Friday, April 30, 2010

Lemon Theme?

Today we had a homemade coffee cake that we believe was lemon poppy seed. Or maybe just poppy seed.  Otherwise we are concerned about the little black dots throughout the cake. If they are not poppy seeds what are they?  This is what happens when you just eat something without finding out what it is.  We are thankful to Yoshi's girlfriend for baking it for us.  It was very good and certainly went well with coffee as just about all loaf type cakes do.  It was supplemented with some Italian Pizzelle waffle type cookies with lemon zest - hence today's title. It was a nice supplementary touch but the star was the homemade cake. A little bit of lemon curd might have topped it off and really completed the theme. But who's complaining.

The upcoming DDW was a topic of discussion and whether the oil spill would have any effect on the conference.  No one seemed concerned and so it was off to the Big Easy!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Schwarzwälderkirschtorte. The cake of cakes!

Yes that is all one word in the title and it translates to Black Forest Cherry Torte or what we call the Black Forest cake.  This is a particular favorite and we are big aficionados! Scratch that - we're experts!  On the most recent trip to Freiburg, Germany  - the capital of the Black Forest - we spent every day in a different cafe trying out the various offerings and they were all great. Then to top if off the Colombi hotel, as the conference caterer, featured a giant black forest sheet cake - true to the recipe no less.  Alas in the United States the cake is usually not true to the recipe. The closest thing we found was at Ursula's European pastry but alas that bakery has closed. We miss it because Black Forest cake aside we don't know anyone else who make a good Dobosz Torte. But we digress..

Today's version was courtesy of Dr. Zhang and was made to order at the Vienna Bakery in Barrington, RI.  It is very good though not quite up to European snuff. The critical element however - a whipped cream frosting - was there.   Thank God!  It was filled with the requisite layer(s) of cherries and the shaved chocolate on top is also de rigeur. Other important ingredients of the real thing are a cookie type layer on the bottom, then a single layer of SOUR cherries that are soaked in Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), and then a layer of whipped cream. This one used a double layer of sweet cherries and the lack of the Kirschwasser is understandable because here they would probably require the bakery to have a liquor license to pull that off. But make no mistake, this is a great cake.It is not too sweet, the cake portion was very fresh and with the whipped cream it is much lighter than it looks. Kudos to the Vienna Bakery for one of the best adaptations in the US!

When we were almost done with the cake, Vicki, who has been haunted by Peeps since Easter imagined the cake had become one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Choco-Cheesecake thanks to Hiro.

The original idea was to get a Tira Misu from the East Side Marketplace but they were out.  The alternative - a chocolate cheesecake!   Actually it was a double cheesecake with chocolate on the bottom and regular garden variety vanilla type cheesecake above. The cross hatching chocolate decoration on the top was a nice touch. This cake was good but dense!  It went very well with a cup of coffee and we kept the portion sizes small so we could spread it around. In his last two cake donations Hiro is now 2 for 2 for cheesecakes!  Now what did we talk about besides the recent censorship of South Park which we didn't understand because they had already run the Super Best Friends episode with you know who being one of them!  Sigh, times have changed!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Turkish Delights

Unable to procure a cake in a timely fashion, today's featured cake donor settled for some turkish delights both literally and figuratively.  We are very fond of the actual Turkish delights - the gelatinous powdered sugar coated sweet treats that my contain nuts. We particularly like them when they contain pistachios.  Today's offering was covered with coconut instead of the usual sugar dusting.  It was a nice touch and added some variety to our experience with Turkish delights. We have learned to expect this whenever one of our Turkish colleagues is returning from a visit to the homeland and we suspect we've probably had every kind available in Turkish airport gifts shops.

In addition two other delights from Turkey were offered. One was like a marshmallow pie only it was made of waffle type cake, filled with hazelnut cream and was covered in chocolate. Not bad, actually!  Finally we had what I would call the Turkish version of the ubiquitous Danish butter cookies.

