Kitra: It has been… *checks watch* … A while. Sorry about that.
Jordan: Look, there were just a lot of things.
We did in fact make two cakes in September which we forgot to post!
I’d argue that we didn’t forget to post them, we just kind of didn’t do it. And then life happened.
Jordan got married!
There were holidays!
All of the weather in the world!
Kitra got a girlfriend and so suddenly had other weekend plans!
All our family came to town (see: wedding)!
Which is to say, there were a lot of things.
We were so, so tired. So we slept a lot and now it is cake time. Again.
We’re back, baby!
And we come tumbling back into the world on a Monday afternoon, with sludge all over the city from a brief snowstorm, and a very bold cake.
This cake is from Canelle et Vanille Bakes Simple, which I am obsessed with. It’s a bunch of delicious, slightly unusual gluten-free recipes and it has yet to find a permanent home on my cook book shelf because it’s been out pretty much constantly.
And since I had no interest in making decisions today, I was down for whatever Jordan wanted. And this is good!
The cake itself is nice and moist, like a cornbread that is sweet but not overwhelmingly so. Despite having three teaspoons of coriander in the batter, it’s not a strong flavor. I think of it as really just giving the cake a vague edge of popcorniness.
I think maybe had we forgone the very strongly flavored topping we might be getting more coriander, which is probably the direction I’d go in the future. It’s fun though! Very sticky and smells great on top.
The topping is definitely assertive. I like it, but I agree that it does overpower the cake a bit, and this cake deserves a chance to shine on its own.
This was a pretty quick cake. Despite a long baking time, the whole thing was done in about 2 hours. We didn’t even have time for a cake-cooling nap.
And if you don’t make the topping, it’ll be even quicker. If you haven’t made cake yet this year, you could do much worse than this one for your first.
Kitra: I saw Erin Clarkson of Cloudy Kitchen post a “coming soon” photo of rhubarb cheesecake, and sent it to Jordan immediately. But soon isn’t ever soon enough for rhubarb cheesecake so we made it up. Sorry, and please go check out Erin’s version when it’s up!
Jordan: I have no doubts that hers will be excellent, given that we shamelessly stole her idea and used her cheesecake base and ours was also excellent, not to brag or anything.
Rhubarb is extremely underrated, so there’s no such thing as too much.
I have questions about why we cultivate it in the first place—the leaves are literal poison?? and the stalks don’t taste great unless you cook them with sugar?—but I’m glad we do, since there’s just something delicious about rhubarb.
And it doesn’t need to be cut with strawberries, or anything else. Rhubarb is GOOD. We had a plant in our front yard growing up and the start of rhubarb season was so exciting.
Rhubarb’s unique flavor really shines when it’s paired with something simple, which makes it a great candidate for a cheesecake topping.
And we love cheesecake. You do too, I assume. Because you should. It’s great.
This, however, is not a normal cheesecake. This is a no-bake cheesecake, which—per Erin’s blog posts—is common in New Zealand but which we had never made. It’s much lighter than a typical dense, rich, egg-based cheesecake.
Plus, it was hot as hell in DC last weekend when we made this, and will be for most of the rest of eternity (thanks climate change, for the sweat) so losing the oven was good. And would be even better for my kitchen where there is no AC.
If you’re not a fan of traditional cheesecake—either making or eating it—this one might be worth a try. My partner, who usually doesn’t like cheesecake, was a fan of it because the filling is so light and fluffy, almost like a cream cheese mousse.
Which also means it’s a way better breakfast/snack/just because cheesecake since you don’t feel like you’ve eaten all your food for the day after a few bites.
Fair warning, though, that it is extremely easy to eat directly out of the container with a fork while standing at your kitchen counter. Not that I have experience with this.
Seconded. Also, can we talk about how thick (thicc even?) it is???
An absolute unit, as the kids say. A chonk.
Yes, we used the wrong size pan and that was a problem, but even in the right size pan it’s a sturdy crust and a nice thick layer of everything. Bless.
I would call this roughly a 2:1 filling-to-crust ratio, which is the right ratio. Crumb crusts are the best crusts and I will die on this hill of graham crackers.
So, with further apologies but also thanks and a lot of credit to Erin, please cheesecake.
