These bakery-style pumpkin cupcakes remind me of all the fresh pastries I saw on display in Parisienne bakeries when I visited France this past summer. This recipe features a moist crumb and warm spices that serve as the perfect foil for a tangy cream cheese frosting. (You can catch up on my latest Europe travel stories & recipes here and here.)
While the pumpkin cupcakes that I’m sharing today are by no means Parisienne, making them transported me back instantly to the days that I spent in the heart of France at the end of July. Freshly-baked pastries filled every patisserie window that we passed: Shelves groaned under the weight of baguettes, macarons, petit fours, eclairs, and sometimes–yes–beautiful cupcakes of more assortments than I could dream up. We spent hours roaming the city this way, munching our way through the beautiful streets of Paris and bathing ourselves in an air that seemed soaked in the smell of fresh gateau.
I say “we” because even though I’d planned to explore Paris on my own, I was lucky enough to make a new friend (are you sensing a trend here yet? haha) on the front steps of Notre Dame during my first day in the city. Felipe and I met in a cathedral line that seemed to stretch for miles: Unsure whether I was in the right place, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he spoke English. Turned out that he did–and not only that, but he was traveling solo as well! As the line moved, we started chatting and he told me how he came from Mexico originally but was currently staying in Barcelona for research; it was one of his last weekends in Europe and he decided to visit Paris just for the day before heading back.… Read more
These Anzac Biscuits are a popular egg-free Australian sweet biscuit with oats, golden syrup, and coconut. Perfect for holiday shipping and gifting!
I’d almost given up on writing about Europe when we hit the crazy pre-holiday season at my new job a few weeks back, but just thinking about that summer adventure brings a goofy smile to my face and makes me slow down as I get used to working life. I don’t think I’m ready to write about work yet anyway, so now I’m determined to keep writing about Europe even if it kills me takes a few more months than originally anticipated. Mazel tov!
As it so happens, Anzac Biscuits aren’t a European invention at all: They’re a traditional Australian hard biscuit first created by wives during WWI and shipped to the front lines because the egg-free treats could last so long in transit. Or at least that’s what Marty–the cheery, enthusiastic Australian guy I met on my second night in Dublin–tells me.
Marty can only be described as the kind of inspirational that, if you’re lucky, you encounter once in a lifetime. Like me, Marty was making a solo trek through Europe, paying visits to friends along the way and stretching his wanderlust wings as he trekked through several of the continent’s largest cities. We met at the Riverdance, and it became immediately apparent that Marty’s joy for life–magnified tenfold by his thick, jovial Aussie accent–was effusive. By the time intermission ended, I’d agreed to grab a pint with him after the show (the friend he was visiting in town had work the next morning and couldn’t join us)–and an hour later, we were out roaming the streets of downtown Dublin, soaking in the sights of a rushing city thousands of miles from both of our homes.
After crossing the main bridge, we found a local bar with amazing live music (or, as Marty put it: “Ripper!”) and ducked inside to chat.… Read more
The following post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are still (as always) 100% mine.
Last week I started sharing exciting stories about my six weeks’ travel this summer in Europe, but I haven’t quite told you why it’s taken me so long to start blogging about it. Well, now that it’s November (say what?) I can finally tell that it’s because…I was busy moving into my shiny, big new adult apartment!
Now anyone who has ever had to do a “big move” knows what I call the Five Necessary Stages of Moving Out Grief:
1) Denial: For the first two weeks after I gave my one-month notice to my old apartment, I simply sat on my merry butt acting as if nothing needed to be packed, cleaned, or thrown away. It wouldn’t take me that long–I was just one tiny person living in a tiny studio. How bad could it be?
2) Anger: Okay, so “anger” is probably the wrong word to use here. Let’s say “well-seasoned panic with a dash of intense frustration” at just how many car trips it took to move all of my stuff. Read: It took twenty trips. HALF of those were for my kitchen supplies…
3) Bargaining: Six days before my old lease ended, I was still on the phone with my previous property manager trying to negotiate a late end date, if needed. Thankfully, she was amenable to it and said I could take as long as I needed. Which lead me to…
4) Depression/Despair: On the eve before my extended move-out date, I was sitting on the floor of my mostly-emptied apartment playing fetch with my cousin’s dog. Said visiting cousins walked in around 11 PM to find me lolling aimlessly on the floor and had to haul up my sorry butt. … Read more
Three months have passed since my last post and so much good has happened since then that I can’t even apologize for going off the grid completely. I’m just now settling into my new routine as a post-grad adult (more on that in coming posts!), but first I want to rewind and fill you all in on one of the best experiences of my life: a six-week vacay in Europe, y’all!!!
That lingering emotional baggage in particular made me determined to travel again to Europe this year, once everything at school wrapped up. So in July–a scant month after graduating with my PhD–I packed my bags and flew over the pond to my first of TEN countries: Ireland!
