Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Poppy seed cake with whipped cream and blood orangesJordan: Happy New Year!

Kitra: 2018 happened. It’s over. We’re moving on with cake.

Specifically, a lucky cake. Poppy seeds are considered lucky in Hungary, especially around New Year’s.

And when we briefly lived there, the holidays were marked by a Black Friday-esque battle for oranges at the grocery store.

Imagine, if you will, dozens of middle-aged eastern Europeans, swarming the aisles of Tesco to fill their carts to the brim with boxes and bags of oranges. We’re not exaggerating here; people would buy literal cartloads.

Every person you passed in the store had nothing but oranges in their cart.

To this day, all of my Googling has been unable to come up with an explanation for this surreal phenomenon. We’ll blame it on the Soviet Union, just like all of the rest of Hungary’s idiosyncrasies.

So we paired a documented Hungarian tradition with one we’re only mostly sure we didn’t dream.

Here’s hoping this cake brings you a bright, lucky, and only mildly perplexing 2019.

We also did some other things since we last posted!

While we may revisit some of these in later posts, we’ll share the links here now as a belated Christmas/Hanukkah gift to you and an apology for being gone so long.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pound Cake | We’ve had this bookmarked since it first went up on Shutterbean more than a year ago and recommend that you don’t wait nearly as long as we did to make it. It’s from Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance and it’s truly excellent.

Olive Oil Cake with Farmer’s Cheese Filling | We made this, as Alice Medrich suggests, as a Hanukkah cake but it was delicious and would be welcome all year round. We swapped farmer’s cheese for the creme fraiche in the filling, but suspect it would be great either way.

Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) pies: Garam Masala Pear Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, and Orange Maple Walnut and Apple Chai pies, both from A Year of Pies.

Poppy seed orange cake, brown sugar bundt cake, three pies, and Hanukkah cake

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Adapted, just slightly, from Food52

If you like poppy seeds, this cake has a lot going for it! It’s moist and light, gluten-free, and is interesting enough to serve for dessert but not so sweet that it can’t be breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you don’t like poppy seeds, then this is really not your cake.

We used orange in the batter, in keeping with the theme, but you could also use lemon (as in the original recipe). We top it here with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh blood oranges, but it would also be good on its own or with a light icing.

We used a very small blood orange but have adjusted it here to use a regular one and increase the amount of orange flavor in the cake itself. We strongly recommend doing the almonds and poppy seeds by weight, so convert those to cups at your own risk.


¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 orange
5 eggs
1 tart apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 oz (200g) almond flour/meal or an equal weight blanched almonds, processed until fine
7 oz (200g) poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced oranges, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Add sugar to a large bowl and zest the orange over top of the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar to help release the orange flavor.

Once you’ve zested it, cut your orange in half and juice one half into a small bowl. Toss the grated apple with the juice and set it all aside.

Separate your eggs. The whites should go into a clean large bowl, while the yolks can go on top of the orange sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the whites until they reach soft peaks. Without bothering to wash the beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the almond flour and poppy seeds to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix until well-combined. Mix in the grated apple (along with any juices in the bottom of the bowl), then the baking powder. Using a spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool fully before serving with whipped cream and sliced oranges.

Election Cake


Kitra: Election Cakes are part of the largely forgotten American tradition of bribing people to participate in democracy. First it was politicians offering free booze outside of polling locations, then the country turned to cake. Women made massive batches of election cake and offered them as incentives to come to vote. And we’re not the only ones who did this. In Australia, it’s still a common practice to serve “democracy sausages” outside of polling sites.

Jordan: Kitra vaguely remembered that one of the early presidents once won an election by providing free booze at the polls. Turns out it was George Washington, who lost his first election in Virginia but won the second by spending his entire campaign budget on alcohol.

Speaking of presidents, our election cake inspiration came from an 1887 White House cookbook full of poison antidotes and cake recipes that seem to be missing most of their ingredients and all of their directions.

