hygge & cinnamon pear cake.

last year, talking with a few girlfriends about books we were reading, a friend said she was reading The Year of Living Danishly. she had just started it but said that so far it was funny and interesting and explained that the part she was in was talking about a Danish word: hygge. she said it was something about being warm & cozy, and we all laughed about how to pronounce the word (“hue-guh” not “hoo-gah”).

sounding like an interesting, light-hearted read, i put the book on my to-read list, but i was the most intrigued about that word: hygge. warm? cozy? sold! Google, of course, gave me lots of great places to learn more, which i did lightly, but it wasn’t until the end of the year that i really came back to it.

each year, i choose a word to focus on for the year. i first heard about “one word” in 2012, and i think of it in a few ways: sometimes as a word that i need to focus on…something to choose. other times the word is more of a lens…something that helps me as i’m making decisions. without much expectation, i chose “breathe” for 2013, and lo & behold, it truly was a word that helped guide that year; so i kept at it.

usually a word would surface as the year began, but at the end of last year, “hygge” popped back into my mind. i felt like it would be a good word for 2018, so i started to dig into it more seriously. without a direct English translation, hygge can maybe most closely be described as a feeling, but as i continue to learn, it seems more like a mindfulness or an intentionality to me. i love how alex at hyggehouse put it:

…whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cosy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each others company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.

and with that: i think hygge is basically my life word…but starting with a year is probably a good idea ;o) hygge effectively sums up in one word what i’ve been using many words to try to describe for the past few years; what i have been working towards & how i want to continue to grow.

wired for productivity & feeling a constant need to be a better multi-tasker, i truly long to slow down & be more intentional. getting married, becoming a parent, and moving into our house are all things that have made continuing to choose this new lifestyle even more meaningful, but – even after a few years of work – daaaang do i have a long way to go! i know i’m doing a lot of re-programming after so many years of feeling like i’ve needed to work harder, do more, and excel. i remind myself often that Rome wasn’t built in a day & that small steps matter.

by the grace of God, i’m getting there, and i feel like learning more about hygge is already another helpful lens for me. it’s helped me take a step back & think less about what i need to do or not do and more about how i do things. how i hope others receive time with me or time with us at our house.

then it hit me, these past few days, that it also includes how i go about doing even the most normal things & the simple ways i can enjoy them – or enjoy them more. lighting a candle while i work. [finds & lights candle; immediately feels more cozy.] a cup of tea. gardening. weekend brunch. a vase of pretty blooms. typing those things out makes them sound so simple, and in general they are, but i know that the profundity of hygge is the balance it strikes between how we do what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for (ourselves included). and that sounds like a very worthwhile life – er, year – pursuit.

it could just be me, soaking up the cozy, slow nature of these snowy winter minnesota days, but i think winter may draw out the hygge-ness in many of us. bundling up to head out, then the rush of warmth as you enter a cozy house and gather around fireplaces and tables with friends and family. slow meals. pajama-jamy days with only playing & naps & movies under soft blankets on the agenda. whatever it is for you, i hope you find those simple moments more readily and that they leave their joyful, peace-breathing mark on your heart each time.

one thing that brings me great joy & slows me down is cooking & baking for others. the very nature of cooking & baking evoke hygge for me (maybe not so much weeknight cooking hygge-ness, yet. i love it but, i’m working on more cozy/calm, less post-work hustle/multi-tasking. maybe lighting a candle will help? haha!), and the recipe below was really fun to make and has been a gift to enjoy together this weekend.

:: cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce ::
adapted slightly from nigel slater, ripe

pear cake slice

nigel writes, in the head note for the recipe, “This is the most gorgeous fudge sauce imaginable, tasting like melted, creamy vanilla toffee. The pear cake isn’t bad either.” our family would like to enthusiastically second, third, and fourth his sentiments. that sauce…

i needed to make a few ingredient substitutions:
–  i commonly sub light brown sugar for light muscovado sugar and did so here.
– i used granulated sugar in place of golden baker’s sugar. google pointed me in that direction, letting me know that golden baker’s sugar can be found – it’s just rather expensive.
– i didn’t have self-rising flour but found a number of recipes that all lead me to the same result: it’s super simple to make. to each cup of flour, add 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. whisk well & use as directed in recipe.


