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June…

… added another success story to the year of cakes. I’m starting to sound cocky at this point, but the cakes just keep turning out so well! This month marked our 10 year anniversary, so I decided to make a version of our wedding cake. I skipped the original fondant and went for rich buttercream, and it was quite worth it. Having a brand new oven from this century (heck, this decade!) certainly didn’t hurt, either.

For a classic white layer cake with raspberry-almond filling from America’s Test Kitchen, you need:

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (plus some for pans)
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temp
  • 6 egg whites, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

Heat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle position. Grease and flour two 9- inch (8 works, too) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. Whisk the milk, egg whites, and extracts together.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, just until combined. USE THE LOW SPEED. Flour, etc. will otherwise go everywhere. Bump the speed up to medium-low and beat in the butter, one piece at a time, until you have moist crumbs (about 1 minute).

Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture you made, then bump it up to medium and keep going until you have a smooth, fluffy mixture (about a minute). Turn the speed back to low and stream in the rest of the milk mixture until your batter almost looks curdled. The recipe says this takes about 25 seconds; mine was closer to a minute.

Stir the batter with a spatula to make sure you got everything incorporated. Scrape into your pans, smooth off the top, and tap the pans on the counter a few times to settle.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Rotate the pans halfway through the bake. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a knife and turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment and turn the cakes right side up. To speed things up, I popped mine in the freezer to finish cooling.

For frosting, you need:

  • 16 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds (chopped coarse)
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt on low speed until the sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until creamy and fluffy; pause a couple of times to scrape the bowl.

Put one layer of cake on a platter (you can line the platter with parchment to keep it very clean; I did not). Mix about 1/2 cup frosting and the almonds. Spread the mixture on top of the first layer of cake.

Top the almond layer with the jam.

Place the second layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

Fondant looks beautiful, but this icing did just fine. It’s a very rich, sweet cake, and the raspberry jam provides a nice bit of tart relief. Happy anniversary, Schatzi! Here’s to another 10, and many more.

*sc

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May…

Brings us to cake 5! Can’t believe we’re almost halfway through this most delicious year. May brought yet another cake success this year, and it came in the form of Bahamian Rum Cake by none other than David Lebovitz. I only have one of his cookbooks, Ready for Dessert, but everything I’ve made from it is an absolute hit. It’s also very accessible stuff to make. Highly recommend; it also helps to have an awesome sister-from-another-mister who chooses excellent Christmas gifts.

For a delicious cake and great excuse to drink rum, you need:

Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground, please)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 cups plain sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 2 egg yolks, room temp
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup Thai coconut milk

Coconut-Rum Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup Thai coconut milk
  • 6 tbsp plain sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

*One can of coconut milk is the exact amount for the entire recipe

Glaze:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 tbsp heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • 1/2 cup dried large-flake coconut, toasted (I used unsweetened)

Let’s make some cake! Heat the oven to 350. Guys, it’s my last cake in this oven! How am I going to learn to trust again?! Anyway, while you’re at it, grease and flour a Bundt pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and 3/4 tsp salt together.

Break out the stand mixer and paddle one cup of butter and the 2 cups of sugar on medium until you get a nice, fluffy mixture. It takes about 4 minutes. And close supervision, clearly.

Grab a small bowl and beat the eggs and yolks with the vanilla. Keep the mixer on medium, and slowly stream in your egg mixture until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides, should you need to. It might look funky and curdled; don’t worry, it’s not ruined.

Channel your gentle side and stir in about 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the required amount of coconut milk (about 90 mL). Add another half of the leftover flour mix, and follow it with the remaining milk. Finish off by gently mixing in the remaining flour, just until combined. We don’t care about lumps.

Pour into your prepared pan and bake just until the cake is starting to feel set towards the center of the pan, maybe just shy of an hour.

Meanwhile, let’s make some syrup. Warm the coconut milk and sugar, mixing until dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and add the rum.

After the cake comes out of the oven, poke it all over with a skewer or cake tester about 60 times. Spoon 2/3 of your syrup over the top and let it soak in. Cool the cake completely. Do not let stalkers eat your cake.

