Almond Cake with Plums

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“Take a risk or play it safe?” That was the question I asked myself the day before Besha Rodell and Rachel Shukert came over for dinner last week. Rachel I wasn’t nervous about. Even though I’d never met her before, I knew we’d click because we’re both musical theater geeks. The food would be secondary. I also knew I’d click with Besha, who I had met before (at Proof Bakery last year) but that’s not what made me nervous. What made me nervous is that Besha is a food critic. A food critic! Can you imagine cooking for a food critic? I was kind of freaking out.

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Cooking For Clotilde

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My friend Clotilde Dusoulier, of the legendary food blog Chocolate & Zucchini and author of several notable food books (including her own cookbook, a guide to Paris and the book she recently translated, the French Joy of Cooking, “I Know How To Cook”) was coming to dinner.

I’ve spent lots of time with Clotilde, we’ve dined together several times in New York (at Babbo and the Corner Bistro and Dirt Candy) and in Paris (at Ze Kitchen Galerie) but we’d never cooked for each other. And considering that she grew up in France, where dining and food are such a deep part of the culture children aren’t just born with silver spoons in their mouths but an entire set of flatware, and I grew up on Long Island and in Boca Raton, Florida where fine dining is limited to the salad bar at the golf club, I knew I was in serious trouble. How could I impress Clotilde? What if she spit her food out into her napkin in disgust? How would I live this down? Would she ever want to see me again? This was the most terrifying dinner guest of all time.

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Almond Cake in a Food Processor

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You know the author photos you see on the back flap of cookbooks? Imagine if one of them started talking to you.

That’s how I felt last week when I announced on Twitter that I was making Amanda Hesser’s almond cake (one of my all-time favorite desserts, recipe here) and Amanda Hesser herself, who’s a prolific Twitterer, Tweeted back: “I have a new way of doing the almond cake: mix butter, sugar, almond paste, eggs, sour cream & extract in a food processor.”

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High School Gastronomical (Battle Almond Cake)

An enthusiastic high school senior named Jonny G. wrote me recently to say that he was going to make my beloved Almond Cake (well not mine, Amanda Hesser’s) for a class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Only one of his classmates, Tally, planned to make an almond cake of her own with the claim that hers would be better. I told him to take a picture and to write up the proceedings and that I’d post the results on the site. Here’s some happy high school Monday morning entertainment.

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