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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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O’Hara’s Irish Red Velvet Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Think you need to eat green this Saint Patrick’s Day? Think again. Come Saint Patrick’s Day, few desserts can stand up to the mighty Guinness Chocolate Cake – until now.  Irish Red Velvet Cake is as cheery as a wee leprechaun’s cheeks and as fiery as his beard. The crimson batter contains a dusting of cocoa and is bound with buttermilk – both characteristics of a traditional Red Velvet Cake, popular in the American South. But a few glugs of O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale gives this otherwise ordinary cake Celtic edge. This delightful Irish-American fusion makes an ideal dessert for the 40 million Irish Americans who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year. (And, since Saint Patrick’s Day is more widely celebrated by Irish Americans than the Irish, this fusion turns out to be quite apropos.) What is an Irish Red Ale? Irish Red ales are reddish-brown in color and full-bodied. In the case of O’Hara’s, toasted malt sweetens the drink, while a bit of hops deepens the finish. Too much of the bubbly brew can give the Irish Red Velvet Cake a yeasty, bread-like flavor – a modest 1/2 cup does the trick. Cutting back on the …

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Maltese November Bone Cookies Recipe

Maltese Bone Cookies with Marzipan Marrow

This month we’re celebrating the most anatomically correct cookie there ever was – one whose astounding details should make it a favorite with medical students everywhere, and one who would be well placed at every white coat graduation buffet. The origins of this beautiful cookie are far humbler than you might think – November Bones hail from the small island nation of Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea. Why November Bones? Forget dress up and trick-or-treating; most people in the island nation of Malta skip right over Halloween in favor of All Saints and All Souls Days, two feast days that honor the dead (these more reverent holidays are not about vampires and zombies, but about taking time to honor cherished family members who have passed on). On November 1st and 2nd the graves are cleaned and decorated, but it’s the November Bones (a.k.a. l-għadam tal-mejtin) that stretch the holiday well beyond the two days (they’re sold all month long in many bakeries). Anatomy of a Cookie Usually cookies are just a “shape it and bake it” operation, but November Bones could come straight from a …

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Zimbabwe Candy Cake | Chikenduza

Candy. Cake. From Zimbabwe. Given the name… and the fact that we needed a celebration recipe (this being the last recipe of our ‘official’ adventure to eat a dish from every country in the world)… well, I had to make it. That’s not to say there weren’t other choices for celebration food. I could have made sweet potato cake (spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg) or sliced mango with custard. But I was sold when I saw the shiny pink glaze on the mound of cakey bread. I would have never known this cake existed, if it weren’t for several homesick Zimbabweans who shared their pinings on Fiso’s Kitchen. This is a treat you’d find in Zimbabwe’s city bakeries. From what Fiso says, Candy Cakes are usually big and dense, made in a double a standard muffin, but I made mini ones in my muffin tin so I wouldn’t have to go buy special equipment. Though her version is yeasty, she also mentions a recent trend of baking powder being used in Zimbabwe’s Candy Cake. Personally, I’m …

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Coconut Banana Fritters

I don’t usually pick my Friday afternoon snacks based on Prince William’s and the Duchess’ eating habits, but this week I couldn’t help myself. The royal couple were fed these amazing fritters during their stay in Tuvalu. What an endorsement. If they’re good enough for royalty, they are good enough for me. Trust me on this: each bite will transport you to magical Tuvalu, way out in the Pacific, where the sun shines brightly, the water sparkles like a smile, and every day feels like a vacation. They are indulgent in the most unapologetic way possible. The fritters contain many local ingredients, most notably coconut and bananas. Not just any bananas, my friends. These are nice, ripe, bananas. After a quick dip in bubbling oil, the fritters emerge soft in the middle and crisp and nut-brown on the outside. A heavy dusting of powdered sugar later and they become the perfect tropical doughnut. Makes 8 large, 12 small Ingredients: Vegetable oil, for frying 2 ripe bananas, rough chopped For the batter: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 …

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Almond Carrot Cake | Aargauer Rüeblitorte

Yes, I have a three year old daughter. No, I don’t hide a head of cauliflower in her mashed potatoes. I never slip zucchini in her pancakes when she’s not looking. And I refuse to bury carrots in her cake. I don’t cater to my daughter that way. Don’t get me wrong.  On any old Monday, Ava can blow through a bowl of cauliflower mashed potatoes. On the weekend, she can annihilate a tower of zucchini pancakes before the early bird has had his breakfast. And, as of today, she loves carrot in cake as well as any Swiss child. But she knows the vegetables are there. We talk about it. Laugh about it. In our house, we revel in a real carrot’s gnarly glory. I point out the knots, the hairs, the fuzzy green top to Ava.  She giggles, she scrunches up her nose, and then she chows down. When I happened upon this traditional Swiss Carrot Cake, I realized that, though Ava had enjoyed many a gnarly carrot, she had never eaten carrot …

