The Fluffiest Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My friend Ryan O’Connell is a superstar in every sense. Not only does he have his own show on Netflix, he was featured this weekend in a New York Times article about artists as activists. (Coincidentally, the article was written by Mark Harris, a Lunch Therapy alumni, just like Ryan.)

Suffice it to say, I feel very lucky to call Ryan a friend. And knowing that his birthday was coming up, and that he’s part of our quarantine bubble (a very small group of friends that we still see), I asked if he had a menu in mind for his birthday dinner. He didn’t hesitate: “Oooh, can we have Martha’s Mac and Cheese?” (The best of all time, in case you didn’t know that.) “Oh, and maybe a salad with peaches? Peaches are season, right?” (They are.) “And can we do a coconut cake for dessert?” “You got it,” I replied.

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Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

The internet can be an overwhelming place when it comes to finding a chocolate chip cookie recipe. You type “chocolate chip cookie” into a Google search and suddenly you’re bombarded with thousands of recipes featuring various techniques, many of which ask more of you than you’re willing to give right now. There are recipes that have you age the dough for twenty-four hours, there are recipes that have you melt the butter, others that have you bring it to room temperature (which, in this L.A. heat, is basically the same thing).

Here’s my most controversial opinion: almost all chocolate chip cookie recipes are the same — with varying amounts of brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, chocolate — and you don’t need the best one or the latest one; you just need a very good one. Look no further.

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This Blackberry Peach Crisp is Summer in a Pan

Is there anything better than a hand-written recipe?

When my mom got married, her father’s co-workers gave her a bunch of handwritten recipes that she still has. And here on Eliza Island, where we’re on our last full day of summer vacation (which we’re lucky to have, considering what’s going on in the world), it’s not just the crab cake recipes that are handwritten. The dessert recipes are handwritten too.

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Nectarine Plum Pie with a Brown Sugar Crust

So I’ve been organizing all of my old posts into categories. It’s a huge process — over 3,500 posts covering a 15 year span — but it’s also oddly satisfying; like cleaning up a hoarder house. My goal is for you to be able to click “cakes” and to see every cake recipe I’ve ever posted.

On a personal level, reading through my archives is like watching myself grow up. My early posts were so dopey (remember when I wrote a song about frozen yogurt?) but also so innocent. Now I’m a jaded old man in my 40s! I started this blog when I was *gulp* 25. At least there’s the wisdom that comes with age. And nothing embodies how much I’ve grown than my relationship to pie dough.

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Multicolored Plum Cake with Pistachios

There’s only one plum cake worth making in this world and that’s The New York Times‘s most popular recipe of all time: Marion Burros’ Plum Torte. It’s one of those magical recipes where you think there’s so little going into it, it can’t possibly be that great — you basically make a pancake batter and drop some plums into it — but then the torte comes out of the oven and you feel like Escoffier himself.

The thing is: when I first made this plum torte, I made it with the wrong kinds of plums. The original recipe calls for prune plums, which are very narrow, and allow for maximum plum-age: the recipe calls for 10 to 12 of them halved lengthwise. When I first did it, I used normal purple plums and couldn’t fit all of the plums in. It wasn’t until my friend Cary came over last year with prune plums that I made the cake the right way.

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Darkest Chocolate Sorbet

There’s a certain math when it comes to frozen desserts. The math goes something like this: ice cream > sorbet. The logic for this has everything to do with decadence: ice cream has fat, sorbet traditionally doesn’t. You can blend a watermelon, add a little sugar syrup, and freeze that in an ice cream maker and that’s “sorbet.” It’s basically frozen, blended fruit. Ice cream involves warming cream, infusing egg yolks, adding lots of chopped naughty bits — chocolate, candied walnuts, cake crumbles — and churning that into something that feels like a real treat. Again, at the risk of repeating myself: ice cream > sorbet.

Imagine my shock and surprise, then, to make Melissa Clark’s Darkest Chocolate Sorbet from her new book, Dinner in French, only to discover that this frozen chocolate concoction of the sorbet variety was far to superior to any frozen chocolate dessert I’ve ever had. I’ll give you a moment to take that in.

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Whole Lemon Strawberry Sorbet

I’m going through a real sorbet / ice cream-making phase right now. If you follow me on Instagram (and how can you not?!), you saw me make a vanilla bean ice cream a few weeks ago, and a Concord grape sorbet more recently. Not only was it fun to dig out my old ice cream maker (it’s nothing fancy; just a crappy old Cuisinart, with a canister I keep in the freezer), but it’s been EXTRA fun to have homemade frozen treats waiting for me every night after dinner. I have a real sweet tooth, but eating a whole dessert every night is a lot, so I just have a spoonful or two of homemade ice cream or sorbet, and I’m good.

Yesterday, I was at the farmer’s market and I decided to brave the line at the only organic stand (they’re so popular, they scared away all the others). As I gathered up heirloom tomatoes and zucchini, I spied really gorgeous strawberries. Even though strawberries are more of a spring thing (aren’t they?), these specimens were pretty undeniable.

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Grapefruit, Blood Orange, Campari Sorbet

I once wrote a post on here called Ten Things You Should Never Serve At A Dinner Party that was mildly controversial. Craig’s sister Kristin was offended that I included “boneless, skinless chicken breasts,” so on my next visit to Washington State, she cooked up a Chicken Piccata that really put in me in place.

And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.

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