(Guinness brownies…what gave it away? )
I’d been to Ireland for the first time almost exactly a year ago, of course, and had fallen in love while visiting my friend Alex in Cork. This time I’d be seeing him in London, where he’s moved for school, so I decided to fly into Dublin for the first leg of my six-week Europe grand tour. It was the first time I’d ever traveled so far alone–my trip was split into two weeks each of solo travel, staying with friends, and exploring with high school friends–and I was extremely nervous that first night when I touched down at Trinity College, Dublin. What if the entire trip turned out to be a dud after all?
As is usually the case with me, my fears turned out to be wonderfully unfounded.… Read more
My friends and former co-workers have all declared this Chocolate Oreo Cake one of THE best cakes of all time. Made with a fail-proof, rich chocolate cake recipe and featuring an unbelievably delicious cream cheese Oreo frosting, this gorgeous dessert will become an instant hit for any occasion!
I am SO excited to share this Chocolate Oreo Cake recipe with all of you that I can’t even pester y’all with travel planning updates today. (Gasp–respite from my travel fever blabber, you say? I KNOW!)
This one-of-a-kind recipe features all of the hard hitters that you never knew you needed in a cake: an Oreo-crumb-infused layer of cream cheese frosting sandwiched between the most gloriously moist, fluffy layers of chocolate cake ever invented by mankind! (While I’m pretty sure that mankind is the only species to have invented chocolate cake, I am so irrationally smitten by this particular recipe–which I also feature in my beloved Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting–that no hyperbolic statement seems to do it enough justice.)
The cake: I can’t praise this chocolate cake recipe high enough to the skies! It’s fluffy, rich, slightly smoky (with undertones of espresso/coffee), and pretty much failproof. It’s also my favorite chocolate cake recipe to date: I ended up making four variations on this recipe in just one week!
The frosting: Imagine your taste buds wading in a cream cheese pool of tangy, slightly sweet frosting that’s been bathed in Oreo crumbs. The result is an explosion of cookies ‘n cream-esque flavors–perfect for offsetting the rich chocolatey goodness of your cake.
The verdict: Hands-down one of the best-received cakes that I have ever made, period. I brought this decadent cake in for a surprise birthday/farewell party at the old workplace and received so many compliments on it that I was nearly hammered down through the floor with them.… Read more
These miniature bourbon cakes are a boozy dessert lover’s paradise! With a fluffy yellow cake base, these mini morsels are soaked in a bourbon sugar glaze that’s bursting with flavor. Perfect for enjoying alongside a cup of tea (or hey, more booze!).
What could be more British than a bit of boozy cake at teatime?
Okay, to be fair–I don’t really know if bourbon + afternoon tea is really a thing across the pond. It sounded like such a romantic, proper excuse for encouraging daytime alcohol consumption that I’m pairing today’s recipe with a nice English breakfast tea regardless. But feel free to enjoy these adorable mini bourbon cakes any way (and any time of day) you’d like–I won’t judge, I promise!
As Europe trip planning continues, I’m getting more mileage than ever out of this cute sky blue Cath Kidston tea towel, which I bought last year at London Heathrow airport. My list of things to do in each city is also expanding like crazy: from the British Library and Ashdown Forest to the Dublin Trinity College libraries and the Norwegian islands, I’m starting to feel like five weeks won’t be nearly enough to see everything! Still, I’m excited to be spending time with so many different friends in a round dozen countries and simply can’t wait to embark soon.
In the meantime, though, I’m dreaming of these miniature bourbon cakes! I started with a yellow cake recipe similar to the one that I used in my favorite rum cake recipe, then poked some holes in each little dessert and drenched it all in a killer bourbon-sugar glaze. The result is a slightly crystallized exterior and a perfectly fluffy, boozy interior in each bundt cake: everyone who tried it agreed that it was a home run hit! If you’re looking to add a bit of booze to your next teatime, morning snack, or posh gathering, definitely keep this recipe on the books.… Read more
“Bangers and Mash” is a quintessentially British meal with a predictably bizarre-sounding name. The word “bangers” comes from an early-twentieth-century reference to the fact that sausages would make popping sounds when fried (due to their high water content during meat shortages), while “mash” is simply short for “mashed potatoes.” This delicious vegetarian spin uses pre-made Italian veggie sausages and the fluffiest mashed potatoes recipe ever!
Well, it’s official! GUESS WHO’S HEADED TO HARRY POTTER STUDIOS IN LONDON THIS SUMMER?!
Yeahhh, this girl is. Whoo-hoo!
Visiting the Hogwarts film set at Leavesdon Studios has been a dream of mine ever since prepubescent Daniel Radcliffe showed off his black-rimmed glasses (and terrible acting skills) for the first time back in 2001. I was, of course, majorly bummed when we didn’t visit the set during my trip to the UK last summer–but in a way I’m glad to be saving this special experience for one of the most magical years of my life to date. In addition to finishing my PhD, I’ve also started a brand new job and am incredibly stoked for this upcoming trip. The only real obstacle at this point–besides deciding which sites to visit and which ones to skip while I’m abroad–is trying to cram several weeks’ worth of clothing, shoes, meds, and essentials into my beautiful green 40-liter Osprey backpack. Wish me luck, and send me tips if you have them!