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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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Blueberry Bublanina | Bubbly Cake

From early springtime all the way into the deep heart of fall, Slovakia’s mountains and hills burst with nature’s bounty. For those who search, a perpetual harvest reveals herself. Here, trees swoon with the weight of delightfully sour cherries, juicy, grapes, apricots, and apples. There, bushes bloom with blueberries, woodsy and sweet. This land, surely, is magic. When there is more fruit than can be gathered in an apron, Slovakia makes Bublanina, a.k.a. Bubbly Cake. Just one secret makes this slightly sweet cake light and fluffy: whipped egg whites. Fruit, sliced, chunked, or left whole, is scattered across the foamy surface and, as the cake puffs up in the oven, it bubbles around the fruit. Some fruit sinks down. Some fruit does not. Once out of the oven, the whole thing is covered with a cloud of powdered sugar, until even the air around it tastes sweet. It’s all kinds of whimsical and the perfect way to ring in the hope of spring (I promise it’s coming – I even witnessed a few daffodil leaves …

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Fig & Honey Apple Polenta Cake | Bustrengo

Sometimes life calls for  a little something extra-ordinary. A toothy smile on a cloudy day can be enough. A favorite pair of fuzzy, polka-dotted socks can even do the trick. But on other days I want something a smidge bit … well… gourmet. I want something that says this day – this meal – this time – is more special than you know. That you’re more special than you know. And so, it’s not without a little irony that Bustrengo fits the bill. You see, this Fig and Honey Apple Cake is traditionally made in San Marino (and Italy) after dinner chatter dies down, while sitting around the embers of a dying fire. In this way, she’s a real casual sort of affair. Something to satisfy that sweet tooth, without going to too much of a fuss. As easy as a smile but as tasty as good love. Inside you’ll find all manner of diced apples, dried figs, golden polenta, olive oil, and pools of honey. Oh, and curls of orange and lemon zest. No biggie. These …

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Cinnamon Buttered Dates | Al Rangina

I’m not a particularly picky person, except when it comes to dates and men. I lucked out in the man department when I married my best friend 4 1/2 years ago… but I’m still working on learning to love dates. While I certainly love going to dinner and a movie, taking long walks on the beach, and enjoying romantic hikes in the forest… I don’t much care for date dates. The black, oblong super sweet kind of date that one eats. Dates are one of the major foods grown in Qatar, so the time has come to challenge myself with this treat once again. I found today’s cinnamon and butter laden recipe in the World Cookbook for Students. In my adaptation, the flavors combine into a simple and straightforward treat – something for everyday living.  Also, the butter cuts some of the sweetness from the dates which is a definite plus in my book. P.S. Here’s how dates grow, if you’re curious… it’s a long road from these plump jewels to the wrinkly, black nuggets we find in …

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Dulce de Leche Stuffed Cookies | Alfajores

Sometimes we need a do over. A chance to get it right. And a little forgiveness. Because in every mishap is a silver lining. Especially when it comes to sweet, crumbly dulce de leche filled alfajores – the popular South American cookie. One bite instantly dissolves on the tongue into a cloud of tender lemon zest deliciousness. Divine. But back to forgiveness. Specifically, I need to forgive my sweet, bumbling husband for being so thoughtful as to fill up the cooler with ice for our 3 1/2 hour road trip, yet being so forgetful as to overlook returning the cookie dough to the cooler. I need to let go of the grief that the cookie dough rode in the bed of our pickup truck, saran wrap in the wind, balanced precariously on top of my red suitcase, all the way to our family vacation in Beaver’s Bend. And I need to accept that, because it was 100F and sunny, the cookie dough could never be cooked. In situations like this, it’s all about the silver …

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Midnight Mocha Rum Cake

Let’s talk about world peace for a second. Pretty much everyone I know agrees we need a big dollop of it to make the world a happier place, but not many people know what this world loaded up with peace would actually look like. Except for that one image of children holding hands. While the notion of all our children holding hands is a beautiful image, I can’t help but wonder where all the adults are. Why is it always just children? Are we so jaded that we think they’re the only ones who can do it? Are we past the point of no return? Is it really too late to lead by example? I’ve put some thought into this lately. I think world peace will be a lot like chocolate cake. Delicious. Lovely. But definitely not overly sappy or idealistic. Sure, everyone would wear the smile of the dove in their heart (they’re eating chocolate cake, after all) but there would still be varying points of view. Disagreements. People need to be able to have opinions, …

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