Jordan: We made this cake a week ago and picked it largely because it was Passover-friendly. However, we forgot to write the actual blog post so as we type this, there are approximately two hours left before the end of Passover 2021. Whoops.
Kitra: But it is also delicious, and accidentally very good for the Cherry Blossom Festival here in DC, which is going on for another week! Take that, concept of time.
Kitra has made the chocolate base of this cake before, and it comes to us via Smitten Kitchen, ever a reliable source of excellent cakes. It was new to me, though, and I was quite pleasantly surprised by how light it is.
I think we made our way here because I first wanted to make a mousse cake, but the time required to chill one made it not ideal for the weekend we had. This cake is basically as close as you can get while still being actual cake.
The method is actually rather similar to the chocolate pudding cake we made at the start of the year. The difference is that you beat the crap out of the egg yolks here—to use a technical term—and bake it in thinner layers until it fully sets up, which means that instead of a delicious scoopable cake you get… well, a delicious sliceable cake.
And, since I mostly wanted to eat whipped cream, we threw in a metric crapton—also the technical term—of that in the middle and on top. The original recipe calls for plain whipped cream, but everything is pink and beautiful outside and so I’m making everything raspberry.
Kitra’s favorite thing lately is throwing freeze-dried raspberries into recipes. (See the matcha almond tart and the raspberry-glazed cake doughnut cake.) But whipped cream is truly one of freeze-dried fruit’s highest callings; it somehow makes it that much richer and fluffier. You could happily eat this whipped cream with a spoon, and the only reason I don’t recommend it is that you should use as much as possible in between the layers of this cake.
Partially because the cake sinks a fair bit once it comes out of the oven, which creates a cake bowl ready to be filled, but also because it is adorable and tasty.
As you can see from the photos, this is basically equal parts cake and whipped cream. Don’t shy away from that!
Since they’re pretty much the same texture, the whole thing is like a bite of creamy, chocolatey, fruity fluff.
It’s a great dessert to serve after a heavy meal (which I will keep in mind for next Passover) but truly, you can’t go wrong with this at any time.
Jordan: This recipe was, in my mind, the perfect choice for this weekend. It’s green, for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a tart, for Pi(e) Day. It uses matcha, which we’ve been wanting to use for literal years. And it looks both beautiful and delicious.
Kitra: And I was just too tired to think about how much work it was going to be, and also only like 60% sure we were even doing cake this weekend so I said “sounds lovely” without real thought.
It’s worth noting that Kitra is indifferent to tarts—she prefers proper pies—and dislikes streusel, so it’s a sign of how little she was paying attention that she agreed to this in the first place, even before she knew that it involved three different recipes.
And by the time I realized, I’d already agreed and it was too late. This tart and I had a rough road ahead of us, and things went wrong for a bunch of reasons (none of which were the tart’s fault, but rather mine for agreeing to something when I was too tired to actually follow the instructions). I didn’t check that I had the ingredients. I mixed the crust in the wrong order and the texture was all kinds of wrong. I forgot to add sugar to the streusel.
She had a minor breakdown when her crust refused to roll out, which honestly was hilarious to watch but probably not so fun to experience firsthand.
It was elastic and puttylike all at once, while also NEVER firming up even a little. I dubbed it the Green Monster, and it may be the grossest thing I’ve ever made as far as unbaked aesthetics go.
There was a lot of swearing involved.
But the tart does taste good. It’s not as sweet as most tarts (which is probably due in part to the whole “forgetting the sugar” thing) and is kind of pretty even with my weird-colored matcha.
I added blueberries to mine, while Kitra mixed some freeze-dried raspberries to the streusel. Both options give it some bright tartness (no pun intended)—
—to balance out the sweet almond filling and the lightly bitter matcha.
I do wish that for all the almond in it, there was more almond flavor to it. But it doesn’t need that, I just think it would be nice.
This would be a nice tart for a spring brunch, or some sort of afternoon tea. It’s somehow just… very charming. This is a charming tart, and what a nice thing that is to have in your repertoire.
Kitra: I wanted to make a pink cake, because even though Valentine’s Day means nothing to me (I celebrate Oregon’s Birthday instead, hence the decoration on mine) I love a pink cake. Hot damn, I love a pink cake.
