Early mornings in the summer are my favorite. That cool, crisp sheen over everything, a dewy freshness that heat and humidity haven’t quashed yet. I used to dog-sit for our neighbors back in the 7th or 8th grade, and while you couldn’t find me up before 11 any other morning, on those days I’d roll out of bed and pad across the driveway in the rosy dawn to let Buddy out and feed him breakfast. Those mornings I sat and waited on the stoop for him to come back in, dew from the grass clinging to the tops of my feet, I’d feel buoyed by the thought of a whole day stretching long and open ahead of me — a wide world of dense, lazy, baking-hot summer to come. For that moment, though, it was just stillness. Sleepy anticipation on a misty summer morning.
2015 is in two days.
That’s weird. In my mind, it’s still barely 2014, we still just got engaged, I’m still just a few months in to this new job and I’m still less than a year in to this world of food and food blogs. But in reality, it’s just a few more sleeps until a brand-new year. A year when we’ll get married. What.
Anyway, even if my brain is in denial, my hands made you this little cake and put together a few snaps from 2014 to commemorate our last trip around the sun! There are plenty of grainy iPhone gems thrown in, and a few shots from our engagement shoot (!) and our trip to Hawaii in September that I meant to share earlier. As for the cake, it’s a moist, rich (but vegan!) chocolate cake that last made an appearance in this even teenier version, and it’s bedecked with bubbly-infused festivities in honor of New Year’s — a crisp cranberry-champagne jam and a lightly tart champagne buttercream. (Plus edible sparkles. Of course.)
It’s a holiday birthday cake!
One of my dearest friends and future bridesmaids (!) had her birthday over Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. As hallmates in law school, we bonded over a mutual love for Waffle House and thick-skinned potstickers. Instead of heated civil rights debates, we discussed the finer points of chicken versus pork ramen broths. (Best law students ever.) Then we both came to New York for work! We ended up just one serendipitous floor apart in the same building. She was one of the first “real life” people I ever told about this little space of mine, and somehow she never gets tired of discussing what I should make next or when I should post what. (Our work situation also means she’s usually the one who gets leftovers from blog shoots on Mondays — I hand them off to her in our shared elevator bank like hot potatoes or illicit contraband and then we run into our separate elevators like be cool, man, be cool!)
It’s another baby-cake! Last week, I wrote a little bit about my wedding cake fantasies and how I spent a weekend baking the mini versions of the cakes I’d like to bake if I made my own cake. One was a tiny hummingbird cake, and the other is this one. It’s one of my favorite cakes ever, and one that I really meant to share a lot sooner. It started all the way in September of last year, when I caught a glimpse of this gorgeous cake by MBakes and was so instantly smitten that I spent the next week holed up in the kitchen recreating a mini version. It was one of my first real attempts at mini-fying cakes — and I think it involved enough dense, fallen, gummy mini failures to make up a full-sized cake — but the result was a recipe that I’ve used as a guide to a ton of other mini cakes since then. It was the basis for last week’s hummingbird cake, plus this carrot cake I shared back in February, and like I mentioned then, it’s become my go-to for birthdays, going-away parties, random face-stuffing extravaganzas, you name it.
So after talking about it (throwback alert!) and talking about it and talking about it some more, here’s the little mini-zucchini (doesn’t that seem like it should rhyme?) cake that gave way to all the others! The cake has all the moist decadence I love from zucchini bread, but with a lighter, more delicate crumb, and the frosting is (in my humble opinion) incredible. The lime juice is the perfect lively balance to the cream cheese, and the basil was a recent addition that I’m equally crazy about. It might have been a little odd as a real wedding cake layer, but in my hypothetical wedding world, I love it.
I hope you’re all having fantastic Wednesdays! And such a huge hug and thank-you to everyone who commented on the hummingbird cake and shared your thoughts and experiences with me! I love hearing about weddings of all kinds, so it was super fun — and the advice is much appreciated. As far as blog-weddings go, you’re all totally invited and welcome to unlimited imaginary slices of an impeccably frosted, towering three-tiered wedding cake with a green tea layer, a hummingbird layer, and a zucchini layer. And all kinds of frostings. (In the blog-world, none of it clashes.)
