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Macaron Party

Macaron Party

Macarons have always been on my radar screen. Recently, they have been a recurring topic of conversation and food lust. Naturally, I found an excuse to experiment with crafting these mouthwatering French cookies. A couple nights ago, a good part of the debate team came over to cook and consume macarons, and dinner, too, of course.

The first order of business was basic vanilla macaron batter in pink and white, followed by chocolate.

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With these treats safely in the oven, we started on the filling: bittersweet chocolate, caramel, and raspberry.

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Here is the caramel sauce. Unfortunately, the chocolate and raspberry disappeared so quickly that the following record is all that’s left.

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But dessert wasn’t the only memorable culinary experience of the evening.

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My signature sun-dried tomato hummus got rave reviews.

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The truffle risotto was rich, flavorful, and oh so decadent.

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Finally, we assembled the macarons.

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The consensus was that the caramel was the best. That being said, the plates were empty within minutes.

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As if we hadn’t eat enough already, a second dessert course followed the macarons: red velvet cupcakes kindly provided by a friend.

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Recipes:

Basic Macaron Cookies

Adapted from Macarons: 30 Recettes Faciles by Daniel Patzelt

  • 125 g almond powder
  • 205 g icing sugar
  • 100 g egg whites
  • a pinch of salt
  • 65 g white sugar
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • a few drops of food coloring
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF).
  2. Mix the almond powder and icing sugar. Pulse through a food processor to remove clumps and refine the mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. When they are about halfway done, gradually add half the granulated sugar. When they are done, add the rest of the sugar and the vanilla.
  4. Gently fold the dry mixture, one third to one half at a time, and food coloring of choice into the beaten egg whites. (The French verb for folding in this context is actually macaronner. It’s sort of perfect!) The mixture is done when it is “lisse et brillante” or smooth and shiny.
  5. Cover two cookie sheets with oven paper and using a pastry bag, or a zip lock bag with one corner cut off, in my case, pipe out small rounds, separating them by a few centimeters.
  6. Leave the cookie sheets alone for 30 minutes before putting them into the oven and allowing them to cook for 12-15 minutes. The cookies are done if they feel hard when tapped in the center and can be peeled off the paper easily.

For the chocolate macarons and ganache, I used David Leibovitz’s recipe. His instructions are always clear, his ratios well-vetted. Here are the recipes for the Caramel Fleur de Sel and Raspberry Fillings. We lessened the amount of butter in the caramel by about 1/2 to 2/3, as 140 g seemed a little excessive. For the raspberry, we started with all of the amounts given but had to add a little extra cornstarch to bring it to the proper consistency. All of the fillings should be chilled before assembly. Trust me, this makes life so much easier.

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Truffle Risotto to serve 4

Inspired by Bevan Smith’s recipe for Broad Bean Risotto
From Riverstone Kitchen: Recipes from a Chef’s Garden,
(A book acquired in New Zealand with lots of delicious, albeit rich, recipes)

  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 300 g (a scant cup and a half) carnaroli risotto rice
  • 120 mL Noilly Prat dry vermouth
  • 700 mL vegetable stock (I used hot water and vegan bouillon cubes.)
  • roughly 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • juice of half a lemon
  • another 15 g unsalted butter
  • 40 g grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • however many truffles you want, finely chopped
  1. Finely chop the onion and celery. No big chunks, please. Think about what would taste good in a bit of smooth, creamy risotto.
  2. Sauté the mushrooms with a touch of extra butter until soft. Set aside.
  3. Sweat the onion and celery with the olive oil and first dose of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.
  4. Add the rice and continue to sweat for another 2 minutes, or so.
  5. Add the vermouth and reduce the mixture until there is almost no liquid left. Then, begin to add the stock, stirring constantly and pouring in a little bit at a time. You may need more than 700 mL to cook the rice properly. Taste it when you think it’s getting close and add more water if it’s still too al dente.
  6. When the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms, then the cheese, extra butter, lemon juice, and parsley. Next toss in your truffles, salt, and pepper.

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They may not look quite as good as the real deal, but I’d say not bad for a first attempt.

