valentine's day almond cake

Season 3 of Girl Meets Farm is a go!!!

We are working on the first six episodes right now and the remaining episodes will be filmed after Poppy Seed arrives, in the summer! It’s been so much fun! Of course, there are a few things weird about filming while eight months pregnant, like my arms get tired more easily since there is a growing baby the size of [checks pregnancy tracker app] three croissants in between me and the counter, and I’ve gotten some lame-o carpal tunnel action so sprinkling sprinkles takes some more effort, and of course my belly catches all of the food falling out of my mouth that would otherwise fall to the floor (I didn’t realize how much food fell from my face until there was something there to catch it?!) so it’s necessary for me to have two of every shirt that I wear. But, in general it’s been awesome because there is so much food everywhere!! Taco pizza, coconut cream pie, salt and vinegar potatoes, freezer friendly bagel breakfast sandwiches… this season is pregnant lady approved and sooo (!!!) tasty.

And of course, hanging out with the crew, being cozied up in my house and filming all day while it blizzards outside is kind of like my winter camp dreams come true. I love these people. And I’m excited that later this week I get to spend Valentine’s Day with them and introduce them to my annual Valentine’s Day almond cake. My mom will also be in town on Valentine’s Day, filming her guest episode, so it’s going to be the best day ever!!! Oh gosh I hope there’s enough of this cake to go around… It just occurred to me that I should maybe make a second one…

Anyway, this Valentine’s Day cake is extra special for two reasons: my Chrismukkah gift from Eggboy this year was a set of paintings of my Valentine’s cakes by our amazing artist friend Mollie. Mollie makes the most incredible watercolors, they’re miniature and beautiful, I have a corn dog that she made for me last year and I cherish it. When Eggboy presented me with her paintings of my cakes, I was floored! They’re not all literal, some of them are interpretations, and part of the gift was that Mollie is going to paint my future cakes as well! So one day when we’re all old and crusty, there will be a wall in our house covered with paintings of Valentine’s cakes. Oh geez, I’m so excited. 

Also, Better Homes and Gardens did a story on my tradition with their own beautiful rendition of this cake!! Pick up this month’s issue to read it!!

My cake this year was actually inspired by the cake that BHG did. I loved their idea of doing a layer cake and sticking cookies into the top. I wanted all of the cookies to be different, so during the polar vortex, I just took a whole afternoon and decorated these cookies and it was the best. Some are flower-inspired to look like little bouquets, but the others I just played around with. And of course the actual cake itself is the same fluffy almond cake that I make every year (it’s heavy on the almond paste chunks this year because I was suuper careful not to over beat it), covered with almond fresh whip that is the essential flavor of Valentine’s Day. It’s sitting in my deep freeze right now so that I can defrost it on Thursday. Because if there’s one rule I have about this holiday, it’s that Valentine’s Day cannot exist without this cake!

(You can see all of my past Valentine’s cakes here! 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010)


valentine's day almond cake

makes one 3-layer 8” cake

ingredients

cake:

1c (96g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
12 oz almond paste
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (150g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract

whipped cream:

2 c (480g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract

pink food coloring, optional

assembly:
sprinkles of all sorts

my soft almond sugar cookies, baked with wooden skewers sticking out the bottom

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8” cake pans and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks and then gradually beat in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating to stiff peaks and then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I usually just scoop the whites out of the bowl and transfer them to a separate bowl and then reuse my stand mixer bowl without having to wash it for this step), combine the almond paste and egg yolks and beat on high for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy (but allow some almond paste chunks to remain in tact), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the pans, spread it out evenly with a spatula, and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 20 minutes.

Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove to the rack to cool fully.

To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and almond extract to stiff peaks. Add a few drops of pink food coloring if desired.

Stack up the layers with a thin layer of whipped cream between them and then frost all over with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate as desired with cookies, sprinkles, chocolate, etc., and enjoy!

Store decorated cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to a few days.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

Homemade Mini Ice Cream Cones + A Cookie DO Collab!