In the spirit of my upcoming trip, my friend and I decided to co-host a Harry Potter-themed party replete with traditional Hogwartsian fare to boot. Twenty of us enjoyed Yorkshire pudding, treacle tart, shepherd’s pie, roast, and veggie sausages with mashed potatoes–or, as the British call it, (vegetarian) bangers and mash! The recipe I made yielded some of the smoothest, most buttery mashed potatoes that I have ever tried, and I would recommend it for your next big gathering without a moment’s hesitation.… Read more
This chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting is THE perfect birthday cake. Made with my favorite moist, rich chocolate cake and a fluffy peanut butter frosting, this cake is the perfect way to celebrate the chocolate-PB lover in your life!
“Oh my god, it’s like I’m eating a PEANUT BUTTER DREAM!!!”
These were the words that exploded from one of my best friends’ mouths the moment she took a bite of this chocolate cake last week. Ten of us were crammed into my small apartment, forks at the ready and bodies half-sprawled all across my bed, couch, and carpet. We had gathered for a surprise birthday/farewell party for the screaming friend, who celebrated her 24th birthday on July 5th and would be leaving us for good the Monday preceding that milestone. Needless to say, she was more than pleased at our unexpected last-minute bonanza!
(This is a picture of her eating cake with chopsticks below. Meet Mops, everyone!)
E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web (1952), once wrote of an unlikely fictional friendship: “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” I think of this quote often–and not only because I happened to dedicate an entire chapter of my dissertation to this writer.
Over the past two years, I have been so lucky to cultivate the friendship of someone who is not only a true friend and an amazing writer (if you could only read this gal’s crazy stories!), but one of the most trusting, genuine, enthusiastic, and supportive people I know. She inspires me every single day to become a better version of myself, and we are going to miss her dearly now that she’s off to bigger and better adventures in India, England, and all around the world!… Read more
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithOil #CollectiveBias
Boy, what a week! End-of-year dinners, graduations, and hangouts have been happening non-stop since last Monday, though it hardly feels like six years have flown by since I first stepped foot into grad school. (More about that in next week’s post!) I also made the journey down to Anaheim to cover some live events at VidCon–and finally made my 90s kid self’s dreams come true by getting slimed at the Nickelodeon booth! In the midst of all the hubbub, though, I’m happy to report that my family has found the time to visit and soak up some real SoCal sunshine with me. You can tell that summer is in full swing here: we can barely stand outside for five minutes without finding ourselves completely drenched in sweat!
From the beach pier where we walked last week, we could smell the aroma of freshly fried foods wafting across the boardwalk, and I was momentarily transported back to our family’s summer travel days. County fairs have always held a special place in my heart–every time we visited a new state on some road trip or another, we would visit the local fairs and try out all of the unique fried foods tantalizing us at each booth. Any fellow funnel cake fans out there?
In the spirit of summer, this week I decided to try my hand at deep-frying something right from the comfort of our own kitchen. Of course, deep-frying can make even the most unpalatable foods taste amazing (have you TRIED deep-fried pickles?), but what happens when you make great life choices and deep-fry something as inherently delicious as cheesecake?
Pure bliss, folks. Utter and edible heavenly bliss!
These Deep-Fried Cheesecake Bites are, without exaggeration, possibly one of my favorite in-kitchen creations to date.… Read more
These bakery-style chocolate chip cookies are perfectly chewy in the middle, crispy around the edges, and filled with delicious semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Extra-large and certainly as good as–if not better than–the cookies you’d find in your neighborhood bakery!
Like any good baker, I have been on a perennial quest to discover the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe out there.
I’ve shared these perfect pudding chocolate chip cookies and my self-proclaimed favorite thick, chewy chocolate chip cookies, but I have yet to meet a cookie that fits the “bakery-style” bill quite as well as these do. Crispy edges, perfectly chewy centers, and chock-full of chocolate morsels: these cookies are bound to leave your friends stunned and begging for more! My swim coach’s wife apparently devoured seven before my coach even managed to snag a bite, and I’ve been delivering the rest to the entire department as thank-you gifts for putting up with me throughout these past few years.
Oh, and even my mom ate them. She actually ate several of them in one sitting without a single comment, which is basically the highest seal of approval that you can receive from an Asian parent.
Between intermittent spurts of baking and work, I’ve been celebrating post-graduation life with–wait for it–one round of strep throat and another hearty bout of bronchitis/costochondritis! Hooray! I’d planned to post more frequently the moment I walked across the graduation stage (more on that exciting news next week), but I’m currently on my second round of antibiotics and hoping that this time they’ll actually do the trick. My right ribcage feels like it’s about to explode with all of the coughing and vomiting that have become my besotted bedside fellows over the past three weeks!
Sending all my love and a healthy dozen of these perfect, extra-large bakery-style chocolate chip cookies your way this week!… Read more