Jordan: This is a coffee cake, which means you can eat it for breakfast. It also uses a pound of butter, so you probably shouldn’t, but that’s not going to stop us.
Kitra: I eat ice cream for breakfast about 40% of the time, so this seems perfectly reasonable.
That’s sad and we’re not going to comment on it.
I mean, that percentage is lower in the winter. I eat a lot of Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast instead.
So if you’re looking for a cake that is better for you than Kitra’s usual breakfast fare but still feels like a comforting plate of carbs and chocolate, you’ve come to the right place!
If there’s one thing we know, it’s how to provide you with healthy breakfast options.
This is supposed to be a coffee cake (that’s cake to have with coffee, not cake made with coffee) mashed up with a loaf of chocolate babka. Call it babka-inspired: It has chocolate filling and swirly layers, but no one is going to mistake it for the real thing.
And that’s fine, because it’s “breakfast” and mostly chocolate. This cake is moist and pretty, so what’s not to love.
We both brought leftovers to work (it’s a LOT of cake) and both sets of coworkers demolished it, which is the sign of a successful cake in our book.
I’ve long been a supporter of Valentine’s Day, even—or especially—for people who aren’t in a relationship. We as a society put so much emphasis on ~romance~ and finding “The One” and the idea that if you’re not coupled up, you’re somehow less than a full person. Which is, frankly, ridiculous. There are SO MANY WAYS to be a person and only some of them involve finding a single partner, falling in love with them, and spending the rest of your life together.
I suggested cupcakes this week because I think Valentine’s Day should be about all kinds of love. Love for your friends. Love for your family. Love for your cheerful next-door neighbor and for your coworker who shares memes with you on bad days and for your dog. (Just don’t give your dog cupcakes.)
When we were growing up, for Valentine’s Day the THING in our house was to make candy to bring to school and share with your friends/teachers/whoever you wanted. And as the sister who has been single for literally every Valentine’s Day of her life, that’s my primary association with the day.
(Except that I tend to forget about actual Valentine’s Day, because February 14th is also the day that Oregon became a state and I’m very pumped about that every year. Happy Birthday Oregon!)
To me—and, I suspect, to Kitra too—there aren’t many better ways to show you care than by making something. I loved making handmade Valentines in elementary school, and when I was in college I would send Kitra Valentine’s Day care packages covered in stickers and filled with silly things.
And I love making cookies shaped like Oregon, and a banner… shaped like Oregon. But also yes, bringing food for my friends and laughing at whatever Jordan came up with that year.
These cupcakes are made to be shared, both because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s nice to share things, but also because they’re delicious. We made this almond cake as a sheet cake back in the pre-blog days, and it’s just as good in a smaller form.
And because we love a good themed decoration, we added raspberries for taste and color. Even though nothing says love like sprinkles—the glitter of the food world—we went with crushed raspberries stenciled into hearts on top because hot damn it’s cute. And tasty.
The frosting is an almond buttercream, and it all works very well together. Make these cupcakes for whoever you love this week, or any week.
[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake for Valentine’s Day 2018.]
Jordan: This cake was delicious. Kitra also broke a chair taking pictures of it.
Kitra: I forgot that a screw was loose and wanted to get this cake from all the angles because it’s. just. so. pretty.
When we were in New York to see a musical a while back (Come From Away, go see it, it’s amazing), we stopped by Kalustyan’s to browse the truly absurd amount of spices, herbs, and miscellaneous flavorings they have there.
We picked up a couple of things, but the first one to see use was the black currant juice powder, because it is truly the most remarkable color and tastes great.
Plus it’s the king of berries!
Or so they said. I buy it.
Literally. We bought it. And it was delicious—bright and fruity, and when folded into whipped cream made a delightful replacement for the heavy buttercream you might expect from a Valentine’s Day cake.
While we’d hoped it would stay hot pink in the cream, it turned into a lovely shade of purple and we’re not mad about it.
We paired it here with a vanilla buttermilk cake, which was moist and dense in the best senses of both of those words.
When we looked back to write this post, the first though both of us had was “my coworkers loved this cake,” so it’s clearly also a crowd-pleaser. Which is good, because this makes a lot of cake.
You could easily scale down the recipe and do this as a single layer cake with a thick layer of frosting and it would be a great afternoon snack… But if you make the full thing, we don’t think your coworkers will mind.
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.
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.
ONE CUP OF YEAST. YEAST!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.