05 May

Lemon Elderflower Cake

May 19, 2018: The Royal Wedding Day of HRH Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle

Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding day! Ever since Kensington Palace announced that Chef Claire Ptak would make their wedding cake, we have been curious about the recipe for lemon elderflower cake. According to the official announcement, the cake would “incorporate the bright flavors of spring…(and)…be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.”

There are many recipe versions of lemon elderflower cake but we tried the one published in People magazine. Their version is heavy and dense, unlike the light and fluffy cakes that we are used to. It is both rich and refreshing, which is befitting for a royal dessert. We also thinned down the basic buttercream recipe with elderflower liqueur but the floral flavor is faint.  We could not find fresh elderflowers to decorate the cake, so we used silk spring flowers with yellow centers instead to indicate the lemon flavor with this color. Lastly we topped our simple, rustic-style cake with a tiara to add some “Markle sparkle”.

Make a mini lemon elderflower wedding cake to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan. Best wishes to them and to all the other couples getting married today!


(Adapted from People magazine)

For the lemon cake

  • 4 cups flour (all purpose)
  • 3 teapoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups sour cream, room temperature
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed (about 3 lemons)


Line two 6- and 8-inch round cake pans with waxed paper. Mist the bottom and sides with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy.

Gradually add the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then add half of the sour cream. Continue to alternate the flour and sour cream mixture until well combined and the cake batter is smooth.

Mix in the lemon juice. Divide the batter into the prepared pans, filling them halfway. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Brush away any crumbs.

For the elderflower buttercream frosting

  • 8 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 (1 pound) boxes powdered sugar
  • ½ cup (+/-) elderflower liqueur


In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar.  Thin to a spreadable consistency with elderflower liqueur. Spread a little frosting onto a cake board to act as a “glue” for the bottom layer of the cake.


 For the lemon elderflower liquid

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • ¼ cup elderflower liqueur


In a small bowl, dissolved the sugar in lemon juice and elderflower liqueur. Stir well. Brush this liquid onto the cut layers of the cooled cakes before icing them with elderflower buttercream frosting.

Continue with each cake layer, brushing with lemon elderflower liquid and then frosting it with the elderflower buttercream. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate as desired. Top with a tiara and add spring flowers. Place on a cake pedestal. Serve and celebrate!


  • We used two 10-inch round pans for this recipe and sliced the layers in half. The People magazine recipe uses 6- and 8-inch rounds. For our final food photo above, the latter are cake dummies with the bottom 10-inch cake being the real one. Many couples use cake dummies to add height to their wedding cake, cut a real one for photos and serve sheet cakes from the back kitchen to save money.
  • Fruitcake is traditionally served at British weddings. This lemon elderflower cake is a contemporary confection honoring American bride Meghan Markle.
  • Search our blog for more royal-inspired recipes.



May 13/21: International Hummus Day

We like to snack on chips and dips, such as tortillas y salsa or potato crisps and creamy cheese spreads. But lately we have been eating baked pita chips with hummus as it is heartier and healthier.

Made with mashed chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and flavored with a few other simple ingredients, this Middle Eastern staple can be found pre-packaged at many grocery stores. But it is very easy to make at home and tastes much better and fresher than store-bought brands. Some creative cooks even make hummus with other ingredients, such as pinto beans, zucchini and roasted red pepper.

We stuck to the classic recipe for our blog post today in observance of Hummus Day, which can be celebrated either on May 13 or May 21.


(Adapted from Food Network)


  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup tahini/sesame paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • paprika (optional)


Drain the cans of chickpeas, reserving some of the liquid. Remove and discard any of the remaining skins on the chickpeas.

Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, cumin and garlic in a blender or food process. Pulse until smooth. While running the motor, slowly pour in the olive oil. Puree until smooth. Season with salt. Add 2 tablespoons at a time of the chickpea liquid and blend to the desired consistency. Transfer to a small bowl. Sprinkle paprika, a little olive oil and a few whole chickpeas on top for garnish. Serve with pita bread or chips.



Brownie Mocha Torte

May 11: National Mocha Torte Day

Now that we do not live in the same Texas city anymore as Islander’s brother Kahuna, we try to visit whenever we can and stay over at each other’s homes—except he lives in a religious community of priests and brothers, whereas our house is just the Highlander and Islander Inn. Fortunately there are guest rooms at their house and we are always welcome to stay there and join them for prayers and meals. So what is the compensation for our free room and board? Merely show up with something sweet, such as brownie mocha torte, and we are greeted at the door with big smiles from everyone! Kahuna’s community loves chocolate and this delicious dessert pays fits the bill with its nutty crunch and fudgy layers sandwiched between a coffee-and-cream flavored filling. We confess that this brownie mocha torte is both sinfully rich but heavenly tasting (but we can do some penance at the in-house chapel and campus gym across the street later).

