Tomato and Cheese Galette

Posted in Food, Meals, Recipes by ameliadean on July 10, 2010

I first encountered a galette last January, while enjoying the free samples at a Parisian boulangerie. Unsuspecting, I selected a small wedge of what appeared to be almond tart. It was beyond good.

A bit of research revealed that I had tasted a galette des Rois, or King Cake, which is traditionally eaten on the day of Epiphany. It consists of a flaky, pastry crust and a dense layer of moist almond filling (also known as fragipane), and is, like I said, beyond good. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that these seasonal creations are sold in French patisseries for roughly two weeks, and cannot be purchased outside of January.

I was comforted to discover that galettes come in many shapes and colors, all of which can be made at home. While I have yet to attempt the galette de Rois, I have fallen in love with its many, less glamorous incarnations. Better desribed as free-form tarts, these simple creations begin with a single sheet of pastry. After adding your toppings of choice, you fold the pastry edges over the filling in an attractive, imperfect way.

Galettes can be savory as well as sweet, filled with any combination of vegetables, cheeses, and herbs imaginable. Depending on the contents of your galette, you will want to make either a sweet or savory pastry dough. For this basil, onion, tomato and cheese galette, I decided to follow bay area chef David Lebovitz’s cornmeal galette dough recipe. The cornmeal adds a nice texture to the final product, but also makes the dough a bit more difficult to roll out. If the dough tears, simply pinch it back together.

Cornmeal Galette Dough

From Fine Cooking (40, pp. 68-73 August 2000)

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
1-1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup ice water

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter using a stand mixer, a food processor, or a pastry blender until it’s evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces. Add the olive oil and ice water and mix until the dough begins to come together. Gather the dough with your hands and shape it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Tomato and Cheese Galette

Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 bunch basil, washed, dried, and chopped; plus 10 whole leaves
1 recipe Cornmeal Galette Dough (see above)
5 small ripe tomatoes cut into slices, drained on paper towels
3 oz. Mozzarella, Comté or Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp. milk or cream

1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 min. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and chopped basil, and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet, preferably one without sides, with kitchen parchment. (If your baking sheet has sides, flip it over and use the back.)

3. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a 15-inch round, lifting the dough with a metal spatula as you roll to make sure it’s not sticking. If it is, dust the surface with more flour. Transfer it by rolling it around the rolling pin and unrolling it on the lined baking sheet.

4. Spread the onion and basil mixture over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border without filling. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer over the onions and season them with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the tomatoes. Lift the edges of the dough and fold them inward over the filling, pleating as you go, to form a folded-over border. Pinch together any tears in the dough. Brush the egg yolk and milk mixture over the exposed crust.

5. Bake until the crust has browned and the cheese has melted, 35 to 45 min. Slide the galette off the parchment and onto a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 min. Stack the remaining 10 basil leaves and use a sharp knife to cut them into a chiffonade. Cut the galette into wedges, sprinkle with the basil, and serve.

A Perfect Day in Milano

Posted in A Perfect Day, Milan, Travel by ameliadean on May 18, 2010

Milan has earned itself a bad name among the tourist crowd. Many regard it as an industrial hub, a fast-paced financial center home to big earners and big spenders. From its fascist railway station to its unwelcoming Prada flagship store, Milan is thought to be cold, expensive, and generally lacking in charm.

And yet nothing could be further from the truth. My recent trip proved the city a worthy Italian destination complete with historical attractions, quaint neighborhoods and memorable meals.  Although it may not have as many must-sees as Florence or Rome, Milan offers the perfect place to enjoy the pleasures and surprisingly sane pace of Lombardy life.

I have condensed my four fun-filled days with Marta and her Milan-based sister Valgerður (Vala) into what I imagine to be a single, perfect day in this Italian city.  While it may be impossibly ambitious to do everything here within 12 hours, this format provides an easy way to document and showcase the highlights of our trip. Many thanks to Vala for putting us up and taking us around!


9 AM

Enjoy Milanese Café Culture

Why do the Italians make such good coffee?  Vala tells me it’s because they never clean their espresso machines. Regardless of the reason, taking time out for americano sipping, people watching, and pastry munching helps one start the day out right.

