Archived entries for cake

A Cake-for-Breakfast Kind of Day

Some mornings start like this: it’s been too long since laundry day so there are no clean clothes to wear. You pour a bowl of Cheerios and then open the fridge and realize you’re out of milk. And you’re late for work already.

This is the sort of thing that gets me pretty close to tears, but my apartment happens to be situated a block from one of the city’s best (and teeniest) coffee shops, and so within five minutes of the Cheerios incident I was saved from the brink, clutching a seriously strong Abraço cold-brewed iced coffee and a slice of tender olive oil loaf still warm from the oven, walking toward work through the farmer’s market in Union Square and telling New York City I will always be loyal.

When my editor at Serious Eats invited me to tag along with her to Cathy Erway’s potluck lunch/launch (call it a la-unch) for her new project, Lunch at Sixpoint, I accepted eagerly, and immediately decided to bring this cake, a spin on that amazing olive oil loaf, studded with the season’s first tart cherries (and a handful of sweet ones as well.) I baked two pans full, and I recommend you do the same. It’s so moist and delicate, lightly sweet and soft.

The garden at Sixpoint is brilliant: Cathy and the team have filled damaged kegs from the brewery (and a few empty bathtubs) with all manner of edible plants, from eggplant to tomatillos, kale and lettuces, green beans and strawberries, even corn, potatoes, and melons. There’s a chicken coop and a way to gather rainwater, and in the office, a big dining room table to gather around and share all that fresh-grown food.

Cathy made a frittata and super-fresh salad, and soon the tables was piled with good things: a massive brick of aged cheddar, little homemade chipotle bagels, cakes and pies, salads and jams. My olive oil cake was well received, and I’m happy to have a second one at home. A dollop of fresh whipped cream (no sugar needed) or ice cream isn’t a bad idea, or a spoonful of yogurt if you’re having a cake-in-the-morning kind of day. One bite and you’ll swear off those Cheerios.

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RoboJesusSpaceBaby Cake (or, The. Best. Coconut. Cake. Evar.)

There’s a longstanding joke about my alma mater that goes a little something like this: A Sarah Lawrence girl will do anything–except math. And it’s funny because it’s true (for the most part); with the exception of the ladies enrolled in the school’s mighty genetics department, we were not a bunch known for our mathematical prowess.  I want you to keep this fact in mind as you read this post.

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About this time last year, my lovely friend A and I got together for a baking date, which resulted in the creation of the famous and wonderful RoboJesusSpaceBabyCake. (Which, for the uninitiated, was a coconut cake so named because of the AWESOME box we made for it.). It was tremendous! And delicious! And amazing! Everything you’d ever want in a coconut cake!

And so of course I promptly lost the recipe.

[insert sounds of wailing, gnashing of teeth]

Fast forward to last week, wherein I found myself craving a slice of RoboJesusSpaceBabyCake. Craving it SO FIERCELY, in fact, that I spent at least two hours combing the internet, from whence the original recipe came, trying to locate it. After much hunting, I found it! And there was much rejoicing!

…until I decided to take it from a double layer cake to a triple layer cake. By increasing the recipe by 1/3. Instead of, you know. Just increasing it by half. Which would have the logical way to approach this.

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This is what happens when you let me start baking at midnight. Math. Lots and lots of unnecessary math. And after spending some time scrabbling fraction-based equations in my cooking notes, I can tell you this with authority: 1/3 is a RIDICULOUS multiplier to use in the kitchen. Most measuring spoons are not made to dole out 7/12ths of a teaspoon.

Fortunately, the cake was just as awesome as I’d remembered: dense, rich, delicious, not too sweet (well, until you slathered it with cream cheese frosting), and an excellent excuse to throw an impromptu party for some of my best and brightest. And any equation that adds up that nicely is okay by me.

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And now, without further ado:

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Cranberry-Almond Olive Oil Cake

Every apartment in New York has its quirks. Our ceiling mysteriously cracks and the fireplace sometimes serves as a rainwater-delivery pipe. The scent of takeout food (and other substances) fills the stairwell, and the hookah bar across the courtyard keeps turning its music up higher in the hopes of luring some customers.

And in winter there are the cold drafts. Temperatures at foot level near my desk at home drop, and wind actually blows across the floor, I swear. That first cold whoosh has me shrieking and running back to the kitchen.

With the oven on and something fragrant baking, I tell myself I can face another winter. A slice of this lovely cake and a cup of tea helps a lot.