The conversation was very academic!  We discussed this year's recipients of Brown's honorary degrees and the reasons why they were nominate and chosen. Very interesting to note that both Nelson Mandela (in asbentia) and Morgan Freeman who played Mandela in film are both being so honored. Coincidence? Who cares? It's great to have them both!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mrs. Masa's Specialty

Is it an angel food cake? No!  Is it a pound cake? No!  It is something of a cross between the two. The cake is very airy and light like an angel food cake, but is much moister like a pound cake. Is it a chiffon cake? Baking this requires some deftness. Each time we have enjoyed this cake from Mrs. Masa it has been consistent and good. However, our esteemed Cake Master who got the recipe was unable to pull it off. We must continue to defer to the skills of the recipe giver and we look forward to the next time. As for Cake Master - practice makes perfect!

The cake was accompanied by a geopolitical lesson focusing on Hong Kong and its current relationship to China. This discussion broadened to include Macao - which is not as sleazy as it was - and Taiwan.  Apparently Hong Kong residents have a much easier time going in and out of China then vice versa.  We also tried to figure out where and why they would grow broccoli for export in Hong Kong. Apparently Stop and Shop was featuring just that - broccoli from Hong Kong - which seems a little far fetched!  I mean - they couldn't find it in California?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blueberry Pie and Bye to George

Today we had a good old standard - blueberry pie from Scialo Brothers Bakery on Federal Hill in Providence courtesy of the Moss Man.  This is a great pie!  It's always fresh and full of blueberries. Furthermore the filling is never congealed with too much corn starch but is juicier than one sees with a mass produced commercial pie. The hatched crust is enhanced by some granulated sugar which is what provides most of the sweetness. The pie is very well balanced and always delicious.  We highly recommend it if you are in the Atwells Avenue neighborhood in Providence.

Today we were told that this would be George's last day. George did some work here then left to go back to school. However, he was also kind enough to pay visits, coming down from Boston to hang out help or bring a cake. Now he says this was his last visit..or is it?  Initially it was to be a fond farewell but then he said he may come by next year regardless of the fact that his sister will move on from the lab. Time will tell but in the meantime - keep smiling George!

Torta Della Nonna

Grandmother's Cake - a classic Tuscan Dessert!  We love it when our Italiana gets the itch to bake something. She has already spoiled us with her Tira Misu and yesterday she decided to make her first Torta in the United States for cake hour. We were honored. Too bad she and a few others had to go to seminar. The cake is not too sweet and has a filling of lemon flavored pastry cream. The top is sprinkled with pine nuts. Indeed a classic dish and molto delicioso!!

Recent items in the news regarding cancer testing were discussed. Unlike some people reported on we concluded we would not want our entire medical history in the papers. The topic of poop coffee also came up  which was fortuitous given the recent article about it. Follow the link:

Being the sophisticates that we are - especially when it comes to cake and coffee, we are not at all shy to report that we have already tried the unique beverage. It does make a good cup of java!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blackberry & Strawberry Shortcake

Today we have the pleasure of experiencing the conjoined effort of two outstanding ladies at the LRC. A meticulously decorated and beautifully presented blackberry and strawberry shortcake. Fresh berries rested gently on top of a buttery pound cake drowned in syrup and crowned with whipped cream, how can one possibly make this even better? How about some chocolate cake!

The ladies certainly have outdone themselves this time. Today's presentation was so wonderfully elaborate that some people may think we were having a cake feast. The fact that only four persons showed up at Cake hour only further exaggerate the overabundance of cakes on the table.

We learn an important lesson today that canned whipped cream is not very stable and should not be used to decorate cakes. While they are much more convenient, they tend to melt very quickly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Homemade Blueberry Coffee Cake

After slumming it on Friday with nothing but Thin Mint and Mini-Robin's Egg, which incidentally was what we hoped to get from the Easter Bunny two weeks ago, we are all very glad to see on the sign-up sheet Jeff's name written in a proud and bold font, taunting the depressing and disappointing void on Tuesday's slot.

