Funfetti Birthday Cake

10 Feb

IMG_4625I was a big fan of the East Village Momofuku Milk Bar. The infamous crack pie, the cereal milk, the chocolate malt cake and my favorite, the compost cookie. And then there was the birthday cake that I always yearned to try, but sadly that time never came around. I was a customer long after the no-cake-by-slice rule was imposed by Chang. It was painful to watch it, tall, beautiful and fun; plus I’m a devotee for rainbow sprinkles.

My birthday approached and as I searched for the treat-to-myself recipe, the light bulb went on and I thought of Momofuku’s birthday cake. I searched for Tosi’s recipe online but they all seemed quite tedious. They called for grapeseed oil, citric acid and clear vanilla extract, things that can be quite trivial to find in Costa Rica.

The recipe included four different steps: the cake, the soak, the frosting and the cake crumb. Too many steps and ingredients I didn’t have the time to look for. And so I decided to create my own funfetti birthday cake. Much simpler and still damn beautiful. Can’t tell if it was much better…but I still doubt it was.

It went simple. I adapted a birthday vanilla cake recipe, incorporated rainbow sprinkles, went for 3 layers (instead of 5), discarded the soak and swapped some ingredients for the crumb.

IMG_4636Funfetti Birthday Cake

1 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
3 cups of flour
4 eggs
1 cup of milk
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 ½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of almond extract
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of rainbow sprinkles
1 cup of dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Shift the flour, eggs, salt and baking powder. In an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar at medium speed for 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and the almond extract. Add the eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Scrape the bowl. Add the milk alternating with the dry ingredients. Add the ¼ cup of rainbow sprinkles until just combined. Pour the cake mix in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of rainbow sprinkles.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.

Cake crumb:
Leftover cake crumbs
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
¼ cup sliced almonds

Prepare baking sheet with Silpat and lower oven temperature to 300°F. After cutting the cake there will be some leftover cake. Crumble and toss it in the baking sheet along with the sugars, the salt, the oil, and the almonds. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly golden and crunchy.

Cut the cake using a round mold that fits three times in the baking sheet. This way you will end with a three-layer cake. Place the first layer on a piece of cardboard. Spread an even layer of dulce de leche on the cake. Top with the second cake round and repeat the dulce de leche layer. Nestle the last layer of cake round and spread the remaining dulce de leche. Top with the cake crumbs.

Note. Sometime I heat the dulce de leche in the microwave for 10 seconds intervals. Once it is slightly melted it is easier to spread on the cake.


Chia Seed Granola

11 Nov

photo 1Another take on granola, this time chia seeds being the star ingredient. I had read about these magical seeds longago,, but never really approached them. Until finally, I was developing a piece on superfoods that urged me to grab a bag of these at the supermarket.

Chia seeds are tiny brownish greyish seeds that come from the mint plant family. When mixed with water the seeds swell, creating a gel-like substance composed of fiber, which aids in digestion and helps regulate insulin.

Chia seeds are also a great source of omega-3, antioxidants, protein, calcium, manganese and phosphorous. What’s so charming about this small seeds it’s its high concentration of nutrients and other important elements for your body. All these, in just a couple of tablespoons.

Incorporate them into your diet; whether you sprinkle them on your smoothies, salads, or other daily meals−the seeds are virtually tasteless and nutrient-packed. More so, try this delicious granola and eat it with yogurt, milk, or as a snack. You’ll notice the difference in your digestive system.

Chia Seed Granola
Adapted from

1 ½ cup oats
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup silvered almonds
¼ cup cranberries
¼ cup shaved coconut
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sunflower seeds, roasted
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour prepared granola into baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through. Remove from oven and let cool before storing in airtight container.

Cream cheese & cherry jam braided bread

4 Nov

IMG_3913I’m not a fan of cinnamon rolls, Danishes, or donuts. I’m not an enthusiast for croissants, pain au chocolatepalmiers, or turnovers either. To be honest, puff pastry and sweet yeast breads are not my thing. Though, I do eat them on a “now and then” basis.

I didn’t eat bread during my childhood, I just didn´t like it. Sometimes I think I might have a mutated gene in my body that rejects yeasty things. For this reason or another, these foods are not things I suddenly crave or dream about.

This fact doesn´t stop me from baking these. I find great pleasure kneading bread, watching it grow, proofing and baking. The smell of freshly baked bread is so intoxicating, there´s no reason in this world a human being  would dislike it.

For several days I had Pastry Affair blog open under the Blueberry Braided Bread From Emma Of Poires Au Chocolat post. I came across it one night I was blogging; I wanted to braid bead, a first thing for me. And so I merged the recipe with Deb Perelman´s recipe and baked this beauty. My entire kitchen smelled like donuts were being produced in my kitchen by the minute (Deb’s note, but it actually does smell like it).

