Pumpkin gnocchi – Wine Kitchen

Pumpkin gnocchi - Wine Kitchen
Maitake mushroom, beets, arugula, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds. $13
Wine Kitchen, San Francisco CA

These were really good and earthy tasting with the pumpkin and maitake mushrooms. I think maitakes are some of my favorite mushrooms because they have a wonderful texture and flavor. The gnocchi was a bit on the soft side but they were still nice and airy. And I could have done without the toasted pumpkin seeds though.

Contours in the Air sculptures
Contours in the Air sculptures, Ruth Asawa, de Young Museum.

Pumpkin cream cheese loaf cake – Starbucks

Pumpkin cream cheese loaf cake - Starbucks
Pumpkin cream cheese in a classic, reduced-fat coffee cake recipe. $2.79
Starbucks, San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

I’m still disappointed with Starbucks pastries even though they’re now “made” by La Boulange. They still look sickly and inferior in the display case. Why do Starbucks stores in other countries serve such better quality bakery items?! I mean, Starbucks originated in the US. Why should be punished with these horrible products? ūüė¶

Whale tail
Whale tail made of rope, Terminal 3.

Maple and brown sugar pumpkin ice cream – Smitten

Maple and brown sugar pumpkin ice cream - Smitten
4 oz small $4.75
Smitten, San Francisco CA

Sheesh, this ice cream isn’t cheap! Part of the reason is that they make the ice cream to-order in a cool machine using liquid nitrogen (kinda fun to watch). The resulting ice cream is very flavorful and has a great, smooth texture. Is it worth it? Maybe as a rare special treat.

7√ó7 Magazine‚Äôs The Big Eat San Francisco: 100 Things to Eat + Drink Before You Die ‚Äď 2012

White camellia flower
White camellia flower (Theaceae), 16th Street.

Assorted bundtinis – Nothing Bundt Cakes

Assorted bundtinis - Nothing Bundt Cakes
Red velvet, white chocolate raspberry, carrot, pumpkin, chocolate, and lemon.
Nothing Bundt Cakes, Emeryville CA

These mini bundt cakes are SO yummy! They’re super moist and the cream cheese frosting is sinfully good. I’m a sucker for red velvet and these even had mini chocolate chips in them, noms! I’d never heard of this place before but a co-worker brought a couple dozen to work. OMG, these are ruining my diet but I can’t stop eating them, ugh! LOL

Nothing Bundt Cakes box logo
Nothing Bundt Cakes box logo.

Homemade glutinous rice cakes – Benu

Project 365: Day 107

Yay, I’m back in San Francisco! And apparently, the weather has been frickin’ amazing. It’s the early evening and it’s still very warm outside. Ah, how I’ve missed you, my home! Whenever I get back from a trip, I always crave certain food. The first thing I did when I got back was order delivery from Mission Chinese Food. I needed something spicy and with punch-you-in-the-face flavor, and MCF always does it for me.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be eating again since I had a large and delicious brunch buffet at Wicked Spoon in The Cosmopolitan this morning. I was hungry again at the airport so I had a Whopper Jr. from Burger King. Argh, I can’t believe I did that!

Homemade glutinous rice cakes Benu

With pine nut, pumpkin, black truffle, garnished with flat leaf parsley. Pre fixe dinner $180
Benu, San Francisco

Wow, this dish was amazing! It was like a pumpkin gnocchi. The texture was different, but the flavors were warm, delicious, Italian. I loved that this wasn’t what I expected when I read the description. “Glutinous rice” doesn’t conjure up Italy in my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everything work perfectly together and the flavors were absolutely spot on! Noms!

Homemade glutinous rice cakes Benu

Pumpkin trio muffin – Koffi

Pumpkin trio muffin Koffi

With pumpkin, almonds and granola, drizzled with a sugar glaze.  $2.95
Koffi, Palm Springs

Somehow, this muffin didn’t taste absurdly unhealthy.¬† Maybe it’s the granola?¬† Perhaps I think that since it has granola, it’s somehow healthier.¬† Regardless, this muffin did help to fill me up before we took the Aerial Tramway up and hiked to the top of Mt. San Jacinto.¬† It was a great day, and perhaps the granola helped make the hike a little easier.¬† Hehe!

Latte Koffi


How to make a Cherpumple… successfully!

