Recently in Cakes
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

carrot almond cake with ricotta cream

carrot almond cake with ricotta cream

Last week, I made this cake, and I think you should make it this week. Trust me, I think you’ll be glad you did. I bet there are a few carrots that are lounging around in your crisper – everyone does. I wanted to tell you more about it a few days ago, but things, here, have been a little busy. For one, we’re going on our honeymoon in a few days, and as all weeks leading up to a vacation go, this one is frenetic and busy.

Since we got back from Florida, you could find me doing either of the following two things: learning the ropes for this new part-time position I’ve accepted (it’s not food related, but I’m loving it and learning a ton), or reading Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. The latter has also been quite a thrill; I’ve been reading it the way one reads a novel, page by page, recipe by recipe. It’s part cookbook, part botany lesson, part gardening companion. For the record, and sadly, I do not garden since we live in a 650-square-foot apartment, unless you count watering my five-year-old jade plant, Harold (named for a children’s book character) once every four days gardening, in which case, yes, I certainly do dabble in the practice. Harold is a succulent and as far as plants go, you can have a black thumb and not kill it. And given how hot our current apartment gets, not even a sun-loving basil can make it through the scorching summer.

Continue reading carrot almond cake with ricotta cream.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

almond cake

almond cake

A couple of weeks ago, while picking up a coffee at an East Village cafe, the Bluebird Coffee Shop, I ate the best almond cake of my life. The experience was so monumental, that I couldn’t stop talking about this amazing cake. I talked about it to anyone who’d listen, I’d use superlative adjectives, I’d gesticulate wildly. You’d be surprised by just how few people want to hear about the “best almond cake” they’ll ever have. Kind of blew my mind.

I became besotted with this almond cake so much, that I did something I’ve never before in my food blogging and writing career have done—I gathered enough courage to ask the café, outright, for the recipe. And lo!—they gave it to me!

Continue reading almond cake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

pflaumenkuchen – yeasted plum cake

Plaufmenkuchen – Yeasted Plum Cake

Dispatch from a photoshoot: I’m sitting at the Marc Forgione Restaurant right now, while the book photo shoot is under way. It’s kind of an amazing feeling to see something you’ve worked on for over eight months to be coming together so clearly, so resolutely. The cooks are in the kitchen cooking and plating; the restaurant is buzzing with activity; there’s a photographer, an assistant, a stylist, an editor, just to name a few. And all I think to myself – wow, we’re making a book! We’re making a book! It’s been the hardest and best nine months – like having a baby, it feels, but without any breaks whatsoever.

I’m supposed to be editing, but I’m sneaking in a writing break. In my bag, along with my laptop, book materials and notebook, is Luisa’s wonderful book, My Berlin Kitchen* and a slice of her yeasted plum cake, pflaumenkuchen. I read her book in two days (read: you want this book!) while out on the Cape in Wellfleet a few weeks ago. I look back to that week as a singular bright spot after the wedding. My first vacation since January when the book got its start, and I lifted nary a finger. My computer, usually a workhorse and a mainstay on every single trip we’ve taken, got no use; and instead I read, slept, cooked, and ate. The moment I hit “send” on the computer and sent the manuscript onto the editor, my brain shut down. It was time for some Wellfleets and some beer.

Continue reading pflaumenkuchen – yeasted plum cake.

Monday, May 7, 2012

cannoli crepe cake with orange puree

cannoli crepe cake

I think this post should be filed under “I-Can’t-Just-Leave-It-Well-Enough-Alone”. Because, really, I can’t. Here’s the rub: while, in thirty-four years of eating I’ve eaten many a cannoli, I could count probably on one hand the number of times I have actually enjoyed it. This, coming from an Italian (and even more so a Sicilian) food fanatic, is a very sad, even embarrassing admission. But it’s true.

Continue reading cannoli crepe cake with orange puree.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

lemon layer cake – general robert e. lee cake

general robert e. lee cake

Last night I dreamt I ate a chocolate cake.* That in and of itself is odd, because I am not a chocolate cake person in the slightest. That’s not to say that if you give me a slice of chocolate cake I won’t eat it. A glass of milk, a slice of chocolate cake, and some quiet – that would be my idea of heaven.

