Sunday, 23 July 2017

Lemon Tea Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

This is summer. Ranunculus stems, farm-fresh berries, cotton candy skies, and the blithe nature of it all. Those are some of the things I treasure the most in summer. This summer, though, has been one quite different than the ones in the past. I learned more, laughed more, loved more, and grew up the most. I learned to love fully. Love deeply. I also learned all of that can come with the greatest ease.

This cake is my summer cake. It is a frosted glass of ice cold iced tea with a lemon wedge, a refreshing tangy lemon curd bright enough to make you pucker a little, a cheesecake bar at your favourite bodega. This cake is a few of my summertime favourites rendered into one. It starts off with three layers of fluffy Lemon Tea Cake made with Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea. They sandwich a brightly-hued tart lemon curd. A cream cheese frosting, because a classic never goes out of style, enrobes the cake. It dresses it only partially because that’s been the theme of cakes here ever since day one. The cake is adorn with stems of ranunculus and garden roses because I like my cakes to also serve as a seasonal greeting of some sort.

I am particularly thrilled by the summer qualities of this cake because everything I have been baking recently have been quite the opposite of ‘summer’. If you follow me on social media you will see that the past weekend was filled with many snippets of what appeared to be Christmas cookies. Apparently, but not surprisingly, editorial (!!) work has to be done much in advance and it is really up to you to find fresh cranberries in the summertime and candy canes while everyone traded those in for summer ice pops a few months back. It was a challenge I happily accepted and look forward to seeing the fruition of. I will keep you posted, I promise.

Lemon Tea Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream
Yields one 6-inch three layer cake

Lemon Tea Cake
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup PURE LEAF Lemon Iced Tea

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare three cake pans.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg whites and full egg one at a time, until well combined. Mix in vanilla extract.

On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture with the milk and lemon iced tea, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Evenly distribute batter among the cake pans. Bake for 36 - 38 minutes, or until insert comes out clean.

Lemon Curd
2 lemons (for the zest)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs, whisked
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

Zest two large lemon. Combine the lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl and using your fingers, rub the zest and sugar together until it becomes aromatic. Set aside.

Whisk the three eggs before tempering.

Prepare a double boiler. In the double boiler, whisk together juice, lemon-sugar, and eggs together until sugar has melted. Stir in butter and continue whisking frequently. Cook the curd in the double boiler until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 10 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
8 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, mix in the remaining ingredients until just combined.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  Adjust the sugar and milk until frosting is at desired consistency.

Thank you PURE LEAF for supporting Constellation Inspiration!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart with Berries

"Aimer et être aimé est le plus grand bonheur."

That phrase is what is etched onto my ring. The silver band says aimer on the outside and et être aimé on the inside. My other band has 48.8704° N 2.3848° E engraved on it, but will we save that for another time. It translates to: to love and be loved is the greatest happiness. I place that ring on the middle finger of my left hand, to place that message for safekeeping. I have had this ring for many years; I have loved it for just as long. A few years back, I would wholeheartedly say that the reciprocal nature of the saying is what made me gravitate towards it. Wearing it for years and having my heart feel different kinds of fullness and heartbreak, my agreeance with this saying has change, though my affinity for it remains the same. Loving is where I find the greatest joy; to find something or someone that makes your heart realize that this right now is the experience most people wait lifetimes for. Something or someone that makes you stop scouring the world because it now feels like there are worlds within you. Now I would say aimer is why I still wear the ring. To love is the greatest privilege. To love in heavy consonants and long vowels. To love in the litany of many little things. To love in the presence of you.

I went berry picking two weeks ago! I was a bit hesitant to go strawberry picking because it was the tail end of strawberry season and when I called the berry farm and they said they could not guarantee that there will be any good berries left. I was keen on going to this specific farm because I knew they served ice cream made with berries from the farm and fresh berry waffles made to order in their cafe. My boyfriend convinced me that even if we don't get any strawberries, I would still have a great time buying berries from the farm market and enjoy the treats at the farm cafe. So we went out Sunday morning, grabbed some iced coffees for the road, and drove to the berry farm in Langley, BC. It was really hot that day, which I did not really mind because it made the berry ice cream afterwards even more of a treat.

We started our berry picking adventure with some strawberry picking (there were juuuust enough left!), then raspberry picking, and then picking out berries we wanted to buy at the farm market. I was ecstatic when I saw that they were selling red currants at the market because I have been looking for them since last summer! I have always wanted to decorate a cake, a tart, or anything really, with currants ever since seeing them in some cookbooks and online recipes. In addition to the strawberries and raspberries we picked, we bought blueberries, tayberries, cherries, and currants. Oh, we also picked up some berry glazed donuts because it only seemed right to do so. We had the largest corn pizza for lunch and finished off our farm day with a scoop of blueberry ice cream and a scoop of strawberry ice cream nestled in a waffle cone.