The full recipe for Election Cake:

Three cups milk, two cups sugar, one cup yeast; stir to a batter, and let stand over night; in the morning add two cups sugar, two cups butter, three eggs, half a nutmeg, one tablespoonful cinnamon, one pound raisins, a gill of brandy.

Brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake, and it is improved by dissolving a half-teaspoonful of soda in a tablespoonful of milk in the morning. It should stand in the greased pans and rise some time until quite light before baking.

That’s it. That’s the entire recipe.

Notice, no flour.

Four cups of sugar.


How long does it bake for? What kind of pan? No one knows!

So obviously we had to make it. And also a safety cake with flour, instructions, and a very reasonable amount of yeast.

To reconstruct this cake, we started by assuming that it was wrong. Four cups of sugar and no flour sounded like a disaster, but two cups of flour and two of sugar might work. We decided that the first mention of sugar must have been a mistake and swapped it for flour. We also reduced the yeast significantly. We cut it in half to account for using active dry yeast rather than fresh yeast, then again for the advances in yeast effectiveness that have probably happened since 1887, then reduced it a bit more for good measure.

I just thought it should be a living buzoozle of yeast.

That felt like a bad idea. Also like a cup of yeast would be kind of expensive.

I wasn’t thinking a cup, but like, maybe a ¼ cup.

The actual process for this was pretty concerning. It turns out that adding a very liquidy batter, raisins, and brandy to creamed butter and sugar gives you… very liquidy butter and sugar with raisins and brandy. So we added a little bit of flour, threw it in the oven, and crossed our fingers.

Slice of rather squishy cake, with raisins
Our experimental late-1800s election cake.

You don’t need to butter this cake. This cake is ALL. BUTTER. My immediate reaction upon turning it out was “So greasy…”

In fact, testing it with a toothpick was very concerning because even though the cake still felt quite soft, the toothpick came out with nothing but butter on it.

A selection of our reactions to this cake upon trying it:

“What the hell is this?”

“It’s like we invented baked oatmeal, but without the oats.”

“It’s like we already made french toast out of the other cake.”

“This is bread pudding.”

And honestly? It’s not bad. It’s pretty good actually, just… not election cake.

It has potential, though. We’ll revisit it next time there’s an election. Until then, here’s a recipe that actually works… and, if you want it, our variation on the 1887 cake. We recommend you make the former.

Sliced election cake, with butter


Election Cake

Adapted slightly from Food52, where it was in turn adapted from I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell and American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

While we didn’t discuss it much, this version is a pretty good cake! (It’s the one in the first and last pictures in this post.) It’s closer to a bread, which makes it an excellent breakfast cake or afternoon snack. It’s great on its own or with a bit of butter. Fair warning that the alcohol doesn’t cook all the way off, which also makes it a good way to drown any election-related sorrows you might have without looking like an alcoholic.

Our only real change was to use brown sugar instead of white, because “brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake.” This recipe is supposed to be made in two smaller 8”x3” loaf pans; we used foil 8”x4” pans. A 9”x5” pan would likely just hold it, maybe with a couple of muffins or a mini-loaf left over. We also found that the recommended 2-3 hour rise time was longer than necessary and have shortened it here.


½ cup warm milk (100° to 115°)
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup (120g) flour
1 T molasses
1 ½ c (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
¼ c sweet fortified wine; the original recipe calls for Madeira or sweet sherry, but we used white port
¼ c brandy
2 ½ c (300g)flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
1 c (100g) toasted and chopped pecans
1 c (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
⅔ c brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature


Combine the raisins, wine, and brandy in a bowl and let soak while you make the rest of the cake.

Next, make the sponge. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the yeast and milk. Add 1 cup flour to a medium bowl and pour the milk/yeast mixture over top. Add the molasses and stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

Once the sponge has doubled, preheat your oven to 350° and line two 8″x3″ pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, salt, and pecans.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and brown sugar until light and fairly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine between each. Scrape down the bowl, then add the sponge (the yeast mixture) and mix until fully combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just roughly combined, then add the raisins and any alcohol they haven’t soaked up and mix until fully combined. (This last step may be easier with a spatula.)