Sitting leisurely in the afternoon with a thin slice of coffee cake and a steaming cup of coffee is one of life's little pleasures. And Jeff's homemade blueberry coffee cake has made this possible for us on this fine Monday afternoon. The tender and crumbly texture of the cake paired with the rich and fruity flavors of the blueberry make Jeff's creation one of the best coffee cakes in recent memory.

The cake was quickly devoured, yet Cake Hour attendance was significantly reduced in Rolf's absence. It seems most people did not stay longer than the time necessary to finish a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. The few who lingered prattle on about the harmful effects of sugary food and gluten-containing products.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoy Jeff's coffee cake and it marks a very good start for this week. Hopefully someone is going to surprise us with an unannounced cake hour appearance tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What you see is what we got!

Leftovers!  No volunteers today so we scrounged up what we can. Some Nuttter Butters that were rejected as refreshments at a local school due to the no nut policy. Honestly! But all was not lost. The real Robin Eggs were there albeit the mini ones. Who cares? These are the malted treats to get at Easter - not those might malted imitations.  With these you can suck off the color from the outer shell and end up with a blue or orange tongue. Tasty and fun too!  An unexpected featured treat were some Chiky cookies from Costa Rica of all places. The  Spanish reads "Galletas con cobertura de chocolate" - cakes/cookies with a chocolate cover.  But the English translation on the package is so much more enticing - Chocolate Enrobed Cookies - don't you think?

I believe we talked about the academic environment again but nothing really sticks out. I think everyone was focused on the weekend which was to end with the Boston Marathon. Two Africans won it...big surprise!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Angel Food Strawberry Cake

This is a nice looking treat, don't you think? And it contained two of our favorite things - fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The angel food cake was filled on the inside with both and they were both used for the lovely top decoration. The only thing wrong with this picture was that this thing was almost impossible to cut without ending up with some strawberries and cream together with a smooshed piece of angel cake.  The cake was too light and springy to cut with a normal knife and quite possibly the best solution would have been some kind of electric saw or knife.  Of course, none of this stopped us from enjoying it and it did taste good!

A few of the research assistants talked about their upcoming plans to visit Hawaii. The intention was to visit Honolulu and Hilo.  Hilo?? Who goes to Hilo where it rains 365 days a year? We visited Hilo once but that was only to refuel the helicopter for the tour we were on. They wanted to go to see the lava flow from the Kilauea volcano. That isn't really the easiest thing to do because for safety reasons no one really goes that close to it. Of course who wants to discourage them from trying. Nevertheless after some further clarification they were convinced to travel to Kona instead where they would be near enough to the volcano but could enjoy much better weather.  As one can see we are happy to give out travel advice!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Elmali Pay

Turkish Apple Pie. We found a volunteer! The creator referred to it as Apple Pie however as a Turkish Dish it is not the same as an American pie. When she said the Turkish word for pie was pie (spelled pay) we didn't believe her and called in two other Turkish speaking cake hour friends to verify. She was right. Never doubt a native speaker. The delectable dish was more like a streusel cake one finds in Central Europe. Perhaps they encountered the recipe when the Turkish Army was besieging the City of Vienna! Regardless the dish was a hit and went very well with coffee. A cake layer, a layer of apples, and a sweet top of sugar and roasted slivered almonds. It did not last long.

The most interesting part of the conversation related to efforts to keep deer from devouring domestic plants. That led us to wonder how all those commercial products featuring "tiger urine" or "leopard urine" to ward off unwanted critters could really be what they claim to be. How does one collect this stuff? It would certainly be difficult in the wild. I mean, try collecting "cheetah urine" au naturel with it being the fastest running beast. Someone piped up that it is collected by zoo workers. But we did not believe that catheterizing captive felines or other species for commercialization of their pee was probable. The final conclusion was this stuff probably ain't what it's cracked up to be!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grandma Miller's "Pile o' Muffins"

Boy, have we been lucky in the past several days or what? Yet another one of our favorite bakers came through. This time it was Grandma Miller providing us with a pile of blueberry and chocolate chip muffins. We've had lots of Grandma's baked goods - banana bread, zucchini bread, and chocolate chip cookies - the real toll house kind!  The muffins met our expectations and the best part was that they were reasonable in size so that you didn't feel like caloric overload eating a single one.  If everyone ate muffins this size we might put a dent in the obesity plague in the US. We're sorry that Grandma is not on Facebook so we could friend her but maybe we will start a fan page.  As you can see from the picture Grandma wisely prefers comfortable footwear at special functions. We learned also that Grandpa Miller raises rabbits for fun, for pets and if appropriate for Hasenpfeffer!  We are so impressed that we proposed to take a field trip to visit the site of all this homespun activity. Stay tuned!