Jordan: Meanwhile, this week turned my brain to mush so I wanted something easy and, beyond that, was happy to let Kitra make all the choices.
I had about a million ideas, but ultimately my desire to make something hella simple and use my fancy new nutmeg (I could not be more excited about it) led me to the Powdered Doughnut cake from Snacking Cakes. I am decidedly not a doughnut person, but I dig a cake doughnut. And, I love a pink, berry glazed doughnut most.
You’ll notice that mine is not pink. That’s because the only doughnut I ever want to eat has a chocolate glaze and sprinkles. I used to intern for a weekly magazine where, every Thursday, they would bring in doughnuts ahead of the publication deadline. Did I work on the print edition? No. Did I still get to the kitchen early so I could steal the chocolate-and-sprinkle doughnut? Yes. Apologies to my former coworkers.
I also really believe in holiday doughnuts? Maybe there’s some memory wedged in the back of my brain of The Jelly Doughnut in Grants Pass using seasonal sprinkles on holidays. Maybe it’s just my love of themed foods. Maybe it’s just cute. Whatever the reason, something felt festive about a doughnut cake.
And it’s a pretty good cake! The nutmeg gives it the little something that keeps it from being completely plain—somehow it ups the “cake doughnut” factor just the right amount.
There’s a good mix of sour cream and butter here too, plus not too much sugar so it seems like an all day cake, and isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. It’s also very fluffy.
It is, as the book promises, a good snacking cake! I’ve already eaten several slivers off of the edge of mine.
I adapted a glaze from the book as well and I will be using this glaze all the time now. It’s tangy and might be the only glaze I know that doesn’t make me immediately want to brush my teeth. The raspberry flavor is extremely strong and that is exactly what I wanted.
It’s also beautiful, truly.
So pretty. Great color, just glossy enough, spread like a dream with enough time to fuss with it before it set.
You can, if you prefer, go with the original powdered variation—we’ll put it in the recipe notes—or another glaze of your choice. (Our mom instantly suggested maple.) Like a box of assorted doughnuts, there’s an option for everyone.
We make this cake pretty much every year. It’s a good cake!
Tradition cakes are good, but they’re better when you pour hot sweet butter over them.
This is a very simple white cake with beautiful pockets of cranberry. It’s simple, not outrageously sweet, and—most importantly—is a great vessel for butter sauce. (Which is the less disconcerting name for “hot sweet butter.”)
Basically, it’s an antidote to the complicated winter foods. You toss it all in the mixer and then bake it in a rectangle.
We see your yule logs and frosted bundts and raise you a one-bowl sheet cake.
It takes as long to make as the oven takes to preheat, and there is truly no more easily transported cake. Gift it! Leave some on a doorstep! Put a lid on your pan and cut slices off for days on end!
If you truly want to eat this in the traditional fashion, that last one is the way to do it.
I eat mine sliced in half horizontally with the sauce over them, and treat it as a breakfast/lunch/snacking cake.
More surface area = more butter sauce.
I’m usually staunchly anti fresh fruit in cakes, but this is my exception. Cranberries are self-contained in a way that most fruit is not, so they don’t make everything mushy and gross or wind up flavorless husks. They stay pretty, and are a great fresh burst of tartness. I love them in this.
Cranberries are strongly underutilized in their non-jellied forms, honestly. And while this is a great Christmas cake, it’s also a great New Year’s Eve cake. Or a great “I want to make cake but it needs to include fruit for the people around me who are on ‘diets’” cake.
Is it though? Because again, B U T T E R S A U C E.
This is like the time my roommate did the “Master Cleanse” (where you only have lemon water and cayenne pepper) and one day in I made brownies and she gave up. You’ve got to have some sort of an in to get people back on your side, and here the “in” is fruit and the “side” is eating cake.
Can you tell we’re… not really diet people? Happy New Year, I will serve this year with butter sauce.
In many ways, I feel like we did that. I work from my couch now and haven’t worn mascara since March. But also we did more of things that are good! And we worried more, probably. Whatever, this year was a whole lot and I refuse to judge anyone for it.
