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
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
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
I know that I’ve been gone for forever, but before I apologize, I have BIG NEWS to share with all of you that I think you’ll love…
Guys, I’M DONE WITH MY PhD!!!
It’s hard to even begin describing these crazy past three months. Back in February, I still had a full chapter, an introduction, and a conclusion to write–not to mention tons of revisions to wrap up and a lot of theoretical reframing to slough through. (In other words: LOTS to do!) Days were spent hunkering down in my woman-cave, a bowl of half-eaten instant ramen on one side and a steaming pit of deep despair on the other. My friends and fam–bless their souls–were absolute troopers during these whirlwind months, bringing the party to me when I couldn’t go out on a Friday night and surprising me by stocking my pantry with essentials whenever I forgot to eat. I could go on and on here about how these amazing folks saved my sanity, but I’m dedicating an entire post to that later (so stay tuned!).
Speaking of sanity, it has been in short supply for the past six years a few months now, because a lot has been happening apart from pursuing this prodigal PhD! Since February, I have:
If you secretly make trips to Red Lobster just so you can stuff your with their famous, melt-in-your-mouth buttery Cheddar Bay Biscuits, here’s some good news for the new year: now you can make (and enjoy) them in your own home! (Recipe here.)
9. Slutty Cheesecake Bars
A thick layer of chocolate chip blondie, rich cheesecake on top, and whole Oreos crammed all throughout give these infamous bars their name. One of the very first recipes that I posted on Wallflour Girl (note the tacky rainbow wrapping paper backdrop) and still one of the most popular after five years! (Recipe here.)
8. Extra-Fudgy Kahlua Brownies with Kahlua Icing
I’m not a booze kind of girl…usually. But put a plate of these extremely fudgy Kahlua brownies (and maybe a White Russian!) in front of me and they’ll be gone before you can say “boozy.” (Recipe here.)
7. The Very BEST Tiramisu (from America’s Test Kitchen)
My shortlist for best recipe sources is, well, short–but I would trust America’s Test Kitchen with my first-born baby. This simple but authentic tiramisu recipe is the best that I’ve ever made and constantly requested at family functions! (Recipe here.)
6. Idiot-Proof Healthy Chocolate Chip Bars
Here’s an idiot-proof recipe that you can hand off to even the most baking-illiterate of your friends! These one-bowl, dump-and-stir chocolate chip oat bars are healthy, too, making them perfect for kicking off a brand new year. (Recipe here.)
5. Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake
This recipe holds a special place in my heart: inspired by one late-night, post-movie dinner conversation at Lenny’s Deli, my ex shared his fond memories of a dessert known as Chantilly cake.… Read more
The holidays are here! Sorry for the shortage of posts lately: I spent the last few weeks braving REAL winter and cavorting through the chilly climes of Cancun…
Just kidding! Cancun, as you can probably imagine, was amazing, winter weather included. We spent our early December days simply basking under the tropical sun at our seaside resort, dipping our feet in the warm Caribbean waters, and trekking through some of the gorgeous intra-cavern rivers that wound their way through the old Mayan ruins in Xcaret. Needless to say, I was spoiled silly and am making a rather graceless transition back to my California reality even as I type.
The beachfront view from our resort in downtown Cancun.
Now that I’m back and bundled up again in this nippy weather, though (yes, east coast folks, you may now roll your eyes), nothing sounds better than curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. Nothing, that is, except maybe freshly-baked chocolate muffins in the wee cold hours of the wintry morning, which is exactly what I’m sharing with all of you today. What I love most about this recipe is that it skips all of the tedious separate-and-mix steps required in most muffin recipes: all you need to do here is whisk together dry ingredients, whisk together wet ingredients, fold them all together, and throw that batter into the hot piping oven!
As if simple baking couldn’t get any better, these muffins are perfect for the chocolate lover in your life. The unique combination of yogurt AND milk in this recipe keeps the muffin absolutely moist and fudgy with a hint of cakiness, while the extra chocolate chips that you toss in right before baking add morsels of molten chocolate richness in every bite. Not bad for an innocuous-looking breakfast food!… Read more
So remember how last week I wouldn’t shut up about this Vanilla Souffle Custard Cake (a.k.a. “Magic Cake”) that I made, and then some of you tried making it right away and it was a total hit?
This week I made the chocolate version (AGAIN–yes, this is a repeat recipe, it’s that friggin’ good) and nobody else who tried it will shut up about it, either. So really, I’m just the messenger here, and all chocolate lovers in your life will thank you for it. Cue the Chocolate Souffle Custard Cake choirs!
