kugelhopf slice

I love beauty.

To me, beauty isn’t commercial – the high price-tag definition of beauty thrust upon us by Madison Avenue. It’s not the latest fad or trend dictated to us by family, friends or the culture. To me, beauty is found in those places and things that exalt our senses and make each of us feel better about being in our world and living in our own skin.

What defines beauty is different for everyone.

I find beauty in walking on the beach or in the woods, having a picnic with freshly prepared food, taking a bite out of a hand-crafted cheese, paying a visit to a local art exhibit or simply enjoying the lines and lettering on an old stack of old books.

Living in New England, where much is preserved, finding beauty is easy.

Lately I’ve been loving old New England antique stores, full of vintage items and old plates and dishes that I pick up 3 or 4 dollars a piece. Bringing these inexpensive pieces into my home and using them at the dinner table takes me back to a more elegant time and place in our history. I love the feeling of pouring freshly brewed tea into an English china cup and serving myself or a loved one a piece of cake on a hand-painted plate. It’s as though the whole world slows down and becomes more elegant.

tea cake collage

One of my favorite old-world desserts to serve is the Austrian coffee cake created by 18th century coffee house Demel in Vienna. I found the original recipe for this in Saveur Magazine but I’ve adapted it a bit.

226 g. unsalted butter
110 g. flour
26 g. cornstarch
2 g. salt
60 g. confectioners sugar plus extra for dusting
zest of one orange, minced
10 g. vanilla extract
3-4 oz. high quality bittersweet chocolate
35 g. Grand Marnier
5 eggs separated
1 pinch cream of tartar
204 g. sugar

Heat oven to 325 degrees (163 Celsius). Grease molded bundt or kugelhopf pan with butter and flour.

Sift together flour, cornstarch and salt and set aside.

Cream butter and beat in sugar. Beat in zest and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Add reserved flour mixture in 3 parts beating well after each addition.

Melt the chocolate and mix well with Grand Marnier. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until they start to have shape. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Fold one third of whites into the batter to lighten it. Then fold in remaining egg whites. It will be slightly lumpy when you’re done.

Pour half the cake batter into the pan. Spread the chocolate on top of the batter in a line around the center of the batter. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top. Bake 40-55 minutes depending upon your oven. Remove when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Do not over-bake or the cake will be dry. Cool. Remove from mold. Dust with confectionery sugar.

Variations: Mix a portion of the batter with the melted chocolate to create a marbled effect. Change the liqueur to rum or other flavoring. Replace the melted chocolate with your favorite butter and nut crumble.

This cake is lovely served with tea. My favorites are Mariage Freres, Damman and New England’s own Tea Forte.

tea collage

Taking time out in the day for a special treat like this brings beauty to my day.

kugelhopf taste

What enriches your life? What do you find beautiful?
Pain passes but beauty remains ~ Pierre Auguste Renoir


Fresh New England

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  1. Gorgeous cake. I wish I had a piece, but I guess I’ll settle for a cup of tea instead.
    Beauty is everywhere, but something that never ceases to amaze me is the sunrise.

  2. Your photos are so beautiful and mouthwatering! I think just taking time to make food and engage in that creative process is very beautiful, beyond that taking the time to enjoy the sweet and delicious things in life brings immeasurable beauty.

  3. What a yummy piece of cake. I’m completely craving it. What do I find beautiful? Oceans, sunsets and your photography!

  4. Oh! These are so lovely! I have several old English tea cups that I love. You’re so right, pouring a cup of tea into one of those takes us back to a different time, makes us slow down a little. It’s something I really enjoy. Someone said, don’t keep anything in your house that isn’t either functional or beautiful. I love that because beauty in everyday life inspires me to be more than who I am, if that makes sense. It’s food for the soul. I want to make this coffee cake with apples and a delicate streusel. I’m so going to!

  5. oh, what a great post! I love antique stores (especially on the east coast) and pretty old dishes. I collect vintage cake stands myself…this cake looks really lovely. I’m a big fan of taking time out of the day to enjoy something–for me, right now, that’s bed!

    Beautiful photos, as always.

  6. Your photos are gorgeous. What a treat a slice of this cake and a warm cup of tea must serve. I love Tea Forte as well. When not photographing food and drink, I keep an eye on the beauty of the ocean, sunsets and animals.

  7. Great vintage finds! I love snooping around antique stores, each item with their own story to tell. Mariage Freres is just about the best companion for afternoon tea, along with a good book or an old friend. That’s what moves me – the beauty of long-standing friendships.

  8. I’m glad that you’ve posed this question on what beauty may mean to different people. I’ve thought about this question a lot in my life. The thing that I think exemplifies the both complexity and simplicity of beauty is the kindness of an individual. It’s not something that you can necessarily see when you meet someone, rather it’s a beauty that you feel. Perhaps it’s because I live in a very dense city that has both the beautiful and ugly living side by side, I still find pure kindness of people to be the beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

  9. beautiful AND delicious. i hit up the local Goodwill a couple times a year and i always head straight to the dish area. without fail i come home with new treasures for very little dollars. your settings look quite lovely.

  10. Great to read the content of this blog post. I work with poor inner-city youth. Most had never seen a farm or an ocean or taken a walk in the woods until we filled up buses and took them out to visit. I was amazed at the joy and transformation that took place when the kids were able to see and explore beautiful green and blue surroundings. Beauty gives us hope. It inspires. It’s life affirming and life changing.

  11. Love the plates! You’ve inspired me to do a bit of antiquing today. Everything tastes better on pretty plates so once I have the plates I’ll bake up some of this cake and serve it for afternoon tea. Thanks!

  12. Where did my comment go? I’m sure I left one here! Anyway, what I said was this cake looks so decadent and divine, I would absolutely love a piece right now. Need to try this recipe out. Yum! Great photos too, I love the teabags and rose petals… beautiful.

  13. As a former Boston resident, I can only nod vigorously as you speak of the beauty of New England. A magical place.

    I agree with you about what beauty is, and isn’t. I so cherish some of the small things, an elegant pattern, an old tradition, the sense of warm from something that stands the test of time.

    BTW, just lovely photographs!

  14. In answer to your question there are many, many antique stores all over New England. It’s almost overwhelming. What state are you interested in?

  15. I’m sorry I didn’t include my name, it’s Sherri and my request is for the name of a good antique store or market in Massachusetts. I’m traveling there with my sister and niece and am looking for some good finds. Thank you!!

  16. Sherri, I’m happy to throw out a few names but there are many different places suited every taste imaginable. Charles Street in Boston has very fine antiques. Essex has a good size cluster all within walking distance. Rte 6A on Cape Cod is lined with stores. Concord has several lovely stores including http://www.nestingonmain.com. Several times a year is the Brimfield antiques show and it’s massive. Just type it in on Google. Good luck!

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