14 tablespoons (200g) butter, softened
1 cup (200g) golden baker’s sugar [sub: regular granulated sugar]
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups (200g) self-rising flour [if making your own: 1½ cups flour + 2¼ teaspoons baking powder + ⅜ teaspoon salt]
½ teaspoon baking powder

1½ pounds (750g) ripe pears
½ lemon
3 tablespoons (40g) butter
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
heaping ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

vanilla fudge sauce
scant ½ cup (100g) light muscovado sugar [sub: light brown sugar]
⅓ cup (100g) maple syrup or golden syrup [i used maple syrup]
3½ tablespoons (50g) butter
⅔ cup (150ml) heavy cream
a couple drops of vanilla extract


  1. preheat oven to 325º.
  2. lightly butter a 9½ inch springform cake pan (ours is 9 inches and was fine. i don’t see why an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan wouldn’t work).


  1. peel, halve, and core the pears. dice into ¾ inch cubes. to prevent pears from browning, you can put them in a bowl of water mixed with the juice from the half lemon.
  2. melt butter and muscovado/brown sugar in a medium sauté pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. add pears (drain, if in lemon water) and cinnamon to the pan, cooking until they are tender and the sauce coats the pears; about 5 minutes. take pan off the heat to cool.


  1. in a medium bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and golden baker’s/granulated sugar until light and creamy.
  2. alternating (so that the mixture doesn’t curdle), add eggs and half of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  3. using a spatula, fold in the remaining flour and the baking powder, followed by the cooked pears and their syrup.
  4. pour batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden. a metal skewer inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean when it’s done. in a pan smaller than 9½ inches, the cake will take longer.
    * i checked the cake every 3 minutes and ended up needing and additional 6 minutes for a 9 inch springform pan.

vanilla fudge sauce

  1. stir together sugar, syrup, and butter in a small sauce pan.
  2. bring mixture to a boil for about a minute, stirring only enough to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
  3. stir in the cream, remove from heat.
  4. add the vanilla, stir well, and leave to cool. sauce will thicken as it cools.

serve slices of cake topped with a spoonful of sauce. slater also recommends ice cream which would be decadent, but even with “just” the sauce, it’s a warm, cozy, luxurious treat.

yield: one 9½ inch cake; approximately 1 cup of sauce; 8-10 servings


2017 & cake for dinner.

friends, i’m fairly certain that i could sit here for hours looking at the screen with this post 75% ready to go with the cake picture, link, and recipe written & formatted. days, even. maybe weeks? because the other part of the post – the part where i jump back in to this little old blog spot-o-mine – that part i feel like i need to do “right.”

“right.” oy! such an unnecessarily heavy word sometimes, isn’t it? but we’re going to shake off all of that & jump in. just like that :o) small steps, one at a time.

a few things have happened since that last post just shy of two (two?!) years ago. i tried writing about 15 different posts after that one, as we stepped into IVF, and i don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t work to post them. so to fast forward: we are one of the incredibly, overwhelmingly, beyond-any-words-ever blessed couples that it worked for. and i have to tell you: we have spent the last year watching the most ridiculously awesome little boy grow & learn & basically amaze us daily. we are for sure THOSE cliché parents.

we also moved into a new house (1.5 weeks before the babe arrived. totally sensible!) on the exact opposite side of town. so, you could say that 2016 was full to the brim with learning  & all the new things all at the same time. it was wonderful. and it was busy. and it was exhausting.

i love every ounce of what 2016 held for us – how we grew together as a family, how it shaped us more into who we are created to be, how we learned about each other & ourselves as husband & wife, parents, creatives…and i am looking so forward to 2017. to slowing down, savoring this sweet, fleeting season, loving well & focusing on each other,  doing some new things.

and how better to start a year than with cake for dinner on new year’s eve, right?

to back up a few steps, my permanent christmas eve job is bringing dessert. i hadn’t even started thinking about what to bring when i stumbled upon this recipe, but there was immediately no other option once i saw it. in the interest of full disclosure, the cake itself is easy to make, but the marshmallow fluff & buttercream frosting take some time. it’s not an every day, one bowl & done recipe, but for a special occasion, it’s absolutely worth the effort. plus, the recipe as written made extra fluff & buttercream, so i made an extra cake on new year’s eve. which gets us back to that cake for dinner thing. there’s a first time for everything!