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Varsity Breakfast

Varsity Breakfast

I have been on the debate team for the past three years. Last Friday was the varsity debate tournament. My last debate. As per tradition, the varsity nine skipped school in the morning for a pre-debate potluck breakfast. We had everything from deviled eggs to decadent nutella cake. With tomato-goat cheese and spinach-feta quiche, gobs of fruit, cinnamon roll pancakes and cream cheese frosting, and homemade croissants to boot, I think it’s safe to say no one went hungry. It was a great way to start an even better day, seeing as we won the tournament for the first time in my three years as a varsity debater. We seniors went out with a bang!

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Cookie Bowls

This weekend, I was trolling around the internet looking for desert ideas for a nice home-cooked meal when I ran across some luscious looking cookie bowls. I read through a few recipes, but most seemed to be either sugar-cookie bowls or chocolate chip ones made with margarine. Ich. I wanted something chocolate, without compromising flavor. So, I opted for my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe of all the time: the classic Joy of Cooking model.

Cookie Bowls

First, I made the batter just as I would have for normal cookies, decreasing the butter a little to make the dough a little stiffer and thus more likely to hold a bowl-like shape.

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I did not, however, lessen the amount of chocolate. A full cup went into this dough.

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Next, I rolled my dough, that is, what was left of it, into a log and set in the freezer to toughen up a bit. Cookies are good, but dough is better. With my sister and mother circling the bowl like vultures, a good chunk of it definitely disappeared during transfer.

Ok… maybe I had something to do with that too…

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A few hours later, out came the log. It was time to experiment. As dictated by some of the recipes I found online, I took out a cupcake tray, turned it upside down, and covered a few of the molds with tin foil. I then molded cookie dough over these mound… and promptly consumed the remaining morsels.

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When the bowls came out, the results were, shall we say, interesting.

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Oozing over the baking sheet, they almost looked alive.

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Some of them were not as bowl-ish as I would have hoped.

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Others actually came out pretty well, although I have to admit that taking the foil off them was a real effort.

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Recipe:

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • vanilla!

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2. Mix the flour and baking soda.

3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add both sugars.

4. Next, beat in the egg, salt, and vanilla, followed by the flour mixture and chocolate chips. (For the record, lessening the chocolate chips might make the cookie bowls hold up better – not a compromise I was willing to make.)

5. Turn a muffin tin upside down on a cookie sheet and cover 5 or 6 of the metal mounds with tin foil.

6. Mold cookie dough onto the mounds.

7. Cook. Start with 12 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. I generally undercook cookies because I like them doughier and chewier. In this case, however, cooking them for longer will yield more bowl-like cookies. Cook them until golden brown.

8. Let the bowls cool completely before peeling off the foil.

9. Invert, add ice cream, and enjoy this over-the-top dessert!

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Quinoa Granola

Quinoa Granola

Quinoa is basically a miracle food. It’s super healthy, not to mention delicious in every way, shape, and form. I’d tried a plethora of different savory concoctions, but this was my first foray into the realm of the sweet. Quinoa granola does not disappoint. Its texture is crunchier than the oaty variety, its flavor nuttier. Delish!

Recipe:

Adapted from Donna Hay’s Fresh and Light

You’ll need…

  • 1 1/2 cups white quinoa
  • 1 1/2 rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • and last but not least, a splash of vanilla

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1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).

2. Throw all the ingredients into a big bowl and mix well.

3. Spread out on to two baking sheets lined with oven paper.

4. Bake until golden. (Donna says 15 minutes, but it took mine at least 25 minutes. I’d start with 15 minutes and then check it periodically for color.)

5. Allow the granola to cool before transferring.

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Topped with thick yogurt and apricot jam, it was to die for!

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Fish in the Mail

Fish in the Mail

Today I returned home to find a package addressed to me sitting on the credenza! I love snail mail. It’s exciting! The parcel was from one of my best friends in America. We met at arts camp in the states last summer, where sampling various candy bars and mass-market confections became an everyday event. From white chocolate reese’s cups (surprisingly tasty) to mystery skittles (avoiding the puke-worthy punch flavor is crucial), we hit them all. Swedish fish were a favorite, although nothing could ever outdo dark chocolate, much less junior mints. At any rate, we can’t get these crimson delicacies here in Tokyo. American candy plus a parcel from a pal, what a lovely surprise!

