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
  • Print

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).




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!



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
  • Print

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!



Chocolate Beignets, As In Cooking Is Not Always Success and Glory

chocolate beignets

Remember when I told you how during carnival season it’s customary here in Hungary to make donuts? Since it’s that time of the year, I thought I’d post a donut recipe again, this time exploring how other nations do donuts. Pillowy French beignets (pron. ben-yay) were on top of the list.

I wanted them square, States-style. Yes, I know they make them round in Paris, but I had enough round donuts already and no squares yet. Also, the chocolate filling. That don’t need explaining I reckon.

So I got to it. And although they tasted awesome (like, really awesome!) and I eventually managed to shoot an ok-kinda photo of them, the honest truth is that I had quite a difficult time making these.

The dough was too damn sticky (which is probably my fault because I bought the same flour I previously found hard to work with). The beignets were turning over in the frying oil all by themselves. Half the amount would have been more than enough of the chocolate ganache, and it is simply impossible to fill the donuts with it when it’s still warm, like the recipe was saying. The smallest nozzle of my piping bag turned out to be still too big for the job, and there were sticky chocolate and sugar and oil everywhere.

I struggled, cursed, made a terrible mess of my kitchen, cursed some more, and even wished at one point the whole thing would just go and eff itself.

There. It’s out, and I feel liberated. (I also had a glass… ok two glasses of wine, so all is good now.) I wanted to tell you this because 99.9 percent of the time authors – me included – are being like oh, this recipe is so ridiculously easy, you can “make it from scratch” and it “comes together in a blink of an eye”. Moderate breakdowns and piles of dirty dishes are seldom mentioned.

Easy recipes do exist. This is not one of them. Or let me put it this way: it wasn’t for me at first try. I still decided to post it, difficulties and all. Cooking is fun and I thoroughly enjoy it, but I’d lie if I said it’s always a triumph. My kitchen and its output is not Instagrammable all of the time. So if you goofed up your last recipe, don’t be disheartened. Shit happens.

That said, I’m sure I will make beignets again. It’s a learning curve, plus they are just.so.good!

chocolate beignets

This is the recipe, adjusted to suck way less for you than it did for me. Good luck!

Chocolate Beignets

  • Difficulty: requires effort
  • Print

Fluffy-soft French donuts filled with a rich chocolate cream. Makes 12.


For the donuts:

50 g granulated sugar

150 ml milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

15 g fresh yeast

50 g unsalted butter

320 g AP flour + extra for dusting

pinch of salt

2 egg yolks

vegetable oil for frying

2 tbsp powdered sugar + 2 tbsp granulated sugar, for dusting

For the filling:

125 ml double cream

125 g dark chocolate, chopped

30 g unsalted butter, cubed


  1. Gently heat the sugar and milk in a small pan until warm and sugar has dissolved. Add vanilla.
  2. Crumble the yeast into a bowl, pour in half the sweetened warm milk, then mix and leave to activate.
  3. Place the remaining milk back on the heat and add the butter. Heat until butter melts, but don’t let the milk boil.
  4. Sift flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the hook attachment and make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolks, yeasted milk and the butter-milk mixture.
  5. Mix on low until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the mix is too sticky, add extra flour, a teaspoon at a time.
  6. Place dough in a clean bowl dusted with flour, cover with cling film to stop the dough forming a skin. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. While dough is rising, make the filling. Put the cream in a pan and heat until steaming, but not boiling. Put the chocolate and butter into another bowl. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth and glossy. Put ganache in the fridge to stiffen up.
  8. When dough has risen, knead lightly on a floured surface than roll out to a rectangle with a thickness of about 2 cm.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 12 rectangular pillows, then leave to rise again until doubled in size, about 30 min.
  10. Combine powdered sugar with granulated sugar in a bowl for dusting, set aside.
  11. Pour oil in a deep saucepan filling it one-third full and heat to 160°C. Fry the doughnuts in batches of 2-3 until evenly golden brown and cooked through. You will need to moderate the heat between batches, otherwise the doughnuts brown too quickly and remain raw inside or too slowly and suck up too much oil.
  12. Using a slotted spoon, remove the doughnuts from the oil and transfer to a dish lined with kitchen towels to drain excess oil. Once cool, transfer in the sugar to coat.
  13. To fill the doughnuts, spoon the chocolate ganache into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle. Insert the nozzle into the doughnut and gently squeeze in the filling. Enjoy!



