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Banana Cupcakes with Pastry Cream Frosting

I’m currently watching my cat look out the window in my living room. It’s the perfect place for him to watch all the birds that fly back and forth from the trees to the Amtrak bridge. Watching my cat watch another animal, while someone else probably watches me. Next month I’ll be uprooting from New York and living in Los Angeles working at the new Beverly Hills Vosges boutique. I’m excited and very sad at the same time. Kitty is obviously coming with me on the plane, I look at him and wonder “Do you know you’re about to hate the shit out of me very soon?” I don’t think he does.

I had a bunch of perfectly ripe bananas sitting around and I figured the perfect way to put them to use would be to make banana cupcakes. I searched all over the web for some inspiration, but I mostly found the same kind of combination: banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. I’m bored with that. I wanted something different. I went with Crepe of Wrath’s “Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Pastry Cream Frosting”. I’ve never made pastry cream before, and it was a little bit of a challenge, but it’s one of those things that I should give a shot especially since I want to make some pastries filled with custard in the future.

These did not disappoint! They were as moist as ever, and I’m glad I held out using the bananas as long as I could. The darker they are, the better they are. It’s kind of a scary concept to wait for bananas to turn black, but don’t let that freak you out. I promise it’ll turn out okay.

Banana Cupcakes with Pastry Cream Frosting
by Crepes of Wrath

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 bananas)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar + 1/2 cup regular milk)

For the pastry cream:
3 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For assembly:
cherries or a banana slice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and shortening together until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add in the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth, at least 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs one at a time until combined. Add in the mashed bananas and beat until just combined. Gradually add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, than half of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mixture, until just moistened – it’s better to finish mixing the batter by hand than risk over-beating the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter each. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. A toothpick should come out clean; the cupcakes should be set and just barely golden. Place the pans on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes cool, make the pastry cream. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium sized bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer and keep warm over low heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute. Whisk half of the warm heavy cream into the egg yolk mixture, to temper it, then pour the egg and cream mixture into the remaining warm heavy cream in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened – about 6 minutes. If it looks like the pastry cream is starting to break, remove the pot from heat and whisk quickly to bring it back together.

Remove the mixture from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Strain the pastry cream through the sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Place in the fridge for about an hour, or until chilled completely.

You can either frost the cupcakes with a pastry bag, in a ziplock plastic bag with the tip cut out, or just spoon it on. I spooned it on.


Peach Salsa with Quinoa and Black Beans

I nearly missed peach season without making a single peach dish! It’s way too hot to bake a peach pie, so I went with peach salsa. Ever since I made pineapple salsa to put on top of chicken, i’ve been really into making and eating citrus fruit salsas and pairing it with something savory. I’m usually one to never let the weather interfere with my cooking or baking. If anything i’ll run the air conditioner while I bake brownies, no big deal. But, man, it’s wearing on my patience. When I was making the chicken and pineapple salsa, I found myself just wanting to give up standing over the hot oven in 97 degree heat and just give up and eat the salsa instead.

You know what else goes well with fruit salsas? Quinoa. It’s so much lighter than rice, but still kind of tastes like couscous. It’s really high in proteins and goes well pretty much with ANYTHING. It also has this amazing texture of crunchy and soft at the same time.

So on a really hot day, and you’re tired and don’t want to subject to making a delivery guy leave his air conditioned store to bring you a shitty sandwich, make this instead. And you’ll feel better.

Peach Salsa with Quinoa and Black Beans

First, make your peach salsa:
4 ripe peaches
1/2 small red onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1 lime
handful of cilantro, chopped
sea or kosher salt
pinch of paprika

Peel and core the peaches, and then cut into cubes. Set aside in a medium bowl.
Finely dice red onion, and jalapeno. Add to peaches.
Chop cilantro and add to the rest of your peaches, toss everything together with a spoon.
Squeeze in your lime and some sea salt.
Sprinkle with some paprika and toss everything together again.
Cover loosely and stick the bowl in the fridge.

