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Tasty & quick party fare

Fried ravioli was just one of the items on the spread for the holiday party. Others included grilled turkey sausage, mini-pastrami sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, chocolate fudge-raspberry cake and cookies.

“This is addictive.”

– Stephanie Endo, a guest at the 2011 holiday party, declared as she munched on some fried ravioli

It was time for our annual holiday party and we wanted a simple, fun spread to soak up all the liquor that our guests might be indulging in that night so we decided to do some sweets: a triple layer Chocolate Fudge-Raspberry Cake and some store-bought cookies and pair those with some savory dishes: Mini Pastrami Bites, Fried Ravioli, grilled sausage with spicy mustard and a couple varieties of flatbread pizza. Our only requirement of all the dishes were that they be tasty, quick to make and be easy finger-food type options for our guests who would be mingling and talking as they ate.

The cake I finished assembling the night before the party but the rest of the food we made in a few hours just before the open house holiday party started at noon.


Chocolate Tasting Party

This is a plate of chocolate treats that a guest made up at my Chocolate Tasting Party on Dec. 7. From left is the Mardi Gras Cake, Valrhona Bites, Truffle Doughnut and Cappuccino Cake.

I usually do a holiday cookie basket for close friends and relatives. This year I couldn’t decide what my chocolate part of the basket would be so I decided to host a party where the guests would vote on which they prefer.

I made Thomas Keller’s Chocolate Bouchon which I called a Valhrona Bite; Sherry Yard’s Dark, Decadent Doughnut which I called a Truffle Doughnut; Jim Dodge’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Cake which I called a Mardi Gras Cake (since it’s a party in your mouth) and my sister, Suki, contributed her Cappuccino Cake which was a chocolate-espresso confection. Click the links for the recipe.

It was a fun afternoon full of chocolate and friends. In the end, the Truffle Doughnut narrowly edged out the Mardi Gras Cake. Unfortunately, since the Truffle Doughnut needs to be served hot it wasn’t the best choice for sending in the mail.

Gone in 40 minutes

This is the cinnamon-pecan-cherry coffeecake I made.

“It’s so moist, rich and flavorful. Yet light and delicate.”

Aisha Khan, copy editor on the foreign desk at the Los Angeles Times

It was a rainy Sunday and since I couldn’t go take my usual hike or hit some balls at the tennis court, I decided it was the perfect day to bake something delicious. Baking is a relaxing and creative activity for me. But I wanted to make sure my creation was something that I could toss in a tuppeware container and take to work for the Sunday Crew at the Los Angeles Times. I thought a coffee cake with some nuts, dried fruit and plenty of sugar and butter would smell great during the baking part and taste great too.

“Scrumptious,” said Matt Moody, LAT graphic artist said after he finished his piece.

“The cinnamon really works with the other flavors.” said Lauren Raab, finance section copy editor. She also insisted that the pecans I put in the cake were toasted. No, I never toasted them but the melted butter that doused the top of the nuts may be the reason the nuts seem so crispy and aromatic.

Sugar high: If you normally don’t eat sugar or are on a low-sugar diet just one bite of this cake will give you a buzz. But be careful because one bite won’t be enough of this addictive confection. Remember, this cake was gone 40 minutes after I took the lid off the container. That type of speed is due to the candy-like filling and the tender, buttery cake it is layered in. Enjoy!

Want to make it for yourself? Click here for the recipe.

A delightful cupcake

This delicious cupcake uses real strawberries in the cake and a strawberry juice simple syrup in the icing. It's delicious and a joy to look at.

‘This is a heaven cupcake.’

Marcy Springer, Los Angeles Times Sunday night A1 editor

I love to bake and get especially excited when I have a new recipe that I am inspired by. A friend said that one of the best desserts that his mom makes is this strawberry cake that I modified into a cupcake. He warned me that the icing could be a little tricky.

Just the thing to say to make me want to master it! However, I did heed his warning and cooled down the strawberry simple syrup until it was barely warm. Then I folded it into the egg whites that I had whipped until they tripled in size. The result was a light, airy dream of an icing.

I am so glad I gave it a whirl. It was worth every bit of effort that went into it.

I brought in my version of his grandmother’s recipe to work. It happened to be the birthday of friend and Times’ graphic artist Matt Moody on Sunday so this was my way of wishing him a happy day.

People loved them and they went pretty fast. The reaction I enjoyed the most was from web copy editor Jennifer Martin who asked what I was doing at the Times if I could bake like that. That made me feel great! This was before she had even tasted the cupcake. She tried one and was even more effusive with her praise.

Want to make them yourself? Click here for recipe.

Getting a bourbon buzz

I made this Bourbon Pound Cake with Bourbon Icing to test out a recipe in "Southern Cakes" cookbook a friend and colleague had lent me. I wanted to see if the book was worth purchasing. If the comments I got for the cake are any indication, I should run, not walk to get the book!

‘Damn! The bourbon cloud coming off this cake is amazing.’

-Christie D’Zurilla, Los Angeles Times’ Gossip of Ministry blogger

I found the recipe for this Bourbon Pound Cake with Bourbon Icing in a book on “Southern Cakes” by Nancie McDermott, that friend and supervisor Steve R. Hawkins lent me. I knew I wanted to try one of the recipes out (to see if the book was worth purchasing) and this one laced with Kentucky bourbon called to me!

It was easy to make and the thick velvet-smooth batter looked promising. The aroma wafting through the house was appealing. The look of the cake as it came out of the bundt pan was exciting. It seemed like it would be a success!

The cake and icing both had the same amount of bourbon in them but some of it baked out of the cake while the icing did the heavy lifting in keeping the liquor in it.

It was a delight. And you did get a bit of a buzz – both sugar and bourbon – from having a piece of the confection. Most people loved it although one person thought this poundcake had a much denser texture than she is used to but everyone adored the frosting.

And, yes, the consensus was to go out and buy the book!

Want to know how to make it? Here’s the recipe.

Fourth festivities

The highly anticipated Tres Leches cake brought to us by Shelley, Gabbi's daughter. A Tres leches cake, or Pastel de Tres leches (Spanish, "Three milk cake"), is a sponge cake,—in some recipes, a butter cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.

The highly anticipated Tres Leches cake brought to us by Shelley, Gabbi’s daughter. A Tres leches cake, or Pastel de Tres leches (Spanish, “Three milk cake”), is a sponge cake,—in some recipes, a butter cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.

The whole family gathered at the home of Vijay Chachi, Subodh and Surabhi to celebrate Independence Day with a BBQ.

We got there around 3 p.m. and were treated to chicken, kebobs, turkey burgers, hot dogs, grilled veggies and veggie burgers all made by Subodh. Surabhi was the other half of Team BBQ and made us salsa, guacamole, green salad, chips, potato salad, chutney and the burger trimmings. Karen brought her famous brownies, Bansi Dada brought cantaloupe, strawberries and watermelon. Suki brought some decadent lime-coconut cupcakes. And, of course, there was ice cream sundaes and the highly-anticipated Tres Leches cake by Shelley.

It was a decadent day where we got to bask in the beautiful California sunshine, eat lots of great food and watch a James Bond movie marathon.

Wedding treats

The family flew to New Jersey to attend the wedding of Amitabh Hajela to his betrothed Laura Neill. An Indian wedding can take all weekend — and this one did. We had a great time eating, drinking, dancing and socializing with our new cousins. Want to see Stephanie’s  wedding pictures? Or my wedding slideshow?