10 AM

Stroll to San Bernadino alle Ossa, Milan’s Bone Church

Although San Bernadino appears at be an ordinary, lived-in church, a little detective work reveals this gem of a room at the end of a dark corridor. If I were to imagine a room decorated with the human skulls and bones of decapitated criminals, it would probably be a very morbid, terrifying space. But there is something matter-of-fact about this ossified chamber. It’s more awe-inspiring than bone-chilling, and most definitely memorable. Marta and I took a moment to light a candle for the living.

11 AM

Explore the Duomo

You could spend an afternoon getting to know Milan’s white marble landmark. The Duomo took five centuries to build and is the third largest cathedral in the world. Venturing inside its quiet, cavernous, candlelit nave is a definite must, but climbing the spiral staircase to the Duomo’s roof was a trip highlight. On a clear day you can see the snow-tipped Alps to the north. Marta and I took time to admire the unusual skyline and watch the people and pigeons in the Piazza del Duomo below.

12 PM

Inspect the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

I am a sucker for glass and cast iron. Whether it be an atrium, a conservatory, or an arcade, such illuminated spaces always take my breath away. Add some large paintings and mosaic floors, and you have one beautiful attraction. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele connects the Duomo to Teatro Alla Scala, Milan’s world famous opera house. Visitors should be sure to find the tiled image of Turin, a bull, beneath the center dome. If you are in need of good luck, place your right heel on what were once the bull’s gonads and spin around.

1 PM

Splurge on Via Monte Napoleone

I packed light for Milan. Maybe too light. After three days in the Italian sun, I was forced to don my last piece of clean clothing: a gray, sweat-inducing pajama shirt. My damp apparel only added to my sense of alienation as Marta and I wandered up the elegant and expensive Via Monte Napoleone, a street well-known for being lined with jewelery and fashion boutiques.  In spite of feeling out of place, we were obliged to participate in the infamous Milanese tradition of impulsive, frivolous spending. We ducked into a delightful café and ordered the blush pink drink a nearby patron was sipping. It turned out to be a surprisingly refreshing combination of sprite and grapefruit juice. Twelve euros later, we had completely satisfied our need for costly indulgence!

2 PM

Head to La Brera

The lively, quaint La Brera district has a Parisian vibe. The neighborhood’s narrow streets are lined with cafés, galleries, and chic antique shops. We enjoyed handling all the well-made and overpriced collectibles. Below, Marta tries on hats in Il Cameo, a vintage store on Via San Carpoforo.

3 PM

Past the castle, into the park

Once home to Milan’s ruling family, the Castello Sforzesco now contains several art collections and museums. Construction of the castle began in the fourteenth century, but it has been restored and reconstructed several times since its original erection. Following the allied bombardment in WWII, the Milan-based architectural group BBPR was enlisted to rebuild the Castello, adding new interiors and exhibition galleries in the process. We walked through the castle’s courtyards, past gangs of seemingly fearless stray cats, and into the well-inhabited Parco Sempione, an enormous green space with twisting paths, ponds, and tiny bridges.

4 PM

Respect the dead in the Cimitero Monumentale

Vala insisted we go to Cimitero Monumentale. After stumbling across the cemetery’s imposing Neo-Medieval marble entrance, it was obvious why. Home to a vast collection of highly embellished tombs, beautiful sculptures, detailed obelisks, and Greek temples, the Cimitero Monumentale is not your average city necropolis. Marta decided that she would like a maternal statue of Mary atop her grave. I decided I would like a statue of a mother and baby goat.

5 PM

Tram it to Navigli, the Venice of Milan

Ah Navigli, the canal-laced district of Leonardo da Vinci’s design. I can’t think of a better place to wander in the summer twilight. Marta and I spotted an attractive wine and olive oil shop called La Vineria on Via Casale, just off the main canal Naviglio Grande. With wine barrels arranged as outdoor tables, 1 euro glasses of wine, and a crowd of locals, La Vineria promised a good time. We, however, were seduced by the selection of inexpensive, unlabeled bottles of red wine. After purchasing a bottle, we sat along the edge of another nearby canal, the Naviglio Pavese, and drank until our lips turned blue.

