It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dear All,

I am a bit sad but also very excited at the same time. I am writing this post to tell you that after much consideration, I’ve decided I will temporarily focus my attention elsewhere.

My Chest of Wonders was always a hobby for me. As a creative outlet, it gave me so much – I’ve learned a great deal in the past 2 years. I still love blogging, cooking, creating recipes and sharing it with you, but I am currently working on a new project and after that and a nine to five, I just don’t think I’ll have the time to create content on a regular basis like I used to.

I wish I could keep doing it, but for the foreseeable future I’m going on a different path. This is not a farewell though, rather hitting pause on a few things to be able to focus on others. I am keeping the blog, but I might not update it every week like I used to.

So whether you are a Follower, Reader, or Visitor dropping by, thank you! Thank you for all the encouraging words left in the comments, for every like and click. I hope I will be seeing you soon.

Have a lovely week!




Hello March: Sour Cherry Coffee Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche

cherry sponge cake

They say self-deception will not serve you well. Not when you dream of warmer seasons and decide to play make-believe with your senses by a dessert featuring one of summer’s signature fruits!

The base of this well-known Hungarian treat is a sponge cake. I think I will need to elaborate on that because there are a Whole Wide World of Sponge Cakes: Victoria, Angel food, French biscuits, Génoise, chiffon, foam cakes, and so on and so forth.

Generally, pastries of this family get their light, open texture from whipped egg whites a.k.a. egg foam. They are relatively quick and simple to make, but you need to be skillful (read: gentle) with your folding.

The name sponge cake around here is used to refer either to a light foam cake made with just 3 ingredients (eggs, sugar and flour), or a heavy foam cake made with added butter. The latter is denser, crumbly and stays moist longer.

A sponge cake is among the first things your granny teaches you to bake. They are wonderfully versatile and used in a multitude of Central-Eastern European recipes. This particular one plays in the ‘with butter’ league and also employs some baking powder, as it needs a little added strength to rise under the weight of all those juicy fruits.

The sour cherries I used here were home-grown (I wrote about my parents’ horticultural vein before), but it’s totally comme il faut in my book to bake with store-bought fruit. I prefer frozen to canned though, and I don’t think you need that syrup in your life either.

What elevates this classic besides the crunchy, toasted walnuts on top is the dollop of whipped crème fraîche served on the side. Do you like crème fraîche? Is it even available where you live? It’s still quite exotic here – that much is obvious from the price tag. If you can find it, that is.

For those of you not yet familiar with this dairy: crème fraîche is similar to sour cream, but thicker, richer, and less tangy. It’s great in both sweet and savory dishes. I particularly love how it offsets the sweetness of tarts and pies perfectly, adding another layer of flavor to every bite. You can whip crème fraîche into a thick, creamy topping just like you would do with heavy cream.

It’s also a no-brainer to make at home, not to mention considerably cheaper! All you need is heavy (whipping) cream, full-fat natural yogurt and about 24 hours on the counter. Just mix a cup of cream with 2 tbsp yogurt, and let it sit in a glass jar at room temperature until it becomes thick and creamy. Keep it in the fridge afterwards and use within 5 days.

Sour Cherry Coffee Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche

  • Difficulty: easy
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Classic sponge cake loaded with fruits and crunchy walnuts, served with rich crème fraîche.


4 medium eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

180 g butter, room temperature

250 g superfine sugar

4 tbsp AP flour

1 packet (8 g) vanilla sugar

1/2 packet (7 g) baking powder

100 g walnuts, chopped

300 g fresh or frozen sour cherries, pitted and drained

butter and flour for greasing the pan


  1. Thaw and drain, or if using fresh, wash, pit and drain sour cherries. Roughly chop walnuts. Mix flour with baking powder. Set aside.
  2. Thoroughly butter and flour a 22×33 cm (9×13″) pan (I’ve divided the batter into smaller dishes for photography purposes).
  3. Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy.
  5. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
  6. Add sugar in 3 portions to the egg-butter mixture, mix on medium until pale and fluffy and sugar has dissolved, about 4-5 min. Set aside.
  7. In another bowl, whip cold egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold egg foam into egg-butter-sugar mixture with a spatula.
  9. Fold in flour and baking powder until incorporated.
  10. Pour batter in the prepared pan. Arrange cherries on top. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and vanilla sugar.
  11. Bake until batter has risen and golden brown, about 30-40 min.
  12. Let cool in the pan before slicing. Enjoy slightly warm or cool with a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped crème fraîche on the side (optional).



