cranberry gingerbread tosca cake

cranberry gingerbread toscakake

To kick off some holiday baking, this cake is everything holiday: an almondy gingerbread cake spotted with fresh cranberries and topped with a crackly crust of caramelized almonds. It has an impressive height and a sturdy consistency, while still sporting a tender and super moist crumb. If you like contrasts in texture, this cake has it between the soft cake and crispy topping.

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while – I’ve made this cake quite a few times over the past four or five years, tweaking a couple things here and there, but for the most part I’ve kept it just as you’re seeing here. And now it’s finally on the blog!

cranberry gingerbread toscakake
cranberry gingerbread toscakake
cranberry gingerbread toscakake
cranberry gingerbread toscakake

The almond topping is borrowed from Norwegian toscakake, which usually pairs a sponge cake base with the sugared almond top (here’s another toscakake adaptation on the blog). Edd Kimber has a take on toscakake with a hefty almond cake base instead for double the almond. I’ve adapted his cake recipe to be a bit sturdier with an adjusted flour/almond ratio and plenty of holiday flavours. The cake itself is only mildly sweet so the caramelized almond topping doesn’t overwhelm with sweetness.

Finally, a couple tricky toscakake things. Firstly, the cake tends to dome a bit while it bakes – it’s okay if the top isn’t perfectly flat, but a flatter surface helps the topping distribute evenly. I spread the batter in the pan so the edges are taller than the centre to help it rise more evenly. Secondly, while broiling the topping to caramelize it, be sure to keep an eye out for any burning spots and rotate the cake every few minutes. I find I tend to to get more consistent browning by using brown sugar in the topping, though white sugar is more traditional.

cranberry gingerbread toscakake

cranberry gingerbread toscakake

  • Servings: one 7-inch cake
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Makes 1 hefty 7″ cake. Almond cake base adapted from Edd Kimber. Almond topping from Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.


  • 90g whole wheat flour
  • 100g finely ground almonds/almond flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 168 butter at room temperature
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 30g molasses
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 100g (1 cup) fresh cranberries


  • 38g butter
  • 35g (generous 1/4 cup) flaked/sliced almonds
  • 50g brown sugar* see note
  • pinch salt
  • 60g heavy cream

Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 7″ springform pan with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the cake, whisk the flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt and spices together. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars and molasses with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until fluffy and lightened in colour.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Lastly, mix in the cranberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the batter so that the edges are higher than the middle – as edges cook sooner and don’t have a chance to rise as high, this compensation will help ensure that cake has a flatter top.

Bake the cake for around 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean; tent the top with foil if it starts to become overly browned.

Once the cake is baked, immediately start on the topping. Heat the butter, sugar, salt and cream in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the topping to thicken a bit. Stir in the almonds and pour overtop of the cake, spreading out the almonds evenly.

Set the oven to the broiler and put the cake on the middle rack. Broil until the topping is bubbly and browned – about 5 minutes, but watch it carefully! You may want to rotate the cake every couple of minutes to help it brown evenly. Try your best not to step too far from the oven during this, as sugar can burn quickly.

Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Note: I found that using brown sugar in the topping helps the topping brown easier and ensures you don’t end up with a smattering of pale and burnt patches (a risk when using the broiler method). That being said, white sugar is traditional and the flavour is a bit different as well! Feel free to substitute white sugar, just take extra care to rotate the cake occasionally during the broiling step.

cranberry gingerbread toscakake

cookie box 2021

cookie box 2021

I was hoping that this holiday would be a bit of a return-to-normal compared to last year, though it’s ended up being another quiet holiday season and only the most minimal of gathering. Nevertheless, there are still way too many cookies of course…

(Aside from the people, food is the second best part of the holidays.)

