Tres Leches Cake

Do you know how sometimes you really just want a birthday cake, even when it’s not your birthday? You find yourself asking everyone you know if their birthday is coming up, and if their answer is no, you ask if they know of anyone whose birthday is coming up. An aunt, an uncle, a cousin (twice removed), or even a dog, perhaps? You’ll settle for a pet’s birthday at this point because all you really want right now is an excuse to make and eat some birthday cake. That’s totally normal right? Everyone does that. I’m not just projecting my feelings for birthday cake onto you all, am I? That’s a rhetorical question. One that I don’t expect for you to answer, like at all. Mostly because I know you get me on this. We’re on the same page.

I have a sister (the older one) who doesn’t like birthday cake. Or just cake in general, for that matter. She’s prejudice against cake. A true cake hater. Those are the worst kind of people, if you ask me. Every night right before I sleep, as I’m lying in bed, I ask myself the same question. This is every single night, without fail, mind you. I ask the ceiling of my room, and to anyone out there listening up in the stars, “Why is my sister such a weirdo?” Sometimes I’ll even ask another question right after like, “What did I do to deserve a crazy sister who doesn’t like cake?” I must have killed a cute baby animal at some point in my life, and now I’m being punished by the universe. I’ll normally ask those questions and then right after, I’ll eat a giant slice of cake because I get too worked up thinking about it, and the only way to calm me down is with some (it’s not anyone’s birthday but I still have birthday cake) cake.

Tres leches cake, or three milks cake for all you non-spanish speakers out there, is a cake that has three different types of milk in it. (Duh). I won’t even say anything because many people close to me asked what it meant. You know who you are. I wasn’t a fan of tres leches cake growing up, actually I hated it. I’m glad my mom hated it too, because we never had it as kids. It was always too moist and wet for my taste. Not the way a birthday cake should be. I remember going to my friend’s birthday parties as a kid, being super excited for cake, and when they’d bring it out and I’d see that it was tres leches I’d run up and toss the cake on the floor. I was doing everyone a favor. Cut to me now, many years later, I actually love it. Only when it’s homemade though, because I get to control the amount of wetness in the cake. That my friends is the meaning of happiness in life. Let’s make birthday cake for ourselves even when it’s not our birthday.

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Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake

Let’s talk about cake for a second. Okay, I lied. Let’s discuss cake for more than a second. If I had it my way, I’d only talk about cake. All the time. That’s the only thing thing on my mind. If someone asked me a specific question or was talking to me about a completely different topic, I’d respond simply with “CAKE!” I’d just shout it out to them. Scream it to their face. Part of me wants to do it just because I’d like to see what their reaction would be. The other part wants to do it because I love cake. I wouldn’t even care if it made sense or not. Cake makes perfect sense. ALL THE TIME. In reality, if I could, all I would talk about is butter and sugar and cinnamon. Talk about a love affair. Those three ingredients have my heart. Forever and always, I’ll never say no to them. Butter and sugar and cinnamon together is the stuff dreams are made of. Put those three together and I kid you not, you could solve all of the world’s problems in one easy swoop. Seriously though, it would make the world a better place. Just imagine if criminals had a piece of cake before they committed their crime, they’d change their mind and wouldn’t go through with it. That’s how good cake is. That’s the power of the cake. I’m probably exaggerating a tad. I mean not all criminals would change their mind after eating cake. But I’m sure a select few would. I say, give everyone cake. Cake for all.

I’ve been on a savory kick lately, as you can probably tell from the last couple of posts. I mean sure, potato tacos are freaking delicious. I ate about fifty of them, and I’m not even joking. Okay, I’m joking. It was more like forty-nine. Calzones? Why not? Give them to me. On cold rainy days, panini and roasted tomato soup is sort of my jam. But with all that being said, cake (cinnamon, sugar and butter) well that’s just hands-down-no-contest, a sure fire winner for me. All I want to do lately is stuff my face with cake. Cake of all kinds. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you’ll have noticed the chocolate bundt cake recipe I included in it. Ate all of that without even a second thought. If you read the newsletter—which you should have by now because I sent it out at midnight. What are you waiting for?!—you’ll also know that it was my sister’s birthday this week. Of course I made her a birthday cake. It was a chocolate hazelnut cake with a nutella filling. Ate it. Stuffed the whole thing in my mouth. So when I decided to swing things back to sweet on the blog, the only logical thing to make and shoot and share was a cake. Duh. Cake for life. I immediately thought to myself that all I needed in life at that very moment was sugar, butter and cinnamon. So guess what…I made a cinnamon sugar coffee cake. I wanted it to be simple and yet a classic recipe that you guys would want to make. I hope you want to make this cake because let me tell you, it’s a delicious breakfast cake. I should make an entire cookbook of breakfast cake. I’d call it “Yes I’m Eating Cake For Breakfast And No You Can’t Have Any.” Or something like that, it’s a work in progress. It would give me an excuse to recipe test and eat nothing but cake for breakfast without people judging me. (Like my mom and doctor). I’d say, “I’m just working on the book. I have to eat this cake because it’s research!” We’d all have an excuse to eat cake first thing in the morning once the book came out. I’d be the reason every kid (and a few adults here and there) would be demanding cake for breakfast. I’m okay with that. I could live with myself. Gimme that cake.

