Russian Honey Cake

Kitra: This was a cake I’ve wanted to try forever. It looked like a fun icebox-esque cake, and I LOVE ICEBOX CAKES. And then I turned on it.

Jordan: See, the problem is that Kitra forgot that she doesn’t really like sour cream.

According to my notes from the day we made this, sometime in Hour 3 of sour cream thoughts I said, “Sour cream is both gooey and sticky at the same time. It’s like milk that ate too much.” Which, in retrospect, makes no sense. But I stand by it.

Let’s hold up a second though, because we’re not selling this cake well. We made a crucial mistake in testing this cake, which is that we had a slice before it had time to sit. If you’ve ever made an icebox cake, you know that the magic is in letting everything meld together and turn into one beautiful whole cake rather than just layers of cookies and filling.

I had about 2 bites and rejected the whole thing as irreparably sour cream-y. But the next morning… HONEY CAKE. No longer was it a sour cream pile, but rather a lovely cake.

It has a somewhat cheesecake-like flavor, but with a cakier consistency.

The process for this cake is fascinating, to say the least. You basically turn honeycomb candy into a cookie dough that tastes exactly like the outside of a Cow Tale (other people ate those, right?). Bake those Cow Tale cookies, and layer them with a very soft and hard-to-manage sour cream mixture. Chill, do it again, and so on. I though we failed so many times. My freezer still has sour cream blops in it.

Yes, the process is a little wild, but we’ve included our tips in the recipe. Honestly, if you can be patient with the frosting (or go for a naked cake), it’s not that bad.

(We did not go for a naked cake, which is how we ended up with this as-seen-on-TV blo-pen special look.)

Also, a disclaimer: our pictures of the inside of the cake were all taken before I transported the leftovers across town in my purse, and therefore before the cake had a chance to settle. They are not representative at all of the final texture of the cake. They’re just prettier than the aforementioned blo-pen look.

Good luck.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Cake

A chocolate layer cake with ice cream and raspberries between the two layers

Kitra: Sometimes, most of the time, it’s really unbearably hot in DC. And nothing is okay unless it’s made of ice cream.

Jordan: However, I didn’t grow up eating (so-called) ice cream cakes. You know, the kind that are just layers of ice cream and some crumbly bits and sub-standard frosting on top. I don’t know that I’d ever had one of those before a few years ago. If so, I’ve completely erased it from my memory.

I recall a period where we had a lot of Dairy Queen ice cream cakes in the freezer, but it seems like that may have been after Jordan went to college.

I don’t believe in cakeless ice cream cake. Kitra, meanwhile, just googled pictures of DQ cakes and whispered “Yeah, these guys” to herself. But because this is a cake blog and not an “ice cream shaped like cake” blog, we went with something that involved actual cake.

And since our dad was in town, we made it gluten-free. Which, may I add, is one of the true gifts of ice cream. The cake part is harder, but not that hard.

If you do gluten-free baking with any regularity, we highly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook, which we purchased a while after our dad was diagnosed with celiac.

That cookbook was a lifesaver. WAFFLES THAT TASTE LIKE REGULAR WAFFLES Y’ALL. It had been a long time since we had eaten regular tasting desserts. And their cakes are so genuinely good that I made them regularly for events in high school.

A lot of the time we prefer gluten-free foods that taste like an improvement on their regular counterparts—we both own a copy of Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours for this reason. However, if you want a gluten-free chocolate cake that tastes exactly like a regular chocolate cake, ATK is where it’s at. That’s what we did here.

Also, if you’re making an ice cream cake, you should use ice cream that you actually like. We used Tillamook, since they recently started distributing in DC and as an Oregonian I feel it is my responsibility to single-handedly uphold that market.

We’ve included directions here that will make your life easier, but I want to emphasize this up front: do not let this cake break you. It will be fine. I promise.

And whatever you do, don’t think “eh, this will be fine without a mold.” Put the ice cream in the damn pan and save yourself.

(Kitra might have had to leave the room for a bit while we were assembling.)

(It was so horrifying. Be better than us.)

I feel like we’ve done a terrible job of selling this so far, but it really is a delicious cake.

It’s also ice cream cake. It sells itself.

Go, make ice cream cake and make the best of the last terrible bit of summer.

