Buttermilk Honey Cake

A round honey cake with cream cheese frosting and dried blue flowers on top

Kitra: Wow, what a shitty week we had.

Jordan: Continue.

I mean, it’s just bad. Everything is bad, whole towns near where we grew up are destroyed, and I’ve worked approximately 70,000,000 hours this week. Also the dog is being really annoying this week, which is new. I guess I’ll link to some places you can donate at the end? Just, what a trash week y’all.

The world is literally on fire for once, not just metaphorically on fire, so. Let’s make a cake I guess.

What else can we do, really. The individual burden of climate change is nothing compared to the impact of corporations so fuck it and fire up that oven. Happy September. Cake time!

I’m going to change the topic before Kitra breaks something: It’s also Rosh Hashanah this week! It gave us an excuse to make a recipe we’ve been eyeballing for a while: the “milk and honey” cake from Simple Cake, which also gave us this lovely orange olive oil cake.

Which coincidentally we made during another really shitty week. We were bound to make cakes from the same book during above average shitty weeks because there have just! been! so! many! who can even keep track. Time is a never ending pit. Cake!

Right. So. Rosh Hashanah. For a traditional honey cake, I highly recommend Deb Perelman’s recipe; I’ll probably be making one to take to my partner’s grandmother later this week. The milk and honey cake is far more mild. The honey flavor isn’t strong, even with a more intense honey. Instead, it’s like a more interesting and nuanced alternative to a plain vanilla cake.

And I picked the frosting because there is not a single thing in Now & Again that I do not want to eat. (Which, by the way, was a book I read on January 1st, 2020 while my power was out for the entire day. I should have heeded that warning and prepared for this year.)

The frosting is the real star here, because let’s be honest, cream cheese frosting is usually the star. A spoonful of sour cream keeps it from being too sweet and the honey makes it more interesting than a standard frosting.

There is nothing I love more than making swoops in cream cheese frosting. I’d go to a paint-your-own-pottery type of store where I could pay to just make swoops on a table covered in cream cheese frosting for an hour. CCBT, Cream Cheese Behavioral Therapy. (#MillionDollarIdea?)

The swooping is quite therapeutic, it’s true.


To keep you busy while the cake is cooling, here are those links Kitra mentioned. Some are specific to the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, where we grew up, but others are statewide or send aid across the Pacific Northwest.

A square of honey cake with cream cheese frosting on a yellow plate
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Mocha Cheesecake, Two Ways

A cake with thin layers of chocolate cookie, chocolate cheesecake, and espresso cheesecake

Jordan: Remember how I had a bunch of chocolate wafer cookies left over from our last cake, just waiting to be made into a cheesecake crust? Well, today is the day.

Kitra: Plus I’ve wanted cheesecake for a few weeks, and went ahead and bought 3 bricks of cream cheese figuring I’d make one whether or not Jordan wanted to. Win-win.

Cheesecake is never a bad idea, in my opinion, but my partner dislikes it so I always appreciate having an excuse to make one. And since he also dislikes coffee, I figured I might as well go all-in and suggested Smitten Kitchen’s mocha cheesecake.

Which I’ve been eyeing since she posted it because I love the layers and thought it seemed fun. I figured it’d be the kind of thing I’d make for our mom’s birthday at some point (though Jordan was always the birthday cheesecake member of the family). Instead I just packed up half of it for her so I could still make the big layered one I wanted. Also a win-win.

I, however, had enough cookie-rolling last time to last me a while, so I made a lazy variation of this cake. Which means you get two recipes today! One for a beautiful showstopper of a layered cheesecake, and one for a lovely marbled cheesecake bar that you can make for yourself and not feel overwhelmed.

We really switched roles here. For once I wasn’t just complaining that I cannot possibly eat this much. Jordan made the right choice for the times, for sure. But if you’ve got someone to share this with, the layers are pretty fun and only a little nerve wracking.

I stayed on Google Hangouts with Kitra while she assembled her cake and she barely needed my moral support at all.

Nothing broke! Nothing cracked! The only issues were when I accidentally dropped my knife onto a corner and made a dent, and when I removed some of a layer accidentally with my offset spatula while stacking. Both results of just carelessness, and both totally invisible after stacking.

