Always pack a towel… Sweet Vanilla Mascarpone Cream with Raspberry Cake (pg. 206)

People keep asking me “how are your travel arrangements going?”

I have a difficult time with this one because a) my life hasn’t actually come to a stand-still and so there are other things I would like to talk about and b) I’m trying to not think about it.

Mainly because, while I actually, deeply desire change regularly, I am very reactive, which means I do change when change happens, but I normally don’t bother to do it myself unless I’ve thought about it for…like a year. Gotta be sure, right?

Mentally, I’m pretty okay with this. I wish I could pack some peeps in my suitcase and drag them with me, but aside from that I’m fine. However, deep down inside my cobwebbed heart I guess I’m terrified because the stress is doing a number on me physically. Which. Is. Annoying.

I’m solving this by pretending I’m fine (see previous paragraph) and drowning myself in the English, which is sort of making me feel like a teenager again, except with fewer superfluous safety pins and chains on my clothes.

I make pies and Madness tells me to stay calm during rush hour.

I cycle at the gym and Neil Gaiman teaches me the Tube system.

And thanks to Netflix and my film collection, I’m all caught up with the rock suicides, the silly walks, extermination of the human race, awkward sexual harassment at the office, vacationing by mistake, how Vivienne Westwood became so popular, skin heads can be racist or they could just be nice guys who like big boots and short hair, and skiing is a great way to escape a deranged religious man who wants to cut off your hand.

With that, I assume while I’m in London I’ll likely see Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker in a pub arguing over who is more miserable and that the Benny Hill song mysteriously plays whenever the coppers chase criminals.

One more thing before I moan about how much I dislike this cake:

One time I went to New Orleans by myself. THAT was terrifying. But it turned out to be rather awesome. No one tried to stab me. Southerners are wonderfully kind people.  At the airport I was picked up by the cabbie who worked regularly for the B&Bers I was staying with. His name was Bernie and he was terribly charming and highly enthusiastic about the city. The owners of the B&B were out of town, but their friend Richard was watching the place. I spent some time drinking tea and talking with Richard, partly because everyone warned against my being a lone female at night in a the city with the third highest homicide rate in the country, and partly because he was a neat guy. A sharp contrast against Bernie, Richard spoke so slowly, softly, in his smooth southern drawl. Every word was so deliberate.
While Bernie drove me back to the airport at the end of my stay, he received a phone call.
“Hey, Richard! What’s up? Oh really? You were just thinkin’ about me so you thought you’d give me a call? That’s nice. Do you need anything from the store? Yeah, I can get some Sprite for ya. That all? Yeah, okay. I’ll see ya later, Richard.” He hangs up.

“He called you because he was thinking about you and he wanted to let you know?” I asked.

“Yeah, he does that all the time.” Bernie laughed. Too bloody cute.

Of course, I thought about how I never do that, but that I should probably start, since I’m terrible at vocalizing how much I care for and appreciate the people in my life. Always been more of a gesture kind of person. And subtle ones at that. So subtle I often doubt people pick up on them.

On that note, here is a short open letter to the Lady in London:


You know I like to keep my emotions level (unless, of course, a useless fucking server is involved) because, quite frankly, getting excited for things has never managed to get me anywhere. So while I reply in a monotoned voice that this is going to be fun and I’m fairly excited and blah blah blah, I actually mean it. You know I don’t like using bangs, probably because they remind me of people who like unicorns (god knows why), but I’m seriously looking forward to working with you. You are awesome. I’ve always been totally intimidated by your confidence and talents (in a good way, I hope it rubs off on me). When I said you’ll always be smarter than me, I didn’t mean that as a jab — I’m lucky to know you, I’m lucky to have found someone who shares my passion (I can’t talk to anyone about pastry the way I can talk to you), and the only reason I have the opportunity to do this is because you are in my life. You rock. I can’t wait. I’m sorry times a billion it has taken me this long to get there.

Oh yeah, I have to write about the cake now.


