Hawaii: Lilikoi Cheesecake


Our dessert recipe came to us courtesy of Chris’s mom, on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It’s a delicate cheesecake topped with lilikoi or passionfruit, which is an iconic sweet-tart fruit that always reminds us of the islands.  This recipe is meaningful because it was Chris’s memories of his parents’ supperclub that inspired the creation of ours. Mahalo and aloha to Chris’ parents!

Lilikoi Cheesecake

(recipe adapted from NOLA.com by Mike’s on the Avenue chef Mike Fennelly)


24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup passion fruit pulp

Passion Fruit Glaze

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2  cup passion fruit pulp

Juice of 1/2  lemon


Unsweetened whipped cream

Mint leaves or sprigs

Shortbread Crust

(recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse “Papaya Pie with Shortbread Crust”)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour


-To make Shortbread Crust

In a bowl, use hand mixer to blend the butter and sugar to make a paste. Add the yolk and blend thoroughly. Add the flour and using your fingers, blend to make a crumbly dough, being careful not to overwork. Pat firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and let rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator and prick the crust with the tines of a fork. Place a sheet of parchment or foil in the pie tin and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice and blind bake the crust in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool completely.
-To make Cheesecake:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin to boil water for the water bath.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl after adding each egg.
  4. Add heavy cream, vanilla and passion fruit pulp and blend until smooth and creamy.
  5. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. (If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil now, before placing in water bath.)
  6. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the large pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Bake 45-50 minutes, until cheesecake just barely jiggles in the center.
  7. Turn off oven (but don’t open the oven door!) and let sit 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from the oven, remove from water bath and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until fully chilled.
  8. To make glaze: Boil water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add passion fruit and lemon juice, and boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool.
  9. Garnish cheesecake with the unsweetened whipped cream, glaze and mint leaves. Remaining glaze may be added individually as desired.  Serve and enjoy!


Mahalo for joining us for our Hawaiian-themed supperclub! We hope you enjoyed these recipes and got a taste of the islands.  To review the entire menu, please visit the overview.

Come back soon for our latest supperclub, which brought us to another tropical destination.

Eastern Europe: Citrus in Rosemary Syrup


The last few bites of our Eastern European Spicebox Supperclub were some of my favorites.  For the third part of our dessert trio, Nalin treated us to a light and elegant dessert–  a medley of seasonal citrus in an herbal rosemary syrup.  The brightness of the citrus contrasted nicely with the rich crunch of chopped pistachios.

Sweet Citrus Rosemary Medley

Recipe adapted from the Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Servings: 8

Kosher Key: Pareve, Kosher for Passover

Prep Time: 30 Minutes


4 1/2 lbs oranges – navel, cara cara, tangerines, moro blood oranges or a mix (if using smaller oranges, you may need more)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 sprigs rosemary

2 tbsp pistachios – if you have nut allergies, omit

8 dates, sliced or chopped

8 sprigs mint for garnish (optional)


1. Combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Add the fresh rosemary sprigs and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Leave the rosemary sprigs to steep as the syrup cools.

2. Use a sharp paring knife or serrated knife to slice off the peel down the sides of the orange. Remove as much peel and white pith as possible. Try not to slice into the fruit itself (a little of the fruit will inevitably get sliced… just be as careful as you can). Once the peel is removed, slice the orange into thin ¼ inch rounds. Reserve slices and repeat process for remaining oranges.

3. When rosemary syrup has completely cooled, remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon and strain the syrup through a wire mesh strainer. Spread the peeled slices out in a pie dish or similar ceramic or glass container. Pour the rosemary syrup over them. If you’re using blood oranges/moro oranges, store those slices separately from the lighter colored slices in their own quantity of rosemary syrup, otherwise they will cause the lighter oranges and syrup to take on a reddish color. Cover the dish and refrigerate the orange slices for at least 2 hours, up to 2 days. Re-layer the orange slices every so often to make sure they’re all equally exposed to the sweet syrup.

4. Before serving, chop the pistachios in a food processor or coffee grinder into very fine pieces, somewhere in between chunks and powder, to create a coarse pistachio meal. Slice each date into thin strips. To serve, divide the chilled marinated orange slices between 8 small dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with 1-2 tbsp rosemary syrup, just enough to moisten (you will have leftover syrup, which you can use to flavor drinks). Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped pistachios and top each orange slice with a date strip. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve. Note: If you have nut allergies, you can leave out the pistachios. The oranges taste delightful in their syrup without any additions, so if you want to keep things simple feel free to serve the oranges on their own in a glass dessert bowl garnished with mint.

Thanks for coming by! This is the last post of the Spicebox Supperclub’s Eastern European dinner.  If you missed them, please visit the overview of our lovely menu to see the rest of that fantastic meal.  We’ll be taking a break for a few months, so check back soon.  Who know where the Spicebox Supperclub will be taking you next?