So choose your own adventure here! Both use the same batter and so will be equally delicious no matter what you do.

A square of marbled chocolate/coffee cheesecake with a bite missing, next to a cup of coffee
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Chocolate Icebox Cake

A layer cake made of large chocolate cookies and whipped cream

Kitra: After several fruit cakes, it’s MY TIME. Icebox cakes are my favorite cakes. It’s half whipped cream, and if you don’t want to bake anything you don’t have to, but they’re still beautiful! I LOVE THEM.

Jordan: I’ve never been as wildly excited about icebox cakes as Kitra is, but I do enjoy them and appreciate their brilliance. I also love an old-timey dessert, and icebox cakes came out of the era where “cooking” was shifting more to be “assembling pre-made things.” (Tangent: I read JELL-O Girls this summer and it was GREAT and was in part about this shift in American culture. Highly recommend.)

Icebox cakes are the ideal summer dessert in my mind. Minimal effort (unless, like me, you decided that you’d rather make your own cookies than go to the store), cool, fun at parties (unlike me).

We’ll give you a recipe, but an icebox cake is really more of a method: Take a cookie of your choice, layer it with whipped cream, and let it sit in the fridge for a while so that everything softens together.

The possibilities are endless! There are so many options, from graham crackers to saltines to oreos! From plain whipped cream to fruit or chocolate cream, or a cream cheese situation! Make them small! Make them giant! You. Do. You.

The classic icebox cake is made with chocolate wafer cookies. Kitra disagrees with me on this, but I think they’re kind of annoying to find. There’s one brand (Nabisco) and they’re not all that popular—the picture on the box is of an icebox cake because that’s basically all they’re used for—so you have to have access to a large, well-stocked grocery store (which my nearby stores are not). But if you can find them, you can definitely use them instead of baking your own.

I love the classic here because it’s like a giant, light, fluffy fridge oreo and that’s really all we can hope for in this world.

We’ll leave a lot of notes about strategies for making the cookies below. If you decide to go that route, definitely read through to save some headache when you make them. Though I will say that Kitra’s cookies were much easier than mine to roll out and bake, which may be because I used gluten-free flour.

And just like the flavor and cookie options, there are also a million ways to assemble these suckers. That means do what you want to. I had very little cream in my layers because I ran out of it and didn’t want to go to the store. Jordan had a lot. I made mine in the shape of a layer cake, she did hers in jars. They’re also commonly made in loaf pans. There’s no wrong answers!

And as you make more of these, you’ll learn what you like best. That does require you to make them more than once, but trust us, that won’t be a problem.

A jar filled with chocolate cakes/cookies and whipped cream, with a spoonful sitting on the side
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Berry Ricotta Cake

A cake with cherries pressed in the top baked in a flowery Pyrex dish

Jordan: Somehow Kitra has suggested a fruit-based cake for the second time in a row and y’all, I am here for it.

Kitra: In fairness, when I was looking at the photos for this post I also said “you’ll have to judge yours because I find the gooey strawberry bits very unappealing.”

Kitra finds cakes with fruit in them to be squishy and weird after about the first 8 hours (only slightly exaggerating).

Nah, that’s accurate. I also don’t like the way they discolor over time, and that in DC summers it only takes like a day to grow mold.

However, if you—like me—are fine with a slightly ugly cake that has to be stored in the fridge, summer is peak cake time. The fruit cooks down until it’s kind of jammy and delightful. You don’t need frosting, just some whipped cream or nothing at all. Summer fruit cakes are the ideal breakfast cake, which we’ve established many times is the ideal genre of cake.

And, while I prefer to use my fruit in a pie (highest calling for fruit), or ice cream (also good), I’m happy to keep trying them. This time I was drawn in by ricotta, which I love and also already had in my fridge.

It’s a good cake! The ricotta keeps it moist and tender, and the edges get a beautiful crispiness that contrasts well with the fluffy center.

It was also pretty easy. (Unless you use cherries and don’t have a cherry pitter which took… some time. I have stainable countertops.)

