Biscochito Cake (This Is What My Memories Taste Like)

The state cookie of New Mexico, Biscochito's are sugar-style traditionally spiced with anise and cinnamon and shaped by hand into a Fleur-de-Lis. The scent memory with these is tremendous to me; their fragrance is what scents the air of that southwestern state, and even the faintest whiff catapults me back in time.

Throughout most of my childhood, and into early adolescence, we often drove from our home in Denver to a B& B on the outskirts of Taos run by one of my Dad's former college professors, Roy, and his wife, Bev. Made up of two buildings, a main adobe house and a second two-storied wood-framed guest house (where I saw a ghost, but that’s another story), the properties sat snugly amongst the trees on the top of a hill. To reach them necessitated driving past a small, old, cemetery which lay at the hill’s base and, in my memory, contained only the  graves of children who’d perished a century before during an epidemic (a memory my Mom recently confirmed!).

A wide variety of animals roamed freely around the grounds, including peacocks, llamas, and pheasants. They kept a chicken coop and had two giant bull mastiffs who towered over us kids but were gentle as lambs. Come to think of it, they may have had a lamb or two as well.

There was a stone courtyard and a fountain where, we were told in late-night tales, La Llhrona haunted in search for her drowned children. Only my older sister was brave enough to sit out a full night is watch (she fell asleep so we will never know if La Llhrona came). Kachina dolls lined up along a shelf near the ceiling and, off of the living room, a glass and green-painted space housed their many caged birds. 

And then there was the kitchen, that place of smooth terra cotta tiles where Roy and Bev cooked up the most splendid meals as well as those freshly-baked Biscochito that came to define New Mexico to me. They tasted of magic. Of dust and old churches and ghosts and Indian caves and long drives. Of mystery. 

And now, a cake.

Biscochito Cake

Preheat oven to 350°
Prepare one 8" x 4" cake pan

3 cups (300 g) cake flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c (240 g) whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 t anise extract
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks; TK g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 T cinnamon
2 T sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

Set aside. In a glass measuring cup, mix together the milk and extracts. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until lighter in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Add each egg white, one at a time, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds before adding the next egg white. Once all the white have been incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the batter for an additional minute.

With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add the dry and wet ingredients in three parts, beginning and ending with the dry. Once only streaks of dry remain, remove the bowl from the mixer and finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top springs back lightly when pressed, a toothpick inserted into the center come out clean (or with just a few crumbs), and the sides begin to pull away from the pan. 

Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake to the rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, print out the Fleur-de-Lis and cut out around the black leaving you with a white paper stencil. Once the cake is completely cool, set the stencil on top of the cake, centering as much as you can, and press it down lightly onto the cake's surface. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle on the exposed cake, being careful to avoid the paper as any excess might run off onto other parts of the cake. Remove the stencil, and serve. 

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Honey Frosting and Honey-Baked Tortilla Chips (This Is What My Memories Taste Like)

When I was a kid, we spent almost every weekend in the mountains. I grew up in Colorado, and my parents (my dad in particular) were keen to not let all that fresh air and rocky terrain go to waste.

In the winter we skied (of course) and drove horribly environmentally-unfriendly snowmobiles around and across meadows, sometimes clinging with unabashed joy to an inner-tube  anchored to the rear with a sturdy rope.

The summer, though, the summers were for exploring. My parents would pack up an easy lunch of these pb banana burrito things: tortillas spread liberally with peanut butter and a generous squirt of honey, topped with slices of banana. Rolled up tightly, they were packed into a cooler with cans of Tab or Diet Coke and water, maybe carrots. And beer. There was always beer. 

Off we would go, taking back roads in a jeep with a roll bar, climbing up higher and higher (and when your starting point is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level...) stopping to check out ghost towns (actual, deserted, creepy ghost towns),  old cemeteries, massive lakes, and herds of animals grazing in fields.

This cake is in honor of that perfect portable lunch and those long summer days of hiking, fighting off mosquitos, and learning how to pee standing up without getting any on your pants. To getting sunburnt and worn out, and to the long drives back to the house, the sun set, dad telling us stories about the stars. 

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Honey Frosting and Honey-Baked Tortilla Chips
Preheat oven to 350°; Prep two 6" round cake pans

2 c (250 g) all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 c (100 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c (112 g) neutral oil
1 c (227 g; about 2 large) pureed ripe banana (not banana-bread ripe)
1 t vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl throughly whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, pureed banana, and vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until throughly mixed. Divide evenly between the two pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the tops spring back when pressed, a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the sides start pulling away from the pan. Remove to a rack and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning the cakes out to cool completely.

6 oz (TK g) cream cheese, at warm room temperature
6 T ( TK g; 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at warm room temperature
2/3 c (170 g) peanut butter
5 T (tk g) honey

Whip all of the ingredients together until throughly combined and smooth. Fill and frost the cake.

Honey-Baked Tortilla Chips:
One 8" tortilla
1 T  honey
1 T water

Mix the honey and water together in a small bowl. Liberally brush both sides of the tortilla with the honey-water. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put into a preheated 350° oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and minimally tacky to the touch. Let cool. Cut up as desired to decorate the frosted cake.

10: 15 on a Saturday Night Cake (This Is What My Memories Taste Like)

Before we begin, if you don't know the song by The Cure. Give it a listen:

Now, the cake.

When I was 16, at exactly 10:15 on a Saturday night, that song came on the radio while I was parked in the lot of a Loaf & Jug waiting on the crazy boy I was crazy about who was inside buying a Cherry Pepsi, and thinking how cool it was that the song was playing right then. At the same time. (It's amazing what impresses teenagers.)
     To this day, every time I hear the song, I think of that parking lot and that boy and how we would drive around in my car drinking Cherry Pepsi laced with cheap whiskey, me doing all of the driving and he doing (almost) all of the drinking. Now, that makes it sound like I was a responsible teen, but really I was just the one with the car and he didn't have a license (sorry Mom). 
     One of my long-term personal projects is This Is What My Memories Taste Like, wherein I interpret memories through cake. Kinda wacky, I know, but it's awfully fun trying to figure it all out. Sort of chosen synesthesia.
    The idea for the cake itself (Chocolate Cherry Pepsi with a Whiskey Caramel-ish Sauce) came easily enough, but how to incorporate the song? Had to think on that one. I really wanted the drip drip drip but, as portable leaky faucets are not really a thing, I decided to try out another high school standard: lab equipment. I think it worked out rather nicely:

Chocolate Cherry Pepsi Layer Cake with Whiskey Caramel(ish) Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°; prepare three 8" round cake pans

For the cake:
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (64 grams) cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (112 grams) neutral oil
1 1/2 cups (330 grams) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 grams) Cherry Pepsi

For the Caramel(ish) Sauce:
1 stick (226 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (220 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) heavy cream
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (45 grams) whiskey, baker's choice

To serve: Whipped Cream and Cherry Jam

To make the cake: In a medium-sized bowl, sift or thoroughly whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs until very well combined. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Whisk in the Cherry Pepsi.

Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes start pulling away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center come out clean. 

Set the pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans to cool completely. 

To make the sauce: Stir together all of the ingredients except for the whiskey in a saucepan set over medium heat. Let gently bubble about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and carefully stir in the whiskey. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

To knock up the cherry flavor a bit, I spread 1/4 cup good cherry jam between each layer and then sparingly filled and speckled with unsweetened whipped cream. 

Serve the slices with the sauce on the side; spoon it on or use lab equipment about let it drip drip drip drip drip drip drip drip.