Funfetti from Scratch

I first learned about the magic that is making funfetti from scratch when I was team leading a New York Care's cooking class in the Bronx. While my classes were ostensibly supposed to focus on healthy cooking, my Bronx class happened on the weekends and was three hours to create a whole meal including dessert (don't ever tell my East Harlem kids who met for one hour after school and only got to make desserts near the holidays). I tended to focus my classes on familiar foods for which I could buy all the ingredients at the local Pathmark but made from scratch. So, corn flake crusted baked chicken tenders, take out style fried rice and chow mein, mac and cheese, etc and then occasionally throw in something new, like kale chips. (Seriously, these kids loved kale chips, one semester we made them at least four times by request).

The first time I made funfetti cake, we made it using leftover ricotta from the lasagna that was our main course. Yep, I took a ricotta based cake, which sounds pretty adult and fancy and I funfettied it. Because it turns out, all you need to do to make a cake "funfetti" is add a cup (more or less) of sprinkles to whatever white or yellow cake you're making and you'll get those confetti dots inside when it bakes up.

Last week I got a freelance request for a friend's husbands birthday for a cake shaped like America. When I asked the flavor, my friend said "not chocolate-y and moist". At first I offered a vanilla and lemon curd cake but then I asked if she wanted to go all out American and have a funfetti cake. This cake was maybe one of the most ridiculous things I've ever made and a resounding success.

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 stick) room temperature Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/3 cups AP Flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Frosting:

  • 12 oz (3 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 5-7 cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 cup Rainbow Sprinkles

The Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9"x13" (quarter sheet sized) cake pan.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract and lemon juice. Mix in flour in two parts with the mixer on low and then mix on high for three minutes to aerate the batter. Fold in sprinkles.
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and just starting to pull away at the edges. Cool in pan for ten minutes on a wire rack and then invert directly onto the rack and cool completely before assembly.
  4. Yes, it really is that easy.

The Frosting

  1. Cream together butter, salt, vanilla and five cups of powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy add up to two cups more powdered sugar for your own personal consistency and taste. Mix in the sprinkles. You've just made funfetti frosting. Try not to make it every day now.

Assembly:

Of course, you have a couple of options here. You could just frost the outside of the cake and leave it at that or you could cut it in half and frost the middle and outsides, you could turn it in to one big U.S.A or you can make a smaller, double layered U.S.A. which is the option for which I'm writing instructions.

  1. Cut your cooled cake in half. Place one layer on a cakeboard and spread with a generous even layer of frosting, place the other half on top. Stick this in the fridge for fifteen minutes to firm up.
  2. Draw or print an outline of America (or any shape you want) that will fit within the dimensions of the cook hanging out in the fridge. Cut out the outline.
  3. Remove the cake from the fridge and place the outline on top, you can use a couple of dabs of frosting to hold it in place if you want. Use a paring knife to cut around the outline. Remember, you don't have to do this all in one go, use the picture in the upper right square as an example for how to cut parts of the coastline away.
  4. The sides of the cake are going to be pretty crumbly, so this is a time when it's pretty crucial to crumb coat your cake. Crumb coating is when you spread a thing layer of frosting over your entire cake to act as a base layer to seal in the crumbs so they don't mix in with the frosting. After you've crumb coated the cake, stick it back in the fridge for another fifteen to twenty minutes to set up.
  5. After your cake has set up, give it it's final, generous layer of frosting, on a cake this size, you're bound to lose some of the details of the coast (sorry, Puget Sound) try not to worry about it too much, I promise your guests (or client) won't care.
  6. This cake can be stored at room temperature if your house isn't too warm but in the Summer months I'd recommend sticking it in a sealed container in the fridge.

Glamorous Penguin

Glamorous Penguin Hannam-dong Seoul

I've provided a picture of the outside of the building just so you can be sure I am not at all making up or mistranslating this amazing name.

