Friday, July 22, 2011


I gained 10 pounds just writing this post.

Cake as we know it today, with highly refined white flour and baking powder, instead of yeast, didn't arrive on the dessert scene until the middle of the 19th century.

The guy who invented the temperature-controlled oven was obviously a cake-lover.

Today, decorated cakes can be quite spectacular,

and cost as much as a car.

This cake was probably not baked...

Here.  But it is remarkable that a kid could bake a pretty decent cake with two lightbulbs.

Ina Garten's recipe for Beatty's Chocolate cake is one of the best chocolate cake recipes of all time.  I would like to say that I adapted it in some way, but the mistake that people always seem to make with this cake is not following Ina's instructions to the letter.  This cake has the makings of a legend.  Please do not be messing about with it willy-nilly.  Here it is.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Butter for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups flour, 
2 cups sugar, 
3/4 cup cocoa powder, 
2 tsp baking soda
, 1 tsp baking powder, 
1 tsp salt
, 1 cup buttermilk, 
1/2 cup vegetable oil, 
2 eggs
, 1 tsp vanilla, 
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Frosting
6 oz semisweet chocolate (not chips),
 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter (at room temperature),
 1 egg yolk
, 1 tsp vanilla,
 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar,
 1 Tbsp instant coffee powder
1. Make the cake: sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
2. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine. Pour the batter into 2 buttered and floured 9 inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 for 45-40 minutes. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
3. Make the frosting: Chop the chocolate and microwave it for 40-50 seconds, then stir to completely melt. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for about 3 minutes.
4. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 tsp of hot tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Another phenomenal chocolate cake is the Great Barrington Brewery Chocolate Stout Cake.  Either of these are great.  Really.  I wouldn't kid about a thing like cake.

Ingredients for Cake

2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.

Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.


Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Pretty cakes are not just for weddings.

Get the recipe for this Martha Stewart Carmelized Apple-spice cake, here.

Cakes can be minimalist...


or kinda sexy.

Recipes for favorite cakes passed down through families are usually the best.  Coconut cake is iconic in the South.  Martha Stewart's recipe for the Coconut Cake above, is here.  

The New York Times calls the Coconut Cake from the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, SC "A little slice of heaven."  It was a recipe given to Executive Chef Robert Carter by his grandmother.  It is five inches high, 10 inches in diameter and weighs 12 pounds.  Twelve.  It has a pound cake center infused with fresh vanilla and coconut, and the icing is made from cream and butter, coated in coconut, and dripping with simple syrup.  I'm sure it has very few calories.  Order it here

Absolute best cake books from our library:


1.Cupcake Cafe 2. Cake Girls via Real 3. Cake Girls via Real 4. Cake by Margaret Braun, Photo: Kevin Bacon 5. Cake by Sylvia Weinstock 6. Via Cake Central 9. Via Bon Apetit 10. Via Martha 11. Cake by Cake Coquette 12. Couture Cupcakes via 13. Via Martha 14. Cake Girls via Real 15. Cake Girls via Real 17. Via Martha Stewart Living 18. Via Southern Living 

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