Cake Archive

Friday, October 11, 2013

purple plum torte

purple plum torte

This may look like an ordinary piece of plum cake, but it is not. It is a famous plum cake, so renowned that I suspect half of you out there have already made it, and the rest of you will soon commit it to memory, because this cake is like that — it is worthwhile enough to become your late September/early October staple. First published in the New York Times by Marian Burros in 1983, the recipe had been given to her by Lois Levine, her co-author on the excellent Elegant but Easy), the recipe was published every year during plum season between then and 1995, when the editor of the food section told readers they were cutting them off, and it was time to cut it out, laminate it and put it on the refrigerator door because they were on their own if they lost it. As if anyone would dare.

plums, found, icebox, etc.
dark italian plums

Amanda Hesser, who compiled and tested 1,400 recipes dating back to the 1850s, when the New York Times began covering food, the James Beard award-winning 2010 Essential New York Times Cookbook, said that when she asked readers for recipe suggestions to include the in book, she received no less than 247 for this one, and suspects that is because it’s a nearly perfect recipe. There are only eight ingredients, seven of which you probably have around and, if you took my hint earlier this week that “buttery plums” were coming later this week, you might even have the eighth. There are only four brief, simple steps, and the batter seems so simple (“like pancake batter,” says Hesser) that you might have understandable doubts about the greatness of this cake.

the plums had been neglected in the fridge

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Friday, September 20, 2013

fudgy chocolate sheet cake

airplane cake

My son’s first birthday cake was a banana cake with fudge frosting and it was shaped like a monkey with a mini-monkey smash cake. Because he loved them so much, his second birthday cake had to involve graham crackers, but in my carried-away hands it turned into a s’more layer cake (in the book) with a milk chocolate filling and a marshmallow frosting that was toasted because really, how could I not? His third birthday cake was a celebration of fall and trains — apples, applesauce, pie spices and a subway map on top because he was then and still is subway-obsessed. And I had already started plotting his fourth birthday cake — something involving massive pillows brown sugar-broiled peaches and sour cream, with the faintest trace of nutmeg, all late summery and perfect — when I had the strangest idea, something that hadn’t once occurred to me before: I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and do you know what he said?

“Tchocolate. Chocolate with chocolate.”

what you'll need
dark brown sugar + butter

My husband and I have this joke when he talks because he’s sometimes so frighteningly articulate* that it’s impossible to pretend that we can’t understand what he said, even if we’d prefer to (such as when he requests spaghetti for dinner again or only wants to go to the playground furthest from our apartment). So, we say, “gosh, Jacob. You really have to stop mumbling.” and then he said,

CHOCOLATE. BROWN TCHOCOLATE. NOT WHITE TCHOCOLATE.”**

chocolate sheet cake batter

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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

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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

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