaro's masterpieces

She is without a doubt, one of the most creative people I know, who transforms the ordinary into utter beauty.

She helped style and art direct my book, and I love seeing her work in food, design, and home magazine, catalogs, and newspapers. She uses flowers, found objects, and beautiful fabrics to make stunning arrangements. She also uses many textiles for tablecloths, or for accenting a plate of food. For her birthday cake, I thought about using an idea based in textiles.

I am designing a wedding cake for a textile designer named Libby ( whose polka dot print is becoming a subconscious obsession of mine. I thought for the cake it would be fun to try and get a graphic, fabric inspired feel with painted polka dots.

Libby's hand printed textiles.
I love the loose and whimsical outlines on the polka dots, as well as the watercolor feel.
I used chocolate powder mixed with espresso for the brown "paint" and the cake has a base of espresso whipped buttercream. The fuchsia outline is vanilla buttercream, and I found a way to incorporate my edible gold sequins. The kids ate some of the circle gold ones, so I didnt have as many as I wished, but feel like it gives the cake a bit more glitz.

A perfect little cake for the small gathering tonight.
Happy Birthday Kim! Thank you for making the world a little bit more beautiful each day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gold Crush

My friend Alicia, who I used to work with and whose wedding cake I made in June, told me that she was making the jewelry for the Philip Lim fashion show. The show took place a few hours before my book signing, so for good luck (and because she is an amazing friend) she dropped off an extra necklace for my event.

Alicia is a master with metals, and she handmade each necklace out of thin sheets of metal with a process called electroplating to have it slowly crumple into what looks like, a crushed piece of paper. Except that it is shiny gold and hangs on the neck like a floating work of magical art.

She set the crumpled gold with faceted topaz glass stones and leather cord, so you can adjust it higher or lower. A really easy piece to wear that I loved at first sight.

the necklace

I wore it to my event with a Marni dress that had splashed of color and texture that reminded me of the necklace. At Kinokuniya, the crowd was a mix of bakers, designers, and lots of well dressed people. (The spill-over from the Anna Sui show that just let out).

johnny working the crowd

I felt inspired by the jewelry, the cakes, the people, and the gold. I thought sheets of gold leaf could be crumpled on top of a dark chocolate ganache frosted cake. Or thin sheets of chocolate could be softly sculpted by hand, and dusted with gold powder. Philip Lim called the show "Crush" so this is the crush cake dedicated to Alicia. xo

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Book Signing at Kinokuniya

My favorite bookstore in Manhattan is Kinokuniya. A Japanese bookstore that is a cultural goldmine of books ranging from crafts (making felt versions of French pastries for example), beautiful sewing, home, and design books, to carrying small tchotchke children's stickers, pens, and a cafe too. I fell in love the first time I walked in, and am so excited to be in the presence of such a great shop for my book signing next week.

Kinokuniya is right across the street from Bryant Park where Fashion Week is taking place, bringing all the elements together in my life; cake + fashion.

Wednesday, September 16, 6-7:30. Ave of the Americas between 40/41.
Treats and my fancy autograph.
Hope you can make it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

My New York Times Debut

I am so honored to be part of Amanda Hesser's 'Recipe Redux' column this weekend. I have always admired her writing and am so excited to be in the New York Times.

When she first contacted me in the Spring, it was the week that the Obamas broke ground on their new garden. I felt so inspired by this symbolic gesture of back-to-the-land eating, that I wanted to use an herb or something that would be flourishing in their garden by September. Thyme is one of those herbs that are so easy to grow, and can go either savory or sweet.

And I just love meringue cookies, they satisfy so many sensations at once.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Libby and Greg's wedding

I am so excited to be doing another wedding that will be held at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The whole aesthetic and atmosphere of a working farm-to table makes my cakes so happy.

The palette for the wedding is simple; black, white, gray, and silver. The bride is a textile and stationary designer, and her style is whimsical and chic. (Hence the polka dot cake inspired by her work). We discussed doing small cakes for the tables.

