Stay for Tea

Category: food and cooking

Ginger-Pear Skillet Cake

I made this cake recently for a friend’s birthday brunch. The recipe is from Farmers’ Market Desserts by Jennie Schacht, a San Francisco-based author. The book is laid out in seasonal sections and has some really great desserts like this cake and goat cheese panna cotta.

This cake was very easy to make. I did make the mistake of (impatiently) opening the oven a few times, so it didn’t quite cook through perfectly at the very center. My oven is pretty temperamental. However, it came out moist, crumbly, spicy-sweet. A good dessert for fall but also really works any time pears are in season.

You can get the recipe here.

When bread pudding calls, you answer

Yesterday afternoon I took my mom to tea and food at a recently opened flower shop & tea room. We shared some sandwiches, lentil soup, cookies and jam, over hot cups of tea. The portions were huge and the tea selection is small but covers all the bases. I had a strong black tea with cardamom, mom had a borage flower and lavender brew. It was pouring rain by the time we got out and our plans to go to see a movie changed when my mom realized she forgot her glasses at home. So we decided it’s a sign that we should part ways and go home and be dry and warm.

On the way home I got the urge to make a bread pudding (omg, I totally just wrote brain pudding), partly inspired by a friend misreading another friend’s tweet (she said “afternoon pubbing,” but somehow it became “afternoon pudding”). So I gave in to the urge and made this when I got home.

Bread pudding is one of those desserts that has the most rewarding ease:tastiness ratio. It’s also dangerous. I could eat the entire pan in one sitting. This blog post has a recipe for a NOLA bread pudding with a cognac sauce served as the basis, but I also made some substitutions.


  • 4 cups cubed bread (I used soft buns, which ended up being a little too soft, so go for something with more texture like a French bread, a brioche or challah)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp butter + a little more to grease the pan
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots (soaked in warm water for about 10 minutes) chopped in thin slices
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp vanilla cognac (I used Meukow, if you don’t have vanilla cognac, use plain cognac or cooking brandy, just increase the dose of vanilla extract then)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Scald the milk lightly (no film!), melt the butter in the milk, then stir in sugar until well mixed. Let cool slightly and pour the mixture over the cubed bread and the apricots (make sure to squeeze out the excess water from the apricots after soaking/before adding to the bread). Let the mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes. Beat the 2 eggs, then stir in the salt, nutmeg, vanilla extract and the cognac. Mix well and then fold into the soaked bread and apricot mixture. Pour the mix into a well greased baking dish (I used a square 2L baking pan). Bake 35-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick or knife inserted into the bread pudding comes out mostly clean. I didn’t make a sauce to go with it because for me that’d just be too decadent, but the blog I linked has a great recipe for a cognac sweet sauce that would pair well with the pudding.

Date Cake with Toffee Sauce (Kate Zuckerman’s “The Sweet Life”)

Yesterday afternoon I tried out a recipe from Kate Zuckerman’s fantastic book The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chantrelle. I couldn’t recommend the book more enthusiastically. I picked it up on a whim and I’ve since bookmarked a good dozen recipes I’m dying to try out.

photo from Empire Design Studio

The book is beautifully designed and laid out by the Empire Design Studio. The recipes and instructions are thorough and Zuckerman covers a variety of desserts, from cakes and tarts to souffles and syrups. She also provides a great deal of information on baking and pastry making techniques, offers suggestions for modifying recipes, and indicates exactly what type of kitchen equipment you’ll need for each recipe. Her enthusiasm for her craft comes through the pages, and the book is brimming with clever recipes like Basil Ice Cream or Goat Cheese Cake with Hazelnut Brittle.

I decided to go with the Date Cake with Toffee Sauce. The recipes require very little prep work. The rich flavor of Medjool dates and spices is balanced nicely with espresso and brandy in the cake, while the toffee syrup (also with brandy) is so gooey and delicious that I want to pour it on absolutely everything. Both recipes are available on Cookstr, so rather than duplicate efforts please refer to the links below.

A couple of personal notes:
– I cut the quantities in half when trying out the recipes, which yielded a delicious and fluffy 5×5 inch pan. Unless you are making the cake for a large party, I actually recommend you do that. It’s only supposed to sit covered at room temperature for 3-4 days max. But maybe you can eat a whole giant cake!
– I did not use a stand mixer. I just mixed everything by hand. The butter and sugar I creamed with a fork, and then everything else I mixed with a wooden spoon. This isn’t out of some old fashioned purist approach but because my stand mixer is very big and heavy and I have to haul it out of the side closet to use it, since there is no room to keep it on the kitchen counter permanently.
– I used Raynal VSOP brandy. The flavors of dates, sugar, spices and coffee are strong enough on their own not to require a flavorful cognac like Grand Marnier. Although I’m sure it would taste delicious, so if you like some extra decadence, go for it.

Everything else is super straight forward. Word of caution: you will have a very hard time resisting the urge to constantly lick the mixing spoon when making the toffee syrup.

Date Cake
Toffee Sauce