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Train Station Feast

Last Night, my family and I headed to Nozawa Onsen, Nagano for a relaxing post-exams weekend of skiing. It just so happened that our shinkansen (bullet train) was leaving from Tokyo Station, a train station with an excellent food court. Hence, ‘train station feast’!

First stop, onigiri (Japanese rice balls).

Train Station TreatsHere you have the full array of onigiri offerings:

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And… my personal favorite, konbu, or kelp with a sweet-ish soy flavoring. This particular konbu onigiri was made with sesame seed and shiso leaves to boot. Yum!

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Next, we stopped at a vendor that makes healthy and delicious wafū, or Japanese style, salads.

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Last but not least, we grabbed some inari-zushi before bolting for our train. (Inari-zushi are a type of sushi made by filling a pocket of fried tofu with rice.)

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Once safely on board, we broke out our banquet. Eating in my family is a communal event. What we don’t share to begin with, we mooch. It works out well and everyone gets some of everything!

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A crunchy salad with strips of yuba (a type of tofu), greens, and daikon (Japanese giant radish), topped off with jyako (tiny dried fish).

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An avocado and tofu salad.

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Smoked salmon salad.

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Takana onigiri.

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Chirimen (rice with jyakoinari.

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My konbu onigiri. Delish!

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For desert, we devoured a bar of amaretto-marzipan chocolate cached in Dad’s backpack. I am categorically opposed to putting alcohol (and cinnamon and coffee) in chocolate. Why mess with a flavor that’s already perfection? But, I have to admit, this wasn’t half bad. Ok, it was more than half good. (And it didn’t hurt that it was called Mozart chocolate, seeing as I am pretty much addicted to western classical music, his in particular!)

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Whole Wheat Pizzas

I made dinner for my family of four tonight. And, as you have probably already gathered, it was whole wheat pizzas.

Whole Wheat Pizzas

I’m going to jump right in and write about my pizza preparation.

First of all, the dough is delicious, and quickly made to boot. All you have to do is throw all of your ingredients into a kitchen-aid mixer, affix a dough hook, and watch it spin!

Pizza Dough

 

The dough has to rise for about 20 minutes.

Pizza Timer

While waiting for that to happen, there is plenty to do. These pizzas have a creamy ricotta base, rather than the typical tomato type. There is also the question of toppings. Donna includes six suggestions with her base recipe, so I decided to try three: spinach with feta and pine nuts, mushrooms with parmesan and thyme, and caramelized onion with feta and rosemary.

Caramelized Onions

My caramelized red onions were surprisingly sweet!

Toppings

After rolling out the dough nice and thin, I set out my toppings and began the assembly.

Here they are, my finished beauties:

 

Onion Pizza Mushroom Pizza The Works

This last one has everything on it except for onions because I ran out. They were the best homemade pizzas I’ve ever attempted!

The family favorite was easily the caramelized onion. The sweetness of the onion and the saltiness of the crust and feta offset and balanced each other beautifully. (That’s not to say the others weren’t pretty great too!)

Here’s how make these wholesome pies:

This recipe is adapted from Donna Hay’s Fresh and Light, an aesthetically pleasing cookbook full of hit recipes.

Ingredients:

For the base–

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes (I used Maldon’s Fleur de Sel.)
  • 1/4 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For the ricotta spread–

  • 1 generous cup ricotta
  • 2 tbs milk
  • some salt and black pepper

For the toppings (amounts measured completely to taste)–

  • spinach, feta, pine nuts
  • assorted mushrooms, grated parmesan, fresh thyme
  • 2 red onions, vegetable oil plus salt & pepper for caramelizing, feta, fresh thyme

1. Mix the flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil in a stand mixer affixed with a dough hook for 3-5 minutes. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let the dough rise for at least 20 minutes. I should warn you, you can barely tell it’s risen. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t see any change! I couldn’t really either and mine turned out just fine.

