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i always hike

Recipe: red currant cake

Today, August 1, is my sister’s birthday. Kris would have turned 43, but it’s been over five years since she passed away and so there are no pranks for her best gang of gals to pull on her, no flowers to send, no cakes to order, no surprise parties to plan, no phone calls to make, no cards to send. When I remember my sister, I find myself bursting out laughing more often than I need to reach for a tissue. I like that.


there were many laughs



I have no patience for Drama. It sucks up so much energy and is incredibly unproductive. So I make myself scarce on days like today, going with Jeremy and the pup into the high country where my thoughts are my own and Nature reminds me of how wonderfully insignificant I am. I take comfort in that.

some flowers i think she would have liked



Hiking and baking are therapeutic for me. I think they are both more effective than a therapist and way the hell cheaper even if red currants were a whopping 5 bucks for a measly 6 ounces at my local Whole Paycheck Foods. I had been thinking of a sweet recipe to post on Kris’ birthday when I zipped through the front doors of the store and caught sight of the red jewels in my peripheral vision. I have never tasted a red currant before, but I couldn’t help falling in love with the idea of red currants after seeing them on Helen’s blog. Ditto for the gooseberries.

can’t help loving food that resembles party lights



If you have had red currants before, you can probably guess at the face I made the first time I popped one into my mouth and bit down. I like sour, but this was reminiscent of the time we finished a long, hot hike in Hawai’i and I broke open my first fresh passion fruit (which, unbeknownst to me, was not ripe) and sucked up the perversely tart insides. “Helen, I need your help…” Actually it was more like “Help me Obiwan, you’re my only hope.”

mixing the dacquoise

about to bake



Despite her love of eating them plain, Helen suggested something sweet to offset the tartness. I found a lovely recipe for a red currant cake and used recipes for components I had made before (Daring Bakers French yule log) to put it all together. I opted to make small, individual cakes, but you could easily make this one large cake.

cutting out the dacquoise

mixing the cream and currants



The sugar and cream in the dessert take the edge off the currants, and the currants in turn give the dessert a greater breadth of flavor as well as depth. You can accent the whipped cream with any flavor you like. I used vanilla bean and a dash of almond extract. I know Kris would have loved this, and that makes me happy.

from the heart



Red Currant Cake
[print recipe]
inspired by Palachinka

dacquoise
red currant cream
red currants for garnish

daquoise
from the Daring Bakers French yule log recipe

2.8 oz. (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp/80g) almond meal
1.75 oz. (1/2 cup/50g) confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsps (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5 oz. (100g/100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz. (4 tbsps/50g) granulated sugar

In a food processor, pulse the almond meal and confectioner’s sugar together until well blended (if you have blanched almonds to make the meal, pulse those first into a meal and then add the confectioner’s sugar). Pulse the flour into the mix. Beat the eggs whites in a stand mixer, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc…) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm). Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden. Let cool and cut to the desired shape. You will want three layers of dacquoise.

red currant cream
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
1-2 tbsps granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup red currants, rinsed

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and place in the bowl of a stand mixer with the cream, sugar, and almond extract. Whip on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the red currants. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain piping tip (I used 809 so the currants would pass through without any whipped cream explosions).

Assembly: Set the first layer of dacquoise down and pipe half the whipped cream over it. Set the second layer of dacquoise down and pipe the remaining whipped cream over it. Top with the third layer of dacquoise and garnish with red currants. Serves 4-6. I made six 3-inch round servings.

47 nibbles at “i always hike”

  1. Tartelette says:

    My young Jedi, you are making me smile because I know Kris would have loved to sink her teeth in that one. You’re so easy to help dude you are so talented!
    You must know how I feel about sibblings we’ve lost. They are never gone. I think I am at that point where all the memories of Thierry are fun ones now. And I am so flipping happy that the fun memories are ones we made when Bill met him, it helps.
    Gorgeous cake but those pictures…oh man! That stream takes my breath away everytime I look at it!

  2. Helen in CA says:

    I too have “lost” a sister, tho in my case she disappeared.

    I love the idea of celebrating her on her birthday. Thank you, Jen.

    Even more than for all the tasty treats you’ve brought my way.

    I’m glad your thoughts of your sister are Laughing More than needing a tissue.

