cream cheese

fig & honey spice cake [nyt]

This is not a Valentine’s Day post.

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There will be no red velvet here today. No chocolate, even. No flowers, no candy hearts, and nothing fluffy and pink.

This is not because I hate Valentine’s Day, or love. It’s because I think these winter months are neglected. I think we do ourselves a right injustice with the things we bake in January and February.

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Maybe this is out of sheer exhaustion after the baking and cooking marathon that is the Holiday Season, and we need a month off. Maybe it’s reflective of common New Year’s resolutions to be healthier, feed ourselves better, detox after cookies and eggnog and pies and more cookies. (And then suddenly February 14th rolls around, and we want to stuff ourselves with sweet, sweet chocolate again.)

Whatever the reasoning, I think it is silly.

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Why do we relegate warming spices to the months of October through December? Why do we leave our cans of pumpkin and bottles of allspice in the late fall? Y’all, anyone who’s lived in a place with seasons knows that the real cold comes in the depths of January and February, right after the last of the warm embers left over from Christmas lights and cozy evenings with family have burned out inside of us. And while I can appreciate a good red velvet, chocolate cake with more red dye than you care to know just doesn’t sing the same notes as cinnamon, cardamom, or earthy herbs.

Let’s be real: this time of year is when we need that comfort food, in the form of hearty soups, lots of steaming potatoes, and warm, dense spice cakes.

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(I say this, of course, as Atlanta is a pleasant but humid 60 degrees. Whatever, it was cold a couple weeks ago, okay?? I’m a Northerner at both heart and stomach.)

So maybe this is a Valentine’s Day post after all, insofar as I want to express my undying love for spice cakes and cream cheese frosting. This one in particular comes courtesy of the New York Times, made dense with olive oil and fig jam, pleasantly studded with bits of fresh figs, and topped with a tangy-sweet cream cheese-and-honey combination–and more fresh figs, of course.

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I know this isn’t quite the time for figs, so if you can’t find them at your usual grocery store, feel free to skip them and add a touch more jam instead. Maybe experiment with different fruits. Apricots? Pears? Surely, you can’t go wrong here.

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Do keep an eye on the cake, especially if you’re using two 9″ pans like I did. 35 minutes left them under-baked, but 10 more minutes dried them out a touch. Of course, if you do over-bake, don’t worry–leaving the cake out for a day allows the moisture from the frosting to sink into the cake, bringing back that nice, tender crumb. Just make sure you pop it in the fridge soon after to prevent the fruit from spoiling.

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I said earlier that I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. While this is technically true, I don’t like it, either. I spent my evening doing homework, munching on leftover baked tofu, watching a bit of the Olympics. (Who else saw Shaun White last night?! What an absolute legend.) But if you are less of a grump than I am, I hope you got to revel in the cutout hearts and cupids and saccharine sap of today. Just make sure you enjoy an extra chocolate-covered strawberry for me.

nutella & cream cheese swirled blondies [cookin’ canuck]

(Originally posted: August 28, 2014)

Somehow, despite the fact that it is already the end of August, it feels as though summer has only shown its face in the past week or so.

Chicago suddenly went from a series of balmy, springy days to BAM–85 degrees, muggy, humid, thunderstorms, and basically everything that one would actually expect from a Chicago summer.

As a result, I’ve been flip-flopping all summer between wanting peach iced tea-strawberry ice cream-blueberry lemon pie bar days, and hot noodle soup-steaming tea and biscuits-hearty tomato sauce and pasta days.

My stomach is terribly confused.

So today, you all get a throwback to these blondies from Cookin’ Canuck, which are absolutely irresistible in any weather.

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I’ve made them in the midst of February for World Nutella Day, I’ve shipped a box of them to my best friend over spring break, and most recently, I whipped them up as finals wound down in the beginning of June–a time when nearly everyone on campus could do with a little Nutella-white chocolate-cheesecake swirl in their lives.

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If you’re feeling crazy, you can sub out 1/2 a cup of Nutella for 1/2 a cup of peanut butter–like the really great honey roasted kind–and you’ll get an even more rich cheesecake swirl in there. Mmmmm.

Not gonna lie: I’m drooling a little bit looking at these photos.

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I really want one now. Dammit. They’re great when they’re hot and gooey, but they really shine when you let them cool and absorb the flavors. Thick, buttery, soft blondies, broken up by mouthfuls of Nutella cheesecake and the gentle crunch of white chocolate chips. Grab a glass of milk with these, because you’ll need one after you realize you’ve accidentally eaten three in a row.

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Sorry not sorry.

Enjoy the blondies, and keep your eyes open for more summery posts as I make the most of what’s left of the best fruit season of the year!

red velvet cupcakes/cinnamon cream cheese frosting [joy the baker]

(Originally posted: February 14, 2014)

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! Whether you’re spending it with a significant other or with a movie and some chocolate, make sure you treat yourself well today.

My Valentine’s Day gift to myself is takeout, a bad 1970 adaptation of Dracula, and good friends. Ladies and gentlemen, life at UChicago.

As far as V-Day treats go, though, I’m a big fan of red velvet done right. In my quest for the perfectly moist, tender and crumbly red velvet cake, I made these cupcakes from Joy the Baker.

Let me just say: right choice. This is by far the best red velvet recipe I’ve tried to date.

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Moreover, the frosting? Oh my god, to die for. Why have I never thought of putting cinnamon in cream cheese frosting?

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And the ratio of powdered sugar to cream cheese is just right for a frosting that sets firm but is still nice and tangy from the cream cheese. It tastes like a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch–only better.IMG_5718

The one note I have is about the red food coloring. 2 Tablespoons? That’s a lot. I didn’t even have that much food coloring in my house when I made these. I ended up using 2-3 teaspoons of food coloring + 1 T hot water, and then added another teaspoon or two of hot water to the chocolatey paste when it wasn’t quite paste-y enough. As you can see, the cupcakes were still a vivid shade of red, so nothing lost here!

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Make these for your valentine, for your friends, for yourself, for your cat–whomever you wanna share some love with today.

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In other news, tenderloveandcupcakes.com is officially my own, GoDaddy-hosted website! This is very exciting news. It also means I’ll be playing with the layout a lot for a while, so bear with me, please. And feel free to leave comments on how it looks/what works/what doesn’t! I’ll try to stay on top of everything, but there will be bugs, and for that I am sorry.

Poke around, leave me a comment, and have a happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂 <3