If you’re not familiar with the concept, icebox cake is a no-bake cake which involves pairing something crisp (like chocolate wafers, or ritz crackers, or in this case, graham crackers) with something creamy, like pudding or condensed milk, or whipped cream. For this particular icebox cake, I mixed whipped cream with some tart lemon curd and some creamy ricotta for flavor. Layered the whole thing with fresh blueberries. The crisp element absorbs the moisture from the creamy one, and gets soft, like the layer of a cake. A wonderfully thin layer of a cake, which, in the case of the graham crackers here, retains a bit of texture. Like a dacquoise. But also like a trifle. And mostly like an icebox cake. The magical transformation happens in the refrigerator, hence the name icebox cake. It’s a great dessert for summer, because there’s no need to turn your oven on in hot weather. [...]
My personal favorite take on a bunny cake (or a birthday cake, or a Sunday afternoon for no reason layer cake) is an orange layer cake with orange buttercream frosting. I love chocolate cake, and won’t turn up my nose at a good coconut cake, or carrot cake, but when it comes to layer cakes, orange cake might just be my favorite. Orange cake seems to magically straddle that divide between those who prefer what my friend Mike calls the “brown” flavors (caramel, nuts, chocolate) and those who prefer a fruitier touch. I’ve been making this particular cake quite a bit lately (layer cake happens to be a pregnancy craving) and it’s easy to throw together, with a nice orange flavor and a moist crumb. [...]
The result is a cross between a Swedish Midsummer Cake, a French Macaron or Dacquoise (the big sister to the macaron), an Australian Pavlova and my weird imagination. A very good cross. Let’s just say that four people demolished the entirety of this eight inch cake in one sitting. The edges of the meringue stay crisp, while the cream and the juicy strawberries soften the center into a creamy, light cake. It’s the very essence of summer — light and almost insubstantial, but deeply satisfying. [...]
One year ago today, I was sitting around with nothing to do, and so I started a food blog. OK, it didn’t exactly happen like that. If you’ve been reading along, you have probably realized by now that I have a life that’s rather full, what with my full time (not food-related) job, a wild monkey of a two year old running my household, and a husband to boot (though given his childcare and dishwashing contributions, I think the husband nets positive in the time calculations). But I still make the time to cook. It was my hope, when I started this blog, that I could give a little insight into how real people prepare their meals. Cooking good food, from scratch, can fit into a busy life. And I hope that in this past year this blog has inspired you — to cook when you otherwise might not have, to change up your routine, or to try something new.
This blog has certainly inspired me. It’s challenged me to figure out how recipes can be made more flavorful, more streamlined or more consistent. I’ve gone outside my comfort zone and discovered new foods. And I’ve been able to write down and record some of my family favorites.
So happy first birthday, Savour Fare!
Now let’s talk about a party.
Where would a birthday be without cake? Since I and all of my immediate family members have fall birthdays, I never get to indulge my yen for a creamy, dreamy light springtime birthday cake … until now. This cake is four layers of fluffy orange butter cake, sandwiched together with fresh strawberries and the simplest fluffy whipped cream frosting. The whole thing is not too sweet and very satisfying. I served it to the ladies in my book club (sadly, a blog can’t eat its own birthday cake), and not to brag, but almost everyone had two slices. These are Los Angeles ladies who lunch people. We are talking serious cake. [...]
My darling daughter very recently turned two. The Nuni is growing up — getting more independent, more vocal, more affectionate, more skilled. She chatters and tumbles and climbs her way through life. The Nuni was quite pleased to have a birthday, especially one that involved bubbles and balloons and cake, and has been known to sing a rousing chorus of “HAPU CAKEY NUNI!” six or seven times a day.
I, on the other hand, now have to live with a two year old, which means that my life is now full of more drama than the Real Housewives of New York. Either a tutu is too short or a spoon is too shiny or I am not promptly answering some silent or intelligible command and then you better WATCH OUT. On the other hand, there are kisses and pretend play (“I cooking Mommy!” being my favorite, natch) and a constant source of entertainment. So it all balances out, I suppose.
But I digress. Birthdays are the name of the game, and if you are me, that means birthday cake, and homemade birthday cake at that. I asked the Nuni several times before her birthday party what kind of cake she would like — Strawberry cake? (She loves strawberries) Orange cake? (My personal favorite) Gateau d’Opera? Being two, she would only answer me with the cryptic “Green Cake”. Now I could have taken this in any one of a number of directions — all organic, local and sustainable ingredients? Chock full of spinach and zucchini? But I decided to treat this as simply a color request. I thought I’d stay simple, not only for my general sanity this year but also because I hope to establish a precedent of a rather basic cake that would become the standard, de rigeur birthday cake. (I shudder to think what I put my own mother through. My standard request throughout my childhood was something I called “purgatory cake” – angels food on top, devil’s food on the bottom, with a chocolate mousse filling and seven minute frosting. Can you imagine the number of bowls?)
I decided on chocolate cake, because, well, it’s chocolate cake, and no further explanation should be necessary. I scoured my cookbook library, websites and back issues of cooking magazines to find the perfect chocolate cake recipe, and I think this may just be it. It’s moist but structured enough to stand up to layering and frosting, chocolatey without being bitter or too intense, and relatively simple to mix (although it does take two bowls). It would take to a good chocolate frosting, but to accede to my daughter’s request for a “geen” cake, I went with a white frosting and green food coloring — cream cheese frosting because I like it better than buttercream, and white chocolate for richness and pizzazz. Finally, I dug out my old cake decorating chops and decorated it with chocolate plastic, in no small part because I can’t pipe frosting to save my life.
Click here for the rest of the story and the recipes. [...]