IMG_3901The outcome was a soft, spongy sweet bread, lightly golden on the top with an oozing cherry jam, cream cheese filling. I ate a small piece once it rested for 10 minutes after I pulled it out of the oven. It was warm and it disintegrated in my mouth, it was…pretty darn good. Though, don’t take my word, this comes from a non-sweet-yeast-bread lover.

IMG_3903Cream cheese & cherry jam braided bread
Adapted from’s Braided Lemon Bread

For sponge:
6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 package (¼ oz.) active dry yeast
¼ cup all-purpose flour

For bread:
7 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

For filling:
½ cup cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cherry jam

In a small bowl combine water, sugar, yeast and flour. Give it a quick mix and cover with plastic. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes until yeast is bubbly and alive.

In a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, combine sponge, sour cream, butter, 1 egg, sugar, salt, vanilla and flour. Mix at medium-high speed until soft dough forms, about 6 minutes. Remove from bowl and knead in a lightly floured surface for 3 minutes until smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rise for 2 hours.

For the filling, combine all ingredients, except the jam, until smooth.

Gently deflate the dough. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Transfer dough to parchment paper (or silicon mat) and roll into a rectangle. With hands, mark very lightly three even columns. In the middle column spread the cream cheese filling followed by the cherry jam, leaving 2-inches free in the top and bottom of the dough. Cut 1-inch strips on both side columns, removing the four corner segments. Braid the bread by folding the strips down over the filling, alternating strips. Cover braided bread loosely with plastic and let rise from 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375ᵒF. Whisk leftover egg and use egg wash to brush all over the braided bread. Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Baked Alaska It Is

3 Oct

IMG_3181Another cross-off my to-do baking list, this time it was Baked Alaska! From a young age I’ve been curious about it, seeing it in magazines and TV and wondering how the hell it stayed put. The idea of making a cake with layers of ice cream, topped with burned meringue, served astonishingly beautifully, and looking incredibly yummy just seemed impossible.

The turning point happened last May on a trip to DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York. Of course, we were extremely full when it came to dessert; we’ve eaten way too much: calamari, charcuterie, chicken, spaghetti and the DBGB dog. Yet somehow we managed to squeeze-in dessert, mind me, it was the Baked Alaska for two. I think the waitress thought we were 3 cynical ladies, all slim yet ginormous stomachs. Check out a video of the flambé Baked Alaska at DBGB here: link.

It was a masterpiece. A thick and magnificent cake layered with pistachio and vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sorbet, flambéed in front our eyes with kirsch liquor. It was delicious and most of all, a work of art. That was it, I had to give it a try.

This laborious 3-day cake baking process (1. Bake the cake, 2. Assemble the cake. 3. Eat the cake) merited a special occasion and so when my brother’s going away dinner came along, the time was due. It wasn’t awfully difficult, just time-consuming. A huge satisfying feeling once you see everyone’s faces glow with the flames, and everyone awes when you slice to discover a 2-layer ice cream cake inside.

Baked Alaska
Adapted from

4 eggs
½ cup refined sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
½ pint strawberry ice cream
½ pint chocolate ice cream
5 large egg whites, room temperature
¾ cup refined sugar
¼ cup brandy

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325ᵒF. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper. In a large heatproof bowl mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla. In a saucepan, simmer water over medium to low heat. Place bowl over saucepan with simmering water and whisk quickly until mixture is warm, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan and using electric mixer, beat until thick ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 5 to 8 minutes. Gently fold in flour, followed by the melted butter just to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool.

To prep cake:
Line a 10-inch diameter bowl with plastic wrap. Spread strawberry ice cream in an even layer, followed by the chocolate ice cream. Place cake atop chocolate ice cream layer and press firmly. Cover with plastic and chill overnight.

For meringue:
Using electric mixer beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a few spoonfuls at a time until fully incorporated and meringue is glossy and stiff.

To assemble:
Slowly remove cake from bowl and invert into a plate. Remove plastic. Working quickly, assemble the meringue over the cake using a spatula to cover completely. Freeze for about 30 minutes. Before serving, remove from fridge and burn meringue peaks using a blow torch.

To serve:
Slowly pour brandy in the center of the cake, allowing it to drip to the sides. Being very careful, lit the top of the cake where the brandy pools and see it flambé beautifully.

BBQing Chicken Wings

8 Sep

IMG_3421I can’t decide whose my favorite New York Times recipe writer, Melissa Clark or Mark Bittman.

Melissa is calm, loving, and makes everything seem ridiculously easy. Mark is funny, smart, and charismatic. I like them both in their own way and cannot come to judge whose best. When it boils down to recipe-wise, both of them are always winners too.  I call it a truce.

The one thing I know is that I reach for Melissa when it comes to sweets and I tend to lean more on Mark for savory foods, like I did this time.

