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!

valentine's day almond cake

After last year's Valentine's cake disaster, there were some things at stake: my pride, my confidence in my ability to carry on my family's decades old tradition, my craving for this almond cake which had only grown stronger after having to practically miss out on it last year. Sure, it wasn’t the worst Valentine’s day situation there ever was (that’s what boys are for! hahaha, jkjk Eggboy), and sure I’d recovered from effed up Valentine’s cakes in the past, but gosh geez I just really wanted to make a fun pretty cake and once again justify my annual Valentine’s day candy aisle raid. 

My friend Randi asked me how I get through the winters up here. Usually when someone asks me that my knee jerk reaction is similar to how some people go gaga over the ~summer~ and that whole summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language Henry James mushy shit. My version of that is WINTER EVENING! WINTER EVENING! GOIN TO BED @ 8, F YEAH! But *I* will even admit that this winter has been particularly nutso bonkers extreme stir crazy-ish and there were some mornings when I woke up with a hint of that dragging feeling that I’d wake up with in Januaries during college when I’d have to put on clothes and go to orchestra rehearsal and sit through three hours of Alfred Schnittke. 

So I threw even more weight behind Valentine’s Day. And decided that’s just what I’m going to do from now on anytime I have a winter blue and don’t have the option of weekending in Hawaii. I put out all of our red mugs, our heart shaped cocotte, the red tea pot, etc., and day dreamed endlessly about my cake. 

I knew I wanted to use this opportunity to get a cake ring and acetate and make a milk bar-inspired cake. But past that I was stumped. Should it have a border? Should there be lovey dovey animals on it? Should I add a couple of roses? I spent weeks looking for inspiration and nothing felt right. 

Until this dress arrived from Carleen

Kelsy, the designer, is a friend of a friend and she makes the coolest clothes, some are made out of reclaimed quilts, and they are all so lovable and unique. Valentine-y red has never been my color but I am so into the idea of a navy blue valentine sitch with just some red and purple. Navy is my color this year.

Anyway, so I drew from the pattern of the colors on this dress and used it as the inspiration for the sprinkle design on this cake. I used every sprinkle in my valentine’s day sprinkle collection and my 90s sand art training, and it was the most fun ever. The abundance of sprinkles added nice crunch. 

I was satisfied. I was also satisfied by the texture of the almond sponge cake. The more I think about it the more I think I over-beat last year’s yolks, not just the egg whites, which is why it was dry. One key is to not beat the yolks and the almond paste into such oblivion that the almond paste chunks disappear. You want some chunks because they’re good! They prevent the cake from being a sad dry one-dimensional thing. 

That’s all.

Ok, have a gander at Valentine’s day cakes through history: 2017's, 2016's2015's, 2014’s, 2013’s, 2012’s, 2011’s, and 2010’s.

And get to it.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!! 


valentine's day almond cake

serves 10-12

ingredients

cake:

1/2 c (64g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c (100g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

chocolate ganache:

5 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1/4 c (60g) heavy whipping cream

whipped cream:

1 1/2 c (360g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract

pink food coloring, optional

assembly:
sprinkles of all sorts

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan 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 pan and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

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

To make the ganache, combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring continuously until melted.

At this point you can refer to the photos above and use a cake ring and acetate to help decorate your cake, or you can just pour the ganache right over the cake. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer until it's no longer hot (it doesn't need to be totally firm) and then you can go onto the whipped cream step.

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.

Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake. To do some sprinkle-y sand art, freeze the cake for about 20-30 minutes, or until the whipped cream is mostly firm (it doesn't need to be totally hard--rather, it shouldn't be so that the sprinkles stick, but if you do freeze it solid then let it soften just slightly before moving on) and then stick some parchment shapes or stripes on it, cover it with sprinkles, brush off any stray sprinkles that are lingering on the parchment, and then carefully lift the parchment off. Voila! 

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.


 

-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

new year's cookie cereal!