Generally, I’m pretty happy with any cake, chocolate or otherwise, but if I had my druthers, my perfect cake wouldn’t have a trace of chocolate in it. It would be vanilla and citrus all the way.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes

dark (and brooding)

Let me not beat around the bush and just be out with it – I’m making a hundred cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. One. Hundred. Cupcakes. Deep breaths. I’m clearly trying to challenge the notion that only home-scale baking can come out of a home-scale kitchen. We’ll just see about that. Deb has already successfully tackled a wedding cake, and she’s proof that you can create a large-scale, beautiful cake in a tiny New York kitchen. This is a test of will, patience, and excellent math skills. We’ll see how well I can multiply.

i keep my eggs in a bowl now

In case any of you are wondering how I managed to get involved in this project (because a demanding job in finance and maintaining this blog clearly aren’t keeping me busy enough), let me give you a brief history. Tight budgets are something that are familiar to most of us, especially, those of us living in New York, and particularly in light of the recession. Never mind that the second you mention the word “wedding” to anyone providing a service, they automatically charge you at least twice the regular amount. Want to get a hundred cupcakes from a bakery? That amount alone will probably spike up the price as you’re putting an additional constraint on a bakery that operates to capacity in what is most likely to be a tiny kitchen. Flower arrangements are pricey enough, but wedding flower arrangements are in a pricing category of their own. It’s hardly fair, I think, given how expensive weddings can run. In short, when I found out that my friend India was looking to do a wedding on a shoestring budget, I decided to make these cupcakes for her as a gift.

whisk the dry ingredients...

The advantage of cupcakes over cake is that because there is no cake to cut, guests (that means you, potentially) get their dessert faster. And given my views on dessert, I’m always in favor of eating cake sooner, always looking forward to the cake portion of the meal, in hopes that it will blow me away, and make me believe that really great tasting wedding cake is out there, somewhere. But so far, nothing has stood out, and perhaps that is because most weddings cakes are draped in loathsome fondant (seriously, am I alone in hating the stuff?), offering little besides cloying sweetness. Cupcake, on the other hand, don’t have any fondant (imagine having to drape a teeny cupcake in it) – and thus automatically, the problem falls away.

So, in the next few weeks, you’ll see the project unfold before your eyes. I’ll tell you of my butter-cream woes, and how I learned to “tame the beast”. If nothing else, at the end of this, I will emerge a better baker, and India will get her hundred cupcakes. Hopefully, they’ll be pretty, though my last buttercream adventure has left me nervous freaking out. Practice should, in theory, make perfect.

one. bowl. no. gimmick.

I had to, first, decide on what kind of cupcakes I was going to make – that was the easy part. Almost immediately I decided upon dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting. I ran the idea past India and she loved it. The next step was to decide which chocolate cupcake recipe was goingt o win out in the end? I started to look for recipes for testing, making calculations of what ingredients I might need to have enough for recipe testing.

And just as I was ready to start playing around with recipes, I received a tweet from a lovely friend who generously offered to send me some Scharffenberger chocolate so I could test my chocolate cupcakes to my heart’s delight. An amazing coincidence, as I was going to be using Scharffenberger anyway!! Every week, I buy a few dark chocolate Scharffenberger bars at Whole Foods, and Andrew and I devour them. We’re nothing if not fiercely loyal to the brand. I love eating it and cooking with it. And I certainly didn’t expect to get a windfall of the very product on which I’m very happy to spend my own money. A few days later fifteen (fifteen, people!) pounds of chocolate showed up at my apartment. I expected a few chocolate bars, maybe a can of cocoa, but fifteen pounds!!

chocolate one-bowl cupcakes - wedding

I tested a few batches, from various recipes, adding and subtracting some ingredients, and finally settled on Martha Stewart’s “one bowl” recipe, which I have to say, is downright perfect. Martha really got this recipe down. Outside of scaling down a bit of sugar, you should change nothing here. And it’s got some serious dark-chocolate taste. Oh and the one-bowl part? One bowl cake recipes are New York apartment bakers’ wet dream. Don’t own a mixer? It’s okay – the one bowl cupcakes are mixed by hand with a spatula! Don’t have any counter space? No problem – you just sequentially add ingredients one by one into a, you guessed it, one, single bowl. Can I get an amen?

salted caramel buttercream experiment

And really, the one-bowl thing left with only fewer dishes to wash, for which I am endlessly grateful. If that’s not a thing of beauty, I don’t know what is. And the best part – when the time comes to make nine batches of these babies, I’ll be grateful I have fewer dishes to wash.

Stay tuned for adventures in frosting mishaps. And if any of you have any practical frosting advice to give, please do! I’ll share whatever I learn from my mistakes, but if you have any pointers, I’m all ears!

cooling

Oh, and I’m sorry for making you look at washed out, crappy pictures! The original ones have vanished, somehow, and all I got stuck with were rejects! To make matters worse, Picnik totally broke this morning, and I couldn’t even edit the baddies. Forgive me, it won’t happen again.

Continue reading project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes.