Posts Tagged ‘strawberry’

Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake

The other morning I woke up and decided that I needed to have cheesecake. I’d recently been to a party that had mini cheesecakes baked in cupcake wrappers but it didn’t quite do the trick for me. So I woke up and craved, needed a proper  cheesecake. I needed gobs of serious cream cheese laced with sugar. I need it to be fruity because fruity means “guilt-free” but chocolatey means “get on the treadmill.” And since I cancelled my gym membership for my impending room, treadmilling was not an option.

Is my thinking delusional? Nahh.

So with reckless abandon I forgot all the errands I had planned to run, did a quick scan of the world wide web, ran to the supermarket (because who keeps 3 blocks of cream cheese around?), ran to fetch my springform pan 20 minutes away, room temperaturized my cream cheese in record time (cheese in ziploc, ziploc in cold water, cold water in bowl), and made a cheesecake!

Run-on sentences are the bomb diggity.


This cheesecake was everything I wanted it to be. It was reminiscent of summer with the fresh strawberry topping and delicious coconut crust. The filling itself was not too dense, just how I love it. (Is it blasphemous not to love thick dense cheesecakes if I’m moving to NY?) All in all, a win.

Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake
adapted from epicurious


For crust:

  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled (toast on foil at 400F for 5-10 minutes until browned – be careful not to burn it!)
  • 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/8 c sugar

For filling:

  • 24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c sweetened cream of coconut (ie Coco Lopez)
  • 1/4 c coconut rum (ie Malibu)

For topping:

  • 2 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 c strawberry jam (seedless preferred)
  • 2 tbsp water

For crust: Preheat oven to 350F. Brush springform pan with approximately 1 tbsp melted butter. If needed, line with parchment and brush parchment with extra butter. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining butter, coconut, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar until well moistened. Press into bottom of the springform pan and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges. Cool and reduce oven temperature to 300F.

For filling: Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, cornstarch, and sugar until well combined. Add eggs in one at a time, scraping and mixing completely. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut rum. Strain mixture through a sieve and pour into cooled crust. Bake in a water bath at 300F for 1 hr 40 min (epicurious had all these instructions for covering with foil etc but I omitted and had no issues). The cake should jiggle a bit when done and be browned on the edges. Once done, turn oven off, crack oven door open, and let sit in the oven for 30 minutes before taking out to cool completely in the refrigerator (5 hours or more, preferably overnight).

For topping: Simmer jam and water in a saucepan until combined. Layer strawberries atop cheesecake and brush with glaze. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be assembled 8 hours in advance.

Do you ever crave?


Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake

Lessons I’ve learned thus far in my quarter of a century existence on this earth:

1. Double knotting sneakers can never be a bad thing.

2. Facial moisterizer is necessary after I wash my face or I dry up and it’s not attractive.

3. People have a funny way of surprising you (this can be good or bad but there are lots of surprises either way).

4. Coffee is not actually essential to my being though I enjoy it.

5. Ice cream cakes are best made in a pan with four tall sides for ease of transport and the least amount of messy.

Yup. That’s it. Five things. That’s one thing for every five years I’ve been alive. But the quantity isn’t what matters, it’s the quality, and friends, that’s some quality lessons learned up there. Let’s talk about the last one, shall we?

Several weeks ago we went out for a going away party for a friend (she just left for Korea for a month). While she was out of earshot, her boyfriend said that he thought she snuck a cake into their car because she’d be out of town for his birthday. He then remarked that out of all the years they’d been together she’d never gotten him the cake he truly wanted. My ears perked up. Cake? I’m in!

Turns out all he wanted was an ice cream cake. And that’s what he was going to get.

The first birthday cake I made for my group of friends was actually for Boy. He too wanted an ice cream cake but only told me this on the day of his celebration which led to a lot of scrambling around. Needless to say, the cake was improperly frozen and proceeded to melt all over me as we tried to transport it from my freezer to the restaurant. There was toilet paper involved. Don’t ask.

