So, I made a wedding cake this weekend. It was my present to a dear friend from law school who was putting together a small, DIY wedding. She and her fiance (now husband!!) did an absolutely stunning job decorating and self-catering out of their Brooklyn apartment; they came up with a million beautiful touches – from delicious pre-mixed cocktails inspired by the bride and the groom to bunting strung across the living room from the vintage chandelier. The whole event, from invites to tablecloths, was done in shades of teal and gold, and I tried to incorporate these colors in the cake by using a light teal frosting (perhaps a little reminiscent of certain blue boxes) and gold-dusted gardenias and jonquils. In any event, the bride was happy and we all had a grand old time.
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I don’t know about you, but I can practically taste spring. I even went a little crazy last week and bought several pairs of sandals. Though maple syrup is available year-round in this day and age, the “Early Spring” section of my New England cookery book Rain, Hail, and Baked Beans tells me tree-tapping and syrup production used to be associated with this time of year – that spring signaled a switch from heavy, wintry, molasses-based sweets to the lighter flavors of maple syrup. My spring fever thus led me down the path to…Maple Gingerbread Cake.
I am single-handedly trying to bring the term “teacake” back into use. It is just such a perfect descriptor for a small pastry that is too cake-like to be a muffin, and is not iced or fluffy enough to be a cupcake. Like the jam-filled cakes below – which really would actually be perfect with tea.
I came across two pound cake recipes this week in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts – a java cake and a chocolate one. After flipping between them for fifteen minutes, I realized I could have both cakes, and eat them too: I could make a mocha pound cake with both coffee and cocoa.
Reason #5,000 I love James Beard: his whiskey cake recipe ends “I like to pour an extra half cup of whiskey over the cake.” I also love that this dense, boozy, fruit-and-nut packed brick is called a “cake.” Really, in modern baked good taxonomy it is probably closer to the “quick bread” phylum than the cake one. James Beard’s recipes and original cookbook, though, hark to a time when baking was more primitive and the primordial soup of “Sugary Things” had not yet separated into sharply defined branches. Well, maybe it had in France. But not here in ‘Murika!
Sometimes I think I am half hobbit. I’m short and stocky and cheery and (to overshare) I have slightly hairy feet. My dad first read The Hobbit to me when I was about 5, and I re-read it on my own soon after; it was one of my first real chapter books. During the first chapter when the dwarves descend on Bilbo and eat everything in his pantry, the first thing consumed is seed cake; I always wondered what this tasted like (yes, even at age 5), and assumed it was poppy-seed based. So, when I found a recipe for a traditional English seed cake in my latest cookbook acquisition (a 1940s collection of old English bread and cake recipes), I immediately had to satisfy my curiosity.
My birthday was yesterday, so I guess this is technically a post-birthday cake. I whipped it up for brunch this morning for myself, the friend whose house I’m crashing at, and a couple of law school friends in the area. Baking this marble cake took my mind off the splitting headache I woke up with post-celebration. Ah, cruel eld; I am definitely not as resilient at 27 as I was in college.