For those of you who are wondering why this recipe is called “Chocolate Magic Cake,” let me sum it up for you: one simple batter -> pan -> magic happens in oven -> three-layered dessert. Cake on the bottom, creamy chocolate custard in the middle, and a pillowy chocolate souffle on top! If that isn’t science magic, I really don’t know what is.
This Chocolate Magic Cake, which I also adapted from the wonderful Jo Cooks, holds a particularly dear spot in my recipe file. The first time I made it, I shared it at a friend’s farewell party before she left the States and headed home for Spain. The second time was this past weekend, when a huge group of us gathered for a Friendsgiving party filled with dance battles, a wooden table groaning under dessert dishes, and one very boozed-up Mannequin challenge. And now I’m making it for our Thanksgiving family dinner, alongside the original Magic Cake that will forevermore remain in my top 10 favorite desserts.
What makes each of these experiences so beautiful for me (besides the obvious fact that they involve a chocolate dessert!) are the incredibly mixed feelings of love that I associate with them. I miss the old days when I would bake the same recipe over and over again because it was a significant other’s or close friend’s favorite dessert ever, but sharing this single cake with so many amazing people in my life recently has been a whole new kind of blessing: it has been a reminder to me that as we grow older, we continue to love in new and even bigger ways than we ever imagined possible when we were young.… Read more
I can’t talk about my time in Ireland without talking about Guinness. I might as well have eaten at a Michelin-star seafood restaurant and told you all about the bread basket.
According to the friend I was visiting in Cork, there are two things you cannot visit Ireland without trying: the chocolate, and the stout. Now, I was all for the chocolate (obviously), but Guinness? Beer? Stout? Hops? Imperial pints in the UK/Ireland are huge and I had never drunk so much as a can of beer before visiting Europe (the taste of beer reminds me of that nasty Chinese herbal medicine we used to drink as kids), so I felt a bit nervous about what I’d do when faced with a whole glass of that dark, intimidating liquid. All the same, I certainly hadn’t come halfway across the world to sip on sparkling water–so when Alex proposed that we go out for a couple of rounds at the local pubs, I was ready to give Guinness my best shot.
Verdict: Turns out, I am actually a fan of the well-poured Guinness! Alex explained the process to me while we waited for our bartender to finish pouring,* then we found seats outside and enjoyed the live music wafting through the town streets while we sipped on glasses that were nearly overflowing with creamy white head. We later met up with a group of his school and university friends, who were probably the friendliest folks in the northern hemisphere and made me feel absolutely welcome. Of course, the second pint of Guinness probably helped! Best of all, Alex and I got home the first night at 1 AM, poured ourselves some cereal with milk, and watched Louis Theroux documentaries into the wee hours of the morning before we were too tired to stay up any longer.… Read more
In England, where I started my 3-week Europe trip, I was stunned by the sheer variety of food that I encountered. Okay, so maybe the fish-‘n-chips and beer British stereotype I had always entertained wasn’t exactly a fair one–though they do like their beer–but I wasn’t ready for the amount of GOOD STUFF I inhaled during my 6 days around Kent, London, Oxford, Cambridge, and York. From tea time scones & jam to gratins and savory pies, there simply was no shortage of perfect nibbles to fuel our packed daily schedules.
By far my favorite eateries to visit were the pastry and bread shops. There’s something infinitely comforting about the smell of freshly baked goods wafting in the air as you peruse shelves with strange, quaintly British names like “Bakewell Tart” and “Eton Mess” scribbled underneath them. Even familiar-looking desserts had unfamiliar names: biscuits for shortbreads, knickerbocker glory for a particular type of ice cream sundae, and puddings for desserts in general.
Though I didn’t encounter this particular dessert in the UK until we arrived in Edinburgh after our England tour, the Millionaire’s Shortbread–or what most online recipes would just call Millionaire Bar–was one of those known-yet-unknown foods that I felt I was meeting for the first time halfway across the world. We were at the Edinburgh Castle whiskey gift shop, where we had just finished sampling two extremely disappointing creme-flavored whiskeys, when I spotted these little gems sitting on a white tray next to the castle-themed hip flasks: just a scant layer of caramel sandwiched between an even scantier layer of chocolate on top and a hefty, THICK slab of shortbread on the bottom. The caramel and chocolate looked thinner than the woefully optimistic sundresses and cardigans that I had brought with me to the freezing, wet city.
The boy (who, by the way, is originally from England) came over and laughed when I expressed my surprise at these Frankensteinian versions.… Read more