The second ice cream cake I made the next year was for Boy’s roommate. I discovered the joys of building the cake in a disposable pan with tall sides so that if it began to melt it wouldn’t melt on me. Much better. However, I baked the cake in a separate pan and then transferred it which meant some holes and not the prettiest slices.

This time around, I think I finally perfected my ideal cake. I baked a bottom cake layer in the pan and simply built up the cake by adding homemade ice cream on top. It was a huge hit with the birthday boy, Boy himself, and all our friends and was much simpler than my previous versions. I may switch up the flavors but this will definitely be my method!

Note: If you’re looking to plan out your time, I suggest making the ice cream bases the night before and refrigerating overnight. The cake can also be made the day before if desired or the morning of. Make sure you freeze it for at least an hour before spreading ice cream on top. I then churned my middle layer (vanilla), immediately spread atop the cake, and froze for 20 minutes while my top layer (strawberry) churned. I didn’t wash my ice cream maker in between and went straight from flavor to flavor. You can spread this part over a few days if you like. I’m just insane.

Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

Makes ~ 1 quart.


  • 2 c whole milk
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Bring milk and cream to boil in a heavy saucepan. Meanwhile whisk together yolks and sugar until slightly thickened. While whisking, drizzle 1/3 of the hot mixture into the eggs to temper. Pour the rest of the hot mixture in, whisk, and then transfer back into the pan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture is 170-180F or the custard coats the back of a spoon without running when you slide a finger through it. Strain into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate until ready to churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Strawberry Ice Cream
adapted from epicurious

Makes ~5 cups.


  • 1 3/4 c heavy cream
  • 3 3×1 inch strips of lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • 1 lb frozen strawberries (fresh if you can find really great ones), trimmed and quartered
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine cream, zest, and salt in a saucepan and heat until just to a boil. Remove from heat and discard zest.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and 1/2 c sugar until well combined. Add a small amount of the heavy cream to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Then add the rest in, mix, and pour back into the saucepan. Turn the heat back on medium-low and whisk constantly as you heat the mixture to 170F. Be sure you do not exceed 180F. Pour through a sieve into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until cool.

Once cooled, puree strawberries with remaining 1/4 c sugar and lemon juice in a blender. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds. Mix into the cooled custard. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Chocolate Cake
adapted from Gale Gand

Makes 1 9×13″ cake.


  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 c + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 eggs*
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c boiling water

*for the half egg, you can break the egg into a bowl, whisk, then measure out half of the mixture

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13″ cake pan and set aside.

Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl fitted with an electric mixer, combine eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat on low for 5 minutes. Gradually add the hot water, still mixing at low speed until just combined. Pour batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool and freeze at least 1 hour to firm up before assembly.

For Assembly: Ensure that the vanilla ice cream is soft before spreading by either spreading right after churning or letting the ice cream sit on the counter for 30 minutes. Spread vanilla ice cream onto the frozen chocolate cake. Freeze for 30 minutes while you churn or soften the strawberry layer. Spread strawberry ice cream and freeze at least 1 hour before serving. Decorate as desired.

I love ice cream cakes, don’t you?

Brown Derby Cake

Brown Derby cake.

This past weekend we celebrated my wonderful mom’s birthday.

If you’ve ever met my brother, you’d know he’s a tough talker. He has a bit of a potty-mouth, he’s extremely smart, and he’s a bit conceited. So overall he sounds like a know-it-all with a smart mouth. He’s also a fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and continues to teach students training to go to national competitions. He can do ridiculous flips and wield a sword. He’s not one to be messed with.

But if you get to know him a little better, he’s not as tough as he seems to be.

After several mishaps and uncertainties with the first cake idea I had, I called him asking for suggestions.

“What kind of cake do you think I should make Mom?”

“Brown Derby” was his immediate response, quickly defended with, “It’s the only cake I know she likes.”