Turn the cake out (I would use something with a lip!). Pour the rest of the syrup over the cake.

Finish off by making the glaze. Bring the butter, cream, sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and cook for about a minute and a half. Get it off the heat and stir in the rum.

Let the glaze cool completely, then stir in the coconut (I made mine while the cake baked). Spoon the luscious sauce over the cake and let it run down the sides. If your glaze thickens as it cools, rewarm it a bit so it is pourable.

What. A. Treat. I got to take cake to my mom to celebrate Mother’s Day, and it was enjoyed by all. Good luck eating just one slice! And please. Don’t forget to toast the coconut. It is essential for the noms.

*sc

April…

… Means cake 4! How are we already 4 cakes in to this delicious adventure? April is a month of birthdays in our house, so I went with Christina Tosi’s birthday cake. And yes, by birthdays, I proudly mean those of both our four-footed cuties. No, they did not get to actually eat this ridiculously good cake. Shhhh, don’t tell them about it.

This recipe requires several components and a few pieces of gear you might not have. So just do yourself a favor and buy yourself some acetate (3 inches wide) and some glucose (it comes in a tub) and citric acid from Amazon. We’ve already discussed the clear vanilla extract in other recipes; if you haven’t caved yet, it’s not too late to add it to your cart with your other goodies. While we’re here, my latest revelation is citric acid. It honestly makes this frosting amazing. Trust me, cake icing has never hit every taste bud you own. It will with this recipe, and it’s a delight. So let’s get started!

Make yourself some cake crumbs to get this guy started. You need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 tbsp clear vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 300. PS PEOPLE WE ARE GETTING A NEW HOUSE! I’m going to have to learn to bake again in an oven that actually has the correct temperature! I digress.

Mix the dry ingredients until well combined in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Then, slowly add the oil and vanilla and paddle until you have little clusters. Spread them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or Silpat and bake for any 20 minutes. Break them up gently every once in awhile while baking and don’t leave them in too long-they should still be a bit most when you pull them out. Then, let them cool completely while you make everything else.

For the cake-cake part, you need:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 2 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup +2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Increase your oven heat to 350. Spray a quarter sheet pan and line with parchment or Silpat. Mix the butter, shortening, and sugars in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium- high until creamed well (2ish minutes). Scrape down the sides, add your eggs, and go for another 2 minutes. Scrape again.

Slow down to low speed, and stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Bump it back to medium-high and go for 5 minutes, until you’ve got a basically white mixture that’s actually twice the size of what you originally had. It should be even and homogenous, you can’t rush chemistry, people! We don’t want any streaks of anything-no fat or liquid of any sort. Scrape again.

Go to a very slow speed so you don’t get flour all over the place and slowly add the flour, baking powder, sprinkles, and salt. Mix just until it comes together (less than a minute). Guess what? Scrape. Spread the cake into the prepared pan using a spatula and then sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp of sprinkles on top.

Bake for 30 minutes until doubled in size and when the cake’s edge bounces back when you poke it. We also don’t want a jiggly center; leave it in the oven until the jiggle is no more. Cool on a wire rack or the freezer.

We need a soak for the cake! Mix 1/4 cup milk and 1tsp clear vanilla, and set aside.

Last component! The icing I raved about. You need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp glucose
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp clear vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • Pinch of citric acid

Mix the butter, shortening, and cream cheese with the paddle attachment on medium-high until fluffy. Scrape.

Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and add the remaining wet ingredients. Go back to medium-high and beat for a couple minutes, until you have a silky-smooth, glossy mixture. Scrape. Add the dry ingredients on low and mix just enough to get everyone acquainted. Go back up to medium-high and beat another couple of minutes until you have what you would call gorgeous frosting.

Assemble!! Invert the cake onto a piece of parchment. Use a 6 inch cake ring to stamp out to rounds of cake. Keep the scraps!

Put the cake ring in the center of a lined sheet pan. Line the inside of the ring with one strip of acetate. Put those cake scraps in the ring and tamp them into an even layer. The back of your hand was made for this.