6 PM

Celebrate the appertivo tradition

Forget the joys of tapas. The appertivo tradition is seriously special. Buy a beer, cocktail, or glass of Prosecco, and you are entitled to eat as much as you like from a wide assortment of dishes and snacks.

7 PM

Dine for cheap

I have had plenty of unpleasant experiences in Italian restaurants. Usually my irritation comes with the bill. After the charges for bread, water, and table service are added in, the price always magically skyrockets. Even after a delicious meal, my final transaction threatens to leave a bad taste behind. Fortunately, Vala directed us to the amazing pizzeria/spaghetteria La Magolfa, on Navigli’s Via Magolfa. With enormous portions of pasta for under 5 euro, free pizza appetizers, and a dead-cheap house red, I was in store for something special.

8 PM

Go gaga for gelato

There is nothing like good gelato. And there is nothing like GROM, my favorite gelateria in Milan. Inspired by the slow food movement, GROM is all about  natural ingredients, no preservatives, and a precise method of production. Their stracciatella was light, creamy, and fresh. Their espresso was full-bodied and bitter. The flavor of the month– a yogurt based concoction with raisins and almonds–was equal parts sweet and sour. They even executed my favorite flavor of all time–pompelmo rosa– perfectly, balancing the tartness, sweetness, and bitterness of pink grapefruit in an impossibly creamy sorbet. The good news is that you don’t have to go to Milan to taste GROM’s creations. Since 1993, GROM has opened in two dozen Italian cities and spread internationally. It can now be found in Greenwich Village, Shinjuku, and Paris’ rue de Seine.

9 PM +

Make a night of it

Warm Butternut Squash Salad

Posted in Meals, Recipes by ameliadean on May 11, 2010

This salad was inspired by a visit to the french café L’eau a la Bouche on London’s trendy Broadway Market. I love the idea of a warm salad, and am an avid admirer of this one in particular. The sweet butternut squash and bitter rocket compliment each other perfectly. Add some semi-caramelized red onions and Pecorino shavings and you have a dangerously good dish on your hands.


1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into chunks

A pinch of hot pepper flakes

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 dash of balsamic

A good amount of rocket

2 red onions

1 chunk of good cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil, and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Alternatively, use a non-stick spray.

2) Peel butternut squash with a strong peeler. Remove stem and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carve out the squash seeds and pulp from the central cavity. Cut squash flesh into medium sized chunks and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of chili flakes. Dump into a baking tray, cover with foil, and put in the oven for 30-50 minutes. Squash should be tender when finished.

3) Slice off the roots and peel 2 red onions. Cut into thin slices lengthwise. Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Stir in onions so that they are coated in oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously. Add a pinch of salt and an optional pinch of sugar. Lower the heat and cook for another 10-20 minutes, or until browned. Add water if onions start to burn or stick to the pan. At the end of the cooking process, add several tablespoons of balsamic to deglaze the pan and add flavor.

4) Assemble a bed of rocket on your plate. Add hot squash and top with semi-caramelized onions. Grate large slivers of pecorino or parmesan on top. Serve while warm, preferably with fresh bread!

A Tale of Two Authors

Posted in Reviews, Theater by ameliadean on May 5, 2010

Together, they are responsible for writing some of the most popular tales to date. From The Adventures of Oliver Twist and Great Expectations to The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, the stories of Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Anderson have captivated people across continents and generations.

And yet these two authors had more in common than literary success. They were also friends. After meeting at an elite social gathering in 1847, British Dickens and Danish Anderson struck up an affectionate correspondence. Ten years later, Dickens invited Anderson to his family’s country home for what turned out to be an extended, eventually distressing visit. Famously, after Anderson departed, Dickens wrote on the guest room mirror: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!”

Playwright Sebastian Barry uses Anderson’s intrusion into the Dickens abode as the subject of his new play, Anderson’s English, now being performed at the Hampstead Theatre. However, in contrast to what one might expect, the relationship between the two writers does not take center stage.  Instead, Barry decides to focus on the many mini dramas unfolding before the oblivious, socially awkward, and English-challenged Anderson.  We witness the disintegration of the marriage between Dickens and his wife, Catherine, the disastrous meddling of Catherine’s well-intentioned sister, Georgie, the futile romance between Dickens’ son and the family’s feisty Irish maid, and the disapproving glare of Dickens’ daughter, Kate. Through it all, Dickens reigns supreme, cold, cruel, and intent on having his way. Anderson’s character provides the comic relief, stumbling over his words, committing social faux pas, and serving as an unsuspecting confidante.