And he was right.

You see, when we were growing up, all of our birthday cakes consisted of a Brown Derby cake created by our local pastry shoppe. I’ve never seen a Brown Derby cake since that time but the thought of it brought back some wonderful memories. So with the help of Google, I came up with a version of our favorite childhood cake that pleased the entire family.

If you’ve never tried one of these babies, it’s essentially a chocolate cake filled with a fruit and whipped cream filling including strawberries, bananas, and peaches (as I remember it). I created mine with a rich devil’s food cake filled with fresh strawberries, fresh ripe bananas, canned peaches, and a handful of blueberries folded into a gelatinous whipped cream mixture (that in hindsight could simply have been the fruit and whipped cream without the extra ingredients/steps). It was a throwback to our childhood and my mom was pleased that we had remembered.

Happy birthday, Mommy!

Brown Derby Cake
cake adapted from Dorie’s Baking From My Home to Yours
filling adapted from Taste of Home

For cake:

  • 1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 c whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 4 oz semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped

For filling:

  • 1 package unflavored gelatin (~1 tbsp)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz fresh strawberries, sliced thinly
  • 1 15 oz can sliced peaches, drained
  • 2 medium bananas, sliced thinly
  • handful of fresh blueberries

For topping:

  • 1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c confectioner’s sugar, sifted (plus more to taste)

For cake: Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 1 round cake pan and 1 medium-sized mixing bowl (oven-safe!) with butter and a healthy dusting of flour or confectioner’s sugar. Line the round cake pan with parchment paper as well.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter on medium speed until soft. Add both sugars and continue beating for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla. At this point things may look curdled but keep on beating. On low speed, add melted chocolate. Then add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with the milk in 2 additions. Mix just until incorporated. Add in the boiling water which will thin down the luscious batter. Finally, stir in the chopped chocolate with a rubber spatula. Divide the cake evenly between the prepared pan and prepared bowl. Bake separately in the preheated oven. The round cake will take about 25-30 minutes. The bowl took me closer to an hour to set properly. When you insert a knife into the center of the cake, it should come out clean. Allow cake to cool for several minutes before running a knife/spatula around the sides, unmolding, and allowing to cool completely to room temperature.

For filling: (Again, as above, you can simply mix the fruit with whipped cream sweetened slightly with confectioner’s sugar if desired. This recipe gives a bit more solid filling with the addition of gelatin.) Stir gelatin in milk to soften. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff and add the sugar in slowly, mixing to combine. Heat the gelatin and milk mixture over very low heat for several minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. With the mixer on, pour the warmed mixture over the egg whites and mix well. Add in vanilla. Cool to warm before folding in prepared fruits.

In a separate bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks (you can use your dirty beaters). Fold in to fruit mixture.

For topping: Beat heavy cream in a clean bowl until stiff peaks. Add sugar to taste.

For assembly: Once cakes are cooled, level both cakes, reserving scraps (take a bit off even if your cakes came our perfectly which mine never ever do). Take round cake and place on stand. Top with as much filling as desired. (I only did one big fat layer of filling and used about 3/4 of it. In hindsight, you can cut the cake baked in the bowl into two layers and then have two layers of filling with three layers of cake. Just saying.) Top with cake baked in the bowl. Using a spatula, spread sweetened whipped topping all over cake. Finally, crumble scraps and press into whipped topping. If your scraps a little too moist, you can spread them over a baking sheet and dry them out a bit in a warmed oven.

Messy cakes are always the most delicious in my opinion!

What cake did you used to eat growing up?

DB November – Chocolate Fruit Crostata


So how did it go, everyone?

Lots of family, friends, and love? Some turkey with stuffing?  Mashed goodness? Sweet goodies in crusts?

