Friday, July 3, 2020

White vanilla cake with berries, cream cheese frosting and whipped cream

The keen desire for a pastry such as this got stuck in my head while I was having waffles the previous morning. The lightbulb moment wasn't a minor flicker, but burned from the the moment I consumed breakfast the others left behind. Mounds of berries and giant puffs of fresh cream that would have left the whole show bereft had they been taken from the scene.

White cake tends to bring about two conflicting views after you've been introduced to it at some point of your life. One would be the flavor is as plain as vanilla, which is precisely what it should be, and, meh, you'd most likely not be the one to fuss for subsequent servings. The second train of thought, and where I'm boarded, looks at splendor from inception, of order of ingredients and egg beating execution. A moist, sponge-in crumb, becomes the target for adulation, stemming from one too many voids in a lifetime. The latter truth may or may not be what I've experienced on quite few counts. 

Thick, tender slices reveal insides similar to a cumulus cloud and  unbelievably light. Cream cheese adds punch and spruces up the fruits. When dressed with whipped cream, an option I favor,  the finished product yields the best, plated, beyond-world experience.

This is the perfect holiday dessert, even if it might never bear allegiance to one.

With as much going on, mouthfeel-wise, a natural question could be whether various formats/ flavors/textures diminish the milder knowns of the whole. Most definitely not. The nuances that spring from a layered cake- dessert transforms it into something beautiful, elements build upon one another, and only intensify the need to grab another piece. Like my older child put it, "it is so WOW!" ( this would be her junior year in college and let's be grateful she' s not an English major).

Moreover, in our current universal situation, where most of what we do involves wearing masks and indulging in takeout, confined within the walls of homes, let's deliberate on the idea that festivities, fireworks, the boardwalk and merriment are a mere few reaches of the kitchen pantry.

In other words, let's party, albeit quarantined and in pandemic's midst, like it's 1999.

Recreate, commemorate, and don't forget to take this cake.

God bless you, America.

White vanilla cake:
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  • ⅔ cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ⅔ cups all purpose flour
  • 3 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 large egg whites (¾ cup)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Butter and flour 2 8" round pans and line bottoms with parchment.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in egg whites and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently transfer beaten egg whites to a large bowl.
  • Wipe stand mixer bowl clean and beat butter, in the same bowl, on medium high until pale in color. Add in oil, sugar, vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. 
  • In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add flour and milk, alternatively in three increments into the batter, beginning and ending with flour.
  • Scrape down bowl with spatula often.
  • Using the spatula, gently fold in egg whites into the batter. Scrape down sides and incorporate all the ingredients, using your hand being careful not to overbeat.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans. Smooth tops with spatula.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes. 
  • Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks, remove parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
  • Frost with a double batch of cream cheese frosting.
I like to frost between layers and coat once with cream cheese frosting. A coat of fresh whipped cream frosting is what I like as the final guild. Doesn't it look better that way? It tastes better, no doubt.

Other July Fourth desserts:

"Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours." Isaiah 61:7-8 (NIV)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Paneer fried rice

I don't quite consider myself a huge fan of Indian-Chinese food. Yet, it should be noted that this blended-culinary rubric belongs to a fantastically addictive class of it's own. Insomuch it dominates the Indian meal scene, and comes with a sustaining popularity that comfort food often brings.

Indo- Chinese cuisine is a one -of -a -kind South Asian phenomenon, combining Chinese flavors within a traditional Indian blueprint. It's Chinese cooking remodeled to cater to Indian tastebuds. It was a way early Chinese immigrants localized their food in a newfound mainland. Over the centuries, the evolving hybrid cuisine took on a life of its own, not only in India, but on many trails of the map an Indian calls home. It is, on most counts, the desi's favorite "foreign" food. 

Most dishes are labeled "chili" and more often than not, meals begin with sweet corn soup. No doubt, it's supremely satisfying and iconic in the niche of fusion plating. Categories of "Manchurian"( not really a known word) regularly feature on chalkboard signs of roadside stalls, in itemized lists of tiffin joints and covering large sections of fine dining menus. Suffice to say, Indo-Chinese outplaces the idea of traditional Chinese in that part of the world.

As I've mentioned before, paneer is perfect in such settingsIntentionally seasoning Indian cheese with significant spice and throwing it into umami scented rice represent this best-of-both-worlds ' concept. Moreover, paneer is hearty enough to hold strong in a bed of sauce-based basmati, but complies significantly for ingredients to amp its curdled soul.

A photo of the paneer fried rice I'd made to feed something short of half battalion of my adult kiddo's friends, ushered in a flood of Instagram messaging, all requests on "how do I make this?", followed by head scratching emojis, things I am so not accustomed to receiving

That's the effect of an on-glance of this dish. 

Take a long gaze to get what I'm  saying.

The authenticity of the Chinese part hangs precisely on the condiments infused in the rice. By all means, you can swap/add any sauce/flavoring ingredient that you'd like to eat. It may not level up to a reliable balance and can't possibly guarantee the second/ third/fourth serving outcome.

If you feel a lack of it being Chinese-ey enough, remember you can always use chopsticks.

And if you err the other way, say namaste.


  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups paneer, when cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 tsp cayenne or Indian red chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • salt 
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic 
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper(any color) diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 5 cups cooked basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce or more to taste
  • 3 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp hot Schezwan sauce
  • 2- 3 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Coat paneer with cayenne, coriander, cumin, pepper garlic, ginger, Sriracha, salt
  • Lay out in a single layer onto baking sheet smeared with 2 tablespoons oil. Finish tops with a coating of the cooking spray.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, checking in between to see if tops are brown. Once browned, take out of oven. Set aside.
  • Heat remaining oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
  • Add garlic, ginger, chopped whites of scallions and fry till golden,
  • Add carrots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, until carrots are soft.
  • Stir in bell pepper and peas and heat for a minute.
  • Add rice and stir.
  • Pour in the sauces and sesame oil, coat rice evenly. 
  • Add salt and pepper if needed.
  • Turn off heat.
  • Crumble a few pieces of paneer and mix it in with the rice. Top with the rest of the paneer cubes.
  • Sprinkle with the chopped scallion greens.
This recipe would benefit greatly if you used homemade paneer. In case you missed it, my step by step instructional is right here.
Guess what? You can bake paneer in the air fryer- same amount of oil and spices, at 400° F for 15 minutes or until charred. It might help to turn pieces over at the half interval.

Myself and Rocky. Whenever I need a hand, he offers me his paw. 

2016: Cheesecake
2014: Ghee
2012: Kozhukatta
Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without Him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

John 1:3-5 (The Message)