While the actors’ performances were strong and the staging inventive, I was not moved by Barry’s play.  Admittedly, Niamh Cusack’s rendition of Dickens’ wife Catherine was outstanding. But even her lonely desperation was not able to draw me in. Instead of seriously exploring marital distress, parental control, and the self-indulgence of genius, Barry seems satisfied with an account of the way things might have been. The product is a web of possibilities rather than anything of serious substance or insight.

Red Balloons

Posted in Everyday Life, Musings by ameliadean on May 5, 2010

I used to get this distinct feeling when I was a child, waking up naturally in a room full of light. It was concentrated in my gut, as if my stomach had transmogrified into some kind of warm gel. For me, this sensation is the closest I have come to pure relaxation. Unlike my experiences in meditation, unlike anything I can experience while fully awake, the feeling is unmistakably corporeal. It comes from within, from some deep, dark, fleshy place where all the color has been shut out. I cannot make it come, or keep it when it does. On those occasions when I wake to find my innards have turned all warm and soft, I remain still.

I wouldn’t say the feeling washes over me, like pain tends to do, but instead hovers, like a steady glow. I imagine a pearl of light beneath my navel, illuminating me from the inside, so that the morning light from the sun and the pure light from within meet on the surface of my skin. So that when I close my eyes, it seems possible that the blank rosy gloom of my eyelids may very well be the result of flesh lit up on both sides. Somehow. And then the feeling contracts, the light is snuffed, and my stomach is empty.

As I grew up, that weightless warm light visited less frequently. For a long time, I blamed this decline on a lack of crucial elements: Summer sunlight, nights of unperturbed sleep, mornings in which I was allowed to wake naturally. But then the feeling would come unexpectedly, on a gray day, or following a night of restless tossing. Once or twice it set in after I was prematurely roused. So I began to conjure another hypothesis. You know when you first wake, and all the feelings are there, but they merely float, temporarily detached from meaning? Like balloons they seem to bumble about, moving on their own accord, bumping into one another. And for a moment, you are transfixed; you have no words, no thoughts. You are only feeling. And then, all at once, the meaning gushes back, flooding you with the right names and events, and all their accompanying significance. Suddenly the balloons have strings, strings tied to recollections of real things, tethered to the impressions left by experience. They remind you: You feel like this because…

What I am trying to say is that I think it is only here, in this precise moment, between feeling and thinking, between non-sense and sense, that that wondrous flare of warmth, that sense of literal levity, is allowed to flicker and swell.

The length of this necessarily liminal period is subject to variation. And, as far as I can tell, this variation is distinctly patterned. It seems to me that the greater the intensity of an emotion, the greater its attachment to the explanation of its genesis, and, consequently, the more quickly its import tends to be restored upon waking. Like a red balloon, potent emotions make their presence known, demanding we acknowledge, identify, explain.  In the mornings following a breakup or a death, I awake thrashing for air, drowning in a flash of unidentified despair. For a suspended instant, my chest buckles under an unnamed anguish, my constricted lungs unable to expand, and I do not know in what direction to seek release. And then I burst through that invisible surface of meaning, into a world of words. I suck in sense, and pin my grief to something static. I feel like this because…

These days, red balloons are rare. There exists no overwhelming feeling, imploring me to return to the realm of reason. Often I do not notice as orphan emotions reattach themselves to some greater cosmology. The two fold together quietly, like shadows. It seems my emotions are so evanescent, so blurry, that they elude capture for some time. They are helium with no shell, amorphous and clear. They have no obvious strings. My thoughts lie thick like fog, immune to the organizing impulses of my vertigo-eradicating, order-obsessed interpretive machine. I am able to rest on the threshold of dreams, where topographies of feeling and knowing are as discrete as cup and saucer.