I was lucky this year and celebrated two Thanksgivings, once with my friends and once with my family. That meant double the fun, double the cheer, double the poultry, and double the dessert. So this month’s Daring Bakers challenge could not have come at a better time! This way, I could make the challenge for one Thanksgiving and make the dessert of my choosing for the next. And ohhh how excited I was to make this challenge! It was actually quite easy and I imagine it won’t be the last time I attempt to make a lovely crostata with some minis for snacking.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Chocolate Fruit Crostata
adapted from the Daring Bakers website and Dorie

Makes 1 crostata.


For Pasta Frolla:

  • scant 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For Chocolate Pastry Cream:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small piece

For Assembly:

  • fruits of your choice, sliced if necessary


For Pasta Frolla: [I made mine using a food processor but see the DB website if you are making it by hand.] Pulse sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor to mix. Then add cold butter and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal. Empty contents of the food processor onto your work surface.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the beaten eggs.  Using a fork, begin to combine the eggs with the dry ingredients then use fingertips to finish. Knead until a ball forms – do NOT overknead as the cold butter will get warmed by your hands and you will lose the flaky crust – and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, patting into a round disk. Chill for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch or 3 mm and place in tart pan (or pie plate which is where I made mine). Cut off excess around the edges. Place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil large enough to cover the dough and hang over the edges and place in pan. Fill with dried beans or rice in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes. Take off weights and foil/parchment and bake again for 5 more minutes. If the dough begins to puff up without the weights, gently push it back down with the back of a spoon. Allow shell to cool completely before filling.

You can use leftover dough to make cookies or these little fruit crostatas I made by spooning a bit of strawberry jam atop rounds of dough followed by a lazy lattice (not woven) of dough strips on top.

For Pastry Cream: Heat milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until thick. Whisk in about 1/4 c of the hot milk, stirring constantly so as not to cook the eggs. Then, slowly add the rest of the milk while whisking constantly. Heat this over medium heat and bring to a boil while continue to stir constantly. Once at a boil, continue to cook while whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate and let sit for five minutes. Then, whisk in the butter until fully incorporated. Cool the custard either by refrigerating with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface or using an ice bath and stirring occasionally.

To Assemble: Whisk cream briefly, then spoon into pastry shell. Smooth top with back of spoon. Layer fruit however desired.

PS. Don’t forget about the giveaway!

Strawberry Icebox Cake

I’ve been wanting to make this cake every since Tara posted the recipe back in April.

Last week, I finally got my shot.

“Something refreshing” was the response I got when I asked what a friend wanted for her birthday dinner. She said that I didn’t have to bake a cake knowing full well that we’re all short on time these days since most of us are studying to take our second set of board exams. But.. it’s me and someone’s birthday which means I have to make a cake.

But did I have to bake a cake?

The answer is no.

Because when she said “something refreshing,” my mind immediately went to this cake. What could be more refreshing that a cold cake “baked” in the cold?!

So this is what I made.

The preparation was simple. The hardest part was waiting while the cake sat for hours mocking me, begging to be tasted before anyone else laid eyes on it.

Let me tell you, it was most definitely refreshing. Nice and cold in the warm evening air as we sat outside at picnic tables at a local restaurant. The subtle sweetness of the homemade sauce/jam paired with the straight-from-a-box graham crackers with just enough whipped cream made for a new twist on a strawberry shortcake and my friends and I welcomed it with open arms. Without a doubt, it was a hit!

Strawberry Icebox Cake
from seven spoons

1 lb strawberries, chopped
1/3 c caster sugar (I used regular sugar and it worked fine)
1 tbsp lemon juice, fresh preferable
3 1/2 c heavy cream, chilled and divided
3/4 c confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
A box of honey graham crackers


Place three-quarters of the berries in a medium saucepan with 2 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tsp of lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until the fruit becomes soft and the juices begin to thicken, around 7-10 minutes.

Carefully transfer the strawberries to a blender and purée. Push the puréed sauce through a sieve back into the saucepan. Again, bring the berries to a simmer, stirring often, until it becomes thick and glossy. This should take around 10 minutes. Tara says it should be “on the verge of jammy-ness, close to the texture of hot fudge sauce.”

