Zebra Bundt Cake & Real Talk

This beautiful morning marks the first day of scarf, jacket, and beanie weather here in Northern VA. The air has the chilly bite of winter right around the edges and you can't help but get all jazzed up at the thought of snow. It's coming people! Woo! Enjoy it with this moist, super decadent Zebra Bundt cake and a mug of hot cocoa!


I wanted to take a moment for some "real talk." Over the past week, two people whom I didn't personally know passed away. One was a chef at my colleague's daughter's elementary school; the other was one of my mother's cousins that I had never met. This type of thing is always sobering no matter the relation.

The design of life is frustrating. You appear in this world without a say- family, country, socioeconomic status, gender, appearance, health- they're already there when you take your first breath. You stumble along trying to make the right decisions with the end goal of being Someone. There's so much subtext. Between the love, loss, and learning- you realize what you can control is minimal. That can be alarming or freeing.

I took it as alarming. As result, I used to drop a lot of questions on my poor husband. He has a solid foundation and a sense of positivity that is magnetic. I like to joke that my mind is like a balloon filled with inquiries and imagination and he's holding the string so it doesn't float away. He always listens patiently and offers his perspective. One day, in response to a space-tastic question, he put his foot down : "why do you ask questions no one can answer?"

That was the most honest, not-an-answer I'd ever heard.

People have been searching for the rhyme and reason for hundreds of years with, at best, subjective results. There is little definitive. Raging at a design that one has minimal control over is futile; you'll get caught in an axle of anxiety and frustration. So what can you do?

Love. Love hard. Find a hobby, a passion, a cause. That's not to say throw yourself into reckless abandonment and distractions. Explore what brings you joy and build from there. Give back- make somebody's day even if it's for a few minutes.

I love my husband, family, and friends; my energy is poured into relationships and interests. This blog, for example, is an extension of my passion for creating. You can't control everything but you can choose who and what you love. It's a powerful choice that's not to be taken lightly. Surround yourself in positivity and take it one day at a time.

Thank you for letting me share.
For the recipe, check out the Zebra Bundt Cake post on a Baker's Royale!

Almond Zimttorte with Honey and Figs

Continuing with the trend of cakes that make my husband tilt his head to the side is this Almond Zimttorte with Honey and Figs. As I mentioned in my last post, he is not a fan of some of my family's innate cravings which includes figs. He jokingly refers to them as "alien fruit" because of their vibrant interior. 

That's okay- more for us!

This cake was made for my wonderful mother as a going-away/"I-know-how-much-you-hate-flying" treat. She and her sister spent two weeks in Portugal trying to make sense of a pile of paperwork. Up in the Northern mountains, their childhood home now sits quietly collecting dust. It has been nothing short of a headache trying to make arrangements to sell the house from overseas. They had finally had enough and took matters into their own hands. 

Pictured below are my grandparents at a local festa (left) and their home (right) in Trás-os-Montes over forty years ago. Wild, right?

It was in this home that the love for figs was born. My mother is a fig fanatic. Wherever she resides, there is a fig tree in the yard no matter how big or small. They are the highlight of the fruit season and are exchanged with same secrecy and reverence as black market goods. Whenever possible, I make her something new with this childhood staple. 

This Almond Zimttorte is a rock star. The cake alone is crazy good because it is not super sugary and deviates from the usual chocolate/vanilla. It is comprised of ground almonds and there is a touch of corn flour/corn meal to create a more earthy taste. As it baked in the oven, you couldn't help but drift into the kitchen from the delicious aroma.

The frosting is a delightful combination of marscopne cheese, another plus because my mom loves Tiramisu, and whipped cream. It is a mild flavor that I would love to use on a number of other cakes. Paired with this not-so-sweet cake, it is a surprisingly complimentary combination.

Top with generous slices of figs and enjoy. You could have this without the figs but I wouldn't recommend it. They provide a juicy burst of freshness and help bring out the almond. The drizzle of honey is not a deal-breaker though!