Carrot Cake, Because We’re So Ready For Spring

carrot cake

Let me start with a question: how come it’s a tradition to make carrot cake around (for) Easter when this popular root vegetable is going right out of season in spring? (Yes, carrots have a season too: late summer and fall, although they are available from storage year round)

Anyway. I think we’d all agree that every season is a good season to make something as delicious as a rich and moist carrot cake, late winter being no exception.

Everyone likes this decadent dessert a bit different spices, nuts, raisins or pineapple-wise and that’s fine. Make it the way you like it! I happen to be a (wal)nuts and for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy-please-no-raisins kinda girl. And I use apples, sans pine. Different strokes for different folks!

carrot cake

As for the other single most important bit, the frosting – and this is guaranteed to make frowned foreheads across the pond – your cream cheese+butter+sugar combo is something I just can’t come to like. No offence, but I find it too sweet and thick.

To coat my cake, I substitute mascarpone for cream cheese. Let’s stop here for a sec: if you are wondering how cream cheese and mascarpone are different, in short cream cheese is tangier and mascarpone is milder. Mascarpone is made from cream coagulated with just acid, richer and creamier with a higher fat content. Cream cheese is made from milk with lactic bacteria, more acidic and with a lower fat content. I love both but in this recipe, I happen to like mascarpone better.

I also swap butter for whipped cream. A generous slathering of this airier, frothy filling suits my taste better but then again, it’s just a personal preference.

carrot cake

As is the way you arrange the cake. To give a fancier look for this otherwise simple dessert, I prefer layers and frosting, generous on top and thinner on the sides. I know the uniqueness of naked cakes has worn off a bit, but I’m still making them in 2018 and #notsorry.

Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Filling

Moist and deliciously spicy carrot cake filled with airy mascarpone whipped cream.


For the cake:

350 g carrots

1 medium apple

100 g whole wheat flour

200 g AP flour

100 g walnut meal

1 packet (15 g) baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

3 eggs

150 ml neutral vegetable oil

150 g brown sugar

For the filling:

250 g mascarpone

400 ml whipping cream

1 packet (7 g) vanilla sugar


  1. Generously butter and flour two 17 cm cake tins (6.5″).
  2. Peel, core and grate apple. Peel and grate carrots. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 150C (300F).
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix flours, baking powder, salt, spices and walnut meal.
  5. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and oil until frothy.
  6. Fold egg mixture into flour mixture. Add carrots and apple, mix until combined.
  7. Divide batter equally between the tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about an hour.
  8. Let cool 20 min before removing from tins. Cut both in half horizontally so you have 4 layers. Cool completely.
  9. Why layers are cooling, make filling: mix mascarpone and cream with an electric mixer on low to combine. Increase speed and whisk until stiff peaks form.
  10. Arrange cake. Refrigerate for 1 h before serving. Enjoy!



Perfectly Creamy Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk

creamy rice pudding

Late-winter February. It’s the time of year when I tend to be in a meh type of mood, generally uninspired and unenthusiastic.

It’s probably the lack of sunshine and being stuck indoors. Yes, I work out, take my vitamins, eat my greens and have nothing against the occasional walk in the cold, but still… Hello, weather? Getting desperate for spring here!

When these blues hit, I consciously remind myself how there’s something to like in every season. You have to nip the feeling in the bud, otherwise you’ll end up in a downward spiral.

Luckily, a distraction usually does the trick. Starting a new book (just ordered anti-guru Sarah Knight’s new No F*cks Given Guide ‘You Do You’ which is guaranteed to make for a good laugh based on previous volumes), the annual closet overhaul, or a quick search to see what’s left of Zara Home’s winter sale? Whatever works!

And some cooking: making my No. 1 winter warmer, sweet and creamy rice pudding never disappoints. It’s funny how I never posted this when I make it so often. Now, I know some people think rice pudding is quite a humble food, but I assure you: when done right, it’s as good as it gets!

In my opinion, the best rice pudding is c.r.e.a.m.y. above everything else. That’s what I always aim at. With that in mind, there are a few tricks for making the perfect rice pudding. Also, some points where things can go south (been there, done that). Learn from my mistakes, read the following experience-based notes and go for it!

First, the rice. Over the years, I’ve tried different types (depending mainly on what was on hand to be honest). You’ll want to use medium-grain or short-grain rice here. It’s all about starch: the right amount thickens the pudding, while the grains stay tender through cooking without breaking apart. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make rice pudding with long-grain varieties like Basmati or Jasmine rice, but these are less starchy, take longer to cook and the result will be rather dry. My favorite rice for this recipe by far is Arborio.

