2018 Books, Pt. 2 / Doughnut Bundt Cake

IMG_0942

This week’s recipe: Old-Fashioned Doughnut Bundt Cake

And now, more books!

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is a book I adored and have read several times. The title character is a cynical, neurotic woman who moved to Seattle from New York but hates it. Her husband is a kind, even-keeled, highly successful man but her marriage is in trouble. Despite her own earlier success in a creative field, she no longer works and now focuses her attention on raising her sensitive, eccentric child, who attends a progressive private school called Galer Street. She resents everyone and everything around her and is clearly dissatisfied with her life.

Today Will Be Different’s protagonist is Eleanor, a cynical, neurotic woman who moved to Seattle from New York but hates it. Her husband is a kind, even-keeled, highly successful man but her marriage is in trouble. Despite her own earlier success in a creative field, she no longer works and now focuses her attention on raising her sensitive, eccentric child, who attends a progressive private school called Galer Street. She resents everyone and everything around her and is clearly dissatisfied with her life. I’m starting to think that Maria Semple can only write one type of main character. (The books even have near-identical scenes where a central character becomes emotionally overwhelmed while listening to a choir sing a religious hymn.) Like Bernadette, Eleanor is unhappy with herself and the world, but while Where’d You Go, Bernadette featured multiple character perspectives, we never almost leave Eleanor’s head, which is an exhaustingly negative place to be.

The whole book takes place over the course of one day, apart from brief flashbacks to Eleanor’s relationship with her sister and husband. Though it’s in many ways an unremarkable day, she runs into seemingly everyone she knows, uncovers deeply buried family trauma, and makes peace with her life. It’s a lot to pack into a slim book, and as a result the non-Eleanor characters feel underdeveloped, more a collection of quirks than actual people. Semple is definitely a funny writer, and as the book progresses and Eleanor gains new insights,

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I admit that I am biased because Michelle Obama is a hero of mine. I love her intelligence, warmth, and style. I think that the job of First Lady is probably immensely difficult for an educated, ambitious woman, but she handled it with remarkable grace despite being relentlessly attacked. That said, I have to say that Becoming is a really, really good political memoir, and Michelle Obama is a really, really good writer. Maybe she had a ghostwriter or a staffer punch it up, but her book is actually enjoyable to read even aside from the content. She’s very self-reflective and makes the non-White House portions of the book just as compelling as the parts after she meets Barack. You can feel the genuine respect and affection she and her husband have for each other coming off the page, and it’s a privilege to get to see inside Barack’s personality since he could be so reserved and inscrutable as president. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it made me think about how far we’ve fallen. How could our country trade in this wonderful, smart, loving family for the Trumps?

The Wonder by Emma Donaghue

The Wonder is based on the true accounts of various “fasting girls” throughout the centuries, young women who claimed to be able to survive on no food at all. In this case, the fasting girl is Anna, an 11-year-old from a backwater Irish village who supposedly hasn’t eaten in four months. Her miraculous feats are attracting attention and offerings from the superstitious Catholics in the vicinity, and so a local committee has paid an English nurse, Lib, to come to town and watch over Anna full time to either verify or disprove the miracle. It’s an inherently interesting and mysterious plot; how is this little girl possibly surviving? 

Unfortunately, the book is significantly less interesting than its premise. The beginning is particularly deadly to get through, with the same themes hammered home over and over again. As an educated English Protestant, Lib looks down on the superstitious Irish Catholic rabble, and is sure that Anna’s family is trying to trick her. For the first several chapters, literally every thought that pops into Lib’s head is some variation on either, “I was disgusted by the stupidity of their beliefs and their way of life,” or “That little minx and her conniving family had to be lying, but I couldn’t yet find proof.” Yes, Lib, we get it.

As she gets to know Anna better, she grows fond of the girl, and begins to worry about her. Lib lives in a world of science, not miracles, and she fears that now that Anna is being closely watched, she’ll no longer be able to sneak the food that was no doubt keeping her alive. She tries to convince Anna to eat and, in the process, discovers why she took up the fast in the first place. The book gets much better in this section, only to get worse at the very end (no spoilers but some of our heroes literally ride away on horseback). The third act twist that explains Anna’s fast is undeniably lurid, but it rang true to me as it will, I suspect, to anyone who grew up with shame- and guilt-based monotheism.

The Wonder has interesting things to say about faith versus science, the sexual pathologies of the Catholic Church, and how Lib’s own narrow-mindedness and prejudice prevent her from solving the mystery earlier. Its main flaw is its characters, who never surprise, never change. As soon as you meet Lib’s future love interest, you know exactly who he is and what role he’ll play in the story; ditto for the various stock characters that populate the poor Irish village. Only Anna and Lib show any depth, but unfortunately neither is much fun to spend time with. It’s too bad because this book had a lot of potential.

KL by Nikolaus Wachsmann

This is probably the most comprehensive history of the Nazi concentration camp system (KL) ever written, and it’s an amazing work of scholarship. I’ve written on this blog before about how, like many Jewish people, I’ve been steeped in Holocaust education my whole life, but I learned a lot (most of it disturbing and horrifying) from this book. I didn’t know the extent of the system, but Wachsmann gives equal time to the smaller satellite camps as to the more infamous ones. (One underground labor camp, Dora, sounds like it was literal hell on earth, but until I read this book I had never heard of it.) He is able to write in a manner that’s clear-eyed and unemotional despite the horror of the subject, and unearths voices from both victims and perpetrators that allow deeper insight on how and why this happened.

