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Zesty Almond Poppy Seed Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I can’t believe my Tita (Grandma) is 91! She is a pie master and cook extraordinaire. And, she also helped me create my first cookie business when I was about 9 years old. Tita Flory had this adorable little store called Rainbow, which sold smock dresses, baptism baby gowns, first communion dresses and even hand sewn wedding gowns. I had the pleasure of being awesomely dressed with her creations since I was a baby. Here is a picture of a very excited Kitty with her Hello Kitty Piñata. Rocking a smock dress made by grandma.

Kitty

Back in 1989, she opened this little store in zone 10, and since I was enjoying my end of year vacations, I offered to help her out. Mostly sorting hangers, greeting customers and rearranging dresses. Since there was nothing near by to snack on, I thought that would be a great business idea to sell cookies door to door to the sale clerks around my grandma’s store. She said she would help me if I could get the ingredients for her. Called my dad and  I presented my business idea: selling cookies at $1.25 for a bag of 10. I had no idea how the priced worked out with the costs, but dad agreed. Ingredients, check. Kitchen and assistance with the oven, check. Plastic bags (provided by grandma), check.

The next day I went out around the store offering cookie bags. It was a success. We sold out on the first day, and for the next few days I was a busy 9-year-old: I would work (more like hang out) at the store, went to sell the cookies at around 10AM,  and in the afternoons I’d bake. Later on, I’d pay back my dad (in cookies, of course) and ended up having some little money saved up for the holidays. Grandma Flory gave me my first entrepreneur adventure. Not that I did it perfectly (never paid the investors), but in my 9 year old mind, it was the most profitable business ever.

So, about a month ago, when I asked her what cake did she want for her birthday she said “A cake with orange and poppy seeds”. That was all I needed to know, so I went on a search for the best cake I could find. A week before her birthday, I already had it narrowed down to 3 recipes. Then, that Monday, an email came from Corinne Regalos. My KitchenAid was here!

I ordered my KitchenAid mixer a few months back for my birthday in April, but since it was a special order (a beautiful Aqua Sky KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer), they had to bring it in for me, meaning I’d have to be very patient and wait 3 months for it to get here. The wait was all worth it, and what better way to break it in than with Tita’s birthday cake. I went to get the mixer, but as I had a couple of meetings lined up, it wasn’t until her birthday that I was able to use it.

I decided on using Martha Stewart’s Orange Almond Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream – on her video, she says that this cake can easily be doubled for a wedding cake, so it gave me a very good idea on the flavor it would be. Since I didn’t have orange zest, I replaced it with lime zest, made my own cake flour (see the note at the end of the recipe), and added poppy seeds after the birthday girl’s request. Don’t let the numerous steps scare you. It is an easy cake to make, and I was able to bake it at 10AM, decorated by 4PM and served at 6PM that same day (with a 45 minute drive in between).  I specially love the Swiss Meringue Buttercream as it doesn’t crystalize, making it so much easier and faster to whip the recipe.  The cake was perfect. it was not overly sweet nor heavy, but still had the almond taste you get from wedding cakes. The cake was a success after seeing it fly off the dinning room table… and the most important thing: grandma loved it.

¡Felíz Cumpleaños Tita!

Kitty

Zesty Almond Poppy Seed Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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Whole-Wheat Brownies

I didn’t think I’d get away with these Whole-Wheat Brownies but I totally did. Both my dad and my brother are huge chocolate fans, and they love simple desserts. Every time I bake cupcakes or a cake that have something else other than your usual ingredients, they raise a brow. These brownies not only have Whole Wheat Flour in them, but also have Apple Sauce. I honestly thought it was going to be a big flop with those two.

Thankfully, they passed the test. These brownies came out a bit cakey on day one for my taste, but the next day they took a turn for the best. They are chewy and delicious… but they do not have the crunchy top that you would usually see on brownies. That’s what my dad missed from the old brownie recipe. But, all around, they didn’t even notice the whole wheat flour, and much less the apple sauce. That, in my book, is a win!

Kitty

Whole Wheat Brownies

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Homemade Almond Milk

Have you tried Almond Milk?  I’ve tried both the homemade and the store bought version.  The difference I find between the two is that the store bought version seems thicker (thanks to the added xantan and /or gellan gum you’ll find in the ingredients), but there definitely is a cost benefit to making it yourself.  Of course, who the heck has the time to make it regularly, right?

Homemade almond milk is really easy to make though, so if you can find some time, on a Sunday perhaps… you should definitely try making it.  Just soak almonds in boiling water inside the blender for a while, then add more water and blend. That’s it!

The time consuming part comes with the straining.  You need to strain it to separate the solids left over from the blending process.  Actually, I had to strain it twice because I only had a fine sieve to do it.  I’m sure if I had some cheesecloth, or maybe a new and clean tea towel I could use for this purpose, it would have been easier.   I did find it a bit too watery, though.  I used a 1 cup almonds to 4 cups water ratio.   Maybe next time I’ll add another 1/2 cup of almonds to make it a bit “creamier”.

Mixed Berries Upside-Down Cake

My little sister just became a Doctor!  Talk about a milestone!

Mixed Berry Upside Down Cake

To celebrate, most of the family got together for a grilling afternoon, which was a lot of fun. I wanted to make a dessert for her, but knowing we were going to be having grilled steaks,I didn’t want a heavy dessert. I didn’t want anything too sweet, either. When I think about grilling, berries or ice cream come to mind as good alternatives and upside-down cakes always look pretty.

I had no problems with this recipe, and I was able to carry it to my brother’s house without a hassle.

Don’t forget the whipped cream! The tartness of the berries with the sweetness of the whipped cream make this a real treat, especially if you drink a good cup of coffee with it.

Congratulations on your achievement, Petra. We’re proud of you!

XOXO

Helga

Mixed Berry Upside Down Cake

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