Add in the rest of the reserved berries and cook for a minute or so. Again, transfer the strawberries to a blender, purée, and push through a sieve to a clean container. Set aside to cool. Once cool, taste and add sugar and/or lemon as needed.

Line an 8-by-8-inch metal cake pan with a cross of clingfilm, leaving an overhang on all sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or a hand mixer or whisk), whip 2 cups of heavy cream. Once it begins to thicken, sift in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar and a punch salt. Turn the mixer on medium-high and whip until the cream holds soft peaks. Add vanilla, then beat until the cream until stiff peaks.

For assembly, spread a small amount of the cream on the bottom of the cake pan. Then add a layer of graham crackers (about 9 crackers total). Spread a layer of 1/2 c cream on top of the crackers followed by a few tbsp of strawberry sauce. Continue layering until there are 5 layers of crackers and 4 layers of cream and sauce. Leave a small amount of cream to cover the last layer (although I forgot to do this and this layer was still soft and delectable).

Note: Tara says that you’ll use about 1/2 c of the strawberry sauce in the cake which should leave you with some leftover for serving with the cake. I just piled it all in the cake since I was taking this to a restaurant. The choice is yours!

Cover loosely with clingfilm, then draw the overhanging clingfilm from the sides up. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.

About 1 hour before serving, remove the clingfilm, invert the cake onto a serving plate, and remove the rest of the clingfilm. Place the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Using whatever means necessary, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream. Sift in the remaining 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar once the cream begins to thicken and then whip until a firm peak. Try not to overbeat please! Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream to cover the cake and then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Serve with the reserved sauce if you have any!

[Blurry, I know. But I needed to be eating the cake instead of taking pictures so.. shoot me.]

‘Twas darn good!

– Sharlene

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies



Roundup for Cupcake Hero :: Coconut can be found here.

[onto the entry]

Everyone has go-to recipes, right? Ones you can make in a pinch and will always always be successful. Ones that require minimal ingredients. Ones that take but a moment to whip up.

This is one of those recipes.

Last weekend I went home to my parents’ for some supposed relaxation.

Do you want to know what happened?

They had friends over.


Now, normally that’s not a bad thing. Hey, parents are allowed to have friends too. (Teachers are the same way although I still cannot get it through my head that my first grade teacher doesn’t in fact sleep at my elementary school.)

Except I wasn’t prepared for this. Had I known, I would have had a recipe in mind, stopped at the grocery store on the way, etc etc. Instead, I sat around all day and did my planned relaxing until late in the afternoon I heard, “Anak (the Filipino word for “my child”), can you please bake something for dessert?”

But Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm!!

I didn’t really feel like baking for some reason and I was resistant.

But she was my Mom.


And then I remembered these cookies.

My go-to cookies. And all of a sudden it didn’t seem so bad that I had to bake on the fly. I actually got excited.

I first read about them last summer when I was just starting to read blogs. We Are Not Martha was one of the first I ever read (Hi Sues & Chels!) and I found this recipe, made it, adored it, and made it again and again until there were no more strawberries to be found in all of New Jersey. I promise you, this is a fabulous recipe, super easy to make, and loved by all. In fact, I apologize for the lack of pictures but I had to snatch the last two cookies (I made a double batch and even then they were gone in minutes. MINUTES.) and snap these super quickly. Especially since I may or may not have snatched them from a child. Don’t worry. They still tasted great, I’m sure.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
adapted from We Are Not Martha, originally from Martha

Makes 24 cookies.

12 oz strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 c + 1 tbsp sugar
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp COLD butter, unsalted and cut into small pieces
2/3 c heavy cream
sanding (or granulated) sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tbsp sugar in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar. Cut the butter into this dry mixture (using two knives or a pastry cutter) until crumbly. Add heavy cream and mix. It will be sticky. Add strawberries.