The rest:
Black beans [from a can or cooked]
Chili Powder
Green Onion
Cook your quinoa: Boil 2 cups of water, sprinkle in some salt.
Add 1 cup quinoa, reduce heat, and cover to let simmer for 13-15 minutes, until water has evaporated and you’re left with fluffy quinoa.
Take quinoa off heat, and fluff up with a fork. Adding a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
Add half a cup of drained black beans to a bowl. Toss with some Cumin and Chili Powder.
Chop 3 pieces of green onion and add to the beans. Toss together again.
Dish your quinoa into a bowl, cover with black bean mixture, and top with the peach salsa

Breakfast Portobello Mushrooms

Breakfast during the working week is basically non-existant for me. In fact, it’s even worse, I work at a chocolate store so the first thing I do when I get into the store to open it up is eat a bunch of chocolate. Seriously not good for me, but I’m not one for buying breakfast from Starbucks or Dunk’n Donuts on the go. I guess i’m no true New Yorker.

When I found this recipe, and noticed how easy it was to make, I jumped on it. I love portobello mushrooms, they’re so meaty and earthy. The baked egg on top was runny and creamy, and the herbs gave it a nice touch. This would go great with roasted tomatos and a mimosa.

Breakfast Portobello Mushrooms
adapted from What’s Cooking, Mexico?

2 Portobello mushrooms, stems cut, gills scraped out [take a spoon and just scrape out all the black gills and discard]
2 large eggs
olive oil
fresh dill, thyme, basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle olive oil over mushrooms, with stems cut and gills taken out. Season with salt and pepper.
Put on a greased baking dish or sheet, or use a silpat
Sprinkle herbs on top
Crack open eggs carefully on top of mushrooms.
Bake for 10-15 minutes on 325F

Nutella Ice Cream

I watch a lot of competition food shows. I watch The Next Food Network Star, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, etc etc. I also watch every other food show you can possibly think of. I love ALL of them!

There’s always a segment where the judges ask the contestants what their “signiature dish” is. They make it to wow the judges to show them what they’ve got. I always wonder what I’d serve a celebrity foodie, and I’ve never really known. Until now.

No one ever serves a dessert. It’s usually a bad sign if someone on the show is in charge of making a dessert, or the challenge is a dessert, because all of the contestants are cooks and hate baking and are just plain awful at it. It makes me laugh.

But THIS. This. I would make this. I would serve it to the fanciest chef in the world because it’s THAT good. Rich, decadent, creamy, dark chocolate with nutella. One of the most amazing combinations of two edible things on this entire planet.
And not to toot my own horn, but I’ve never had nutella ice cream like this before in my life. Usually if I get “Nutella ice cream”, you can tell they just mixed Nutella with some cream and then churned it and that’s it. Nutella it’s self is chocolate with hazelnuts, and I made pretty much exactly that.

I used Jeni’s, of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, recipe for “The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World” from her new book and tweaked it a little bit, so you get the perfect balance of dark rich chocolate and Nutella.

I really wanted to go all out and make a dessert using this amazing ice cream, so I used Baked’s recipe for chocolate brownies and topped it with a scoop.

Nutella Ice Cream
adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Makes about 1 quart

Chocolate Syrup:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate [55% to 70% cocoa], finely chopped

Ice Cream base:
2 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces [3 heaping Tablespoons] Nutella cream cheese*, softened
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoon light corn syrup
half a container of Nutella

*There’s a bagel place down the street from my apartment that sells Nutella cream cheese, but you can make your own. Mix the 1 1/2 ounces of softened cream cheese with 5 Tablespoons of Nutella [or as much as you want, taste a long the way to get to the desired flavor]

For the chocolate syrup:
Combine the cocoa, coffee, and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir the syrup until smooth. Set aside.

For the ice cream base:
Mix about 2 Tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.
Whisk the Nutella cream cheese, warm chocolate syrup, salt, and half a container of Nutella in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cornstarch-milk mixture in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice if necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base you’ve been cooling in the ice bath into your ice cream maker. I cut off a corner of the Ziploc bag and poured it into the spinning ice cream maker. Spin till thick and creamy.