Than there’s the milk. It’s a real hazard when it comes to your stove’s cleanliness – not watching the pot as the milk comes to a boil… need I go on? Be sure to keep a close eye on it while warming!

After you’ve added the rice, stir down regularly or it will catch on the bottom. Keep mixture at a gentle simmer, allowing time for the rice to cook. I find this quantity needs somewhere between 30-40 min. Test the rice for done-ness though (grains should be tender), do not rely on the clock completely.

Another thing also necessary for perfect creaminess  – you guessed it: fat. Use whole milk, full-fat coconut milk and heavy cream.

The egg yolks are responsible for that coveted custardy texture, but add hot liquid to the egg mixture too quickly, and the yolks will curdle. Troubleshoot tip: tempering. This means bringing the temperature of the eggs up slowly. Spoon a small amount of hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Keep adding milk until egg mixture is warmed up (this will take about a ladle of milk). Once done, pour warm egg-milk mixture back in the pot in a slow, thin stream, again whisking constantly.

This is a basic recipe, so feel free to flavor the hell out of it! Also, I think it’s perfectly good as it is, but sometimes I feel like putting the bowls of finished pudding under the broiler to brown the tops.

That said, my recipe for the perfectly creamy rice pudding:

Creamy Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

  • Difficulty: medium
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Silky smooth rice pudding with fragrant coconut milk. Serves 4.


600 ml whole milk

1 can (400 ml) full-fat coconut milk

1/2 cup Arborio rice

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

100 g sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

200 ml heavy cream


  1. In a large saucepan, bring milk and well-shaken coconut milk to a boil.
  2. Stir in rice, reduce heat to allow for a gentle simmer.
  3. Stir down regularly to ensure rice is not sticking to the bottom. Mixture will form a skin – just stir it back in.
  4. While rice is cooking, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla and cream in a bowl big enough to accommodate the mixture and about a ladle of milk.
  5. Test rice for done-ness: taste a grain if it’s tender with no hard center.
  6. Once rice is cooked, remove pan from heat. Temper the egg mixture with a ladle of hot milk, than pour warmed egg mixture back into the pan in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
  7. Return saucepan to heat. Cook on medium, stirring, until pudding boils – it should be saucy but not soupy in consistency. In this phase, mixture will not yet resemble finished pudding. Don’t worry, the custard will set and thicken as it cools.
  8. Ladle rice pudding into bowls, let cool completely and refrigerate. Enjoy!



Hazelnut Cookie Sandwiches with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

cookie sandwich

We’ve been re-watching Strike Back over the weekend and a good snack was in order. The Husband was hinting at Nutella but since we were out – quelle horreur! – I had to think of some other treat with hazelnuts and chocolate.

Then I remembered pining a cookie sandwich (Hazelnut Espresso Truffle Cookies from The Perfect Cookie Book) by America’s Test Kitchen that would fit the bill perfectly. Chocolate, hazelnut and coffee are a classic Italian combination everyone loves.

I did alter the recipe a bit: instead of using instant espresso powder to flavor the dough, I put the coffee into the ganache (and thus used less cream). The dough is a bit sticky so be generous with the flour when rolling! Also, mine needed more time to bake than the recipe suggested, but that depends on your oven so be sure to keep an eye on your cookies.

They turned out sublime and we had an especially hard time being patient and not eating them before I shot the sandwiches for this post.

cookie sandwiches

Now that I mentioned photography… A goal I set for this year is finding my style. It’s a process and to be honest, something I’ve been struggling with lately.

A thought that occured to me is maybe defining my style will also help in further developing it. Reading Rachel’s post 3 Words To Describe Your Food Photography Style gave me a great tool: I’m doing a word bank now. This technique is about coming up with a bunch of descriptive words, than narrowing them down to the most meaningful. It’s both easy and hard! I’ll share mine soon, and also challenge you to do yours – it’s a fun verbal activity.

And after this short sidenote, the recipe for the cookie sandwiches:

Hazelnut Cookie Sandwiches with Chocolate Espresso Ganache

Decadent cookie sandwiches with a rich, espresso-flavored ganache. Makes about 35.


