Jordan: Kitra has been all in on Julia Turshen’s cookbooks recently, so that’s obviously where our next cake needed to come from.
Kitra: I’m always all in on Julia Turshen, but especially since her new book came out a few weeks ago, because it is perfect in every way (beautifully written, great food, easy to make things, gay, so many dogs, and have I mentioned beautifully written???) and I’ve eaten from it about 4 times a week since I got it.
This cake is… not from that book.
But it is conveniently from another of her books, which both of us happen to own. (Okay, I got Jordan’s copy for her but it was on her wishlist!)
It’s titled “afternoon cake” in the book, but this is really an anytime cake—which, to be fair, is the best kind of afternoon cake.
And since we both planned to bring cake to outdoor afternoon gatherings on the same day, it seemed like a sign that this was the cake to go with.
It’s also something of a choose-your-own adventure cake. The original uses orange zest and juice; we both used lemon instead, though we took it in different directions.
I went with the lemon poppyseed variation offered in the book, because I will use any excuse to add poppyseeds to something. Muffin-esque cakes > other cakes.
I swirled in some jam—with limited success, to be fair, but that may have been user error rather than the recipe’s fault. Both of us added a simple lemon glaze as well.
I ate 65% of this cake in one afternoon in my front yard, and my only regret is not just eating all of it.
And mine got good reviews at the farewell picnic I went to, despite my having overbaked it. Fortunately there’s almond flour in the batter, which keeps it from getting too dry and crumbly if you make the same mistake.
We’re both pretty tired while writing this, but the real takeaway is cake = good, make some and revel.
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.
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.)
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.
[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake in November 2017.]
Jordan: We spent the entire process of making this cake convinced that it was going to be terrible.
Kitra: The process of this cake is a little bonkers to start with, and then you bake it until done, up the temperature, and bake it for another 10 minutes so it should be dry and sad. But it’s not.
Honestly, this is possibly my favorite cake we’ve ever made. Definitely in the top few. I did not share.
Neither did I. This makes a great dessert, snack, breakfast, lunch, etc. It’s a perfect cake for every occasion except for a nut allergy convention.
The cake is light and pleasant, but the real star here is the topping. Don’t be afraid of the caramel—you’re not actually caramelizing anything on the stove, just heating it all up and letting the oven do the work.
Because this is a fairly simple cake, we also decided to add some fruit! Poached pears make your apartment smell great, and they taste even better. One note though: if you try to decorate the cake with just two pears, they look like a butt. This was a really hard cake to photograph.
The cake and pears are both great on their own, but together they’re even better. If the words “caramelized almonds” didn’t sell you from the start, though, I’m not sure what else we can say.
Jordan: Let’s start by saying that this cake was delicious.
Kitra: It tastes like pralines, and that wasn’t even the intent. It’s that lovely.
Think nutty, buttery, and lightly caramelly. We ate more than half the cake in one sitting.
Added bonus: no wheat! Which generally is… not a bonus. But it’s good here.
That said, we failed at one part of this cake. Or rather, I failed at it. (Kitra was just along for the ride.) The original cake included cornmeal, but in an attempt to make it kosher for Passover, we swapped that out. We also swapped out the small amount of all-purpose flour (which also makes it gluten-free)… Unfortunately, I remembered too late that rice flour, which we used, is still kitniyot, just like corn is.
It’s totally doable to make this work though if that’s your goal. Just don’t arbitrarily pick rice flour like we did.
It wasn’t arbitrary! It was recommended by the people in the comments as a gluten-free swap, and I already had it in my pantry. It was, however, not fully thought-out. Fun side story: I’ve also done this in the other direction. I once used a kosher for Passover recipe to make cookies for a gluten-free friend and realized as they were going in the oven that matzo meal is, you know, decidedly not gluten-free. Cookies were good though.
I enjoyed them.
I’ll also note that this cake is kosher for Passover if you eat kitniyot (corn, rice, legumes, etc.), which as far as I can tell is mostly a matter of how strong your feelings are about tradition, unless you’re Orthodox.
Jordan has done a lot of research and needs more outlets for it. I just like cake and know I should eat less wheat because it doesn’t always make me feel great but I’m in denial.
In my defense, there are a lot of topics I have done unnecessary research on but this is not one of them. It just comes from being the only non-Jew at my boyfriend’s mother’s Passover seders. Ask me about World War I facial surgery and then we’ll get into some unnecessary research.
We should end on something other than facial surgery. So: this cake is great and you should eat over half of it in 20ish minutes. No regrets.