Tag Archives: strawberry






I had a birthday earlier this month. To be honest, this may be the first year when I haven’t given much thought about it, no major self-reflections on where I am in my life, about the past year or what I want to tackle in the future. No convincing myself that age is just a number and you are only as old as you feel. Perhaps because I had been crazy with work or because I knew I was going to spend the day with my family. Or more likely, because I didn’t really want to think about it.


Thinking about cake, however, was something I could gladly spend my time on. By the start of March, my yearning for spring is all-consuming, so I tend towards fruit-filled cakes (see last year and the year before). This year was no exception, and as I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with my family in Washington, which includes a four-year old niece and a year and a half year old nephew, I steered away from my inclinations towards coffee and alcohol in my dessert.


I’ve had this recipe for Poppy Seed Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Strawberries saved for many years, but never a good opportunity (or crowd) to serve it. This is not your typical birthday cake (i.e. cloyingly sweet and overly dry), instead, its bright with lemon infused throughout and dotted with poppy seeds. The white chocolate cream? Out of this world and a perfect complement for the strawberries. It makes a large cake – so invite your favorite people to share it with. My cousin, notoriously picky (especially for non-chocolate desserts) even went back for a second piece.


I may have had a second piece also … it was my birthday after all, and if nothing else, I make damn good dessert.


Poppy Seed Layer Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Strawberries
from Bon Appetit
Poppy Seed Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest (I used 3 lemons)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
For white chocolate cream:
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3 cups chilled whipping cream
2 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced and halved

For the poppy seed cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper; butter and flour paper and sides of pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Cut in 6 tablespoons butter and set aside. Beat sugar, remaining butter and lemon zest in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each, beating just until blended. Stir in poppy seeds. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden and tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides; cool cake.

For the white chocolate cream:

Combine 1/2 cup sugar, eggs and lemon juice in top of double broiler set over gently boiling water. Whisk until very thick and candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 3 minutes. Remove from water. Add chopped white chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Beat heavy cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl to firm peaks. Fold in white chocolate mixture.

Assemble cake:

Turn cake out onto work surface. Peel off paper. Cut cake horizontally into two equal layers. Transfer one cake layer to platter, cut side up. Spread 1 1/2 cups white chocolate cream over the cake layer. Arrange sliced strawberries in single layer over chocolate cream. Spread more white chocolate cream over the strawberries. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread 3 cups chocolate cream over top and sides of cake. Garnish cake with strawberries cut in half.

Entering into a science-writing state of mind

Let’s just get the name of the recipe out of the way:

Brown Butter Almond Petite Cakes with Rhubarb served with Roasted Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

We’ll get to the food later…

I’ve begun my descent into the writing hole. It’s not enough to collect and analyze data, we (academic) scientists have to publish on it. For me, it means entering into an entirely different state of mind. I like to publish science stories – and I don’t mean that I like to fabricate science, but rather present the bits and pieces of data in a cohesive storyline. Wrap the whole thing up and put a pretty bow on top so that people will be excited and intrigued about what might be inside. And once it’s unwrapped, hopefully readers will find a brand-new toy that is not only fun to play with, but easy to use with clear instructions.

Sometimes science papers aren’t wrapped pretty or else contain a lopsided, hand-knitted sweater from your crazy aunt – you don’t get excited about them. Other times they might have the coolest toy you can imagine – but it’s difficult to assemble, with thousands of parts and instuctions only in japanese – difficult to interpret. There is a delicate balance between selling and overselling, between having too little details or having way too many.

Hence, entering into the science-writing state of mind. Clearly articulating a complete and well controlled study without being boring, while at the same time, making sure that you aren’t overstating the data. It’s not an easy thing to do well. And the beginning stages, especially for this scientist, are not a pleasant place to be in. I find myself at the end of a day with nothing to show for it, as all I’ve done is try to collect all the threads of the science story. The writing won’t come for a few more seemingly unproductive days.

