Category Archives: Cakes

Walnut Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

“She is going to produce a birthday cake – only a cake – but in her mind at this moment the cake is glossy and resplendent as any photograph in any magazine; it is better, even, than the photographs of cakes in magazines. She imagines making, out of the humblest materials, a cake with all the balance and authority of an urn or a house. The cake will speak of bounty and delight the way a good house speaks of comfort and safety. This, she thinks, is how artists or architects must feel (it’s an awfully grand comparison, she knows, maybe even a little foolish, but still), faced with canvas, with stone, with oil or wet cement. Wasn’t a book like Mrs. Dalloway once just empty paper and a pot of ink? It’s only a cake, she tells herself. But still. There are cakes and then there are cakes. At this moment, holding a bowl full of sifted flour in an orderly house under the California sky, she hopes to be as satisfied and as filled with anticipation as a writer putting down the first sentence, a builder beginning to draw the plans” (The Hours, Michael Cunningham, p. 76).

I read this somewhere in Panama and immediately dog-eared the page. I knew, I know, that feeling. The one of being a creator, knowing that with the simple ingredients laid out before you, you will construct a work of beauty. A work of power. Beautiful and powerful not for its physical being, but for the subtle, sometimes undetectable, feelings it evokes in its producer and in its consumers. A single slice will bring contentment and harmony. Comfort and pleasure. Peace. Joy.

It seemed like this cake brought all of those things to the party I toted it to. After all, Abby, looking at the place where her piece of cake had sat seconds before proclaimed, “That was a special moment.”

This cake was featured in a Bon Appetit article on René Redzepi, head chef of Copenhagen’s NOMA, which happened to recently be named the world’s best restaurant. That’s right. The. Best. Restaurant. In. The. World. &*%^! His wife, Nadine, is the creator of this cake though. Apparently great chefs marry people who can also cook, because this cake…Oh, this cake. It has a bold nutty, buttery flavor that shines through a subtle sweetness, a nice change from the normal über sweet dessert. The raw sugar sprinkled on at the end gives the cake a crunchy top layer, which compliments its dense, crumbly interior. The walnut-orange flavor combination was inspired by another Bon Appetit recipe and it is a match made in heaven. Good luck eating just one piece.

Walnut Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

from Bon Appetit (minus the frosting. that’s all me!)

This cake can be served without the frosting for breakfast or brunch, or with the frosting as a dessert. Whipped cream would be another good topping option. I like this recipe. My dad thinks it would make great French toast. To do so, the cake will need to be sliced in half width wise and soaked in eggs for quite some time. Nom nom.

Serves 18-24

For the Cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 tablespoons raw sugar, divided

7 cups walnut halves

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups almond flour or almond meal

3/4 cup granulated sugar

6 large eggs

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

For the Frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 scant tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 13x9x2″ metal or glass baking dish; sprinkle bottom evenly with 3 Tbsp. raw sugar. Set aside.

Pulse walnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Set 2 cups aside. Add all-purpose flour to processor and pulse until walnuts are very finely ground, 1–2 minutes. Add almond flour; pulse to blend. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs, cream, yogurt, and salt. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (reserve bean for another use). Beat until well combined, 1–2 minutes. Add ground-walnut mixture and beat just to blend. Gently fold in chopped walnuts, being careful not to overmix. Pour batter into prepared dish; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tbsp. raw sugar.

Bake until cooked through and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes. While the cake is baking, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and orange juice just until blended. Add the sugar and beat just until smooth; do not over beat. Using a spatula stir in the orange zest and set aside.

Once cake is done, remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack. To serve, either frost the cake in the pan or cut cake into squares, remove from pan, and let guests frost individually. Either way, frost immediately before serving. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Cake is best served cold.