If I had a dollar for the amount of times since being pregnant that I’ve stared at a batch of cookie dough and wished with all of my might that I could eat a huge blob of it raw, I’d have Poppy Seed’s college tuition paid for already. Raw cookie dough is right up there with cold salami as the foods I miss most. Just like, sweet, doughy, buttery, chocolate chippiness, snuck by hand and licked off the mixer, my eyeballs are rolling back into my head just thinking about it.

So when the idea of collaborating with Cookie Dō on a special edition flavor came up, I obviously almost passed out. Pregnant or not, Cookie DO is a dreamland. They have a million different insanely good cookie dough flavors that you just eat with a spoon!! Each one as addicting as the next, and as Kristen the owner and I started brainstorming ideas for our February collab, I foamed @ the mouth: tahini chocolate chip, matcha oreo, pistachio white chocolate, Italian rainbow cookie… When I tasted them all, the Italian rainbow cookie was the one I kept thinking about. I’d lie in bed, excited to wake up the next morning so that I could have a bite.

(Do we need to rehash my love for these soft almondy cookies?? I’ve made them into cake form, gelato sandwich form, and have made a matcha red bean version, but never have I had them in dough form!)

This dough is insanely good. It’s intensely almondy with chocolate chunks throughout, and the colors are so bright and happy. It’s my dream dough. So starting now and through the end of the month, you’ll be able to get it at DO, either in store or online.

And!! Portions of the proceeds will be going to Emma’s Torch, an amazing organization in Brooklyn that provides culinary training, ESL classes, and interview preparation to refugees. I first heard about Emma’s Torch when the director, Kerry, was interviewed on Unorthodox and immediately fell in love with the cause. You can listen to this episode here and learn more about Emma’s Torch here. I am soo excited that this cookie dough will help support this cause!

Because it’s fun to eat this dough in little scoops like an ice cream cone, I have a recipe for homemade mini cones today! They are not hard to make, you just need a cone mold (I use this krumkake mold) and an offset spatula. You can dip them in chocolate or leave em naked, and you can make them up to a few days in advance. Be prepared for your house to smell like an ice cream parlor! 


Homemade Mini Ice Cream Cones

yields 12

ingredients

1/2 c (100g) sugar

1/2 c (65g) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

a pinch of ground cardamom

2 large egg whites

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

optional:

3 oz chocolate chips

sprinkles

clues

preheat oven to 375ºf. grease a baking sheet. grease a small (6”) wooden cone mold.

in a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, and cardamom. add the egg whites and extracts and mix until you have a smooth spreadable batter, slightly thicker than the consistency of honey.

with a small offset spatula, spread two 1-tablespoon dollops of the batter into 3-inch rounds, at least 2 inches apart onto the greased baking sheet. this part gets a little sticky, but it doesn’t need to be perfect! (only bake 2 rounds at a time so that you have time to mold the cookies before they cool.)

bake until the edges are lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. working quickly (but carefully, so as not to burn your fingers), use a small offset spatula to flip a cookie over onto a work surface and then wrap it around the greased cone mold. remove it from the cone mold and then stand it up with the pointy end on top, propping it up as needed and cool fully.

repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan and cone mold each time. allow cones to cool to room temperature.

if desired, melt chocolate chips in a microwave or double boiler and dip the tops of the cooled cones into the melted chocolate and roll in sprinkles. place on a parchment lined plate and refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.

cones can be kept in the fridge or at room temperature for several days.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

mini <3 whole wheat veggie pizzas (freezer friendly!)

I have truly lived out my wildest fantasies this week by baking Valentine’s cookies all day, watching ice skating on the tv, and not even being allowed outside. Windchills in the negative 60s meant that going outside was dangerous (!!!), and so like it’s one thing to have a random free weekend to stay inside and bake all day, but literally having no choice but to stay inside was the cherry on top of these past few days. I haven’t left the house since Saturday. I’m so cozy. My best friend is my microwaveable heating pad and our kitchen table is covered in five types of cookies. I’ve slept better than my whole entire pregnancy combined*. I mean, Hawaii was awesome and all but a snowy week with highs in the -20s?? An extremely close second.

