16 August 2006

There will be cake in my future.

Stay tuned, cake lovers. Much to come, including a brand new cake for my girlfriend's fortieth and a woman who wrote a play in which the lead converses with a gateau—a chocolate one.

06 July 2006

Chez Schaefer?

In yet another derogatory remark directed at professional women, Comptroller Willie Donny said that he wouldn't debate his opponent, Janet S. Owens, "on how to bake a chocolate cake."

It's a good thing, because he'd lose that one, too.

Schaefer's comment is not only an insult to Owens, a smart cookie, indeed, but it's a blow to cake bakers everywhere.

Step aside, old man. We're tired of your stale attitude, your bitter rhetoric, and your sour puss. Time for sweet things to take over the world.

(Truth is: I'd vote for the chocolate cake over either candidate, but that says more about me than it does about them.)

11 April 2006

Witty Re-Torte

This recipe was adapted from an old Martha Stewart Passover favorite. Several things were wrong with the original, including hazelnuts. (Blech!) The problem with MS recipes is that several steps are incorporated under the same numeral. For instance, the original recipe has about four steps, which misleads you into believing this is an easy recipe. It's not, but what is harder is sifting through the many varied tasks in each. My rewritten way is much easier.

You do not have to celebrate Passover to make this cake. It's perfect for people trying to cut back on flour and sugar, great for diabetics, and lovely for anyone. If you want to make it with the real processed sugar and flour, go right ahead.

Fudge Glaze
(Makes 1 3/4 cups)

1.5 C whole blanched almonds
1 C Splenda
1 C Xylitol (or E)
2/3 C cocoa powder
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 stick butter
Pinch of salt

1.) Blend almonds and 1.5 C water till fine.
2.) Strain almond milk with fine sieve. Reserve the nut mixture.
3.) Whisk 1 C sweetener (1/2 of each) together with cocoa powder; set aside.
4.) Put 1 C almond milk in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds, the butter, the other C sweeteners, and the salt; bring to a full boil.
5.) Whisk in cocoa mixture, and return to full boil.
6.) Remove from heat, cool 30 minutes, store in airtight container, and refrigerate.

(That is the best fudge glaze you will ever make! Use it as frosting or filling for just about anything.)

Chocolate Torte

1.75 C almond meal
3/4 C butter
3/4 C cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1/3 cup matzo cake meal (or your substitute)
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 C Splenda/Xylitol
1 t molasses
pinch of salt
1 C nut puree (from Fudge Glaze)
1/2 C Splenda/Xylitol processed superfine

1.) Preheat oven to 350°.
2.) Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter; dust with cocoa powder.
3.) Whisk together cocoa powder, almond meal, and matzo cake meal; set aside.
4.) Beat yolks, 1/2 C sweetener, and molasses on medium-high speed until mixture holds a ribbonlike trail for 3 seconds when you raise the whisk.
5.) Transfer to a large bowl, and fold in 1 C nut puree from Fudge Glaze.
6.) Clean mixer and whisk.
7.) Beat egg whites and salt on medium-high until soft peaks form.
8.) Add superfine sweeteners, beating till stiff and glossy.
9.) Fold egg whites and cocoa/almond meal/cake meal into the large bowl with the yolk mixture.
10.) Stir in melted butter.
11.) Pour into prepared pan; smooth top with an offset spatula.
12.) Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes; cool on wire rack.
13.) Invert pan, and remove cake; slice into two layers with serrated knife.
15.) Fill cake with half cup (or whatever!) fudge glaze.
16.) Cover top and sides with rest of glaze.
17.) Refrigerate 30 minutes.
18.) Cover sides with chopped almonds; decorate the top with chopped or whole almonds.
19.) Keep refrigerated till ready to serve.

To all the members of my tribe, I wish you the happiest of Passovers. And remember the true meaning of this, and every other holiday, They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.

08 April 2006

The Sounds of Cake

If you have nothing to do on a rainy morning or lots of things to try and avoid doing on a rainy morning, do this. Why? I don't exactly know.

Thanks to astute reader David Beaudouin for turning me on to some real cake fun—and keeping me from things I ought to be doing.

17 March 2006

Lost

Oh, friends, you know me better. A daily visit to The People's Court and an occasional foray into American Idol (and secret untold, unwitnessed by most people, visits to soap operas) are my only glimpses of shlock TV.

I'm speaking of myself. I am lost.

Yesterday, my hard drive crashed, leaving me without manuscripts, without pictures, without anything, including the two e-mails from famous authors and nine pages of already-daunting craft paper about the writing of the cake manuscript.

