Wouldn’t you like to go to bed so that Mama can eat out of the pan?

Plated-Only-for-Show Apple Crisp

Day three of Mr. P’s absence finds a bleak Peña household, indeed. I hide in the office for a few stolen puffs off my unnecessarily long cigarette, and count eighty minutes until the first round of bedding, and one hundred forty until the last. Someone wearing sneakers and underpants is stomping on something metallic, and someone else is whimpering, but not out of pain. I don’t wonder why. Because in one hundred forty minutes, I will covertly prepare my second apple crisp of the season, and then I will eat the entire thing. Last week I found the best apple crisp recipe ever — I’d stake my life on it — and my glee is only barely dampened by the awareness that a third of my existence has passed without its weekly consumption. The “crisp” is like the perfect oatmeal cookie: virtually no chew, caramel undertones, and just enough salt if made with salted butter. I used Cortlands for my first pass, but opted this time for Grannies, as the Cortlands shrunk so much I wound up with more crisp than apple. I expect, however, the good green lady will stand up loudly and proudly.

One of the hardest things to do when my charming husband is away is grocery shopping. Since Mr. P usually gets home from work around 7, I make two dinners on the nights I can face it. The first happens at 5:00 and has several minimally-seasoned components, never touching each other, and no more than one is cooked. The second dinner is the kind of food real people eat, and if the brood is still awake they sit with us and look suspiciously at their auxiliary meal. But after meeting the needs of three all day long, I’m happy to opt out of real-person classification if it means I can call it a night. So today, instead of getting food from which I could make myself a real-person dinner, in my solitude I bought a bag of Granny Smiths, a brick of Muenster, and a shrimp cocktail ring. The second and third items will be my appetizers while I wait out the half hour of baking time for my dinner of delicious shame.

Since I’m admitting to my gluttony, I’ll take a moment to justify it with a list of things that have triggered tantrums or breakdowns over the last thirteen hours. Getting dressed X3. Putting on shoes X6. Not being “the picker” during TV time X∞. Not being allowed to wear Halloween costume to bed X3. Being out of cinnamon bread and having to make due with strawberry waffles X2. Having Band-Aid party discovered and ended X3. Crayon issues X4. One-offs include having to get out of the bath, denial of shirt removal in public, denial of pants removal in public, and the cat not being in the mood for pets. I’ve only raised my voice twice so far, which is twice more than I’d like, but I’m going to take a B+ for the day. Academically, that grade would drive a dagger into my heart. But in the world of best-intentions parenting, I can sleep at night with anything above a C.

Let them have their pink!

Boys-Love-Pink-Food Robo-Cupcakes

Since males are expected to completely renounce a specific color from the moment they’re born, they inevitably find it alluring when it makes a rare appearance through a socially accepted vehicle. Food, more specifically dessert, is one of the only times straight men get to enjoy pink, unless they’re brave enough to wear pastel button-downs during the Spring. Even the most adamant “hands off my gender role” manly man will be drawn immediately to anything covered in pink frosting, especially if you reinforce the unisexiness with, say, robots. Manly men tend to enjoy robots. Billy the Kid was beside himself when he found the robot cupcake kit Santa left in his stocking; we used Amy Sedaris’s recipe for the cake and my cherry-vanilla buttercream to frost, flecks made possible by vanilla paste as opposed to extract. I suggest that anyone partnered to a surly lumberjackian type provide a monthly pink dessert; otherwise he may be tempted to look in unsavory places for his taboo color fix.

Cherry-Vanilla Buttercream

1/3 C butter
3 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
Milk as needed

Melt the butter. Stir in one cup of sugar completely. Add the vanilla, another cup of sugar, and a restrained splash of milk. Stir until completely combined. Add the cherry juice, the last cup of sugar, and another splash, stir until completely consistent and lumpless. Stir in a little more milk if the frosting seems too greasy and it will smooth out quickly.

Practically perfect in every way. Except for always being early.

Because You Know Better Lemon Meringue Pie

Many people assume they dislike lemon meringue pie because they’ve never had one done well. Mine, wouldn’t you know, happens to be a prime example of this classic American dessert at its most stately. Why anyone would forgo freshly squeezed lemon juice in favor of a bottled extract is beyond me, yet a disheartening number of diners and bakeries misguidedly boast sickly-sweet, cough-syrup-reminiscent pudding-pie bastard cousins of our refined and tasteful heroine. I consider a graham cracker crust to be essential, but then again, I refuse to acknowledge a marriage between custard and pie crust. If you must go with pastry, at least have the dignity to make a decent pat
é sucrée.