Conversation dwelt a little on the retirement of an associate dean and odd people that act out in luxury hotels.  We certainly cover a lot of subjects.

Also pursuant to one of our previous discussions about the neuropathologist and the corpse, according the the story link below, the neuropatholgist will clearly have to do the traveling!|gul|04-13-2010|gulliver

No one has singed up for cake hour tomorrow so the pressure is on to find a "volunteer"!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wedding Cake

I know I signed Grandma Miller up for cake hour today, and I do have mini chocolate and blueberry muffins from Grandma Miller, BUT I also have another treat for everyone after a weekend back in PA. Quite possibly a cake hour first. WEDDING CAKE!

As promised, today featured some of the remains of my sister's wedding cake from this weekend. A nice and light marbled cake with traditional icing, it filled that sugar/cake craving without weighing you down and spoiling dinner.

Of course the cake looked much nicer while it was still in one piece. Thanks Court and Orion!

Perhaps it was all the sugar in the icing or a particularly strong pot of coffee, but the conversation seamlessly flowed from one random topic to the next. We began by composing a list of the worst places to be proposed to (ranging from a NY subway train to the dump to brain cutting), discussed wedding budgets, Chinese wedding traditions, the facebook episode of South Park, how to fix the Pathobio program and finally how to design a grad school program in patho.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mega-Carrot Cake!

Ah, carrot cake!  That classic concoction that is in truth a spice cake with slivers of carrots in it. If we tossed in slivers of beets would it be a beet cake? Or if we busted ups a cauliflower could we have a cauliflower cake?  Or maybe if you julienne some haricots verts we could have a very exotic sounding haricot vert cake!  But it's a carrot cake with the classic cream cheese frosting and it is good. This was a really big one. I wonder how long it took for it to be totally consumed. If history is any guide it went pretty quickly after cake hour was officially over!

Cake hour also saw the appearance of yellow peeps that had been conspicuously absent from the time the Easter bunny came. They settled in nicely to the hot chocolate although if not properly floated the peep melts and deforms pretty quickly!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Today we were visited by one of our favorite cake hour guests - perhaps THE favorite. A former pastry chef, as part of a product seminar she prepared three of her famous and delicious treats. Pecan Pie squares, Kahlua espresso chocolate chip brownies and lemon squares. We ate them up and for those with "issues" there was a gluten free alternative though chewy pineapple slices did not quite measure up to be the same experience. Most stuck with the glutenous goodies!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Liver Research Center Ultimate Flanning Championship

Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Children of all ages. Welcome to the LRC-UFC post-game analysis.

Now that our panel of sophisticated tasters and flan critics have carefully tasted all of the entries, the poll is open. Our experts would choose the ultimate flan champion based on presentation, aroma, texture, and overall taste. While, we await the judges' final verdict, let us review today's competition.

First, we have a Hong Kong-style flan (it is actually an egg tart, not a flan, but it is close enough). The silky smooth texture and the rich custard flavor playfully contrast against the juicy peaches and the flaky crust. Egg tart is one of the most popular pastry in Hong Kong and is highly sought-after by foreigners, including former Hong Kong Governor, Christopher Patten. A fun fact: while the egg tart is quite easy to make, the recipe calls for 10 minutes baking in a 400°C (~752°F) oven. That's hot!

