A Birthday Slice of Cheesecake

a birthday balloon in the sky

Image by: Becca

Family…it is the one thing in this world that we are born into or given in this world. But along the way we are allowed to choose our families by the people that we naturally connect with as well as the people who readily understand us. We are essentially given two families in the world, the ones that we are naturally a part of and the one that we create for ourselves…the one that we choose. Regardless of this, it is always important to be family-oriented…in terms of spending time with the people that you love and those that love you. It is something truly special about creating memories with loved ones because these are times that will be cherished forever. There are events and specific times in life that we want to share with other people such as anniversaries, sporting events, birthdays, et cetera. This past weekend was my older sister’s birthday and my family spent most of the time planning out the festivities that we would indulge in to celebrate this special birthday.

We were so torn on what activities to partake in for the entire family to enjoy as well as the birthday girl. My family rarely has time where we can all get together as a whole to spend time together but for big events such as graduations or birthdays, we somehow manage to find a way to compromise busy schedules in order to be available for the events. Still, we had a fun-filled weekend of going to the movies, visiting a local bakery for dessert, opening birthday presents, playing glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, and going to dinner as a family.

My older sister, Amanda, absolutely loves cheesecake so it is almost a tradition to treat her to a visit to Cheesecake Factory in order to celebrate her birthday accordingly. But that is not always the case as we almost always seem to have some time of car trouble around the time of her birthday that prevents us from being able to travel to Long Island to her favorite restaurant. This year, thankfully, our family car was operating greatly which gave us the opportunity to throw her the best birthday possible.

an individual cheesecake on a decorated plate with fruit

Image by: Reggie Lam

There are many versions of cheesecake, both sweet and savory. But there are many variations of cheesecakes, the French cheesecake that usually uses  Neufchâtel cheese which is creamier and tarty as well as the Italian cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese or mascarpone cheese which results in a drier texture of cheesecake. But my all-time favorite, as well as my older sister, is the New York-style cheesecake which uses sour cream in the batter which has a tangy but rich texture and flavor which is absolutely delicious. Cheesecake has become such a centrical part of celebrating her birthday and I hope that it was just as special this year.

The Trend of the Meat Cake

diced red meat slabs on a cutting board with onions

Image by: Andrey Bodrov

Today, food has become so modernized these days and the traditional foods that were widely accepted are evolving. America has always and continually been inclusive of those cuisines and traditions from other countries. Many food practices that are being utilized and have gained such popularity in the United States have generally been adopted from other reginal areas. These new practices have allowed the normalized traditions in America especially in terms of food to be differentiated and more modernized with the latest trends that are being accepted. In Japan, they have created an entirely new way of celebrating birthdays. Gone are the days of birthday cakes that were sheet cakes frosted with insanely sweet and colorful amounts of frosting. Today, many are surprising their loved ones either friends or family with a modernized and savory version of the birthday cake which is the meat cake. It has changed the entire dynamic of cakes as there are not many versions of savory cakes that have become so popularized, accepted, or trendy in the culinary world.

a birthday meat cake with roses made out of red meat

Image by: jasonklapston

In the Japanese cuisine, they take the most expensive and best cuts of meat in order to uniform them into a cake-like shape. The cakes can be tiered or shaped in a particular look such as to look like a flower. Then it is usually decorated with an array of different vegetables that will complement the meat such as peppers, asparagus, or broccoli. Typically, the cake is made out of different versions of beef with the most expensive being the aged wagyu. But there are variances of these particular cakes styles that cake use different cuts of fish, poultry, and other meats such as veal or pork. When a meat cake is presented, it is usually reminiscent to that of a traditional birthday cake where there is a gathering of friends and family as the celebrated person is able to see their cake for the first time. Then, it is treated just like that of a typical frosted birthday cake in which the person gets to blow out the candles. And, afterwards, the meat is generously cooked and prepared in a way in which the person desires it.

Comment below on different and interesting cakes that you have either eaten or would like to eat in the near future.

French Napoleons

Homemade Vanilla Napoleon

Photograph by Sabrina Vasquez


This past week was my mother’s birthday and although most families celebrate birthday with cakes, my family easily finds other alternative desserts to celebrate with instead of the traditional cake that is commonly served. In the past, we have hosted birthday parties with desserts such as gelato, icees, doughnuts, and cheesecake. But, for this year in particular, my mother wanted to have a French inspired dessert which was napoleons. This dessert is complex in the processes of creating each component and then assembling it together in an appetizing way. Napoleon, also named mille-feuille, vanilla slice, or custard slice are usually consists of three layers of puff pastry alternating with two layers of pastry cream. Yet, this classic French pastry can differ from a variety of countries. An Australian version uses passion-fruit icing and infuses passion-fruit into the pastry cream as well. While a Italian version is a savory napoleon which usually has spinach, cheese, and pesto. Although, the exact origin of the napoleon is still unknown, the French name for it mille-feuille literally means cake of a thousand layers which refers to the many layers in the puff pastry first while the puff pastry is being made and as it flakes in layers as it is baking in the oven.

So as my mother’s birthday was approaching, I had to figure out a way to make one of the best napoleon to top all napoleons she has ever eaten as her birthday present. My sister agreed to help me as making the dessert is not complicated just complex.  So we agreed that she would make the pastry cream and bake the puff pastry while I would assemble the dessert to its entirety.

Napoleon Recipe

First, bake the puff pastry I purchased the Pepperidge Farm brand one and it works well. Simply, thaw it out first and then unfold it onto a cookie sheet. Then, bake until golden brown.

Now, the pastry cream …..



2 cups half-and-half

½ cup sugar

Pinch salt

5 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons cornstarch

4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract



  1. Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 20 seconds.


  1. When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.


Note on straining: This is key step because it will ensure that your finished pastry cream will be silky smooth with no lumps or bumps.

Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Assembling the pastry:

Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the pastry into thirds.

In a small bowl whisk together:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp corn syrup, light

1 TBS butter, unsalted , melted

Slowly mix in:

3 TBS milk, whole

Add enough milk to keep the icing thick, but pourable.

Pour half of the icing into another bowl, and whisk in:

1 TBS cocoa powder, unsweetened

Pour chocolate icing in to a squeeze bottle.

To assemble your napoleon, place the bottom layer of baked puff pastry onto your serving dish. Spoon half of your cooled pastry cream along the center of the pastry.

Place your middle layer of baked puff pastry over the cream, gently pressing the pastry down and pushing the cream to the edges. Spoon the remainder of the cooled pastry cream along the center of the middle pastry layer.

Top with the icing-decorated top layer and gently press over the pastry cream, again, pushing the cream to the edges. And smooth out the pastry cream around the sides.

Choose one of the three cut pieces of puff pastry to be your top layer and using a soft scraper, cover with the white icing. Using the squeeze bottle containing the chocolate icing, pour horizontal chocolate stripes over the white icing. Working quickly and use the tip of a knife to drag through the chocolate stripes and mix into the white icing.

Allow to set in the refrigerator 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Recipe adapted from Family Spice