KL moves chronologically, from the opening of Dachau for political prisoners in 1933 all the way through liberation. It runs the whole grisly gamut: violence, torture, starvation, gassing, forced labor, eugenics, medical experimentation. Any person with a heart looks at the concentration camps and thinks, “How did this happen?”, but Wachsmann shows how it happened, in granular detail: everyday life for different categories of prisoners, systems of control, and basic camp management. There were many sadists drawn to the KL, but also various time-servers and careerists who thought it was a good move professionally. Even ordinary citizens not directly involved with camp administration knew what was going on; many camps were located near population centers, and their existence was mentioned widely in media and propaganda. Considering the debates going on today about inhumane immigrant detention policies and the tear gassing of people at the border, it’s chilling to read how easy it was for people to accept the evil in their midst.

Quick review of other books I’ve read this year:

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave – an entertaining enough beach read and I enjoyed the peek into the world of food personalities but all in all, not that memorable.

Dietland by Sarai Walker – I thought this one was going to be a beach read too. Wow was I wrong. This was one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. 

Big Girl by Kelsey Miller – Miller has a funny, engaging voice that makes you want to hang out with her. It’s not the deepest book ever written on the very fraught topic of female body image, but I rooted for her wholeheartedly as she overcame the pressure to diet and found happiness and self-acceptance. 

Unbelievable by Katy Tur – I couldn’t finish this one, reading about the abuse this woman suffered on the campaign trail made me too angry, for her and for our country.

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco – You’d imagine that someone who was in Mastromonaco’s position (Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations) probably has a lot of interesting stories. Too bad she decided to include so few of them in this book, which I found to be generally gossipy and shallow.

A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding – Scary and infuriating, despite a dramatic style that sometimes verged on the portentous. Not like the world needed more evidence that Putin and his government are a gang of criminal thugs but this is a worthwhile addition to the pile. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie  – As with the Neapolitan Novels, I feel like I was the last person in the world to read this book, and now that I’ve read it, I don’t know what the fuss was about. I kept waiting for something to happen, for some sort of story arc, and it never came. It’s more about themes than plot, but perhaps because I’m neither black nor an immigrant, I didn’t much relate to the themes, and I found the protagonist to be chilly and unlikable. Oh well.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir – Considering my interests (I wrote my college thesis on the dissolution of the monasteries) I can’t believe it took me until 2018 to read this book. Really well-written and well-researched.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – Some interesting and heartbreaking stories in here but my brain tends to glaze over whenever anyone gets deep into the weeds about science, and this was no exception. Perhaps Oliver Saks should have studied my brain to see why that is!

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff – Thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly disposable trash that nonetheless managed to spark some important conversations about the President’s mental health. It’s a weird time to be alive.

Red Famine by Anne Applebaum – Wow, the 20th century was grim. It’s hard to fathom the intentional starvation of millions in the service of an ideological cause. It also helps me better understand why many people who grew up in Soviet Russia became very rightwing; it’s hard to divorce the utopian ideals of Communism from the actual horror it wreaked. 

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe – I wrote a whole post about this one!

So anyway, here’s a cake. (I always like writing that!) I made this for a brunch with friends. We only ate about half of it so two days later, I brought it the rest to a family gathering. Despite almost being forced to throw it out by some fascistic security guards at the Big Apple Circus, it made it to my parents’ house safely, and everyone said it was delicious even though it was two days old. Three people even asked me for the recipe! How did it taste? Do you like the taste of baked donuts? If so, you will like this cake. Plus, it looks really nice and apparently can feed quite a crowd. And it has “donut” in the name so you can technically serve in on Hanukkah!

Old-Fashioned Doughnut Bundt Cake

 

From the New York Times

INGREDIENTS

  •  Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1/2 cup/115 grams, melted, for finishing
  • 1 ½ cups/300 grams plus 2/3 cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ cups/445 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup/240 milliliters buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan, taking care to get into all the grooves of the pan.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1 cup/225 grams room-temperature butter and 1 1/2 cups/300 grams sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated, scraping the mixing bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed until incorporated. With the mixer running, add the buttermilk in a slow, steady stream and mix until combined. Add the remaining flour and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape the bowl well to be sure the batter is well combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan heavily on the counter a few times to help even out the batter and remove air pockets. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.
  5. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then flip the pan onto a cooling rack set inside a baking sheet. Tap the pan heavily onto the rack. The cake should easily release. If it doesn’t, use a small offset spatula to gently run around the edges of the pan to help release, then tap it again onto the rack.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2/3 cup/135 grams sugar with the cinnamon to combine. Brush the warm cake all over with melted butter, then spoon cinnamon sugar over the cake. Brush any bare areas with the melted butter and reuse any cinnamon sugar that falls onto the baking sheet below the rack, using your hands to gently press it into the surface of the cake to help it stick. The idea is to get the cake fully coated all over with cinnamon sugar. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
Advertisements

Complicity / Lemon Bundt Cake

IMG_0248

This week’s recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake with Almond Glaze

A recent This American Life episode tells the story of a campus controversy in Nebraska. A sophomore named Katie Mullen had gotten involved with Turning Point USA, a rightwing organization that trains college students to become conservative activists on campus. Katie sets up a table to try to get fellow students involved in Turning Point and attracts the attention of a PhD student/English instructor named Courtney Lawton, who starts protesting Katie’s table and calling her a neo-fascist Becky, by which she means a white woman who weaponizes her white womanhood to oppress others. (Can we take a moment, by the way, to feel for girls who are named Becky? Between the social justice left and the incels, they are getting a lot of crap that they never asked for.) Katie was filming the whole thing, which enraged Courtney further. She started flipping Katie off and cursing at her, which caused Katie to cry. With an assist from Turning Point, the video went viral. There was tremendous backlash against the university, and Courtney was no longer allowed to teach.

