Nectarine Cake

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So yes, when you come home from a foreign country, you want to cook all the things you ate there–to see if you can recreate the magic–but then you also want to cook something familiar: the kind of food you missed when you were abroad. The very first thing that I made when I came back from Barcelona was a tomato salad. Sure, there were tomatoes there in BCN, but I wasn’t looking for a tomato rubbed on toasted bread with garlic and oil; I wanted big chunks of tomato with basil, olive oil, All American corn, and (here’s the doozy) big pieces of toasted bread. I bought all my ingredients from the Union Square Farmer’s Market, which I visited bright and early the Friday after we got back, still jet-lagged and able to awake at 6 AM.

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Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake

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I’m heading home in five minutes (really! the car’s on its way) to attend my brother’s wedding this weekend in Boca Raton, Florida. You were there when my brother got engaged (remember?) and now the wedding’s finally here and we’re all pretty excited. But I didn’t want to leave you without anything to cook this weekend: so here you go, a cake that matches this beautiful weather and this beautiful occasion. It’s a citrus polenta cake from Gina DePalma’s “Dolce Italiano” and it’s a bright, zingy cake that’ll put a big smile on your face. I haven’t met Gina yet–she’s the James Beard award winning pastry chef at Babbo–but our books sit together on a shelf at my favorite coffee shop, Joe The Art of Coffee. Gina, as some of you might know, is currently battling cancer; so make this cake in her honor and send good cake karma her way. And in the meantime, I’ve gotta go! Have a great weekend and happy baking.

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Banana Cake

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I made the banana cake of my dreams this weekend, a banana cake so good I had to give half of it away because I knew I would eat it all.

What made it so good? It was a homey, cozy, PTA bake sale kind of cake; there was nothing fussy about it, no caramelized bananas between the layers or Marzipan bananas dancing across the top. You just mix a bunch of wet stuff, add a bunch of dry stuff, put it in a pan, bake it, cool it, top it with frosting and you’re done. And the resulting cake is every bit as satisfying as a more elaborate banana cake; perhaps even more satisfying because the flavors are so pure and comforting.

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Chocolate Cake

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Ladies and gentleman, this has been a rough week. My flu mutated into a cold and then back into a flu again. I hardly have the energy to type these words, I’m rapidly fading. Yet, I am filled with hope as I harken back to two weeks ago when I made the chocolate cake you see above.

It comes from The Barefoot Contessa (click here for the recipe) and it’s the Platonic ideal of a chocolate cake. It’s moist and rich and complex (with hidden coffee flavors); I ate way more of it than I should have. Perhaps my flu is punishment for gluttony?

The startling thing about making a chocolate cake is how many people inevitably come over to eat it. Let’s call it my Field of Dreams theory about baking: “If you bake it, they will come.” Before I knew it: Patty, Lauren, Stella, and James were there eating chocolate cake during the Vice-Presidential debate; then Lisa and a choreographer and dancers and my friend Josh were eating it too.

This chocolate cake is like a people magnet, which is why I’m posting it today: Friday. If you make this cake this weekend, I bet you’ll have a better weekend than if you don’t make this cake. In fact, I’ll make you a deal: make this cake and keep a camera handy. When the people come to eat your chocolate cake, take a picture of yourself with your friends and your cake and upload it to The Amateur Gourmet group on Flickr (click here). Anyone who uploads a picture, will be featured on the main page next week. You’ll be a chocolate cake star!

As for me, I plan to curl up on the couch and dream of chocolate cakes past, present and future. Perhaps one day I’ll have the energy to make another one; until then, I’ll be dreaming of yours. Happy weekend baking.

Life Getting Bland? Make An Indonesian Spice Cake

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James Oseland (new editor-in-chief of Saveur) has a spicy new cookbook called “Cradle of Flavor” that’s full of vibrant, exotic recipes from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. When it first arrived, I could’ve made Gado-Gado (a Javanese “potpourri” of raw and cooked vegetables) or The Soto King’s Chicken Soup (Soto Ayam Lamongan) but instead I made cake. I like cake very much, more than most things, and making an Indonesian Spice Cake (Spekkuk) was the thing I wanted to do.

To make this cake you need a tube pan. I bought one a few years ago when I was on a health kick–a health kick that involved Angel Food Cake. The health kick faded and so did the tube pan but it was great to drag it out for this dessert.

This dessert was a big success: the ingredients are simple and easy to find and the ratio of butter, egg, flour and sugar makes for a wonderful texture: crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. A famous Parisian food blogger came over for a bite and gave it a thumbs up. She wrote later, in an e-mail: “That is one buttery, flavorful cake!”

Lately I’ve been typing up recipes I love with the belief that this is good advertising for the cookbook author. As long as I don’t type up the whole cookbook, it creates an incentive–assuming you try this recipe and love it–for you to go out and buy it. If I hear from James Oseland’s people and they want me to take down this recipe, I will. But assuming they don’t write, you can find the recipe after the jump!

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For The Love of Yogurt (Blueberry Yogurt Cake & Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt) [PLUS: A Kitchen Travesty]

We food bloggers are creating quite the online ouvre. While some of us are leaving behind breast cupcakes, the rest are leaving behind fabulous recipes. Case in point: Clotilde’s Blueberry Yogurt Cake:

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And David’s frozen yogurt recipe which I applied to a recently acquired tub of sour cherries making Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt:

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The primary ingredients for both these recipes came from–yup, you guessed it–the farmer’s market. The blueberries and sour cherries I bought from the same stand. I was really only going to buy blueberries but when the woman there mentioned sour cherries I remembered reading an article that said: “If you see sour cherries at the market, snatch them up. You can put them in the freezer and use them after sour cherry season is over.” So I reluctantly requested the cherries too and I went home with two fruits, unsure of what I would do.

The answer came by way of the third ingredient, an ingredient I acquired two weeks earlier at the Ronnybrook Dairy stand. Yup: yogurt. (Cue Mel Brooks: “Ya hoid of me?”) I knew yogurt would last a long time in my fridge and I figured I could concoct something to do with it–maybe eat it with berries and honey or use it to coat my cat after setting her on fire. I figured yogurt was a good thing to have so I bought it. And I forgot about it. Until the blueberries and the cherries came along.

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If Food = Love, This Cake = Hot Sex (Flourless Chocolate Cake for Valentine’s Day)

I’ve been reading a book on food and sex in anticipation of an interview I get to do with the author next week for another website [more on that soon!] and thusly food and sex have been on my mind. Specifically, how the pleasures we enjoy in the bedroom are not so different from the pleasures we enjoy in the kitchen or the dining room. (Fork condoms anyone?) Though many people don’t like to admit it, food is love. It’s the first connection with have with another human being (mother’s breast) and our need for that connection lasts our entire life. Which is why God invented chocolate.

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This is the cake I brought to school today as the adult equivalent of the glittery homemade cards we used to put in each other’s 4th grade mailboxes. Of course, there was never any card in MY 4th grade mailbox which is why I turned to cooking. If no one loves me enough to give me a card and food equals love then I’ll cook for myself! [Paging Dr. Freud.)

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A Loaf of Vitamin C: The Barefoot Contessa’s Orange Pound Cake

“Loaf” is the name of the imaginary booth I want to open at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. There I would sell all sorts of cakes baked in loaf pans: Amanda Hesser’s Vanilla Bean loaf, The River Cafe’s Pistachio Loaf Cake, their Pine Nut Loaf Cake, the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Pound Cake and this Orange Pound Cake. Won’t you buy a slice and help me stay in business?

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