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Banana Pecan Raspberry-Swirl Crumb Cake

Let’s take a moment to discuss our options. Each morning we get up—slip out of our comfy beds and our warm sheets and our loved one’s arms—with big stretches and yawns and growls that mimic those of a lazy lion in the zoo. A quick glance in the mirror only confirms this. Our hair, wild and crazy, going in all sorts of directions. Untamable, however, we proceed unfazed and without a thought in our heads, other than wanting desperately to get back into bed. Half asleep and unwilling to compromise, we find ourselves at a fork in the road. Having to make choices so early in the morning should be illegal. We can grab that boring box of cereal. The one that’s been sitting on top of our fridge for weeks getting good and stale on us, because someone left it partially opened. We can reach into that refrigerator and grab the just about expired milk—regular, soy or almond or maybe even settle for a yogurt—plain or greek infused with fruit. Perhaps we don’t have the luxury of time because we woke up late or decided to spend all our time getting ready (we have our lion selves to thank for that) knowing that our allotted breakfast eating time would suffer and diminish. So because we’re running late we proceed to reach into a box of granola bars. We fool ourselves into believing it’ll be a good enough morning meal. We get a hold of the box, grasping inside, only to come up empty handed. We make a mental note to reprimand the person who took the last bar and left the empty box in the cabinet, reminding us of yet another thing we can’t have. Spontaneity and unpredictability aren’t traits we posses this early in the morning nor do we want to, so what next?

If only we had some sort of morning pastry to cut, grab and go. Something tasty that would fit the breakfast bill. A delicious treat to eat alongside our coffee, tea or juice on our drive to work or school or whatever other activity that doesn’t occur to me at the moment. What we really need is a banana bread kind of a thing. A banana bread meets coffee cake. And if said cake happened to have a raspberry-swirl filling in the middle and a pecan crumb topping, well then, we wouldn’t be angry about that. Who are we to complain about such things? Yes, a hybrid breakfast cake slash dessert meets decadent treat is just what we need in the morning to lift our spirits up, but where do we get such a delight? Where do we come across such a marvel?

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Gluten-Free Carrot Bundt Cake

I don’t know about yours, but my Easter Bunny happens to be gluten intolerant. I learned that the hard way when for years he didn’t eat the cookies I left out for him. Each year comes and goes; the treats left behind, untouched, while the milk was completely gone. I’d lay them out by the Easter plant that I decorated with colored eggs and chocolate candy….wait….that’s not right. I’m getting my holidays mixed up. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Silly Jonathan. Cookies are for kids. Bunny rabbits don’t eat cookies!” And do you know why that is? Because most cookies have flour in it. Ergo, they must be gluten intolerant. It is the only explanation as to why bunnies don’t eat cookies. So this year I’ve decided to get smart by making a gluten-free cake for my furry Easter friend. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be the year he eats the dessert I leave out for him, so he can get energy to deliver Easter baskets for all to enjoy. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for an Easter miracle.

All kidding aside, I’ve been promising you all more gluten-free desserts on this here blog. So here it is. Or rather, here one is. I thought a carrot cake would tie in perfectly with the upcoming holiday, regardless if you celebrate it or not. I know that Easter tends to be a religious holiday, but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy the seasonal treats that spring up during this time of year. If you don’t care for gluten-free desserts, have no fear, my blog isn’t becoming a gluten-free blog. I still very much enjoy making and posting and gorging on ridiculous amounts of crusty, golden brown, gluten-rich breads. I’m just taking a break to show my appreciation for those fans who are indeed gluten intolerant. I’m trying to expand my horizons and reach out to as many people as possible. I don’t have any special dietary restrictions—as you all may know by now with my penchant for all foods—but I do have to admit this is a really good cake. You don’t have to have celiac disease to appreciate the awesomeness of this recipe.

Growing up, Easter was always a big event at my house. My mom would go all out for my sisters and I. Even now as adults we still go through with our Annual Easter Egg Hunt, and there may or may not still be some baskets filled with goodies for us. If you thought that four grown adults could be civilized while searching for plastic eggs filled with prizes, you are very much mistaken. We get extremely vicious when searching for these eggs. Fighting hard to find the most we possibly can. Hair is pulled, clothes are ripped, siblings are pushed to the floor. Stealing, cheating and sneakiness are traits that are possessed for the day (and that’s just my middle sister, she’s very competitive). We demolish the house looking for eggs that mom has so cleverly hidden. We enjoy the occasional egg filled with chocolate Easter candy here and there, but what we’re really yearning for are the eggs stuffed with the major prizes. Frozen yogurt gift certificates, lottery scratchers and of course money. Those are the treasures that make the black eyes and bruises worth it. Of course at the end of the day we all sit down as a family and enjoy a pleasant meal together. One of us happier than the others because we were fortunate enough to find the perfect eggs. That my friends is Easter in my house and has been for as long as I can remember.