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Reflections on an Epic Journey, Part 2: Chocolate Orbit Cake with Coffee Whipped Cream

Now is when I share with you all my sage words of wisdom, because, you know, at the old age of twenty-two, I have so many. Really though, I do think I learned a thing or two about traveling during my stint in Central America. Take or leave my insights. My sister, for one, will probably leave them as she gets ready to jet off to Spain in the fall. And, believe it or not, I won’t be too offended, as long as she remembers to bring me back a souvenir. I’ve already requested a cookbook.

View of Punta Paitilla from Casco Antiguo (Old Town). Panama City, Panama. 

So, on traveling (and traveling alone):

1. If your purpose is to learn about another culture, meet locals, and/or practice a language, I would strongly encourage you to think about going to one place and staying there for an extended amount of time to volunteer or take classes. If you’re traveling for only several weeks, this means you’ll be in the same place for the majority of your trip. If you’re traveling for longer, you can integrate this type of experience into a more traditional backpacking trip. This traveling strategy is also beneficial for people, like me, who appreciate some structure.

2. If you decide you want to backpack in the traditional sense of the word, take your time. That is, plan to cover a little ground in a lot of time. This will give you the ability to adjust your travel plans as you go. That means, for example, if you meet a group of people you really like, you can change your route to travel with them. Also, remember, transportation always takes longer than expected. Plan accordingly.

3. Be prepared to be more outgoing than you have ever been in your entire life. The only way you’ll meet people and find others to travel with is by introducing yourself and striking up a conversation. No matter how outgoing you are though, there will be times when you’ll be alone. Don’t let that stop you from doing things. Those fish tacos can’t be missed just because you’re afraid to walk into a restaurant and request a table for one.

Bocas del Toro, Panama. 

In fact, the last day of my travels, I meandered over to the Choco Museo Café and ate an incredibly light, intensely chocolaty slab of cake. Alone. Mind you, this was after getting a pedicure. Clearly, it was a day of indulgences. In my defense, that was my first pedicure ever and I had been walked around in a pair of cotton Mary Jane’s whose left strap was being held on with a safety pin for three weeks. Both the pedicure and the chocolate cake were most definitely needed.

Sunset. Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. 

That cake was my inspiration for this cake here. While it certainly is intensely chocolaty, it is far from light. It has the texture of fudge that has been left out in the sun all day at a picnic. That is, dense and moist with a slight chewiness. The chocolate flavor is so rich, I opted to serve mine with a dollop of whipped cream. Knowing I wanted a whipped cream that drew on my travels too, I set my mind on making it coffee flavored. (Remember my last post? This cake was the final touch to my Guatemala inspired dinner.) I had plenty of time to wander the streets of Antigua that night and concoct a strategy for preparing my whipped cream. I thought about adding a shot of Espresso. Too liquidy. I thought about running the cream through my coffee machine. Too messy. I finally decided on the French press method described below. Miraculously, it worked, and the coffee whipped cream, along with the cake, was a resounding success.

Chocolate Orbit Cake

from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

Lebovitz initially called this dessert Chocolate Idiot Cake since, according to his blog, any idiot could make it…and only an idiot could screw it up.” I nearly fell into this idiot category. Apparently, despite three layers of aluminum foil, I did not wrap it tight enough as water managed to leak through my springform pan and into my cake. I, however, avoided true classification as an idiot by salvaging my cake. If you, like me, find yourself with a water filled springform pan, here’s what to do: Drain as much of the water as possible. The instant you begin to see the cake slide within the pan, stop draining. Return the cake to the oven leaving it uncovered. Check on it every ten minutes. If the edges look like they are done cooking but the center is still soft, cover with foil once again. As the cake becomes firmer, try to drain more water. Be patient. The cake will likely have to cook for substantially longer than the time given in the original recipe below. (I cooked mine for over an hour and forty-five minutes.) Eventually, the water will have cooked off and your cake will look, and taste, as if nothing went awry.