Pack ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper directly against the surface, making sure there are no huge gaps of air. Seal with an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight [overnight is ideal].

Pistachio Raspberry Ice Cream

My parents sent me an ice cream maker, can you tell?
It’s probably the best thing to ever happen to me, actually. I feel invincible now. I can make any ice cream i want. As much as i want. I could dominate this fucking planet with all the ice cream i’m about to make. The streets are going to run red with the blood of my ice cream.
The first thing i did was go out and buy Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home cookbook. [Actually, this recipe isn’t even from the book, i found the recipe on the Food & Wine website, but it’s still Jeni Britton Bauer’s recipe]

I lived in Ohio briefly, but no where near Columbus where Jeni’s Ice cream is from, and I didn’t try it until a few months ago when i found it at a Dean & Delucca next door to my job. It started with her Banana & Honey, then to her Goat Cheese with Figs, and then to Salty Caramel.
I very much fell in love with Jeni’s and we are still happily married to this day! She is a huge inspiration for me, and I hope to one day be as successful and innovative as she is. I plan on making [and eating] my way through the book by the end of the summer!

Once I made the ice cream, I realized I should really make some ice cream sandwiches with this world-class ice cream. Fortunately, in Jeni’s new book, she gives you an awesome recipe for macaron ice cream sandwiches. As someone who has never made macarons before, it was a little tricky at first, but it’s worth the frustration. The chewy crispy macaron with the cool creamy nutty ice cream spiked with tart raspberry is amazing. I’m really new to anything pistachio, but i fell in love with the combination of raspberry with pistacho when I ate a pistachio cream eclair filled with raspberry sauce and fresh whole raspberries. It won my heart over, and once I got my hands on an ice cream maker, I knew i had to make some kind of pistachio concoction. This is surely the best i’ve made yet!

Pistachio Raspberry Ice Cream
adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup toasted pistachios, very finely ground
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Raspberry sauce:
2 cups raspberries
1 cup sugar

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes.

Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the pistachios, almond extract and salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

While the hot ice cream base is cooling, make your raspberry sauce. Combine your raspberries and white sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir constantly, pressing down on your raspberries while stirring. Pause every now and then to let the fruit and sugar bubble and boil.
Once the sugar has dissolved, pour raspberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl, pressing down with the back of a spoon to get as much as you can through. Loosely cover with saran wrap and put in fridge to thicken and cool.

Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker, pressing the pistachios with the back of a spoon to extract all the flavor, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pack the ice cream into a plastic container, layering scoops of ice cream with your raspberry sauce. [example: scoop of ice cream, 1/3 cup of raspberry sauce, scoop of ice cream, and so on and so forth]

Press a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the pistachio ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

For the macarons
1 cup finely ground almonds
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
food coloring, if you want to give it a fun color

Preheat oven to 300F
Ready your baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper, and trace 6 circle using a 3-inch round cutter. This will be your guide when you pipe the batter onto your baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of finely ground almonds with the confectioners sugar and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment [or a hand mixer], beat your egg whites on high speed for about 5 minutes. When it starts to get thick and white and stiff peaks form, add in your sugar a little at a time.

Fold your almond and sugar mix into the meringue with a spatula [as you’re doing this, add any food coloring you want].

Once everything has been completely combined, pour into your piping bag. Pipe batter onto the baking sheet using your circles as a guide.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Once the macarons have cooled, scoop your slightly softened pistachio raspberry ice cream onto one macaron, and sandwich another one on top of it, slightly pressing down.
Then eat the damn thing!

Nectarine Upside-down Cake

I can never find ground cardamom anywhere. I went to the organic produce store near my house, and found WHOLE cardamom for $8 and bought it thinking i could grind it in my food processor. Man, i really should have researched a little before assuming machines can do things they definitely can’t. Like grinding spices. After i came home and hilariously tried to grind 5 seeds of cardamom, i called around to different organic stores in the area and luckily the hippy health food store near my house had some!