  3. Caitlin says:

    I agree – Kris would have loved those photos, that cake. So beautiful, so fun. And I’d bet she’d laugh at you for biting down on a tart tart red currant!

  4. Cate says:

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a sister, but I like your approach to staying away from drama and finding things that are therapeutic. The cake looks fabulous!

  5. Y says:

    Gorgeous photos.. those flowers by the stream! What a wonderful way to remember your sister.

  6. Rosa says:

    Losing someone you love is always extremely sad, but I agree that all the drama is unproductive and takes all your energy away….

    Yes, baking and hiking are very therapeutic!

    That cake is so pretty! Wat a tempting treat!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  7. Blue says:

    Gorgeous cake!
    I lost a sister too, around seven years ago. Your writing reminds me to think of the loss differently, thanks for that.

  8. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I’m glad you found solace in nature on a day that was a little hard to bear. I see that stream and think that perhaps she was right there with you in spirit.

    The cake is, of course, gorgeous. As is your big heart.

  9. Jenny says:

    I woke up on August 1st feeling sad – that was my mom’s birthday – she died last November alone in a hospital room because she with her mental illness pushed everyone away. I tried, I really tried…but being over 1200 miles away – I didn’t know she was in the hospital until I got the call that she died. Our relationship was so horrific – and I blame myself. She was mentally ill – and I am just a little unwell…I could have done more and tolerated more…but what’s done is done – I, too, don’t have the tolerance for drama – it will suck the life right out of you. I love your posts about your family – and I strive every day to keep my family close – just as you continue to do with your beautiful memories of your sister. Haven’t been commenting much – but I read every post and relish every photograph.

  10. tara says:

    Between the stunning images and the obvious effort into the cake, this is a a truly lovely tribute to your sister. Gorgeous and heartfelt.

  11. Lezel Safi says:

    J-Thinking of you today….I go the same drama free route on what would have been my only siblings birthday….he too will be gone for 5 years on Dec. 29th…..i so respect your nod to her special day….blessings my friend.

  12. Valérie says:

    This is a very moving post and tribute to your sister. I admire your attitude and your refusal of Drama. I wish for your strength to continue to carry you throughout life.

    I always hesitate to use red currants in a dessert, because they are, as you say, very expensive, and I find them so pretty and tasty that I usually just eat them on their own, with maybe a pinch of sugar. But this cake is a beautiful way to present them and sweeten them, without taking away from the currants themselves. Simply lovely!

  13. Hilda says:

    What a lovely tribute to your sister. She and I share the same birthday and I can’t imagine for one second what life would be like without my older sister. I’m glad the French Yule Log gave you a recipe to use for her, that alone makes it worthwhile to have picked as a challenge beyond anything else. I hope you keep remembering her with laughter, that is a great testament to how wonderful she was.

  14. Kristin says:

    What a wonderful way to celebrate your sister’s birthday & life. I wonder what my husband would think about doing something like that on his brother’s birthday. It makes me sad that our kids never knew him & this might be a way to at least get him in their memories in a way.

  15. johanna says:

    you’re a wonderful, wonderful person. i might not be commenting very often, but i read your posts as they become available and they always, always make me smile or cry or just think how beautifully honest your posts are. it’s hard to explain, but your words just make me feel more centred, more grateful and I admire how grounded and generous you are.
    And no, I am not some sad stalker, I just wanted to say thank you for some wonderful blogging over the years and many more to come ;-)

  16. Chez US says:

    Jen, you are simply an amazing woman with oodles of warmth, courage and love. This birthday celebrate for your sister has not gone unseen, she is with you in heart, spirit and love and I am sure she thanks you everyday! Beautifully written as always!

  17. Debbie says:

    A beautiful, heartfelt post. Such a nice tribute to your sister. I love reading your blog because of your honesty. You just say exactly what you feel. Very refreshing. I too, have no need for drama. The older I get the less drama I want in my life. It all goes by way too quick….

  18. peabody says:

    A beatiful cake for your sister.
    I am with you on avoiding the drama. You walk through nature, I put on gear and hit people. ;)

  19. Lori says:

    I toast my glass to her and the way you remember her. Always a pleasure reading your words, no matter what they are.

  20. charlane says:

    beautiful post – so sweet. and I love what you have to say about drama

  21. Jenny says:

    Beautiful tribute.