Makes 1 9-inch cake

1 cup (8 ounces/225 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

12 ounces (340 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (220 g) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan or round cake pan. If using a springform pan, wrap a large sheet of aluminum foil around the outside of the pan, making sure it’s absolutely watertight. If using a cake pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set the springform or cake pan in a large roasting pan.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the butter and chocolate. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from theheat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until completely incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared springform or cake pan and cover the pan tightly with foil. Pour very warm water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the outside of the cake pan. Bake until the cake appears to be set and your finger comes away clean when you gently touch the center (it will still feel quite soft), about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the water bath and let cool completely.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides of the cake to help loosen it from the pan. If you’ve used a springform pan, simply release the sides. If you’ve used a regular cake pan, invert the cake onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper, then re-invert onto a serving platter. The cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Coffee Whipped Cream

This whipped cream would be lovely in a trifle or dolloped on top of pecan pie, hot chocolate, and any assortment of ice cream flavors. If you’re a whipped cream lover, like me, you may want to double this recipe. And if you’re crazy, and don’t like coffee, this cake can also be served with plain whipped cream, crème anglaise, or caramel ice cream, to name just a few options.

If you don’t have a French press, never fear! After simmering the cream and letting it sit for several minutes, add the ground coffee directly to the sauce pan. Stir and cover for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid and, using cheesecloth, strain the coffee into an air tight container. Proceed with the directions below accordingly.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups whipped cream

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons coffee, ground

Heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan until it just begins to simmer. Meanwhile, place ground coffee in the bottom of a French press.

Remove heavy cream from heat and let sit for 1-3 minutes. Gradually pour the heavy cream into the press and, once all the cream has been added, stir well. Place the plunger over the press to keep in the heat, but do not press it down yet. Let coffee brew for three to four minutes. Press plunger down slowly. Pour heavy cream mixture into an air tight container and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to a day.

At least thirty minutes before whipping the cream, place the mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the fridge to chill. Remove from fridge and beat the cream until soft peaks form.

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Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

It’s been a while. Never fear, I have an excuse: I’ve been stockpiling posts. Stockpiling posts so that when I jet off to Central America I won’t leave you all hanging. So if you’re wondering in a weeks time, “how did Jess post while she was eating ceviche in Panama or hiking through cloud forests in Costa Rica?”, I just gave you the answer. They’ll have been written long before my  flight even left Chicago soil. Or more like, two hours before.

My family is, of course, just a little very very worried. My mom is already planning on sleepless nights. My dad likely has a flight booked to Honduras to rescue me from danger. And my aunt made me swear to memory a code word in case I get kidnapped. That way, when someone calls them demanding money, they’ll know if the request is legit. Can’t go wasting money if you’re only 99% sure your niece is being held hostage in the jungles of Central America you know.

At Easter, with all of us in the same room, worries were more plentiful than ever. Thank goodness we had this cake to break the tension. Oh, this cake. This cake is light and airy without the dry, blandness of your typical chiffon cake. The poppy seeds take center stage here. Let them. Let them crackle. Let them speak. Let them shine. After all, when else do poppy seeds get to be the star of the show? (If you’re in Chicago, buy them at the Spice House for a whopping two dollars and some change for half a cup.) And then there’s the delicate flavoring of the lemon. I’d describe the cake as having an essence of lemon. Now doesn’t that sound fancy?!

Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

from Food & Wine via the Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 8 or 10-inch bundt cake (see instructions)

2/3 cup sugar

8 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt or tube pan*. Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

* I used a 10-inch, good, old regular bundt pan as it was all I had. The size was not a problem. Simply reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes. I do think the cake stuck a bit more because of the ridges so if a fluted bundt pan is available, use it! If not, make sure to butter and flour extra well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the sugar with the egg yolks and whole egg at medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy, about 8 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula. At medium speed, beat in the butter, then beat in the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely before serving, at least 30 minutes. The cake can be wrapped in plastic and foil and left at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Busy Day Cake

I’ve been in a cake baking mood lately. A dangerous mood to be in. I was hoping I could fight the “I just have to bake a cake now” urge until Easter, for which I have claimed the title of Head Pastry Chef; that is, I volunteered to bring dessert and no one objected. Clearly, I was too impatient to wait until then.