cookie box 2021
cookie box 2021

This year I’ve made a mostly nut-free cookie lineup (there is one glaring exception – the obviously very almondy bethmannchen) to accommodate for allergies at my lab, the main cookie recipients for this year. I started off with a batch of omnipresent speculoos – a buttery spiced cookie – the one cookie I am certain to make annually. The coffee cardamom stars, drizzled with dark chocolate, were inspired by a Dorie Greenspan recipe where she includes coffee grinds in the cookie; it gives them a slightly crunchy texture! I ended up using a mixture of both instant and ground coffee in these as I found it had better flavour than coffee grinds alone (I drink cheap pre-ground coffee so maybe that’s why…), and I love how strongly these cookies smell of both coffee and spice. The matcha wreath cookies were mostly included for cuteness and festive aesthetics – they are based on a recipe from Cho’s daily cook. The cookies are a bit of a pain to pipe, but they turn out wonderfully tender and not too sweet so that the white chocolate doesn’t overwhelm.

For a shortbread option, I made a basic shortbread with milk powder that I dry toasted in a pan – it’s an ingredient I had played with a bit previously, but here I let it star alone in a cookie where it tastes like a cross between milk powder and caramel. I also always like including a snowball cookie of some sort, so for a nut-free alternative, I went with a coconut and rooibos snowball. And as opposed to linzer cookies, which contain nuts, I made fennel seed and grapefruit marmalade thumbprints (they add some tart and bitterness to the box, which is refreshing amidst all the butter!). Last year I really enjoyed the orange cranberry rosemary slice cookies so this year I followed them up with a haw flake and orange slice. If you haven’t come across them, haw flakes are a pressed dry candy made of hawthorn; I used to eat them all the time as a kid. The cross-section of the cookies look a bit like giant sprinkles (or less appealingly, like pieces of ham?) and the haw flakes have a bit of tartness to them and take on a pleasant chew once baked.

After I had finished with my nut-free baking and those cookies had been given away, I did add one extremely nutty cookie to make up for the otherwise dearth of nuts: the dome-shaped bethmannchen which are essentially baked nuggets of marzipan. (Wonderful, in other words.) As a last addition, I made some ponche de creme sandwich cookies, based around the flavours of the Trinidadian eggnog: a cinnamon, nutmeg and lime cookie sandwiching a rum and angostura-spiked white chocolate ganache.

Happy holidays and stay safe.

cookie box 2021

recipes are below

speculooscoffee cardamom starsmatcha wreath cookiestoasted milk powder shortbreadcoconut rooibos snowballsfennel marmalade thumbprintshaw flake & orange slicesbethmannchenponche de creme sandwiches

cookie box 2021


Recipe can be found in the 2019 holiday cookie box.

cookie box 2021

coffee cardamom stars

  • Servings: 20-25 6cm cookies
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These cookies are fragrant with coffee and spices. I like just a bit of chocolate on them to go with, but not cover up, the flavours. Inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s coffee cardamom cookies from Dorie’s Cookies. Base dough adapted from Alton Brown’s sugar cookie recipe.

  • 80g whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 37g brown sugar
  • 10g egg
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
  • 25g dark chocolate, melted

Whisk together the flour, coffee grinds, spices, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light. Mix in the egg until combined, followed by the dissolved instant coffee. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until a soft dough is formed. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 0.4cm thick. Slide onto a tray and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Take the chilled dough out and use a 6cm star cutter (or other shape of choice) to cut shapes from the dough. You will get about 25 if you also re-roll the scraps. Transfer the cookies to the prepared tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned around the edges and bottom. You may need to bake the cookies in two batches if they don’t all fit on the tray – keep any remaining dough and cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.

Once cooled, if desired, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Spread out the cookies on a piece of parchment. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a very small fine round tip and drizzle over the cookies. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

matcha wreath cookies

  • Servings: about 20 5cm cookies
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Based on Cho’s daily cook.

  • 120g butter, softened
  • 62g powdered sugar
  • 30g (1) egg white
  • 135g cake flour
  • 6g matcha
  • 60g melted white chocolate
  • chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds (or pistachios)

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. Add the egg white a bit at a time and beat in until smooth. Sift the cake flour and matcha together and add to the butter mixture, mixing until a soft dough is formed.

Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (I used an unbranded one with a maximal opening diameter of 1.5cm). Pipe 5cm circles. Depending on the size of your tip, you should get about 20 cookies. Place the tray in the fridge to chill completely.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F. Bake about 12 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely.

