Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears and Vanilla Crème Fraîche
March 24, 2011, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Desserts, Fruit | Tags: , , , , ,

Philadelphia is a very underrated city.  This assumption is not based solely on my opinion, but also on the opinion of Time & Leisure Magazine.  Time & Leisure named Philadelphia one of the 25 most underrated cities in the world.  I realize that I share many of these highly non-scientific polls in my blog, but I totally agree with this one.  As the fifth largest city in the U.S. we have so much to offer.  We have a big city atmosphere without that big city overwhelming feel, plenty of amazing restaurants (including Vetri, which is a finalist for the James Beard Award for best restaurant in the nation), plenty of history, art, music and theater, the largest municipal park in the country in Fairmount Park, fantastic sports teams, some say the greatest density of places of higher education than anywhere else and plenty of ways to stay active and healthy outdoors such as running, biking or rowing along the 215 miles of trails or 34 miles of waterway.  Even though Philadelphia is great now, it’s only going to get better.  Philadelphia’s mayor has a green initiative to increase the amount of green throughout the city thereby attempting to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the country, the addition of more running and walking trails and to turn an old pier to a new park along the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge.  Furthermore, as you walk around the outskirts of Center City it is clearly evident that the lesser appealing neighborhoods and rowhomes are improving. So truly, to many of those who are not aware of what Philadelphia has to offer, our city may seem ugly and boring, but really it’s one of the best places to live in the East.

Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears and Vanilla Crème Fraîche (from Food & Wine Magazine)

This post is from Food & Wine Magazine which you may remember is a result of my cousin’s magazine drive.  I chose this recipe for this post because of how the author describes the pears: “We get these crazy organic pears that are ugly as sin.  Peeling them, though, reveals a fruit so beautiful and juicy…”  However corny this may be, I relate this description to the impression that many people outside Philadelphia have of our city and it’s reality which is very briefly highlighted in Time & Leisure Magazine.

I would recommend a couple of things: make everthing a day ahead of your intended serving date.  It doesn’t take long to make, but it is fairly labor-intensive.  Store the pears and crème fraîche in the refrigerator.  However, allow the pears to return to room temperature before serving.  Lastly, don’t make your own crème fraîche.  It involves leaving cream, etc at room temperature for over a day.  I attempted it but feared that I was going to get my guests sick so I ended up buying some from Whole Foods and then adding the confectioners sugar and vanilla bean.


Clementine Cake
November 14, 2010, 8:15 pm
Filed under: Cakes, Desserts | Tags: , , , , ,

One of my graduate school roommates and friends, Alex Gutweiler, has one of the greatest dogs I have ever met.  Finn, a 5-year-old Border Collie, is an incredibly smart dog and is completely obsessed with playing with a ball or a frisbee.  She always caught the ball or frisbee in spectacular fashion.  Living with Finn, I had the opportunity to get to know Finn as well as play or go on runs with her.  When Alex and Finn moved to Washington D.C., I was sad to see both of them go.  At that point I knew that I had to find a dog similar to Finn.

In mid-January 2009 I found my dog, a Border Collie mix at a shelter in mid-Iowa.  A couple of days later I got in my car and drove five hours in the cold, snowy weather from Columbia to what seemed like middle-of-nowhere, USA to the shelter where I was introduced to Clementine.  Clementine and her 6 brothers and sisters were quite the bunch.  Clementine was no bigger than a football and was by far the sweetest, and shyest, puppy at the shelter.  She was perfect.  Our first night together I couldn’t sleep.  I watched her explore her new home and eat the puppy food that we brought home from the shelter.  During our initial walks together at the park, Clementine, the shy yet curious dog that many have now come to know, kept her distance behind me. Time quickly passed and distance rapidly shortened and soon we were walking, running and playing together.

In August, when we moved to Philadelphia, I was nervous she would not like the change from small town Missouri to the “big city” life.  I could not have been more wrong.  Clementine loved the smells of the city as well as our walks around Rittenhouse Square, our daily runs along the Schuylkill River trail, our trips to the local dog parks and of course playing with her best friend Juno, my neighbor’s Australian Shepherd.  Furthermore, it was in Philly that she found interest in squirrels and a taste for the dried geese poop found along the river trail.