Use a pastry brush to coat this layer with half of the birthday soak. Spread about 1/5 of your icing in an even layer on top. Sprinkle 1/3 of the birthday crumbs over the frosting. Push them down a bit to stick. Spread another 1/5 of icing on the crumbs.

Tuck the second strip of acetate between the ring and top 1/4 inch of the first strip you already put in place. You want a ring of acetate that’s 5-6 inches tall so we can finish the cake.

Put one of the cake rounds on top of the frosting and repeat the layers you just did. Top with the last cake layer and cover the top with the remaining frosting.

Add the rest of the birthday crumbs to the top. Move the whole pan to the freezer for at least 12 hours to get everything nice and set. When you’re ready to serve, pop the cake out of the ring and peel off the acetate (can’t lie, it feels pretty cool to peel that acetate away). Defrost in the fridge for 3 hours, then slice!

This is a thing of beauty. I mean, really. It’s birthday cake from another dimension. Cheers to Christina Tosi and her experimental soul. Try it, you’ll like it!

*sc

March…

Means we are a quarter of the way through the year of cakes! And the deliciousness continues, if I do say so myself. For this month’s cake, I wanted to work on my icing skills. So, with some inspiration from last year’s September edition of Food Network Magazine, I made a mermaid cake. And it’s a beaut, if I do say so myself (maybe it’s the 6+sticks of butter…).

For a delicious white cake, you need:

  • 14 tbsp unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus some for your pans
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla (I used the clear vanilla Christina Tosi recommended in the January cake. Solid choice.)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (room temp)
  • 4 egg whites (room temp)

For starters. Does anyone else get crabby when recipes call for large or small eggs? I admit, I do. Sometimes Kroger’s version of large eggs… Is not correct. So I just use the eggs I have.

Anyway. Heat your trusty oven to 350 and get to work on your pans. Butter them entirely, then line the bottoms with a round of parchment. After that, actually butter the parchment, too. We don’t want any chance of sticking or browning much. Throw some flour on the sides of your greased pan, too.

After that marathon, let’s make some batter. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, use your mixer to beat the butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of sugar on low until combined. Pump it up to medium high and paddle until you have a pale, fluffy mixture. This took about 5 minutes to get the following:

Bring your mixer back to low and add the flour concoction in two batches, alternating with the milk. Bump it back up to medium-high and go until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about a minute.

Now, beat your egg whites (I used my tiny hand mixer, as it was clean) for just a minute, until they are nice and foamy. Slowly add in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar until you have stiff, glossy peaks of glory. This takes awhile, about 5 minutes.

Fold about half the whites into your batter, then fold in the rest. Divide your batter between the pans you worked so hard to prep.

Bake these guys until slightly browned and they start to shrink from the sides a bit (25-30 minutes). And, of course, a toothpick needs to come out clean from the center. Cool the cakes on a rack for 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife and turn them out onto a rack. Peel off the parchment and cool completely.

Now we need a boatload of icing for this guy:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla (again, I used the clear vanilla)

Beat the butter and salt on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Slow the speed down to low and add your sugar, about 1 cup at a time, increasing the speed to an eventual medium-high so you don’t cover everything in sugar. Beat until fluffy, then add the vanilla and milk until nice and smooth.

Tint to your desired color; Schatzi came up with a lovely teal.

Now. Break out your serrated knife and level the tops off both cakes, after they are completely cooled. Then, cut each layer in half horizontally. I totally forgot to do the second part… So I had thick layers, and it worked just fine. Spread about 2/3 cup of icing on one cake and top it with another layer, trimmed side up.

Spread a very thin layer of icing all over the cake using your offset spatula. This is your crumb coat. Pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then, fill a pastry bag with icing with a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe a vertical line of dots all the way down the cake. Mine were… Special.

Then, use that offset spatula to swipe the frosting to the side. We now have gills! Continue piping another line of dots that partly cover the previous swipe and repeat until the cake is covered.