Melt the white chocolate and dip the “seam” of each cookie into the chocolate. Place on a parchment lined tray and sprinkle with chopped dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds or pistachios. Let set completely before moving.

cookie box 2021

toasted milk powder shortbread

  • Servings: 10-12 4cm cookies
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Shortbread based on the classic 1:2:3 ratio modified for the addition of milk powder.

  • 15g dry milk powder
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 64g all-purpose flour

Begin by dry toasting the milk powder. Place the milk powder in a small pan and put over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a spatula, until the milk powder becomes golden. Once golden, immediately transfer to another bowl to prevent burning. If the milk powder ever starts browning too quickly, immediately lower the heat or lift the pan from the stovetop. Let the toasted milk powder cool.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the milk powder and cream until combined, then add the milk. Finally add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Pat the dough into a log about 4cm (1 1/2″) in diameter. Place a bit of extra granulated sugar on a plate and roll the log in the sugar until coated. Wrap in plastic and chill completely in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a tray with parchment paper. Place the log on a cutting board and slice cookies 1cm thick using a sharp knife. Give the log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side of the log from becoming flattened.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until browned along the edges and bottom.

cookie box 2021

coconut rooibos snowballs

  • Servings: 10-12 cookies
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An amalgamation of the recipe from Emma Laperruque’s pecan cookies and An Italian in My Kitchen’s almond cookies.

  • 56g butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • contents of 1 rooibos tea bag (2g coarsely ground tea)
  • good pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 25g desiccated shredded coconut, coarsely ground
  • 62g all-purpose flour
  • icing sugar

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and 25g icing sugar together, then mix in the rooibos, salt, vanilla and coconut. Finally, add the flour and mix until just combined. If the dough is very soft you can chill it briefly – or go ahead and roll the cookies now.

Scoop tablespoons of the dough (about 15g each) and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on the prepared pan. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until firm to the touch and slightly browned on the bottom.

Roll in icing sugar while still warm, and then once more when they are cool.

cookie box 2021

fennel marmalade thumbprint cookies

  • Servings: 20-24 cookies
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Adapted from Live Well Bake Often.

  • 113g butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
  • 145g all-purpose flour
  • about 1/4 cup marmalade (I used some homemade cardamom grapefruit marmalade) – if your homemade marmalade is quite watery, drain briefly before using

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the orange zest, salt and ground fennel seeds. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Scoop 1 tbsp (16g) portions of dough and roll between your palms into a smooth ball. Place on the prepared tray. Use your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to indent each cookie.

Place the cookies in fridge to chill for 20 minutes to slightly firm up. Dollop 1/2 tsp of marmalade in each indent.

Bake about 15-16 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.

cookie box 2021

haw flake & orange slice

  • Servings: 8-9 5cm cookies
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Adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies.

  • 15g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 mandarin orange or 1/2 a navel orange
  • 56g butter, softened
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 8g egg white
  • 68g all-purpose flour
  • 15g haw flakes, separated and broken into small pieces

Rub the sugar and orange zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light. Next, mix in the salt and egg white. Tip in the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Lastly, add the haw flake pieces and mix until distributed into the dough.

Pat the dough into a log about 5cm (2″) in diameter. Roll so that the outsides are smooth and then wrap in parchment paper, twisting the ends closed. Place in the fridge and chill overnight or at least a few hours. It’s important that the dough is fully chilled and sufficiently firm so that the haw flake pieces stay in place while the cookies are being sliced.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Take out the log of cookie dough from the fridge. Using a thin serrated knife, slice cookies about 0.7cm thick (a bit of a sawing motion can help cut through the haw flakes). Turn the cookie log a quarter turn between each slice to prevent one side from being flattened.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

cookie box 2021


  • Servings: about 14 cookies
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Adapted from Anja Dunk’s Advent.

  • 100g almond flour
  • 8g cornstarch
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 25g marzipan, grated
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 15g egg white
  • about 42 blanched almonds
  • 1 egg yolk for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the almond flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, salt and grated marzipan in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the almond extract and orange blossom water and pulse a few more times to mix. Add the egg white and process until mixed and the dough comes together.

