Pear and Citrus Cake

My fondest memories of my mother involve her feeding me, which I guess is normal. I can still visualize my mother cutting pears into segments over a bowl, endearingly slurping them, and passing the bowl to her children. Those were Nashi pears – they’re the crisp, fresh Asian pears that are more akin to apples. I always preferred the buttery, rich william and conference pears as a child, which were a rare and extortionate treat in China back in the days.
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Savory Carrot Cake

I had consecutively experimented with different diets at one point. Not for weight loss purposes but rather to challenge myself as a cook. Adopting a vegan diet taught me to use miso, nutritional yeast and tahini to really boost the flavors of otherwise bland ingredients. My gluten-free diet led me to explore alternative grains. The paleo diet was too expensive for me to sustain as a student for more than a few days. And the raw diet turned me into a horrible human being.
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Hazelnut & Cherry Loaf

Nutella is fascinatingly one of the most successful brands in the world. It’s so universal that it has been the happy part of the childhoods of people from all angles of the world (or at least in the West). It is so universal that the brand is responsible for forming the association between hazelnut and chocolate. That’s my theory, at least. People say hazelnuts are reminiscent of chocolate, that when roasted, contain deep notes of cocoa. I say bullsh*t. You’re used to the two being together because of Nutella. When you have roasted hazelnuts on its own, you think it’s missing something – its long term partner chocolate.
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White Chocolate & Cardamom Mousse Cake

Urgh. I’ve been on an energy-sapping holiday in Italy. The combination of the scorching sun and unlimited food is putting me in a constant state of lethargy. Everything’s so much effort: stairs, cooking, even lifting fingers to type. Maybe my muscles are finding it difficult to move around the fat that have recently surrounded them… So here’s an old recipe back from culinary school.
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Rosemary, Tahini & Honey Cake

Rosemary belongs in sweet settings just as it does with roasted veg and bold meats. I tell you where rosemary doesn’t belong — it’s water. I once went to this “plant-based”, “healthy” (and overpriced) cafe that tried to be clever and instead of serving water out of jugs with lemons, mint or even cucumber — it’s sitting there with rosemary. Rosemary-infused water is not nice, there’s a reason why it’s not a thing. I don’t like these cafes. I don’t like that they try to be clever with their waters. I don’t like that they use their vegan “milks” to justify £4 cappuccinos. I don’t like that they serve me “bowl food” filled with grains and vegetables that’s essentially my go-to 15-minute cheap lazy weeknight meal  and they serve it to me like some revolutionary diet-friendly food with a hefty price tag.

And I don’t like their stodgy gluten-free and vegan cakes. No. I like my butter-and-egg-rich fluffy and moist wheat flour cakes like this one.
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Chestnut Almond Cake (Torta Pisticcina)

This recipe left me dumbfounded.  You literally just mix everything in a bowl with a spatula.  No careful separation of eggs, no patient creaming of butter, no cumbersome whisking till stiff peaks – you put a handful of ingredients into a bowl, stir, pour into a lined cake tin and bake in a preheated oven.  I was dubious of the outcome, but the cake was dense, moist, earthy and all the positive adjectives you can associate a dessert with.
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Orange Marmalade Cake

I loved buffets as a child, and hotel buffets were once quite affordable in fancy hotels in Beijing – this was at least a decade ago, as now they’re over 50 pounds per person for mediocre food.  Back in the days  it was something we often did as a family.  Some families go camping, some go hiking, some play card games together, but our family just went out to eat buffets.  Now we go out and eat in nice restaurants.   This is all leading up to the story where my dad stole jam for his darling daughter.
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Chocolate Almond Cake (Torta Caprese)

Food neophobia is defined as the relucatance to try or the avoidance of new foods.  We all know at least one obnoxious person in our friendship group that’s like that.  I was food neophobic as a child.  It’s quite different from being a fussy eater because it’s not like I didn’t like many things, I just stuck to my favorites and never ventured out to trying anything remotely exotic.  Pizzas were always margherita, pastas were always the plain tomato sauce, and ice cream was always chocolate.  I did also go for vanilla and hazelnut at times but it was always in conjunction with chocolate ice cream.  I remember once being at my parents’ friends house in Italy, and the hosts’ daughter, along with my sister and I, were asked to go buy a few tubs of ice cream for everyone to share at the end of the meal.  On our way over to the shop the girl talked about how she loved melon flavored ice cream so we should definitely go for that.  Melon and also lemon, oh she loved her f*cking lemon ice cream.  I was shy and nervous, but my sister, understanding the situation,tried to suggest chocolate or hazelnut or vanilla as the last flavour but then the b*tch just said “let’s just go for all fruit flavors”.
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Rustic Apple Cake

img_9562It’s not the first time I cried over cake.  Things go wrong in the kitchen – an oven you’re not used to, a scale that’s out of battery, ingredients that go off, and you’re not attentive and you misread, you mismeasure, you misunderstand it all – and you fail.  Now, it’s not that you’ve made a cake that’s a bit flat, that tastes a bit bland or looks a bit odd, because you’re more than disappointed.  Maybe it’s the end of a long already-bad day.  Or maybe it’s a surprising end to an exceptionally good day.  Either way it all goes tumbling down and you’re overwhelmed with the sense of worthlessness and incompetency because you can’t even make a simple apple cake.  Continue reading “Rustic Apple Cake”