She has vintage wedding toppers from her mom, and each cake would have one on top.
I recommended white Mosser milk glass cake stands for small cakes, since they make them in the 6" diameter, and they always look elegant.

We may even mix up the cakes with having plates of Goldies, but perhaps of gold dust, they will be silver.

It will be very beautiful!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Edible Sequins

I have been working on jewelry projects lately, and have been loving the look of worn gold. Especially the kind of worn gold that sparkles softly in the dark on a jacket or dress...

How could it be possible to create this kind of feeling for a cake? I thought back to the gelatin experiments I did earlier, and came up with the idea to mix luster dusts and edible glitter into the gelatin, to see if I could make something that feels like a sequin, but could be a cake decoration.

mixing 'Old Gold' and 'Emerald' metallic luster dust into warm gelatin

I used old jewel candy molds that I picked up at the cake supply store. I also dripped freehand blobs onto a plate to see if that could work too. (It did not. Fortunately a few soaks in water freed the glitter from the plate.)

I also sprinkled edible glitter into some of the mold, to see how it would look.

Once dry, these are thin, shell-like decorations, but surprisingly not fragile.

These could be used to sprinkle on top of cupcakes, or it could be whimsical to pierce a hole in the center to mimick a true sequin. It would be gorgeous to have a sequin covered cake, sort of like a couture YSL jacket from the 70's.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beet Maple Meringues...and I heard you say ewww

Beet Maple Meringues

I have been thinking about a dish to prepare for the Slow Food movement Eat-In, which is happening across the country on Labor Day. The purpose is to bring awareness to childhood food education--to reform the outdated standards which children face in school, and to encourage healthier, smarter food for children. Its a massive undertaking with many political implications, but on a personal level I want to try and help as I can.

The Eat-In is a potluck, and asks that people bring a dish that is healthy, exciting for kids, and made with ingredients costing under $20. I have been wanting to make meringues for a while as I think the light, crisp feeling they give are perfect for a sweet low in fat and gluten free (in order to please everyone attending).

I decide to make meringues flavored with maple syrup, and better yet, cook some beets in the maple syrup to impart a hot pink hue.

as the egg whites are whipped, I slowly pour in the cooled syrup, and look what a gorgeous shade of pink...

My hands were too covered in eggy goo to take pictures, but I piped the flowers using just the coupler on my pastry bag.

They came out crisp, sweet, and disappeared within 5 minutes, mostly by little hands of Clyde's friends. After eating some lunch and sweets, Clyde helped the Growing Chefs make homemade pesto for the crowd.

The movie "What's on Your Plate?" was screened, and I thought it was amazing. Two spirited girls from the East Village track where their food is from and how it gets to their table.

It was a lovely event, and I feel so inspired at how many people showed up--not everyone needs to have a kid in a public school to feel the urge for change. Later that day, my friend asked me to join the nutrition committee for the PTA, and armed with confidence that people really care about school food beyond parents, I happily signed up. xo

Beet Maple Meringues

6 organic egg whites, room temperature
pinch of sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
1 small beet, peeled and minced into pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or arrowroot

1. Add minced beet and maple syrup together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat covered for 30 minutes until beets are cooked and soft. Strain, reserving chopped beets for some other experiment. Let maple syrup cool.

preheat oven to 200 degrees, line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

1. Splash a bit of white vinegar and salt in the bowl fitted for a standing mixer. Rub with paper towel and wipe clean. This will ensure the bowl is grease free for your egg whites.

2. Beat egg whites on medium-high until foamy and bubbly, then add sea salt and cream of tartar/arrowroot.

3. Increase speed to high, until mixture is thick and creamy. Slowly add cooled maple syrup mixture and vanilla, and mix until combined.

4. Using a pastry bag fitted with the coupler, fill and pipe five blobs for petals, and one center blob for the stamen on the parchment paper.

5. Place in the oven, and bake for 1 hour, then turn off oven but keep the door shut for at least 2-3 hours until meringues are crisp to the touch.

