Two weeks from today, my second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites will be leaving warehouses* to reach bookstores or perhaps your front door (if you’ve preordered the book) and I cannot believe it’s so close now. Last month, I shared the trailer for the book and told you all about the book tour that begins the day the book comes out and I promised additional cities would be added. Today is the day! The book tour page — see it in full right here, or click on the image below — now includes Minneapolis, Atlanta, Montreal, Kansas City, Denver, Boulder, Tulsa, Maplewood NJ and an additional book signing in New York City, in addition to the events already planned in Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles.
The book launch will be right here in New York City two weeks from tonight at Barnes & Noble Union Square. Amanda Hesser of Food52, New York Times, and James Beard Award-winning fame and I will chat, and a book signing will follow. Prepare to spot all sorts of Smitten Kitchen Family Members, eager to share stories about what a terrible cook I was as a kid.
Will you come say hi? I hope you do. I hope we get to hang out.
Is the book tour not coming to your town? I have you covered. No, I have not figured out how to clone myself (we all know I’d just make the clone do the dishes anyway) but even better, you can pre-order a signed cookbook inscribed any way you wish through The Strand, a beloved bookstore in my neighborhood. I am inscribing these books next week, so if you’d like yours to go out with the other preorders, with the goal of arriving when the book is released, please please please order before 10/16? I will still be delighted to sign all other orders that come in, but it will be when I can stop by between book tour stops.
Finally, just a tiny update: The 92Y event with David Lebovitz had been listed as sold out but they moved it to a bigger room and now it is not. (Yay.)
* If you follow @smittenkitchen Instagram Stories, you might know I flew down to Maryland to personally visit them in their temporary home a week and a half ago.
Now, about that Chocolate Olive Oil Cake.
A year or so ago, I got really obsessed with the idea of making a chocolate olive oil cake for fall. Why is it a fall and not a spring or summer cake? I cannot answer this. I can only tell you that I made one I’d read a lot about but ended up underwhelmed. I’ve been asked before what I do when I bake something that comes out all wrong and I think it’s important that I eradicate any thread of an esteemed opinion you might have left for me with this: I have a tantrum. I stomp out of the kitchen in a huff, or at least the mental equivalent of it, and I’m crabby and cranky and resent the recipe that should have been better and the loss of time I could have been doing anything else. (Like cleaning out my closet!) (Let’s pretend I wouldn’t make 100 other cakes before getting around to it.) When I get past that, I rarely take another stab at it again the next day; we need some space. It’s usually “later,” i.e. whenever the craving strikes again or I think I have a fresh way to go about it. This time it took a year and it was a little of both.
The craving arrived because it was fall, which again, I cannot explain but it might have something to do with the subtle, earthier quality olive oil imparts in chocolate, especially when flecked with sea salt. It feels fall-ish, even if the weather outside is defiantly summer-ish. Separately, someone told me about his family’s go-to chocolate cake that’s made for every birthday that’s plush and perfect and never fails. The recipe had the title Wacky Cake on it. I had never heard of a wacky cake. It turns out I’m among the few.
Wacky Cake — a.k.a. “Cockeyed Cake,” if you’re a Peg Bracken fan, which really, who is not, or Depression Cake — is a single-layer chocolate cake that’s has 7 ingredients, all of which are in your kitchen right now, and takes 5 minutes to put together. Some versions are even mixed in the baking pan. I am completely burying the lede here, but it’s also vegan, as in, butter and milk-free and — this is the crazy part — egg-free as well, no flax eggs or canned bean liquid required. The chocolate glaze here is not traditional, but I couldn’t resist; it too is vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips.
Typically, it’s fairly thin and the proportion of cocoa powder to flour is relatively low; it yields a brown cake, but not one chocolaty enough to please the likes of me. I increased the proportions of the cake to make it taller and tweaked the cocoa to be more dominant and ended up with a nearly pitch-black cake. Typically, any oil is used but I found in this cake the perfect chance to realize my chocolate olive oil cake dreams in a cake I think we should all stop what we are doing and make right now. Because if there are people out there whose Tuesdays are not improved by a thick slice of perfect chocolate cake, well, I haven’t met any.
The cake base is vegan and makes for an excellent layer cake. The glaze is vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips. I made it with water, not coffee, and can promise you it’s still full of flavor. With coffee, I’d probably be in heaven.
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (60 grams) unsweetened cocoa, any variety, sifted if lumpy
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) water or coffee
1 tablespoon (15 ml) cider vinegar or white vinegar
Make cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of 9-inch round cake pan with a fitted round of parchment paper and coat the bottoms and sides with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and granulated sugar in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Add water and vinegar and whisk until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few sticky crumbs (but not wet or loose batter). Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cut around it with a knife to ensure it is loosened and flip it out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.
Make glaze: Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, olive oil, corn syrup, and salt in a medium bowl and microwave to melt, in 15 to 30 second increments, stirring between each until just melted. Whisk until smooth. Pour over completely cooled cake and use spatula to gently nudge it down the sides.
Cake keeps: At room temperature for 2 to 3 days and up to a week in the fridge. On day 4 in the fridge, ours was as moist as day one, basically a miracle.