*I definitely just jinxed this by typing it out, right?

So a great week needs to end with a great pizza night, right? This here is a veggie pizza that’s become our go-to, our ~house veggie pizza~ on the family pizza menu. It’s whole wheat, loaded with greenery, and not too heavy, dare I say it’s almost healthy?! We started making it during weeks when we had one too many heavy dinners and then got to Friday and didn’t feel like having pizza that was going to make us feel like poo. So we got in the habit of emptying out our fridge of all of the vegetables and piling them on a whole wheat version of our favorite thin pizza crust (based on Amy Thielen’s cracker crust pizza from New Midwestern Table), which is super easy to make and delightfully chewy. The things that make this pizza great are the nice big pinches of salt that go all over the veggies and the crust (you’re going for visible salt crystals on the crust, ok?), and the order that everything goes on. I like some mozzarella on the base to hold together all of the smaller chopped veggies, like the peppers and tomatoes, and then a little more on top of the kale, to hold it on and to help it get crispy. The kale on top bakes up crunchy and salty like kale chips, it’s excellent. Bonus points if you sprinkle this pizza with ranch seasoning or dip it in ranch dressing.

Obviously, since it’s the season, these lil pizzas are heart shaped. But of course you could make circles, or one big circle, or one big rectangle, or a trapezoid, etc. And they are freezer friendly!! From here on out, many of the recipes I’ll be posting will be freezer friendly since i’m preparing for you-know-who and filling our freezer with easily reheat-able, ideally one-handed meals.

Ok that’s all for now! Happy almost pizza night, fronds!


mini heart whole wheat veggie pizzas

makes 6

Ingredients

Dough:

1 c (130g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 c (130g) whole wheat flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp sugar

3/4 c (178ml) water

1/4 c (50g) olive oil


Toppings:

Olive oil

1/2 c (120g) red sauce

8 oz shredded mozzarella 

2 big cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 oz (about 1 c) chopped kale

2 oz (about 1 c) spinach

Optional salty meat: prosciutto, pepperoni, cooked sausage, etc.

Kosher salt and black pepper

Parmesan, for topping

Crushed red pepper, for topping

Clues

To make the dough, whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the water and olive oil. Once combined, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour if it gets too sticky. Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and let sit for 30 minutes (this is when I chop up all of my toppings). 

If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 475ºf.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll them out into thin 1/8” rounds or heart shapes (SEE GIF) and then crimp the edges to make a crust. Place them on the baking sheets and brush with a thin layer of olive oil. Top with sauce (a heaping tablespoon per pizza), most of the mozzarella (leave about 1/2 c for the top), the garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, meat (if using), spinach, kale, another little drizzle of olive oil, remaining mozzarella, a few good pinches of salt (don’t forget to salt the edges!), and a few turns of black pepper. Bake until the cheese is splotchy with brown marks, begin checking for doneness at 10 minutes. To serve, top with lots of grated parmesan and crushed red pepper. Enjoy!

To freeze these, do everything up until the baking step. Instead of putting them in the oven, freeze on a sheet tray for a few hours until the crust is firm, then wrap tightly individually in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets (straight from the freezer) at 450ºf for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is splotchy with brown marks. To serve, top with lots of grated parmesan and crushed red pepper. Enjoy!


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

This recipe was created in partnership with Our Family!

manapua (barbecue pork buns!) + maui!

Babymoon success!!! Our trip to Maui was perfect in every way, from the dolphins we met to the donuts we ate to the fact that we wore the same clothes almost the entire time. Each morning we walked outside, did an arm stretch, and said out loud ahh, another day in paradise! And then we either picked up a spam musubi at the Foodland and went on an adventure or went to the breakfast buffet, read the newspaper, and then rolled outside for our daily dip. We swam in such wonderful settings, first snorkeling on Lanai where we saw the most beautiful florescent blue fish, then sunset beach floating near our hotel, then snorkeling near our other hotel where we saw two sea turtles (and they saw us! they waved!), and finally actual lap swimming at the infinity pool to burn off all of our musubis. My swimming skills still hover around Guppy, but boy do I love it. We read parenting books on the beach, ate hurricane popcorn and pineapple by the pound, and just generally got lost in daydreams of Poppy Seed. Eggboy took an interest in learning everything there was to learn about the tiny macaroni-shaped island that we could see from the beach in Wailea. And though we searched long and hard for the one legged chicken that I saw on my Maui trip three years ago, we did not find him. 