Divide dough into prepared pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm, with butter.

“Election Cake”

Adapted, liberally, from the 1887 edition of the White House Cookbook

1.5 packets (just over a tablespoon) active dry yeast
1 ½ cup milk, warm (100° to 115°)
1 cup (120g) flour
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz.) butter, softened
2 eggs
¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated (or 1 tsp ground nutmeg, if you must)
½ T cinnamon
½ cup (60g) flour
¼ cup brandy
1 ½ cups (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
1 cup (100g) toasted and chopped pecans, walnuts, or a mix

First, make the sponge. In a medium bowl, whisk together yeast, milk, and 1 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Once 2 hours have passed, preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until combined and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Add the brandy, sponge, and flour and stir as best as possible using a silicone spatula. Stir in nuts and raisins, and pour into a 9”x5” loaf pan. It will come fairly close to the top, but don’t worry, as it doesn’t rise much in the oven.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out free of batter. Let cool most of the way in the pan before serving.

Classic Cake Day: Red Velvet Ghost Cake


[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake in October 2017.]

Jordan: Last year’s Halloween cake was probably going to be a cake covered entirely in candy eyes, like a sprinkle cake (but eyes).

Kitra: Which we should still do.

Agreed. But it was worth postponing because: ghost pretzels. Ghost. Pretzels. They look like the poor unfortunate souls from The Little Mermaid! You can’t not love them.

We had way too much fun making ghosts. Also just saying the word “ghosts”.

Imagine Kitra saying “ghosts” with a Minnesotan accent over and over and you’ll get the idea.


Rather than just covering any old cake in ghosts, we went for the most disturbingly blood-like of cakes: red velvet.

I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipe before, and it’s lovely. Except where it looks like the inside of our meat suits.

That was gross. I’m sorry. This cake is delicious, but be warned that between the cake, cream cheese frosting, and a solid coating of yogurt-covered pretzels, it’s VERY sweet.

And also your fingers will be a weird color for days unless you’re very careful.

Recommended order of operations for this:

  1. Make the cakes so that they can cool
  2. Make frosting
  3. Make a million tiny ghosts
  4. Start thinking of puns that combine both ghosts and cake
  5. Assemble the cake
  6. Make a really bad video
  7. Profit???



I was really insistent about the video. I also love it. In fact, I showed it to someone this month for no particular reason other than I feel it is a work of ART.

In summary, we’re not really inventing the wheel here on red velvet cake, but we are making it a lot spookier.


Red Velvet Cake with Pretzel Ghosts

Cake from Alton Brown, ghosts inspired by Dessert Now Dinner Later

Alton Brown stubbornly insists that you use weights when baking, and while he’s correct that it’s better that way, it’s not convenient if you don’t have a baking scale. You can convert your ingredients here if you like.

Two bags of pretzels will likely give you more than you need, but it’s good to have extra so that you can discard (aka eat) the broken ones.



5 1/2 oz all-purpose flour
4 oz cake flour
1/2 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
2 T red liquid food coloring
1 T white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 1/2 oz brown sugar
4 oz. (1 stick, 4 T) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs


Preheat your oven to 350°. Line two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Set both dry and wet ingredients aside while you do the next step.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), use an electric mixer on low and cream butter and brown sugar about 2 minutes, until it is lighter in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully combined.

Add one third of the flour mixture and mix on medium speed mostly combined. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until mostly combined. Repeat with another third of the flour, the other half of the buttermilk, and the last of the flour. Mix until the batter is fully smooth.

Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool fully.

To Decorate


2 12-oz bags of yogurt-covered pretzels
2 packages of candy eyes
cream cheese frosting of your choice (we made ours up as we went, but Alton’s original recipe includes one)
food coloring (if desired)


Scoop about half a cup of frosting into a small bowl and set aside. If desired, add food coloring to the remaining frosting until it reaches your desired shade. Set the tinted frosting aside.

