Almond Sponge Cake

A slice of almond cake with whipped cream sitting on a plate next to the full cake.

Kitra: Hello to everyone from our separate homes which we do not intend to leave any time soon! I hope there’s cake where you are.

Jordan: It’s been a weird couple of weeks, huh? Kitra and I are both working from home and have been for about two weeks now. DC recently shut down all non-essential businesses, so there’s a lot of not leaving our apartments going on, and that’s about it.

So it’s like every Friday night in my house, but lasting for weeks on end.

Was that a… self-own?

Nope! I love being at my house alone. It’s my ideal day.

Not all of us are quite as thrilled, but we’re both pretty lucky that we’re getting paid and aren’t also trying to homeschool children or ignore terrible roommates or take care of high-risk relatives.

And we’re not really struggling to find food in our areas. We’ve got basics in the pantry, options to get fresh produce, and neighborhood favorite restaurants that are delivering.

So this is our recognition that we’re both in a pretty good place, all things considered. But we’d be lying if we said this wasn’t also a little bit terrible. Like, you know that crushing anxiety about the world that you sometimes get? It’s a little more crushing than usual, and I think everyone feels that right now.

Also, it feels like I’m doing dishes every second of the day somehow.

So many dishes.

Also, there is nowhere that isn’t out of flour. Sure, I’ve got some, but not much. So I’m looking to keep myself entertained by baking, and by not using the 6 cups of all-purpose flour I have left.

We picked this cake today because it fits most of our needs for being home all day in this situation. First, no flour (which also means it’s gluten-free, and Passover friendly if you’re looking ahead to that). Second, it doesn’t take all that long to make. Third—and perhaps most importantly—it’s the kind of cake you can eat whenever. Breakfast? Afternoon snack? Dessert? Yep!

Added bonus: While we both used the almond flour that lurks in our respective freezers, you can use whatever nut you discovered a ton of in the pantry when cleaning it out. (I have 5 kinds of almonds, and a ton of all of them, somehow? I don’t remember buying any of them.)

The one downside is that it requires two bowls to make, but we promise it’s worth it. And I hate doing anything involving egg whites and Kitra hates doing dishes, so if we tell you it’s worthwhile, you know it’s true.

True. It’s also pretty infinitely adaptable, so whatever taste you’re hoping for you can probably get. Add a zest! Add spices! (I added many, many spices.) Add an extract! Mix it up. You can also top it however. It’s a blank slate of a cake. Chocolate glaze! Fruit! Whipped cream! Yogurt for breakfast! Jam!

But to be clear, it’s also great plain. I didn’t add anything fancy to mine, and while I did put whipped cream on top, I would happily eat it on its own. It’s got the texture of a standard sponge cake but a beautiful almond flavor if you leave it unspiced.

All in all: great cake to eat in its entirety, alone in your house.

So here’s a cake for you—whatever situation you’re in right now. We hope it makes things a little less terrible.

Two slices of almond cake on a small plate
Read More

Elementary School-Style Spice Cake

A square spice cake with white frosting and star-shaped sprinkles. Several pieces have been cut from the cake to be served.

Jordan: The elementary school Kitra and I went to had one, and only one, variety of celebratory cake: spice cake. I always found this to be completely inexplicable.

Kitra: I don’t know, it makes sense to me for an elementary school. It has applesauce in it! It is the most wholesome of the cakes! Chocolate feels too over-the top. Vanilla feels too overtly like sugar. Spice cake is a middle ground. And it’s no one’s favorite, so you can serve it to children without them losing their minds.

The thing is, I have almost never encountered spice cake outside of my elementary school cafeteria. I know, vaguely, that it exists, but it doesn’t show up on restaurant menus or in cupcake shops or anywhere else. No one actually eats it. It’s not that they dislike it; it’s just that the opportunity is never there.

I feel like spice cake just… is. But in the same way the place that you put mail when you walk in the door just is. You’re aware that it exists if you think about it, but you don’t really think about it. You’re never surprised to find it, because it makes perfect sense.

Kitra and I are struggling to properly express the conundrum that is spice cake, but the point is this: of all the basic cakes, spice cake is the most underrated, and that should change.

But, because spice cake is some sort of cryptid, I only ever understand its presence on or around March 2nd.