While I take enormous pride in my lemon meringue, I’m duly ashamed of releasing it so inappropriately early in the season. My current craving situation is similar to that of Ray in Ghostbusters when he summons the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man; any dessert I picture materializes immediately (or as soon as I can get to the market and back). I’ve been eating cakes as fast as I can to make room for the new ones that haunt my dreams, and I’ve distracted myself with the previous four posts, but my fever for the Citrus Siren refused to be quelled for another week. I’m a little worried that I won’t properly sate my desire with this particular unit, since I’m making it for a meet-the-baby get-together with some friends, and it’s in rather poor taste to take food back from a new mother. Still, I may be able to sneak away unnoticed into the garage with the plate for ten minutes at some point…

The Crust:
1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter, melted

Set your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Once the butter has moistened all crumbs, press the mixture into a glass pie plate or similarly-sized springform, as far up the sides as is worth the effort. Bake the unfilled crust for about 7 minutes, then let it cool while you prepare…

The Filling:
1 1/4 C sugar
1/3 C cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C room temperature water
4 lg egg yolks, beaten
1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp butter

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan, then stir in the water. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil while stirring frequently. This takes a while, but eventually it will thicken up quickly; just keep stirring and you’ll avoid a bad case of perma-lumps. Once thickened, remove the pan from heat and carefully scoop out a quarter cup of the goo. When I tell you this is hot, I mean that getting even a splatter on your hand will ruin the rest of your day. Whisk that into the beaten yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pan full of goo. This prevents the eggs from heating up too quickly and scrambling disgustingly.

Put the pan back on medium-high heat once you’ve whisked everything into an even consistency and color, and bring it to a boil again to further thicken. Once bubbling, stir in the lemon juice, zest and butter, and keep cooking and stirring for 2 more minutes. Go ahead and pour it into the crust, leveling it around with a rubber spatula. And now we move onto…

The Meringue:
5 lg egg whites
1/4 tsp cream or tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar

Throw the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer and kick it into high. Once soft peaks form, slowly pour in the sugar over the course of about a minute. Once she holds a nice sharp point, pile the meringue onto the lemon filling, and use a fork to fluff it up proudly, as high as your cake-saver will allow. Bake it at 350 for 5 to 7 minutes, until you get a nice golden-brown on just the peaks of the meringue. Chill it for at least 3 hours, but aim for consumption within 24, as meringue tends to seize up unattractively over time.

The Cakening

Calgon Key Lime Cheesecake

It’s almost time to start making lemon meringues! To tide me over until the July 4th season opening for cool custard-based desserts, I rolled the dice on the Smitten Kitchen’s Key Lime Cheesecake the night before last. Win! The citrus cuts the heft of sixteen ounces of cream cheese brilliantly, lending a lovely antacid effect and enabling the diner to put away an impressive helping. I’m not much for mini-anything these days, so instead of buying a special pan with a dozen tiny spring-forms, I opted for the nine-inch single unit. It’s less climactic than the individual cakes, since you can’t count on the whipped cream topping and mango slices to keep as long as the headliner, and until she’s done her hair and makeup, she’s not much to look at.

This necessitates one to whip, seal and chill a half cup of cream each morning, as well as maintain a sealed container of mango slices in lime juice to facilitate enjoyment throughout the day. I’m about the only person I know with that kind of time on their hands, so save it for a group you know will leave no leftovers (college students, children of vegan parents, anyone wearing elastic pants – I have temporarily joined this particular group and have to say it opens up a whole new world of comfort and capacity). By last night, the cream was being dolloped as opposed to spread, and you can see it pictured here next to some apricot and mango salad – time was of the essence, and I wasn’t about to waste valuable snacking minutes arranging mango ribbons. Take care not to become too transported; I had yesterday’s afternoon wedge on the porch with my feet in Billy the Kid’s inflatable pool, and as my cabana boy poured water on my ankles with a watering can, a wonderful sense of smugness settled over me in which I basked drunkenly until realizing how similar I am to Steve Martin’s character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Cake is hot, people are not.

This-Is-My-Kind-of-Cake Golden Layer Cake

Continuing on my Augustus-Gloop-like cake bender, I recently threw caution to the wind and interviewed a new golden layer cake. Historically, I’ve depended on Betty Crocker’s good old standard, but I was flipping through my Gourmet cookbook the other night, half-heartedly contemplating taking on something involving fruit and/or custard, and realized I’d never tried their version of the Yellow Menace. Was there a void, it has been filled. Light, fluffy, moist but not soggy, and a superb vehicle for Chocolate Buttercream, my barely-altered version of Gourmet’s All-Occasion Yellow Cake produced a literally gourmet version of Betty Crocker’s: a little more class, a little less soul. I think we can all agree which of those virtues is slightly over-rated. If not, might I suggest you’d be more comfortable in Rachel Ray’s world. As soon as I can find an available cake stand, I’ll see what happens when I substitute buttermilk, and while I hope it helps achieve an actually yellow and less anemically white color, that experiment most likely will not warrant publicity.