Savory Walnut Cheddar Biscuits

walnut cheddar biscuits

I’d really appreciate if someone would finally explain to me the definitive difference between a scone and a biscuit because honestly, I don’t see one. Even the venerable New York Times says they’re basically the same, but if you know otherwise, enlighten me. Please and thank you.

For I can not consider myself an authority in this matter, I’m calling these flaky pastries biscuits only because they are round. I’ve posted a scone recipe before which very well could be a wedge-shaped biscuit for all I know… You see, we have no such problems here in Hungary. What you call a pogácsa – be it round, square, with egg, no egg, butter or lard, leavened or crumbly – is a pogácsa.

Anyway, cheese and walnuts. Again a combination from the savory side, I still have to make up my mind about sweet ones. There’s a nice balance in texture: slightly crispy outside, tender inside with the occasional crunch from the walnuts. Best served warm.

[Your informed speculation of a bottle of wine included somewhere is not entirely without grounds]

There is something about biscuits that make them perfect for everything. Right?!

It’s a quite forgiving pastry too. No kneading, no rising, in fact you want to handle the dough as little as possible. The ingredients can be swapped in and out depending on what you happen to have on hand: I used a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour, but plain AP would be just fine. Don’t have cheddar? Think edam, gouda, parmesan. For a slight tang, sub in sour cream, natural yogurt, buttermilk, or heavy cream for the milk. These biscuits are also a great way to use up any random herbs.

Savory Walnut Cheddar Biscuits

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Flaky and aromatic. Eat fresh or freeze for up to 1 month. Yield: 18-20 biscuits.


250 g whole wheat flour

50 g AP flour

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp baking poder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

115 g walnuts, chopped

115 g grated cheddar

115 g unsalted butter

1 medium egg, beaten

1/4 cup whole milk


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, herbs and pepper.
  2. Working quickly, cut butter into dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form.
  3. Toss in cheese and nuts.
  4. Mix egg with milk and add to the flour mixture to moisten dough. If dough won’t come together, add a tablespoon or so more milk, but do not overwork it.
  5. Wrap dough in cling foil and refrigerate for an hour to stiffen.
  6. Preheat oven to 200°C (395°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and handling as little as possible, pat to about 2,5 cm (1”) thick. Using a 5 cm (2”) cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Pat scraps together to make more biscuits. Transfer to prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 15-20 min, until golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

And now you tell me: how do you like your biscuits?



You’ve Got Bread Pudding, We Have THIS

hungarian makos guba

Christmas is unthinkable in Central-Eastern Europe without sweets made with nuts. If it’s mostly walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds in your region, depends on the climate but all of us in the heart of Europe bake similar traditional holiday treats.

And there is another very important ingredient in Hungarian kitchens around festive season: poppy seeds. The symbol of richness, also supposed to bring you luck. Such a favorite many of us enjoy it all year round.

We use poppy seeds in a great many recipes from bejgli (a poppy or walnut filled pastry roll), to nudli (small potato dumplings sprinkled with sugared poppy seeds) to rétes (strudel) to flódni (a Hungarian-Jewish pastry with layers of fillings), and I could just go on and on.

If you happen to have some sweet type of bread that dried on you – because you forgot to put it in the freezer – you are in luck! Your negligence just landed you the opportunity to try the one particular poppy-based dessert that’s intentionally not listed above: mákos guba (pron. maa-kosh goo-bah).

It’s a great and easy recipe to repurpose leftover, dry bread. Whatever you have on hand works from regular white bread to brioche, buns, crescent rolls and the like. Just avoid sourdough or whole-wheat loaves; the savory flavors don’t make them suited to a sweet bread pudding.

Because mákos guba is a kind of bread pudding: the pastry slices are layered in a baking dish, softened with sweetened milk, sprinkled with ground poppy and powdered sugar, than baked until the middles are soft and the top is crunchy and golden.

hungarian makos guba

I always liked this dessert but only begin really loving it when I deviated a little from the family recipe and traded in crescents for challah and sugared milk for crème anglaise. That seriously raised the bar! This new and improved mákos guba made it from a frugal weekend dish right to our holiday table: as part of creating new traditions for ourselves with the Husband, it’s going to be dessert after a hearty soup for lunch on December 24th.