Next, we have the authentic Spanish flan, in original flavor (bottom of the picture) and in pumpkin flavor (top of the picture). The magical combination of creamy custard, rich caramel topping, and perfectly balance sweetness is further highlighted by the bold, yet delightful, pumpkin flavor. These two flans represent the best fruit of our contestant's sleepless labor. In fact, a total of ten flans were made by our flan expert, and only three satisfied her stringent quality expectation. The third flan, in raspberry flavor, was briefly presented to the crowd, but was ultimately withdrawn from the competition by the contestant.

Our third contestant has, unfortunately, decided to forfeit at the last minutes; therefore, the legendary Cuban pomegranate flan will forever remain a legend.

Overall, it was a fun and exciting contest. Cake Hour turnout has reached an all-time-high. There was some discussion on possible future contest topics - pies, muffins, cookies... If you have an interesting idea for our next ultimate championship challenge, please leave a comment.

Finally, the recipes for these delicious flans will soon be posted in the Recipes section. Stay tuned.

-- Update --

The poll is over and the votes are in. The peach flan got 11 votes, the original flan also got 11 votes, and the pumpkin flan got 3 votes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Italian Layer Cake from Vienna Bakery

Today we had a special treat from one of our favorite bakeries, the Vienna Bakery in Barrington, RI. This was an Italian Layer Cake. Whipped cream frosting topped with pistachios and cherries. The inside contained three layers with three different fillings in between - pastry cream, strawberries and chocolate. The outside was surrounded by lady fingers and the whole presentation came together with a decorative ribbon. The ribbon didn't stay on very long, though and the cake was very good.

Two interesting conversations ensued. One revolved around a recipe for making pickled duck eggs - Chinese style. Apparently you leave the eggs in a saturated salt solution for 28 days and then use them. We also concluded that no one likes finding eggs with embryos in them.

We also debated the question previously posed at a committee meeting as to how to tell if a rat is really dead if it has to be euthanized. The exact question was "How do you know the rat is dead?" So we imagined we could show up at the committee with a live rat and a dead rat and show how different the response would be were you to swing the rat around by the tail for instance. Then we decided that wouldn't be a good idea. Tomorrow is the flan off or the Ultimate Flanning Championship - LRC-UFC!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Bunny redux with Costa Rican Coffee

The special treat today was the coffee. 1820 coffee straight from Costa Rica. It made a good cup that was smooth, full bodied and not acidic. As a matter of fact it might have been better than the "poop" coffee that we had a few months ago. That's the coffee from Indonesia that is made from beans that are defecated out of some animal after the coffee berries are ingested.

Otherwise, given it was the day after Easter and there was plenty of goodies from the Easter Bunny so we kept digging in. The Dove chocolate rabbit was brutally slaughtered.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Easter Bunny came....

.......and left us an Easter basket filled with goodies. We determined a few things. The Mighty Malts are nowhere near as good as Robin's Eggs. Cadbury Mini Eggs are probably the best Easter candy there is. No Easter basket is complete without Peeps. Unfortunately we did not see any of the classic yellow Peeps - an oversight on the part of the Easter bunny!

We weren't sure what to make of the upcoming trial involving the lady in Colorado who was evicted after refusing to remove decorations partially constructed with Peeps, from her apartment door. As it turns out, after the landlord removed the decorations she refused to pay rent. Clearly the Peeps were not the causative reason for the eviction.

A Peep was also sacrificed to confirm what effect microwaving has upon a Peep. The Peep blows up to about four times its size and then deflates to a smeared appearance - Peep art? (See attached pictures.) It was hard not to feel bad for the microwaved little guy, though.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tate's Cookies from Tate's Bake Shop

It's cake hour but other treats are always welcome. Tate's Cookies from Tate's Bake Shop, Southampton New York were on the menu. We enjoyed two different kinds - Walnut Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Pecan. These cookies are quite good - not too sweet, crisp and not at all heavy or loaded with flour. They are available in Providence at Gourmet Heaven.

The startling realization today was that one of the cake hour attendees managed to miss the severity of the rain that fell on Rhode Island. Having taken a ride in a car when the rain was minimal, the false conclusion - that the rain wasn't that bad - was reached. Those under water of course beg to differ.