Drop about 1 tbsp of dough per cookie and space 2 inches apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Go use up those strawberries!

– Sharlene

White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

REMINDER: CUPCAKE HERO JULY [COCONUT] ENTRIES DUE JULY 17TH!! Email me at smalltownoven[at]gmail[dot]com!

JULY 17TH!!!!!!


The weather has been absolutely disgusting this week.





For the better half of the week, it was just terrible. You’d march out the door, walk five steps, and immediately want to go back inside where it’s air-conditioned and your anti-perspirant isn’t 500% necessary.

Today, however, it was beautiful out.

The sun shone, the air was clear, and life was good.

I delivered 4 babies today. That may have helped. Two of those were twins. That may have helped too.

I sutured, I stapled, I came, I saw, I conquered.

Today was a bright spot in a dreary week (well, a dreary week that included meeting Alec Baldwin).

The only thing that kept me going this week in the grossness that was NYC?

These strawberries.

I kid you not.

I’d run home after work and go straight for the refrigerator. Right to these here strawberries.

My only regret is that I only made a pint.

Next time, there will be more.


White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
adapted from epicurious

2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp lemon zest
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 pint ripe strawberries

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Rub the sugar and zest together with fingertips until moist and fragrant. Set aside. Melt white chocolate either over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in the microwave. If melting in the microwave, make sure to heat in small increments to prevent freezing up of the chocolate.

Dip strawberries into chocolate to coat 2/3 of the berry. Shake excess into bowl. Sprinkle citrus sugar on top of the chocolate. Place on prepared sheet. Once all the berries are dipped, chill in the refrigerator until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Hope you’re surviving the heat/cold or whatever you have where you are 🙂

– Sharlene

Olive Oil Cakes

Nom nom nom!

I’m a stress baker these days. It’s pretty much where this blog came from.

The second my life starts to get busy, when it’s a little more difficult to breathe but I’m nowhere near suffocation, I start baking. I consider ingredients, flavors, and shapes. Do I want something with fruit or chocolate? Both perhaps? Neither? What kind of fruit?  What kind of chocolate? What can I add to make it a *little* bit different, to give it that tiny hint of something new? And what form will it all take? Is this a cookie, a cupcake, a full-blown cake, or muffins? Do I want to try a new shape or technique?

The possibilities are endless.

And the prospects are sometimes much more interesting than the idea that baking all of this will eventually give me diabetes and perhaps hypertension so maybe it would be useful to do the studying I’m supposed to be doing instead of dreaming of disease-causing treats.

But, I digress.

Baking. It calms me.

I sometimes let it be my reward.

Sharlene, if you do 50 questions and get at LEAST 60% right (I realize that percentage isn’t great in grade school but in med school it’ll have to do lest I go insane) you can bake a batch of brownies.

Sharlene, if you finish writing up that history and physical you can eat a brownie you just made.

Sharlene, if you read up on atrial fibrillation, you can eat your third brownie since you have no self-control.

Who are we kidding, Sharlene. We all know you need to eat half the tray and feel sick to your stomach at this second because since eating the first brownie you’ve gotten 7 questions wrong since you’re concentrating on EATING ANOTHER so much.

My inner monologue.

At this point in time, my abs (can you talk about your abs even if you’re unsure they’re there under the layer of blub?) are screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Luckily, that blub is there to muffle their screams.

These little cakes are a bit addictive. I added some strawberries and it was seriously a party in my mouth. Highly recommend the addition. I ate 2-3 a day until they were gone. Boy liked them too. He would have had seconds had I left him enough to do so.

Pioneer Woman never fails me.

Olive Oil Cakes
adapted from Ree, but originally from Food Network Magazine

Yields 12.

For cake:
1 tbsp melted butter
2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c whole wheat [I’m trying to use more whole wheat flour because it’s healthier.. this small alteration wasn’t even noticed!]
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs
1/4 c olive oil
2/3 c milk
4 strawberries, sliced

For glaze:
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter up a muffin pan and dust with a bit of flour. Whisk together the flour, the baking powder, salt and thyme in a small bowl.

