rosemary forest cake (rosemary, black cherry and coffee cake)

I’ve realized that my younger cousin is one of my favourite people to bake with. She is always up for a challenge and indulges me in inedible onion greens and flavour testing (whereas my mom, when asked for advice, always tells me to “just make it vanilla!” Which I do. Sometimes.) Not only that, but she is rather agreeable, and sometimes even downright enthused, about doing the dishes–a rare and valuable trait.

We had another baking day as she was visiting. It was spent mostly with her, up to her arms in detergent bubbles, and me, covered in flour and hands stained with cherry juice. The end product was a cake, which remains to this day the butt of many a joke (they all begin roughly like “Have you made any more herb forests lately?” and unfortunate thing is that for some reason I quite often have.)

This will sound like a very unfocused cake, and I would agree it is, as there are a number of things going on (red fife flour, rosemary, coriander, coffee, pistachio, brandy and cherry). But I think it is my favourite layer cake (out of the very few that there are) on tentimestea. While there was a lot going on, everything blended together in that way which might be known as confusing but which I prefer to deem as the appropriately pretentious (because I don’t really know what I’m saying) “complex.”

All the components have a bit of heaviness and warmth to them, and there are some repeated flavours so I think it prevents it from being a bit too disparate and unfocused. In fact, in retrospect, there was a bit of a peanut butter-and-jelly theme with the pistachio and the cherry. The result is a cake that is not too sweet (see either pavlova), or too sour (see rhubarb cake) or bitter (see upcoming linzer torte). It was a very smooth and comforting cake, pleasant in flavour and texture, and that is sometimes all you need.

(Here is The Cousin being cheeky.)

But the top did not work out how I wanted it to. I was envisioning a few very tall and proud stalks of rosemary, like skinny snow-dusted coniferous trees. Unfortunately, the stunted and light-starved rosemary plant was having none of this. I decided to compensate for the absent elegance and majesty of the original design by using a handful of short rosemary sprigs (i.e. the rosemary field-of-weeds cake).

The cake had a very nice texture–a bit fluffier, sandy almost, and drier which was appropriate given the sloppiness and moisture of the pastry cream. Splitting the dry-ingredients and the butter-ingredients into thirds and mixing each layer separately just before baking was much more successful than last time’s succession of tough and world-weary cakes. I also tried using some sourdough starter in the style of a sourdough cake I recently saw.

(We tried some artsy photos as well…with mixed results.)

Remarkably, all the flavours seemed to come out–it was fragrant with coffee and somehow you could ascribe coriander and rosemary as well.

I also really enjoyed the cherries. They were quite intense, stewed together with a bit of coffee and brandy. I think they also would have been quite nice on their own with some heavy cream!

I thought I would bring this to the linkup party Fiesta Friday, hosted by the lovely Angie, the Novice Gardener. It’s been a while (and likewise I also made this cake months ago…)–the last one I attended was back in September, over two and a half months ago. I haven’t looked around too much yet, but just scrolling through the page has revealed a lot of familiar blogs, and maybe some new ones? I’ll look forwards to meeting and visiting some of you!

rosemary forest cake

Makes 1 3-layer 5″ cake. We served eight from it. The coriander and coffee were a bit spontaneous, something I remembered from a suggestion and some advice-! As was the sourdough starter, after seeing this sourdough carrot cake!

sourdough red fife, coriander, rosemary and coffee cake

This cake is not too sweet so it’s rather nice. Further adapted from a previous adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s All Purpose Downy Yellow Cake from the Cake Bible.

1 stick butter, softened

65 g sugar

2 eggs, at RT

75 g sourdough starter


1 tsp vanilla

100 g red fife flour

75 g all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground coriander

1 sprig rosemary, chopped

6 tbsp of strong coffee, dark roast

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 6″ cake pan with parchment paper, butter, and flour.

Cream butter, add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Then add the sourdough starter and beat very hard until it is nicely combined (if the butter starts to cool down and clump up, warm up the mixture a bit over a pot of steaming water and keep beating). Beat in the salt and vanilla.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, coriander and rosemary.

Divide the butter mixture into three, by mass. Do the same for the flour mixture.

Bake the cakes one third at a time: Add half the flour to the butter mixture. Add two tablespoons of coffee. Add the remaining flour. Scrape into the cake pan, and bake for around 18 minutes.

Let the cake cool for a couple minutes in the pan, then remove and let it cool on a wire rack. Wash the pan, butter, flour, and line with paper.

Repeat to bake the remaining layers.


pistachio praline pastry cream

This pastry cream is adapted from my other adaptations of pastry cream on here (some yet to be published and others quite published) and I really can’t keep track. It ended up being looser than I intended…a bit like last time, so unfortunately I didn’t learn from my mistakes!

100 mL milk

50 mL half and half

1 egg

10 g cornstarch

1.5 tsp sugar

65 g pistachio praline paste

Whisk together egg, cornstarch, and sugar until light. Heat milk and cream until scalded, add to egg mixture whisking. Return to a saucepan over moderate heat and cook, whisking continuously, until thickened.

Press through a sieve. Beat in the praline paste until smooth.


cherries stewed with coffee, brandy, and rosemary

The more cherries the better!

1 bowlful of cherries, pitted and quartered

1 tbsp coffee

generous splash brandy

sprig rosemary

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Cook gently until cherries are softened but not mush.



rosemary sprigs

icing sugar

Slice the top off of two cake layers to even the surface. Spread with half the pastry cream, top with one third of the cherries (drain the juice). Add a second layer and repeat.

Place the last layer on top, poke the rosemary sprigs into the crevasses of the cake and dust generously with icing sugar.


jasmine, pistachio and apricot paris-brest


Oh goodness, this is one sloppy pastry–I’ll have to try again sometime.