Scoop 14g portions of dough (about the size of a cherry tomato). Roll each one between your palms into a smooth ball and place on the prepared tray. Press three blanched almonds into the sides, with their pointy ends angling up to the centre of the cookie. Brush the cookies with beaten egg yolk. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until browned but still soft.

cookie box 2021

ponche de creme sandwich cookies

  • Servings: about 15 5cm cookies
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Dough adapted from the do-almost-anything cookie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies, as is the ganache.


  • 136g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 30g granulated sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 medium lime
  • 113g (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 15g egg white
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract


  • 94g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 45g heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 1/2 tsp angostura bitters
  • pinch salt
  • 7g butter
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest


Stir together the flour and spices.

Rub the sugar and lime zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and cream until light, then beat in the salt, egg white, and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until about 0.5cm thick. Chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a couple baking trays with parchment paper.

Use a 5cm (2″) round cutter to cut rounds from the dough. Reroll the scraps (chilling again as needed) and cut more cookies from there as well. Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges and bottom. You may need to bake in a couple of batches so keep any unbaked cookies in the fridge until ready to bake.


Place the chopped chocolate in microwave safe bowl. In a small dish in the microwave or over the stovetop, heat cream until boiling. Stir in rum, bitters and salt and pour over chocolate. Let sit a minute, then stir until melted – if it doesn’t melt on its own, microwave for short intervals, stirring in between. Lastly add the butter and stir until mixed, and then mix in the lime zest.

Place ganache in fridge and stir every couple of minutes until it has cooled and is thick enough to hold its shape, but still soft.

Meanwhile, pair up the cookies by similar size and shape. Place one cookie from each pair upside down on a tray.

Transfer to piping bag fitted with round tip (0.7cm diameter, Wilton 12) and pipe filling on one cookie from each pair – make so that it is set about 0.5cm in from edge of cookie. Top with other cookie and press lightly until filling is close to the edges. These are best stored in the fridge for long-term storage.

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream

Rum raisin ice cream should be something that I adore (rum + cream + dried fruit + grandpa vibes) but I’ve always had a less than stellar impression of it. Probably because I’d only ever tried a supermarket version of it once: super sweet, slightly freezer-burned. and rum-flavoured as opposed to actual rum. Homemade rum raisin, on the other hand, is properly alcoholic, and all that I imagined it to be and more!

(Maybe I would have liked the supermarket one too if it wasn’t too freezer-burned…)

chestnut rum raisin ice cream
chestnut rum raisin ice cream

For this take on a rum raisin ice cream, I made an ice cream base thick with pureed chestnuts – it only adds to the coziness and goes well with the rum. Just before churning, stir in rum-plumped raisins and any excess rum. Soaking the raisins in rum not only rehydrates any particularly desiccated ones, but also offsets the sweetness and keeps them soft and chewy even when frozen. And finally, thanks to the alcohol content of the ice cream base, it stays semi-scoopable even when made with lower sugar content.

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

chestnut rum raisin ice cream

  • Servings: about 3 cups ice cream base
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Adapted from Saveur’s rum raisin ice cream.

  • 75g (1/2 cup) raisins
  • 105g (1/2 cup) dark rum
  • 300g (1 1/4 cup) whole milk
  • 5cm length of vanilla bean
  • 150g (1 cup) peeled roasted chestnuts
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25g granulated sugar (or use 50-70g for a more standard sweetness)
  • 240g (1 cup) heavy cream

Combine the raisins and dark rum in a small jar or covered dish and set aside overnight or up to a couple days.

Place the milk in a medium-small saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds, adding both the seeds and pod to the milk. Bring the milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally and add the chestnuts. Partially cover and allow to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until the chestnuts are tender. Remove from the heat.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the chestnuts and set aside. Discard the vanilla pod.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Return the milk to the stovetop and heat until it begins to steam. Slowly pour into the egg yolks while whisking constantly to temper them. Return the custard to the saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Cook until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn in it, or the temperature reaches 160-180F.