:: hot chocolate cake ::
adapted – barely – from the cake blog (a recipe by olivia bogacki)


i joke that there are certain female “musts” that i wasn’t born with – one being i don’t love chocolate. i’ve never been one for chocolate cake or chocolate frosting, much less the two together, so the fact that this cake recipe & this chocolate frosting recipe are now my go-tos says something. the cake is dense & rich while the frosting is light & rich. both in their own way that i can only best describe – as strange as it may sound – as luxurious.

the recipe as written made three times more marshmallow fluff and two times more buttercream than i used to assemble the cake – and i don’t think i skimped on either one. we used the leftovers in hot chocolate & took little tastes by spoonful before making a second cake & still having fluff left over.

the original recipe didn’t mention anything about making components or assembling the cake ahead of time, but i don’t see any reason why you couldn’t do either of these things. if you would like to do either of these things, i’ve made notes at the bottom of the recipe.


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil (i used canola)
½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot chocolate, made with milk

marshmallow fluff
⅓ cup water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
3 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

chocolate buttercream frosting
5 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ cups butter, at room temp, cut into ½” cubes
4 oz dark chocolate, melted & cooled (i used bittersweet)



  1. preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. grease two 8″ round cake pans. line bottoms with parchment & dust with cocoa powder.
  3. measure all dry ingredients into the bowl & mix until combined.
    * i recommend mixing by hand with a whisk. both times i used my electric mixer i ended up with a thin layer of cocoa powder all over my counters…even when i was really careful the second time.
  4. in a separate bowl or large measuring cup (4 cup works well), mix the eggs, oil, buttermilk, & vanilla. slowly add the warm hot chocolate while whisking constantly.
  5. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes (or by hand until everything is combined & there is no sign of dry ingredients). the batter will be very thin.
  6. pour batter evenly into prepared pans. bake for 30 minutes (checking at 25 minutes) or until a toothpick  inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
  7. cook cakes on wire rack for about 10 minutes, then take them out, peel off the parchment, & let them cool completely.

marshmallow fluff

  1. combine water, sugar, & corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then insert a candy thermometer and stop stirring. you are watching for the temperature to reach 225ºF.
  2. while you are waiting, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  3. when the sugar syrup reaches 225ºF, start whipping the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. *continue monitoring the sugar syrup*
  4. when the sugar syrup reaches 240ºF, remove the pan from the heat, turn the mixer speed to medium, and very slowly pour the sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites in a thin stream.
  5. once all of the syrup is in the mixer with the whipped egg whites, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and whip the fluff until it is thick & glossy and the bowl of the mixer is no longer hot. the original recipe says this takes about 7-8 minutes.
  6. turn the mixer speed down to medium, add the vanilla, and mix until combined.

chocolate buttercream frosting

  1. place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until combined.
  2. insert a candy thermometer into the bowl with egg white & sugar mixture, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk constantly (to prevent eggs from cooking).
  3. when the egg white & sugar mixture reaches 160ºF, remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8-10 minutes – again feeling for the bowl to cool down, this time so that it is no longer warm. the meringue will be fluffy, glossy, & will hold stiff peaks.
  5. switch to the paddle attachment and, with mixer speed on low, slowly add the butter in small cubes. mix until all of the butter is mixed in & there are no streaks or chunks.
  6.  add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and whip on medium-high until silky and smooth.

to assemble the cake

  1. place one cake layer onto serving plate. pipe a dam of chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake (this prevents the fluff from seeping out; i put some frosting in a plastic bag & cut a small tip off) and the spread about a cup of the fluff in the middle.
  2. put the second cake layer on top.
  3. from here you can do whatever works for you. if you want to do a crumb coat – go for it! if you want to just frost it – go for it! the original recipe called for a crumb coat & 20 minutes in the fridge before frosting. i skipped the crumb coat & didn’t have any trouble.
  4. i used my fancy plastic bag for piping again & did little scallops of fluff on the top, but it was a little fussy, so i went with piped rounds around the bottom of the cake. the video they link to is helpful if you want to try the scallops :o)

assembling the cake ahead of time: the second cake we made was eaten over the course of a week (stored in the refrigerator), and we didn’t think it ever dried out or lost flavor. i think assembling the cake up to one day before serving it would be just fine. Store the assembled cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator, taking it out 30-60 minutes before serving to let the buttercream warm up.

making components ahead of time: each component (cake, marshmallow fluff, buttercream frosting) can be made prior to assembly.

  • cakes: the fully cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored one night before assembly (i did this), or in the comments, the author of the cake blog says they can be wrapped in plastic wrap & stored in zip-top freezer bags in the freezer, thawing before assembly.
  • mashmallow fluff: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. you can use it cold from the refrigerator for assembly.
  • buttercream: can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. let it warm to room temperature for 30-60 minutes before assembly.

yield: one 8” 2-layer cake; 12 servings