But there are some things that I loved:

  1. The praline 

From what I’ve read, a Paris-Brest typically uses a hazelnut praline. I made a pistachio praline, seasoned with some additional salt. Ground into a paste, it is pretty incredible–toasted nuts and deep caramel.



2. The pastry

I ended up making the pastry twice–the first time around, the pastry was too loose and the wheels I piped were too large. But the second time it turned out nicely–the pastry was very airy, custardy on the inside, and crisp on the outside.


Now there were also a couple things I didn’t like…

  1. That apricot thing-y

I made an apricot based creme mousseline with, er, mixed results…



2. The pastry cream

While the jasmine flavour was nice, it perhaps didn’t really work as I wanted it to with the pistachio. The pastry cream also became very loose and was the bigger contributor to the sloppiness, texturewise.



As for why I never seem to post lately… once I start neglecting something it becomes very easy to continue. Though it’s really only the posting part that I’ve been neglecting. I’ve actually got 40-some drafts that I’m sitting on at the moment (that being said, I think I’ll probably end up deleting 10 or so of them), so it’s not that I’ve got nothing to post.

And the drafts aren’t just a recipe and a sparse few notes and comments on texture, either. I recently devoted a whole day to editing, sticking together, organizing, uploading, and inserting photos, around 300 in total, for 20 blog posts. I think if any of my marvellously hardworking classmates were to read this they would be horrified… it took me around 5 hours and I spent the rest of my day doing absolutely no work. It was not a productive day, or it was, but not exactly for my courses.

It’s a bit difficult to decide what to post. I have some posts that are from the spring, a number throughout the summer, and some recent fall ones as well. I always hesitate around this point because I don’t know if I want to clear out some of the drafts that have been left propped in the corner or if I want to pull out and display something new and more seasonally appropriate.



Add to that the majority of my posts feel very subpar. Most often because the item itself didn’t particularly turn out very well, and in addition there are some blurry and dark pictures, a few sketchy sentences and a recipe that is, as always, rather unreliable. It’s been awfully long since my last post and so I sort of want it to be something good (i.e. not strange and sloppy pastries).

But these are coming first because it’s been ages since I made it and while it didn’t turn out too well, there were a few meagre redeeming features (if only the things I learned). Besides, it didn’t have anything written in the post earlier and now I do (just how many times have I talked about my struggles with blogging?)…

jasmine, pistachio and apricot paris-brest.

pistachio praline paste

Adapted from Joe Pastry

70 g pistachios

70 g sugar

pinch salt

Spread pistachios over a sheet tray. Cook the sugar, with a splash of water to help you get started, in a small saucepan until melted and a nice golden amber. Pour over the nuts.

Break the praline into pieces, add a pinch of salt, and grind away in a food processor until it forms a paste–it will take a while. I went for around 15 minutes of solid grinding before I decided to stop. If I didn’t mentally breakdown first, the food processor would. The original recipe suggests adding a spoonful of oil to help the process.


jasmine pistachio creme praline

Adapted from Joe Pastry and the vague-conglomerate-and-occasional-irrational-decision pastry cream recipe I’ve been messing around with a number of times on this blog. This time it was too thin and soft, and could not at all hold its shape!

150 mL milk

100 mL 18% cream

2 tsp dried jasmine flowers

1 egg + 1 yolk

2 tbsp sugar

15 g cornstarch

50 g pistachio praline paste

75 mL 36% cream

Heat the 18% cream, milk and jasmine in a saucepan until simmering. Cover, turn heat to the lowest setting, and let steep, warmed, for one hour. Remove from the heat if necessary if the milk mixture begins bubbling.

Whisk the egg, yolk, sugar, and cornstarch together until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the infused milk. Cook the pastry cream, whisking constantly, until thickened and the cornstarch is completely cooked. Press through a sieve.

Beat in the praline paste–it wasn’t quite smooth for me because I hadn’t ground my praline paste completely, so it could be pressed through a sieve after the praline paste is added instead. Cover and chill.

Whip the heavy cream until thick, with soft peaks. Fold into the pastry cream.


apricot and honey creme mousseline

This was a very interesting concoction and not one I really intend to repeat. Based on the creme mousseline from Baking by Robert Pattison. I think the problem was the acidity (added in an attempt to stop the apricot puree from oxidizing further) and the overripe-fermented taste of the apricots.

4 trimmed apricots

1/2 tsp lemon juice (I would leave this out)

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp honey

15 g cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1/4 c soft butter

Begin by pureeing the apricots. Chop the apricots into small pieces and blend with lemon juice until pureed. I had 150 mL of puree. Mix in 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp honey.

Whisk together the cornstarch and egg yolks. Heat the apricot puree in a small saucepan until bubbling, slowly whisk it into the egg mixture. Return it all to the stovetop and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and cornstarch is completely cooked.

Press through a sieve and let cool until it reaches room temperature. Beat in the butter piece by piece and whisk until the cream is light and fluffy.



honey and jasmine poached apricots

1 c water

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sugar

spoonful dried jasmine flowers

2 apricots, thinly sliced

Bring the water, honey, sugar and jasmine flowers to a boil. Cook for a few minutes, add the apricots, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool–by then the apricots should be tender.


buckwheat choux pastry

From this recipe. 

150 mL water

pinch salt

spoonful of sugar

60 g butter

25 g buckwheat flour

50 g all purpose flour

2-3 eggs

chopped pistachios



icing sugar

dried jasmine flowers

Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the pastry cream. Slice each choux ring in half. Fill the bottom with a bit of apricot creme mousseline, add some poached apricot slices, and then pipe the pastry cream over top. Replace the top, sprinkle with some crumbled jasmine flower, and dust with icing sugar.