Glamorous Penguin is one of those places I walked by a million times, marking the absurdity of it's name and thinking to myself "I should really go there just to see how strange it really is" but I just kept prioritizing places that seemed, well, less crazy until one day one of my friends asked if I had tried it remarking that she really liked the cakes and wanted to know what I would think of them. I kept that knowledge in the back of my mind for a few more weeks until one day after physical therapy, hot, tired, sweaty and not quiiite ready to climb back up the hill to my house, I passed by and decided that what I really needed was a cake break.

And then I did that twice more.

The first cake I tried was the Lemon Meringue. Thin layers of vanilla sponge alternating with a perfectly tart and creamy lemon curd. I am a lemon curd fanatic, so this cake could've easily been a huge disappointment but it definitely was not. I am very picky about meringue and found it slightly too dry for my taste but not so dry that I didn't eat it. Of the cakes I've had so far, this is definitely my favorite.

The Apple Maple Cake wasn't super maple-y but the cake had nice big apple chunks. Part of me is fully willing to say that the apparent trend of not leveling cakes really bothers me just because I'm a formally trained snob but now that I've actually tried some of the cakes towards which I was feeling disdain, I realize that it bothers me because it throws off the proportions of cake to frosting. Because this cake was little dry and wasn't frosted on the sides, I think I would've enjoyed it more if the top layer were thinner giving a higher frosting to cake ratio.

Similar to the Apple Maple Cake, I found the Carrot Cake well spiced but a bit on the dry side. The thicker layer of frosting in the middle did help some but I'd still rather have either a moister cake or a leveled cake with slightly more frosting. I do like that even though some of the cakes are not leveled, it clearly doesn't have anything to do with laziness or lack of caring since the presentation for each cake is unique and well done.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the coffee here. It's all espresso beverages, nothing crazy or super fancy but the iced lattes I've gotten have been consistently good with a smooth espresso taste and milk that actually feels and tastes full fat. Even in America, it can be a rarity to find bakeries where coffee isn't an after thought.

Like, Parc, Glamorous Penguin is located near Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art so if you're not looking for a full meal before or after a day of museum-ing, it's good place to stop for a rest and snack.

The address is 743-41 Hannam-dong. From Exit 1 of Hangangjin Station walk towards Itaewon Station, turn right on the side street between the Audi showroom and Trevia. Walk up the short street to the street that runs perpendicular and Glamorous Penguin will be on the street that runs diagonal and to the left.

You can also check out their Facebook page and adorable Instagram.

PLANT Itaewon

PLANT vegan cafe Itaewon

Plant is a small vegan cafe and bakery with a menu that changes weekly. I'm obviously not vegan but I am lactose intolerant, really into vegetables and from the Bay Area. I've been meaning to go to Plant since we moved to Korea but it's only since the weather started warming up that I've really gotten into exploring Itaewon's back alleys and actually figured out the location of the cafe.

This past week I decided to stop by after physical therapy (read: I was starving) and ordered an iced chai, kale and mushroom salad and a big slice of pumpkin cake. I didn't really think about it at the time, but this was the first chai I've had since moving to Korea and I'm not sure I've seen it on the menu anywhere else. It was a teensy bit on the sweet side for me, but I happily drank it down and definitely see myself stopping by to get it again in the future.

Kale is a very exciting thing for me. We talk about missing kale all the time in my house. I miss kale chips. I miss kale salad. I miss kale pesto. We very occasionally get kale in our CSA but it's not the cavolo nero of my dreams. Obviously, I had to order the kale and mushroom salad. Sadly, it was more mixed green with some kale than the mountain of kale I was imagining but it was still a delicious and filling salad. The dressing was agave mustard and I'm just not really into the flavor agave gives things, especially when it's not cooked but the dressing complimented the other flavors of the salad well enough for me to enjoy it (but I'd probably have enjoyed it more with another dressing). If I get something from the savory side on my next visit to Plant, I'll probably try something new but that doesn't mean I wouldn't eat this salad again if it made another appearance on the menu.

vegan pumpkin cake from Plant Itaewon

I think the baked goods is where Plant really shines. Everything is vegan and some items are gluten free. I love that there's a wide variety of flavors and that the presentation is simple and beautiful instead of twee. I went with the pumpkin gingersnap cake which was delightfully moist and had a surprise crunchy cookie layer in the middle. The cake was wonderfully spiced and not too sweet. It was actually much more to my taste than the cupcakes at Sugar Daddy and I'm excited to go back and try more things.