Chocolate ganache sliding over the edges of an ice cream cake
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Slab Pavlova with Roasted Cherries, Berries, and Earl Grey Whipped Cream

Pavlova topped with whipped cream, roasted cherries, and blueberries

Kitra: This post comes to you from the great state of Oregon (est. 1859) and also from the past. More specifically, the Fourth of July.

Jordan: We were visiting our dad in our hometown and wanted something that was gluten-free for him but was also festive, because when you have a cake blog you’re not allowed to let Independence Day pass without doing something red-and-blue. It’s a rule.

We’ve been looking at pavlovas for a while, because Jordan found a technicality that says they count as cake.

It’s not a technicality, it’s Wikipedia! The title of the article is Pavlova (cake). It counts..

And since my favorite dessert is an Eaton mess, which is basically the same thing (albeit less pretty and with wildly different ingredient ratios) I’m an easy sell.

Pavlova, if you’re not familiar with it, is essentially a giant meringue, generally topped with fruit and whipped cream. You can make it in elegant shapes, or you can just go rustic and free-form it.

And when I saw Erin McDowell had a recipe for a slablova, it was so fun to pronounce that we had to go with it.

It’s like slab pie, only instead of rolling out pie crust you’re just throwing a bunch of egg whites and sugar together and forgetting about them in the oven.

Everyone loves a slab pie.

We were also making a roasted cherry sorbet (which we also recommend, so we doubled the cherries and used those as a topping along with blueberries. We also added an Earl Grey whipped cream, because Kitra will never pass up a chance to add tea to something.

And I have no regrets about it. It brings another flavor to the dish, and allows you to cut the sweetness of the Pavlova.

I did find the pavlova itself to be a bit on the sweet side, but I also topped my portion with weird store-bought almond whipped cream. (Don’t ask.) If you’re going with a store-bought whipped cream, first of all don’t do that, but second of all, you’ll want to make sure you use some unsweetened fruit to keep it from being overwhelmingly sweet.

But really, don’t do that. Even an infused whipped cream is so, so easy.

Overall, a nice change of pace and a good dessert for a lazy summer evening in the backyard.

Pavlova topped with whipped cream, roasted cherries, and blueberries
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Honey Pistachio Cake

Slice of honey pistachio cake on a plate with the full cake and a mug in the background

Jordan: This is a good cake.

Kitra: I’d make this again on a non-Cake Day. It was so easy, so low stress, and so damn good.

One of the best effort-to-outcome ratios we’ve ever had for sure.

This all started with honey powder that we picked up on trip to New York over 2 years ago. As soon as we saw it, a pistachio cake with honey frosting was the goal.

Like baklava, but in cake form and without having to wrestle phyllo dough. The cake has a great pistachio flavor, nutty and not too sweet.

The frosting is so delightful, I’d like to put it on everything. The topping adds just the right baklava flair (and more pistachios!).

Honestly, we don’t know what else to say about this cake. We ate it in total silence: no critique, no chit chat. Just cake.

Top-down image of pistachio cake with honey-glazed pistachios on top
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Our 2nd Birthday Cake

Three-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a candle

Jordan: About two years ago, we decided that we had more cake recipes bookmarked than we had occasions to make cake, and thus, Cake Day was born.

Kitra: I will always remember what weekend our cake… anniversary(?) falls on because it was the same day that Falsettos opened on Broadway in 1992. That’s in my calendar as a recurring event.

(Kitra is a nerd.) Cake Day shares a birthday weekend with several awesome things, including Kitra’s local bookstore, where she picked up a copy of Alison Roman’s Dining In this weekend. It’s full of great dinner ideas and brilliant cooking tips, but it also includes a recipe for the fluffiest yellow cake ever.

It’s tall and beautiful just like a birthday cake should be. Also, I would like everyone here to try and explain to relative strangers that you’re buying a birthday candle for a cake about cake. (Thanks to my other favorite local store for never being put off by sentences like that when I come in to buy a “2” candle, or walk in with nothing but a melon and a dog in hand.)

Funnily enough, we didn’t really have this kind of birthday cake growing up. (I was always a cheesecake fan, at least after the “cakes shaped like princess castles or dinosaurs” phase. I contained multitudes as a child). But there’s something undeniably birthday-y about good yellow cake, chocolate frosting, and sprinkles.

Mine often had the misfortune of being Halloween-themed, so I too lacked the classic birthday cake experience. In fact, for the past 6 years I haven’t had cake at all. But yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles is still what I bring to any and all birthday celebrations that I’m allowed to bring cake to.