This tart was made with all the berries we picked up from the farm. It is a classic pâte sablée tart shell filled with the dreamiest whipped strawberry cream cheese filling. The most luscious and vibrant berries are what makes this tart a real pièce de resistance. This tart would be just as delicious topped with any fruit that is in season. I think ripe peaches with this silky strawberry filling would be a real winner too. The next variation of this tart I am going tot make? Probably a fig and strawberry type of situation. 

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart with Berries
Yields one 9-inch tart

Pâte Sablée
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to overmix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed (watch out for the edges of the tart pan!). Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 410F or until the crust is golden brown (approximately 15 minutes). Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. Let cool completely before filling with whipped cream cheese filling.

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
150g cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons strawberry jam
3 tablespoon freeze-dried strawberry powder (optional)
Berries of choice

Pour whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms medium peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add in three tablespoons of strawberry jam and freeze-dried strawberry powder, beat for 2 - 3 minutes. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream. 

Fill cooled tart shell with strawberry cream cheese filling. Garnish with fresh berries.

Chill tart for 2 - 3 hours before serving.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Strawberry Rosewater Coconut Popsicles with White Chocolate and Pistachio

It is the expectation that happiness is a state to arrive at. It is the belief that happiness is reliant upon the acquisition of something that is out of reach. Chasing, and never attaining. Overanalyzing and picking it apart until it slowly dissolves to nothing more than just an aftertaste. But it was when I stopped searching. It was when I stopped preoccupying myself with the notion that happiness is something I had to desperately seek for. That's when I realized just how happy I am, in this moment. The breeze gently lifted the lace curtains and the smallest ray of sunlight hit your face. Right here, right now is when I knew that it doesn't matter if I have a million more moments like this or just this one because it would be all the same. Any or all of them would unequivocally whisper that you're the certainty that comes once in a lifetime. And it doesn't matter what season it is because despite the changing seasons, this certainty is more than vernal or autumnal. This certainty is more than just the saving summer of the vast depths of winter.

Rose, pistachio, warm spices - flavours I will always love, no matter what season it is. These popsicles are summer reinterpretations of the most popular cake on the blog. It paints the flavours of a 'Persian Love Cake' but with the addition of strawberries. The ripest strawberries that summer has to offer, to be exact. It is a popsicle that will unfold many layers of flavours. It starts with a bright strawberry note, slightly tamed by the dreamy qualities of coconut. It slowly transitions into a creamy coconut, marked by the earthy notes of rosewater, the warmth of cardamom, and the familiarity of vanilla. White chocolate, pistachios, and dried rose petals enrobe the popsicle, rendering it a bit more precious. Of course, I would not let a recipe here go unadulterated with some sort of romantic floral element.

It's #popsicleweek here in the blogging world. Billy, the self-proclaimed 'popsicle girl' and lovely human being of Wit & Vinegar organizes popsicle week every year. You will find a plethora of popsicle recipes this week created by talented blogger friends. If you want to join in, just post your photo on the good ol' instagram and hashtag it with #popsicleweek. I can't wait to see what you create.

Strawberry Rosewater Coconut Popsicles with White Chocolate and Pistachio
Yields 12 popsicles

1 cup strawberries, diced
2 cans full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 pinch cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup white chocolate, melted
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
Dried rose petals, coarsely chopped

Combine diced strawberries, 2/3 cup of coconut milk, and two tablespoons of maple syrup in a blender. Blend until mixture is smooth. (If your strawberries are not as ripe, add a little bit more maple syrup. Taste and adjust as desired.)

In a large bowl, combine the remainder of the coconut milk, 1/2 cup maple syrup, rosewater, cardamom, and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Fill each the popsicle cavities a third full with the strawberry mixture. Fill the remainder of the cavities with the coconut mixture.

Freeze popsicles for 4 - 5 hours. Remove popsicles from molds and drizzle with white chocolate and top with chopped pistachios and dried rose petals.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Favourite Chocolate Cake and Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

“There’s a corner of my heart that is yours. And I don’t mean for now, or until I’ve found somebody else, I mean forever. I mean to say that whether I fall in love a thousand times over or once or never again, there’ll always be a small quiet place in my heart that belongs only to you.” ― Beau Taplin

To say that everything you do and everything that you are take my breath away would be a gross understatement. That would oversimplify how my heart now beats in almosts because a part of it will always be with you. I would like to have at my disposal literary constructions that properly convey how since meeting you I began wishing for more hours, minutes, seconds in a day; you make me yearn for more than just seven sunrises and seven sunsets in a week. I would like for a word to aptly describe that before you I was afraid to love because it wasn't concrete like the ocean, that I couldn't touch it and make sure it wouldn't change. Now you make me feel like there are oceans inside me. And if you were ever to leave, I would miss you like how the sun misses the stars in the morning sky and I would tell you that even before we met, it was you that had a hold of my heart all along. 