I’m glad i made the extra effort to find ground cardamom. It’s such an amazing spice and goes really great with most fruits. You should definitely always have some on hand, just like you would with cinnamon or nutmeg. I was surprised to find that it was not too strong with this cake, which is good. You want the nectarine or whatever fruit you choose to be what really stands out. This cake was so easy and simple. The brown sugar and butter caramelizes on the bottom as it bakes, and once you flip the cake over, you’re left with this almost creamy fruity top layer and soft airy sweet cake underneath.

Nectarine Upside-down Cake
adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sliced nectarines [or whatever fruit you choose]

For the Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

I used a 9-inch round with 2-inch tall sides cake pan. Square pan would also work.

Place butter in the cake pan and place in the oven. When butter is melted, remove pan from the oven. Using two pot holders, tilt the pan around and around, coating the sides of the pan with butter. Once sides are coated, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed. Cream until slightly pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop mixer, scrape down the bowl with a spatula, and add egg and vanilla extract. Beat for 1 minute.

Turn the mixer off, scrape the bowl, and add the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed while adding the sour cream. Beat until the batter just comes together. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish incorporating ingredients with a spatula.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar into the melted butter in the cake pan. Sprinkle nectarine slices over the butter and sugar in a single layer. Spoon batter over the fruit and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake rest for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake and inverting the cake onto a cake plate. Best served warm.

Blue Velvet Cake

Maybe i’m kind of being a bitch, but i’m getting sick of red velvet cake. Not of the taste, obviously, but of the same combo of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Give me something else! I want skies and oceans and cake of blue!

This cake is BLUE. Bluer than blue. And soft and moist and delicious with the creamy cream cheese frosting and plump juicy blueberries in the middle. I wish i had somewhere fancy to be so i can bring the cake and everyone can ooh and aah at how clever i am making a blue velvet cake instead of red. But alas, i don’t.

I’m also excited because i just bought tickets to the Serious Eats All-Star Sandwich Festival on Governors Island, but it’s more than a month away! What am i going to do until then?! I guess keep eating sandwiches and blue cake.

Blue Velvet Cake
adapted from One Particular Kitchen

2 cups sugar
2 sticks of unsalted room temperature butter [i’ve learned that keeping it out the night before really REALLY helps]
2 eggs
1 1/2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon royal blue food coloring
1 small dab of violet food coloring [use a toothpick to get the dab]
2 1/2 cups cake flower
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 pound of cream cheese [at room temperature]
2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups sifted confectioners sugar

1 package of blueberries [about half a cup]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease 2 8-inch cake pans. Line bottom of cake pans with fitted parchment paper rounds and grease everything again with butter or Pam.
Cream sugar and butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each one.
In a smaller bowl mix cocoa powder and food coloring together. *I didn’t get it all mixed thoroughly, because the food coloring i used was a gel, so i kind of mashed it together and then dumped everything into the sugar mixture.
Sift flour and salt together in a separate bowl. Add to the sugar mixture alternating with the buttermilk. Start and end with flour. Mix in vanilla extract.
Combine baking soda and vinegar in a smaller bowl, then add to the cake mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix one last time.
Fill cake pans half way full with batter and bake for 20 minutes or until the cake starts to seperate from the sides of the cake pan and a toothpick comes out cleanish.
Keep on wire rack until completely cooled.
*I took my cakes out, let it cool for about 45 minutes, when they felt not so scalding hot, i flipped them over onto a wire cooling rack lined with parchment paper and then stuck the whole rack with the cakes on it into the freezer for about 30 minutes. It kind of speeds up the cooling process.

Frosting time:

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth and combined.
Add powdered sugar gradually and taste along the way, stop adding sugar when it gets to your desired sweetness.

Frost bottom layer first, then add blueberries in an even tight packed layer. Frost one side of your top cake layer and place the frosted side down on top of the blueberries. Frost the top of your now 2-layered cake and then around the sides. Top with a blueberry or whatever else you want!