Last year we tried out the recipe from Stella Parks’s cookbook, Bravetart, and it was… fine? But it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. (The cookbook is great though, don’t get us wrong.) This one hit the spot.

I’m pretty loyal to the Smitten Kitchen cake and frosting, but I think that the size and scale of this cake work better with a fluffy beautiful cake like this. (If you want a sheet cake though, you know where to look.) We kept the frosting though, because it is just so damn easy and smooth.

That said, if you happen to have a recipe for a fudgy frosting that tastes just like the amazing canned stuff you buy at the grocery store, send it our way. There’s always next year.

Three-layer cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a lit candle

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Pecan Browned Butter Cake

Pecan browned butter cake, topped with whipped cream and strawberries and missing a slice

Jordan: Let’s start by saying that this cake was delicious.

Kitra: It tastes like pralines, and that wasn’t even the intent. It’s that lovely.

Think nutty, buttery, and lightly caramelly. We ate more than half the cake in one sitting.

Added bonus: no wheat! Which generally is… not a bonus. But it’s good here.

That said, we failed at one part of this cake. Or rather, I failed at it. (Kitra was just along for the ride.) The original cake included cornmeal, but in an attempt to make it kosher for Passover, we swapped that out. We also swapped out the small amount of all-purpose flour (which also makes it gluten-free)… Unfortunately, I remembered too late that rice flour, which we used, is still kitniyot, just like corn is.

It’s totally doable to make this work though if that’s your goal. Just don’t arbitrarily pick rice flour like we did.

It wasn’t arbitrary! It was recommended by the people in the comments as a gluten-free swap, and I already had it in my pantry. It was, however, not fully thought-out. Fun side story: I’ve also done this in the other direction. I once used a kosher for Passover recipe to make cookies for a gluten-free friend and realized as they were going in the oven that matzo meal is, you know, decidedly not gluten-free. Cookies were good though.

I enjoyed them.

I’ll also note that this cake is kosher for Passover if you eat kitniyot (corn, rice, legumes, etc.), which as far as I can tell is mostly a matter of how strong your feelings are about tradition, unless you’re Orthodox.

Jordan has done a lot of research and needs more outlets for it. I just like cake and know I should eat less wheat because it doesn’t always make me feel great but I’m in denial.

In my defense, there are a lot of topics I have done unnecessary research on but this is not one of them. It just comes from being the only non-Jew at my boyfriend’s mother’s Passover seders. Ask me about World War I facial surgery and then we’ll get into some unnecessary research.

We should end on something other than facial surgery. So: this cake is great and you should eat over half of it in 20ish minutes. No regrets.

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Chunky Carrot Cake

carrot-cake-1.jpg

Jordan: There’s a restaurant near my apartment that sells a four-layer carrot cake with roughly equal parts cake and frosting. It is monstrous and beautiful and impossible to eat in one sitting. My boyfriend and I once split a slice and still almost couldn’t finish it. He picked some up the other day and while it was perfectly fine, all it did was leave me with a craving for better carrot cake. Something not so painfully sweet, and with ALL the things in it.

Kitra: And I, like most people (I hope) will never say no to a chance to eat carrot cake. Or have my house smell like carrot cake. Or have it in my fridge for breakfast. Or dinner.

Carrot cake is one of those cakes that can go in a lot of different directions. Fancy layer cake? Casual sheet cake? Dinner while you type a blog post? Carrot cake has got your back.

The thing is, everyone has a different idea of what it is. Dense or fluffy? Nuts or none? Raisins? How many spices?

Is it just a vessel for cream cheese frosting? Should you actually be able to see the carrots or is this just a spice cake pretending to be healthy?

This is our version of carrot cake. Enough carrots that what you pour into the pan looks more like a carrot slurry than a batter. Walnuts because the cake needs some crunch to break up the density.

Also, raisins! Raisins belong in everything. Those people who complain about raisins being in oatmeal cookies or trail mix because “I thought it was a chocolate chip”? They are wrong.

Chocolate chips ruin the whole vibe of trail mix. I have never been disappointed that something was a raisin and not chocolate. I have been disappointed that it was chocolate.

Point is: if you like a light, fluffy, delicate carrot cake, this is not for you. If you like a chunky, dense, vaguely earthy carrot cake, read on.

carrot-cake-2.jpg Read More