Photo by Ben Rhau

One night last week, I sat at home wondering about wedding presents. It was the night before two of my friends were to be married at City Hall and I had no good ideas. The wedding was to be minimal and casual (both the bride and groom are from Germany and they are planning to have a more elaborate celebration back home later on), so good ol’ standbys like blenders and fancy plates just seemed wrong. In fact, the “reception” would just be a bunch of friends drinking at a bar, so imagine how out-of-place a gift of say, a giant silver serving platter would have been. Then suddenly, a brilliant idea!! I will bake them a cake!

Off I go, then, to search for some sort of German wedding cake recipe on the internet and that’s how I came upon Baumkuchen or to us Americans, “Tree Cake”. Apparently known as the “King of Cakes” (not to be confused with King Cake), this multi-layered cake is usually baked on this crazy, spit-like contraption that some professional bakeries have that result in a cylindrical cake with rings in it like a tree. While I might be an engineer, I’m also not about to fashion a spit in my kitchen and risk personal (and Nathan-al) injury. So thank goodness there’s a revised version where the layers are built vertically in a cake pan – even someone as clumsy as me can manage that!

This cake was so delicious and so much fun to make that I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime, for another special occasion. Except, next time, I won’t underestimate the amount of time this recipe takes and will start before 11pm. That is, unless I’m mentally prepared to stay up until 2am again.


Woo woo! Summer’s almost here!! Hello tomatoes! Hello berries and cherries! Hello assorted melons!

I have four trips planned this summer, three of which will be in May and June. First up is Brian and Michelle’s wedding in Banff. Then, a still-tentative trip to Asia to help the organizers of a conference promote said conference at the end of May and start of June. Right after I get back, I immediately head to Wyoming to visit (and meet) a bunch of Nathan’s relatives. Then finally, in August, a trip to Boston for Elio and Anne’s wedding. So if I go MIA for long periods this summer, you’ll know why.

But don’t worry, whenever I’m home, I’ll still be busying myself in the kitchen with various projects. Granted, it may be mainly simple projects for a while, like this super-easy TripleO (get it??) cake. Olive oil in a cake?? I know! I didn’t believe in it either until I tried it, but the resulting cake is amazingly moist and delicious. Plus, then you can also brag about how this cake may actually be good for you! Heh.


Citrus Tart

Part 2 of the saga that is the Sourdough Starter is forthcoming, I promise. But having just gotten back from a weekend of camping beneath redwoods and barrel tasting at wineries in Russian River Valley — I know, what a tough life I lead — I will instead tell you about one of my favorite dessert recipes. Besides, you probably need a break from looking at pictures with jars of foamy liquids anyway, no?

The combination of oranges and lemons in this tart makes it sweeter and less intensely acidic than a pure lemon tart (which I also love) and also gives the tart a pretty orange-y glow. Just make sure not to overcook the tart – it should still be quite jiggly in the middle when you take it out of the oven, since it’ll continue setting as it cools. The first couple of times I made this, I kept thinking it’s not done and ended up with a tart with a cracked top and dense overcooked filling. It wasn’t awful and we certainly gobbled it all up still, but if you’re a little more careful, you’ll be rewarded with a soft, custard-like filling that is much, much better.

ps: Check it out! I joined a Foodie Blogroll!



Happy holidays, everyone!

For me, the holiday season is all about OD-ing on baking. There’s really nothing like the smell of goodies baking in the oven to make your house feel Christmas-y.

Lucky for us, this holiday season is also about serious cleaning, since there are little dust bunnies hanging out in the corners of the rooms. Thus I’ll get straight to the point (so Nathan doesn’t end up cleaning the whole house before I get off the computer) and give you the recipe for a festive, yet super-easy, German apple and cranberry cake. Because it’s German, you can sound all snooty and call it a kuchen, if you wish. Sadly, there is no umlaut over that ‘u’.

This recipe is adapted from the one on Amatuer Gourmet, which itself was taken from the French Laundry cookbook. Coincidentally, if you want the bragging rights for actually cooking something out of that crazy book, this is probably one of your best options.