6. Keep in airtight container, as air will quickly soften these.

For more information about the marvels of the Slow Food movement, please visit September is pay what you can membership month.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lazy Crisis Picnic Galette

As summer comes to an end, its nice to see old faces that have been gone for a while, and to feel the school year energy picking up. A group of friends and classmates from the neighborhood organized a sunset picnic at a new waterfront park in Greenpoint, where the glittering Manhattan skyline is the backdrop for kids playing with sticks and running around.

Although I had plenty of time to think about something to bring, I couldn't get motivated until about 2 hours before the picnic. By then a few deserts were off the list- the ones that require chilling and many steps such as homemade ice cream, pie, or cake. Slightly panicked but keeping it cool, I took note of what I had in the house.; ripe white peaches, sweeter than candy, and a bag of cherries flash frozen from the market. I had to make something quick, as time was short. I thought the perfect desert would be a galette, since the dough could chill quickly, and as a free-form tart, wouldn't have to be too fussy with details.

cut cold butter into little cubes and let sit in the freezer to chill out.

I have a recipe in my cookbook for a plum galette, and I use the dough as the base for other fruits in other seasons. But as I opened the pantry to put it together, I realized that I had used up my whole wheat pastry flour, and had run out of parchment paper. Not to be deterred, I found a bag of wheat germ, and added a bit as a substitution for the wheat flour.

fingermarks are the making of a great thin galette or tart bottom. Note the flecks of wheat germ giving the crust a nutty hue.

wrap the scraps in plastic wrap and place in freezer for cutting out top decoration if you have time.

The next obstacle proved to be the logistical one of transportation. As I had two kids with me, park paraphernalia, and cute but wobbly shoes, I did not want to have a galette sliding around on a plate with a 99% probability of falling before we got to the end of the block. I thought that it would be easier to make the galette in a tart pan instead of a free form shape, making it easy to serve and carry at the same time. So the galette morphed into a tart-esque creation, as I chilled the dough in the tart pan, and cut some decorative scraps for the top.

peaches, cherries, and some lemon zest

With summer ripe fruit, you don't have to do much. Once baked and bubbly, the juiciness of the peaches tasted like summer and happiness. The galette/tart was quickly gobbled and I even managed to steal a slice since I want to savor summer as long as I can before it quickly comes to an end next week.

ready to go in the oven

sweet victory.


For the dough:
1 3/4 cups organic all purpose flour
1/4 cup raw wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
1 3/4 sticks unsalted organic butter, cut into small cubes, chilled in freezer for a few minutes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons ice water

1. In food processor, add dry ingredients and pulse until combined.
2. Add butter a few pieces at a time and pulse, so that the dough resembles sand.
3. While motor is running, add lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons water, or enough for dough to start to ball in the machine. Usually this takes 20 seconds.
4. Place dough on piece of plastic wrap, cover with another piece of plastic wrap, and roll thin with a rolling pin to 1/4" inch. Place in freezer.
5. Preheat oven to 450 and prepare filling.

For Fruit Filling:
3-4 ripe white peaches (you want around 2 1/2 cups)
around 10 cherries (I grabbed a handful but you can use more if you wish)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt
1 tablespoon organic all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon organic cane sugar (optional if peaches aren't like candy. mine were so I omitted)
1 tablespoon unsalted organic butter
raw sugar such as rapadura

1. Slice peaches into small, even pieces, around 1/4" thick. into a medium size bowl.
2. Pit cherries and cut into pieces.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

To assemble.
1. Take pastry dough out of freezer and unwrap one side onto the tart pan. The size I have is a 9" pan.
2. Use your fingers to press evenly into the pan and up the sides.
3. I quickly re-wrapped excess dough between plastic wrap and rolled it thin, then cut out the hearts for the top. I also ripped pieces of dough up and sprinkled it on the areas where the fruit was showing.
4. Optional to finish is to cut up one tablespoon butter with your fingers and drop bits all over the top. Then sprinkle cut-outs on top with sugar.
5. Bake in oven for 25 -30 minutes until top is dark brown and fruit is bubbly.
6. Let cool an hour before cutting.