On Cloud Nine: Vanilla Almond Orange Cloud Cookies

Recovering from a two day dessert festival and reveling in its sugar coma aftermath, I feel like I didn’t do as much baking as usual this week.

To keep track of my pastry progress, my friend thinks that I should include a butter count on my blog… some sort of widget that shows the number of butter sticks that I use during the week.  What do you think?  The count this week would be rather low, but I managed to throw together some of these alluring vanilla almond orange cloud cookies from a Joy the Baker recipe.

After fighting through the smog of your daily grind, it’s possible to recognize that you’ve actually been on cloud nine the whole time.  Busyness can distract you from the fact that you are actually achieving your goals and (somehow) managing to squeeze in some fun!  This week, between phone meetings and scrambling to feel like I accomplished everything on my March to-do list, I was able to see Samantha Bee live in the studio, indulge in a vegan rainbow latte from the ultra adorable Chinatown nook The Good Sort, and hunt down an art opening featuring Yoshitomo Nara, probably my favorite artist of all time.  I’ve even gotten closer to a tattoo decision that I’ve been deliberating on (sorry, mom).  Next week is looking pretty snazzy as well, with the opening of Eggslut (assemble, brunch gang!) and a film screening at the Japan Society.

Make a batch of these cloud cookies and celebrate the fact that your life is slowly but surely drifting in the right direction.  Each mouthful is like taking a bite of a flawless fluffy cumulus cloud that is catching the spring sunlight in just the right way…  You know the clouds; the perfect ones that hover over your picnic blanket in Bryant Park.

If you like chewy cookies, this is THE cookie for you.  The almond paste gives the cookies a marzipan-y level of chewiness, and the orange zest brightens up the almond flavor.  It was invigorating to work with oranges instead of the typical lemon for a change.

Scroll down for the recipe!

Vanilla Almond Orange Cloud Cookies

This is Joy The Baker’s recipe, with a few slight alterations! (makes 18 to 21 cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces almond paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare two non-stick baking sheets and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together granulated sugar, orange zest, and vanilla extract.
  3. Place sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, using a paddle attachment.  Add the almond paste and salt.  Beat on medium speed creating a crumbly sugar and almond mixture.
  4. While almond mixture is combining in the mixer, place two egg whites in a small bowl.  Whisk  with a fork until loose and frothy.  This will help in pouring the egg whites into the mixer.  If the eggs are unbeaten, the eggs won’t pour smoothly.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually pour the egg whites in to the crumbly almond and sugar mixture.  Beat until a smooth paste is formed.  Add the almond extract and beat to combine.
  6. Scoop batter by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet (it will be too sticky to roll).  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  7. Bake cookies for 25 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on top (mine took a little longer).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

Ichigo Daifuku Cake

“Ichi-go Ichi-e”

This Japanese phrase has grown to mean a lot to me.  It literally means “one time, one meeting.”  In other words, you don’t get moments back.  This chance is your chance… your chance to start a conversation, to ask a question, to pick up a lucky penny from the street, even though people are watching.  This is your chance to try that new recipe that you’ve been eyeing.  Who knows, maybe the moment will grow into something more.  In short, take all the chances that you encounter, and regret nothing.

Adding to my “punny” delight, the word ichigo in Japanese also means “strawberry.”  One strawberry, one meeting.  Words to live by; savor that strawberry!  Ichigo daifuku is a Japanese treat: a strawberry covered in red bean paste, with a thin outer layer of mochi.  It was one of my favorite snacks to pick up while I lived in Japan.  It’s healthy-ish!

This cake is inspired by ichigo daifuku.  It’s three layers of strawberry cake laden with strawberry puree, covered in whipped cream, with layers of red bean paste and mochi bits in between the cake.  The cake is decorated with strawberry cut-outs.  I made the mochi and purchased the ready-to-eat red bean paste.  Scroll down for the recipe!

Fun fact, this cake plummeted to the floor shortly after the conclusion of my photo shoot.  I guess that I got a little too confident carrying it to the fridge… what can I say, ichigo, ichie.  It was beautiful while it lasted!

in-between layer detail… spread on a thick layer of red bean paste.
Add bite-sized bits of homemade mochi for extra chewiness.

 

Strawberry Cake

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cover inside of 5 inch baking pan with butter.
  2. Place 4 large strawberries into a blender, and blend until smooth.  For a smoother cake, strain out the seeds.  I chose to leave them in for more texture.  Set the puree aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, white sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and strawberry puree until well combined.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, and red food coloring (only if you want) to reach a desired shade of pink. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the cake has risen and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Allow cake to cool before frosting.  Torte the cake into three layers.

Whipped Cream (For Frosting)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Instructions:

  1. Place mixing bowl in the freezer and allow to chill for ten minutes.  It is important for the bowl to be cold.
  2. Whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and confectioners sugar.
  3. Continue whipping just until incorporated, then stop. If you over-whip, the cream will develop a butter-like consistency.

Mochi

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice flour, aka “mochiko” (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Mix the rice flour, sugar, and water together.
  2. Cook the rice flour mixture in the microwave for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
  3. Stir rice flour mixture and heat for another 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Roll mixture into small balls.  Dust with extra rice flour to prevent stickiness.

Assembly: Stack cake with layers of red bean paste and mochi bits in between the strawberry cake.  Frost cake with a thin layer of whipped cream for a naked finish.  Use cookie cutters to punch out strawberry shapes and use these to decorate the top of the cake.