We offer some flavor combinations in the recipe notes, since the base takes on extra flavorings really well. Mine came out as a nice bright lemon cake.

And mine turned out like a good, classic coffee cake.

The one word of warning we have is that this is a very thick cake, as you can see below. This means it will serve well for breakfast or a hearty afternoon snack, but if you want a slice for a light dessert, we’ve suggested that you could get away with half the batter in a smallish pan.

I’d describe the current cake as hefty. It’s also delicious, so hefty is good.

A cake with strawberries baked into the top with a slice cut out and sitting next to it.
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Berry Cornmeal Cake

Jordan: It’s bluebs season!

Kitra: I cannot believe you’re still calling them that, and also that I wasn’t expecting you to do it.

In fairness, I haven’t been actively calling them bluebs. Just when I know it’s going to annoy someone.

I don’t find it annoying, just… unsettling? I don’t know. It’s fine, but I also think blueberry is a way more fun word to say. It’s like when people have nicknames that are longer than their actual name. It just seems like a waste?

We can agree to disagree on bluebs versus blueberries. However (segue alert!), I know we agree that cooked blueberries are strongly underrated.

Definitely. People go on and on about the joys of cooked strawberries (which never really break down, and are usually better fresh I will fight you all on this), and raspberries (good, but also how often do you get a really quality raspberry or any raspberry because $$$, let’s be real here) but blueberries are cheap, usually very good, and cook down PERFECTLY. Plus, no chopping!

They really need very little to make them great. Our dad used to make blueberry omelets, which were literally omelets filled with a cooked-down mixture of blueberries and lemon juice and a bit of sugar, and they were perfect. Blueberry compote? Great. Blueberry pie? Great, if you let them do their thing without adding a ton of cornstarch. Blueberry cake? Well, here we are.

I thought “this is way too many berries for this cake” but that has never been the case in the history of butter and flour (see also: all pies ever), so I don’t know why I was suspicious.

The cake itself is a lightly sweetened, cornbread-like base. It’s not anything wildly exciting on its own, but then you dump a bunch of sweetened berries on top and it all comes together. A sugary topping forms a nice crispy crust on top of it all.

I’ll be honest that I love the topping (especially because it asked me to use candied ginger, one of my all time favorite foods), but that I’m not 100% on putting it on top of cornbread. It’s definitely a breakfast cake, which is great. But also, I might do this on a regular coffee cake base another time. I’m also more of a sweet cakes fan than Jordan, who likes her breakfast cakes like I like granola. (With yogurt or milk in a bowl? Why. But, you do you.)

Yeah, I liked that this one was not very sweet. If anything, the topping was almost too sweet for me—but once it had a chance to sit and everything kind of melded together, it turned out great. And yes, I had a slice this morning topped with milk, as if it were cereal, which Kitra found horrifying.

I do agree this cake hits a peak on the second day, when the whole thing seems less arbitrary. Both days it was good, don’t get me wrong! I’m going to eat it all and think back on it fondly, but my brain just couldn’t quite wrap around how the layers worked together. A bit like when you put food on top of rice. The rice is just a base that you don’t really think about. This felt to me on the first day like a topping on cornbread. The second day it felt more like one dish.

Kitra has given a lot of caveats here, but I would recommend it. If you have a bunch of blueberries (or other berries, for that matter) and a desire for cake, you could do much worse than this.

I would also recommend it, just don’t think of it as a “cake” per se. More as a fun breakfast snack!

Which is really what all cakes dream of being, in their heart of hearts.

^^^ yep.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake

Jordan: Our criteria for picking a cake this week: 1) Includes buttermilk, because I still have a bottle in my fridge.

Kitra: 2) Uses two or fewer eggs, because I haven’t been to the store in over a month and that’s all I have now.

3) Not particularly complicated or dish-heavy, because we’re both lazy.

4) Something in a loaf pan, that seems like I could freeze slices of because I live alone and absolutely cannot eat another entire cake this week.

Enter: Smitten Kitchen’s everyday chocolate cake.

I’ve made this before, but like eight years ago and I couldn’t tell you anything about it except that it’s chocolate and a loaf cake. And both of those sounded like pluses.

