Tuesdays rule. That's because every Tuesday, some editor friends and I meet up at a local bar to play trivia, drink beers, and stuff our faces with fish 'n' chips, chili, and patty melts. But, really, we're there for the trivia. After a foiled attempt last season, we were determined to make it into the top 30 teams that would compete in this season's tournament. To encourage my teammates, I try and make a point of bringing treats to trivia nearly every week. During the course of the four-month season, I've brought cinnamon oatmeal cookies, Tell-Tale Heart Brownies, caramels, and much more. Many of these products are now available in our online shop (we ship nationwide and we deliver around Los Angeles). But, one week, I was particularly inspired by Sprinkle Bakes' peanut butter cup brownie cake, so I decided to make four mini versions for my teammates. They were quickly devoured.   First, I made the brownie cake batter. chocolate-peanut-butter-brownie-cake batter   Then, I made the peanut butter filling. Doesn't it look like snow?
There’s nothing like a little inspiration. The past few weeks have been filled with it. On Sunday, I was gifted with four lemons so that I could “do something” with them. What that “something” was, was entirely up to me, so long as I gave at least some of that “something” to the one who shared their lemon crop with me. I racked my brain. I Googled. I Tastespotted. I Martha Stewart-ed. The last time I made something from gifted lemons was when I baked (and whisked my heart out) a lemon sabayon with a pine nut crust for my next door neighbors. I didn’t want to bake another tart. I didn’t want to make cupcakes. For a few days, I seriously considered making vanilla bean-infused lemon marmalade, but canning is a process, and I’d rather take the time to make marmalade with fourteen lemons than four. And then I saw it. Of course. Candied lemon peels. The gifter was going on a trip and they’d make a great on the road snack. Plus, creating them would give me the opportunity to try a new technique. I love candied ginger and such things, but I’d never made my own before. And, this would only use the lemon peels…allowing me to make sorbet or something else soft and creamy with the flesh of the lemons. I followed the recipe from The Luna Café. It's just one of their many mouth-watering recipes....

The four lemons

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Drive Cupcake

For the second year, Secret Marmalade was requested to bake cupcakes for one of the best Oscar parties in Los Angeles. It isn't an "official" Oscar party, but trust us, this is one party you want to be on the list for.

It's also an event we look forward to as the gracious host allows us to flex our creativity and play with designs and flavors. Last year, we brought three different flavors of cupcakes. Vanilla cupcakes wrapped in a red liner and topped with a gold star, Red velvet cupcakes topped with cream cheese icing for 127 Hours, and chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla icing and a hand-piped dark chocolate swan for The Black Swan.

This year, we had a little more fun with the flavors and designs. It's hard to do too much design work on mini cupcakes, but we were happy with the results. So without further adieu, here were this year's four cupcakes:

"Drive" A cherry-infused cupcake with vanilla frosting topped with a stenciled gold scorpion from the Driver's iconic jacket. (We selected cherry to pay homage to the Eighties.) Drive Cupcakes

...

I blame the cherries.

I came around the corner and there they were. Deep red and tempting. I had to buy them. But...then what? Just devouring a pound of cherries seemed like a waste. I pored over my recipe books hoping to find inspiration, but finding none, I turned to the Flavor Bible to find what paired well with the succulent fruit. Port, pistachio, cream, chocolate...ok, now I was getting somewhere. And I couldn't stop thinking about eating the cherries. They looked so good. Finally, I decided upon making my classic dark chocolate brownie and topping it with pistachio ice cream, a cherry reduction, and freshly whipped cream. It would plate well and give me a chance to work on another reduction and a nut-based ice cream. Plus, I thought the savory nature of the pistachio would balance the sweetness of the port-infused reduction. In the end, everything went smoothly...except for the ice cream. It was the first time I ever had an ice cream curdle on me. I was working with it on the stove, stirring it and just at the moment it seemed it would be done, it separated and became a gloppy sludge. Ugh. Concerned, I took it off the stove, strained it, put it over the ice bath and stuck it in the fridge a couple hours later hoping that the cup of heavy cream I would add to it in the morning would remedy it. It did. And, though it wasn't the silkiest, smoothest ice cr...

Pirouettes

There's a lot I want to accomplish this year, especially when it comes to pastry. After all, if the world is going to end in December, I should make sure to indulge in as many delicious bites as possible before then. Right? This weekend, I was requested to bring dessert and it inspired me to examine what skills I want to further develop this year, what types of dishes I want to experiment with, and what changes to my menu I want to make. In the process, I decided that each weekend, I want to create a new dessert...one I've never tried before and one that requires me to step outside my comfort zone. It's the best way I learn. So, I made a shortlist of desserts - about 20 or so - that I will add to throughout the year. Some are seasonal and will have to wait until ingredients like plump, juicy berries are ready for plucking later this summer. In the meantime, I'll dabble with recipes that are more winter-friendly. This weekend marked week one. First up: Apple Cider and Caramel Ice Cream with Pirouettes. I pulled the recipes from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle and

Ok…well…sort of.

From 4-6pm today, Secret Marmalade will be participating in An Afternoon of Gratitude, an event that is raising money for the cause Free the Slaves. The organization works tirelessly to combat human trafficking around the world and I’m very honored to be a part of it.

And you can too! If you’re in Los Angeles today, brave the rain and come to Venice! Secret Marmalade will be there with our rich, mouthwatering Truly Vanilla cupcakes and our decadent, dark chocolate spicy bourbon brownies. Gjelina, Whole Foods, and Primitivo are also donating food and wine so there will be quite a buffet of delicious nibbles that you can enjoy for just $20 at the door! I know. It is awesome.

If, for some reason you can’t make it, but you want to learn more about the cause or donate, click here and it will take you to the event’s site.

See you in a few hours!

:)

Truly Vanilla Cupcakes

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