"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Two Cakes

I really do make other things besides cakes, people. Honest. But I think that they're so showy that somehow they appeal to that part of me that holds a BFA in sculpture and misses the studio. Cakes are so three-dimensional.

Devil's Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream is a pretty straightforward chocolate cake, though I must admit I was expecting some kind of chemical magic after reading the head notes for this recipe--a description of how the reaction of baking soda and something else makes a red color (not food dye). But no, this looked pretty chocolatey to me. I made sure to cut the cooking time down so I wouldn't overbake the cake layers (see my first post on Chocolate Orange Cake below) but still this managed to be a cake that the kids left large hunks of on the plate since it's dense and creamy, not Betty Crocker-ish light and crumbly.

But the adults....aaaahhhh....just sat around the table with small smiles of inner contentment on their faces. I love that look.


I've been waiting for my chance to make Coconut Cake with Lime Curd. Regular readers will know that my two main venues for experimenting with food (work and book group) have some serious coconut-haters in the crowd. The result is that I've got a little backlog of dessert recipes that use coconut.

But Easter seemed like the perfect time for this cake--they just seem like spring flavors somehow. So even though there were only going to be four of us for Easter dinner, I whipped up this cake.

And let me emphasize the word "whipped". It's a mystery to me why the meringue in the frosting had to be whipped over a pot of boiling water (it never did get stiff peaks), but this is what happened while I was embarking on that little adventure.

I was using our deceased neighbor's handheld electric beater for this operation. Marjorie was a great chef in her own mind and had all kinds of kitchen gadgets that she bequeathed unto us. One of them, a mini-cuisinart, has such a tiny motor that it overheats and makes a bad smell if you use it for more than, say, 20 seconds.

So I'm using this electric beater and I'm getting a bad smell, and I think, damn these cheap little appliances--I should just pitch them in the trash. Then I look down and no, it's not the poor little beater, it's the cord that has fallen against the burner and is melting.

Right. Well, fortunately the smell didn't get in the food and the house didn't burn down (I didn't even get the smoke alarms this time) but I did get cramps in my triceps trying to hold the beater and the cord just so. What a pain!

The result of the not-getting-stiff-peaks part is the the frosting was kind of schlumpy and kept drifting downward. I had to keep putting the cake in the fridge, hoping it would stiffen up.

But it really was a beauty.

"It looks like an Easter hat!" my mother declared. I hadn't thought of it that way, but with all the carnations it really did look like a frilly Easter bonnet. Nice and sweet. :-)

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