I shouldn’t be the one to sell anyone on this, because I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cake. But I gave a slice to my partner and his first response was, “This is really moist! And much more chocolatey than I would have expected from something you made.”

And as someone who does like chocolate cake, I’ll tell you that this is a delightful afternoon/anytime cake. If you want chocolate cake, but are tired of washing forks and need something you can just cut a slice of and eat while you go about your day, this is it. It’s perfect for this era of our lives, where the idea of “dessert” no longer exists and all food is just for whenever you want it.

I was going to disagree with Kitra but then I remembered that I ate chips and salsa at 10:15pm last week, so.

I made fresh pasta for lunch yesterday, and dinner was a bowl of frozen broccoli that I ate with my fingers. Time, meals, and utensils are dead to me at this point. Cookie dough is lunch.

Point is: This is a good anytime cake. I had mine with a dollop of creme fraiche, and it would be just as good with greek yogurt for a vaguely kinda healthy breakfast.

Chocolate cake with yogurt on it: The breakfast of influencers and body builders everywhere, probably I guess.

While nothing with a 2:1 flour-to-cocoa ratio will ever be my favorite cake, this is a pretty good one. I will continue to eat it! If for some reason I needed to make a rich chocolate cake in the future, this would be a contender. It also has a nice thin, crispy crust on top, which both of us loved.

In summary: good cake, eat it whenever, eat it with your hands, contemplate whether time matters.

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Orange Olive Oil Cake

Jordan: It feels weird to write a blog post about cake right now.

Kitra: I don’t remember much about this cake, or why we made it. It was good, but not important in any scheme of things, honestly.

We made this cake a week and a half ago but were both too tired/bleh to actually write up, so we were going to wait a day or two until we had less malaise going on. BOY WAS THAT A MISTAKE.

Things that are more important than this cake: *gestures wildly at everything*

That was going to be a list but honestly, that covers a lot of it. Which is not to say that this cake is bad! It’s actually quite a good cake! But I don’t think there are any cakes that are as important as… *gestures wildly at everything*

We’ve talked before about baking during a major cultural “JESUS FUCK ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN THAT PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE EVEN IF THEY AREN’T A KAVANAUGH” moment.

But that felt different in a lot of ways. Looking back at that post, it was actually… very funny? But that doesn’t feel appropriate here. And I think that’s because as two very very white* women, this isn’t our moment to laugh-cry about. This is our moment to shut up and listen and do what we can to help, not our moment to write swear words on cake and avoid the news by taking Buzzfeed quizzes.

* 2% milk white, to be specific. At least that’s what the quizzes said last time.

We’re going to give you this cake recipe, because this is a cake blog and (in the wise words of Deb Perelman) no one’s mind ever got changed by the headnotes of a sheet cake. But look, babynames dot freaking com is in on this. If we can contribute to making awareness of racial justice even 1% harder to ignore, we want to do that. So we’re also going to give you this very incomplete list of things that (particularly if you are a white person) you can and should look into before, after, and while baking said cake:

  • Does your state have cash bail? Donate to a bail fund. (DC doesn’t, but here are other ways to help, and most activists recommend legal defense funds as a good alternative.)
  • Have conversations with the people in your life who consider themselves to be progressive but also don’t think that they’re privileged because their lives are hard too. (Here’s a good starter essay.)
  • Bookmark this and come back to it regularly: 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.
  • Advocate at your workplace for better policies and communication around race and diversity.
  • Take a hard look at how much of your media—including your recipes—comes from people of color, and work on improving that.
  • Learn about the racist history of policing in America and what “defund the police” actually means.
  • Get involved in your local politics. How does your city government work? DC has hyperlocal representatives that you can get in touch with. (Jordan hopped on her local ANC Zoom call last week! It was super helpful!)
  • Donate to mutual aid funds, which provide direct support to your neighbors. If you live in a city, you can probably google “(city) mutual aid” and come up with a list or a Facebook group or something; here’s DC’s.
  • Think about the things that you love, and who gets to make and participate in them. If that’s food, great! Start there.
  • If you are also a white lady and want to elevate and support voices that aren’t your own, listen to this advice and sub your job in for “cookbooks.”
  • If the thing you love is theater (like Kitra), check out weseeyouwat.com and also find some new favorite artists.
  • Listen to the people of color around you! And then actually use what you hear. That’s where we always seem to get stuck, as individuals and as a society. We say “ah yes, that’s a really good point” and then go back to doing things exactly the same way we used to. That has to stop.