It’s important to know going in that this cake retains a seriously springy dome even after resting upside down, so you may want to trim the layers flat. I opted for more mass, and found the pillow effect homey and comforting. I might rename this Narcolepsy Cake, but I suspect that after I finish my current term serving as housing for people, my impromptu porch snores will conclude.

Speaking of lodging multiples, I’d like to share a disconcerting tidbit I discovered about human reproduction. It turns out that theoretically, a “lady” can become pregnant with children of multiple fathers simultaneously. Well, only if a) she shoots double eggs, and b) she’s, shall we say, extremely socially active. Here’s the kicker; it’s not even just theoretical. There are enough cases of this not only happening but SOMEONE ADMITTING TO IT that you can hop on Google and there they are. Honestly, it’s not the wantonness or wildly inappropriate honesty that offends me. My generally good opinion of cats has always been marred by the fact that they routinely birth multi-father litters. There’s just something so unabashedly crass, so depraved-Mardi-Gras-pub-crawlish about that particular evolutionary agreement. Now, however, I have absolutely no proof that my cat is not my peer species-wise, and that leads me to question the fare I serve him as well as wonder if I’ve committed a whopping karmic faux-pas in hindering his own, shall we say, social activism.

2 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 C sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C milk

Set your oven to 350, grease up and flour two round cake pans. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar by hand until blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and stir until consistent. Dump in the dry ingredients, and start stirring with one hand while pouring in the milk with the other. Once the batter is moist and all flour has been incorporated from the sides and bottom of the bowl, throw it under the mixer and beat on medium-high for 2 minutes, or until lump-free. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, and bake them side by side for 22 minutes, switching their positions at 12 minutes to ensure even rising. Let the layers sit in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting them onto wire racks, where they should cool completely before being frosted with the previously mentioned Chocolate Buttercream. And try not to think about the cat thing while eating.

No, not really.

Reddish Velvet Cake with Cream-Cheese-Butter-Cream

I was mistaken as I wrote the previous post; my appetite merely stopped by to pick up some things and then blew right back out of town. However, I’m a firm believer that if you’re sick, there’s a pharmaceutical solution, and I’ve been on the top-secret tier of anti-nausea medication for a few weeks now. To all ladies who may one day decide to incubate: if Zofram doesn’t do it for your barfs, demand no less than Promethazine. Remember, they’re loathe to admit it, but your doctors are technically vendors. Dr. G managed to scare the bajesus out of me the last go around, but I’m calling the shots with this one and have taken to severely berating him each time he raises my stress level over “risk.” He’s already been instructed to drop it regarding the chromosomal craps game, and if he mentions weight as an issue over the next four months, the skillet’s coming out of my purse. Once I couldn’t keep applesauce down, I decided to put mom first for the duration, and I’m delighted to find I don’t feel at all guilty about it. Save for my daily wake-up wretch, I’ve been holding food down like no one’s business, and one particular craving has hit me hard: my own cake.

My cake stand has been full and proud for over a week, and it currently showcases my first execution of red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Having a slight skin-crawl reaction to using an entire tablespoon of red food coloring, as suggested by the Guilty Kitchen’s cake recipe, I cut the amount down to a teaspoon, so mine was more of a not-terribly dark brown. I found the cake itself rather adult, with a less-is-more attitude toward sugar. When I sign up for cake, I expect a glucose-induced forehead tingle to punctuate each slice, and I was left chasing mine with Keebler rainbow cookies in a failed attempt to reach the top of candy mountain.  Mr. P, however, has sworn that his eyes sincerely rolled back upon first bite, even after I promised I wouldn’t be angry if he had just been patronizing Preggy. I have to say that a bite of the cake loaded with the frosting (pilfered from the Smitten Kitchen) is impressive indeed, but I’m unable to finish a slice beyond its surface area.

At the end of the day, if you like dark chocolate, I suspect you’ll love this. For those of us who prefer our chocolate well milked, I’ll refer you to my reliably spectacular Black Midnight Cake.

