We love where we live. Eagle Rock is a thriving artistic community just twenty minutes from downtown L.A. Our quiet neighborhood is tucked away up in the hills far from the noise and traffic, surrounded by tall trees and expansive views. And though the city is nearby, it doesn’t feel that way, especially with the variety of wildlife that live in the area. Just the other evening, we had our second close encounter with a skunk!
While walking down the steps to go check on our fruit trees, the striped black and white creature appeared from under a bush just six feet away. Without a word, and in perfect unison, we both immediately turned around and walked quickly and quietly back up the stairs hoping it wouldn’t notice us. As soon as we reached the top, we sprinted all the way back to the house.
We have also been very fortunate to see a beautiful bobcat. The first time she was lounging on our front porch, and we thought it was just a large house cat, but after looking more closely we noticed tuffs on her ears and her iconic short tail. We have families of mischievous raccoons that like to eat the fruit from our trees and hide our small garden decorations. There are rabbits, harmless snakes, hawks, owls, and even wild parrots—yes, large green ones with red faces—that have also made their home here. We get the best of both worlds: it feels like we live out in the country with crickets chirping and owls hooting throughout the night, but we are a short walk away from all the new restaurants, coffee shops, and bars popping up all over town.
We love exploring this up-and-coming neighborhood, and recently tried a local burger joint called the Oinkster that is so popular, there are often lines out the door. While this place is known for burgers and fries, they also have a delicious selection of homemade shakes made with real ice cream. There are classic choices like chocolate and vanilla, and seasonal flavors like pecan pie during the holidays, but they are famous for their ube shake.
Although we had never heard of ube before, people were raving about it on yelp and we were curious to give it a try. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, it arrived in a clear plastic cup, showing off an attractive lavender color. From the first taste we were hooked: It was rich and creamy with a sweet coconut flavor and hints of vanilla. We fell in love with the delicate taste and couldn’t wait to cook with it. We became ube fans on that day, and have never looked back.
So what is ube anyway? Unless you are familiar with Filipino cuisine, you may not have encountered this intensely-colored root vegetable before. Ube is the Filipino name for purple yam, and its sweet, coconut-like flavor is featured in desserts and sweet treats like ice cream, tarts, cookies, and pastries. This cake recipe uses both powdered ube and ube extract, so its unique flavor can be enjoyed in every bite. These two ingredients are common at Filipino grocery stores and also available online.
Making a cake feels like a special occasion. While you can easily whip up a batch of cookies when the craving hits—which is often—and pies are always fun to make, baking a cake is an event. Whether it’s for a birthday, an anniversary, or simply a special dinner, a towering layer cake, filled, frosted, and lovingly decorated, will turn any gathering into a memorable celebration.
In this recipe, four layers of rich and moist ube cake are stacked high and filled with ribbons of the fluffiest vanilla marshmallow cream. It is draped with silky ube frosting, giving it a stunning purple color. This beautiful pastel tower will be the centerpiece of any party, and is sure to attract attention for its beauty alone, and the irresistible flavor will have everyone coming back for a second slice.
The delicate lavender color of this cake makes it perfect for spring, and we decorated it using blossoms from the bougainvillea currently blooming outside our kitchen door. It is fun to get creative so decorate however you feel inspired! Try fresh flowers, or use the violet frosting to pipe designs on the cake. No matter what you do, it will be beautiful! This is the dream dessert for anyone who loves the color purple, and the irresistible coconutty flavor makes it a dream dessert for everyone.
Ube Cake with Vanilla Marshmallow Cream
makes a 4-layer 6-inch cake, serves 8 to 10
For the cake:
1 3/4 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (100g) unsweetened fine ube powder (see note)
1/2 cup milk (non-dairy milk is fine)
1/2 cup (125g) plain yogurt
4 teaspoons (20ml) ube extract (see note)
1/2 cup (1 stick, 110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
For the vanilla marshmallow cream:
1/2 cup (57g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g (about 2/3 cup) marshmallow fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the ube frosting:
2 cups (227g) powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks, 220g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10ml) ube extract
Bake the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 6-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper, grease the paper, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ube powder, and whisk until evenly blended. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, and ube flavor until smooth. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until smooth. Add a third of the dry ingredients, and stir gently by hand just until blended. Add half of the liquid ingredients, and stir until blended. Continue adding the ingredients alternately, stirring between each addition just until blended. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans, and spread it evenly using a spatula. Tap the pans against the countertop to release any air bubbles. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Transfer pans to a rack to cool briefly, then invert the cakes, remove the cake pan and parchment paper, and place back on the rack to cool completely.
Make the vanilla marshmallow cream filling:
Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl, add the butter, and beat until light, smooth, and fluffy. Add the marshmallow fluff and vanilla, and continue to beat until smooth. Set aside.
Make the ube frosting:
Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl, add the butter, and beat until smooth. Add the ube flavor and beat until light and fluffy.
Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the two cakes to make them flat. Then cut each cake in half horizontally, making four thinner layers total. Place one cake layer on a serving plate, and top with 1/3 of the marshmallow cream, spreading it almost to the edge of the cake but leaving a 1/2-inch border all around with no cream. Place another layer on top, and repeat with another 1/3 of the cream. Add the third layer in the same way, use the last of the cream, then top with the final cake layer. Use the ube frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake, using any extra for piping and decoration if desired.
— Ube powder and ube extract are both available online, or at grocery stores that cater to a Filipino clientele. When purchasing ube powder, be sure to buy powder that is finely ground like flour. Some ube powder is more coarse like cornmeal, and will result in a gritty cake. (Thanks to commenter Nancy for the helpful tip!)
— The cake layers can be baked up to 2 days in advance. Simply let them cool completely on a rack, then wrap tightly in plastic and keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.