That’s just what we pulled off the top of our heads/browser histories, but there is so much more. These are specific to our location and interests and news outlets; if you do your own research, you might find things that resonate more with you.

You’re going to need some fuel to do all that reading, and something to stress eat, and if I can make a recommendation: Cake.

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Two Ways

Jordan: I always want to make coffee cake. Well, actually, I always want to eat coffee cake, but that often requires first making coffee cake, especially nowadays.

Kitra: And I always want to eat coffee cake batter, which always requires making it. Ugh. (Not that it’s hard. It was just 77° in my kitchen today.)

I’ve been pushing for us to make a sour cream coffee cake for probably a month now, but it hasn’t quite happened. It turns out making cake is more complicated when it requires both of us to do this wild and complicated thing called “going to the store in advance.”

Especially since we’re going to different stores, and tend to have different ideas of basics. (Sure, there’s always eggs, but I always grab salt and vinegar chips and only grab something like sour cream if I know I’ll need it.)

You may recall that Kitra has strong feelings about sour cream.

I would like to be clear that I think it’s a valuable component of other things, but I just don’t want to eat it straight. I put it on chili, in baked goods, and plenty of other things, but I don’t lick the spoon like Jordan does.

Fortunately for Kitra, sour cream coffee cake doesn’t taste like sour cream; it’s just there to… Actually, I don’t know what it does for the cake. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it’s delicious.

“Sour cream coffee cake” is basically just classic coffee cake. Streusel inside or out, it’s pretty much the one most of us grew up with.

And for the record, this is cake that goes alongside coffee, not cake made with coffee. I’m given to understand that this is a point of confusion on many food blogs, and also once with Kitra’s former roommate. (Who, to be fair, was also confused about literally everything.)

I mean, Jordan said it not me. (RT=endorsement)

We actually made two different coffee cakes today. I’ve been cooking from the newish Tartine cookbook this month, and it includes a recipe for a sour cream coffee cake that is also gluten-free, which is how I’ve been more or less eating for a while. It’s a delicious coffee cake, and though it doesn’t taste exactly like a regular one, I don’t know that I could put my finger on what was different if I didn’t know it was made with almond flour.

I made a regular one. Complete with assessments of which coffee cake pages in the heavy-rotation cookbooks from our childhood seemed the most well worn, and texts to our dad.

Honestly, while I will probably make the Tartine one again in the future, if you eat gluten you should absolutely make the traditional one. It’s basically the Platonic ideal of a sour cream coffee cake. Even if it doesn’t taste like childhood to you like it does to us, you’ll still love it.

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Our 3rd Birthday Cake

A cake with chocolate frosting with a sparkly sign reading "happy birthday" in cursive, on a blue glass cake stand

Kitra: Happy birthday to us! Not as people, but to the ritual of biweekly cake days.

Jordan: This was definitely not the Cake Day Birthday we had imagined. Last year we made a lovely towering cake together, and our plan was to do something similar this year while continuing our hunt for the perfect fudge frosting.

But, you know, *gestures vaguely* this.

So instead we made two cakes, each in our respective homes, with Google Hangouts going and whatever assortment of candles/sprinkles/etc. we had in our kitchens.

We’ll *probably* stop offering you takes on yellow cake with fudge frosting after this, but we hadn’t yet shared the one I actually make for birthdays (mine, friends, coworkers, everyone gets this cake). It’s SO CUTE. And fast. And looks great in pans that have their own lids for easy transport on the metro. (Remember the METRO? Jeez it’s been a while.)

It’s from the Smitten Kitchen Every Day party cake builder, which is honestly just so great. If you make a lot of cakes for things—which seems weird as I type it, but Kitra is presumably not the only person who has been appointed Designated Cake Baker in their office—then the book is worth it for that alone.