The Cake:
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
3/4 C butter
2 eggs
2 C cake flour
1/2 C plus 2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 C buttermilk
1 tbsp red food coloring if you play fast and loose with your liver
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar

The Frosting:
1/2 C butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
some milk

Set your oven to 350 and grease/flour two round cake pans. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and white sugar by hand before creaming in the brown, then beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk, food coloring and vanilla. Dump the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then start stirring with one hand while slowly pouring in the milk mixture with the other. Once everything’s moist, quickly stir in the vinegar, then pop the bowl under the mixer and let it ride on high for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, give the whole thing a vigorous stir, then divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake the layers side by side at 350 for 22-24 minutes, switching their positions at 12 minutes to keep them level. Set the pans over wire racks and let them sit for 10 minutes before inverting the layers onto the racks to finish cooling.

Cream the butter and cream cheese together with a wooden spoon until the resulting mixture is completely consistent. Add the vanilla, then stir in the powdered sugar in 1-C increments, adding just a few drops of milk with each. Once all the sugar is in, switch to a whisk to eliminate any unsightly lumps. When frosting the cake, give the circumference a few go-arounds to pile it on, and don’t be frugal in between the layers. It’s ant season, so cover it up!

(Tiny?) Bites of Decadence.

7 Layer Bars
Inspired by this.

Drool. I'm sorry, what did you say?

This dessert has achieved a level of notoriety among my friends–this is the only dessert they ask for. Don’t think that my cookies, brownies, pies, or cakes aren’t delicious–they just aren’t The 7 Layer Bars. (It should be noted that the original recipe is called something completely accurate and boring. My name came about because of the sheer height of these squares–at almost 3 inches tall, they are a thing of beauty. The recipe seems like you get 12 squares, max, from the 9″ x 9″ pan. Don’t be fooled–the only person who could get down a portion that size is my husband.)

Mid-afternoon snack.

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups uncooked quick oats

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly grease a 9" x 9" baking pan.
3. Cream together the butter and brown sugar.
4. Add the eggs and vanilla.
5. Stir in the flour, salt, and baking soda.
6. Add the oats, and mix well.
7. Press a little more than half of the batter into the prepared pan. Set aside the rest of the batter.
8. For the filling, melt the chocolate with the milk, butter, vanilla, and salt in a double boiler. (Can also be melted in a saucepan over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is just melted.)
9. Pour over the batter in the baking pan.
10. Sprinkle the top with the nuts.
11. Spoon the remaining batter over the filling.
12. Bake for 30 minutes, until the batter is golden brown. Cool for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
13. Cut into 20-25 squares and stuff your face.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hamilton!

Deposit-Your-Soul-Here Devil’s Food Cake

Last night, I managed to type the following: “I’m looking forward to an early retirement this evening, having just concluded Mr. H’s annual birthday dinner, Steak Hamilton and Cheesy Potatoes,” then immediately succumbed to the food coma induced by filet mignon, sauteed mushrooms, twice-baked potatoes, and a deliciously sneaky Muscat contributed by the couple, which made for a difficult bed-extraction this morning. But it was the rich, moist, chocolate cake that did me in; elastic pants were donned within seconds of our friends’ departure. Breaking a cardinal rule, I made a new cake for company. How could I act so irresponsibly when Mr. H’s birthday cake was at stake? I’ve had the 1960’s recipe for Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food Cake for as long as I can remember, and I’ve started assembling the mise en place to make it on countless occasions. However, while I keep a laudable stock of baking ingredients in my pantry, I’m repeatedly foiled by the buttermilk. Yesterday, I remembered the recipe’s existence before a scheduled trip to the market, and I trust Betty more than I do myself.

It was, as expected, hellishly good. By far the heaviest cake I’ve created, forehead-tingle commenced within a record two bites, and though the double-dark buttercream frosting lent an adult depth, Billy the Kid cookie-monstered his slice with standard enthusiastic vigor. It was indeed a truly happy birthday for us all.

Above: Remains of the Cake

1-3/4 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 C buttermilk
1/2 C shortening
2 eggs
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla

Set your oven to 350 and grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. In a large bowl (preferably that of a stand mixer), cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy, then cream in the brown sugar until the color’s consistent. Beat in the eggs and vanilla by hand until the batter’s smooth and airy. Add the flour, baking soda and salt, and stir the dry ingredients in while slowly pouring in the buttermilk. Give the whole thing a rigorous beating before stirring in the chocolate.

Stick the bowl under the mixer or get out your hand-held, and beat on high until it looks smooth and delicious, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the batter into the pans and pay close attention to leveling for this one. Bake them side by side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes (give or take 5, until a wooden-pick inserted into the center comes out clean, duh), but give each pan a 180-degree turn half-way through. Let the layers sit in the pan for 5 minutes before running a knife around the perimeters, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool.

The outsides of the layers harden quickly, so a soon as they’re barely warm, seal them with the following non-optional frosting.

