Tag Archives: dessert

Baked’s Caramel Apple Cake

Once again, another roommate’s birthday has come and gone and while no one is going to award me prizes for making perfectly leveled cakes, at least everyone said this one tasted good.

Caramel Apple Cake // The Pancake Princess
Caramel Apple Cake // The Pancake Princess
collage2Halfway (or so) through business school, I re-met my friend Skyler. We had been vaguely acquainted in college, but had never really interacted (save for one VERY MEANINGFUL MOMENT OF EYE CONTACT). But I ran into him at a concert in June, and then again at a shop in July, and at a friend’s pedal party, and then again while out with friends.

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Family Classic: Wine Cake (from scratch!)

Wine Cake // The Pancake PrincessAt  the beginning of this year, I had the intention of sharing some of my classic family recipes on a monthly basis. One finished business degree, trip to Australia and Thailand, start of a semi-demanding new job and continued freelance work later…that goal had to be moved down the list of priorities.

To the readers who have stuck with me through my irregular posting schedule this year–you are the best! Part of my spotty posting has been due to the fact that I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go with The Pancake Princess in the future. I think the opportunity is ripe to expand beyond a recipe-only blog, so we’ll see if 2017 brings more time to flesh out some ideas.

About this recipe: throughout my childhood, my mom had three go-to baking recipes (apart from holiday baking)–this banana bread, the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies and wine cake.

Wine Cake // The Pancake Princess

Wine cake was often made for bake sales, or occasionally for when people came over. After letting the steaming, craggy-bottomed cake cool in the pan, we would breathlessly (though the fear of ripping off the top of the cake due to sticking wasn’t really real thanks to the magic of cake mix) unearth the whole cake by plopping it upside down on a plate and dust the top with a gentle cloud of powdered sugar.

The ridges of our bundt cake dictated the size of each slice (alternating thick and thin) and the thick pieces were far superior, not only for the obvious size difference, but also because of the greater surface area of browned, gently crisp yet-still-tender crust that formed around the pale, plush, wine-scented interior (the alcohol bakes out leaving just a mild flavor, don’t worry). I always ate the middle part in short geometric fork strokes, leaving the caramelized crusts for last.

Wine Cake // The Pancake Princess

Hilariously, I had plan to recreate the exact cake, but when I found the recipe my mom always uses in the recipe card box, I almost had a heart attack. You guys, the original recipe uses Orville Redenbacher Butter Flavor Oil. As oil. In the cake. And a lot of it. Plus yellow cake mix. Plus packaged pudding mix.

I mentally wrestled with the recipe for approximately 10 hot seconds and then decided to scrap it and try a from-scratch version (for some reason, 95% of wine cake recipes with yellow cake seem to be made with cake mix! Is this some 80s conspiracy?!). Taking inspiration from this DIY instant pudding mix, I added a smidge more sugar and cornstarch to the recipe to act as the pudding replacer. Then, I used this recipe as a guide to replicate the boxed cake mix-type cake.

In the end, the cake turned out deliciously–maybe it was just my imagination, but I think the from-scratch version cake had a more natural, less synthetic-buttery taste to it. The crust was also crisper (major bonus!) and though I have to admit the crumb was slightly less fine (boxed cake mix, why u so darn magical), there’s still a really fresh and plush tenderness to it. This cake makes for great holiday baking and gifting in case you’re looking for inspiration!

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Wowbutter Cookies (nut-free)

Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake PrincessIs it really September? Is it just me or like……

WHERE DID SUMMER GO.

Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
img_8558Wowbutter Cookies // The Pancake Princess
I’m not ready to let the magical summer of Australia and Thailand go…but admittedly, it’s been nice to have down time at home. My roommate and I recently made the move from our 960 sq ft apartment to a duplex in Montrose (the, shall we say, trendy part of Houston) and let me tell you: you should NEVER not hire movers. People told we had to, but neither of us had ever done a big (read: non-college-esque move) on our own, and we figured doing it on our own would be 1) way cheaper 2) a good way to super appreciate movers whenever we need to move again in the future.

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Levain Cookie Experimentations

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The original Levain cookie (via Instagram).

Inside the white paper bag was a battlescape of chocolate. Rich ganache snuggled between two slender planks of firm yet yielding brioche had melted out of its neat sandwhich during my sweaty trek across Central Park and seeped into various crevices of the bag, making it impossible to extract the other half of my purchase–the famous chocolate chip cookie–unscathed. But I withdrew the craggy monster of a cookie–hand accumulating chocolate smears–and broke it apart.