I am trying to explain why I feel so good in the morning. I am trying to understand why I experience this euphoric incandescence more often. Surely the early sunshine of a northern hemisphere spring helps. The fact that I am extremely well rested must be a contributing factor as well. But the true answer has less to do with my exterior surroundings than it does my inner being. I think it bespeaks a distinct state of mind, one which I have not felt in years. It is as if the dust is starting to settle, and I am able to see a bit more properly. I am starting to discern what matters most to me, and trying to cultivate apathy for all that isn’t worth my time. I like to think I am biding farewell to some of those tiresome red balloons, one at a time. In the morning, instead of being greeted with a tangle of worries and concerns (Am I any good at anything? Am I inherently lazy? Will I ever make money? What if I am never satisfied?  Where am I going to live next year? Where am I going to make my first home? Will I ever be willing to settle? Will I ever be able to have a family? When will I see my cat?), I am able to feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

Thomas Adès

Posted in Music, Reviews by ameliadean on May 4, 2010

Over the years, Adès has earned recognition as a world-class conductor, pianist, and composer. A musical prodigy, Adès studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and Cambridge University. He gave his first public recital at the age of 22, wrote the internationally acclaimed chamber opera Powder Her Face at 24, and was a composer-in-residence by thirty.

I first heard about Adès at an Emanuel Ax piano recital at the Barbican last March. The night’s performance was a moving celebration of the Romantic piano tradition with Ax providing both commanding force and technical precision. In the middle of the program, bookended by Chopin and Schumann, was the UK premier of Adès’ Three Mazurkas. The short pieces proved a perfect contrast to Chopin’s own mazurkas, reworking the traditional Polish folk dance genre into a delirious, off-kilter frenzy. Enigmatic, intense, and consciously unsatisfying, they lured us into a haunted soundscape only to violently cast us out.  When Adès took the stage for a bow, I was stunned. His bird-like features, fresh face, and boyish gate make him appear absurdly young for an artist of his standing.

On April 27th, Adès took the Barbican stage again, this time as a solo pianist. Adès put together a unique selection of pieces by Janáček, Prokofiev, Shubert, Beethoven, and Liszt, as well as his own Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face. I particularly enjoyed Adès’ interpretation of the rarely-performed Along an Overgrown Path–Book 2, a posthumous assortment of pieces written by Janáček between 1900 and 1915. With their Moravian folk-song overtones, the pieces seemed to share a sense of nostalgia, a yearning for the naiveté and simplicity of the past.

Although Adès rose to fame at an early age, he has continued to develop both as a conductor and a performer. One of my favorite Adès pieces is his more recently composed Violin Concerto ”Concentric Paths” Op.24, which premiered in 2005. I have included the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s recording of “Concentric Paths” below, as well as the Philharmonia Orchestra performing the overture to Adès’ Powder Her Face at the Royal Albert Hall.

Easy Polenta, Fried Egg, and Greens

Posted in Meals, Recipes by ameliadean on May 3, 2010

The following recipe ticks a number of essential boxes. With a nice protein-fat-carbohydrate ratio and good sources of iron, calcium and folic acid, this dish is as nutritious as it is tasty. If you decide to use instant polenta, like I did, you will have a well-rounded meal in less than ten minutes. It’s dead cheap, dead easy, and a perfect dinner-for-one.


1/2 cup instant polenta

1 1/2  water

1 or 2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch fresh chard and/or other seasonal greens

1 free range egg (preferably room temperature)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Tablespoon salt of vegetable stock

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

*1/4 cup grated cheese and fresh herbs of your choice

I am not going to make this meal any more complicated than it should be. This dish can be assembled in three easy steps, all of which can be done simultaneously. Think of it as a test in multitasking!

1) Make your instant polenta. Add salt or stock to water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and whisk in the cornmeal slowly. Cook up to five minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and toss in any herbs and shredded Parmesan or mozzarella that you fancy. Polenta should be thick, creamy, and smooth. Pour onto a plate or into a serving dish.

2) Make your chard. Slice some garlic cloves and toss into pan with olive oil. Don’t let them brown. De-stem the chard or kale leaves. Cut stems into small chunks, shred leaves into ribbons. Toss stems in first, then the leaves. Sauté to your taste and place on polenta.

3) Fry an egg and toss it on top!

