Cake Impossible
May 2, 2010, 1:35 am
Filed under: Recipe

I’ve got a million pages of writing to do for the end of the semester but I’ve got the issue of cake buzzing away in my brain.  I wanted to make cupcakes tonight, which I haven’t done in a few months (a long time for me!).  I was going to make regular vanilla cake and went looking into my recipe files & books and realized… I don’t have a cake recipe that I regularly use.  The last zillion times I made cupcakes were either something novel, so a specific recipe was used, or from the Vegan Cupcakes book. I don’t have a go-to- recipe for plain cake.  I use the vegan cupcake recipes so much for a couple of reasons:

  • they taste good and always taste better than vegan cupcakes I’ve tried from bakeries (the boy still prefers real cake)
  • I can make cake without eggs.  I always have the dry ingredients, soymilk (esp since I can keep it in cartons in the cabinet), and apple cider vinegar in the pantry. With regular cake, I need to eggs & butter, which I don’t always have.
  • the biggest reason: The recipes in the book make 12 cupcakes.  Every other cake recipe is for 24-30, which I don’t want to make for two people.  I don’t have room for them in my counter and don’t want to eat them all in the 3 days before they go stale.  And no, I’m not going to give away cupcakes *every* time I make them.  People are bitches.

So here I was, wanting to make plain vanilla cake and without a recipe.  I also only wanted a small amount of cake.  I looked at a bunch of cake recipes and attempted to create my own recipe based on the use of only one egg.  The scientific ratio for pound cake is equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and egg.  I’ve used it before and it works perfectly: weigh one egg, add in equal parts of all the other stuff based on how many grams are in that egg.  Perfect amount of cake for two people, no leftovers.  But a cake-cake is different than a pound cake, right?

After like a half hour of calculations, here is the recipe that I came up with:

1 egg (54 grams)
54 grams butter
90 grams flour
90 grams sugar
30 grams milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder

I already knew that 2 tsp baking powder seemed like too much for this amount of cake, but in the video for Billy’s Cupcakes, he uses 2 TBSP of baking powder for a full recipe and confirms it. When I was measuring my incredients, I compared my amounts with Billy’s Cupcakes recipe divided by 4, and the numbers were pretty much the same, give or take a few grams.  I thought the video was correct and the written recipe was a typo.  I thought I was in good shape.  Of course, looking at the video a 3rd time and the way Billy doesn’t really respond to Martha’s question about the baking powder makes me think he made a mistake and isn’t really a baker because he didn’t explain himself.

Verdict? TERRIBLE.   (I tried to make one vanilla batch and one mocha w/espresso frosting) The batter tasted good.  The flavor of the cake itself was fine.  It made 8 cupcakes, perfect.  But the texture was totally off.  Dry, hard, and they sank when I took them out of the oven.  I’ve never had a cake sink!

I blame it on the baking powder. Next time I guess I need less baking powder, possible a few more grams of milk.  If that still doesn’t work, I will try decreasing the amounts of flour & sugar.  I hope I eventually succeed in this because the ability to make a small quantity of cake is a necessity in my life!  And maybe when I do, I will publish my results and be famous for improving the lives of sad people who eat cake alone.

My frosting swirls look good though.

Another weird random thing I learned: I think Crisco works better than Whole Foods 365 shortening when it comes to making frosting.  My frosting never came out gritty when I was using those Crisco sticks, but it does with this WF brand.  Hmm.  Must be that transfattyness.


Grilling season
April 5, 2010, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Recipe

Our weather went from really crappy (historic flooding) to 80 degrees overnight.  I used the bbq grill all weekend long and it was fun.  Tried grilling par-boiled potatoes – they were soo good.  I sprinkled them with wild chives that I picked from the side of a walking trail; ate them and didn’t die, so I guess that’s good.

Here’s a recipe for fish tacos I tried that were really good and low fat.  You need to add a lot of flavor to make up for the fact that the fish isn’t battered and deep-fried.

Fish Tacos (4 servings)
1/2 of a lime
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, de-seeded if you wish
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb tilapia filets
chili powder
salt, pepper
1 avocado, cut into eighths
8 small whole-wheat tortillas

1. Squeeze the juice from the half-lime into a bowl. Half of the juice will go into the salsa, half into the yogurt sauce. Heat the grill or pan on medium-high.
2. Make salsa: Mix half of the lime juice, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl and set it aside.
3. Make the yogurt sauce: Mix the yogurt, mayo, and remaining lime juice.
4. If pan-frying, add the olive oil to the pan. If grilling, brush the oil on the fish. Cut the fish into wide taco-sized pieces (about 2″ x 4″). Season


with chili powder, salt, pepper (but be careful w/the salt if your chili powder already has salt on it). I thought I put a lot of chili powder, but it could’ve used even more. Cook the fish about 3 minutes per side until browned.
5. Serve! Top your taco with the homemade salsa, lime sauce, avocado, and an extra squirt of lime. Two tacos comes out to 300-ish calories.