Hi! It's Molly of last week here, Molly of the present is on holiday break and not allowed to open up her computer until January 3. (There is a piece of washi tape holding it shut.) Present molly is definitely opening instagram every five seconds though. And, like, sitting on her couch eating cheese and butter sandwiches, getting them all in before the clock strikes 2018 when suddenly there is a little guilt in the air about eating bread, but shut me up, that’s all I’m saying about New Year’s diets. 

Molly of the present might be a little bit tan from a two day skip down to the great American Southwest, very full on pizza from a pizza party at Melissa’s (!!!! Omg past Molly is so excited), and awaiting results from her 23 and me test since she got one for herself and one for Eggboy to put under the Chrismukkah bush. Just for funsies! I know I’m half Chinese and part Hungarian but one time at Thanksgiving someone from my mom’s side said something about having Polish ancestors and maybe even some Spanish ones (!!). I can’t wait to find out. 

Also, we celebrated our third anniversary yesterday!! Hooray!!!!!! I think we went to IKEA. That’s the plan at least. And now that I think about it, I think that my favorite hidden talent of ours as a couple is confidently maintaining a perfect track record of never fighting in an IKEA. That’s pretty good, right??? It’s maybe either a testament to our level-headed reasoning skills or to the fact that as long as I get Swedish meatballs in my belly the world could end but I’d still be smiling. Either way, I am extra excited to spend the day looking at Hemneses and Vördas with my cool husband. 

Enough being mushy now! Let’s get crispy.

As you may remember, I spent a large portion of my February stamping out macroscopic heart shaped cookies to make valentine’s day cookie cereal:

This was a long repetitive process but extraordinarily satisfying. So I did it again only this time with a festive holiday/New Year’s day approach! The only real differences from the valentine’s day version are that the cookies have ground almonds instead of hazelnuts (as well as sprinkles to be like new year’s confetti), and the meringues are swirly and colorful. It’s all very almond-forward because that’s the flavor of the holidays and if you make it now it will definitely still be good by the time that New Year’s morning rolls around and you simply cannot be bothered to make a brunch or wait for a table at the Walker Brothers, but you still want something celebratory. 

I used a large round piping tip to stamp out my circles. I also added dried cranberries and cherries and pecans and marcona almonds but feel free to change those up based on what you have on hand. The only thing you really need to pay attention to is making sure the cookies and meringues are really good and dry before taking them out of the oven, that will help this cereal keep for a while and not get smelly when you bag it up and gift it to the person you forgot to give a gift to. 

Omg, see you in 2018!!!!!


almond cookie cereal

makes about 18 servings

ingredients

1 batch mini almond cookies, recipe below

1 batch mini meringues, recipe below

1 c chocolate chips

1 c toasted coconut flakes

1 c toasted almonds, coarsely chopped (I also threw in some pecans!)

1 c dried cherries or cranberries

milk, for serving

clues

gently combine all of the ingredients. 

serve in a bowl with milk!

keep in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. cereal should keep for a couple of weeks.


mini almond cookies

ingredients

1/2 c almond meal

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

sprinkles

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. line two baking sheets with parchment.

in a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, and salt.

using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until it is pale and fluffy. add the vanilla and egg and beat well to combine. with the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, beating until combined.

turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly-floured surface. using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it's about 1/2" thick, sprinkle the top with sprinkles, and then continue rolling until it is 1/4" thick. use a cookie cutter or large round piping tip to cut out tiny circles. place the circles on the baking sheets (they can be pretty close together), and bake until they're lightly browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes. re-roll scraps and repeat.

once all of the cookies are baked, reduce the oven to 250ºf and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes to really crisp them up. let cool on the pans.


ingredients

120 grams (or about 1/2 c + 3 tb) sugar

2 large eggs whites

1/4 tsp almond extract

2-4 colors of gel food coloring

clues

preheat oven to 400ºf. distribute the sugar in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. while sugar is baking, crack your egg whites into a stand mixer. 

once the sugar has been in the oven for a few minutes, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer on high until they're foamy. reduce the mixer and gradually sprinkle in the warm sugar. once all of it has been added, add the almond extract. beat on high for a few minutes, until the meringue is stiff, glossy, and cold.

reduce the oven to 225ºf.

prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment. fit a pastry bag fitted with a 1/8" or 1/4" round tip and use a paint brush to paint vertical lines of the food coloring inside of the pastry bag. (for a video tutorial, see my IG story highlights!) Fill the bag with your egg white mixture, pipe tiny dollops onto the parchment, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the mini meringues are no longer shiny and they're crispy all the way through. let cool on the pans.