What Courtney did was immature, impulsive, and strategically unwise, and I’m inclined to think that, like many college students getting involved in politics for the first time, Katie was more ignorant than malicious. But she publicly allied herself with a malicious organization whose ideology posed a genuine threat to the people around her, and then when she was called out on it, she cried. Now, you’ll never meet a bigger crier than me. Friends, boyfriends, teachers, bosses, kindly friends of my parents’ who have taken me out for coffee and an informational interview—I’ve cried in front of them all. But as someone intimately familiar with the act, I know that being made to cry doesn’t turn a person into an automatic victim. In this case, I think that Courtney’s definition of “Becky” is instructive. Whether or not Katie knew it, tears were her weapon. The politicians and activists and angry radio callers saw her crying and had to leap to her defense, because how could you not? What’s more innocent than a white teenage girl from the Midwest? And what’s a more wholesome, sympathetic face for a group funded by some of the most regressive political elements in America, a group that has been accused of racism, unethical practices, and campaign finance violations, than a young woman bullied to tears by a hateful SJW? I swear, this story taught me more about the destructive power of white female tears than a thousand lefty essays ever could.

Thinking about this reminded me of the reaction to the now-infamous Michelle Wolf routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner. For those of you who were blessed enough to be unaware of this controversy, it involved Wolf making jokes that compared Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale and complimenting her on her perfect smoky eye, which was applied from the burnt ashes of the truth. Sanders is, of course, a charter member of the can-dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it insult comedy club known as the Trump Administration, and anyone who was paying attention knows that the joke was about her lying, not her looks, but that didn’t stop certain political reporters from leaping to her defense. How dare anyone publicly censure her as a liar, just because she’s a public figure who gets up every day and lies to the American people? Don’t you know she’s a wife and mother? Yes, that was seriously Mika Brzezinski’s take. All wives and mothers are now above criticism so I guess we’ll never hear a bad word about Hillary Clinton ever again.

It was a pathetic spectacle. It didn’t matter to the journalists who defended Sanders that she disdains and disrespects them; that she insults their intelligence and that of the American people; that she willingly signed on to be the public face of the lying-est administration in history six months in, when everyone knew exactly who they were. She’s a wife and mother, and God forbid anyone make a joke that might offend her delicate white lady feelings, even though the comedian’s speech at the WHCD is and always has been a goddamned roast!

At what point do we expect people to take responsibility for being complicit, even at the expense of hurting their feelings? Of course, what I call “complicity,” Katie Mullen or Sarah Huckabee Sanders might call “standing up for what you believe in” or “making America great again.” But whether you’re stopping fellow students on campus and asking them their thoughts on capitalism or you’re trying to convince the press corps that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, you have willingly placed yourself in the ring and you can’t get upset when people hit back.

Which brings me to…me. This past Saturday at kids’ services at my synagogue, I used the Torah reading to talk to the children about when and how it’s appropriate to “rebuke” somebody. We discussed why it’s better to rebuke in private than in public; better to rebuke gently than harshly; better to rebuke in a constructive rather than an ad hominem way; and better not to rebuke at all if there’s nothing the person on the receiving end can do to change things. We also agreed that there are certain situations where it’s necessary to break all of those rules, i.e. when a person’s actions are putting himself and/or others in imminent danger. A good lesson all around, but one made distinctly weird by the presence of a certain guest at the service. He is a nationally known neoconservative pundit, anti-Trump but pro-every war imaginable; he was an extremely visible cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq in particular. He lives in the DC area but was at my synagogue for his granddaughter’s baby naming, after which he and the rest of the family took the kids down to my service.

Now, I’m sure this person is a nice guy in his personal life and a loving grandpa and all that, but I think that he is indirectly responsible for the death of many, many people in the Middle East, and that given his druthers, we’d be involved in even more wars than we already are. It felt strange and wrong to be teaching that you shouldn’t let harmful actions go by without a word when he was sitting ten feet away from me. I wasn’t going to point to him and say, “That guy has the blood of Iraqis on his hands, everyone shun him!” But should I have at least gone up to him afterwards and told him privately that he should be ashamed of what he’s done? It would be overstating the case to say that I was in a position of moral authority over him, but at that moment, I was giving everyone in the room–including him and his grandchildren–moral instruction, filling a role analogous to a rabbi. If I had confronted him, I’m sure it would have been nothing he hadn’t heard before; his views have been attacked in the national press hundreds of times before, no way this guy gives a shit about what I think. And of course there is a time and place for things; one could easily argue that accosting a guest in your community when he’s there celebrating his granddaughter’s baby naming is, uh, inappropriate. But if the last two years have taught me anything, it’s that there need to be actual repercussions for people who hurt others, or who champion policies that hurt others. I don’t mean that they need to be thrown in jail (and they won’t be), but shouldn’t cheerleading for endless war earn you even the slight social penalty of being made to feel momentarily uncomfortable at synagogue? And by not speaking out for fear of…feeling momentarily uncomfortable, do I in turn become complicit?

So anyway, here’s a cake. I made an amazing, decadent chocolate caramel cake for Mother’s Day brunch, since my mom is a chocolate lover, but we have several chocolate haters in the family as well (I know! So shameful!) so I had to provide an option for them too. I flipped through my cookbooks and, lo and behold, here was this yummy-looking bundt cake in Baked Occasions. And what was the occasion at which they suggested it be served? Mother’s Day! Clearly, it was fate. Mother’s Day was gloomy and rainy but this delicious and beautiful cake was a ray of sunshine.