2. Mix the ricotta, milk, salt, and pepper together. This can be done by hand with a fork or a whisk.

3. (If you are caramelizing onions, chop them nice and thin and toss into a large fry pan with some vegetable oil. Let them cook until limp and brown, stirring every so often to avoid burning.)

4. Divide the dough into four and roll each piece into a thin round.

5. Spread each pizza base with the ricotta sauce and top as desired. For the mushroom pie, you can really heap the mushrooms on as they will reduce significantly when cooked, something that, as you can tell from the picture, I did not realize until afterwards.

6. Cook at 200ºC (400ºF). Donna says to cook for 14 minutes, but I kept mine in longer, until the edges were crisp and brown.

After dinner, my mother had the brilliant idea of blending some pesto in with the ricotta base. I am definitely trying that next time!

Onion Pizza II

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Vegetable Sushi Lunch Date

Yesterday morning, after a nice, relaxing history exam, I headed back downtown and met my mother for lunch. I love sushi, but, sadly, my mom doesn’t share my fondness for raw fish. Vegetable sushi to the rescue! Some time in the recent past, a vegetable sushi restaurant called Potager opened up in Roppongi Hills.Potager

At Potager, the chefs cleverly craft sushi of seasonal vegetables and rice to resemble their fishy cousins. Delicate, delicious food at an elegant endroit. What could be better?

Potager Description

Vegetable Sushi Lunch Date

My mother and I were charmed by the tiny tin hashi-oki, or chopstick rests.

Potager: Course I (2)

For lunch, you have two options: steamed vegetables and 8 pieces of sushi or 10 pieces of sushi. Naturally, we both went for the latter.

Potager: Course I

Our sushi were served in two courses. Here is the first.
From left to right: turnip purée with a drop of lemon sauce on white rice, gobo (burdock root) on black rice with ume (pickled plum) sauce, kappa-maki cucumber rolls with pickled cucumber, pumpkin with a sweet balsamic sauce, and, last but certainly not least, brocoli-black olive paste with black and white rice.
The turnip was heavenly, the brocoli-olive number wonderfully full of mixed flavors.

Turnip Purée Sushi Gobo Sushi

Now, for course two.

Potager: Course II

From left to right: rich carrot mousse styled to look like uni (sea urchin), eringi mushrooms sautéed with butter to invoke scallops, tomato curry, onion, and tomato with a nib of mozzarella. Beneath the sushi, the plate was sprinkled with a trail of black olive panko.

Carrot Uni Sushi

Apparently, this item is the most popular piece of sushi for Potager’s male customers. I hate to sound masculine, but it was mine too! There are no words, except, maybe sublime.
Women prefer the mushrooms and gobo. They were tasty too, but nothing could stand up to the faux uni!

Tomato Toro Sushi

Although the tomato number bore perhaps the most resemblance to seafood sushi, impeccably imitating tuna, it didn’t pack that flavor punch characteristic of the other pieces.

Beet Pudding with Blood Orange Sauce

For dessert, I got beet pudding with blood orange sauce. I couldn’t really taste much beet but that was just fine by me. It was delish!

Tomato Green Shortcake

Mom decided to be a little more daring and went for ‘Tomato Green Shortcake.’ It was an unusual, yet yummy version of shortcake. The base was a combination of mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. That was topped with green shortcake crumbs and shavings of blood orange sorbet. The tomato component was a couple cherry tomato slices that had been marinated in some sort of orange concoction – my least favorite element of the dish. In my opinion, the tomatoes were an unnecessary distraction from the main event.

Pudding All Gone

Before we knew it, it was all gone! When we left the restaurant we got an “itsumo argito gozaimashita” (something said to regulars that roughly translates to thank you for always coming) even though it was only my second time there and my mother’s third. Quel complément!

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Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

Creamy, classic, and crave-worthy, hummus is practically a staple at my house.