Known and beloved by millions of children as Read Across America Day, or Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The day when you wear pajamas to school, wear silly hats, and most importantly for us, eat spice cake at lunch. (Even if you brought your own lunch—what a glorious day!)

I forgot almost all of that stuff (I only remember our beloved local news anchor wearing fun ties for it [moment of silence to remember Ron Brown]), but I. Remember. The. Spice. Cake. Damn. It.

Consider this our nostalgic contribution to bringing spice cake back into the birthday cake rotation. It’s a simple, no-frills cake that is still far more interesting than your standard vanilla or chocolate.

Plus, when you’re not endeavoring to recreate an elementary school experience, it’s a great opportunity for a straight up cream cheese frosting. And those rock. (If you are endeavoring to recreate an elementary school experience, then we’ve got you covered here with good old fashioned shortening.)

Put on your pajamas, grab a book to read while the cake is baking, and get ready for some good old-fashioned cafeteria cake, in the best possible way. Sprinkles optional, but strongly encouraged.

A square spice cake with white frosting and star-shaped sprinkles.
Read More

White Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting

A  slice of white cake with chocolate frosting in front of the remaining cake

Jordan: This cake is a New Year’s Eve cake, but we hope it will set the stage for 2020. It’s a simple black-and-white cake, which fits perfectly with a great goal for the new year: Do less.

Kitra: For many of us, I think I can safely say that in 2019 we did TOO MUCH. Tried too hard, worked too hard, and didn’t enjoy the small stuff enough. Like a really good frosting and a moist cake. (Or like cancelling plans, which is the true meaning of Christmas.)

This is not to say that doing and caring about things doesn’t matter, but that it’s important to actually consider the things you’re doing and caring about. Some things, for example, that are not worth giving your time and energy:

  • Having your oven clock be correct down to the second
  • What the people who work at Sephora think about you when you’re not wearing makeup
  • The right exact shade of purple you want that thing to be
  • “Detoxing”
  • That pile of unopened mail that you carefully hide whenever someone is coming over
  • Plastic straws, both the use and disuse thereof
  • Wearing 2 different colors of denim
  • Trying to sell the clothes that have been in the “to get rid of” pile for years when you could just donate them
  • If you’re “allowed” to wear hats
  • What your ex’s new girlfriend will think if she sees you across the room at a party
  • Whether that stranger’s dog likes you (maybe, that dog is a dick. It’s rare, but happens.)
  • “Guilty pleasure” music, unless it’s made by actual criminals/terrible people
  • Hanging up that clean laundry tonight, because it’s midnight and you want to sleep
  • How other people organize their books
  • How white your teeth are
  • Whether other people give enough/too much attention, in your view, to sports, celebrities, and/or astrology
  • The heat death of the universe. You’ll be here or you (presumably) won’t. Who cares! Unless you work for NASA, chill out buddy.

And, for our purposes here: Making every cake a beautiful three-tier masterpiece.

If you put enough candles in it, or sprinkles on it, any cake can look astonishingly festive. In 2020, just throw some sprinkles on a sheet cake and call it a day. (Or don’t throw them, because I constantly remind Jordan that they don’t magically stick 90% of the time. But use them.)

(Sprinkles are just edible confetti, throw them if you want to throw them. But be aware they do bounce off of cake sides, just FYI.)

If you’re looking for a cake to sprinkle, this is a good one!

IT’S SO FLUFFY.

This is truly an answer to the boxed white cakes of everyone’s childhoods.

It’s like the crappy sheet cake you get at a second-grader’s birthday party, but delicious. I don’t think I realized that white cake could taste this good.

We were both pretty surprised. It looks amazing, tastes amazing, and cuts BEAUTIFULLY. You know how sometimes it’s just hard to get perfect slices? Not here, Buster.

We used Black Onyx cocoa powder, which makes the frosting taste like an Oreo and makes it extra-dark. Even with regular cocoa, however, it will still be deliciously chocolatey and not too overwhelmingly sweet.

This cake is simple, but it looks so regal. It’s black-tie ready. So white and fluffy! So black and fluffy! It’s the feather boa of cakes, but awesome and not constantly flying into your mouth when you aren’t prepared! Only when you are prepared. Because you’re eating.

Basically, it’s a cake that will make people happy without you having to slave away in the kitchen. Which is exactly the kind of cake 2020 needs.

A cake with chocolate frosting, large white sprinkles, and many glittery star-shaped candles
Read More

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.

Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More