Brownie mocha torte is a nice dessert to share with family and friends and perfect for observing National Mocha Torte Day.


(Adapted from Taste of Home)


  • 2 family size (13 x 9 inch) package chocolate brownie mix
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (we used macadamias), toasted and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (we used Kona coffee granules)
  • ½ cup brown sugar (we used C&H brand)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • chocolate curls or chips (optional garnish)


Toast the nuts and cool them. Set aside. In a large bowl, stir the water in the brownie mix. Blend well.

Beat in the eggs and oil. Add the chopped, cooled nuts. Divide the brownie batter into two greased 8-inch round pans. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Horizontally slice the brownies in half to make four layers. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate, board or platter. Set aside the three other layers.

In a small bowl, combine the instant coffee granules with brown sugar. In a large mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in the vanilla. Fold in the coffee-sugar mixture. Beat again until stiff.

Spread a quarter of the filling mixture on the bottom layer of the brownie. Place a brownie layer on top. Spread another quarter of the filling mixture onto this layer. Place another brownie layer on top. Repeat with the last layer. Frost the top layer with the remaining filling (or decorate with swirls using a star tip). Sprinkle the top with chocolate curls or chips. Cover and refrigerate to set. Before serving, remove from the refrigerator and let thaw for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve.


  • There are different definitions of torte. As a noun, a torte is a rich European-style cake made with many eggs and little flour and usually containing chopped nuts (this recipe contains just two eggs, some flour mixed with chocolate/cocoa powder and chopped nuts). As an adjective, a torte is a multi-layered cake (this recipe has four layers).
  • Search our blog for more chocolate recipes under the Theme Menus option.



May 7: Founding of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana (1718)

At Islander’s first professional convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, some years ago, event organizers planned a welcome reception with a sampling of the city’s most popular foods. From jambalaya, gumbo, étouffée and po’boys to king’s cakes, bread pudding, pralines and beignets, the host committee showed the best of their southern hospitality.

Since Islander loves donuts (she even gave up Krispy Kremes for Lent once!!!)—malasadas, andagi, pączki, sopaipillas, cronuts, etc.—she immediately loved the beignets. Many cultures have deep fried dough (donuts) sweetened with a topping or filling. Beignets are typically covered in a blizzard of powdered sugar, although she has tried mini versions with a honey dipping sauce.

Beignet boxed mixes are sold at some grocery stores now but these fabulous French-style fritters can be made at home anytime. We make them for Mardi Gras but they can be prepared to commemorate the founding of NOLA! Bon appétit!


(Adapted from What’s Cooking America)


  • 1 cup water, lukewarm
  • ¼ cup sugar, white granulated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature, beaten
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups flour (all-purpose or bread)
  • 3 teaspoons yeast, instant active
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • powdered sugar for the topping


In a mixer bowl, dissolve the sugar into the lukewarm water. Add the salt, beaten egg and evaporated milk.

Stir in the butter. Add flour and yeast. Use the dough hook attachment to mix until smooth.

On a lightly-oiled, clean surface, turn out the dough and shape into a ball. Place in a large, lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. On a floured, clean surface, turn out the dough and roll out to ½-inch thickness.

Cut the flattened dough into 3-inch squares. Deep fry in vegetable oil at 350 degrees, browning both sides until it rises to the surface and puffs up (about 3 minutes). Transfer the beignets to drain on paper towels. While still warm, sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Serve immediately. Yield: Approximately 1 ½ – 2 dozen beignets.


  • The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week. Before rolling out, punch down again before cutting into squares for frying. The dough can also be frozen. Roll and cut into squares then freeze between parchment or wax paper and place flat in plastic zipper bags.
  • Search our blog for other donut and Mardi Gras recipes.


Carnitas de Puerco

(Mexican Tender-Crisp Pork)

May 5: Cinco de Mayo

Many cultures have their version of slow-cooked shredded/pulled meat. Islander grew up eating kalua pua’a in Hawaii, so she already liked the similar carnitas de puerco when we moved to San Antonio, Texas. This Mexican recipe uses spiced pork that is slow cooked until tender, shredded or pulled, then fried to a crisp.

For our simple Cinco de Mayo celebration, we made carnitas for soft tacos. But the meat is versatile in many Mexican dishes—as a filling in tamales, burritos or empanadas or as an entrée with rice and beans.

Cook up some carnitas de puercofor a fun and festive food for Cinco de Mayo.