I have nothing left except for a real daughter, a real husband, and two real dogs, none of whom will do anything I tell them, and a wheel of frozen cake.

Alas, I am still woe, as I have sworn off the eating of white stuff for the entire month of March and, perhaps, April.

All that I have to comfort me are the memories of last night's episode of Seinfeld, in which Elaine complained, loudly, at her co-workers' constant cakedness. She's so sick of it that she takes a sick day, but when she returns, she's greeted by a handful of coworkers with a get-well cake.

ELAINE: Stop it! That's not even a song! I mean, now we're celebrating a sick day?

MALE WORKER: I think it's nice.

ELAINE: What? What is nice? Trying to fill the void in your life with flour and sugar and egg and vanilla? I mean, we are all unhappy. Do we have to be fat, too? ...I don't want one more piece of cake in my office!


Of course, it's an absolute lie. No sooner do they leave than Elaine realizes she's jonesing for cake. She goes into Mr. Peterman's office where she has the stupidity (because who would do this in real life) to start eating a gorgeously frosted piece of (obviously) wedding cake. She then learns that Peterman procured this slice from some auction house, where he paid oodles for it. After all, it's "[a] slice of cake from the wedding of King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson, circa 1937, price—$29,000."

But even that is little comfort right now. Cake: It can't restore your hard drive.

04 March 2006

Wheel of Cake

Spin the wheel. Take a bite. Spin the wheel. Take a bite.

The cake wheel was given to me by the lovely and talented Jamie Williams of SugarBakers. "It's what I give my brides," she said to me, as if I should expect no less, even though I'm there to do what's already been done to death, her Today show story. She was not, as some would believe, a loser of the "Hometown Wedding" cake competition. She wasn't selected by America, perhaps, but the couple liked her cake the best. They said so on national television.

About the cake wheel: I don't know what's what just yet, but I'm guessing I have some Amaretto Raspberry cake, some Red Velvet Fudge cake, some carrot, some lemon. Who cares? It's all going to taste like sweet heaven in my mouth (and hell on my hips).

If you're following my diet travails (more agony and torment, less effort) this week, you'll know that I am "off cake." Hell, I'm off sugar, bread, potatoes—anything white except cauliflower and paper. I'm trying to look good in last year's bathing suit (made by Omar the Tentmaker, as my sister always says) because I'm too broke for a new one. So this lovely cake wheel is cooling its heels in the freezer.

Here's the last paragraph of my interview. You will know now the true extent of my love.

I thank the folks at SugarBakers for their hospitality, and leave with my front-seat passenger, the hulking catering tray. I wonder whether I have the fortitude to lock it in the freezer the moment I get home. There's a quiet humming. I turn off the radio and listen. For twenty slow, rainy miles, the cake slices serenade me with Bach's "Ode to Joy," each inch square by four layer piece imitating a different instrument. I remember my own wedding on a beautiful sunny day, a day with all my friends, really good beer, and lots of cake. I miss two exits.

09 February 2006

The Return of Cake Jones

I admit that I lost my desire—not for cake but for writing about cake. My first semester at school didn't meet my expectations for a combination of reasons in and out of my control. But that is a waterbath under the cheesecake, so to speak.

I have just returned from Asheville, North Carollina (see the pictures) with a renewed sense of purpose, place, and thing. I am [noun]; hear me [verb].

Joe Mackall, my mentor this semester, has suggested that I write 300 words in the next four months. This is four pages a day, by my calculations. And with all the other things I need to do (and wish to do), it's undoable. But I'll have to work on my ability to churn out the words willy nilly, without regard for structure and order. I'll have to channel some of Ann Lamott's courage to "write a shitty first draft," one that no one's going to read.

And so I've begun to put my interview notes into prose.

Meanwhile, I have several things warming in the oven. First, comedian Jim Gaffigan (gaffe again?) has a standup routine based on cake, something my husband saw on Comedy Central while I was in Asheville. I'm trying to secure an interview with him, either by phone or e-mail or in person when he hits DC in April.

Second, I'm hoping to interview a man who gives all the town's bakers their start, a man even my first interviewee could say nothing nasty about (a feat, let me tell you).

Third, I'm looking forward to the Joy of cake when my friend, Brownie, comes for a visit and we have crabcakes at Kocos and real cakes at my sister's 40th birthday.

Lots of events on the horizon. I hope you'll stay tuned. Oh, and for a tidbit too big to leave on the cake blog alone, check out A Doggy's Life.