Remove from the heat and add the chestnuts. If you have an immersion blender, transfer to a tall glass measuring cup or the cup that comes with the blender and puree until smooth. Otherwise, transfer the mixture to the bowl or a stand blender or food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. The mixture will appear thick and silky. Chill completely.

When ready to make the ice cream, stir in the cold heavy cream, the rum-soaked raisins, and all the excess rum. Transfer the ice cream base to an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: I don’t personally recommend it, but if you prefer the alcohol cooked off: put the raisins and rum in a microwave proof container, cover with plastic leaving a small gap for steam to escape, and microwave for about 1 minute or until it is bubbling.

prune & spiced walnut pithivier

prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier

I still have, somewhere – (I can’t wait to foist it off onto my niece once she’s old enough it no longer poses any choking hazard) – a box of “treasures” that I had saved up in my childhood: almost every sticker sheet I ever received, and the set of pompoms and pipe cleaners my parents once bought me. High class craft material – the stuff you see on TV! (My usual craft materials were plain computer paper and tissue boxes.) But instead of using them, I would just keep the in a box and take them out every once and a while to admire them. They were too special to use!

Anyways, this hoarding (?) behaviour also applies to foodstuffs. Anything that I am given which is extra fancy or hard to get, I cannot make myself use… Like this prune jam, a gift from my sister, which I hung onto for four years before finally making myself crack it open.

prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier
prune & spiced walnut pithivier

But it is perfect for a pithivier – tart and thick. I paired it with a spiced walnut cream.

The rare time that I make puff pastry, I always want to stretch it out over as many projects as possible so I’ve tended to throw in a pithivier with the pastry rolled far too thin. But pithivier is lovely enough to deserve a whole batch of puff pastry if you can spare it!

prune & spiced walnut pithivier

spiced walnut & prune pithivier

  • Servings: one 8-inch diameter pithivier
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Features of assembly and baking taken from Joe Pastry and Baking by James Pattison. Walnut cream based on typical almond cream ratios.

spiced walnut cream

  • 33g soft butter
  • 30g brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 45g toasted and finely ground walnut
  • 33g egg
  • 10g flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp dark rum


  • at least 300g of puff pastry rolled thin… or 500g for a more normal thickness and flakier result (you can also make a larger, say 9″ pithivier, that way) (recipe here)
  • 1/4 cup prune jam (I used a jam with a bit of lemon juice for a nice tartness)
  • beaten egg for eggwash

walnut cream

Cream the butter, sugar and salt. Mix in the walnuts, then beat in the egg. Mix in the flour, spices, and finally the rum.


Preheat the oven to 450F.

Divide the puff pastry in two pieces. Roll out one piece to a bit over 8″ in diametre. If it’s springing back on you, cover and place the pastry in the fridge to rest and then continue rolling. Once rolled out, place on a board cover and chill in the fridge while you roll the second piece.

Roll out the second piece a bit over 9″ in diameter and the transfer to a board, cover and store in the fridge until it is needed.

Place the smaller piece on a parchment lined tray. Use an 8″ cake tin as a guide and cut the pastry into an 8″ circle. Spread with the prune jam, leaving a 1″ border clear. Dollop the walnut cream on top and spread evenly over the prune jam.

Brush a bit of eggwash along the 1″ border. Then take the larger piece of pastry out from the fridge and drape over the first. Again, use the 8″ cake tin as a guide to cut the second piece of pastry to fit. Press down along the edges to help seal.

Use a skewer to make a steamhole in the centre. For decorative purposes, you can make tucks along the edges with the back of a knife and trace a pattern on top with a shape knife.

Brush the top surface with eggwash.

