Coming Up Roses

Time after time, across the years for decades, if not centuries, surveys have shown that recipients always prefer sweets over flowers on Mother’s Day. No contest here; whether we’re talking about a classic box of chocolate or a more elaborate dessert, appetites tend to win over aesthetics.

What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Give your mother and all the maternal figures in your life an edible bouquet this year, even if you’ve been sleeping on the event. These quick treats will have you seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses. Simply wrap up apple slices infused in blushing beet syrup with flaky puff pasty for a beautiful treat that will blossom in the oven.

Versatile enough to present as a breakfast in bed, surprise midday snack, or nightcap to end the day on a high note. Just a little bit of effort goes a long way, in both baking and family relations.

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Bamboozled Cup Noodles

Few things are as consistent and predictable as ramen noodles. Dried, impervious to outside conditions for years, those shelf-stable strands taste the same on day one as they do on day one thousand. Tender and slippery, always salty, the savory flavor is a simple pleasure that everyone can appreciate. It’s a universal experience that seems to feed a hunger that isn’t always just a physical need. That’s the definition of comfort food; providing satisfaction on an emotional level.

Glistening as they float to the top of the cup, each glossy curl beckons, invoking a primal hunger even for those otherwise lacking an appetite. Such a familiar, nostalgic flavor promises the same instant gratification every single time. Before plunging in a fork, spoon or set of chopsticks, you already know exactly what you’re getting.

But wait, what is this trickery? Giving way like softly whipped cream, the seemingly plump noodles are not long and starchy at all! Beneath, where the should be soup, something more substantial awaits. Solid rather than liquid, this base seems to be fluffy, golden, and…

Cake? Make no mistake, this is definitely a sweet yellow cake, fragrant with notes of vanilla sugar, topped with silky cream cheese frosting!

April Fool’s!

As one who’s been burned a few times too many by ill-conceived and borderline malicious jokes, this is the only type of trick I’ll pull. I doubt anyone would actually be fooled, which makes it better, if you ask me. It’s a gentle trompe l’oeil, designed to delight rather than disgust. The ceramic cup noodle mug is what makes it more compelling, but it’s far from mandatory to get in on the fun.

You can easily make your own ramen cupcake by baking your favorite batter in any small oven-safe mug or bowl. Fill it only about halfway, since it will rise, and you still want space on top to add “noodles.” Baking time can vary greatly depending on the size, shape, and thickness of your vessel, so to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through, keep a close eye on your oven and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. When removed, there should only be a few moist crumbs clinging to the sides at most, and no raw batter.

Cool completely and apply your favorite white, beige, or light tan frosting using a piping bag fitted with a multi hole piping tip. For the finish touch, add a few tiny pieces of peeled and diced kiwi along with pomegranate arils to stand in for the token vegetables on top.

You don’t need a wicked sense of humor to appreciate such a harmless prank. Like ramen, cake of any kind is welcome on my table at all times.

Unsolved Mysteries

Making something out of nothing is my favorite kind of practical magic. Frugal to a fault, I’m not above trying unlikely combinations for the sake of avoiding another trip to the store. Sometimes this leads to lamentable meals, like the time I tried using breadcrumbs instead of oatmeal. However, more often than not, I’ll find new favorite worth replicating, even when I have a full arsenal of ingredients at my disposal.

This is very well aligned with the spirit of Depression-era cooking. No waste, no regrets. That’s why when I came across the legend of Mystery Pie, I was immediately charmed. It strikes me as a combination of chess pie or vinegar pie plus mock apple pie, being made with little more than sugar and miscellaneous filler that somehow transforms into a rave-worthy dessert. Better yet, this one doesn’t even need a separate pastry crust to hold everything together.

Whipped egg whites traditionally fill the gaps, but aquafaba does the trick for a plant-based fix. Add crushed crackers and crunchy nuts plus a splash of rich vanilla, and that’s it. It doesn’t seem like it will end well, yet it manages to exceed all expectations.

Perfect for unexpected guests when the pantry is running low, or simply trying to keep things uncomplicated when it comes to shopping or prep, this is a good mystery to solve.

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Rock Out with Your Guac Out

There is no such thing as too many avocados. There is, however, such thing as overzealous purchasing leading to a glut of of avocados all ripening at the same time. Try as I might, it’s impossible to resist a good sale, which is how I ended up with 14 of the green gems on my kitchen counter. One per day is my usual rate of consumption, but even that couldn’t compare to the embarrassment of riches now at my disposal.

Most normal people would turn to guacamole, which is a solid answer to mashing down 3 or 4 avocados into a single serving (as far as I’m concerned.) That said, how many times can I spare so many of these savory treasures at once? This calls for something more exciting.