So, this wedding planning thing, huh?
As it turns out, I’m not the most decisive person in the world. (Bowl #2, who is now diametrically opposed to the phrase “It’s up to you,” is probably laughing right now.) I like things, and I like some things more than other things, but when it comes to actually making a decision — especially a decision for something like a wedding! — sometimes all I can think about is whether the other thing might be better. OK, let’s do a DJ during the ceremony. (But what about live music?) Sure, let’s do a fish option. (But what about chicken?!) Yeah, you’re right, it’d be crazy for me to make my own cake. (But … cake!) I’ve treated everyone I’ve worked with so far to a symphony of really long, really drawn-out “umm”s, which I’m guessing is super enjoyable for all involved.
Happily, we’ve now finalized a lot of our decisions — and signed the contracts, when is when I finally stop thinking about the what-about‘s. But we haven’t decided on cake yet! So far, I’ve impulsively declared about four times that I’m just going to make it, and then about four more times realized I have no idea where I would freeze the layers or where I would store the finished cake or how I would transport it or … how to make a tiered cake to begin with. So as much as I fear the what-about of cold, dry wedding cake with chalky buttercream and styrofoam insides, I’ve shelved that idea for now. (There are a lot of deep messages in there about how it’s not the details that are important on the big day, or how it’s healthy to learn to relinquish control over the things that don’t matter, which are all totally true — but it’s mostly that I was stumped when it came to finding freezer space.)
To assuage my cake-making urges, the other weekend I spent a few quiet hours making the cakes I think I would have liked to make if I actually did it. (You know, except for two people, instead of a hundred.) They were the moistest cakes I knew how to make, obviously — one was a zucchini cake that is one of my all-time favorites, which I’m excited to share soon, and the other is this hummingbird cake. There are so many things I love about this teeny cake. It’s quaintly symbolic, given that it’s a quintessentially Southern cake, sweet and decadent and emblematic of where I grew up, but it’s also packed with all the tropical things that remind me of Bowl #2’s home in Hawaii. (If only I’d added some haupia!) The toasted coconut on top is unreal (how did I never toast coconut before this?), and the mashed banana and crushed pineapple make it so moist that it drives away any thoughts of frozen, crumbly-dry wedding cake. For now, that’s good enough for me!
Have you ever made a wedding cake or considered making your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences if you have! (Also, if you’re mulling it over too, check out this uncannily well-timed series Food52 is doing. So excited for this. F52, I love you all beyond words!)
Two Red Bowls turns one today! In honor of its first birthday, have … yes, yet another miniature cake. Mini-cakes forever! (No, I think a cake hiatus might be in order after this.)
I thought this little cake might be fitting for a number of reasons. One is plainly that it’s based on one of my favorite cupcake recipes of all time — this green tea cupcake by the inimitable Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The second reason is that this cupcake recipe was the first thing I ever baked from scratch. That is, not Funfetti, or Ghirardelli Brownie Mix, or break-and-bake — but actually measuring out leaveners and flour and dry ingredients and wet ingredients and taking care not to overmix. (I’m not counting the time in the 9th grade that I tried to make sugar cookies without measuring cups or spoons, and thought it would be a good idea to substitute baking soda for baking powder 1:1.)
It’s that time of year, it feels like, when your body starts craving things that refresh and nourish. Bright and sunny citrus, fresh crunchy vegetables with vitamins and nutrients. Of course, where other lovely folks take those cues by going raw, making stunningly vibrant fresh-pressed juices, or whipping up drool-worthy tahini berry smoothie bowls … I make cake.
Somehow I’m not sensing an abundance of surprise here.
I feel like there are a few recipes that every blog should have. Just basics, like a solid mac & cheese, or a good homemade pasta sauce. There have been some that I’ve checked off my list — a go-to buttermilk pancake base, and a classic chocolate chip cookie. But one that I’ve been meaning to get around to (you know, in addition to the mac & cheese and the pasta sauce) is just a simple, classic chocolate cake, and a good chocolate buttercream to go with it.