Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake

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I have a theory that Starbucks has heightened our tolerance for bad, sad pastries. There’ve been moments in my life, at an airport, at a rest stop, where I break down and order a slice of a Starbucks lemon pound cake to go with my coffee. It tastes fine. It’s not bad. It’s sweet, cakey, nicely glazed. But it’s not, by any means, good. Most people don’t know that because most people don’t take the time to make their own glazed pound cakes; but if you do take the time, yours will be light, where theirs is dense. Yours will be authentically flavored, whereas theirs tastes synthetic. Yours will be made at home with love whereas theirs is made in a warehouse. Plus, if you make your own, you can use tangerines instead of lemons.

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Four Orange Cake

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There are four oranges in this cake. I repeat, the cake that you see above these words? There are four whole oranges in it. FOUR WHOLE ORANGES. I know, I collapsed when I heard about it too. But putting whole oranges into a dessert is a thing, a thing I first heard about on Ruth Reichl’s blog when she wrote about Nancy Silverton’s olive oil cake with whole oranges in it. This isn’t that cake. That recipe has you dice three oranges and throw them into the batter with rosemary, pine nuts, and raisins. In other words: an orange cake for wimps. This orange cake–which comes from a British cookbook that I bought at Omnivore Books in San Francisco–has you boil four whole oranges for two hours, remove the seeds, then pulverize them in a food processor before mixing them with sugar, eggs, almond flour and baking powder. That’s it. It’s the most orangey cake you’re likely to eat in your lifetime.

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The Village Bakery’s Berry Ricotta Cake

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One of the very best things about where we live in Atwater Village is our proximity to The Village Bakery. If you live on the east side of Los Angeles, chances are you’ve been to this sunny, cheerful spot; it’s got blue and yellow umbrellas outside, a counter filled with treats on the inside, and the friendliest staff you’re likely to meet anywhere in L.A. Barbara Monderine, who owns and runs the place, is also our neighbor here in our little apartment complex right nearby and what a neighbor she is. When we first moved in, she gave us free cookies; on my birthday, she brought over a box of red velvet cupcakes. But the greatest gift of all came two weeks ago; working up my courage, I asked if she’d share the recipe for one of the bakery’s signature desserts: their berry ricotta cake. To my shock and delight, she said “sure” and went into the back to type it out for me, scaling down the proportions for the home cook. What follows is a recipe that’s about to enter your life in a serious way.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Now let’s get to the serious business at hand: Thanksgiving dessert.

Oh, I know what you’re going to tell me, that this is a pie holiday and that offering up a cake at Thanksgiving is like offering up a latke at Christmas. Well you’re speaking to a latke person at Christmas, so of course I’m going to steer you in a cake-direction—especially after that discussion in one of my podcasts where we determined that Christians are pie people and Jews are cake people. And if there’s one cake that Jews do better than anyone else, it’s cheesecake. And this one, with its combination of a pumpkin and chocolate is a whopper of a Thanksgiving dessert. It’s so good, your guests will actually be excited to eat it, which is more than I can say for pumpkin pie.

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Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake

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There are people in this world who can read the same book over and over again. That’s hard for me because I view my time on this earth much like Dorothy views the red sand in the Wicked Witch’s hourglass, constantly sifting downward until there’s nothing left. I almost never read the same book twice (though I did recently re-read Cooking For Mr. Latte but that’s only because I’d just finished reading We Need To Talk About Kevin and, after that, I needed something that made the world not seem like a festering black hole of misery and despair; though I do recommend that book, I do).

Anyway, I’m saying all this because I have a similar attitude about desserts. Almond Cake notwithstanding, why make the same dessert again and again when there are so many desserts out there for you to try? In case you haven’t noticed, I make a different dessert for almost every dinner party. Well, did. See everything’s changed now because I just discovered the recipe for Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake on Smitten Kitchen and it may be my new favorite go-to fall dessert. I’ve already made it twice.

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Gina DePalma’s Creamy, Dreamy Ricotta Cheesecake

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For years, I’ve wanted to make a ricotta cheesecake. One time, long ago, I did it in a coffee mug–I was going through a weird phase of my life, then–but that was it. I never actually made a real ricotta cheesecake.

Then, this weekend, I was supposed to bring a dessert to a dinner party. The original plan was to bring a chocolate dessert, but the day before I had a sudden change of heart. “Can I bring a ricotta cheesecake instead?” I asked the host. The host said, “Sure.” I was all set to make the one out of Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano (a wonderful book) until I told Gina DePalma my plan and she let me in on a little secret.

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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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Chocolate Chile Pound Cakes

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Tweaking a Daniel Boulud recipe is a little bit like rewriting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. It’s a brazen thing to do.

But when I made that Smoky Beef Chili for Diana’s birthday (and, by the way, not enough of you liked that recipe on Facebook and Twitter; I think it’s because chili is hard to make beautiful…a fact confirmed to me by a food stylist I met the other day) I had leftover homemade chili powder. So the dessert recipe I meant to make–Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate-Ginger Pound Cake–instantly became Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate Chile Pound Cake. Don’t tell Daniel Boulud.

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