I was so lucky to find Clementine.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing how excited she gets when I get home each day.   When we go on our daily two, six, eight and sometimes ten mile runs I no longer listen to music.  Having her with me is just as good, and sometimes even better, than having a running partner.  It is amusing to read the articles in the paper that estimate how much a dog costs an owner each year.  I’ll admit that between the medicine, food, treats and occasional toy it is quite expensive, but the sacrifices I’ve had to make have been totally worthwhile.  Having Clementine is a reason to spend endless amounts of time outside, getting plenty of exercise, and having someone to keep you company on the most miserable of days.  For these reasons and countless others, I think everyone should have a dog and furthermore, I think most should go to a shelter and adopt.  There are so many dogs just like Clementine that need a home.  This post is dedicated to Clementine, not only because she is one of the greatest dogs but also because she is now two years old.  Happy Birthday Clementine!!!


Clementine Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)

Like my fantastic dog Clementine, this cake is a sweet, yet shy.  The ingredient list, consisting of only five clementines, almonds, eggs and a little sugar, does not appear to draw an attention-getting bark, but the aroma and taste of this moist cake is unforgettable.  Despite the short list of ingredients this cake does require a lot of attention.  You have to maintain an adequate water level while the clementines boil for two hours.  Handling the hot clementines is as much fun as cleaning up after a dog after she makes a mess, but the simplicity of the remainder of the recipe in addition to the wonderful smell and taste of this moist cake make it all worthwhile.

After preparing all the ingredients and adding it to the 8-inch springform pan, bake it in the oven for 45-50 minutes at 325 degrees.  Let it cool completely (I let it cool overnight) and then ice the cake with a simple powdered sugar glaze (1 tablespoon butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons milk, 1/8 teaspoon salt) by allowing it to drizzle off a spoon and on to the cake.

This recipe produces a very delicious but also a very moist cake.  Feel free to allow it to bake longer, but don’t be fooled by the amount of moisture in the cake.  It is not a by-product of inadequate baking time, but rather do to the amount of oil found in the peels of the clementines as well as in the almonds.  After you make this Clementine Cake in your kitchen and right before you eat it, make sure you think of the sweetest dog in the world, Clementine, and wish her a happy birthday!

14-Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Berries
September 7, 2010, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Cakes, Desserts | Tags: , ,

When I was in graduate school people would often ask me what I study.  I would proudly tell them that I study obesity and type 2 diabetes and how both relate to physical inactivity.  Typically, I would receive the same response from people: “Oh that’s wonderful and so important.  If you ever need a subject to study you can study me.”  In reality, two out of three people are probably correct when they say “you can study me.”  Did you know that 66% of the United States is overweight or obese?  Or that poor- or over-nutrition and physical inactivity are two huge contributing factors to this epidemic?  Sorry, we can’t blame our genetics on everything.  I mention this because I feel like I’m partly to blame.  My favorite foods to make are desserts and I share these things with as many people as I can – coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family.  I don’t just share them with those in Philly, but with those all over the place such as NYC, LA, Port Hueneme, CA, Akron, OH, and Columbus, OH.  So naturally, my very first true post is an obesity- and diabetes-inducing dessert.

14-Layer Cake (Adapted from Bakerella and Oprah)

Now would be a good time to note that the large majority of things that I make I find on other blogs.  I will always give credit to the original, but think of my posts as weeding out the best (both spectacular looking and tasting) recipes that I come across.

Using aluminum foil pans was one of the greatest ideas of this recipe.  Instead of dragging out the baking process all day, buying (and reusing) these pans saved time and money.  They were greased with butter and lined with parchment paper.  The cake layers were cooked 3 at a time at 350 degrees for ~12 minutes.  They come out of the oven looking like pancakes.

The glaze for the layers was very simple and consisted of cocoa, evaporated milk, butter, and sugar.  After preparing the glaze, it was as simple as alternating layers of cake with several tablespoons of the chocolate glaze. This was a very messy process and suggest having a wire rack and pan to catch the deliciously oozing warm chocolate glaze.  As you your cake gets more and more impressive (i.e. taller) keep an eye out for runaway cake layer because once the glaze solidifies there is no moving the cake. Continue to layer with all 14 cakes and spread the remaining chocolate on the top and sides.

The dried cake should look something like this:

While the glaze is drying, prepare the chocolate buttercream frosting.  I made a milk chocolate frosting, but in hindsight I wish I would have made a dark chocolate frosting like is shown on Bakerella.  I think the rich taste of dark chocolate is so much better than milk chocolate.  Regardless, the frosting tastes incredible!  Spread the frosting all over the cake and give it a very smooth and professional  look.  Garnish with fruit and serve.