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Chocolate Coffee Cake

I tend to come up with any excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. What can be more appealing than frosting and sprinkles and whipped cream and chocolate as soon as you wake up? Forget about the healthy egg whites with whole wheat toast, and fruit on the side or a giant bowl of oatmeal. Give me cake or pie or dare I say it, ice cream any time of day. Like a child who gets excited about the prospect of eating leftover birthday cake the next morning, I will do anything to bypass a “proper” morning meal in order to eat copious amounts of sugar at the start of my day. And in those moments when I reach for a slice of pie or cake, a voice comes into my head yelling at me to eat a substantial breakfast. A healthier breakfast. A more nutritional breakfast that will give me the energy to face my day. That voice in the back of my mind, spoiling the fun, is my mother’s. Much like any parent, she never allowed us to eat desserts in the morning, and I’m sure with good reason, although I fail it at the moment. There were times in my childhood when I was about eight, I would wake up early and sneak in some cake or ice cream before anyone else woke up. I would inevitably get caught, like a guilty culprit, walking out of the kitchen, as my mother was walking in. She would stop me and ask, “What did you eat? Did you have cake?” I would look at her innocently, not flinching, and say “Nothing. I didn’t eat cake. Wait, we have cake?” The frosting, icing, and chocolate smeared across my mouth and all over my face would give me away instantly. It wouldn’t even cross my mind to wipe away the evidence. What can I say, I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

I sometimes forget I am an adult now and can eat whatever I want. So on days when I do remember, you better believe I’m eating ridiculous amounts of sweets for breakfast without a care in the world. Why? Just because I can. I’ll find myself in the kitchen screaming out, to no one in particular, “I’m eating cake for breakfast. I’m shoveling ice cream into my mouth by the spoonful at eight in the morning!” No one stops me so I continue on my quest to break the rules. There are days, however, when the guilt creeps in. Days when I feel like I should make my doctor proud and eat something not so sweet. On those days I have “morning pastries.” Desserts disguised as breakfast like doughnuts, muffins, and coffee cake. I’ll reach for one of those instead to stop the guilt from forming. Happiness all around.

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Pistachio Pound Cake

This is a pistachio post. It is a post dedicated to the perfect snack. It is a post filled to the brim with ridiculous amounts of this salty morsel. I have recently—and by recently I mean like right this moment as I sit here eating my fifth piece of cake—come to the realization that pistachios are the best nut ever. Hands down. One hundred percent. The greatest. I used to think the title was held by cashews but alas, all this time I have been mistaken. Blinded, I was misinformed and deceived. The amount of flavor that pistachios have is so often overlooked and misunderstood. Time and again we think of pistachios solely as a fancy snack one might find at a party or gathering of some sort. While yes this happens to be true, we somehow seem to forget that pistachios are incredible in sweet dinners and savory desserts. Wait, I got that wrong. Pistachios are delicious in savory dinners and sweet desserts. Either way, we cast it off to the side when it comes to cooking and baking, because other nuts are much more traditional when it comes to such tasks. Almonds, walnuts and peanuts have taken over the spotlight and forced us to dismiss the pistachio as a main actor in the kitchen. This cake has changed my life, for the better. Although this is the first time I bake with pistachios, we do go way back, pistachios and I. We have a connection that I should have remembered before.

I always associate pistachios with my childhood. Ever since I can remember my favorite ice cream flavor is and has been pistachio. I will never say no to a giant, heaping, enormous helping of gelato pistachio and if you ever find me denying myself this pleasure I give you permission to slap me across the face. I can recall several weekends in my youth where my sisters and I would each be treated to a dollar. To a child in the 90′s, this was a goldmine. The three of us would walk down to the neighborhood Rite-Aid/Thrifty’s to see what we could spend our fortune on. I would get a giant scoop of pistachio ice cream while my sisters would spend their money on more sophisticated items. I walked out of the store—a skinny, tall, and awkward kid wearing kaki shorts and Chuck Taylor high-tops—holding a cone much too big for a child of any size. All the way home I would enjoy my treat as my sisters chit-chatted about “grown-up” things or whatever it was that older sisters talked about. I was that one weird kid who did not get excited about chocolate, neither did I jump up for joy at the sight of strawberry. No, I was the odd child who begged for pistachio, in all its green glory. The one who would scour the flavors with my nose pressed up against the glass scanning the tubs of ice cream until I found the green one without the minty chocolate bits in it.

The sun would set off in the distance casting an orange, purple, and red hue around our neighborhood, just as we got back home. The three of us would sit down on the front porch steps as I finished my ice cream cone—my sisters amazed on how I could finish such a big treat and still ask what was for dinner—and in that moment life could not have been better. You would think that now as an adult my tastes for cold sweet treats would change and evolve, but thankfully it has not. I still find joy, comfort, and pleasure in pistachio ice cream, often craving it whenever the three of us are together driving by a Rite-Aid. Although now the cone is the perfect size for me. I guess you can say deep down at heart I am still that tall odd kid doing what I do best; eating pistachio ice cream preferably while wearing shorts with Chuck Taylor high-tops. I guess some things never change.

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