Behud (Beyond Belief)

Posted in Reviews, Theater by ameliadean on May 2, 2010

In November 2004, British Sikh playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was a relatively unknown dramatist with a play in its final stages of production. A month later she had become an international provocateur, attracting both praise and death treats.

The catalyst for Bhatti’s overnight celebrity was her controversial second play Behzti, translated from Punjabi as Dishonor. Crucially, Behzti contains a transgressive scene in which rape, physical abuse, and murder occur in a Gurdwara, or Sikh temple. Although Behzti was set to open at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on December 18th, mass protests eventually turned violent, and the theatre called off all scheduled performances.

From the beginning, the Behzti controversy was rooted in an age-old argument about the freedom of speech. On the one side, members of the local Sikh community asserted that the artist had no right to bring such an offensive and misrepresentative play to the public stage. On the other side, the theatre, playwright, and hundreds of arts figures defended the artist’s right to express and explore through fiction. While the debates aroused by the controversy proved interesting, many were disappointed by the final cancellation. Bhatti, for one, was devastated.

Six years later, Bhatti has returned to the events surrounding Behzti in her new satire Behud (Beyond Belief) at the Soho Theatre. Playful, surreal, and unsettling, Behud sucks us into the imagination of an artist desperate to bring her vision to life. Putting herself on stage as the protagonist playwright Tarlochan, Bhatti shows how the Behzti controversy was as comical as it was traumatic. In the end, however, the amusing absurdity of the situation can do little to alleviate the pain of Bhatti’s silencing. Abandoned by both white liberals and members of her own Sikh community, Tarlochan finds herself betrayed, alone, and unable to come to terms with reality.

While the blurring of reality and art is, in my opinion, overplayed, Bhatti’s new satire contains many valuable points of entry into constructive debate. There is the journalist, Satinder Shergill (Priyanga Burford), who claims she is willing to be used by whites to make them feel multicultural– so long as there is something in it for her. There is the levelheaded Sikh elder Mr. Sidhu (Ravin J Ganatra) who cogently argues that the sanctity of the Gurdwara­ be respected. Thankfully, Bhatti does not gesture towards any easy answers. Instead, she compels us to make our own conclusions, to think through the events, characters, and disparate lines of reasoning in more individual terms.

I have included the Soho Theatre’s trailer for Behud, as well as the Channel 4 news coverage of Behzti’s 2004 cancellation in Birmingham.

Landing Cake

Posted in Recipes, Sweet Treats by ameliadean on May 1, 2010

When my culinary hero, Mark Bittman, published this recipe for a maple pear upside-down cake, I knew it was something I would tweak with. After adding red plums, yellow plums, strawberries, and nectarines into the pear mix and swapping the cup of pricey maple syrup for inexpensive golden syrup, I have made something worth documenting. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it invites experimentation. You can substitute agave syrup, sugar beat syrup, or even honey for the maple syrup. You can use whatever fruits you have lying around– even canned if you are feeling lazy. I added an extra layer to make a proper birthday cake for my darling flatmate Naemi, but there really is no need.


10 tablespoons butter

≈1/2 cup golden syrup

≈1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 red plums thinly sliced

2 yellow plums thinly sliced

1 nectarine, thinly sliced

5 strawberries, thinly sliced

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a small pan. Add your choice of syrup and brown sugar. You will need to alter the ratio depending on what ingredients you select. For more watery syrups (like agave), add less syrup and more sugar. For more viscous syrups (like golden syrup), mix the suggested amount of a ½ cup with less brown sugar. The most important things is that you make enough liquid to cover the base of your cake tin.

2. Cook syrup and sugar combination, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. The mixture should cool into a think, pourable paste. When mixture has cooled, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan. Arrange fruit slices in overlapping, concentric circles.

3. With a mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. If you are making an additional layer, use 16 tablespoons butter, 1 ½ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 large eggs, 2 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt.

4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk. (Double the milk quantity if you are making an extra layer.) Do not overmix. Pour and spread the batter over the fruit-lined cake tin, using a spatula to make sure batter is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

5. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so the is on bottom and pan is on top.

Below, Julian documents Naemi, Alexander and I enjoying my delectable creation on the landing of our flat. Happy Birthday Naemi!