Before POG was a game in the ’90s, it was an acronym for a juice blend invented in the ’70s on Maui. The tart yet sweet blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava juices is nostalgic for many — especially my Dad.
(Oddly enough, the game “pogs” is named after the juice — in ’91 a school teacher used POG juice caps to teach a modern version of a plantation-era game flipping ‘milk covas’ from the ’30s. My ’90s mind would have been blown!)
POG is relatively unknown on the mainland, and it is near impossible to find. I have only seen Aloha or Hawaiian Sun brands on the east coast, which are thick, syrupy, and lack freshness.
But, the POG experience can be re-created. For my sister’s rehearsal dinner in March we catered dessert from Taste of Aloha and the POG cupcakes were non-negotiable.
I asked baking kumu Amy if she would share her cupcake recipe so I could make it into a birthday cake for my Dad. Thankfully she obliged!
POG cupcakes from my sister’s rehearsal
The POG cake was a hit (again!). Since I made cakes instead of cupcakes, the baking time was much longer (~40 minutes), but the cake was still incredibly moist and flavorful.
I also opted for 2 different fillings since there were 4 layers of cake. Filling 1 was a tropical fruit curd which consisted of: peach-passion fruit juice, palekaiko tea, ginger, orange puree, li hing powder. Filling 2 was the incredibly creamy and smooth liliko’i butter from Kahuku Farms that I recently lugged back from Hawai’i.
I covered the cake in toasted coconut because I didn’t want to make candied orange peel, but in hindsight it would probably be quicker to make the orange peel!
For this month’s Secret Recipe Club I spent a long time perusing Susan’s Australia-based blog, My Whole Food Family, bookmarking recipes such as Cappuccino Brownie Bites, Palmiers, Pear Tea Cake, Christmas Cake, and Caramel Cheesecake. I had my heart set on re-creating this daring Bûche de Nöel and even bought a silicone mold for it, but time got away from me.
But then I remembered that over a year ago I had purchased a madeline pan from World Market and still had not used it. Additionally, I had all of the ingredients for these Earl Grey Tea Madeleines on hand, including a brand new tin of Cream of Earl Grey.
I took a batch of these over to our veterinarian as a thank you for all of their help during Leopold’s last days.
These madeline cake-cookies were the perfect treat for tea-time. The fruit zest is bright and the madeline texture is springy without being greasy. The tea flavor was lost on me, but it might have been the tea I used (even though I added more than the recipe called for) or the fact that my lemon zest was extra “zesty”. The original recipe calls for the zest of half a lemon, but the recipe printed in Bon Appétit lists only a packed half teaspoon, which I would recommend to have more balanced flavors.
If you are planning to make these, remember to allow the batter to chill!
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After I moved into my new home last year, my friend gifted me with a box of last Harry & David Royal Riveria Pears. I used the very last one to make these muffins and took them with me on a bus trip up to New York City, where I attended the Coffee & Tea Festival with her.
These muffins are extremely straightforward to put together. Unlike some recipes, they do require creaming together butter and sugar, but even with that step, the batter comes together in about 6 minutes. Buttermilk keeps the crumb moist and helps to offset the earthy flavors. To further balance the cardamom, which can be strong, especially if you grind it straight from the pod, I added just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg.
The muffins are light and tender of crumb and a bite that marries the pear with cardamom has a sweet, fruity, lightly spiced flavor. They make a great breakfast that won’t send you crashing from a sugar high, and pair nicely with green tea.
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For this month’s scheduled Secret Recipe Club reveal, I will be on vacation with my family in Las Vegas so I started planning my Fried Ice and Donut Holes pick super early. Melissa, a teacher like my sister, has an extensive list of recipes going back to 2009. I had been wanting to make some cherry scones for a while, so my mind was made up when I saw her Cherry Scones recipe.
Mine ended up being a bit of a scone/muffin hybrid since I baked them in smaller tins. The batter looked a bit wet to me (due to using frozen cherries instead of fresh, which were not in season yet) so I added some extra flour.
When warmed up, they tasted great, with a strong vanilla flavor from the yogurt used in the batter. When they were eaten at room temperature they were a bit gummy on top and dense on the bottom due to my weird hybrid muffin-baking. I topped them with some preserved cherry blossoms which gave a nice salty pop.
I made these at the beginning of the month, just in time for #StarWarsDay. I immediately thought of my Dad, who loves cherries and Star Wars, so I used some Star Wars muffin liners for half the batch.
Apparently it’s tradition for me to make cherry desserts around this time, since I made a cherry cheesecake as well!
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Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been gone for so long! I’ve been quite busy the last few months. I got married in September and just got back from my honeymoon to Maui, O’ahu, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Before all that happened, I took an impromptu trip up to Pittsburgh to visit my bridesmaid, Stephanie. I was a bit hesitant to make the drive all by myself, but after a grueling bus trip last October, I was convinced that driving would be better.
Stephanie’s birthday is also in August, so I took the opportunity to make an attempt at a super cute Pocky cake from Sprinkle Bakes. My version turned out pretty well, though when frosting the cake I accidentally mis-aligned the layers, which affected the way the pocky sticks stacked.
I like a strong green tea flavor, so I used about a cup of organic matcha powder between the cake and frosting. Paired with the dark chocolate and yuzu filling, this was the perfect light and refreshing cake to snack on after a long drive.
About the matcha I used: Sugimoto America is a complete supplier of Japanese green tea and a subsidiary of Sugimoto Seicha, a Japanese green tea company founded in 1946. Based out of Seattle, they were nice enough to send me some great samples of their product, including some powders to bake with.
Their tea is grown and harvested on the mountain slopes of Shizuoka, the tea capital of Japan. All of their tea is blended, roasted, and packed by Tea Maestro Sugimoto, who received the Agricultural Minister Award in 1986.