Lemon Bundt Cake with Almond Glaze

From Baked Occasions 

INGREDIENTS

For the Lemon Bundt Cake

  • 1½ cups (170 g) cake flour
  • 1½ cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2¾ cups (550 g) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 10 lemons (approximately 10 tablespoons/60 g)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large yolks
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream

For the Lemon Syrup

  • 1⁄3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup (75 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum, or more to taste

For the Almond Glaze

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups (250 to 300 g) sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup (25 g) slivered almonds, toasted (see page 19)

INSTRUCTIONS
Make the Lemon Bundt Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Generously spray the inside of a 10-cup (2.4-L) Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.
  3. Alternatively, you can butter and flour the pan.
  4. Either way, make sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.
  5. Sift both flours, the baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Place the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  8. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the sugar and use the tips of your fingers to rub the zest in until the mixture is uniformly pale yellow.
  9. Pour the melted butter and canola oil into the bowl of lemon sugar and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  10. Add the rum, lemon extract, eggs, and egg yolks and beat again on medium speed until just combined.
  11. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  12. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
  13. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  14. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  15. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.
  16. Place the wire rack over a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Make the Lemon Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan over very low heat, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, and rum until the sugar starts to melt.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
  3. Then reduce the heat to a simmer for a minute or two, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  4. Gently loosen the sides of the somewhat cooled cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.
  5. Poke the cake with several holes (on the crown and sides) in preparation for the syrup.
  6. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the top and sides of the cake with the syrup.
  7. Allow the syrup to soak into the cake.
  8. Brush at least two more times. (You might have some syrup left over.)
  9. Continue to let the cake cool completely.
Make the Almond Glaze
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the almond extract.
  2. Add 2½ cups (250 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is pourable.
  3. A fairly sturdy, thick glaze will give you the best visual result.
  4. If the mixture is too thick, add more lemon juice, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  5. If the mixture is too thin, keep adding confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup (25 g) at a time, until the desired consistency is reached; this will make the glaze sweeter, of course.
  6. Pour the glaze in large thick ribbons over the crown of the Bundt, allowing the glaze to spread
  7. and drip down the sides of the cake.
  8. Sprinkle the almonds over the glaze and allow the glaze to set (for about 20 minutes) before serving.

The Year of Ayn Rand / Mini Chocolate Souffles

IMG_0017

This week’s recipe: Mini Chocolate Souffles

I read Atlas Shrugged a few years ago. I have a lot of opinions on it, which I had been known to forcefully express on first dates with anyone who indicates libertarian leanings, but one of the things that makes it so unbearable to slog through is how totally cartoonish the characters are. This applies to the heroes, all of whom are physically flawless geniuses, but even more so to the villains. In addition to having telltale signs of moral decay such as “weak chins” and “piggy eyes,” they all espouse crazy, illogical ideas with no intellectual, historical, or moral basis. They don’t bother hiding these ideas behind spin or marketing or really any form of subtlety, which makes the characters and action read as truly unbelievable. But in 2017, the unbelievable has become the quotidian, and I think that some recent events would strain credulity even in an Ayn Rand book. I don’t mean that she’d necessarily disapprove of the political implications of the below; I just mean that even she might look at, say, the Roy Moore situation and say, “Hey, that’s a little too broad, maybe you should tone it down.” Imagine you encountered any of the following scenarios in an Ayn Rand book, and tell me if you wouldn’t think that her editors really should have reined her polemical side:

-A Bible-thumping former judge who was twice removed from the bench for flouting the law runs for Senate on a platform of law-and-order, adherence to the Constitution, and family values. Despite being accused of child molestation by multiple women, he still retains the support of evangelical “values voters.”

-A coal baron who was sent to prison for conspiring to commit mine safety violations following the nation’s biggest mining disaster runs for Senate in West Virginia by accusing the government of paying insufficient attention to mine safety.

-Legislators write a tax bill that eliminates the $250 deduction for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pockets but retains a tax break for golf course owners.

-The man nominated to lead the Census Bureau once wrote a book with the subtitle “Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

-The President’s lawyers argue that his own public statements can’t be taken as indication of his intent when trying to determine his intent in crafting executive orders, deciding to fire the FBI director, etc.

-The country suffers regular gun massacres, and Congress responds by making access to guns easier.

In other words, 2017 is garbage and needs to be over, stat.

So anyway, here’s a mini-cake/mini-souffle/mini-whatever you want to call it. Just don’t call it late for dinner! But if you are late for dinner, this is the perfect dessert. It comes together in no time, and you can just pop it into the oven 15 minutes before you need to serve it. Oh, and did I mention that it can be made pareve? It’s one of Mark’s favorites so I made it for his birthday dinner, and as always, it came out perfectly. Plus, I got to bake them in my cheery yellow mini-cocottes from Sur La Table and I will always take any opportunity to use them!

Mini Chocolate Souffles

From Kosher By Design: Short on Time by Susie Fishbein

Ingredients
4 ounces good-quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
4 large eggs
1½ cups sugar, plus a little more for coating the ramekins
¾ cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Generously coat 8 (6.8 ounce) ramekins with nonstick cooking spray and lightly cot them with granulated sugar. Hold a ramekin on its side. Tap the sides, turning the ramekin to coat the sides with sugar as well. Repeat with remaining ramekins.
Break the chocolate into small pieces; place it and the butter in a small microwave-safe dish. Microwave on medium power for 15-second intervals, stirring between, until the chocolate is completely melted.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the eggs on high speed until foamy. Slowly pour in the sugar, and continue beating until very fluffy and pale yellow. On low speed, stir in the flour and vanilla, until thoroughly combined.
Increase speed to high, and while beating, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate mixture. Once added, beat until all the chocolate is incorporated, about 1 minute.
For ease of pouring, transfer the batter into a large measuring cup. Fill each ramekin halfway. Set the ramekins onto a baking sheet and bake for 14-15 minutes, or until the tops are brown and the centers are warm.
Alternatively, the filled ramekins can be refrigerated. Just leave at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Serve immediately, being careful because the ramekins are hot!