Look, in 2021, just do what makes you happy. If you really want to diet? Sure, whatever. Do it, but promise you’ll stop if it makes you miserable.
What makes me happy? B U T T E R S A U C E.
Life is not a binary choice between Master Cleanse and butter sauce. It’s a spectrum, and somewhere in there is the spot that’s best for you. In 2021, we hope you find that spot.
Jordan: Well, here we are. Another Pie Month has come and gone before we knew it.
Kitra: *quiet sobs heard throughout the town square*
Look, we know that giving you a bunch of pie recipes after Thanksgiving seems counterintuitive, but hopefully last week reminded you how much you love pie.
Plus it’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s pies! (pies! Pies! Pies! PIES!)
We may put pies front and center in November, but there’s never a wrong time for pies. These pies are just as delicious on December 1 as they are on November 30.
Christmas pie! Guy Fawkes Day Pie! Arbor Day pie! Tuesday pie! Birthday pie! Bored pie! Feelings pie! Tired pie! Wired pie! Galaxy brain pie! Wednesday pie (like Tuesday pie, the sequel)! Pie is good for every day ever and I will fight you.
“Pie is good for every day ever and I will fight you”: The true meaning of Pie Month.
Also, a likely first line of my obituary for when someone takes me up on that challenge.
It’s fine, just throw a pie at them and run.
Street fight pie! There! Is! A! Pie! For! Every! Occasion!
Before Kitra uses up our weekly allotment of exclamation marks, let’s talk about these pies in particular.
Okay sure. So, generally we make many pies for not many people and this year was no different. Except technically I made these all myself and 3/10 would not recommend the dishes. 12/10 would recommend the pies.
We did a virtual Thanksgiving, so Kitra made three pies, our mom and I made a bunch of non-pie food, and then we swapped portions of each and ate it all while on a Google Meet call. While I was quite pleased with my mashed potatoes, the pies were (as usual) the highlight.
Also, the primary leftover. I’ve eaten pie 2-3 times a day for 3 days now.
Same here, no ragrets.
Breakfast: Cranberry orange pie. It’s got fruit and dairy, isn’t too sweet, and doesn’t make me want to take a nap after. Lunch: Apple butterscotch pie. Fruit! Pudding! What else do I need to say, it’s like the lunchbox of dreams. Dessert: Almond pear tart. Sweet, classy, makes me sleepy.
I have eaten all three at all times of day with no complaint, but the cranberry orange one does indeed make quite a nice breakfast.
The great thing about making lots of pies that are all very good? You can enjoy them in different ways and to different degrees. There’s no pie here I wouldn’t eat again but I think my ranking goes cranberry, apple, pear.
Let’s say you, for some reason, only want to make one pie. Maybe three crusts, two cooked fruit fillings, a cheesecake filling, poached pears, frangipane, a pudding, and whipped cream sounds like a project for someone incredibly brave or incredibly foolish.
(I was both of those people. Brave about the horrors I was going to put my hands through washing that many dishes, foolish because I forgot to put on shoes or otherwise make standing on tile for 12 hours hurt less.)
If that’s the case, which pie should you pick? Well, the cranberry orange is bright and spunky, but balanced. It has a crumb crust (my favorite kind of crust) made of Biscoff. It contains multitudes.
If you’re the type of person who likes the idea of pie but gets hung up on the overwhelming sweetness, this is for you! (Jordan has suggested that I assign these astrological profiles, which is something I know very little about and am doing only based on gut feeling. So, Aries, I guess.)
The apple butterscotch is sweet, but not cloying. Imagine a very thin apple pie, with a layer of perfect butterscotch pudding and just-barely-sweetened whipped cream. This is your smooth, dreamy pie.
If you are the type of person who loves fruit and custard pies equally, and also is a little extra, make this one! (Gemini, clearly. Even I know that.)
Finally, the almond pear tart. A soft cookie-like crust, tender almond filling, and lovely poached pears. It’s subdued, but delicious. It feels very French and elegant.
If you’re the type of person who really likes steps, is well-organized, and loves amazing smelling kitchens—or just really likes almonds or the French—come collect your pie! This pie is a Virgo and I feel pretty good about that one. (I am a Apple Butterscotch moon and Pear Tart rising.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
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.