I also got some dog treats for Ada. She was initially excited but didn't end up finishing one of them. I think huskies are pretty into animal protein.

Plant is located at 63-15 Itaewon-dong.

Flourless Chocolate Cake, Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Sour Cream

Flourless chocolate cake, fresh strawberries and whipped sour cream.

Am I posting this flourless chocolate cake recipe because it's Pesach? Yes. Yes I am. But you certainly don't have to be observing or even a member of the tribe or believe gluten is the root of all evil to enjoy the rich decadence of this cake. You can, of course, replace the flourless chocolate cake in this recipe with your favorite chocolate sponge, but the intensity of this cake contrasted with the sharpness of the whipped sour cream is what really takes this cake up a notch from Birthday Party to Plated Dessert.

You'll notice in this recipe I use gelatin to stabilize the whipped sour cream to allow me to build this cake in a ring mold. You can omit the gelatin but it means you'll probably want to build this cake right before serving, with a more rustic, icebox cake look or just serve it as slices of cake with a dollop of whipped sour cream and fresh strawberries on top.

If you just don't have a ring mold or like the idea of plating better, but still want to do as much as possible in advance, keep the gelatin in the recipe and the stabilized whipped sour cream should hold in the fridge for about twenty four hours.

This cake is incredibly rich, so even though it's only a nine inch round, I'd say it serves about 15-18.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 8 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 6 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 3 sheets Gelatin (I don't know the strength I'm using because Korea)
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau or other liqueur
  • 1 cup Strawberries (sliced)
  • 1/3 cup Strawberry Jam

Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease the bottom of two 9 inch pans, cover with parchment and grease again. (Your life will be easier if you have springforms, but I don't have appropriately sized ones and it worked out fine.)
  2. Using a double boiler, melt together your butter and chocolate. I always line my bowls with the butter before putting in the chopped chocolate as an extra precaution against burning. Once completely melted, whisk in one cup of the sugar and set aside.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer (or a whisk and a lot of elbow grease) whisk the eggs and remaining half cup of sugar to ribbon stage. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the melted chocolate mixtures. When the chocolate mixture is most of the way incorporated, whisk in the cocoa powder and salt.
  4. Divide evenly between the two prepare pans. Bake for twenty to twenty five minutes or until a tester poked in the middle comes out with moist crumbs.
  5. Cool cake for ten minutes in the pan before removing and cooling completely on a rack.

Whipped Sour Cream (When Cake is Ready for Assembly)

  1. Bloom sheet gelatin in cold water.
  2. Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar to medium peak. While whipping, squeeze out the bloomed gelatin and then melt in 3 tablespoons water or a mixture of two tablespoons liqueur and one tablespoon water. (I do this in the microwave, only do about fifteen seconds but you can also use a double boiler)
  3. With the mixer on low speed, drizzle the gelatin into the whipped cream. Add in the sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Assembly

  1. If necessary, trim cakes to the size of the ring
  2. Put your ring on a cake board and line with a cake collar (acetate strip).
  3. Carefully place your bottom cake layer inside the ring. Arrange strawberries in an even layer covering the cake.
  4. Scoop half the whipped sour cream over the strawberries and use a small offset spatula to spread and smooth.
  5. Carefully place your second layer inside the ring.
  6. In a small ramekin, heat strawberry jam for twenty seconds in the microwave. Use a small offset spatula to spread a thin layer over the cake. Let cool.
  7. Scoop remaining whipped sour cream over the top of the cake. Use a large offset spatula to make a smooth top or use a smaller one to make swirls for a textured look.
  8. Cover in a cake dome and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to twenty four.
  9. Remove acetate strip and slice. This is definitely a cake where you want to have some hot water to clean your knife between every cut.
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