This post might look a little different than my usual. It is not my typical recipe and styling post but I love it nonetheless. Maybe even more. This cake is a reinterpretation of a cake you have seen on the blog before if you have been following since the beginning. You might recognize it as a dark chocolate cake with raspberry pomegrante mascarpone frosting, but today this cake gets a little makeover, or under, depending on how you interpret it. It uses the same (but my ultimate favourite) chocolate cake recipe but instead of a raspberry and pomegrante situation it is a simple strawberry cream cheese. It is a whipped strawberrry cream cheese frosting and that is how I like it most - light, airy, and cloud-like in texture. The frosting is not a buttercream frosting. It is a simple combination of cream cheese and whipped cream. It is so silky smooth and is a dream to work with. I topped it with light pink roses because I would never make a cake without fresh flowers.

There is a change in setting because I made this cake for a bridal shower. I woke up extra early on the Saturday to assemble this cake for a morning garden tea party inside a heritage home. The home is actually a quaint farmhouse located in a park overlooking the river. All the serveware is unique but adorn with similar floral prints. Besides my cake, warm scones with jam and butter, petit tarts, and thumbprint cookies were served in the country-style tea room. The morning light peeked through the diaphanous lace curtains and a gentle breeze rolled in then and again and kept the room cool. Chatter and laughter filled the sunbathed room and it was the perfect backdrop for celebrating the occasion with cake.

Since I have shared the chocolate cake recipe numerous times before, I will just share the recipe for this whipped strawberry cream cheese frosting with you here. If you want a quick and easy dessert, you can chill individual portions of this frosting in parfait cups and enjoy them as whipped cheesecake. 

Whipped Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
275g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 - 4 tablespoons your favourite strawberry jam (without fruit)

Pour heavy whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms medium peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different clean bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your standing mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add in three tablespoons of strawberry jam and beat for 1 - 2 minutes. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. You can add more jam if you feel the cream needs more sweetness. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Poached Peaches Cheesecake Ice Pops with Cinnamon Oat Streusel

One of my favourite summer activities is to hunt down this artisan ice pop maker in Vancouver who rides his bike around city with his ice pops and makes occasional pit stops at the farmer’s markets. My first ice pop from his ice pop bike was a creamy avocado and lime ice pop. It was the most life changing an ice pop could be. After that initial ice pop (aka the gateway ice pop), I would always get two ice pops when I see his bike. Avocado lime will always be my go-to but there was one time when I decided to try something new.  The cherry cheesecake pop intrigued me because I loooooove cheesecake. I am low key obsessed with the frozen cheesecakes you buy from the grocery store. I eat them frozen because I do not have an affinity towards soft cheesecakes. The ice pop was everything. It was a complete upgrade of your usual frozen cheesecake on a stick (which does exist!) and it was studded with pitted cherries throughout.

What I am ultimately trying to say is that I am glad I decided to try something new (for a change) and buy the cheesecake pop. Without that initial cheesecake pop, this cheesecake pop might not have existed. I did not go the pitted cherry route because the process of pitting cherries is blah and peaches are finally in season! I poached the peaches in Pure Leaf Peach Iced Tea (Happy National Iced Tea Day, actually!) to get a stronger peach flavour, layered that with a creamy cheesecake base, and finished it off with an addictive cinnamon oat streusel. The oat streusel is a play of the classic graham crust but with more texture…because #texture. Until I find the ice pop guy on his bike, I will be munching (because I like biting into my frozen treats) on these ice pops.

Poached Peaches Cheesecake Ice Pops with Cinnamon Oat Streusel
Yields 8 ice pops

Cinnamon Oat Streusel
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats (not instant)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Poached Peaches
1 bottle 547mL Pure Leaf Peach Iced Tea
3 small peaches, peeled, pitted and halved

Cheesecake Base
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup  + 2 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Oat Streusel
Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a fork or pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. Streusel should be in pea-sized crumbs.

Prepare a baking sheet and spread streusel into one layer. Bake streusel for 20 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Let streusel cool before assembling ice pops.

Poached Peaches
Prepare three small peaches by peeling and pitting them. Cut them into halves.

Place prepared peaches and Pure Leaf Peach Iced Tea into a medium sized saucepan.

Over low-medium heat, cook peaches in Pure Leaf Peach Iced Tea until they are tender, roughly 15 minutes.

Strain peaches and let them cool. Dice the peach halves into ¼ inch cubes.

Cheesecake Base
In a blender, combine cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. While blender is still running, gradually pour in milk. Do the same with Greek yogurt. Add vanilla.

Blend until well-combined. Transfer base into a measuring cup for pouring.

For each ice pop cavity, take ½ tablespoon of diced peaches and place it at the bottom of the ice pop mold.

Pour cheesecake batter until halfway. Sprinkle on streusel. Fill in the remainder of the cavity with cheesecake batter. Finish off with some streusel.

Freeze for 4 – 5 hours until ice pops are firm.

To release the ice pops, run the ice pop molds under warm water for a minute.