Naturally, I simply can’t think of a better recipe to start my box with. A recipe box seems like the definitive way to keep track of favorite foods. I like to have hard copies of my recipes and now I’ll have the perfect place to store them!

Here it is!

Here it is!

Now back to the matter at hand: hummus.

HummusThis recipe is inspired by the formula in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/
Ingredients:
(Keep in mind, this is hummus. I’ve listed the proportions that I use, but everything can and should be adjusted to taste.)

  • 3 cans of chickpeas
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • about 3/4 cup tahini
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • (almost) 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drain before adding)
  • water
  • optional: a couple chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, or some smoked or standard paprika to garnish

I make my hummus in a food processor. It’s quick, clean, easy, and oh so satisfying. This recipe makes quite a large quantity of hummus but it keeps for a week in the fridge, and likely won’t last that long, anyways!

1. Completely pulverize the garlic. (Finding a chuck of raw garlic in a bite of smooth, scrumptious hummus is a nasty surprise – I speak from personal experience, unfortunately.)

2. Throw in the chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes, followed by the tahini.

3. Add lemon to taste. (I add lots of lemon to cut the amount of salt I need. For some reason, the sharp tang of lemon juice renders salt unnecessary.)

4. Now it’s texture time. Adding a little water at time (no more than 1/4 cup), pulse the food processor and adjust the texture to taste.

Hummus Again

Served with warm pita, I guarantee it will be a hit.

Pita

Hummus at Hand

Hummus gets eaten

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Viennese Chocolate Nutcake

I love to cook, consume, and chronicle beautiful food. So it’s high time I inaugurated my food blog.
This afternoon, in lieu of studying for senior semester exams, I decided to bake a cake. A recipe from Ladies, A Plate, a cookbook acquired in New Zealand, this Viennese Chocolate Nutcake did not disappoint. Made with ground almonds instead of flour, the cake itself had a mildly sweet and wonderfully textured, nutty flavor. Its gritty chocolate buttercream – with white sugar rather than the typical confectioner’s variety – was the perfect complement. Jumbo (and standard) nonpareils topped it off, giving my cake a little bit of colorful character.

Viennese Chocolate Nutcake

Recipe:

Adapted from Ladies, A Plate: Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston
http://www.ladiesaplate.co.nz/

You’ll Need…

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 oz (115 g) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp matzo meal (I used whole-wheat)
  • A generous splash of vanilla (I add vanilla to anything and everything sweet, it can’t hurt, right?)
  • 4 oz (115 g) butter
  • A scant 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate, melted but not hot (use high quality since this is the main ingredient in the buttercream – côte d’or is my personal favorite)
  • 1 egg

1. Start by setting your oven to 190ºC (375ºF) and greasing an 8-in diameter cake pan with butter. Line the base with a circle of oven paper.

2. To make the cake, begin by beating the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until pale yellow.

3. Next, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff but not dry.

4. Fold the ground almonds and matzo meal into the yolks. When that’s done, fold in the egg whites, adding one third to half of them at a time.

5. Pour the batter into your cake pan and cook. Alexa recommends cooking this cake for 45 min, but in my oven, 35 min was plenty. Situate the cake on a rack in the middle of your oven and rotate it after about 20 min, to ensure that it bakes evenly. The cake is done when it pulls away from the edges and is golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

6. Now it’s time to tackle the buttercream. First, cream the butter until smooth. Then add the sugar and vanilla.

7. Next, add the chocolate, followed by the egg.

8. After you take the cake out, let it sit for a bit (let’s say at least 5 min) in order to cool down. Then, carefully invert it onto a plate.

9. To cut it into two layers, use a serrated knife to make the first incision (the outer edge of the cake is made of sturdier stuff than the inside). Then follow through with dental floss – be careful not to use the flavored kind! I find that a large spatula really helps when it comes to lifting off the top layer.

10. Lather the bottom layer with icing. This recipe make more than enough, so there’s no need to skimp.

11. Replace the top layer of cake, centering it carefully. Ice its top and sides and decorate as desired.
A Single Slice

Hokey Pokey ice cream to finish: two commonwealth treats in one!

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