Using a butter knife, dab a small amount of the reserved white frosting onto the back of a candy eye and place it on a pretzel, over one of the two upper holes. This is usually easiest if you place it toward the top or bottom of the hole, so that the candy eye has as much surface area covering meeting the pretzel as possible. Eyes at the top make them more ghoulish; eyes at the bottom make them more adorable. Set ghost aside to firm up. Repeat until you run out of pretzels, eyes, or time.

Frost your cake and arrange pretzel ghosts to your liking. While a two-layer cake will neatly fit two rows of ghosts if you stagger them (think like the pattern of bricks), know that this makes the cake very hard to slice and we don’t recommend it.

Black Sesame Orange Layer Cake


Kitra: Jordan loves Halloween. I love… cake.

Jordan: It’s my fault. I ruined Halloween for Kitra by forcing her to have Halloween birthday parties throughout her childhood.

I maintain that there is no such thing as a “seasonally appropriate theme party” and that if my birthday was near any other holiday we would not do that.

I always thought she was wrong about this, but no. It has taken me almost twenty-six years to realize that I would have a New Year’s/Fourth of July/Halloween themed birthday, but normal people would not. Clearly I was always an event planner at heart.

Anyway, this is why we always make a Halloween cake and I don’t even make myself cake for my actual birthday. #TeamEatonMess

Halloween cakes are great because you get to be ridiculous with them. Hence the way this looks a little like a Halloween carnival threw up on a cake plate.

Even though it looks like circus peanuts, I promise it doesn’t taste like them. For one thing, it’s not stale. Yet.

The cake itself is black sesame, which has a nice mild nuttiness


and we included a slick of marmalade in between each layer, which gives it a little bitterness.

Also same.

The frosting is fairly sweet, but it’s also light. We discovered this bizarre cooked frosting a while back—you start by basically making a bechamel, which seems so, so wrong—that provides a nice neutral base for a little bit of orange flavor. (Side note: I now want to make a cheese frosting using this base.)

I don’t buy the idea that this would be anything other than horrifying. And I LOVE cheese.

This cake is also the culmination of two long-held food dreams.

Back in… 2013? I got a tube of sweet black sesame paste, which I mostly ate with a spoon and a glass of orange juice. I always said I would start a food blog only if I could come up with a good black sesame/orange cookie.

For me, I’ve been holding onto this recipe for probably five years and finally got an opportunity to make it, or at least something like it. Considering that half the point of Cake Day was to use up my many bookmarks, I’m pretty happy with that.


Black Sesame Orange Layer Cake

Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

This cake would also be good scaled down into something of an afternoon tea cake, with a thin orange icing and/or a simple layer of marmalade, no frosting.

The first part of this recipe walks you through making a sweet sesame paste; if you have access to a good Asian grocery where you can find the pre-made stuff, it would likely work with that too. Make sure you find one that is sweetened, not just plain black sesame paste. The recipe will make more than you need; you’ll need about 2 cups total, whether homemade or store-bought.

Glutinous rice flour is the kind used to make mochi and other gloopy treats; it is not the same as regular rice flour. It’s sometimes sold as sweet rice flour or mochiko.

Finally, we highly recommend finding pre-ground black sesame seeds (sometimes called black sesame powder) if possible, but you can also try lightly toasting and then grinding them as finely as possible in a blender or food processor. Be sure to toast them first, as the raw seeds will have a lot more bitterness. For best results, measure the seeds by weight and grind them along with the rice flour and sugar–the extra volume will help.


1 cup (85g) ground black sesame seeds
½ cup (80g) glutinous rice flour
½ cup (100g) sugar
2 cups cold water, plus more as needed
½ tsp sesame oil
1 cup (8oz, 227g, 2 sticks) butter, softened
2c (400g) sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3½ cups (440g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
orange frosting (see below)
2 tbsp orange marmalade, stirred so that it is easily spreadable
black sesame seeds, for topping


Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round pans with parchment and lightly grease the insides of the pans.

In a medium saucepan, combine ground sesame, ½ cup sugar, rice flour, and 1 cup of cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flexible spatula, until the mixture is fully combined and starts to thicken. Add the second cup of water and continue stirring.