(Adapted from Food Network)


  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt/shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (we used Mexican oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Line slow cooker with cooking bag (optional). Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper all over. In a small bowl, mix the oregano and cumin with the olive oil. Rub the oil mixture over the pork. Place in a slow cooker.

Chop the onions, mince the garlic, chop the jalapeno and cut the orange. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the slow cooker over the pork. Place the orange halves in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Remove from the slow cooker and place on a deep plate. Cool slightly and then shred/pull with fork. In a large skillet or pan, heat the vegetable oil on high. Press a few chunks of shredded pork in the oil and fry until crispy on one side. Drain on paper towels. Serve as a filling or as main dish.


  • Cinco de Mayo is a minor Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Although some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate May 5, it is September 16 that is more significant as Mexico’s Independence Day. Many Americans, however, enjoy fiesta foods and the commercialized culture of Cinco de Mayo but this holiday can be a teachable moment about Hispanic history.
  • Traditionally, pork is stewed in its own lard to maintain the moistness in the meat. The fat in the pork butt/shoulder is not trimmed so it can do the same in the slow clooker.
  • Search our blog for more Mexican recipes under the Theme Menus category.


Avocado Truffles

May 2: National Chocolate Truffle Day and National Avocado Day

What a coincidence that today is National Chocolate Truffle Day AND National Avocado Day—because we combined these two ingredients to make avocado truffles. As chocoholics, we love to indulge in candy but it is not always that healthy. However, when we saw this 3-ingredient recipe in Health magazine, we knew we had to try these truffles. Dark chocolate is high in anti-oxidants and naturally low in sugar. Avocado has several vitamins and minerals and good monounsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol levels. Celebrate two food holidays today with a guilt-free dessert and make avocado truffles.


(Adapted from Health magazine – April 2017 edition)


  • 4 ounces 70% dark chocolate, chopped (we used one bar of Ghirardelli)
  • 1 small avocado (3 tablespoons mashed or pureed)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


In a large bowl, melt the chopped chocolate according to the package directions (we melted our chocolate in the microwave for over a minute at half power). Stir until smooth. While it is cooling slightly, cut a small avocado and discard the skin and seed. Mash until smooth.

Stir in 3 tablespoons of mashed avocado into the melted chocolate. Add a pinch of sea salt. Stir until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it for about 25 minutes or until thickened. Before taking it out from the refrigerator, sprinkle cocoa powder into a small bowl. Use a small scoop to make one-inch balls from the thickened chocolate ganache, shaping and rounding out each truffle in your hands. Roll it around in the cocoa powder to coat. Place in chocolate candy cups. Chill in an airtight container until ready to serve.


  • Search our blog for more chocolate and avocado recipes.
  • February is also National Avocado Month.
  • Try mixing in a few drops of peppermint extract to the ganache. Or roll it in toasted coconut flakes, crushed nuts, a little ground cinnamon, etc. Below is a sample of original avocado truffles and others covered in unsweetened coconut flakes, chocolate jimmies and matcha green tea powder.


Strawberry Salad with

Balsamic-Yogurt Dressing

May: National Strawberry Month

We have attended both the Poteet and Pasadena strawberry festivals—the only two of their kind in Texas. Poteet (outside of San Antonio) holds theirs in April while Pasadena’s (in the Houston area) event is this month. We enjoy experiencing the energy in the carnival-like atmosphere, seeing cute strawberry mascots and royalty (scholarship winners) wearing red walking around the festival grounds and tasting everything made with strawberries (shortcakes, ice cream, jams and jellies, drink mixes and more)!

It is also getting warmer (hot!) in Texas so we like to cool down with something light featuring this month’s fruit: strawberry salad with balsamic-yogurt dressing. Strawberries are abundant now at our local grocery stores and we buy them in bulk there, if not at the festivals. For National Strawberry Month, mix some fruit with vegetables and make a strawberry salad with balsamic-yogurt dressing.


For the balsamic-yogurt dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil, extra virgin
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tablespoons plain yogurt


In a bowl, combine the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar. Stir in the minced garlic. Add the maple syrup or honey.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the yogurt. Mix until the salad dressing is creamy.

For the strawberry salad

  • 2 cups mixed greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 3-4 strawberries, sliced
  • toasted almonds (to sprinkle)


In a salad bowl, place the mixed greens. Sprinkle feta cheese and bacon. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top. Pour about 3+ tablespoons the salad dressing. Sprinkle the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.



  • This is a colorful and complementary salad. The greens are balanced by the red strawberries (like on the color wheel) and the bitterness of the vegetables is tempered by the sweetness of the fruit.
  • Search our blog for more strawberry recipes.


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