Unlike for Easter though, today I wanted to bake a simple cake. A cake that would be comforting and homey. A cake that was made for a plain, old, boring Sunday evening. Being a fan of simple cooking, even when it comes to desserts, I have seemingly a million such cake recipes bookmarked, dog-eared, stored in my head, or written on scraps of paper tucked into massive piles of more paper. This one though, this one has been at the very top of that list, kept in an easily accessible part of my brain – of which sometimes I think there are very few – forever. Forever.

There was a point in my life when I claimed I didn’t like cake. I think I was really just sick of eating store bought birthday cakes that tasted like cardboard and were topped with way way way too much sugary frosting, if you could call it that. Somewhere along the line my opinion changed and I became a cake lover. I promised myself I would only eat good cake though. Cake that was made from scratch, not from a box. Cake that was not overly sweet. Cake that was light and moist. Good cake.

During staff training this summer I broke my promise. I was desperate folks. I needed stress relieving, tiredness reducing cake. Any kind of cake would do. Even the box-made, chocolate cake my co-counselor one night announced was for dessert would do. I snagged my slice and she hers. I dug in, but she grabbed a carton of milk and proceeded to do something unusual. She opened the milk carton and poured its contents right over the cake. Perhaps this is normal in the UK, where my co-counselor was from, but for a born and raised Midwesterner this was far from the norm. I ate my cake and drank my milk separately. Until then, that is.

Upon returning from camp and reuniting with the internet, I was reminded of this cake. It seemed to be calling for a bath in milk, which is, of course, exactly what I gave it. The cake, and my stomach, thanked me again and again and again. And I’ll thank Coral, my co-counselor, for her genius take on cake eating. Thank you my dear.

Busy Day Cake

adapted from Edna Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking via Lottie + Doof and Orangette

Tim of Lottie + Doof uses buttermilk instead of whole milk in his version. I have yet to try the buttermilk method, but I will be next time! He also notes the importance of using good ingredients because this cake is so simple. His advice is sound, especially in the nutmeg department. Breakdown and grate it fresh.

Lewis proposes several serving options: “Busy-day cake was never iced, it was always cut into squares and served warm, often with fresh fruit or berries left over from canning. The delicious flavor of fresh-cooked fruit with the plain cake was just to our taste and it was also refreshing with newly churned, chilled buttermilk or cold morning’s milk” (p. 86). I liked pouring milk right over the top of mine (see above), but I also think it would be lovely with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Makes 1 9-inch cake

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature, plus extra cold milk for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with butter.

Beat the butter and the sugar by hand, or in the bowl of a standard mixer, until light and fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, and beat to blend.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix to incorporate. Add 1/3 of the milk, and mix again. Add the remaining flour mixture in three more doses, alternating each time with a bit of milk, and mix to just combine. (You should start and finish with additions of flour, i.e. add flour then milk, flour, milk, flour, milk, and flour.) Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir to incorporate any flour not yet absorbed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and slice, placing each slice in a bowl. Pour several tablespoons of cold milk over each slice and serve immediately. (Not a milk fan? See headnotes for further serving suggestions.)

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Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I blame kale. Yes, kale is the culprit.

I recently took it upon myself to cook more “nutrient dense food”. (Note: Despite the bananas, this banana bread probably does not qualify as nutrient dense. Bummer.) Why suffer through eating healthy food when I have this banana bread in my repertoire? Good question. One, I’ve recently found myself stumbling upon more and more recipes that call for kale. I’ve never really cooked with kale and I was determined to find a way to make a leafy green tasty. A seemingly impossible feat.

And two, when I began my kale research I realized that the leafy green, along with its fellow cruciferous vegetables, is praised by the nutrition world as one of the healthiest foods for you. High in vitamin A, C, and K and rich in minerals and sulfur containing phytonutrients, kale is quite literally a nutritional powerhouse. Its carotenoids and flavonoids are associated with anti-cancer health benefits, while the lutein and zeaxanthin it contains promote eye health. Then there’s the fiber, which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Of course my diet has thus far been replete of this vegetable god. It was time to give kale a go.