Let sesame paste cook, stirring consistently, until it is the consistency of warm pudding: it should be able to ooze off the spatula when you scoop it up, but it shouldn’t be runny. The mixture may come to a very slow boil at some point, which is fine. If you find that your paste has thickened up too much, add a little more water and stir until it thins back down.

Stir in the sesame oil, then remove pot from heat and set sesame paste aside to cool to room temperature. (You can move it to a separate bowl and/or put it in the fridge/freezer to hurry this along.)

In a large bowl, cream butter and 2 cups sugar together with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined, then add vanilla.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Once the sesame paste has cooled, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, beating until mostly combined. Beat in one cup of sesame paste until mostly combined. Repeat with two more portions of flour and one additional cup of sesame paste (for two cups total) and mix batter until fully combined. The batter will be very thick.

Divide batter into three prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then remove onto a rack to cool fully.

To assemble cake, spread a thin layer of frosting onto the top of one cake layer, followed by a very thin layer of marmalade. Don’t spread the marmalade all the way to the edges, as it can make for a messier frosting job on the outside. Repeat with second layer and top with the final layer (no marmalade needed here). Frost the outside of your cake and top with sesame seeds as desired.

Orange Frosting

Adapted from Food52


slightly full ¼ cup (35g) flour
1½ c milk
¾ tsp salt
1½ c (300g) sugar
zest of 1 orange
1½ c (12 oz, 340g, 3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp orange extract
food coloring (optional)


In a small saucepan, combine milk, flour, and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture just comes to a boil. It will thicken significantly as it does so. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes, until it is a little warmer than room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest. Use your fingers to rub the orange zest into the sugar; this helps release the flavor. Add butter and beat using an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.

Once the milk mixture is cool enough that it won’t melt the butter, add it one spoonful at a time to the butter and sugar, beating throughout. As you add more, the frosting will become light and fluffy; continue beating until you’ve added all of the milk mixture. Add orange extract and food coloring, if using.

Red Red Wine Chocolate Rage Cake


Jordan: So this week happened.

Kitra: 😡

This week happened, and then I googled “rage cake recipe” and mostly got gender reveal cakes(?).

Which do, in fact, fill most of us with rage. Gender is a fucking construct you assholes, get it together and just buy some tiny baby overalls. They’re unisex.

Kitra is still in a generally angry mood.


My first impulse was “what kind of cake involves smashing things” but alcohol was a close second. Smitten Kitchen, ever the source of great ways to drown your sorrows, provided us with this cake.

My response was “I am on board with the red wine cake provided I can write something along the lines of ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH on it in melted chocolate.”

Other options included “wtf y’all” and “honestly fuck Susan Collins” but we decided to keep it simple. Turns out I’m not half bad at icing in cursive. This is probably not what my third-grade teacher intended.

This cake is exactly what it claims to be. It tastes like wine and chocolate.

(Red Red Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiineeeeee)

The frosting tastes like sweetened condensed milk, though you could use a standard cream cheese frosting.

Speaking of sweetened condensed milk, during the making of this cake, I revisited some classic Buzzfeed quizzes including “What kind of milk are you?” which is deeply embedded in my personality.

“Do you want to start writing the blog post?” “Hold on, I need to finish finding out what kind of soup I am.”

I’m minestrone. She’s miso.

Getting back to the cake: It’s one-bowl, it’s not too sweet, and it includes two cups of wine. This is a cake to make when you want to smash the patriarchy, when you have that damn UB40 song stuck in your head, when you want to cry into dessert, or when you just want a good chocolate cake. Swear words highly encouraged, because fuck eloquent discourse.

So, from two 2% milks to all of you, have some rage cake.


Red Wine Chocolate Cake

This is the layer cake version from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, but the single-layer cake on the website is essentially identical.

The mascarpone in the frosting gives a noticeable dairy flavor, but you could sub cream cheese easily. Our frosting was a little thin and grainy, but we suspect it’s because our mascarpone was nearly room temperature. It should whip up better if you keep it cool. The online version has a very lightly sweetened whipped mascarpone topping instead, which would be good option for something that’s not so sweet.

