Birthdays need cake. Special birthdays need special cake. This year my boyfriend’s mother celebrated what will henceforth be known as her Diamond Jubilee with an unforgettable surprise birthday party, complete with a surprise VW beetle convertible and tickets to the Kentucky Derby. The biggest surprise, however, was her daughter and granddaughter arriving home to Texas an entire month early from Oman. This strawberry shortcake, made at the request of one very surprised birthday lady, was two layers of strawberry summer decadence, a delicious and familiar end to a distinctly surprising and celebratory evening. Use this one to say Happy Birthday and Happy Summer.
After graduating from college, moving yourself and your stuff half-way across the country, and unpacking 40-ish boxes without tripping over your boyfriend’s cat, it is time for cake. It is most definitely time for cake. It seems that in some kind of moving and MCAT studying haze, I felt that now would be a good time to make a red velvet cake. I do not, in fact, like red velvet cake. For years the wild enthusiasm this cake appears to inspire in people both above and below the Mason Dixon line has totally baffled me. People have, while struggling not to swoon head first into the mountain of cream cheese frosting atop their red velvet cupcakes, waxed poetic to me about the subtle cocoa flavors, the rich, moist crumb. Horse hockey. Are you bananas? This stuff tastes like food coloring! What is WRONG with you people? If you, too, have spent a lifetime mystified by red velvet, I say to you I have solved the mystery. I have found the cake that people think that they are talking about when they get all excited about the subtle cocoa flavors and the rich, moist crumb, and, man, is it good.
Sometimes you need a simple cake. Sometimes you need a simple cake that looks impressive (So impressive, your adoring fans gobble it up before you can take a picture of the whole thing). Enter the upside-down cake. Specifically this upside down cake. I think you ought to make this cake. It’s simple, like I said, and stylish, too. Heck, tell people that it’s healthy. There’s a whole two pears in it. But wait – there’s more: how delightfully springy it is, the wonderful texture from the polenta, and the perfect subtle sweetness of those pears. Like I said, I think you ought to make this cake. It’ll get you right side up again.
Apparently, I have a desire to deprive you, dear reader, of delicious chocolate cake. This is a bad habit I am attempting to rectify post haste. You see, I made this cake, um, ages ago. By which I mean, of course, summer. I was home, basking in the glory of my parents’ fully stocked kitchen and abundant Texas sunshine, and I made this cake. Then I ate it. Well, my dad helped. It was good and chocolatey and – well, suffice it say that it went pretty fast. Despite its tastiness, I kept this recipe from you, swathed in mystery for months. Well, NO MORE! I reveal to you at last:
I’ve been holding out on you. You see, I’ve made this cake before. I know, not a big deal. But you know what is a big deal. A few weeks ago, me and the lady who told me all about this cake were in the same room together. For a WHOLE HOUR. Yes, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen stood on the third floor of the West 14th St. Apple store and radiated the most beautiful tales of warm kitchen loveliness at me and a fellow admirer from my apartment. Because these few words can’t really describe the intense escalation my fondness for her that occurred as I listened to her tell me how and why she wanted to share the best of her kitchen with the universe, I decided to make this cake. Twice. You should make it, too. Because it’s warm, delicious, chocolate, and it leaves you a bottle of wine.
My father traditionally requests a lemon cake for his birthday but after a father’s day breakfast that included this butter loaded confection and lemon pound cake with sticks upon sticks of butter, my father claims he finally caught on to my mother’s wicked plan to do him in via atherosclerosis. Hence, no lemon cake. Enter Chef Roommate with a Save-The-Birthday-Cake that included just a single stick of butter and cough*5 cups of powdered sugar*cough. But who’s counting? This cake is super tasty, super dense, and super peanut-buttery. The cake is vaguely reminiscent in texture of previously featured and worshiped Guinness Chocolate cake, only, you know, without the beer. Strangely enough, I pilfered both recipes from the same place, the Smitten Kitchen, where fabulous photography, desserts, and side dishes abound. Continue reading
Frothy, foamy, sweet, earthy. A good root beer is like good wine (or what everyone seems to think good wine is like, I wouldn’t know, I’m a college student). It’s got layers. The experience engages the senses. It fizzes, it foams, its icy cold goodness tastes like summer. It’s my soda.
So when I came upon a chocolate cake featuring root beer, I jumped on it (besides we all know my obsession with beer flavored chocolate cakes). So hear you go, the perfect cake for summer.