2017 Books, Pt. 1 / Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

IMG_0993

This week’s recipe: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

I’m not one to write, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while” because I DON’T OWE YOU PEOPLE ANYTHING. But I haven’t posted in a while, and that’s because I’m doing NaNoWriMo and all of my writing efforts have been devoted to that. Still, I know you’ve all been thirsting for me to drop a new blog post, so I thought I’d do writeups of some of the books I’ve read this year so you can all entertain yourselves while I’m busy with my important novel-writing duties. Enjoy!

The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

I actually started reading this one in late 2016, out of a desire to learn all that I could about our new Russian overlords. My knowledge of the Romanovs was limited to what I had learned in my Jewish education (that they endorsed and encouraged pogroms that caused many of our ancestors to flee to America) and during the brief mania for them surrounding the release of the 1997 animated film Anastasia (that they were an elegant, innocent, loving family, and that the entire Russian Revolution was the result of an evil curse placed on them by Rasputin). Surprise: turns out that the former was a lot more accurate than the latter. This comprehensive history hammers home the cruelty of the Romanovs; even the cultured ones were barbarians. They were excessive in every way–excessive drinking, excessive sex, excessive violence, and excessive piety on top of all of that–which makes them scads of fun to read about, though not much fun to live under. Yet live under them people did, for three centuries, until Rasputin sold his soul and cast his curse they got what was coming to them.

I know I made a joke about how this book helped me understand our new Russian overlords but, in all seriousness, it did illuminate how tightly authoritarianism and state power are woven into Russian life. Montefiore’s epilogue describes how Putin sees his own reign as a restoration of the czarist tradition after the Soviet era, and while I would never say that the people of some countries want to be dominated, it’s easy to see how 300 years of autocracy shaped Russian culture to a point where Putin is not only tolerated, but venerated.

Crazy Rich Asians / China Rich Girlfriend / Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Okay, I am kind of late to the Crazy Rich Asians train, though with the trilogy now complete and the movie coming out soon, there seems to be renewed interest. I read Crazy Rich Asians on the beach in Hawaii and let me tell you, it is the platonic ideal of a beach read. The first book is the story of Nick, the scion of an insanely wealthy Singapore family, who brings his American fiancee Rachel to meet his relatives while they are in Singapore for his (even more insanely wealthy) best friend’s wedding. They are not pleased with his choice, hi-jinks and intrigue ensue, etc. When I finished the first book I immediately wanted to read the other two, though I was disappointed in the second book, when Nick and Rachel travel to China to meet her relatives, encounter even more lavish wealth, blah blah blah. Luckily, the series redeemed itself with the third book, which revolved around the death of Nick’s grandmother and the jockeying for inheritance of her palatial estate.

Most of the characters, particularly Nick’s family, are just as crazy as the book’s title promises, to hilarious effect. Though they are richer than God, they are grasping about money, anxious about status, and especially among the older generation, weirdly cheap about certain things. Their shenanigans and outlandish displays of wealth make the books worth reading, even though the protagonists are two of the most boring characters in literature. The trilogy runs to nearly 1,500 pages yet I could not tell you a single thing about Nick’s personality, because he doesn’t have one, unless you define “having good cheekbones” as a personality trait. Rachel is so boring that when [spoiler alert] she gets poisoned and finds out who did it, she barely appears to register it. The reason I disliked the second book is because it revolves around Nick and Rachel, who I already didn’t care about, and then introduces a bunch of Rachel’s relatives and their friends, who I also don’t care about, all while mostly staying away from the antics of the family back in Singapore. Conversely, Rich People Problems was my favorite because it largely moved away from Nick and Rachel and the Chinese characters and refocused on the Singapore relatives.

Another aspect of these books that I enjoyed was getting a peek into the culture and customs of the new class of Asian billionaires. It’s only been a generation or two since such a level of wealth was even possible in China or Singapore, and Kwan, who grew up in this milieu, is an excellent guide. At times, especially in the second book, the plot exists solely as an excuse to describe lavish shopping trips, and you shouldn’t read these books unless you have a high tolerance for endless lists of designer brands. But they’re a lot of fun, and I for one am excited for the movie!

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

I didn’t feel like reading Hillbilly Elegy after last year’s election so I went with Strangers in Their Own Land instead. Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist, spent years in a highly polluted, economically depressed, heavily Tea Party area of Louisiana, trying to understand why people who had suffered so much from environmental degradation support politicians who oppose regulation. She finds out–in a conclusion that will surprise absolutely no one who’s been paying attention over the past year–that their sense of grievance and resentment is stronger than their desire to make their own lives better. The central metaphor of the book is the line; that white working-class conservatives conceive of themselves as waiting patiently on a line for the American Dream, and their anger stems from their feeling that women, minorities, and immigrants are cutting in front of them.