Raspberries and I have a complicated relationship, which is mostly one-sided. My beef with these handsome little guys is the way they are used; I feel like if the goal is to sell something or make it more popular, or appeal a dish to the masses, just make it with raspberry and everyone will be over-the-moon. And the thing about it is IT WORKS. So that doesn’t make me hate the raspberry, but rather I feel bad for it. We aren’t using it for what it is. Instead we cook the shit out of them, giving them a metallic flavour.  I like to think that food is an intellectual preparation. That someone sat down and seriously considered the flavour profile, made tests, tasted the components separately as well as together, tested some more, and voila!* Deliciousness. Alas, often this is not the case. Le sigh.

I honestly don’t see how raspberry makes this cake anything special. On the plus side, I know a bunch of hungry café boys who were more than happy to take care of this for me.

Here is the cake recipe, because I think its crazy versatile, but I think there are many fruits out there that would benefit this cake. The raspberries are done no justice here.

Raspberry Cake (pg. 207)

224g Butter, soft

200g Eggs (4)

500g Raspberry purée

100g Chambord

480g Sugar

450g Flour

20g Baking Powder


First off, this cake happens to show the only publication error in the Modern Café. It guides you on a Choose Your Own Adventure type journey to find the directions on mixing technique, and then you end up not actually knowing how to make the cake. I’ve made this many times, using various fruits and liquors, and had no problems save for the technique being a shot in the dark. All I can say is this: the batter may break, just live with it. It’s go so much moisture in it, the cake comes out beautiful every time.

Buy raspberries. I used 620g of frozen berries, thawed, to obtain 450g purée. Run them through a food processor, then a drum sieve or strainer. Or buy purée if you are so lucky to know a place that carries it.

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Make sure the eggs and purée are the same temperature (room temp) as the butter. Add eggs in three additions. Combine the Chambord and purée, then stir into the butter and eggs. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour (I prefer pastry, but I’ve also made it with AP and GF without problems) and baking powder. Fold into the wet. Don’t over mix. Spread on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake 10 minutes (or until it springs back) at 350 in a non-convection oven (325 if convection).

The Vanilla Mascarpone Cream… I’ll give you a brief run-down, I’ve said too much already. Basically, Migoya directs one to warm the cheese, gelatin, sugar, and vanilla over a bain marie until the gelatin melts, then build the cake. Welp, this is a liquid situation that doesn’t layer at all. I whipped it to room temp, but it persisted in dripping. I’d had my reservations about this working. I folded in some whipped cream, but came to the same road block as the previous cake; the fat was too high, the texture ended up a bit grainy (though this could have also been the cheese). It was not especially offensive closer to room temp, but I was still annoyed. Boring flavour, irritating directions that didn’t make sense. Oh well. It looks cute.

The chocolate is matte and slightly rippled because I packed my acetate and had to use parchment. Boohoo.

*Yes, I used a dreaded bang. But really. Who can say voila without one?

Ohohoh. I used up the rest of the batter to make madeleines. Turns out glaze made of purée + icing sugar + booze = pretty and tasty.


A Classic: Mont Blanc (pg 177)

I chose this dessert for several reasons:

  • it is single serving – plating time!
  • it is a classic
  • it is very bizarre looking, and I’ve been a bit obsessed with making it (aesthetic reasons only)

I had reservations about this dessert because:

  • I hates chestnut.
  • no but seriously, they are gross.
  • I don’t get why people like chestnut.

What’s a Mont Blanc, anyway?

Apparently invented by Austrian Antoine Rumpelmeyer, Pastry Chef at Angelina (1903) in Paris, where they continue to serve his original recipe of chantilly, meringue, and sweetened chestnut paste.

When I started working at the café, we sold chestnut paste in a tube.  People would come in and swoon over it, recalling delicious childhood memories of chestnut paste and whipping cream.  I was horrified.  The idea of squirting brown paste from a tube onto a plate and covering with with whipped cream sounded frivolous, undelicious, and the image it conjured in my brain was ugly.

Then I saw rows of what looked like edible balls of yarn in a book on Parisian pastry, and low and behold, they were the “delicacy” I had always feared. Here it is…

I made the following changes:

  • no sablée, mostly because I didn’t feel like it, though I would have done it if I had more time
  • no crème fraîche, I used plain old boring whipped cream instead
  • I whipped the store bought sweetened vanilla chestnut paste with butter because, again, I was admittedly trying to play down the whole chestnut thing
  • I used cara cara oranges and glacé orange to give it another dimension – I mean, Migoya’s addition of milk chocolate is great, but I wanted some citrus in there to cut the sweetness
  • I made it straight-up traditional-like.  Migoya’s instructions on how to assemble this was too much for my brain and my tiny kitchen and I have other things to do on my weekends then try to make weird cakes I can hardly conceptualize.  And besides, the traditional way looks like a mound of sweet, brown spaghetti.