In a blender, pulse the sugar and lemon zest in a blender until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, then gradually pour in the olive oil and milk, pulsing about 30 seconds or until it becomes a thin batter. Don’t overblend! Pulse pulse pulse, check, pulse a little more, check, check, check, pulse. You get the idea.

Add the dry ingredients to the blender in 2 batches until just combined. [See above note on pulsing and checking if you need some guidance.] Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake. Ten minutes into baking, take pan out of oven and layer several pieces of strawberry on top. Place back into oven for another 15 minutes or so [about 25 minutes total of baking time] until the cakes just start to pull away from the sides of the pan and spring back when lightly touched.

While waiting, make the glaze by combining the three ingredients until smooth. You can add more lemon juice if you want it a bit more sour. Drizzle over the cooled cakes and garnish with a thyme sprig.

Sorry I couldn’t save you any 🙂

– Sharlene

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes

I was going to write about how I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend (I still do hope that by the way) and tell you all about my own weekend which went by too quickly given I was on call Saturday so it mostly just felt like a normal weekend having Monday off.. except now I’m an extra day into the week when I have a bajillion things to do.. so the Monday off threw me for a loop and now my post has gone in a completely different direction.

To be honest, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. It’s the tail end of third year and I have one more major exam to round out the year. The only problem is that I haven’t been studying like I usually do. It might be the weather, it might be the produce in stores which inevitably finds its way into my kitchen to be made into something delicious (we hope), or it might just be “senioritis.” Either way, it’s not good.

Because I have to do well on this exam.

It’s not just that though. There are graduations (such as little brother who’s going to law school this fall yippee skippee), baby showers, and the casual BBQs that I always want to attend even though I probably shouldn’t. It’s all sort of just added up to the point where I’m completely underwater and struggling to stay afloat.

Friends out there, do you have days/weeks/times like this? When you just don’t see how you’re going to get everything done and you can’t figure out where to cut corners? What if you don’t want to cut corners? What if all your corners are important as in your best friend, your boyfriend, your family, and then school/your career? It feels as if I’m the piece of paper and those are my four corners and if I cut one of them, I cut off a piece of me (temporary, yes, but still). Is this all a little too heavy right now?

Well, that’s how I’m feeling.

In contrast, these cupcakes are light and fresh. They tasted, dare I say, like summer. Even better after they had been refrigerated for an hour or so before eating. This past weekend I chose my family and baked these for my brother’s going-away/Memorial Day BBQ (he’s attending a summer session that will allow him to have to take less credits in the fall). They’re a wonderful pick-me-up. I wish I still had some left over but they went quickly!

My only note is that I strongly suggest using Champagne mangoes. They’re yellow-skinned and can often be found in the Asian food markets. I find them to be much sweeter than the red/green ones I usually find at the supermarket and while you can attempt to use those, I think these really made the cupcakes. Let me know if you try them either way!

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes
cake adapted from Annie’s Eats; whipped cream a STO original

Makes 30ish regular cupcakes or 60 mini-cupcakes.

For the cake:
2 1/2 c cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c buttermilk
1/4 c oil [I used olive oil.]
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c chopped strawberries
1 c chopped Champagne mangoes (approximately 2 mangoes)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar, more to taste
1 ripe kiwi, pureed
1/2 Champagne mango, pureed

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pans with appropriate liners.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl and using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Then add the rest of the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil and vanilla) and combine.  Add flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in chopped strawberries and mangoes.  Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake accordingly: 18-22 minutes for regular sized cupcakes, 8-10 minutes for mini-cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before adding topping.

For the topping, whip the heavy cream using a hand or stand mixer on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Slowly add sugar while mixer continues and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in the kiwi and mango. Taste and add sugar if desired (this will depend on the sweetness of your fruit). Pipe or dollop onto cupcakes.