Hawaii cured me of the cold that I denied having before I left and it made me feel readier than ever to tackle these next two months, even if none of my pants fit and walking up a flight of stairs feels like climbing Mount Everest. We’ve got baby classes to go to, a crib to set up, hospital bags to pack, and every single fluffy baby teddy bear suit to buy (omg). 

Leaving Hawaii was so bittersweet because it really was the best week ever and I didn’t want to leave but as we left, Eggboy reminded me that the next time we’d be back, we’d have a little nugget in tow, armed with floaties and sand castle tools and everything! Oh I can barely imagine that without crying. I’m going to be a very weepy mum. 

Here are a list of my Maui recs from this trip! There aren’t too many this time since most of the places we went were places we’d been to and loved before. For those recs, see this post and this post.

Trilogy’s Lanai trip! The best thing to do on the first day when you’re still on mainland time and can wake up super duper early is to do this sunrise boat tour to Lanai where you eat great cinnamon rolls and watch whales as the sun comes up and then spend the day snorkeling, touring, and eating. 

Lineage: There were so many surprising delights at Lineage, like the salad covered in meat juice and pasta salad mayo meant to represent the bottom of a plate lunch, the fresh veggies from Oprah’s garden, and this thing called a Flying Saucer which was basically a meat and cheese Uncrustable.

Maui Cones at the Upcountry Farmers Market: This is Alana’s friend Kammy’s sushi and mochiko chicken cone stand and it is soo tasty. And the whole Upcountry Farmers Market is great! I got a super cute ube whale oreo. 

Paia Fish Market: I just wanted more stomach space here so that I could squeeze in another fish taco. 

Four Seasons and Ritz: We split our time between these two hotels and they were both great!!

In celebration of all things Hawaii (and in advance of the upcoming Chinese New Year), I’m sharing the barbecue pork bun recipe from Alana’s forthcoming cookbook, Aloha Kitchen!!! This is a book that you need, and that the world needs, because too many people (including myself until I became friends with Alana) have this impression that Hawaiian food is pineapple and ham. On a pizza. I mean, I love pineapple and ham on a pizza, but if there is one single most important thing that Alana has taught me (other than how to use a straightener to curl my hair haha), it’s the real definition of food in Hawaii. It’s vibrant and dynamic and it wears its history on its shoulders, with displays of Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Western, and native Hawaiian influences. I was surprised to see how meat-centric the food of Hawaii is, but it makes sense when you consider the influences, and between the mochiko chicken and spam musubi recipes, I am so into it. I’m also extremely excited about the recipes for the kinds of fun snacks that make browsing in Hawaii grocery stores so fun, like li hing gummy bears and hurricane popcorn. 

But of course the first thing I had to make from Aloha Kitchen were these barbecue pork buns, or manapua, which is a Hawaiian word that literally means “delicious pork thing.” This is Hawaii’s version of the Chinese classic, and I love that in Hawaii, you can get gigantic versions. It’s like eating a burger. I tasted tested these when Alana was testing them for her book, and they brought me right back to eating dim sum with my family when I was little. I used to remove the filling and only eat the bready parts, but I loved the sweet meaty flavor that the filling left behind. I think I just didn’t like the texture. These days though I love all of the parts of the bun, the fluffy outters and the chewy innards. They are the best. Alana nailed it with this recipe and you really ought to make these. They freeze beautifully and reheat quickly in the microwave too, so these will no doubt be on my list of freezer foods to make before Poppy Seed’s arrival. 