Cherpumple cake and slice

What is a CHERPUMPLE, you ask?¬† Only the most ridiculously fabulous cake/pie dessert ever invented!¬† From the online research prior to my first cherpumple attempt, I learned that it consists of 3 stacked layers – traditionally with a cherry pie baked into a chocolate cake, a pumpkin pie in a spice cake, and an apple pie in a yellow cake then covered in frosting.¬† You’ll see that I took some liberties with the cake flavors because of sale prices at the grocery store, hehe!¬† What, we’re in a recession, yo!

I don’t usually write¬†posts about food I’ve made, but I decided to make an exception since I was particularly proud of successfully completing this monster and since I’ve attempted this twice, I can hopefully provide some useful advice to future cherpumple bakers (and conquerors).¬† Mine is not the most beautiful or perfectly executed cherpumple ever, but I’m still proud of it!

Ingredients and Supplies

Making a cherpumple is not cheap, so be prepared to shell out some dough (no pun intended). The good thing is that the cakes, pies, and frosting are supposed to be store bought so you don’t have to make them from scratch, which tends to be a little more expensive. It also saves additional prep and baking time.¬† That being said, you should expect to block off a chunk of your day to complete this project. I suggest baking all the layers in the morning, allow them to cool during the day, and assembling the cherpumple in the evening.

Cherpumple ingredients

I decided to make my own cream cheese frosting since I don’t like the consistency and flavor of store bought frosting. Nothing ruins a cake than a sticky, overly sweet frosting. The recipe I used is below.¬† The grocery store was also having a sale on Betty Crocker cake mixes, but I couldn’t find a spice cake in that brand so I had to compromise to save some green.¬† I substituted a white vanilla cake for the apple pie layer because who doesn’t love apple pie a la mode?!¬† And I used the yellow cake for the pumpkin pie layer – not a big deal.

Besides what’s in the pic above, I would suggest getting 10″ springform cake pans. These are easy to use and¬†proved extremely¬†helpful when stacking the layers. Although not absolutely necessary, I also recommend a long icing spatula (although even a butter knife would do) and a cake stand (cause you should display your hard work, am I right!?).

Creating the Layers

Cherpumple applie pie with slits

The apple pie I bought was rustic and the top crust had some pretty large bubbles which arose high above the filling. I was afraid that the cake batter might crush the weak, buttery pie crust when poured on top, or that the cake would collapse while baking. To prevent this, I cut slits into the top crust so that the cake batter could seep in and create more structural support. Genius move!

Cherpumple cherry pie in chocolate batter

Here’s a good trick with the 10″ springform cake pan. Turn the bottom of the pan upside down so that it creates a short platform for your cake. Now there won’t be that annoying indentation on the pan bottom to fuss with when removing the cake. Easy cheesy! Also be sure to spray the cake pan beforehand with a baking spray (I used Pam).

Cherpumple pumpkin pie in yellow batter

Mix the cake batter according to the box directions. Pour a small amount of batter into the sprayed cake pan, and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Place the pie into the pan and cover with the remaining amount of batter. Grocery store bought pies are usually a standard 9″, so they’ll fit perfectly.¬† The box cake mix will make¬†batter enough to cover the entire pie with extra on top.¬† Depending on the size of the pie, the batter may¬†approach the top of the cake pan, but there shouldn’t be enough to flow over.

Cherpumple applie pie in white batter

Tap the pan against the counter several times to remove any bubbles and to make sure that the batter has settled completely under the pie. Keep tapping until no more bubbles surface.  I tapped for quite a while with the apple pie to encourage to cake batter to enter the slits and fill the cavity.

Baking the Layers

I learned from my failed 1st attempt that it’s better to err on the more cooked side when baking the cake layers.¬† Otherwise, the undercooked cakes may be too weak to support all the weight when stacked.

Cherpumple baked yellow cake

The baking directions on boxed cake mixes will vary.¬† I followed the instructions on the Betty Crocker box for the most part, except I increased the baking time (since there’s a frickin’ pie in there!).¬† I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F, and cooked the layers for 1 hour 15 minutes minimum, then kept checking for doneness after that.¬† I wasn’t very scientific – I used the toothpick method and just shook the pan to see if it was still jiggly in the center.

Cherpumple baked chocolate and white cakes

I know it’ll add more time, but I definitely suggest baking the layers individually.¬† This time around, I baked the chocolate and white cake layers at the same time, and I found that they baked unevenly.¬† The chocolate cake was mostly baked, but hard on the side closest to the oven wall.¬† And the white cake seemed perfect when I pulled it out of the oven, but after cooling I found that the top center was still jiggly.