A tiny bite of freshness!

– Sharlene

Coconut Cookies

[[ Btw, Full Circle is hosting a giveaway with Betty Crocker and Safeway. Tell Kimmie I sent you and go enter! ]]

This past month has been a bit of an exploration in my kitchen. I’m on research elective right now which means I don’t have much to do [read: study/cram] when I get home from work which hasn’t been the case for quite some time. It’s been a refreshing change of pace and it’s allowed me the liberty to try new things and make old favorites without having to sacrifice one for the other. I’ve been able to take my time to do things properly, read recipes several times through before measuring out the flour, allow butter to soften as it should. It’s reaffirmed my absolute love for baking, for the edible science experiment that only needs a few minutes before I can dig in. Instead of only enjoying the outcomes, I’ve begun to enjoy the process. Finances have been a bit tight around here in preparation for a couple upcoming trips that deserve every penny I can save so while my baking has increased my spending has – dare I say it – done the opposite. I’ve dugdeep into the dark, hard-to-reach corners of my refrigerator, cabinets, and cupboards to find ingredients I can use to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’ve searched, thought about, edited, and searched again for recipes to complement my supplies.

I’ve quite enjoyed it. My current “stop and smell the roses” lifestyle has made me want to drop out of medical school and become a pastry chef. A chocolatier, perhaps. I visited close friends in the City (that’s NYC for those of you from other areas of the world and as far as I’m concerned no matter where I live it’ll always be NYC) this past weekend and took them to my favorite chocolatier and chocolate shop. I spent $30 precious dollars on my version of gold: rich and luscious ganaches, macarons, light mousses, and crunchy pralines. It was worth every penny. Boy and my friend even made purchases despite their extensive “complaints” and comments about “developing diabetes” while I dragged them across town. To me, the experience alone is worth the trip. All the little chocolates lined up perfectly in their crystal-clear glass displays, some neatly positioned in decorative boxes with crisp ribbons, larger hand-crafted chocolate pieces that can only be described as artwork. And all you have to do is ask for a taste and a piece is handed to you with the daintiest pair of tongs and a smile at the other end of them, full confidence that you’ll fall in love and walk out with a bag full of happiness in the form of chocolate. The confidence comes from the freshness and the simplicity of their recipes. Cacao, cream, and a little bit of banana puree can somehow become the thing you crave for days after the fact cursing yourself for not snatching up a tray for yourself. So many flavors. So little time. Such shallow pockets. I’ll leave the chocolate up to the experienced chocolatiers in the city. For me, I’ll nibble on the treats I picked up and be perfectly satisfied with these cookies.

There’s something to be said for simplifying life down to the basics. Beauty in flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and one or two extra ingredients for some *pop.* Joy in only washing one bowl instead of bowls on top of sieves on top of measuring cups and spoons on top of a whisk and a wooden spoon. Satisfaction in sitting down to eat a bite of heavenly goodness that you set out to make less than an hour ago, knowing there’s still plenty of daylight for other accomplishments.

That’s what these cookies are to me.

They may not be my version of gold but they’re pretty gosh darn tasty and even more delicious when I think about how little effort went into making them. I had a few strawberries in the fridge that I wanted to use up so I slipped them inside and the result was the perfect hint of extra goodness. Try it if you can. No need to send any royalties.

Coconut Cookies with Strawberries
adapted from Saveur

Makes 24.

2 c sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
4 tbsp melted butter
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
2-3 strawberries, chopped, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix everything in a bowl. Moisten hands to help with rolling. Roll 24 little balls of coconutty goodness as pretty as you want them. If adding strawberries, press single piece into the center of the cookie and gather all the smushed out cookie to reform a ball around the strawberry.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. [Mine took a little over 20.] Allow to cool and then drizzle melted chocolate or vanilla chips all over the place!

See how easy that was? No go on and use up your leftover coconut.

– Sharlene

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