Hochschild recognizes that most of this anger is coming from a place of emotion, not rationality, and she displays almost ostentatious level of empathy for her subjects and respect for their emotions. This can manifest in a faux-naivete that she lays on a little thick at times; i.e. she reads Ayn Rand to prepare for her time among the Tea Partiers, and then is shocked! when they turn out not to all be heartless sociopaths. Lady, you are an educated, sophisticated sociologist with tenure at one of the best universities in the country, don’t pretend to be amazed that people are not cartoons. But despite her best efforts to scale what she calls “the empathy wall,” it’s still a really frustrating read in this day and age. Not only rightwingers vote their values over their economic self-interest (there’s a saying the Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans, for instance). But I’ve long thought that the one thing that unites Trump voters is a desire to say, “Screw you” to liberals, no matter how badly they themselves get screwed in the process. This book did little to dispel that notion.

Shrill by Lindy West / Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling / You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

I grouped these together as “memoirs by funny women writers.” Kaling suggests that her book would be a great gift to your niece who you don’t know very well but want to connect with more. She’s being self-deprecating but it’s actually a pretty perfect description. West’s book would be a perfect gift for said niece if she is a budding feminist, and Klein’s book would be a perfect gift for said niece if said niece is me. Seriously,  I identified an almost embarrassing amount with many of the essays in Klein’s book, from the evils of barre class to the seductive tweeness of Anthropologie to the crazy-making process of waiting for your fucking boyfriend to just fucking propose already. Kaling’s book is like hanging out with a friend who, even if you don’t have much in common with her, is always super-entertaining to talk to. West’s book is definitely heavier in content but can be just as funny as the ones by professional comedians.

What was the interesting–though I suppose not surprising–unifying factor in all of these was the number of pages devoted to appearance. If you are a woman, it would appear that no matter how funny, successful, and interesting you are, at least 65 percent of your brainspace will be taken up by various appearance-related insecurities. This was especially true of Shrill. I think that West, who has been significantly overweight her whole life, would object to the term “insecurities,”since she is an activist for fat acceptance, and a significant percentage of the essays in her book are about how proud she is to be fat. In my experience, people who have truly accepted something don’t talk about it constantly. Nevertheless, I think her pride is awesome, but also kind of limiting. I understand that it’s a heavy lift (sorry) to convince the world that you are happy being fat, when everything and everyone in society tells you that that’s not possible. And hey, it’s her memoir, she can write about what she likes. But I was sad that West, who is a smart, insightful, and hilarious writer on so many topics, has decided that fat-shaming and misogynistic bullying deserve the first 212 pages of her 257-page book.

The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn

I read and loved Jeff Guinn’s book on Charles Manson. This one was just as good and, if anything, even more horrifying to read. As one of the Jonestown survivors points out near the end of the book, Jonestown has become something of a cultural punchline–“don’t drink the Kool-Aid” and all that–which has dulled some of the tragedy of what happened there. But listening to a description of hundreds of babies and young children being force-fed drops of cyanide from syringes as their parents watch brings back the reality of it real quick.

The other book that I thought of often while reading The Road to Jonestown was Lawrence Wright’s book on Scientology, Going Clear. It’s not a novel insight that all cults share certain characteristics, and that cult leaders tend to exhibit the same potent blend of charisma, charlatanism, and control that allows them to dole out physical punishment and psychological humiliation to their followers without repercussion. What makes Jones interesting is how, before his descent into full-on drug-fueled demagoguery and paranoia, he combined the best aspects of the Christian social justice tradition and the worst aspects of religious hucksterism and exploitation. Followers are attracted to Scientology because of what it can do for them; followers were attracted to the Peoples Temple because of what they could do for others, and they had to give up essentially all their material possessions and personal freedoms to join. As Guinn puts it, members of the Peoples Temple gave rather than got, and in the end, the things they gave included their lives.

So anyway, here’s cake. Isn’t she a beauty? Three amazing things to know about this cake: 1) It comes together extremely quickly and easily 2) It is vegan but doesn’t taste like it 3) It stays moist forever, even when you leave it out on the table for five days and most of the tinfoil covering it falls off. Plus it has olive oil in it, and olive oil is very good for you. Ergo, this cake is very good for you. So what are you doing, fools, go make this cake for your Shabbat dinner NOW!

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

From Smitten Kitchen

CAKE
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (60 grams) unsweetened cocoa, any variety, sifted if lumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (145 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) water or coffee
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cider vinegar or white vinegar
GLAZE
  • 3/4 cup (135 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (20 grams) light corn syrup (for shine)
  • A pinch or two of flaky sea salt
Make cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of 9-inch round cake pan with a fitted round of parchment paper and coat the bottoms and sides with nonstick cooking spray.Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and granulated sugar in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Add water and vinegar and whisk until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few sticky crumbs (but not wet or loose batter). Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cut around it with a knife to ensure it is loosened and flip it out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

Make glaze: Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, olive oil, corn syrup, and salt in a medium bowl and microwave to melt, in 15 to 30 second increments, stirring between each until just melted. Whisk until smooth. Pour over completely cooled cake and use spatula to gently nudge it down the sides.

Unetaneh Tokef / Honey Cake

IMG_0962

This week’s recipe: Honey Cake

2017 Unetaneh Tokef, aka the anxieties that keep me awake at night:

On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many will live and how many will die

Who by nuclear attack and who by conventional weapons

Who by rising sea levels and who by wildfires

Who by hurricanes and who by earthquakes

Who by being deprived of healthcare and who by corporate neglect

Who by lead-tainted water and who by pollution

Who by terrorist bombs and who by mass shooters

Who by gang killings and who by police brutality

But wisdom, leadership, and sheer dumb luck can avert the harshness of the decree.

Hopefully.