Bake for the first 10 minutes at 450, then turn the temperature down to 375F for about another 20 minutes or until the pastry is deeply browned. Rotate partway through baking.

brown sugar walnut tang yuan in persimmon ginger soup

hotteok tang yuan

I once made some black sesame-filled hotteok, the filling reminding me of black sesame tang yuan. Getting a bit topsy-turvy, here is the inverse: a tang yuan with a brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon filling inspired by hotteok!

hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan

To go with it: a soup inspired by sujeonggwa, a Korean punch made with cinnamon, ginger and usually red dates and dried persimmons. As I already had cinnamon in the filling, I focused on the ginger, persimmon and red dates. It’s a cozy, wintery take on tang yuan and wonderfully warming!

hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan

Happy winter!

hotteok tang yuan

brown sugar walnut tang yuan with persimmon ginger soup

  • Servings: 12 tang yuan
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Tang yuan adapted from Woks of Life and Fuscia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. Hotteok inspiration from Korean Bapsang and sujeonggwa inspiration from My Korean Kitchen.

persimmon ginger broth

  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • a few slices fresh ginger
  • 4 dried red dates
  • 2 dried persimmons, cut into wedges or chunks
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

hotteok tang yuan filling

  • 15g all-purpose flour
  • 30g brown sugar
  • 30g butter, lard or coconut oil, melted
  • `1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 generous tbsp chopped toasted walnuts

tang yuan dough

  • 100g glutinous rice flour
  • 75-95g lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp oil

For the broth, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then cover and set aside to steep while you make the tang yuan.

For the filling, place the flour in a small dry pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour smells a bit toasted and cooked, around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, melted butter/lard/coconut oil, cinnamon, salt and chopped walnuts. Stir together, then place in the fridge to firm up.

Once firmed, divide the filling into 12 portions (about 6g each) and roll each into a little ball. Return to the fridge to keep firm until ready to assemble. (Initially I did roll mine in more rice flour as seen in the photographs, but I found it easier to assemble the tang yuan without doing that.)

For the dough, stir together the rice flour, water and oil. Begin with 75g of water and add more as needed to form a soft dough with a putty-like consistency. Divide the dough into 12 portions (about 16-17g apiece) and roll each into a ball.

To assemble, take the filling from the fridge. Poke your thumb into a ball of dough to create a cup like shape and fill with a portion of filling. Push the surrounding bits of dough up to completely cover the filling and roll between your palms into a smooth sphere. If the dough starts to crack a bit, moisten your palms with a dab of water. Repeat with the remaining portions until all the tang yuan are filled.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Drop in the tang yuan, bring back to a boil and then set to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the tang yuan are soft and the filling is melted. Meanwhile, reheat the persimmon ginger soup.

To serve, scoop 2-3 tang yuan into a bowl and cover with a ladleful or two of the warm soup.

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

If there is a film which I’ve watched a number of times, it’s probably the original 90s Jumanji, about a board game come to life. Growing up, movie nights meant a brisk walk to the neighbourhood convenience store. On one side of the cash, against papered up windows, there were a few wire shelves of video cassettes in protective plastic sleeves. It was not the broadest or particularly updated selection. With only a few kids films, I always chose the only one I recognized, one which I had seen in school for Halloween (this is as close as relevant we’re getting for the recipe so make note). In other words, I watched Jumanji a whole lot.

There were two convenience stores in the neighbourhood I grew up in, though now they’re both gone. When I think back, I am surprised at how they kind of did play some role in my childhood – a source of after school snacks, a place to drop off lost keys at the lost-and-found, and that small movie corner which defined the entertainment available to me and the neighbourhood. Maybe in some ways it was a common denominator for the community – yes there was a big Blockbuster a twenty minute walk away which held dozens of copies of new releases, but for those last minute spurious movie impulses, the convenience store shelves were most convenient. It makes me wish I remembered what else was there (excuse my tunnel vision for Jumanji). But maybe every other child in the neighbhourhood also watched Jumanji on repeat? Maybe. The fact that Jumanji was nearly always on the shelf probably meant that not so many people were renting video cassettes any more, anyways.