Fudge all your preconceived notions about such a classic confection; fudge is more than just chocolate. Rich and creamy not from butter, but from the glorious green flesh of avocados, this unconventional approach highlights the versatility of the beloved fruit. Creamy and custard-like, each small square melts in your mouth, leaving behind only a lingering, subtle sweetness. Hints of vanilla and lime accentuate the complex nuances for a delicate but well-balanced flavor.

Rather than the pure sugary rush of conventional fudge, this one has real substance with style. Don’t forget, these are all good fats, so you can pretty much write this one off as health food. It really is more satisfying than your average treat!

If ever you’re faced with the decision of how many avocados to buy, remember this. Too much is never enough.

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Sweet Sixteen

Birthdays slowly lose their appeal over the years, stacking up one after another whether you’re ready or not. What was once exciting becomes blasé. Been there, done that, ate the cake and lived to tell the tale. Rinse and repeat.

There are certain milestones that are genuinely worth getting fired up over. Especially for a youngster on the cusp of adulthood, a Sweet Sixteen is a huge event, above and beyond the average birthday. It symbolizes coming of age, transitioning into the next chapter of life, and maybe even graduating from the kids’ table.

My dearest BitterSweet blog, you are now a mature, fully ripened fruit. How on earth this happened is beyond me. Despite some bad parenting in the beginning, you managed to not only survive the abuse, but thrive in spite of it. Together we’ve grown in ways unthinkable at the start. Now I can’t imagine life without you, nor would I want to.

Happy Sweet Sixteen, BitterSweet! To commemorate this momentous occasion, I had to pull out all the stops for an unforgettable cake worthy of such an event. After hemming and hawing for month, inspiration struck: nothing short of a sixteen-layered crepe cake would do.

How I could have gone sixteen years without featuring a single recipe using ube is beyond me. Let’s make up for lost time and dive right in, shall we? This purple yam is a staple in the Philippines, where it’s often the key ingredient in ice cream, cakes, cookies, waffles, lattes, jams, puddings, and beyond. Though its main claim to fame is that otherworldly hue, the flavor is what keeps people coming back for more. Subtle and delicate with a natural sweetness, the flavor is nutty like toasted pistachio with a hint of vanilla bean.

Granted, I took a short cut here and used ube extract and powder rather than the genuine article. It’s much easier to blend in concentrated flavor and color than start from a whole, fresh tuber, even if it’s not authentic. Just a few drops makes a big splash, and as my crepes started piling up, I worried that I might have gone overboard.

Vibrant in a way that they looked Photoshopped in real life, those thin French pancakes have never been so bold before. Served alone to wrap up whipped cream or fruit, they would already be an unforgettable treat, but when transformed into a tall stack with fluffy layers of buttercream in between, the results are awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

Mille Crepe literally means “a thousand crepes,” so by that metric my grand gateau falls short. However, I think that sixteen is more than enough for now. Who knows: Maybe someday, little old BitterSweet will old enough to celebrate a millennia. Until then… Stay sweet!

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Cake It Naked

In the age-old debate between chocolate and vanilla, few can claim complete neutrality. Even if a strong preference emerges, it would be near impossible to deny the other. Who would want to imagine a life without rich chocolate lava cakes, dark chocolate fudge, or chewy brownies, or on the other hand, vanilla bean ice cream, crisp meringue cookies, or New York cheesecake. Luckily, we don’t need to pick sides in this battle. In fact, we can even have both at the same time.

Stripped down to the bare essentials, Naked Shake delivers pure plant-based protein with clean, well-rounded chocolate and vanilla flavors. Each is a treat served up as solo sips, blending instantly into a smooth, creamy treat that could give a classic milkshake a run for its money even when using plain water. That’s because MCT oil adds a certain richness that makes it far more satisfying than the average mix, giving you everything you want, and nothing you don’t.

When these two forces are combined, however, real magic starts to happen.

Endless layers of chocolate and vanilla paint this simple snacking cake in bold stripes, creating a crave-worthy contrast of flavors in every bite. Named for this pattern that looks similar to a zebra’s unique patterning, it’s more like a lazy marble cake that does all the work for you.

Stay naked and resist the urge to add icing; there’s no need for that extra sweetness that would only cover up such brilliant flavors. There’s nothing to hide when you start with quality ingredients and just don’t mess them up. GMO-free, soy-free, vegan and certified gluten-free, Naked Shake offers something that everyone can enjoy. In keeping with that spirit, my zebra cake is also gluten-free, and could be made low-sugar if you wanted to substitute erythritol or a monk fruit baking blend.

You don’t even need to rationalize slicing off a big chunk to enjoy for snack or breakfast. It’s a genuinely healthy choice; no cheating necessary! In fact, you could even bake off the batter as muffins for better portion control and portability, if you’re into those things.

Earn your stripes by shortening the divide between chocolate and vanilla. There’s room for both flavors and so much more, without making any compromises.

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