Daruma Cake

Have you seen a Japanese daruma doll before?  I’m obsessed with them, and guilty of having quite a few nestled here and there in my apartment.  When you first become the proud owner of a daruma, you fill in one of its eyes and set a goal for yourself.  When the goal or wish is fulfilled, you fill in the second eye.  You’ll be motivated to make  that wish come true, if only so that the little guy can see again!

This is a three layer tahini cake with tart citrus curd.  Tahini, made from toasted ground sesame seeds, has a mild, nutty taste which is a dream pairing with the tangy mingling of lemon and grapefruit flavors.  Add a cloak of tahini cream cheese frosting, and this cake makes wishes come true.  As someone who likes their cake not on the supersweet side of the spectrum, this was the ideal treat for me.  To create the daruma design, I used strawberries, chocolate shortbread cookies, and edible copper glitter.

This cake is ideal for serving at any occasion… it signifies the mouthwatering beginning of a new wish or goal.  It’s perfect for the new year, a wedding, or really any new phase of life that you want to celebrate.  What better time for an uplifting baking project than the beginning of 2018?

Scroll down for the recipe!

Daruma Cake

For the Tahini Cake (I used Molly Yeh’s tahini sheet cake recipe, but divided it between two round 6 inch cake pans)


  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c flavorless oil, like canola
  • 1 c tahini
  • 1 1/2 tb vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6 inch cake pans with parchment and nonstick cooking oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, oil, tahini, vanilla extract, and water.
  3. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well-combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking the cake after 30 minutes.
  4. Let cakes cool.  Torte both cakes into two separate discs.  Use to make a three or four layer cake.

Fort the Lemon Grapefruit Curd


  • 1 & 1/4 cup grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened


  1. Combine the grapefruit and lemon juices in a saucepan. Simmer until reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a different container, add the grapefruit zest and let the juice cool for about 30 minutes.
  2. In the same saucepan, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, and whole egg. Add the citrus juice and whisk again to combine.
  3. Place the pan over a double boiler and cook, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens and a few large bubbles break the surface.
  4. Immediately remove from heat, add butter, and stir until melted.
  5. Strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.
  6. When assembling the cake, use a piping bag to distribute between layers.

For the Tahini Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 1 c unsalted butter
  • 1 c cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tb vanilla
  • 1/4 cup tahini


  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until combined.
  2. Mix in the powdered sugar, salt, tahini, and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.

Balsamic Berry Pavlova

With the first day of summer upon us, I can feel the pastry potential humming in the balmy New York air.  Are you ready to try something new in the kitchen?  Challenge yourself to create the feathery beauty of a pavlova.

The pavlova cake dates back to the early 1900’s, when Russian ballerina and choreographer Anna Pavlova began touring America, Europe, and the UK.  In 1911, she founded her own ballet company that was the first to tour ballet around the world.  Notice the parallels to her graceful dancer form in the soaring, fluffy pavlova dessert.  Her tutu truly looks like a billowing round of meringue cake!

The strength of the pavlova’s meringue base, coupled with its sweet strawberry topping lends itself to the same complex beauty of the powerful ballet dancers that wear airy, silky tutus.

If you manage to make this cake, you’ll feel pretty glorious and get this blissful look in your eye.  The process can be intimidating, but if you start practicing now, you can only improve.  Even prima ballerinas have to start somewhere!  In the case that you over-whip your meringue, you’ll still be left with a delicious dessert of whipped cream and balsamic berries.

There are many parallels between the pavlova form and the moves of a ballet dancer.  Arrange a loose, wide meringue, like this move, or mound the meringue tall and tight, as if it were a dancer pulling her arms in tight for a spin.

Scroll down for the recipe!  Unleash your inner baker-ballerina.  Bakerina, if you will.

Balsamic Berry Pavlova (originally seen in the New York Times)

For the Meringue


  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  • A few drops vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a circle on the paper using an 8- or 9- inch cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment over so the pencil marking is facing down (this ensures that the pencil won’t transfer to the meringue).
  3. In bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and salt. Begin beating at low speed, slowly increasing to high. Continue until satiny peaks begin to form; gradually beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.
  4. Sprinkle in cornstarch, white-wine vinegar and vanilla, and fold in gently.
  5. Mound onto parchment within circle, and shape into a disk, flattening top and smoothing sides.
  6. Place in oven, and immediately reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow meringue to cool completely in oven.

For the Topping


  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
  • ½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries, vanilla, balsamic vinegar and sugar.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Whip cream until it is thick enough to hold peaks.

To Assemble: 

Carefully peel off parchment and place meringue on a platter or cake stand. Gently crack the top with the back of a soup spoon to make a shallow nest for the whipped cream and berries. Spoon cream evenly over meringue. Cover cream with strawberries, allowing a small amount of their liquid to dribble onto cream. Serve immediately.