The original recipe, which I got from a magazine, said to mix some of the yogurt sauce w/shredded cabbage to make a slaw but it was really bland. I would’ve rather eaten just a salad. Also, I think the homemade salsa works better than store bought because store bought would be too strong and cover up the rest of the flavors.

Cheers to grilling season. I haven’t had much experience cooking on the grill but my summer resolution is to do it more. And cheers to mojito season! I picked up a big bottle of rum on my recent trip to New Hampshire, where booze is wayy cheaper, and I’m looking forward to mojitos in the courtyard.

fig & goat cheese tart
November 3, 2009, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Recipe

fig & goat cheese tart

Originally uploaded by oh_hello

I’m still here.

This fig & goat cheese tart was made on a whim and looks totally fancy. The figs were on sale because they were getting soft, the pita bread had been in my cabinet for a little too long, and the goat cheese was leftover from making roasted beet salad. It’s a little burnt because I heard my Tweetdeck chiming with @replies and I stepped away from the broiler for a minute. Oops!

July 15, 2008, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Recipe, Restaurant

We just cooked our last meal in our current apartment. We’re actually moving next Monday, but we’ll be too busy to cook from now on. Our final meal? Blue cheese and roasted red pepper polenta, topped with tomato basil sauce. It sounds so fancy, I can’t believe we made it at home. It was delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten polenta, let alone make it. Actually, Brian made it and I navigated directions. The polenta was lengthy, requiring constant attention and stirring, but we made it the night before to save some time. Today all I had to do was cut it into squares to saute, and make the sauce which was super easy. The polenta by itself had a really strong blue cheese flavor and was rich, but the tomato sauce and strong basil flavor balanced it out perfectly.

I’ve been cooking with that basil all week. I’ve ever made basil last through so many recipes. Usually I just make pesto with it, throw it in the freezer, and call it a day. We bought it on Saturday and made steak sandwiches with blue cheese and basil. Sunday, we made scallops with pasta, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil. Monday, salmon with basil topping. Tuesday (today) the polenta. I would make pizza with it tomorrow, but there’s still a ton of polenta left. Hooray for basil!

Someone took me out to lunch today. We went to the highly overrated, “This is where college kids bring their parents” restaurant called Judie’s. I ordered half of a fried soft-shell crab, on top of a mini-burrito stuffed with goat cheese, black beans, and carmelized onions and the whole dish was topped with fruit salsa. It was decent but just too… much. Too loud, kind of generically salty tasting. Judie’s is kind of like the dining version of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. They just throw a bunch of crap together, call it “premium” and sometimes it’s appealing in that trashy way. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything exactly wrong with my meal but people talk about this place like it’s amazing, but you can get much better food for the same price right across the street. My crab lunch cost $15, which is the same as the lunch entrees at Chez Albert. But if I had suggested lunch at “The Chez,” people would’ve been like “ooohhhhhhmygosh that’s tooooo expensive.” Well good. Let those people go to Judie’s and leave the tables at The Chez open for me.

**edit** The next day for breakfast, I fried up some polenta and topped it with a sunny-side up egg, salsa, and hot sauce. I don’t think there’s any breakfast place in the Valley where you could get something like that.

Dry Fry Tofu
May 20, 2008, 1:07 pm
Filed under: Recipe

I’m digging tofu lately. I’ve been cooking with it for a while, just pressing it, seasoning it, and throwing it into things. I’ve never tried marinating it, which most people say is the only way you should eat tofu. The tofu that I get at the Chinese market is from a bulk bin and rather soft, even too soft to press. I found this “Dry-Fry & Marinate” method and gave it a try. It was great! I didn’t let the tofu dry out as much as they did in the picture because I didn’t want it to be too rubbery. After the tofu marinated long enough, I started to make a stir-fry and threw the marinade liquid in there as the seasoning for the stir fry. It was a success. The texture & flavor of the tofu were great, and the All-Purpose Marinade reduction was yummy.