Leafy greens, beans, and legumes suddenly found their way onto my grocery list and into my kitchen. I tried kale with caramelized onions and raisins, panfried white beans with pesto, and dandelion greens with sauteed apples and dried cranberries. The kale was alright. The beans ok. The dandelion greens? Those were terrible. Awful. Needless to say, my experiments with these supposed “nutrient dense foods” have not been post worthy.

This banana bread though? Oh, this banana bread more than deserves a place on this blog. It is not, however, your traditional banana bread. If you’re looking for that, I suggest this recipe from Food & Wine. But if you’re looking for something a little different and way way way delicious, this would be the recipe for you.

I too was skeptical of the banana and lemon combination, but this is a Melissa Clark recipe and Melissa Clark has never steered me wrong. When I got home after my workout yesterday and found myself, not surprisingly, in a baking mood, I pulled four bananas out of the freezer and set them on a plate to defrost. Being impatient, I took the bananas into the bathroom with me while I showered so they would become banana-bread-ready even sooner. I know it’s weird to shower with bananas sitting on your toilet seat. I never said I didn’t have my quirks.

With clean hair and soft bananas, the baking began. The recipe itself is quite easy and I quickly had banana bread in the oven. Out of the oven and glazed, I just as quickly had a disappearing loaf. While I’m still consuming those nutrient dense foods, or at least trying, sometimes you have to indulge. I promise you a veggie filled post soon, but for now, indulge with me.

Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

from Cook This Now by my idol, Melissa Clark

Makes 1 loaf

For the Bread:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups mashed, VERY ripe bananas (3 to 4 bananas)

1/4 cup sour cream or plain, whole milk yogurt

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9- by 5- inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate pieces and combine well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the olive oil, eggs, mashed banana, sour cream, and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.

While the cake is almost cool, prepare the glaze. In a bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle the glaze on top of the cake, spreading with a spatula to cover.

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French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

That’s it. I’m done. Graduated. Never again will I call myself a college student. (Until I go to grad. school, but in that case I’ll be a grad. student. Different. Very different.)

To celebrate, I baked myself a cake. And because, in my humble opinion, lemon always wins the epic lemon v. chocolate debate, it is this beautiful French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon, brought to us by Molly Wizenberg, that I decided to bake.

Admittedly, my decision to make this cake might have had mostly to do with the story Molly penned about it in her cookbook, A Homemade Life. The story tells us how some random guy, who lived all the way across the country, emailed her about this very cake. And how she responded, asking just a couple questions, either to appear polite, or perhaps, to slyly keep the conversation going. And then how emails became text messages, which became phone calls, that turned into that first, in-person rendezvous, which led to a relationship, and then a marriage. Maybe that’s how I’ll meet the love of my life, the one my parents seem to think I’m hiding from them. Little do they know, online dating is looming in my future.

Maybe if I bake this cake often enough though, I’ll be able to avoid that fate. I’ll leave my windows open one sunny, spring afternoon and let the intertwined aromas of lemon and sugar drift through the air. The beautiful man, who will just happen to be walking past, will smell the wafting scents and, unable to resist, make an immediate detour for my apartment. “Excuse me, but that cake…I just have to have a piece!”. Alright, so maybe not, but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. This cake is that good.

Moist and light, the cake itself is delicious. The syrup soaks perfectly into it giving the cake an extra lemony kick. What seals the deal though, is the icing. Oh man, that icing. Gently encasing the cake with a shiny, smooth, sugary shell, the icing adds a simple complexity to the cake, making it at once luxurious and homey. Its sweetness, which flawlessly contrasts the tartness of the lemon, transforms this cake from one that might last a day or so on your kitchen counter to one that is lucky to survive the evening. While you may be tempted to eat this cake, in its entirety, yourself, it is a cake that ultimately must be shared.

