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.
You’ve heard of one-pot meals, but have you heard of one-cake desserts? That’s not a thing, but it should be. Here’s the idea: instead of an elaborate cake that you have to frost or decorate or slice in half, a one-cake dessert is one where a batter goes into a cake pan, the pan goes into the oven, and whatever comes out an hour later is what you serve for dessert (sprinkled, perhaps, with powdered sugar). In my years of dinner party-throwing, I’ve been a big champion of one-cake desserts: Al Di La’s pear and chocolate cake, for example. Or my favorite dinner party dessert of all time: Amanda Hesser’s almond cake. Now a new cake comes along to join the pantheon; this raspberry ricotta cake from last month’s Bon Appetit.
Finding out someone’s favorite color doesn’t do much for me. “Oh teal? How interesting,” I say as I fall asleep standing up, collapsing into a heap and waiting for someone to kick me awake. But finding out someone’s favorite flavors is a different story. For my friend Michael’s birthday dinner, this past weekend, I texted his husband John to find out what kind of desserts he likes and John texted back: “He loves banana cream pie and pretty much anything peanut butter.” Banana and peanut butter: what a fascinating window into Michael’s soul! As I contemplated my own favorite dessert flavors (definitely anything almond; mostly because I grew up eating rainbow cookies which are made with almond paste), I started flipping through Karen DeMasco’s Craft of Baking–which was partially responsible for the crisp I just posted–and I stumbled upon the perfect Michael dessert recipe: Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream.
My mom knows the key to my heart and every time I come home to visit her in Boca it’s waiting there in the refrigerator; a plastic container of my favorite cookies of all time, rainbow cookies, purchased from Bagels With just down the street. They’re not really cookies, more like squares of almond-flavored sheet cake with multi-colored layers, slathered with jam, the whole thing covered in chocolate. I’ve blogged about rainbow cookies before (here and here) but weirdly, I’d never made them. Then, this past weekend, I was having some friends over for their birthdays (four friends, three birthdays) and figured it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at rainbow confectionary. Only, instead of cakey cookies, I made a cakey cake.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of a cheesecake that I ate at Craig’s aunt and uncle’s for Easter brunch and several readers wrote me and asked for the recipe. I wrote Craig’s aunt Liz who put me in touch with Andrea, who made the cake. The secret? “This recipe has twice as much cream cheese as the original recipe called for.” I love that about this recipe because if you’re going to eat something decadent like cheesecake, you may as well make the most decadent cheesecake you can possibly make. This is that cheesecake. Thanks, Andrea, for the recipe.
The other night I was very cold so I made a hot chocolate. My method for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants hot chocolate is pretty simple: I warm milk, whisk in unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of sugar. I taste and allow it to thicken a bit at a simmer. Then, at the last minute, I add a quarter of a Ghiardelli Bittersweet Chocolate bar. Suddenly it’s like you’re drinking a hot melted chocolate pudding and everything’s wonderful. Now imagine sprinkling in some cayenne pepper and cinnamon and turning that hot chocolate into a cookie. Say what? Allow me to explain.