Jordan originally wrote “Designated Cake Baker in their friend group” and let me tell you, the one true dream that I have in this world is for my friends to let me make them cakes for their parties. Casual housewarming cake? I got you. Brunch cake? Yep. Birthday cake? PLEASE GOD ASK ME TO BRING A BIRTHDAY CAKE TO YOU. I’VE BEEN TRAINING MY WHOLE LIFE FOR THIS AND NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED.

As you can see, Kitra has Many Feelings about cake, and this cake in particular. But let’s talk frosting. We’re still on the hunt for the perfect canned-style fudge frosting. No chocolate frosting either of us has made has ever been as good as eating that straight out of the can on graham crackers.

The frosting I default to is the one we put on our birthday cake last year, and the one I put on mine this year. It’s very easy, and I’ve had half a dozen self-proclaimed frosting haters ask me for the recipe. And since it is a different style from that dense fudgy canned stuff, I don’t find myself comparing them. I’m content.

I wanted something a little different, though, so I tried the one in Dining In, Alison Roman’s first cookbook (and the source of the cake from last year). It’s a bit of a richer chocolate flavor, with some tanginess from the sour cream. If you want a more nuanced frosting, this is a good option. It’s still no canned frosting, but it’s pretty good. It was also very forgiving of my realization that I had no powdered sugar and had to use regular sugar instead.

As we all know, the thing that makes a birthday cake a birthday cake is what goes on the frosting. Silly candles are ideal. Fancy cake toppers are cool. I have been stockpiling all of the above, but really all you need are rainbow sprinkles. Always rainbow sprinkles.

*Ranibow sprimkles.

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Nutella Crepe Cake

A slice of crepe cake filled with Nutella cream on a plate, with the remaining cake in the background

Jordan: This is a tale of two cakes.

Kitra: For the first time in decades, marmalade has wronged someone. And that someone is me.

Our plan here was to offer you two beautiful crepe cake recipes: One Nutella, and one with alternating layers of marmalade and pastry cream. But instead we have a beautiful Nutella crepe cake and… a cautionary tale.

I would like to say, for the record, that my cake was stellar at first. Pastry cream and marmalade taste great together, and it was a tall, ruffled dream. Until I came back after an hour in the fridge and all the marmalade had turned into… water? I still don’t understand what happened.

So as not to scare you off, we’ll start by talking about the good things that are happening here. There’s browned butter. There’s pastry cream. There are 16 or so delicious mini crepes that you can make with any flour you have on hand.

It’s not all wedges of egg, covered in orange water and cream. You, dear reader, will not end up with a pile of wet crepes, where every one of its component parts would be better off in anything else. You will have the cake I could have had if I hadn’t put my trust in marmalade.

Kitra put all of her photos in a folder and titled it “Tall stack egg bois.” Her cake slice fell apart when she tried to eat it, so when she took a bite all I heard her say was “mmm, triangles.” Meanwhile I was over here shaving chocolate and trying not to flaunt my lovely, not-sad cake. You can do this, reader. You can make a crepe cake and not be disappointed.

I may have brought this upon myself by being VERY showy about how perfect and easy my crepes were. Not a single bad crepe, just the 19 most beautiful crepes I’ve ever made.

Don’t say that, Kitra. No one deserves that mess. Not even a crepe show-off.

Y’all, I have this cake on a paper towel in the fridge to soak up all the marmalade runoff. Just make it with Nutella. (I would have been better off with even the vaguely chocolate peanut butter that I got at the store when there were no Nutella-adjacent options.) If you’re like me, and you think flavoring a pastry cream is a waste of mankind’s greatest creation—pastry cream—let me tell you: It is not. But a wet marmalade egg puddle sure is. Add the Nutella.

We’ll also give you some other options too, if Nutella isn’t your thing but pastry cream is.

I’m going to go stick my finger in the jar of leftover pastry cream now.

We just have so many questions about what happened here. Was Kitra’s particular brand of marmalade the problem? Would this have happened with any jam we tried because crepes aren’t really absorbent? Is marmalade just that much thinner than other jams? If you’re a marmalade-ologist, please call us. We need answers.

A crepe cake filled with Nutella cream with one slice missing
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