Marla was sitting at her computer writing and I was like... step away, woman, I want to speak to my people! 

I'm sleepy today. I know I'd mentioned we hired a wonderful nanny; it was necessary with Philip being gone during the week and 3 kids plus a full time job doing their best to leave me hairless and insane. Anna is practically sleep-trained. She nurses at 7:30, has 2 ounces while still asleep, and then she’s out until 7am. David still calls out for mom at about 1am every night and I just bring him into bed with me. Last night was the nanny’s day/night off, so it was a little nutty for me.

But this post is actually about the strawberry guava layer cake that I made with the guavas that Marla harvested from my gynocologist's back yard. Yup, that happened. 

Long story short, I’d seen Dr. Sean Daneshmand (the number one high-risk pregnancy doctor on planet Earth, if you ask me) that morning to check on Anna. While I was there, he was snacking on guavas... and he offered me some. And I became obsessed. I’d never had these before! I grew up with a guava tree, of course, but these were sweeter, more flavorful, and a gorgeous bright burgundy color that would make for a gorgeous dessert filling... so we swapped! I was busy in meetings that morning, so Marla headed over to Dr. D’s house with a really good bottle of wine and an empty harvest bag. Home came the guavas and this layer cake was imagined and born, inspired by my mom’s famous guava layer cake.

I texted Dr. D a photo of the cake but I’ve yet to keep my promise of making him the actual cake. But I will. He is, after all, responsible for the healthy births of my 3 children, along with 12 other children in my family (yes, 12). He IS family. And he’s not only family, but he’s also one of the people I admire most for his humanitarian work. Dr. D is the founder of Miracle Babies, the non-profit that assists families with babies in the NICU. His heart is so big that it actually found its way to Tijuana’s General Hospital, where he saw the babies and mamas struggling in terrible conditions in the NICU there. He was then inspired to start Miracle Babies Mexico. I’ve been involved with his efforts, with Miracle Babies, and the KIVA center (the women-only rehab center that accepts moms with their kids), but it wasn’t until Anna was born and she was in the NICU... and I suddenly was the mom of a Miracle Baby myself... that I realized how important it was to support this foundation. And truly, it made me love him 100 times more than I already did. So thank you, Dr. D. I promise to keep supporting you and your generous efforts as you support vulnerable women and children of our community and those in Tijuana. We need more men like you and more humans like you: the kind who understand that if mom is okay, the world is okay. Who understand that we have an obligation to also help those who feel they have nothing to be grateful for. Thank you for being such a great example, not only for me, but for my children. Thank you for being not only a doctor, but a friend. For answering my texts in the wee hours of the morning, for randomly calling and asking about Anna, for sending me photos of your daughter. And thank you for your tireless efforts to create human connections in a world that would otherwise have us disconnecting from one another by the minute. I strive to be more like you every day. 

Even this darn cake is your fault. So when I feel I have a little more control of the insanity that is Casa Marcela right now, I promise to make that layer cake and drive it to your home myself. 

And to everybody else, find yourself a doctor with a strawberry guava tree (or substitute with yellow guavas) and head over to to make a donation. Everybody was a newborn once… that’s the only motivation you will need to help today…


Fresh Guava Gluten Free Layer Cake


Cake Layers:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups  all-purpose gluten free  flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½  cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Guava Filling:

  • 2 pounds fresh ripe guavas (each about size of a golf ball), brown tops removed
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups chopped unsalted pistachios


To make the cake layers, position one rack in the top third and another in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray the three 9-inch nonstick cake pans with nonstick cooking spray.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, corn starch, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the large egg, egg whites, and vanilla together in another bowl. Using an electric mixer beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until well blended. Add the egg mixture in three additions, beating until well blended after each addition. Then beat in the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, scraping down the inside of bowl occasionally.

Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until layers are puffed and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let the cake layers cool completely in the pans. Invert the cakes onto the racks. (The cake layers can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.)

To make guava filling, combine the guavas, ¾ cup water, and the granulated sugar in a medium-size heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until the guavas begin to break and are tender. Drain the guavas, reserving the syrup. Cool both separately.

Seed and coarsely chop half of the guavas (they may fall apart slightly). Set the chopped guavas aside. Put the seeds in a blender and add the remaining guavas, the cream cheese, and 1 cup of the reserved syrup. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, whisking the mixture in the strainer to extract as much of the liquid as possible. (Discard the solids.) Gently mix in the chopped guavas.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on a platter. Brush 3 tablespoons of the remaining reserved syrup over the cake. Spread half of the guava filling over the top. Top with a second cake layer, brush with 3 tablespoons syrup, and spread with the remaining guava filling. Top with the third cake layer. Refrigerate until ready to frost.

To make cream cheese frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Cover and refrigerate for 25 minutes, or until firm enough to spread.

Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Coat the sides of the cake with the pistachios. Cut into slices and serve.