Eastern Europe: Dessert Dumplings (Marillenknödel/Apricot Dumplings)


Because one dessert is not nearly enough for the Spicebox Supperclub, Nalin excused himself to the kitchen to freshly prepare those Eastern European dessert dumplings for us. This was an intriguing combination of dumpling dough filled with a fresh apricot, wish fresh shavings of dark chocolate as a garnish.

Marillenknödel (Apricot Dumplings)

Recipe from The Wednesday Chef (adapted from Nicole Stitch’s Marillenknödel – http://www.deliciousdays.com)

Makes 12


1 pound fresh quark cheese

2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest

12 small apricots

12 sugar cubes or 12 teaspoons of Demerara sugar

8 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

2 large egg yolk

1 1/2 cup semolina flour

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for forming

2/3 cup plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs (increase to 1 cup)

Powdered sugar


1. Place the quark in a fine mesh sieve and let drain for an hour into the sink. If you don’t have an hour, 15 to 30 minutes are fine. Wash the apricots and dry them, then cut them open along their seams (only halfway!) and remove their pits. Fill with either a sugar cube or half a teaspoon of Demerara sugar.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous pinch of salt, and reduce the temperature until the water bubbles just very lightly.

3. In a big bowl cream together the strained quark, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of soft butter, egg yolk, semolina, sugar, vanilla, and salt using a wooden spoon. When it’s well-combined and fluffy, fold in the flour. Don’t over-mix. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and with well-floured hands, form the dough gently into a thick log.

4. Cut the log into into 6 equally sized pieces. With floured hands, gently pat each piece into a small disc, then place a sugar-filled apricot in the middle of the dough and gently wrap the dough around the apricot. Form a neat little dumpling (re-flour your hands as necessary) and double check that the apricots are completely covered by the dough. There will be seams, but try to make sure they are as closed as possible.

5. Carefully slip the dumplings into the water and watch to make sure none got stuck to the bottom of the pot, stirring, if needed. Let them simmer at low heat for 12 to 14 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a pan over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs in the butter for a few minutes. Remove the dumplings with a skimmer, then roll them in the pan with the buttered breadcrumbs until evenly covered. Pile the dumplings on a serving plate and dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

Yum! And for our final dessert, see you next week!

Eastern Europe: Chocolate Beet Cake

choc beet cake

Heather, who normally shies away from the executive chef role, surprised us with the first of not just one but three desserts she and Nalin brought to the Supperclub.  This was a wonderful addition playing on the Eastern European theme by including beets, this time hidden in a luscious chocolate cake from Nigel Slater via David Lebovitz.  The beets added an incredible moistness and lightness to the cake and paired well with sour cream (also very Eastern European).  For the recipe, visit http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/11/moist-chocolate-beet-cake-recipe-nigel-slater/.

Come back next week for the next of the decadent Spicebox Supperclub’s trio of Eastern European desserts!

Trini Carnival: Cassava Pone with a Sweet Backstory and Spiked Mango Smoothies


Two creative desserts were provided by Chris.  As a bonus, the first came with a nice story.  Read on:

Since many Trinidadian desserts are really sweet I picked Cassava Pone since it wasn’t too sweet and seemed very authentic and local. I think Peter or Linda may have mentioned where the word “pone” comes from but I forgot (I don’t think we did.  We don’t know what it means! According to all-knowing Wikipedia, pone is also a name for a type of cornbread in the Southern US, derived from a Native American word.  Triangle trade?) Also, we decided that tropical fruit like mangoes was needed to complete a Caribbean party, so the pone is accompanied by a mango-yogurt-white rum smoothie. Little drink umbrellas would have been the final touch but ran out of time to find some!

Cassava Pone

(pone rhymes with stone not Monet)

I found several recipes for Trinidadian style pone online. Most used cassava but several also included pumpkin. I did research to find a local Caribbean market in the Bay Area. I found great reviews about a Caribbean market: Specialty Foods, Inc. 535 8th St. in Old Town Oakland, CA. Since I work in Oakland it was a perfect field trip during my lunch break. The market was stocked with all sorts of Caribbean delicacies. I filled my basket according to my online recipe with frozen cassava, coconut, condensed milk, etc. One tip I learned is that it takes time and hard work to grate the cassava, so purchase the already grated cassava which I found in the frozen section. When I went to pay, the friendly woman at the register immediately recognized my ingredients and offered to give me her mother’s own cassava pone recipe. She introduced herself as Leilani and said that her family is Filipino and that the recipe is a little different. It has a flan style topping (I suspect that comes from the Spanish cultural influence) but that all her Caribbean friends love it! I was sold (literally). We went back into the aisles and she picked the additional ingredients that I needed. She noticed that I had picked the most expensive can of coconut milk (of course, it must be better, right?) so she traded it for a cheaper – and better! – brand.