Use whatever red wine you like; we used Wish Flower from Trader Joe’s because Jordan had an open bottle of it she wasn’t going to drink.


16 T (225g, 2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups (340g) packed brown sugar
⅔ cups (135g) white sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups red wine
2 tsp vanilla extract
2¾ cups (345g) flour
1⅓ cups (115g) cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 325°. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and coat the insides with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add brown and white sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and mix to combine, then add red wine and vanilla. Mix until more or less smooth; the batter will look somewhat curdled at this point, which is fine.

Sift all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; no need to combine them in a separate bowl first. Mix until combined; a few lumps are okay.

Divide batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove cakes to wire racks to cool completely. When cool, top with frosting.

Mascarpone Frosting


16oz mascarpone
2⅓ cups (280g) powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract


Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Turkish Coffee Icebox Cake

Turkish Coffee Cake

Kitra: A lot happened to bring us here.

Jordan: This is actually not the first time we’ve caked since our zucchini chocolate cake, but it is the first time it’s been worth writing about. Two weeks ago we attempted a blackberry cake for my boyfriend’s birthday, and it was… fine?

I never got to eat it, so can definitely say its googly eyes were the best part.

I did get to eat it, and I agree.

Kitra has been refinishing a table this weekend, so between her exhaustion and the un-noteworthy blackberry cake, we wanted something easy and foolproof.

And I wanted something pretty. Because I’m bored.

Which led us to chocotorta: an Argentinian chocolate/coffee/dulce de leche dessert that’s somewhere between tiramisu and an icebox cake.

There are few things in this world I love more than icebox cake and desserts you can eat with a spoon right out of the pan.

The problem is that back in February, Kitra moved from Columbia Heights to Eastern Market, which is pretty darn white.

*Hill East. But yes.

In Columbia Heights, we probably could have found dulce de leche at about seven different stores within three blocks of her apartment. Here, we tried every store we could without any luck. Kitra rejected my suggestion of using fleur de sel caramel sauce and making the whitest bastardization of this cake imaginable.

In an attempt to salvage the cake, since it took us all weekend to even decide on this one, Jordan suggested an adaptation. And I like cardamom, so.

So we ditched “foolproof” and did our own thing.

This turned out… really well?

Yeah, I would make this cake on purpose.

There are some things we’d change slightly (more on that in the notes), but we did high five after finishing the first of two slices.

Turkish Coffee Cake

Turkish Coffee Icebox Cake


This is a very customizable recipe. In fact, basically every part of it is open to adjustment:

  • Pan: You can use just about any container you like. We used two 6-inch springform pans, but an 8- or 9-inch pan would work well too. If you want to unmold it like we did, line the sides of a springform pan with wax paper or parchment paper.
  • Cookies: We used Kedem chocolate tea cookies, but any plain chocolate cookie would work. Kedem had a very mild flavor that allowed the coffee to come through a bit more; something like a chocolate wafer cookie would give a stronger chocolate flavor. For a higher cookie-to-cream-filling ratio, you could also do a double layer of cookies between each layer of cream.
  • Coffee: When we saw “coffee or espresso” in the original recipe, we were dubious—those are very different things!—but truly, either one would work. We used Keurig coffee and the flavor was quite mild; if you want the coffee flavor to come through more, go for espresso (either real or instant), very strong coffee, or a mix.
  • Cream mixture: The amount of sweetened condensed milk is very flexible here. Jordan would have gone with about 1 can (14oz) for a tangier cake; Kitra probably would have preferred 1.5 cans for one that tastes a little more like sweetened condensed milk. We ended up with something in between. You could even sub whipped cream for all/part of the cream cheese, though that would be a very different cake.
  • Cardamom: Do this one to taste. Our cardamom was old and sad, so we added two full teaspoons and then ground up some pods and added those. If you have good cardamom, you may need less. Keep in mind that the flavor will get a little stronger as it sits. If you want, you can also throw some whole pods in with the coffee while it cools.