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream
chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

Halloween = pumpkins and Halloween = Jumanji and so Jumanji = pumpkins and so here is a pumpkin recipe. This is a riff on pumpkin pie (quite literally as a I referenced the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin while making this) but a sort of ambiguously autumnal version made with chestnut puree and a gently infused spiced milk. Plus, a kinako (roasted soybean powder) cream ring which I did on a whim, but loved – it complements the squash and chestnuts so well. (Maybe try a dusting of kinako on your pumpkin pie?)

chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

spiced chestnut pumpkin tart with kinako cream

  • Servings: eight inch tart
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Adapted, vaguely, from the pumpkin pie recipe on the pumpkin puree tin.

special equipment: 8-inch fluted tart tin

infused milk

  • 100g milk
  • 100g heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • pinch peppercorns
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger


  • 210g flour, half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 115g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large egg


  • 125g chestnut puree (pure chestnut puree; not creme de marron)
  • 125g pumpkin puree
  • 40g maple syrup
  • 7g granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 75g eggs (1 1/2 large eggs)
  • 180g infused milk

to serve

  • 120g whipped cream
  • 4g kinako (optional)
  • garnishes – salted roasted squash seeds and sliced roasted chestnuts

For the infused milk, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Pass the milk through a sieve to remove the spices before using.

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and process until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and process until the dough comes together – it will take about 30 seconds.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and let soften on the counter for about 10-15 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick or your desired thickness. Trim into a rough circle, about 11″ in diametre. Drape over an 8″ tart tin and press into all the corners and up the sides. Trim any excess and patch any tears (it’s a delicate pastry so it may happen, but it’s easy to fix!).

Cover and place in the fridge to chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Dock the bottom of the tart crust with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the crust is crisp, but still pale. Set aside and begin making the filling.

For the filling, lower the heat to 325F. Press the chestnut puree through a fine sieve to make sure it is smooth, then cream the chestnut puree and pumpkin puree together in a bowl. Add the maple syrup, sugar and salt and mix until combined, then whisk in the eggs. Lastly, blend in the infused milk.

Pour the filling into the partially baked crust (if not all of it fits, you can bake the leftover in a muffin cup lined with a paper liner). Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until only the centre jiggles and an inserted knife is removed clean.

Let cool, then chill completely.

Finish with the garnishes. Whip the cream and kinako in a bowl until billowy (if you don’t have kinako, feel free to substitute a bit of sugar and vanilla extract instead). Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a petal tip and pipe cream along the edge of the tart. Sprinkle with roasted squash seeds and slices of roasted chestnut.

grapefruit cream tart (& stop asian hate)

grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart
grapefruit cream tart

It was over a year ago (can you believe we’ve been in the pandemic for over a year now?) when I wrote about a resurgence in anti-Asian sentiments, driven by racist pandemic rhetoric but symptomatic of underlying currents of white supremacy that continue to persist. I thought I was taking it seriously then, but when I go back and read what I wrote, that “anti-Chinese racism[…] is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt,” it rings weakly. At the time, I don’t think I really, really meant it. Not in a way that could imagine what happened in Atlanta was possible. Who would ever want to think such a thing could happen? – is my excuse.

I’ve been thinking more about why I kept harbouring hesitancy about the extent of anti-Asian racism, even when I’m a descendant of immigrants who paid an astronomical head tax, and other members of my extended family were interned. I think it’s because the model minority myth has been pervasive in my thinking – it posits that “Asians are pretty much white,” collapses the experiences of a diverse group into one, and suggests that the socioeconomic successes of some members means that structural barriers don’t exist. All of which are false. This is what I need to unlearn.

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grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes

grapefruit rose cardamom loaf cakes

I don’t know whether there is a grapefruit rose soap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flavour combination subconsciously entered my head via a soap. I mean, it sounds pretty soapy – in a good way. (I always find myself wishing that displays of fancy handcrafted soaps were edible. Oatmeal, honey and goat’s milk soap? I’d eat that for breakfast any day. Especially if it wasn’t actually soap.)

These soap bars cakes are also actually grapefruit cakes. I’ve tried making “grapefruit” cakes a couple times before following a similar approach as I would with a lemon cake – throw in some zest – and always ended up with a very plain cake. Because I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion and have an active imagination, I could taste grapefruit if I waved my hands and thought hard enough about it… but that doesn’t help others taste the flavour.

Continue reading “grapefruit, rose & cardamom loaf cakes”