 Note, I did not frost this cake with a lot of patience. The directions were translated from German and I was thoroughly confused by the frosting segment. Total cluster. The first batch was thrown into the trash because the whipping cream broke when added to the marscapone. It was at this point the common sense hat had to be put on and I took my own approach. I hope you enjoy!

PS. The husband liked the cake -- just not the figs! : )

Almond Zimttorte with Honey and Figs
translated and slightly modified from Fräulein Klein

4 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons hot water
100 grams granulated sugar
8 grams of vanilla sugar*
1 pinch of salt
70 gr. all purpose flour
70 gr. Corn flour/corn meal
1 tsp baking powder
50 gr. Ground almonds

400 gr. heaving whipping cream
500 gr. Mascarpone
16 grams of vanilla sugar*
1/2 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon
60 gr. white chocolate

*the original recipes calls for packets of vanilla sugar which are not common in US grocery stores; you can substitute with vanilla sugar from a gourmet shop or simply make your own.

Grease a 6 or 8-inch spring form pan. I prefer smaller cakes so I used a 6 inch pan.  Preheat oven to 355F.

Separate the eggs. Mix the egg yolks with sugar, vanilla sugar, pinch of salt, and the water until very thick creamy. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with corn meal/ corn flour, grounds almonds, and baking powder. Combine the with the egg yolk mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks appears. Gently fold into the batter.

Pour mixture into the prepared spring form pan and set in oven for about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely on an oven rack. Carefully, slice the cake into three, even layers. This was the most stressful part for me but we got through!

For the frosting, melt the white chocolate via the microwave or on the stove top in a double boiler. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the mascarpone with cinnamon and vanilla sugar until smooth. Gradually add in the whipping cream until the icing becomes fluffy.

Split the frosting into two separate bowls. Set one aside for frosting the exterior of the cake. With the other half of frosting, stir in the slightly cooled white chocolate and use to frost between the layers of cake. If there's any leftover, go ahead and mix it with the frosting you had set to the side- no sense in wasting.

Frost the exterior of the cake with the reserved frosting; if there's any extra left over, use to form into balls for cake decoration. 

If you don't have enough left over frosting and you really want those little frosting poms, don't worry! Mix 100 gr. confectioner's sugar with 80 gr. unsalted butter and use as the frosting poms!

Decorate cake with slices of figs and a drizzle of honey.

Semolina Cake with Pistachios and Honey

This is a post about a cake that is a little out of ordinary, at least in our kitchen. The base flour is a mix of all-purpose and semolina, a form of durum wheat commonly used in pasta. Semolina has a high gluten ratio so it creates a strong bind. Honestly, I don't know what the heck that equates to in a cake other than a very sturdy dough. I have made one other cake with semolina and am fascinated by its density. 

Anyways. What attracted me to this cake was the pistachio. When done correctly, pistachio is one of my favorite gelato flavors (thank you Atelier Ortega). Kissed with honey and little lemon zest, this recipe held promises of good things!

Fortunately, I am happy to report that it fulfilled its end of the bargain. Because of the semolina, it has a solid and dense cake base. They key is to poke it all over while it's hot out of the oven to maximize absorption of a honey based syrup drizzled all over. It reminded me of baklava without the layers of phyllo.  The end result is finely grainy and nutty dessert that is a pistachio lovers dream come true.

Now keep in mind- this sort of cake is not for everyone so know your audience. Upon first bite, a coworker asked for the recipe and raved all afternoon about how good it tasted. Personally, I gnawed on a slice throughout an entire day. It had a Mediterranean vibe that gave me warm fuzzies. 

My standard measure, however, is how much the husband eats: he did not destroy it. Quite frankly, the nutella and oreo monster seemed a touch indifferent. I could tell he would have preferred the standard fare of cookies and pudding. Note... this is a person who does not care for baklava nor figs - gasp! I hope that provides a measure for the right crowd this cake requires and does not deter you from giving it a try!  Again, it's about knowing your audience. 

For the full recipe, check out the Semolina Cake with Pistachios and Honey post on Fool Proof Living!