Chestnut Financier (pg. 178)

200g Sugar

80g Almond Flour

80g Cake (or Brown Rice) Flour

3g Baking Powder

122g Browned Butter

200g Egg Whites

6 Roasted Chestnuts, peeled and chopped

30g Glacé Orange bits

Preheat: 345 Celsius

Brown butter, cool.  Combine dry thoroughly. Stir in whites, then drizzle in butter (this recipe is small, so by hand is fine, but is easier in a stand mixer).  Pour batter onto 9×13” sheet pan lined with parchment and spread evenly.  This will bake up to about half an inch.  Sprinkle with chestnuts and orange.  Bake until done (about five minutes after you smell the chestnut).


80g Egg Whites

80g Sugar

80g Icing sugar

Orange zest


Whip whites, adding sugar after they’ve frothed if you wanna go old-school text-book style, or just dump the sugar in and do some other stuff while your whites whip.  They aren’t a baby, they don’t need you to mother them.  Once they are medium peak, add the icing sugar, then turn them on high for the final 30 seconds.  Fold in orange zest.  With a 6mm piping tip (or one that’s medium sized) pipe 2” discs.  Dry in a 150 degree oven until completely dry. Probably 3 hours, but maybe more.

Milk Chocolate Mousse (variation of recipe on pg.179)

200g Milk

275g Milk Chocolate

95g Dark Chocolate

5g Gelatin (used Knox) bloomed

520g Cream

Whip all but 75g cream to medium and reserve chilled (I whipped an extra 60g and set that aside to replace the Crème Fraîche chantilly at the same time).  Be sure to chop chocolate finely.  Bring milk to a boil.  Pour over chocolate and stir until completely melted.  Allow to cool to 30 degrees C.  Take 75g of cream and heat, add gelatin be sure it dissolves.  Add to chocolate.  Fold chocolate into Cream.

Have some kind of mold ready.  I used an aluminum demi-sphere.  I like this because it fits in my freezer, is easy to unmold the perfect half-spheres it forms, and doesn’t require cumbersome trays like silicone molds do. Also, super easy to clean.

Fill half the mold, and pull the mousse up the sides with a palette knife so you don’t have any embarrassing air pockets.  Chill for 15 minutes in freezer.  Place a meringue guy in there, then pipe on some of that saved whipped cream.  Chill 15 minutes if you are a stickler for perfection, or just throw that chocolate mousse on there, top with your rounds of financier, and wipe the sides clean.  Freeze at least 3 hours before unmolding.

How do I unmold frozen delicious from aluminum molds, you ask? One of these:

This is one of my top 5 pastry tools.  It burns sugar.  It frees cakes and ice creams from rings and pans.  It has an ergonomic handle and auto-starter with pressure control so you don’t have to stop and adjust the gas half-way through burning things or search for a lighter a server never gave back during your smoke-break.  We had plain old boring propane canisters with burner attachments at the bistro when I first started and it would take 2 minutes to burn a crème brulée.  That means it would take over an hour to do a banquet of just 60 people (longer because of the time it would take to adjust the flame based on the amount of gas in the canister or re-lights).  Then, one day, after discovering during service the night before that the school’s instructors or students had stolen all of my full propane tanks and replaced them with one sad, barely hissing, eggy-smelling so-empty-it-wouldn’t-light tank, Chef came in with the BERNZ-O-MATIC and my life was altered forever.  This baby burns a crème brulée in 30 seconds.  SECONDS. I became a brulée champion.  Buy one, love it like your first born.


Chestnut Paste

This was the part I loathed.  This can goop is so sweet and so confusing in flavour.  I threw it in the stand mixer with some soft butter (3:1 ratio, less butter if you like chestnuts) and whipped it smooth.  I can’t take credit for this, Lenôtre does it this way, so it can’t be wrong.