  22. Collette says:

    Thank you for sharing a little bit of her with us. Simply gorgeous cake–lovely tribute to her.

  23. The Little Teochew says:

    I am so sorry. Your story strikes a chord with everyone for we have all lost someone dear before. And your cake is all the more beautiful because of the story behind it. Take care.

  24. Meeta says:

    jen – you move me to tears. while i have not lost a sibling, my brother has been through many difficult times throughout his life since the age of three. hospitals and pain! i always touch wood and pray that he made it through. i hug you tightly for this post and am glad that the memories you have are the happy ones!

  25. Karen B says:

    In your first picture with snow, the patch of snow is in the shape of a heart. That struck me as very symbolic of your day. (My kids and I look for shapes in snow as well as clouds!) Thank you for sharing your beautiful celebration of love and memories.

  26. Veron says:

    Great memory of your sister, no drama only fond remembrance. Fantastic pictures too. Helen is the obiwan of the baking world alright. Your red currant cake is gorgeous and I’m sure your sister is nodding approvingly.

  27. Eesh says:

    What a lovely tribute. Your writing makes it easy to get a sense of the wonderful person that your sister must have been. And that you are.

  28. Yun says:

    it is such a lovely idea to wish her a happy birthday from heart. and there are so many beautiful things in there…thank you.

  29. Alta says:

    What a lovely way to remember your sister on her birthday. I can only imagine how healing that hike must have been – your photos are breathtaking! And the currant cake is gorgeous too!

  30. Abby says:

    Very sweet post. I’m sure she’s smiling down on you. And perhaps your chomping into that tart fruit was her playing a sisterly joke on you!

  31. Manggy says:

    I don’t know what you guys are trying to do/emulate with the balloons but it is SO. CUTE. You just managed to put a permanent smile on my face. What a beautiful way of honoring your sister.
    Not a fan of drama too, but other people can’t help but suck me in to it! :)

  32. flo says:

    Wow, those are so beautiful! Gosh, you HAVE to teach me how you get photographs to look so wonderful!

  33. Jane says:

    Jen, I agree with your approach to life in the midst of that kind of personal loss. The people we’ve lost, who loved us so much, would never want us to be destroyed by their absence. Remembering what those people would want for us is what helps me.

    Beautiful blog, stunning photography!

    Jane

  34. Darci says:

    My dad died four years ago. His birthday is hard for me too.

  35. Margie says:

    ‘A work of art in more ways than one’

    B E A U T I F U L

    :)

  36. SallyBR says:

    As usual, touching and beautiful post.

  37. Pinky says:

    What a beautiful tribute. It’s good how the years seem to take away the sting of pain and leave the best memories. Thats how it has been for me as well. I’ve been planning a very special cherry pie for my father’s birthday later this month. I always make sure to have something cherry flavored on his birthday, and each years I smile a little more at the thought and cry a little less.
    Your photos of nature are such a joy. Whenever I get tired of my dirty and noisy home in the ghetto, I browse through your photos to feel refreshed. Thank you.

  38. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Those berries look like jewels, Jen! So pretty.
    I’m sorry for your sister (so young!), but know that you keep the best of her deep inside your heart. This is a lovely dessert and I’m sure she would love it.

    xx

  39. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    What a lovely tribute to your sister, Jen. While I know the pain doesn’t ever go away, it’s so nice that you can now focus on the good memories you had with Kris. I try to do the same, but am not always successful. Guess I’m not there yet. I know she would be so proud of your genuineness and good heart, as well as your many wonderful talents! As always, your photos are stunning, and the cake looks divine!

  40. Anda says:

    I admire your way of “feeling” life. You are such a strong and positive person.
    Wonderful pictures!

  41. Jennifer says:

    This is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing with us your lovely memories and this delightful recipe.

  42. Rachelino says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you.

  43. jenyu says:

    Tartelette – I’m glad we’re both at a place where we can look back and smile without the tears of sadness. Thank you for being my mentor in all things sweet and being my friend in life. xxoo

    Helen – I am so sorry. Sending hugs to you.

    Caitlin – she got A LOT of laughs at my expense ;)

    Cate – thank you.