And share I did, because, through the endless reflecting that has defined this quarter, I’ve come to one conclusion: What’s made me love Northwestern, love love love, are the people. The random kid I sat next to in class who happened to have the most incredible stories and insights. The casual acquaintance who always gave me the biggest smile and the brightest hello. The best friend who pulled all-nighters with me, taking study breaks to discuss those big question of life that are best confronted when anyone with an ounce of sanity is asleep.

To all my fellow Northwestern students – from the strangers I wish I’d met to the best friends I’ve known since freshman year – you are who I will miss. Thank you for giving Northwestern a special place in my heart. Now, lets eat cake.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

from A Homemade Life by  Molly Wizenberg

Molly suggests a couple of variations: “Instead of making a lemon-flavored cake, try orange or tangerine, or Meyer lemon, when in season. You can also try replacing the vegetable oil with a fruity, round-flavored olive oil; it brings a subtly richer flavor and wonderful fragrance. And for an especially delicate, sweetly fragrant cake try replacing 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup very finely ground blanched almonds.” Next time I think I’ll try some olive oil and ground almonds. And there will definitely be a next time.

Makes 1 9-inch cake

For the cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not low fat or nonfat)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

For the syrup

1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 cup lemon juice

For the icing

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add lemon zest and whisk to mix thoroughly.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring to mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir to just combine. Add the oil and stir well. At first, it will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep going, and it will come together into a smooth, pale yellow batter. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a wide, flat plate or pan. Remove and discard the parchment paper. Invert the cake back onto the rack so that it sits upright, with the shinier, slightly domed side facing up. Set the rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup ingredients. Spoon the syrup slowly atop the warm cake. Some of the syrup will run down the sides and onto the baking sheet; don’t worry. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the icing ingredients. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.

Serve immediately–the icing will still be soft and a bit juicy–or wait until the icing has firmed up, about 1 hour. Whichever way you like.

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Orange Olive Oil Cake with (Orange) Curd

Spring break has finally arrived. Gracias a Dios. I thought you would never come. And with spring break also comes the arduous five hour hike through mountains and over rivers to get home. Just kidding. More like a forty-five minute drive through the flat-land I lovingly know as Chicago.

Ever since my sophomore year, going home has felt kind of weird. I guess its because I’m really not “going home”, I’m visiting the place I grew up and sleeping in my once childhood bedroom now dad’s office. It’s kind of an eerie feeling realizing how things can change. But then again, some things really never do change.

Take for example, Friday night. Brian (once best friend from high school now still best friend) came over and as per usual sat on one side of my kitchen island devouring pizza and the remains of a box of Godiva chocolate while I baked. He gave me dubious looks doubting my ability to supreme an orange until youtube (see below) verified I was in fact doing it correctly. We chatted about life, his lack of a major…still and my looming entrance into the working world. And when the cake had cooled around 2am and I asked, “Do you want a piece?”, he responded, “Well, do you want to try it?”. Hint hint: Yes, he wanted a piece. Just like old times. Repeat tonight?

Orange Olive Oil Cake with (Orange) Curd

adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite via the Smitten Kitchen

Sadly, I couldn’t find blood oranges even though I saw them about a million times last week. I used naval oranges instead and the result was still absolutely delicious. I also substituted the original blood orange honey compote for orange curd. If you’d prefer compote, click on the link above to be directed to the recipe.

Makes 1 loaf cake and over a cup of curd

For the cake:

3 navel oranges

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the curd:

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2 oranges

2 lemons

1 stick unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Grate zest from two oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

Supreme an orange: Cut off the bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and place them in a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you’ll have about 1/4 cup. Add yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid all together. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orane segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right side up.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the curd. Grate zest from both oranges and both lemons. Squeeze 1/4 cup of orange juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice into a bowl.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the egg and egg yolks. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the citrus juices, 2 teaspoons orange zest and 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Add the butter and whisk constantly over moderately low heat until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Strain the curd immediately into a bowl and whisk in the remaining orange and lemon zest. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

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