During these early days of science writing I find myself wandering the internet, strolling over to some of my favorite blogs and digging through their archives. Or finally taking the time to check out a new one that a friend referred to me. And thinking about food, as I am want to do. Then making it, so that I can put off writing for just a little bit longer.

As soon as I saw the recipe for Brown Butter Almond Petite Cakes with Rhubarb I knew that it was going to jump to the beginning of my kitchen queue. And once I started smelling the browned butter – I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into these cute little cakes made with almond flour and topped with diced rhubarb. I paired it with the Roasted Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream, another recipe that I had had my eye on ever since my friend Kelaine pointed it to me and is about as close as I will ever come to presenting a strawberry-rhubarb combination here. But it works.

Brown Butter Almond Petite Cakes with Rhubarb

from Orangette
makes four 3-inch cakes
12 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
100 g (1/2 + 1/3 cup) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
2 slender stalks rhubarb, finely chopped


Put the butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and stir until it turns a dark amber color, about 10-15 minutes – this seems like forever while you are cooking it – but it is well worth the effort. Remove the butter from the heat, and strain it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a small bowl to remove the foamy butter solids and any dark sediment. The butter should smell deeply caramelly. Set it aside to cool, but do not allow it to harden.

When the butter is cool, weigh it. You should have 3 ounces for this recipe, and 12 tablespoons, when browned, yields just a bit too much. Set a small bowl atop a scale, zero the scale, and pour exactly 3 ounces of browned butter into the bowl. This is what you will use for the recipe; any remaining butter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for other uses.

In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, and powdered sugar. Add the egg whites, and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. It will look a little odd and slimy. Add the brown butter, and fold until smooth. The batter will at first look strange and oily, but keep folding and stirring gently, and it will come together. Refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour and up to a day.

When you are ready to bake the cakes, preheat the oven to 350º. Lightly butter four, 3-inch ramekins. Scoop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls into the prepared ramekins. The batter should be thick and dense: you may want to spoon it into the measuring cup, and then scrape the contents into the muffin cup. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons minced rhubarb on top, and lightly press the rhubarb into the batter. Bake the cakes for 45 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the tops look dry. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to release them, and remove them to a rack to cool completely.


Roasted Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream

adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
makes 1 quart
1 pound strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup half and half
2/3 cup granulated sugar

Place halved strawberries in a 9 x 9 inch baking dish and sprinkle with raw sugar. Roast in a 300º oven for about an hour (my strawberries were rather large – it may take less time with smaller berries). Keep the strawberries in the oven, but turn off the heat and allow them to cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the half and half into a slurry until smooth. Set aside. In a large batter bowl, mix together cream cheese and salt. Stir in roasted strawberry puree and set aside.

In a medium pot, combine coconut milk, half and half and sugar over medium high heat. Bring to a roiling boil and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch slurry. Return to medium heat and cook for about a minute longer and the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir into the batter bowl with the strawberries and cream cheese. Cool completely. Freeze in an ice cream maker.

Just Because … Strawberry Cake

I am craving a farmer’s market. Sadly, these things don’t open in Minnesota for another month. This summer’s CSA boxes don’t start arriving until June.


The problem is that it actually feels like springtime here. Days full of sunshine and warmth. The trees are starting to get their greens back. People are on their bicycles. So where are the markets and the fresh vegetables? Right now, I would be satisfied with planting my window herb garden. But it’s nearly impossible to do even that.

Last week I made a strawberry cake. Just because. Bright berries (from who knows where) were on sale at the market. I immediately bought two pounds despite knowing that a single girl like myself couldn’t possibly get through all of them. So into a cake they went. And the cake went to lab. All I brought home was a pie pan full of crumbs, so I am calling it a success.

I found the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. And fell in love for this cake. Quick, easy and fun to make. It’s not fancy, but when you are dealing with strawberries it doesn’t need to be. The dough has a biscuit-like quality to it and puffs up like pillows when the strawberries are nestled on top. Think strawberry shortcake with the strawberries baked in (or the Rhubarb Cobbler Cake I made last summer). And the colors – oh my!