(all ingredients are to taste; see notes above)

2c strong coffee or espresso
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1-2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1-2 tsp ground cardamom
3-4 packages chocolate cookies
cocoa powder, to dust (optional)

In a medium bowl, use an electic mixer or some elbow grease to combine the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Start with one full can and add more as needed, tasting after each addition. Once you reach your desired level of sweetness, mix in cardamom, again adjusting the amount to your liking.

Pour some of the (cooled) coffee into a wide, shallow container. One by one, dip each cookie into the coffee for 5-10 seconds, until slightly softened, and place in a single layer in your cake pan. Feel free to break cookies to fill in any gaps.

On top of your cookie layer, drop a few dollops of the cream cheese mixture and gently spread with a spoon or spatula to cover the cookies. A thinner layer is better here–don’t worry if a little bit of cookie peeks through occasionally.

Repeat, alternating between layers of coffee-soaked cookies and the cream cheese mixture, until you run out of cream cheese, cookies, or space in your pan.

Place pan in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes. Icebox cakes are meant to soften as they rest, so you can leave this in the fridge for quite a while; just know that the longer it sits, the softer the cookies will get. This is not a bad thing!

If desired, sift a layer of cocoa powder (mixed with cardamom, if you like) over the top of the cake before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


Kitra: There are two dishes that define summer to me: ratatouille and this cake. What they have in common is that, like in most rural areas, where we grew up zucchini is both a gift and a curse. In trying to use it up as fast as it grows (impossible), people get crafty. Since this cake came into our lives, I’ve looked forward to zucchini season. And then “forgetting to clean up bits of grated zucchini and trying to scrape it off the counter weeks later” season.

I only have a hazy memory of where this cake came from. It’s on a printed ¼ sheet of computer paper, and in my head it came from someone at the school where our mom used to work.

Jordan: I had no idea, so we texted our mom to ask and she said “Somewhere in the back of my head I think someone at Riverside gave me the recipe, but I could be wrong.” At which point Kitra enthusiastically gave herself a high-five, then gave me a high-five.

Self-fiving didn’t work well enough, so I had to high-five the doubters.

Wherever it came from originally, it’s a great cake. It actually doesn’t use a ton of zucchini, but it has the benefit of being a great use for the infant-sized zucchinis we always had around, the ones that aren’t particularly nice to eat on their own.

You know, the ones that are better as weapons than as food.

In this case, the zucchini isn’t really noticeable but helps keep the cake nice and moist. This is a lightly chocolatey cake—light enough that even I, the person who doesn’t like chocolate cake and thinks chocolate chip cookies would be better without chocolate chips, enjoy it.

It’s a cake’s cake. Like a man’s man, but… a cake’s cake.


Chocolate Zucchini Cake


The recipe calls for half a cup of chocolate chips, but you can use as much as you like. (Though we wouldn’t recommend omitting them.) Kitra doesn’t bother measuring and just adds handfuls until she finds it aesthetically pleasing. You want to shoot for at least one chocolate chip per bite, but not so many that they overwhelm the cake.

This cake keeps well at room temperature, so go ahead and eat it for breakfast. It’s got vegetables.


½ c milk
1 ½ tsp white vinegar (or lemon juice)
½ c (1 stick) butter, softened
½ c vegetable oil
1 ¾ c (350g) sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ c (300g) flour
¼ c (20g) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
2c grated zucchini (about 240g or 8.5oz, from a 9-inch zucchini
½ c (110g) chocolate chips, or more as desired


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 pan.

Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl or liquid measuring cup and set aside to sour while you do the next step.

Cream butter, sugar, and oil together in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Add sour milk and beat until creamy.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and baking powder. If your cocoa is especially lumpy, you may want to run it through a sifter.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir gently until mostly combined; it’s alright if there’s still some white streaks at this stage. Fold in the zucchini until the batter is completely combined.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter chocolate chips evenly across the top; feel free to add more chocolate chips if you like.

Bake 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Let cool slightly before serving; eat warm or at room temperature.