Celebration Cakes Archive

Friday, March 22, 2013

chocolate-hazelnut macaroon torte

chocolate hazelnut macaroon torte

When it comes to large family gatherings, no matter how much I humble-brag about my brisket, roasted vegetable sides or the way I know my way around a salad, I am always instead nominated to bring desserts. So, like a certain Phoebe on cup-and-ice duty that I will date myself by referencing, I take things very seriously, in part because I have a lot of rules for Passover desserts. The first is that that whatever dessert I make cannot include even a speck of matzo meal. I’m sorry, I realize this is a sensitive topic and I should tread more carefully, but I find the taste of matzo meal just awful in anything but matzo ball soup. My difficult palate aside, I also figure if I’m going to go through the effort to come up with something new (and hopefully better) in the flourless department, it would be of more use to more people were it also gluten-free, so that’s the second rule. The final rule is that I want the dessert to be good enough that I’d choose it any other day of year. It can’t just be good for a Passover dessert. It can’t just be good for something gluten-free. It has to be objectively good. Really, shouldn’t everything be?

already toasted and kinda peeled hazelnuts
whirling and whirling the hazelnuts

My inspiration this year was a cake I found on Epicurious. Isn’t it a beaut? I knew I had to find a way to make it happen, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be the way it was written. Aside from the fact that it is not actually a Schwarzwälder Torte (a chocolate cake with whipped cream, cherries and often Kirsh, what we sometimes refer to as a Black Forest Cake) and that it contains both flour and powdered sugar (a Passover no-no, unless you find or make cornstarch-free stuff), reviewers seemed very unhappy with the meringues, which were too thin and from what I could tell, not particularly flavorful. I turned instead to the macaroon component of an almond torte I made a few years ago; the torte was a headache but the macaroons ended up having a lovely flavor largely because they contained such a high proportion of nuts. Given the choice, I always prefer meringues that are closer to macaroons.

ground hazelnuts with sugar and salt

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

roasted apple spice sheet cake

roasted apple spice subway cake

Yesterday, our little bear turned three which, you know, is impossible since we are unequivocally certain that we just brought him home from the hospital yesterday. Seriously, right here, through the door to my right and we put the carrier that he was sleeping deeply within on the table. It looked strange there [Also, we were hungry and unsure of the logistics -- is it rude to eat lunch while your newborn is on the table? Isn't it worse to place him on the floor?] Sure, there were one or two hundred fewer fire engine parts, stuffed hedgehogs and train tracks scattered across the living room carpet, and maybe we looked a little younger and better-rested; I probably didn’t have my iPhone wedged between sofa cushions the way I do right now so that my talking-walking-doing things mini-human couldn’t co-opt it to watch Elmo videos again (how does he find them?), but otherwise, nothing has changed. Nothing! Don’t say it. Didn’t your mother teach you to never argue with crazy people?

apples
lightly roasting the apples

I know a lot of people who have had babies lately and I feel like I should say something wise here because I understand how utterly hectic the first few months can be, not because newborns are particularly difficult but because you’re terrified you’re going to break them, or maybe just a little shell-shocked in general. One minute they’re slumped over your shoulder snoring the tiniest snore ever emitted and you feel utterly centered, a sense of all the generations that came before this one gathered invisibly around their squished faces in beaming admiration, and the next they’re red-faced and full of rage, their squawking mouths in a perfect open circle, and you and your significant other are frantically running through the checklist you keep in your heads (hungry? cold? tired? wet?) which grows more complicated every few months (is your swaddle loose? did you roll over in the night again and can’t get yourself back? so help us, did we put you to bed with the little George and you wanted the big one?) and more complicated still (“Mommy, we have to take Ernie, Bert and Twacktor back to the park.” “Jacob, it’s 2 a.m. Please go back to sleep.”). I also have a bunch of friends who are quite close to deciding to have babies but they’re so understandably freaked out by everything they read about the crying and the not sleeping and the life will never be the same ever ever again that they’re terrified to move forward. But I can’t. I have no wisdom to impart, no pithy catchphrases that will cause it all to make sense. I can only say LOOK AT THIS. I can no longer imagine life any other way.