Pasta and Chickpeas
May 5, 2008, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Recipe

I went shopping yesterday but I left the receipts in my car, so I’ll post it tomorrow.  It the meantime, I wanted to share this awesome soup that I made for dinner.  It tastes really rich and filling while still being low in fat and with an acceptable amount of protein from the chickpeas – and not expensive to make.  We ate it with a side of bacon brussels sprouts.  

Here is my version that I adapted from a couple of different recipes.

Pasta e Ceci

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried) 
(optional: some sprinkles of other Italian herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil)
2 cans of chickpeas
3 cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup marinara/spaghetti sauce 
1 cup of uncooked small pasta such as ditalini or elbow pasta; or spaghetti broken into short pieces

In a big pot, heat the olive oil on medium-low heat.  After a couple of minutes, add the garlic, carrot, celery, and rosemary.  Saute them on medium-low until they get soft, around 10 minutes.

While you’re waiting, drain and rinse one can of chickpeas.  Put them in a blender, food processor, or in my case the Magic Bullet, and add 1 cup of broth.  Blend it up until it’s smooth and set it aside.

When the vegetables are soft, turn the heat up to high.  Add the remaining two cups of broth, the tomato sauce, and the pureed chickpeas.  Stir it well so that everything is combined.  Drain and rinse the other can of chickpeas and add them to the pot.  Also add other herbs if you’re using them (I added dried basil and white pepper) Bring it to a rolling boil.  Dump in the pasta and let it boil until the pasta is soft, around 8 minutes.  Makes about 4 servings.

You could let the soup simmer longer before you add the pasta (and add more water or broth if needed), but it was really flavorful even without simmering.  Other people have substituted a few Tablespoons of pesto instead of marinara sauce which also sounds delish.

I chose this recipe specifically because I had the extra rosemary and I’m glad I did.  I wish I could grow an herb garden because the fresh herbs taste soooo good but when I buy them at the store, I can’t use it up fast enough and it ends up being a waste.  I still have a ton of rosemary left and tried to freeze a couple of sprigs, so hopefully that will work out.

Chiffon Cupcakes
April 30, 2008, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Recipe

I love Good Eats and I love cupcakes so I was super excited about a brand new cupcake episode, especially since there hasn’t been a new one in many months.  I follow a few cupcake blogs but I had never heard of the Chiffon Cupcake method.  It involves beating egg whites and folding them into the batter.  I was pretty nervous about how this souffle-like cake would bake in my oven.  They came out lovely and perfectly domed, even though my oven was 25 degrees too hot whenever I checked the temp.

perfectly even cupcakes

The frosting recipe wasn’t posted on Food Network, so thank goodness for the DVR.  I had never heard of making buttercream this way.  Check this out:


  • 6 oz butter, room temperature
  • 2 oz vegetable shortening, room temperature
  • 1 egg, also room temperature
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat the butter & shortening together with the mixer on high until they are well blended.  Add the egg and beat until it is combined, about 2 minutes.  Turn the mixer to low and add the sugar in 1/2 cup increments, waiting until the portion is all worked in before adding more.  When you’re done adding the sugar, add the vanilla.  Beat on medium high for 3 mins, until it is light and fluffy. 

Yes, it has a raw egg in it. I don’t really like buttercream frosting that much; I prefer whipped cream or cream cheese style but this one was good! It wasn’t grainy or gritty at all, and didn’t taste like it would melt your teeth off (though in reality, it still would).  It was so much lighter and tastier than all of the other buttercreams that are just butter + sugar + milk.  

Alton Brown told us the history of the cupcake and encouraged us to bake them in actual cups – a cup-cake.  How novel!  Even though my mugs don’t say “oven safe” everything worked out fine.  These coffee mugs hold 6oz, which is enough for a small cup of coffee or a Texas-sized (or bakery sized) cupcake.  (I was not able to eat the entire cup-cake)

This was also my first time using my sweet Wilton cake frosting tips set, which I got at Michael’s for $4.  It was pretty easy to get the hang of.  I think it was harder to figure out how to fill the pastry bag without making a mess than it was to make the swirls.

Taste:  The cake had a great texture, the best I’ve ever made.  Crumbs weren’t falling all over the place, but it wasn’t spongy like angel food cake either.  The taste was different though.  It wasn’t very sweet; kind of salty or savory.  I didn’t notice it under sweetness the frosting, but I still think I will cut back on the salt next time.  I realized that my theory on cupcakes is this:  A good cupcake will taste totally amazing at first bite and you’ll enjoy every second of eating it, but you might struggle with the last bite and you definitely don’t want to have room for another one right away.  What do you think?