150 g hazelnut meal

320 g AP flour

1/4 tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

225 g unsalted butter, room temperature

300 g granulated sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

2 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache:

50 ml freshly brewed espresso

150 ml heavy cream

300 g dark chocolate, chopped


  1. In a bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder and ground hazelnuts together.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer (or in a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment) until pale and fluffy. Add egg, yolk (one at a time) and vanilla, beat until combined.
  3. Add flour mixture in 3 additions and mix until just combined, scraping down bowl with a spatula as needed.
  4. Form dough into a ball, wrap in cling foil and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, until stiffened.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, preheat oven to 190°C (375°F).
  6. Divide dough in 4 quarters. On a floured surface, roll 1 disk of dough (keep rest in the fridge) into a circle about 3 mm thick. Using a 5 cm round cookie cutter, cut circles, place 2 cm apart on prepared sheets. Gently reroll and cut scraps.
  7. Bake in the centre rack of the oven until edges are just slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
  8. Let cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Make the ganache: Brew an espresso. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming but not boiling. Pour hot cream and coffee over chocolate chips; cover and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk mixture until smooth. Refrigerate ganache until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  10. Assemble cookie sandwiches: Spread a heaping teaspoon of ganache over bottom half of cookies, top with remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Enjoy!



Farewell Friday Finds

chic up your office

Not beating about the bush here: I am discontinuing Friday Finds.

The day has come but it’s not a sad day at all. I feel liberated after making this decision because for some time now creating the weekly roundups felt more like a chore, not fun and inspiring like it used to.

I think falling out of love with something you do is a natural part of the journey, and realizing you did is essential to make way for the new. Just like cleaning out your closet, curating your content is a step forward in developing your style. Which is never finished by the way – it should be evolving constantly.

I hope to replace Friday Finds soon with something better and more personal, the outlines of a different kind of regular feature are already in my head.

Until then, have a wonderful weekend!



Image by Love & Light

Classic Custardy Blueberry Clafoutis


blueberry clafoutis

I like to think of myself as a frugal shopper. There are a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to groceries – one in particular is I make good use of my freezer. Our local supermarket sells near ‘best before’ date food 20, 30, sometimes even 50 percent off and that’s exactly when I stocked up on blueberries a few months back.

Frozen fruit is great in smoothies, for baking, making sauces and small-batch jams, tossed in plain yogurt or a granola bowl… the list just goes on and on. It’s good to have stocks of your favorites, especially in these dark and gloomy winter days when you crave the fresh taste of fruit. Yes it’s 2018 and indeed, everything is available always, but I’d rather spend money on local, in-season products than pay double for something that was picked unripe on the other end of the world and travelled long-haul to get here.

That said, on to the matter of clafoutis. I’ve posted this French country dessert before, that time with a twist in texture. Now it’s back to the roots, by which I mean the pancake-like, custrady batter.

By the way, beignets last week and now this? What is it with French recipes? (Maybe the fact that France has one of the most renowned food cultures in the world… but IDK) Anyway, after that near-fail this one is simple, quick and no-fuss.

Call me lazy, but I put my blender to work again. (Remember dutch babies?) It couldn’t possibly get any easier: all ingredients – which aren’t many – in, a good whizz, batter done. You can even make it in advance, just don’t forget to pulse again before pouring. And for the people having something against blenders (please imagine my eyebrows shooting up): a good old-fashioned whisk and some muscle will do the same.

I find the thicker the slice, the better the clafoutis so I use a deep Pyrex dish for baking. A cake tin or a deep pie dish works as well. A trick I picked up over at Meilleur du Chef is sprinkling the baking dish with sugar after buttering – this extra bit of sweetness is just what you need when using tart fruits, plus it makes for a thin, caramelised crust. And who wouldn’t want that, right?!

Blueberry Clafoutis

  • Difficulty: easy
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Custardy French clafoutis – a classic country dessert. For 4-5.


4 eggs

110 g AP flour

100 g granulated sugar

500 ml whipping cream (30%)

150 ml milk

25 ml dark rum

1 packet vanilla sugar (7-8 g)

pinch of salt

400 g blueberries

butter and granulated sugar for the pan


  1. Put all ingredients except fruit in a blender and pulse to a homogenous, lump-free, pancake-like batter. Alternatively, in a large mixing bowl, combine eggs with sugar. Whisk in flour, add cream, milk, rum, vanilla sugar and salt. Mix well.
  2. While batter is resting, preheat oven to 210°C (410°F). Butter a deep baking dish and sprinkle with sugar. Shake off excess sugar.
  3. Place blueberries in the baking dish, cover with batter.
  4. Bake until dark golden, about 40 min.
  5. Let cool to set at least 30 min before cutting to portions. Can be served warm or cold. Enjoy!