cake delight

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 13, 2011

dobos torte

mine

Last week, when it was ninety million degrees in New York City and all the sane people were cracking open fire hydrants, grilling on their roof decks and/or sticking their faces in their wheezing air conditioner units, I looked around my shoebox kitchen, with its half-counter and miniature oven, considered the sheer volume of items left on my to-do that I’d never get done and said, “Clearly, this is the day for me to make an 11-layer dobos torte.” Because my birthday was two days away and that seemed as good as any to sever what frayed tethers I had left to my sanity. [Plus, I already had cleaning help!]

lots of eggs, lots of yolks
thick, ribbony batter

Growing up, my family and I considered the 7-layer cake to be the ne plus ultra of bakery cakes. They were rectangular, filled with a pale, faintly mocha flavored buttercream and coated, top and sides, with a firmer dark chocolate frosting. I’ll be the first to admit that their flavor wasn’t always spectacular, but did you hear the part about the seven layers? The awesomeness of this trumped all chocolate intensity quibbles. What I hadn’t realized, however, is that the historical home of this cake was not (shockingly) a circa-1980s Central New Jersey strip mall bakery, but a Budapest, Hungary specialty food shop where one József C. Dobos invented it his namesake torte in 1887, which became so famous that the city threw a full scale city-wide fete to celebrate its 75th anniversary. That there is some cake.

puddle of batter

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Monday, September 20, 2010

monkey cake

monkey cakes

I’m pretty serious about birthday cakes. When I think of someone being presented with some shortening spackled quarter sheet cake from a discount grocery chain on their birthday — a day they only get to celebrate once a year! Which is like forever if you’re a kid or perhaps the sort of grownup who didn’t get the memo that at the age of 34, birthdays are really not supposed to be a big deal anymore — it makes me sad. Not judgmental-sad, because lord knows I could barely eke out this cake on Saturday, and it’s supposed to be, like, my calling, but empathetic-sad because I totally blame lousy, intimidating recipes for making the two-layer + frosting task seem not worth it to go it at home. I hope to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the fluffy, towering, butter-laden imperfectly frosted, slightly crooked homemade cake they deserve for making it through another year. Or, perhaps, one’s entire life to date, for the first birthday set.

bananas a-mashingbanana batterlevelling the cakesmaking a mini-monkey

pinning on the earsbuttercream pillow, coming right up!little monkey cakemonkey cakes, senior and junior

Of course, the joke is on me because who went without a homemade birthday cake this year? Yup, you’re looking at her. Who else? Yup, the husband. It turns out, babies keep you really busy. But we don’t bear grudges, in fact, I figured if I could only get my act together for one single birthday cake this year, it might as well be a cake for the monkey. I may or may not have started planning this in June. I may or may not have spent 45 minutes last week practicing doodling monkeys so I could get it right. I admit nothing.

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

new york cheesecake

new york cheesecake

New Yorkers have a reputation for being pushy and over-the-top — these are things you learn when you leave the city for a weekend, and a ticketing agent at the airport in Tulsa, for example, informs you that you’re so much more polite than she thought a New Yorker would be. We apparently like things bolder and taller and shinier and more intense and while I’m not sure if this really applies to your average straphanger commuting from walk-up to cubicle and back again everyday, I am absolutely certain that it applies to our cheesecakes.

(No, the other kind, silly.)

soft cream cheese bricks, wouldn't stackgraham crackers to be groundmelted butter into crumbscheesecake battera tall crumb crustfilled nearly to the brimthe baking process vexxed mecheesecake, it fell a bit

How is a New York Cheesecake unlike any other cheesecake? To begin, it’s very very tall. Most cheesecakes — like my Bourbon Pumpkin, Cappuccino Fudge, Key Lime and a Brownie Mosaic riff — use 3 bricks of cream cheese; this uses 5. Most cheesecakes are cut or lightened with sour cream; not here, where firm and intense is the goal. Often they’re scented with a bit of lemon; nobody knows why, only that it tastes good. And finally, they’re often topped with gooey heaps of fruit that will, without fail, not taste as good as their pretty-pretty picture. Why? Because, in most cases, they’re actually canned pie filling.

new york cheesecake, drippy

Continued after the jump »


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