-yeh!

valentine's day almond cake

well. you win some, you lose some, and sometimes you get possessed by an imaginary six-year-old while you’re decorating your annual valentine’s day cakes and they turn out looking like something that even a mask of seven vsco filters couldn't salvage. it's like valentine’s day of 2012 all over again. 

i’m cursed, i’m definitely cursed. not only do these look like [that] but they’re also kind of dry?! which is likely because i over whipped the egg whites, baked them for too long, and/or made miniature versions. and then after i baked these i went on to burn a loaf of challah in the oven. and then beyoncé didn't win album of the year. and then i lost my mandoline blades. someone please send help.

it all started when the dryness of these poor cakes set an ominous tone for the rest of the weekend. i baked them on saturday and they had such a hard time wiggling out of the muffin pans, so the outsides looked ugly because of it. i took one bite and they tasted like an icky sponge, not the moist almondy airy-yet-dense amazing perfect cake that i look forward to every year. i thought i could maybe save them with enough whipped cream, but still all of my inspiration was sucked out of me and all night that night i tossed and turned because i didn’t have a clear plan for how i would decorate them. i thought about making princess cakes, or mini versions of valentine’s cakes from past years, or committing to only using all-natural decorations (since i’ve been on a freeze dried berry kick, and because a whole box of quin candy arrived last week with the most delicious heart lollies and gumdrops), but i couldn’t decide and i tossed and turned until finally i was like,

molly, you’re being a stupid head for stressing out this much about cake decorations. it's supposed to be fun. 

so i just dove in on sunday morning with all of the pink things and heart things i had lying around, as well as the leftover frosting from saturday’s cookie decorating event at kittsona, and i had a lot of fun. and then when i took a step back to emerge for air, i was like, lol oh no these look like shit. oops? 

what do we learn from this:

-don’t make this cake miniature. it's clearly best when the soft innards are maximized. maybe some cakes that are slightly more prone to dryness are just not meant to be miniature. but if you must: use a jumbo muffin tin with parchment liners and be careful not to over bake them. i’m tempted to say add a little more sugar and less flour, too. but i’m too haunted by this experience to test it again, so for now i’m sticking with a regular 9" or 10" cake.

-don't over whip your egg whites.

-don't let this cake sit out uncovered for very long. if you need to bake it in advance, wrap it in plastic wrap as soon as it's cool and make sure it's air tight. freeze it if you need to bake it more than a day in advance. 

and how do we cure a case of dry cake:

-i’ve heard that brushing it with simple syrup helps, but this has always sounded too sticky to me.

-cover it with whipped cream or frosting. i did that and it did in fact help quite a bit. 

-rip it up and mix it into ice cream or a milk shake. i’m probably going to do this tonight. 

-make cake truffles. 

sigh. 

at least i had fun. 

for your reference, here are my valentine’s day cakes from past years. 2016's cake remains my favorite. 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010


valentine's day almond cake

serves 10-12

ingredients

cake:

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

whipped cream:

1 1/2 c whipping cream
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract 

assembly:

marzipan kneaded with red, pink, and purple food coloring
sprinkles of all sorts

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. grease and line the bottom of a 10” springform pan 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 for this step), combine the almond paste and egg yolks and beat on high for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy, 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 pan and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

cool in the pan 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, confectioners’ sugar, and almond extract to stiff peaks.

spread the whipped cream on top of the cake and decorate as desired!


-yeh!