Also pre-order Alana’s book right now please.  It’s beautiful and incredible!


manapua

makes 12

from alana’s aloha kitchen

ingredients

for the bun dough:

3/4 c (177g) water, warmed (100º to 110ºF)

1 1/4 c (295g) whole milk, warmed (100º to 110ºF)

two 0.25-ounce packages (14g) active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp total)

1 tsp plus 3/4 c (150g) sugar

4 c (520g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

2 c (260g) cake flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c (100g) neutral oil, plus more for the bowl

for the filling:

1/2 c (118g) water

2 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp all-purpose flour

1 tb sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 lb char siu pork (recipe follows), minced

clues

to make the dough for the buns, combine the water, milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a bowl and whisk together. let the mixture sit until the yeast is activated and foamy, about 10 minutes.

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine both flours, the salt, and the remaining 3/4 cups sugar. mix the dry ingredients together on low speed. keep the mixer running and slowly pour in the yeast mixture followed by the oil. increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. if it does not start to pull away from the sides, add more flour, a tablespoon or two at a time. turn the dough out onto a clean work surface quickly so that you can oil your stand mixer bowl. transfer the dough back into the oiled bowl, flipping once to coat both sides, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, cut twelve 4-inch squares of parchment paper for the bottom of the manapua.

To make the filling, in a small saucepan, whisk together the water, cornstarch, flour, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute, whisking continuously. Meanwhile, put the char siu in a bowl. Remove from the heat and pour over the char siu. Stir with a wooden spoon or toss with your hands to evenly coat the meat with the sauce.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it into twelve equal pieces. Transfer all but one piece back to the bowl, covering it with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Roll the piece of dough into a ball before flattening into a pancake with the palm of your hand. Use a rolling pin to roll the edges of the pancake out to a 5-inch round; you want the center of the dough to be a bit thicker—it should look like a little bump. This will help give the manapua a uniform thickness on the top and bottom. Add about 1⁄4 cup filling to the center of the round, then bring the edges up and around the filling, pinching them together to seal in the filling. With the seam side down and your hand in a cupping motion, gently roll the manapua into a ball with a few circular motions. Place the round ball, seam side down, on one of the precut parchment squares. Cover the ball with a clean kitchen towel and repeat until all the dough has been used. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil with the lid on. Set a steamer basket over it and lower the heat to low, keeping the water at a simmer. Place the manapua with the parchment squares in the basket, spacing them about an inch apart. If you are using a metal steamer or a glass lid, place a clean kitchen towel between the basket and the lid to capture the condensation. Steam until the buns are light and fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes; they should be touching or almost touching. Transfer to a wire rack, cover with a clean towel, and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Store leftovers in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator or freezer. To reheat, simply wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds or resteam them in a steamer basket for 10 minutes until heated through.


char siu pork

serves 6 to 8; recipe can be halved

from alana’s aloha kitchen

ingredients

4 lbs pork butt, cut into 1 1/2” wide strips

1 tb hawaiian salt (‘alaea)

1 c (200g) packed brown sugar

1/2 c (170g) mild honey

1 1/2 tsp chinese five-spice powder

1/4 c (64g) hoisin sauce

3 tb whiskey

3/4 tsp red gel food coloring, or 1 1/2 tsp red liquid food coloring (optional)

clues

rub the pork butt strips with the salt and place in a wide rimmed pan or in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, five-spice powder, hoisin, whiskey, and red food coloring for the marinade. whisk together until well combined. reserve one third in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for basting the next day. pour the remaining marinade over the pork strips and gently rub the strips with your hands to evenly coat them. cover the pan with plastic wrap or zip up the bag. transfer both the reserved marinade and the pork strips to the refrigerator overnight.

the next day, preheat the oven to 350ºF. fit a roasting pan with a rack that is at least 2 inches tall. fill the pan with a 1/4 inch of water. lay the strips over and baste with some of the reserved marinade. roast for another 20 minutes. flip all of the strips over and baste with some of the reserved marinade. roast for another 20 minutes. flip all of the strips one more time and baste again before roasting for another 20 minutes. transfer the strips to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet to cool a bit. the pork can be served immediately or cooled completely before using for another recipe.


-yeh!