2 C powdered sugar
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 C butter
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently to prevent the chocolate from burning. Once melted, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Proceed to stir in the sugar in half-cup increments, and accompany each addition with 1 tbsp of water. Add more water as needed throughout the process, but no more than 1 tbsp at a time, lest your frosting turn into icing. Once you’ve incorporated all the sugar, the frosting will probably look a little greasy. That means you need to add more water and beat it as vigorously as you can. You can grab the hand-held if you don’t do a lot of baking and it’s killing you, but you’ll wind up sacrificing the love. I don’t have a slightly more muscular right upper-arm for no reason.

After you frost your cake, let it stand uncovered for a half hour to let the shell set, then cover it up until you don’t have anywhere to be for the rest of the day. I felt awful for so gastric-ly incapacitating the Hamiltons, as they had an hour of driving ahead of them, but as someone who enjoyed the option of passing out quickly, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the evening.

It was much too cold to leave the house today.

Because You Can’t Be Trusted Cake

A candle-lit cake for Billy the Kid

If you’ve ever tried to halve a double-layer cake recipe in an attempt to minimize potential gluttony, you probably wound up cutting more calories than planned as you deposited the unfortunate anomaly directly into the trash bin. Almost all recipes can be doubled with little repercussion, but a division symbol has no place in the kitchen. Betty Crocker perfected the formula five or six decades ago for the “Dinette”, a single layer of moist vanilla cake slightly denser than the traditional double-stack. It’s also well-suited for my sudden late-night baking compulsions, as I can always come up with an egg and some Crisco, even at my pantry’s leanest.

1-1/4 C flour
1 C sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C milk
1/3 C shortening
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Set your oven to 350 and grease and flour a square or round 8″ cake pan. Cream together the shortening and sugar by hand until fluffy, then mix in the egg and vanilla, beating until smooth and airy. Add the dry ingredients and stir them in while pouring the milk in a slow stream. Once the mixture is combined, throw the bowl under the mixer (or use a hand-held) and beat it on high for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pan, even it out with a spatula, and bake for 28 minutes or so, peeking in after 20 to make sure everyone’s behaving.

Let the cake sit out of the oven in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the perimeter before inverting it onto a wire rack to cool. I always frost this with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, and as a follower of the never-halve rule, there’s usually half a batch leftover from the previous Dinette sealed in a plastic container in the back of my fridge.

As a mother and baking enthusiast, I find few things more gratifying than watching BK slip into a trance as he savors and relishes each mouthful of a cake I’ve just made, emitting barely audible grunts and sighs of delight as his beard of frosting takes shape. I decorate most of my cakes with my little fella in mind these days, and he goes crazy for a ring of maraschino cherries and a circle of nonpareils (set a light-weight round cookie cutter in the center and sprinkle generously, then press the nonpareils down gently to assure adherence).

Whether you use your small canvas for a burst of creativity, or just spread some Nutella over the top and cut it into quarters, you can only do so much damage, so go ahead and make this Friday cake-for-dinner night.

Run, run, run, fast as you can, can’t catch me ’cause you had some of this.

Good Night Gingerbread

Mr. Peña and I turned in before 9 last night, partly due to overenthusiastic helpings of shepherd pie, but mostly from the effects of one too many return trips to the best gingerbread I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of gingerbread. The following recipe produces a single-layer iced cake perfect for a holiday dessert, but you could also serve it plain for breakfast, hot from the oven with a slab of salted butter and a tall glass of milk.

2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dried ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C shortening
1/4 C butter
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1 C unsulfured molasses mixed with 1 C hot water

1/2 C powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
cold water

Set your oven to 350, then grease and flour a square 8×8 or 9×9 cake pan. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Stir in the egg, then dump in the dry ingredients as well as the molasses water and mix well. Use a stand mixer or hand-held to beat on high for 3 minutes before pouring into the pan, then bake at 350 for 50 minutes, but check at 40 to make sure the edges aren’t in danger of burning. If they are, cover them with aluminum foil, leaving the center exposed, and continue baking until an inserted pick comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, run a knife along the edges, and flip it out onto a work surface. I cut the top off with a cake leveler, then ice it bottom side up. I suggest you do the same.

To make the icing, put the sugar and maple syrup in a small mixing bowl and stir, adding water by the tbsp as needed until you achieve the desired consistency; it should drizzle but not weep. Cover the ball of a whisk with the icing and flick it back and forth over the cake for some artsy striping, and serve while it’s still warm. If you plan to consume the entire cake yourself, you can retain some semblance of dignity by going through the motions of cutting individual slices and using a plate, as opposed to taking the whole thing into the bathtub.

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