    Y – thanks sweetie! xxoo

    Rosa – agreed :)

    Blue – I’m sorry about your loss, and I hope you can remember her with good memories and smiles.

    TKW – *hugs*

    Jenny – those are very difficult situations, especially when you are smack in the middle of them. It’s hard to know what normal is until you can step away from it and look back (then usually you see that normal is WAAAAY out there someplace). You can’t beat yourself up for the past, but you can make a promise to yourself to live for the present and the future. I wish you healing and I encourage you to live life and live it well. xxoo

    Tara – thank you, that’s really sweet.

    Lezel – thank you. I send you good thoughts each day, but especially when December 29th comes around.

    Valerie – thank you for that, really. I admire that you can eat red currants straight! Wow *pucker* ;) The cake is a very simple and elegant way to pair with the currants – I never thought anything could take that edge off :)

    Hilda – thank you, and that French yule log in and of itself is a great recipe (sooo good – dangerously so).

    Kristin – I think it depends on the person. Some people prefer to celebrate the person in private, some in public, some not at all. It’s a personal decision, but either way, I hope your husband finds peace.

    Johanna – my dear, I know you’re not a stalker :) I follow your posts too (even though I am AWFUL about commenting this summer – just so little time). Thank you. xxoo

    Chez Us – thank you, sweetie.

    Debbie – absolutely. Life is short enough as it is, why would we want to make it miserable? Keep living it!

    Peabody – I like your way of avoiding drama :)

    Lori – thank you. You’re really kind.

    Charlane – :) There are some who thrive on the Drama – ugh. No thanks! ;)

    Jenny – thanks.

    Collette – :)

    The Little Teochew – thank you.

    Meeta – thank you, my friend. I too will hope that your brother’s difficulties are behind him and wish you both happiness (and health – that is SOOO important). xxoo

    Karen B – that is lovely. I like how you and the kids do that – looking for shapes in nature. Thank you.

    Veron – thank you, sweetie. Er, or shall I say Padawan? :) Your baking is nothing to sneeze at either.

    Eesh – you’re too kind. Thank you.

    Yun – :)

    Alta – thanks!

    Abby – knowing Kris and all of her pranks, yes. I think you’re right :)

    Manggy – I’m not sure what we were doing either (do kids EVER know what they are doing?). I find it telling that even at that age she was always the dignified one and I was always the dorky one ;) Stay clear of the Drama!! :) xxoo

    Flo – practice practice practice.

    Jane – It’s true, and thank you for saying it. Thank you.

    Darci – I’m sorry about your loss. I hope with time, you can look back on your memories with fondness and smiles.

    Margie – thank you, dear.

    SallyBR – :)

    Pinky – that is a very sweet thing to do – bake something he loved. I’m sure it is therapeutic for you in a small way as well. *hugs*

    Patricia – they *are* pretty, aren’t they? How could I resist buying them? :) xxoo

    Susan – you’ll get there, sweetie. We’ll get there. I’m still trying to get there. It’s never easy – not when you lose someone you love so dearly. I love your tributes to your father. He was so handsome and I can only imagine what an incredible person he was when I know how amazing and dear you are.

    Anda – thank you.

    Jennifer – oh, thank you for reading.

    Rachelino – :) you’re welcome.

  44. CakeBunny says:

    I have always said that when we lose someone we love, we never really lose them. They are always with us in our memories and hearts. I was very close to my grandmother, who as a child lived thru the Great Depression with no shoes. As an adult, she had closets FULL of shoes of every color, shape, and style. I still smile and my heart swells when I see strappy sandals (her favorite) :o)
    I will be making this dessert soon, with wild blackberries we picked over the summer. Thanks for the pics and recipe!

  45. jenyu says:

    CakeBunny – I feel the same way and thank you for sharing that lovely story about your grandmother. It’s really touching.

  46. Mrs Ergül says:

    Another wonderful way to celebrate Kris’ life.

    The flowers in the third photo seems to have its roots hanging in the air. I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. But I can’t quite figure out how it actually is!

    I have never had red currants and gooseberries. I wonder how tang it will taste like…. I love that 3″ cutter of yours. It’s like a little basket!

  47. jenyu says:

    Mrs Ergul – they are actually overgrown on the bank and the stream has undercut the bank. So yes, they are hanging in the air :)

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