All ovens are different, but mine definitely gets hotter in certain areas more than others.  So if you want to play it safe, bake the cakes separately to ensure that they are baked evenly and thoroughly!  Even when baking them individually, you should still rotate the pan periodically to ensure even cooking.

To cool the cakes faster, I set the pans on a wire rack, then removed the sides of the pan after 30 minutes of cooling.

Assembling the Cake

Cherpumple trimming white cake

When the cakes are completely cook, it’s time to level the tops of the cakes so that they will stack evenly.¬† I’m not a professional and I don’t trust my skills in cutting a level top, so I put the springform sides back on and used the rim to guide my cuts.¬† Easy!

Cherpumple brushing yellow cake

Some of my cakes didn’t rise completely above the rim, but I still used the pan rim as my guide.¬† I figured that there would be frosting to cover up the rounded edges.¬† Using the rim as a cutting guide also ensured that all the three layers would be of uniform thickness.

I’m kind of a neat freak so I used a basting brush to clean off I crumbs I created.¬† I was afraid that if there were too many crumbs, they would get in the way when I tried icing the cake and create an ugly mess!

Cherpumple stacked yellow and white cakes

This is the most crucial step (assuming your layers are thoroughly cooked and completely cooled)!  You should have someone help you when stacking the cakes.  These layers are heavy and the pies inside make them very fragile, so be careful.

Apply a layer of icing on top of the first layer.  I suggest one person hold the second layer (that is still sitting on the springform pan bottom) directly over the first layer.  The second person should hold the sides of the cake with both hands and carefully shimmy the cake off the pan and into place, while the first person slowly slides the pan bottom out from underneath.  Make sense?  Phew, you did it!  Only one more to go.

Cherpumple with all 3 stacked cake layers

Add another layer of icing atop the second cake, and carefully repeat the above steps to place the final cake on top!  You can now breathe again.  Step back, take in some initial glory, and admire your handy work before continuing.

Icing and Decorating

The first time I attempted to make a cherpumple, I had purchased canned icing and I must say that I didn’t like the consistency or flavor one bit! It was also difficult to work with and spread unevenly. This time around, I was not only determined to keep my chermpumple upright, but I also wanted it to taste delicious!

Cherpumple with icing

So I decided to make my own icing – cream cheese icing, no less! I used a simple recipe from “The Best of Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Baking”, 2005. Here’s the recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting

Spread this frosting on any dessert for a rich, tangy topping.  It will keep for 1 week, covered, in the refrigerator.

1 lb (500 g) cream cheese
6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (5 oz/ 155 g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (essence)

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature.  In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter.  Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat until smooth.  Reduce the speed to low, add the sugar, and beat until smooth.  Beat in the vanilla.  Bring to room temperature before using.

Makes about 2 3/4 cups (22 fl oz/680 ml)

I actually tripled the recipe and had some left over, yum!  I also added a little bit of food coloring to make it a light pinkish color.

Cherpumple with icing and sprinkles

I applied the frosting using a long icing spatula, trying to even out most of the unsightly lines.¬† To cover up my messy icing job (hey, I’m not a professional!), I used a container of sprinkles and randomly applied the different colors.¬† Because the frosting was still damp (oops), the sprinkles actually started melting and running down the cake in some sections.¬† I think it created a cool streaky effect!

And… Voil√†!

This bad boy weighed 18.4 pounds (with the cake stand), so transporting it over 20 miles to a work BBQ was an adventure in it of itself!  Boy, was my lap tired!

Cherpumple with candles on top

I think it looked fantastic with the long, colorful candles.  Happy birthday, Alan!!!

Cherpumple cutting the first slice

It was a little nerve racking removing the first slice, but it came out pretty easily and in one piece.  Just have someone nearby with a waiting plate!

Cherpumple inside detail

It looked absolutely beautiful inside, and the different cake and pie layers were easily distinguishable.  You can see how the bottom layer (apple pie in white cake) had an undercooked middle, but it still withstood the weight of layers on top.

Cherpumple slice

I wonder how many calories are in this slice!?¬† Who cares, it’s a cherpumple, YAY!!!¬† And yes, it was delicious.

Rumisu cake

The Rumisu Cake – A new boozy creation!

Rum cake + Tiramisu = RUMISU CAKE!
Check out how I created this deliciously boozy dessert!