Here’s how I make it:

Hungarian Poppy Seed Guba

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sweet bread pudding layered with vanilla-flavored custard and ground poppy seeds. Serves 4.


100 g poppy seeds, ground

80 g powdered sugar

an 500 g (1 lb) challah or brioche, a little dry, cut to 14-16 slices

800 ml whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

50 g granulated sugar

2 tbsp butter


Make crème anglaise:

  1. Heat milk and vanilla in a heavy bottomed saucepan until steaming, but not boiling.
  2. While milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until pale.
  3. Temper custard: whisking constantly, slowly but steadily add hot milk to egg mixture.
  4. Transfer back to saucepan and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the consistency of a pouring sauce is reached. Set aside, divided: use 500 ml to soak challah, reserve 300 ml to serve.

Arrange guba:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (355F), butter a deep baking dish using 1 tbsp of the butter.
  2. Mix poppy seeds with powdered sugar.
  3. Cover bottom of dish with challah slices. Soak slices with custard, than sprinkle generously with the poppy mixture. Continue layering until you run out of challah.
  4. Put remaining butter pieces on top and bake until golden, about 30 min. Enjoy warm, served with remaining crème anglaise and/or whipped cream.




Cold Day Special: Spiced Carrot Soup with Roasted Chickpeas

spiced carrot soup

First snow of the season has fallen this week, which came as a surprise considering the non-wintery winters we’ve been experiencing. In fact it’s snowing right now as I write this post, which managed to finally put me in a festive-ish mood.

There’s a lot going on lately with my day job and it’s hard sometimes to break away from all that but here I am, with a bowl of steaming, creamy soup counting snowflakes and watching our street  transform into a piece of winter wonderland.

Said soup is a simple and delicious veggie soup loaded with spicy-sweet flavor which I made in under 30 minutes from a bag of carrots that were forgotten in the pantry (leftovers of last week’s pie). I personally just love these simple affair type of dishes: satisfying and flavorful, quicker than the pizza delivery guy fires up his scooter.

Honestly. It’s just chopped carrots simmered with warm spices and blitzed into a silky smooth puree.

Also vegan, gluten-free, low-calorie and packed with nutrition. Healthy meets delicious in a brightly colored, vibrant quick fix. You literally feel yourself warming up from the inside out with each spoonful. Spiced with anti-inflammatory ginger, turmeric and a little bit of chili powder for some extra heat, a delightful combination of sweet carrots balanced with pungent spices.

To add a bit of crunch to the velvety consistency of the soup, I went with roasted chickpeas. It’s as easy as can be: a can of chickpeas tossed with olive oil and yet more pantry staple spices, roasted in a hot oven. Great snack on its own too when not used as a soup topper.

roasted chickpeas

What else can I say? Make this the next time you’re feeling a little down, under the weather, or just, you know, want something to warm your cold cold heart 😉

Spiced Carrot Soup with Roasted Chickpeas

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Warming creamy spiced carrot soup packed with goodness, perfect to comfort on a cold day. Serves 4.


For the soup:

1 kg carrots, peeled

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finally chopped

1 l vegetable stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

For the roasted chickpeas:

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp paprika powder (sweet or hot)

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp curry powder


Make soup:

  1. Finely chop the carrots, or cut with a handheld slicer. This step helps them cook in no time, retaining all their goodness.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pan, sauté onions with the olive oil on medium-high heat until softened.
  3. Season, add garlic, bay leaf and spices, stir until fragrant.
  4. Add carrots, stir to coat with spices. Add stock, bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer until carrots are cooked through, about 10 min.
  6. Puree until smooth.

Make roasted chickpeas:

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C (450°F). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Toss chickpeas with the oil and spices to coat evenly, arrange in a single layer on the baking tray.
  3. Bake for 15 min, stir, than bake for an additional 15 min, until golden and crispy (some will pop, that’s a sign they are getting ready)
  4. Serve soup with chickpeas, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!