So anyway, here’s a honey cake. It is traditional to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in the hopes that the coming year will be sweet. This cake is definitely sweet (don’t look at how much sugar and honey are in it!) and also a little spicy, with a nice gingerbread-type flavor. It has a dense crumb but tastes relatively light, and while the original recipe calls for it to be served with grilled peaches, it would also go very nicely with a bit of whipped cream, if you’re in the mood.

Honey Cake

From The Community Table

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups boiling water
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • ¾ cup raisins (optional)
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Instructions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil three 9- by 5-inch loaf pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the boiling water with the baking soda (to eliminate any bitterness). In the bowl of a standing mixer or with hand beaters and a large bowl, combine the sugar, honey and oil and beat at medium speed until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand in a large bowl.) Add the eggs, 1 at a time and beating after each addition. Add the dissolved baking soda and beat until combined. Add the raisins if using, and stir to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and zest and blend with a fork. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture. When combined, slowly add the remaining 2 cups boiling water. The batter will seem quite thin and a bit runny; this is normal.

Divide the batter among the pans. Bake the cakes on the center rack until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Crime and Punishment, Trump Administration Edition / Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

IMG_0579

This week’s recipe: Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado, the title character sings a famous song about “let[ting] the punishment fit the crime” when it comes time to sentence criminals. Since we almost all agree (ahem Jeff Sessions) that this country incarcerates too many people, and since at least some members of the Trump administration seem destined for criminal charges, I have taken it upon myself to come up with some punishments that I believe will fit their crimes while leaving almost all of them (ahem Jeff Sessions) out of prison. Here is my very humane endeavor to turn these evil livers into running rivers of harmless merriment. In a few years’ time, we can all hope that the following members of the Trump administration and adjacent will be doing the following:

Donald Trump – middle school janitor making $30,000 a year
Mike Pence– case worker for foster kids in a state where abortion is illegal
Steve Bannon – head of public affairs for the Anti-Defamation League
Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff in the Trump administration, has name changed to “Reince Priebus”
Kellyanne Conway – can keep doing what she’s doing, but only allowed to speak to the deaf
Ivanka Trump – sent to work in a Chinese sweatshop
Jared Kushner – forced to reapply to Harvard every year until he gets accepted on his own merits
Don Jr. and Eric Trump – Tiffany’s personal assistants
Stephen Miller – nothing, looking the way he does at age 31 is punishment enough
Jeff Sessions – sentenced to life in a for-profit prison, assigned to an all-black cell block
Michael Flynn – official Polonium Tester for Vladimir Putin
Tom Price – party clown who performs at children’s cancer hospitals
Sean Spicer – mans a Dippin’ Dots stand
Sarah Huckabee Sanders – spends the rest of her life fruitlessly submitting God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy for various literary and journalism prizes
Scott Pruitt – cleans up Superfund sites
Mick Mulvaney – sent to take remedial math classes at an underfunded public school
Betsy DeVos – sent to teach remedial math classes at an underfunded public school
Mitch McConnell – bottom of Yertle the Turtle’s stack
Paul Ryan – forced to have sex with an Ayn Rand lookalike
Chris Christie – parking attendant at the beach, but he’s never allowed to go in

P.S. While researching this blog post, I read Kushner’s Wikipedia article, and I have to say that it has some EXCELLENT shade in it. Some choice excerpts:

“According to a Kushner Companies spokeswoman, he was an honors student and a member of the debate, hockey, and basketball teams. Former school officials described him as a less than stellar student.”

“In 1998, Charles pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University and smaller amounts to Princeton and Cornell…Kushner matriculated at Harvard in 1999.”

“Trump put Kushner in charge of brokering peace in Israeli–Palestinian conflict as well as making deals with foreign countries, although in what way he is in charge is unclear.”

So anyway, here’s a cake. This tasty guy comes courtesy of A Cozy Kitchen, where it looked so beautiful that I just knew I had to make it. As is usually the case when I make mint things, I added more extract than the recipe called for, but I was definitely glad I used cacao nibs, they tasted awesome! I am glad to be posting this recipe on the day that my nephew comes back from his first summer away at sleepaway camp, since mint chocolate chip is his favorite flavor. I’m sorry he missed this delicious cake but maybe his return is an excuse to make it again!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

From A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients

To make the chocolate cake:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the mint chocolate chip frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 drop of blue food coloring
  • 1 drop of yellow food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon of cacao nibs

Directions

To make the cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans or two 8-inch cake pans. Butter and flour your cake pans. If you’re like me and are a little paranoid of a cake sticking, line it with parchment, too. Set the pans aside.
    2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand-up mixer (with the paddle attachment), add the all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Next, crack in the egg and egg yolk, pour in the buttermilk, warm water, olive oil and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth, about 1 minute. The batter will be thinner than cake batter that you’re probably used to—that’s ok!
    3. Divide the cake batter amongst the cake pans and transfer to the oven to bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Clean out the bowl you used to make the cake and dry it thoroughly. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting.
To make the mint chocolate chip frosting:
    1. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, add the butter and heavy cream. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Take the paddle attachment off and place a sieve on top of the bowl, sift in the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer to low until the powdered sugar is almost incorporated. Add the peppermint extract and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add one drop of blue food coloring gel and then 1 drop of yellow food gel coloring. Lastly, add the cacao nibs and mix one last time, until they’re evenly dispersed throughout the frosting.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Place one layer on a cake board or cake stand or plate. Add about 1/4 cup (you can eyeball this measurement) to the top of the first cake layer; smooth it out so it’s a nice even layer of frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process, then frost the outside.