I am very into olive oil baked goods these days, and this is another winner. The recipe comes from Gina DePalma, the pastry chef at the famed Babbo restaurant, via my friend Olga of Sassy Radish. It’s a shockingly easy to whip up, but quite elegant when you’re done.

And it’s delicious. The delicate crumb and almond flavor are perfect on their own, though my addition of tart cranberries wakes it up a little. Along with citrus, cranberries are one of my strongest winter cravings, and this cake was a good vehicle for their bright flavor. In summer you could make a delicious version with red currants or sour cherries, but then you might not be quite so eager to turn on the oven.

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The Endless Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake

I’m not going to claim this was a quick one. First, I had to track down chocolate wafer cookies (no, Oreos are not the same thing.) Then, I assembled our new food processor for the first time and gleefully swirled the cookies around in it. I chopped up some good chocolate and weighed it out with our new kitchen scale. Then, I called my mother to tell her how exciting it was to use the new food processor and new kitchen scale. An hour had gone by and I wasn’t even done with step one.

But once I got rolling, with the help of my friend (and cheesecake expert extraordinaire) Lindsay, I got more and more excited. The scent of dark chocolate ganache and freshly ground espresso beans wafted through the kitchen. The buttery chocolate-crumb crust rested in the freezer. The recipe was from Lindsay’s files—she used to bake cheesecakes for local restaurants in New Hampshire after college. She became a bit famous, but the constant cheesecakes were so much work, and the ingredients so costly, that it wasn’t quite worth it.

Five hours after I started with the crust, the coffee cheesecake layer was baked and topped with a slightly tart and rich sour cream layer (like the foam on a cappucino.) Five hours. And it still needed chilling and decorating. Dear readers, do not plan on making this the evening of of a dinner party. This is not a last-minute dessert.

But therein lies the beauty. Once assembled and topped with a lattice of dark chocolate ganache, this baby really improves in the fridge. I’m not exaggerating—the first day we ate this cake, we were underwhelmed. And then something magical happened, and with a second day’s rest, the flavors melded and the cheesecake layer grew creamier and more luscious. Lindsay and I made the cake on Wednesday, adding ganache on Thursday, and on Friday friends who came over to help us eat it couldn’t stop cooing over their hefty slices.

And that wasn’t the end—there was still so much cake left. But guests who joined us the following Wednesday (a full week after the five hour baking marathon) couldn’t get over how delicious it was. The intense coffee flavor! The fudgy crust! The perfect balance of the creamy-and-tart topping! When they returned two nights later they were saddened that we’d finally, finally finished the last slice. “Just think of all the unfortunate people who didn’t get to taste that cheesecake,” one lamented (after a few beers.)

But you (and your friends—it’s a big cake) don’t have to be unfortunate in that way. Just make sure you’ve got a little time on your hands.

Recipe after the jump.

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Looking for an easier cheesecake? This crustless lemony goat cheese cheesecake was easy as pie…or easier.

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Inheritance: Sunny citrus pound cake

Though ten years ago I’d never have admitted it, the similarity between my mother and me is sometimes breathtakingly apparent. We are both opinionated and perhaps a touch bossy; our tempers are quick to fire and equally quick to cool; we’re the same height and have the same unruly hair. We are, at times, painfully stubborn. Most striking, however (at least, we’ve been told), are the eyes; our eyes are the exact same color, an identical shade of blue that has been sported by generations of women in our family. That’s right: the same golden blue that could laser the truth out of me when I was 14 was turned similarly upon my mother when she was a child, courtesy of my grandmother, Alice.

Lemon pound cake

The color of our eyes was not the only thing Alice passed down. It’s from her that I got my artistic tendencies; she was a painter, and did many beautiful renderings of my grandfather Harold’s beloved orchids. It’s from her that I also got my hypochondria (though hers was, admittedly, a more pronounced case that I hope is not my legacy) and, I suspect, my love for the sound of the German language. She had a penchant for fuchsia lipstick and blue jewelry that has recently made itself apparent in my own tastes, and an enthusiasm for cooking with sour cream that is replicating itself in my ever-growing obsession with Greek yogurt. While some of her sour cream experiments were…well…a bit on the more esoteric side (bacon-wrapped sour cream chicken, anyone?), she had one recipe that remains, to my way of thinking, the entire POINT of sour cream–an elegant, chewy, divine citrusy pound cake.

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