People were passing by: a German-looking family, a French couple, a middle-aged Asian woman who decided to sit on the other end of my bench. If they noticed me inspecting my cookie–the golden, ridged edges, the moist interior rich with butter and silky chocolate, the center so gooey and underdone like warm cookie dough that it should be illegal–I only hope they knew where to get their own.

Levain Bakery

And that place, of course, is Levain Bakery in New York. I went in mid-July to visit a friend before she left for a whirlwind tour of the world as a digital nomad, and during a lunch break walked across Central Park to procure the cookie I’d been dreaming about since the lovely Kayle first guided me there during a trip in 2013.

My only regret: at the last minute, I switched my order from a chocolate chip and a dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookie to a chocolate chip and the chocolate chip brioche. The brioche was incredibly chocolatey and a really nice dense but still sufficiently fluffy and rich dough, but where Levain really excels is the cookies and I should have just gone all in. Anyway, the cookie experience was just as otherworldly as I remembered, so when my lovely and very talented personal chef friend, Morgan, asked if I wanted to help her test out the Levain recipe when I got back, the answer was a giant YASSSSSS.*

We tried two recipes, a few alterations and a BUNCH of different baking temperatures and times. While we didn’t do anything earth-shattering to the excellent copycat recipes that already exist on the interwebs, I thought the research that we did in oven temperatures was worth sharing, so here are our results!

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Ugly Fruit Blondies

Does the following color combination appear oh-so-reminiscent of a recent holiday that may have involved fireworks, cookouts, and way too many chips consumed pool-side?

Ugly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake Princess

That’s because these blondies were definitely made TWICE for various Fourth of July celebrations, but I’m only getting around to posting them now because…life.

Ugly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake PrincessUgly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake PrincessI recently re-took various personality tests around the interwebs which revealed an interesting shift from my former middle-leaning-introverted tendencies of the Myers-Briggs scale to the extrovert-leaning side. Way back in the day, I took the real-deal test and scored INTJ, one of the rarest personality types and basically the ULTIMATE introvert profile. According to more recent (free internet) tests, I have solidly edged over to the extrovert side of the scale, which I found myself thinking “yeah, that could be right,” considering what a success story my Australia solo travel was.

But these past few weeks, man–definitely confirmed I’m still an introvert. I’ve had some kind of meeting or social engagement every single night after work and it’s exhausting. I want to curl up in my room, read the book that my roommate left in my doorway, and not speak to anyone for a week. I think that’s the definition of introversion. Though my extended period of extroversion was fun while it lasted!

So for the fourth, I riffed on Michelle’s rhubarb and white chocolate blondies with additional fruit for a red white and blue theme (the first batch with cherries, the second with pomegranates). Thhen, when gifted a few jars of Ugly Fruit applesauce, I used it in a second batch in place of some butter.

Ugly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake PrincessUgly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake PrincessBack in the day, I was a big fan of using things like applesauce and yogurt as a fat-replacer in baked goods. These days, I almost never substitute for fat in baked recipes since it almost always results in less satisfying goods that leave me wishing I’d just made the real deal. The applesauce, however, worked really well in these considering how fruity the toppings are anyway, simply resulting in a slightly firmer (instead of gooey-centered) blondie that still retains that buttery-sweet, salt-flecked flavor.

Ugly Fruit, by the way, is a company that uses blemished fruit that would otherwise be thrown away due to unsalable appearances that can’t make it through the high beauty standards of grocery stores. I’ve been seeing a lot of companies pop up lately that are attacking the issue of food waste from multiple angles and I LOVE IT. I think food waste and sustainability are incredibly important issues and it’s really great to see more people finding solutions to this rather gargantuan problem.

“Ugly Fruit is creating networks of farms, chefs, processors, and communities that are committed to tackling issues of access and nutrition and creating a food system that better allocates resources and provides healthier options accessible to all.”

^ How cool is that?? So to recap, make these blondies and go buy some really delicious small batch applesauce! If you’re on the East Coast, you can find Ugly Fruit applesauce in select stores in Connecticut, New York, and soon Boston (follow them on FacebookInstagramTwitter to stay updated on which stores carry it). If you’re not on the East Coast, you can buy it online and get it delivered to your door.

(Ps. I was given samples, but not compensated to write this post; I just really believe in this awesome product!)
Ugly Fruit Blondies // The Pancake Princess


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