Gina DePalma’s Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

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You say “chocolate cake,” and the masses come; you say “olive oil zucchini cake” and there’s a bit of a silence. “Ummm,” a timid voice emerges a few seconds later. “What kind of cake did you say?”

It’s olive oil zucchini cake, timid-voiced person! Or, rather, zucchini olive oil cake. It comes from Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma’s book “Dolce Italiano” and one bite will make a convert out of you. It’s moist, it’s got terrific fall spices (cinnamon? check. ginger? you got it. nutmeg? who’s your daddy?) and there’s a “lemon crunch” glaze on top that’ll make you pucker your lips in delight. Craig’s friend Alena was dubious at first, but after one bite she declared “this is AMAZING” and asked for a second piece. The defense rests.

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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.