The Key to a Truly Great Chicken Wing” caught my attention because of the no-fry method to cooking chicken wings. Never would have thought of taking these guys to the grill…

BBQing chicken wings may seem like a process that takes less work than frying, but it doesn’t. You have to keep a good eye to prevent them from browning a little too much. You also have to constantly brush them with the marinade in order to develop deeper flavors.

The wings were incredibly yummy and perfect for a BBQ day, when you have friends over.  They were juicy and flavorful with the nice burn taste from the grill. It’s a delicious unconventional way of cooking chicken wings.

IMG_3420Teriyaki Chicken Wings
Adapted from New York Times (

3 pounds chicken wings
¾  cup soy sauce
¾ cup mirin (sweet sake or rice wine)
½ cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
vegetable oil

Preheat grill.

Put wings under running water and clean. Pat dry.

Toss wings in a bowl with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.

Place wings on grill and let cook until fat has been rendered and chicken is cooked through, turning once or twice during cook time, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make marinade. In a saucepan mix soy sauce, mirin, teriyaki sauce, garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove wings from grill and toss to coat in marinade.

Put wings on hot part of the grill and cook, turning once or twice until nicely browned. Brush with marinade while they brown.

Morning Ritual Granola

4 Sep

madewithover 2I have several food rituals. Eating yogurt with granola every morning is one of them. At 8:00am sharp.

I need my yogurt and granola to make it through the workday. It’s delicious, filling, and an easy meal. It’s actually one of those foods that keeps me full and un-hungry for long periods of time. Oh, and I enjoy it best when it’s my homemade granola.

This is a granola recipe I discovered a few years ago and then retook a few days back. I had forgotten how good it was! My batch usually only lasts a week because I tend to pick at it very often.

To this recipe you can swap the pecans for walnuts and/or add another nut variety such as almonds or pistachios. You can also substitute the craisins for raisins and add other toppings such as shaved coconut and chocolate chips.

The next step to take this ritual to a whole new level is making my own yogurt from scratch. However, I need to buy a yogurt maker first. Birthday gift, anyone?

IMG_3149Morning Ritual Granola
Adapted from 

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)

 Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, mix oats, pecans, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. In a microwave-safe bowl mix honey and vegetable oil. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and heat on full power in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour warm honey mixture over oats mixture and toss. Spread on baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 40 minutes, stirring oats every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Mix in cranberries. Store in an airtight container.

Fresh Beet Pasta

17 Aug

Follow this link to see the video:


thinned pasta sheets lying in kitchen countertop

Making pasta from scratch is probably one of my favorite things. Not only is the taste of homemade pasta an invincible thing, but also the feel and smell of making it fresh brings to my mind such happy memories of my childhood.

Married to a loving yet stubborn Italian (like a good Calabrese), my grandmother wished to satisfy my grandfather in every single thing. One of the things that gave her confidence and tremendous joy was cooking and baking his favorite Italian dishes. Over the years, my grandmother became a skillful cook of all-things Italian. Neighbors, friends, and family chattered about her exquisite vittello, almost perfect ravioli con ricotta e spinaci, and her delicious fruit studded panforte. I certainly inherited my passion for food from her, yet I wished she passed along patience as well…

With some free time and a big kitchen surface area I went for pasta making. Though I’m the number one beet enemy, the intense purple color of beet pasta always called my attention. And in my defense, the beet flavor of this recipe was very subtle. I did it more for the beautiful contrast, yet I will redo for the taste. See pasta making video following this link (

I served the pasta with a light three-cheese sauce. A creamy cheesy sauce that dressed the sweet beet flavor beautifully.  Butter, sage and shaved pecorino would pair nicely as well.  

Beet Pasta
Adapted from

For roasted beets:
2 medium beets, peeled
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat beets with olive oil and salt. Warp in aluminum foil and bake until tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove and puree in food processor.

Fresh pasta:
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup beet puree

In a large surface, pour the flour into a pile. Make a well and crack the eggs and add beet puree. With a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the well. Keep pushing the flour in, until the dough comes together.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until elastic and smooth, dusting your surface with flour if necessary.

Cut dough into 8 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, flatten dough and dust lightly with flour. Slowly feed through the pasta machine, starting with the machine’s widest setting. Repeat 3 to 4 times through the same setting until dough is smooth and elastic. Turn the dial to the next narrow setting and feed once or twice. Continue to feed dough (one or two times maximum) through the different setting until you’ve reached desired thickness.

For fettuccini, use pasta cutter attachment for pasta machine. Feed the pasta into the machine. Dust with semolina flour and drape over suspended rolling pin to dry.

When ready to use boil for about 5 minutes and serve with sauce of choice.

-       When forming the dough, the process will look messy but it will eventually come together.
-       Don’t feel tempted to incorporate more flour into the dough since it will dry the pasta.
-       Before starting to use the pasta machine, make sure it is clamped firmly to surface.
-       I suspended a broomstick to drape the pasta instead of a rolling pin, which works exactly the same.
-       Once pasta is dry you can store in a container in the fridge.


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