Cake Archive

Thursday, July 18, 2013

hot fudge sundae cake

hot. fudge. sundae. cake.

I realize that given the sheer number of two and three-layered, springform-bound and buttercream-shellacked celebration cakes I keep in the archives, you’d imagine that I had some pretty spectacular birthday cakes growing up. You’d be correct, but they were almost never homemade, not because I was suffering from cake-neglect, but because the only one I requested every year for my birthday was an ice cream cake, preferably from Carvel. Okay, insistently from Carvel, you know, the one in the strip mall at the end of the main road. The Carvel ice cream cake was, to me, as perfect as a June birthday cake could be — a layer each of chocolate and vanilla ice creams, separated by a smattering of Oreo-ish cookie rubble, coated with a suspiciously unbuttery buttercream and scattered with colored sprinkles. It was perfect. I loved it. I saw no reason anything should ever change.

cocoa + dark chocolate + cream = hoorayvanilla cream + chocolate creamegg whites, milk, vanilla cream, yolks, chocolate creammaking custard for both flavors at once

And it might not have, except nowadays I have this problem, which is that when I vocalize the daydreamy ideas that pass through my head, such as, “I wonder what it would be like to make an ice cream cake from scratch… no, a sundae cake … no! A hot fudge sundae cake, with hot fudge and whipped cream and those awful-but-I-love-them jarred cherries…” instead of my so-called loved ones saying, “That’s ridiculous. Why would you make that if we could buy it at a store?” they encourage me. No, they goad me. Then they applaud my efforts and say “Again!” (True story: We think “Again!” exclaimed with glee, was the kid’s first word.) And then things like this happen.

trying out the new ice cream bowl

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

bee sting cake

bee sting wedge

Nobody could mistake me for a person who moves quickly. I “run” at a treadmill speed that would never catch a thief, and barely these days, a preschooler on the loose. It took us 3.5 years, until two weeks ago, in fact, to finally put the kid’s toys away. We’ve been “redecorating” the living room for the better part of a year — we’ll probably put the pictures back up in a week or six; please, don’t rush us. Thus, it should surprise nobody that it’s taken me nearly four years to conquer the cake you see here, which sounds even worse if you consider that it was a special request from my own mother, as this was her favorite growing up.

yeast, flour, butter, milk, eggs, salt, go
beat with the paddle attachment

In my defense, in that period of time, I moved apartments, had a kid, wrote a book, and went on a 25-city book tour, all while (mostly) keeping up with this here website and spending a truly horrific amount of time staring slack-jawed social media ahem, maintaining occasional hobbies. But I know the truth, which is that I’ve been intimidated by making it because I felt like I was cooking blind. The Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich) is a German specialty and while my mother’s parents came over in 1935 and 1936 respectively, the areas once known as German epicenters (the middle of Queens, where my mom was raised, and Yorkville, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan) have now mostly dispersed, and most of the accompanying stores have shuttered. Calls to German bakeries to see if they sold it were almost futile, until I found one in Ridgewood, Queens that sold us a whole one that was rather awful; let’s not speak of it at all. The only thing left to do was go it alone, researching obsessively along the way.

more cake than brioche in batter texture

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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 »

Monday, March 18, 2013

coconut bread

coconut bread

Three weeks ago, we together rolled our eyes because it seemed like everyone was either celebrating spring (pea tendrils! meyer lemons!) or on vacation without us, cluttering our social media feeds with shiny, happy scenes on distant beaches. We had a brief but unequivocally necessary pity party because while we were stuck here, shivering, with a fresh layer of sleet accumulating outside. We consoled ourselves with blood orange margaritas.

And then — EH TU, DEB? — I turned on you too.

worst week, ever

Really, I have some nerve. There we were, finally getting caught back up after a fall and winter of extended absences while I hopped from Atlanta to Austin, Boston to Bridgewater, Minneapolis to Montreal, Salt Lake to St. Louis and I unpacked my thick sweaters and wool socks only long enough to replace them with sunscreen and flip-flops.

What a terrible week.

morning view

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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

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