Please don’t forget the slightly sweetened whipped cream … just because.

Strawberry Summer Cake
from Smitten Kitchen
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth. Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries (Do this! It will make the the top of the cake crispy in the most lovely way.). Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.


I’m screaming … for ice cream!

I’ve significantly increased my dairy intake.

With ice cream.

Delicious ice cream.

That I’ve made myself. With this.

No sooner is the ice cream bowl washed and put back in the freezer and I am whipping up the next batch.

It’s starting to become a problem. Mostly because I don’t have space in my freezer for the ice cream bowl and all of the ice creams I am making.


It’s a difficult problem to have.

I just can’t help myself.


Strawberry Sour Cream

Mango Rum Sorbet

I am not going to lie. There have been several days in the past week when I’ve had ice cream for dinner (and possibly breakfast as well…). We had a heat wave (again) in Minneapolis and ice cream was the only thing I could bring myself to eat. It’s chock full of fruit so I refuse to feel guilty about it.

(Plus, due to the abundance of salad greens in my CSA boxes, I’ve been consuming a LOT of salads)

Cold. Smooth. Creamy. I love how it slides down your throat and cools you down from the inside out.

And those colors!


And just a couple of ingredients – it couldn’t be simpler. I almost immediately went out and got The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. And the man knows his ice cream.

I’m in love. It’s going to be a delicious summer.

Lemon-Blueberry Vanilla Ice Cream

makes 1 pint
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
lemon peel from one lemon
1 vanilla bean
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon blood orange liquour
1 cup cream
1/2 whole milk

In a small saucepan, simmer blueberries, sugar, vanilla bean lemon peel and juice over medium heat until berries start to burst, about 5 minutes. Transfer to blender. Add milk, cream and liquour. Blend until smooth. Strain mixture. Chill completely. Churn in pre-chilled ice cream maker.

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

From David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

2/3 pound fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vodka
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup heavy cream
splash of lemon juice

Slice strawberries and toss with the sugar and vodka. Let strawberries macerate for at least an hour (this helps make the ice cream the most fantastically hot pink color). Pulse strawberries, sour cream and heavy cream in blender or food processor – I did this just enough to mix everything together – I wanted to have chunks of strawberries in my ice cream. Chill completely and then freeze in ice cream maker.

Mango-Rum Sorbet

From David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop
2 large ripe mangoes
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cups water
juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon dark rum
pinch of salt

Peel mangoes and cut flesh away from pit. Squeeze mango pits into blender to extract all the pulp possible. Blend mango, sugar, water, lime juice, rum and and salt. Chill completely and freeze in ice cream maker.

A Fed-worthy salad

Bear with me for a moment. Scott is back in Durham right now and I am being eaten alive by jealousy. There are the obvious reasons – seeing old friends and colleagues. But what really gets me is the Federal. I am pretty sure he has eaten there at least three times since last Thursday. I can’t really blame him – it is the Federal after all. Not only do they have a regular menu, they also have daily specials that change every single day. And always on that specials menu is a salad. A huge plate with some fruit, nuts and cheese all on a bed of perfectly dressed field greens. When the irresistible pork belly is not on the menu, without a doubt I would get the specials salad (or the grilled cheese – but let’s not get started with that).

I don’t often make salad dressing. In fact I only have two that I make: balsamic vinegariette and a sesame and poppy seed dressing. The latter pairs wonderfully well with strawberries and is my current obsession, given how incredibly sweet the strawberries are right now.

Sesame and Poppy Seed Dressing

makes about 2/3 cup

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a jar combine oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, poppy and sesame seeds.

Shake vigorously.

As for the salad I tossed some baby arugula, strawberries, goat cheese and roasted walnuts.


It’s almost like eating at the Federal.

Except not at all. I still wish I was back in Durham with Scott and company.