I piped it.  A poor showing on my first try, but such is life.  I froze it.


Spray Station Action!

I found, in a health food store of all places, this white chocolate that had the whitest colouring added to it, it looks like a block of white-out.  Of course, I had to purchase such an unnatural beast because I refuse to order white chocolate-dye online.  My reason being only that I am stubborn.  I dislike the idea of consuming this product in mass quantities, so I am to use it solely for spraying shit with the chocolate paint gun.  Again, 34 degrees seems about right for this, unless you want a shiny, even coat, and then the recommended 38 degrees is good.  Ratio is 1:1 scary white chocolate and cocoa butter.

So here we have it.  I plated it on slate cause, well, it’s cool, and cause the Mont Blanc is a sugary ode to the snowy Alps. Or something.  Over on the right there is some powdered orange meringue business, the bottom we have some glacé orange and supreme Cara Caras in it’s juice — a reduction infused with roasted chestnut shells and a drip or two of spiced Canadian Whisky. The orange reduction, admittedly, was my favourite part of this dessert.

All I can say is the mousse needed some more ooomph, which I adjusted in the recipe with the dark chocolate addition, and though the financier was very good on its own, it was lost in the beige of the Mont Blanc.  If I made this again, which is doubtful, I’d soak that financier up with that tasty reduction situation.

If I eat one of these in Paris next month, I’ll admit if it enlightens me to the way of the chestnut lovers.


…4. I’m a terrible party guest, and the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Wheat Beer and Lemonade (pg.432).

Much to my surprise, several of my more worldly friends had experienced this drink, commonly known as a Radler.

I needed a drink to go to a foodie party hosted by the city’s Ice Cream Queen, Soup Lady, and Confiture Gent, and my original plan was the Riesling and Cranberry Juice with Pomegrante, but at the last minute decided to make a jug of Radler because a large quantity of Riesling was not available and I was too poor to buy fancy fruit.  Lemons and beer it is!

My research skills discovered that Radler is German for Cyclist.  Automatically I should feel some kind of connection to this drink, as my bike is like…an extra leg…with wheels…and 24 speeds.  Best leg/simile ever.  Apparently, this drink is said to have been invented when a group of cyclists rode into town for some refreshments and a bar owner, itching for sweaty change, discovered he didn’t have enough beer to fuel them all, so he cheated them by filling the pints half way with Sprite.  Or a lemon-lime soda of some kind.  The cyclists found this drink so refreshing and appropriately low in alcohol for their heavy cycling lifestyle, they likely cheered the shady bartender and the Radler was popular ever after.

At first, I was intrigued by the idea of an unprounounceable drink mixed with homemade lemonade.  But as I arrived home from my day of staring at pretty things I can’t buy because I spend all my money on butter and sugar, I put the beer and lemons on my counter and started to worry.

Was I really going to bring this to a foodie party?

I took baby steps, understanding with some dread that if this turned out to be revolting, I would have to go empty-handed.  I had no idea what this party was going to be like.

I poured the wheat-beer into the jug.  Let the 16 inches of head prove why I never became a bartender.

 I wait for this to calm.

I make the lemonade.  Admittedly with a bottle of lemon juice.  Again, I spend all my money on butter etc…

When I combined the two, I didn’t much care for it (whoa, really? didn’t see that one coming) so I upped the ratio of lemonade to beer.  Still gross, but less so.  I topped it off with lemon slices and shoved the jug into a plastic wine store bag (always classy) and went to buy cigarettes to easy my anxiety and give me a reason to go to a party, but not actually be inside the party, which is just plain stressful.

Once there, I realized there were lots of people and the lighting was low enough that I successfully kept my jug of shame hidden in a dark corner sheathed in plastic.  I think I caught a glimpse of a couple of drink-hunters sniff it out, grimace, and steal someone else’s wine.  Score?

 To be fair, the flavour matured and improved with the oils from the lemon skins.  Either that or my constant sipping managed to adjust my tastebuds to the Radler.  I dunno.  But what I do know is I’m never making this again.

Oh, and the unfortunate thing was we left the party early to go eat Vietnamese soup and I only realized later that I’d left them, as a horribly disappointing host gift, 1.6 litres of Radler.