The moral of this story is to be open and friendly like Chris.  You never know where it will lead you! Also, a recent study discussed in the New York Times showed that talking to strangers can increase your happiness.  So forget what mama told you!

Cassava (aka Manioc, Mandioca, Yuca) Pone



2 16oz packets of frozen grated cassava (defrost out of package)

4 cups whole milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract/essence

1 cup granulated sugar

1 20oz can young coconut meat (in syrup)

1/2 tsp salt

Dash of pepper

Optional spices: cinnamon, cardamom. (I used about ½ tsp of each.)


1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

1 14oz can condensed milk

2 eggs



Preheat oven to 350 F.

Defrost frozen grated cassava. Tip: first remove frozen cassava from package to defrost since otherwise difficult to scrape out of package when thawed.

Add whole milk, 2 eggs, vanilla, 1 cup sugar, salt, pepper and spices. Mix until ingredients are well blended.

Drain and finely chop young coconut meat and stir into mixture.

Spray 13 x 9in baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour mixture into pan. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until top is firm and dry.

To make topping:

Combine coconut milk, condensed milk and 2 eggs in a separate bowl. Blend well and set aside until cake has fully cooked, as above.

When cake is ready, pour topping mixture to cover entire top without overflowing the pan. Return to oven for 45 min or until top layer is dry, bubbly and browned.


Mango-Yogurt-White Rum Smoothie

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe

spiked mango smoothie


2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and chopped

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 cup mango nectar

1/2 cup white rum

Crushed ice

2 to 4 tablespoons simple syrup, depending on sweetness of mangoes


Combine mango, yogurt, nectar, rum and a few cups of crushed ice in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Sweeten with simple syrup, if needed. Divide among 4 glasses and serve.


This concludes our Spicebox Supperclub: Trini Carnival Edition.  Thanks for reading!

We’ve just had another Supperclub from a completely different corner of the world.  Check back in a few weeks to see where our latest Supperclub transported us!

Comida Porteño: Postres (Desserts) Part Two– Tres Leches Cake

tres leches

Several weeks ago, I got overexcited and posted our first dessert, the classic Argentine alfajores.  If you missed it, please check it out— you can’t leave alfajores out of any discussion of Argentine food.  Several courses later, we’re now ready for tres leches cake.

“Tres Leches” means three types of milk, which evokes a comforting, childhood dessert.  This is what makes this a classic confection enjoyed throughout Latin America.  The three milks include condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, the combination of which are used to soak and cover a sponge cake.

I used a simple recipe from Fine Cooking, and garnished with some fresh raspberries.

Classic Vanilla Tres Leches Cake

by Fany Gerson from Fine Cooking, Issue 117

Serves 12 to 16

For the cake:

Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the soaking liquid:

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
For the topping:

2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Bake the cake:

1) Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

2) Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan. Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

3) Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

4) Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

5) Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

7) Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake:

1) In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup.

2) With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake:

1) In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake and serve.

Make Ahead Tips:

You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead


This post is the sweet ending to the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  ¡Muchas gracias! for joining us on this tour of Buenos Aires through food.  Ciao!

Comida Porteño: Postres (Desserts) Part One: Alfajores


Dessert was comprised of two Latin American classics: alfajores, a symbol of Argentina, and tres leches cake, which is enjoyed throughout Latin America.  This week, we start with the alfajor.

This story is excerpted from an article Linda published on Salon.com in 2010.  For the full article and an additional recipe using dulce de leche ice cream, see the post on SpiceboxTravels.com.

Before I met José, I had never heard of alfajores.  José, whose parents hail from Cordoba, Argentina, may have been raised in Connecticut, but he has an Argentine soul.  He can even do the tango.

He excitedly shared some alfajores after a trip back to visit family.  He enthused, “The combination of the unctuous, sweet, toasty middle set off by the crumbly, citrusy cookie, is like Proust’s madeleine for the Argentine set.”

Argentines are known for their passionate opinions, and José is no exception, so I wasn’t sure if I would necessarily be as overwhelmed by this cookie.  After my first bite of this confection, though, I understood that this was no hyperbole.  That first bite triggered a sort of madeleine moment for me as well: I realized that I actually had seen, but not tasted, alfajores before.  They’re sold without fanfare in bodegas around San Francisco, and in certain cafés which otherwise have no trace of Latin American ties.  They’re usually kept in a glass jar or Lucite display case near the cash register and, to be honest, don’t look all that appealing to an alfajores novice.  They look like a dry cookie mounded with too much confectioners sugar.  But as I found out, the homemade version is in a different category.