Women’s March / Black Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

img_0044

This week’s recipe: Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

The 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. What a surreal thing to type. What a surreal world to live in. People who are smarter and more eloquent than I am have written about what it feels like to be living in a world where the person who got the most votes didn’t win; a world where it seems like the only qualification for being a cabinet member is a complete lack of qualifications; a world where a man who literally praised Darth Vader and Satan as his role models penned the inaugural address; a world of “alternative facts,” in Kellyanne “The Crypt Keeper” Conway’s instantly immortal coinage. But darkness – in every sense – is Steve Bannon’s friend, not mine, so I’m going to focus on the wonderful thing that happened yesterday.

I got up in the morning and started working on my sign, which read, “Better Feminazis Than Neo-Nazis.” Mark and I made our way over to my synagogue, which was serving as the meeting place for a number of synagogues on the Upper West Side, but as we approached it we saw that there were hundreds of people hanging out on the sidewalk. I asked someone what was going on and he explained that the synagogue was over capacity and fire marshal wouldn’t let anyone else in. That basically set the tone for the rest of the day, which had a bigger turnout nationwide than any of us could have hoped for, especially considering that it started off as a random, disorganized Facebook event. The Upper West Side contingent – over a thousand of us – began marching downtown, with plans to turn east on 52nd Street, but the message came down that we’d have to go all the way down to 42nd Street and turn there because there were so many people. Everyone took the news with excellent cheer, knowing that it meant that turnout was bigger than anyone had planned.

We turned on 42nd Street and marched through Times Square, singing “This Land is Your Land,” as people on the sidewalk and in stores cheered us. The police (who could not have been more courteous and professional, by the way) escorted us and made sure we stopped for traffic every once in a while, but I’ve certainly never seem Times Square that empty. At 5th Avenue, we joined up with the main march, which had started at the UN. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every inch of the street and sidewalk teemed with women and men of all ages, sizes, and colors, cheering and chanting and holding up signs. Although it was extremely crowded and verrrrry slow progress as we made our way towards Trump Tower (seriously, doesn’t it seem like an evil dictator in a not-very-original movie would live atop a giant black glass monolith?), the sun was shining and everyone was in a great mood.

I knew what they were feeling. The inauguration was so depressing. The last several months have been so depressing. This was one of the first times I’ve felt hopeful again. They have the power, for now, but we have the numbers. There are so many women (and men) out there who are strong and funny and clearheaded, and we’ll need people with those qualities more than ever in the years ahead. We’ll need people who won’t be fooled by an administration whose members lie every time they open their mouths, even about crap as trivial and easily disproven as the size of the crowds or the weather at the inauguration. We’ll need men to stand up for women, for straight people to stand up for queer people, for white people to stand up for racial minorities, for Christians to stand up for religious minorities, for the rich to stand up for the poor, and for the able-bodied to stand up for the disabled. There is a ton of work ahead but yesterday was a heartening start. It was a reminder, after an election that was practically and symbolically crushing for women, that we are powerful. I can’t remember the exact wording now, but I once read something to the effect of, “Why is ‘pussy’ a synonym for weak? Vaginas are made of pure muscle and, despite being a small hole, can push another human being out of themselves. You know what’s actually weak and sensitive? Balls.” Trump and his buddies think they’re such strong men for pushing women around. They’d better get used to what they saw yesterday, because we’re not going away and we’re not going back.

So anyway, here’s a cake (I finally got to use the title of the blog!) For this cake’s gorgeousness, much credit must be given to my boyfriend Mark. This is our busiest time of year at work, and after having finally been released from jury duty, I’ve had to stay late most nights to catch up. In between, I searched many stores for the black cocoa powder that the recipe calls for, to no avail. Mark finally found some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder at Morton Williams, of all places, thereby saving me from having to use (gasp) regular cocoa powder. I was overwhelmed at how beautiful the effect was. You can’t see it that well from the picture but the cake was so rich and chocolate-y looking. It was totally worth it, even though, like all Baked recipes, this one required at least three bowls. I then slathered it with a glaze that perfectly cut the sweetness with whiskey, and I have to say that, three days after I first baked it, it’s still incredibly moist and delicious, and Mark and I are eating it for breakfast like champs.

Black Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

From Baked Occasions

Black Cocoa Bundt:
  • ½ cup (40 g) unsweetened dark cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
  • ¼ cup (20 g) unsweetened black cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup (240 ml) hot coffee
  • 2¼ cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2¼ cups (495 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 ml) canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) heavy cream
Butter Whiskey Glaze:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2½ to 3 cups (280 to 340 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality whiskey
For Décor:
  • Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the Black Cocoa Bundt: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan, dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess. Alternatively, liberally apply a nonstick cooking spray, dust with cocoa, and knock out the excess. Either way, make sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.
  2. Place both cocoa powders and the instant espresso powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot coffee directly over the powders and whisk until combined. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In another large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, oil, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk again until just combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Whisk each addition gently to combine.
  5. Whip the cream (either by hand or with a standing mixer) just until medium peaks form. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the batter to lighten it. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream until just incorporated, then fold in the rest until no streaks remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a small sharp knife or toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Then gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack so that the crown is facing up. Place a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, if you like, for ease of cleaning) underneath the wire rack.
  7. Make the Butter Whiskey Glaze: In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. In three parts, add 2½ cups (280 g) confectioners’ sugar, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the whiskey and whisk until uniform. The glaze should be thick and ropy, but pourable—not runny and thin. If the glaze looks too thin, add the remaining ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar and whisk to combine.
  8. Assemble the Black Cocoa Bundt: Pour the glaze over the room-temperature cake in thick ribbons; it will slowly drip down the sides. Add a few sprinkles to the top, if you like. Let set for about 15 minutes before serving.
  9. How to store: The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.