This cake is, in essence, a sheetpan version of tiramisu with superabundant soak. It’s also a travesty and is neither really a tiramisu or a tres leches cake.
For the uninitiated, tres leches cake, or pastel de tres leches, is a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of canned and fresh milk. I love it – it is the dream remedy to all dry cake nightmares! Origins of this cake can be linked to multiple Latin American countries, European influence, expansion of dairy farming and sales of canned milk. It’s perhaps a familiar story of food emerging from resilient local ingenuity under colonialism (with a touch of capitalism and wartime food preservation).
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.
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.
I used to make these biscotti for my roommate and I to snack on – they’re the hard type perfect for dipping (or ferociously crunching!), and about one third solid almond. (They are also not too sweet and half whole-wheat, further cementing their value as a study snack/occasional meal replacement.) While I played with a few different flavour combinations, orange, almond and fennel seed was always our favourite.
This mousse cake is made of mango yoghurt mousse with an insert of mango jelly and caramelized white chocolate fennel cremeux over a fennel seed joconde. Ataulfo mango and fragrant fennel seed make for a refreshing combination!
This ice cream is all at once intensely deep and chocolatey all while not being too chocolatey at all. It’s a chocolate ice cream for those who don’t really love chocolate all that much. Which, okay, I know might just be me.
But stay with me for just a bit longer – it’s also a chocolate ice cream for those who like chocolate paired with other, complementary flavours! The dried fruit and whiskey lends it the muted acidity of a dark aged fruitcake, and that slight acidic undertone in combo with chocolate comes across as coffee. It’s complicated! And so very alcoholic, too.
My posts have been fairly substance-less of late. I had meant to spend more time writing about things that matter far more than getting a proper puff on your choux or preventing soggy bottoms – pandemic fallout, policing and media to name a couple things. Yet, I’ve gradually returned to solid frivolities – a return signifying the privileges I have to be able to disengage from matters of life-and-death for others, at least on the blog front. Recently the pace of life has picked up again and I’ve landed myself with quite a few more responsibilities (which I was rather enjoying the lack of during the last few months). While I’ve been having more significant conversations with family and friends (US politics top of mind, of course), as far as the blog goes, I’ll need to find a new equilibrium.
Writing this blog is certainly extremely low impact, but I think it contributes to the general milieu where we hear these issues emphasized over and over from various channels. It helps keep me from lapsing into (more) complacency – and organizing my thoughts in writing first helps me talk about them in person.
The blog year in review is an opportunity for me to highlight my personal favourite recipes that I posted during the year. And it has been quite a few this time – sixty?! to be precise – and for the first time ever in my six years of blogging, I’ve actually posted at least once every month of the year.
I’ve put together a series of 10 categories in which to highlight recipes, ranging from the cake of the year to the festive recipe of the year. It’s a bit like an awards show night except it it is administered by me, all the entries were written by me, it was judged by me and announced by me. Wow, is that not the great thing about a single person blogging enterprise?
Happy winter holidays! Every year around this time we pull out the fruitcakes: dark, sticky, dense, eighty percent dried fruit, full of tradition and less so, elegance.
While the exciting time, when we can taste the cake, is now, the process usually starts in late summer or fall. Brushed with rum and wrapped up in paper and a double layer of plastic, the cakes age in the dark whilst pondering their existence for at least a few months – or a few years (the best fruitcakes are old and existential).
Nothing much inspired the creation of these tarts, aside from the fact that I had figs and I wanted to eat them nearly just as they were… though maybe with a bit of cheese or cream and why not some sugar… and rosemary as well? The result were these very simple tarts, entrusted with the honourable role of vehicle for fresh figs.