For alfajores innocents, as I was before José’s initiation, let me give you some more details.  The alfajor (singular for alfajores) is a lemony, buttery sandwich cookie containing dulce de leche, the beloved caramel sauce of Latin America.  It’s often dusted in fluffy white confectioners sugar, or alternatively, dipped in chocolate or a sugar glaze.  Some versions also use flaked coconut.  Its exotic-sounding name traces its ancestry to the Moors who ruled for over 800 years in the South of Spain in Andalusia, or Al-Andalus, as this region was called in Arabic.  Andalusia retains much of its Moorish character: there’s lacy architecture and buildings adorned with intricate tiles featuring geometric and floral designs.  The name “alfajor” itself has Arabic roots, translating as “fancy” or “great” sweets.

Sevilla by Linda Shiue

When the Spanish conquistadors set up shop in Latin America, they brought over alfajores, hence the popularity of these treats in Argentina and other parts of Latin America, including Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile and parts of Brazil. Each country has a variation on alfajores, and each claims its own as the authentic version.

Seeing as I was enthusiastic about his alfajores, before his next trip home José asked if I would like some of his mother’s homemade dulce de leche.  Of course! I was excited.  I imagined his mother performing alchemy, stirring a pot of butter, milk and sugar over the stove for hours until it was transformed into the thick caramel sauce.  You could do that.   But I found out that the way dulce de leche is most often made in Latin America, including by José’s mother, is by warming an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for hours in a slowly simmering hot water bath.  José’s mom also adds cocoa powder to thicken the dulce de leche, if needed, when she makes alfajores.

Sevilla tiles by Linda Shiue

Most alfajores lovers from Latin America, José included, insist that homemade alfajores are the best.  But not everyone has the time to simmer condensed milk for hours over a stove to make the dulce de leche filling, or to make the corn starch-based butter cookies, called maicenitas, that form the sandwich.  Commercial brands of dulce de leche are available.  And there are mass-market brands of alfajores, too, with Havanna being the most popular.  But José does not find these worth eating.  He’ll hold out for homemade.  Second best are those baked by an old bakery in Cordoba called La Costanera.  He and his family make a pilgrimage to La Costanera whenever they visit Argentina:

“Whenever we go to (or relatives come from) Argentina (Cordoba specifically), we bring back a box of La Costanera alfajores for each of the rest of the family.  They sell different shapes and sizes of alfajores, usually with a lightly sweet sugar glazing.  At La Costanera bakery (which my Dad remembers from when he was a kid in the 1940s, and which up until the 1990s still had an old woman working there who he remembered from childhood), they also have alfajores with jams (apricot, quince, etc.) as the filling — but these are clearly inferior, not anything to waste your time upon.”

José’s favorite variety from La Costanera is called a Colacion:  ”It has only one cookie, kind of concave, with a thick layer of dulce de leche… I quickly discovered during childhood that this has the maximum dulce de leche-to-cookie ratio, they key measure of worth of an alfajor, of course.”  See what I was saying about passionate opinions? And long ago memories, triggered by a cookie.  Now I understand that his reference to Proust’s madeleines was heartfelt.


Makes 1 dozen.


2 dozen maicenitas (lemony butter cookies, recipe below)

1 can of dulce de leche

grated coconut, toasted if desired

confectioners sugar


1.  For each sandwich, you’ll need two cookies.  Place a tablespoon or two of dulce de leche on the bottom of one cookie and smooth it out with the spoon.  Top it with the bottom of the second cookie.  Press down gently so that some of the dulce de leche squeezes out on the sides.

2.  Roll the sides (the dulce de leche) in coconut, and then dust the top and bottom in confectioners sugar.

Maicenitas (butter cookies for alfajores)

Makes 2 dozen cookies.


1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons rum

2 1/2 cups cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Zest of 1 lemon


1.  Cream the butter and sugar together.

2.  Mix in the remaining ingredients.

3.  Knead on a floured work surface until the dough is smooth.

4.  Chill for 2 hours, then roll out into 1/4 inch thickness.

5.  Cut dough into 2 dozen 2″ rounds.

6.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 300°F oven for 15-20 minutes, until just slightly golden.

7.  Allow to cool completely on a rack before assembling into alfajores.

Dulce de Leche

dulce de leche

Yield: about 3 cups (enough for a dozen alfajores, with another extra cup to spread on bread or to save for another batch).


2 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk


1.  Place unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a pot with enough water to cover the cans.

2.  Bring the water slowly to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and let cook, covered, for 3-4 hours.

3.  Check occasionally to make sure the cans remain covered with water.  Top off with more water as needed.

4.  Cool the cans before opening.

Note: Be careful! Make sure the cans are always covered with water, and that the hot water bath is simmering slowly to avoid the risk of the cans exploding.

This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next time for the second dessert– Tres Leches Cake.