The recipe suggests making a ring of dots around the top of the cake. But, we went rogue and covered the whole thing in more scales and dots. Baker’s choice!

And for the finale:

The icing is…a lot. And I clearly still have a lot of room for practice. But the actual cake part is quite perfect-spongy, light, flavorful. Highly recommend-it will definitely give people something to talk about.

*sc

February…

… Means it’s time for cake two of my year of cakes. All I can say is better late than never, from a post perspective! Anyway, this cake also has the honor of serving as my birthday cake this year. I’m a chocolate kind of girl, so I decided to attempt the triple-chocolate mousse cake from America’s Test Kitchen. All I’m going to say is, happy birthday, me. This cake is quite heavenly. We’re talking a base layer of dark chocolate-esque nature, a middle layer of rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and a top layer of white chocolate cloud. It is satisfying, light, and not overly sweet. Read on, and try for yourself!

For mousse cake galore, you need:

Layer 1:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 tsp espresso powder
  • 4 eggs, at room temp and separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (crumble a bit to remove lumps)

Layer 2:

  • 5 tbsp hot water
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Layer 3:

  • 3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 oz white chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • Shaved chocolate for topping

Let’s start with the base layer. Put your oven rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325. Man, if I’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s how much I can’t wait to have an oven that isn’t 30+ years old. This poor guy in my kitchen equates 300 with 500… So this was a challenge, for sure. All this is to say, if I can achieve the following results with such an oven, you with regular ovens can do anything! Anyway. Grease your springform pan (9×3″). Then melt the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring it every once in awhile until it’s smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla and move on.

Next, you’re going to whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add half of the brown sugar and beat until well combined, then add the remaining half and whisk on high until you get soft peaks. Scrape down your bowl about halfway through this process. Then, use a whisk to fold 1/3 of the whites into your chocolate mixture; we just want to lighten it. Use a spatula to fold in the rest of the whites and work gently until no white streaks are left. Transfer the batter to your prepared pan, and smooth off the top. Bake this layer just until the edges are firm and the middle is slightly starting to set, about 13-18 minutes. The middle should spring back when you touch it gently. Cool on a wire rack (leave in the pan) for an hour. The cake will collapse some, no worries here.

Now, let’s make the middle layer. Mix the hot water and cocoa powder and set aside. Melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or other setup as previously mentioned and stir until smooth. Take it off the heat, and let it cool for a couple minutes.

Get back to your (cleaned) stand mixer and whip the heavy cream, sugar, and salt at medium speed for about 30 seconds, just until it starts to thicken. Increase the speed to high and go until you’ve got soft peaks. Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into your melted chocolate until nice and smooth, then fold (still using the whisk) about 1/3 of your freshly whipped cream into said chocolate mixture. Grab a spatula to fold in the rest of the whipped cream until completely blended with no streaks. Spoon this mixture over your cooled layer of cake and tap the pan lightly on your counter a couple of times to get everything settled. Use a damp cloth to clean up any spots on your pan, and pop the cake into the fridge for at least 15 minutes to set.

We’ve reached the top! Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom for at least 5 minutes. This never looks pretty, people. Don’t worry about it. Put the white chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and then bring 1/2 cup of cream to a simmer. Take the cream off the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until it’s dissolved. Pour the warm cream mixture over the white chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool until room temp, 5-10 minutes. Do stir it every once in awhile, as it thickens a bit.

Back to the stand mixer! Whip that last cup of cream on medium until it starts to thicken (just about 30 seconds), then crank it to high to get to soft peaks. Use your whisk to fold 1/3 of this whipped cream into the white chocolate concoction (again, this step is always about lightening). Per usual, use a spatula to fold in the rest of the whipped cream until you have no clear streaks. Spoon it over the bittersweet chocolate layer and smooth with the spatula (are we seeing a pattern here?). And of course, we return to the fridge for at least 2.5 hours, until nice and set.

*Oops how did a picture of an adorable cat waiting for cake he can never have get in here*

You made it! To serve, you can add some nice chopped (or curled if you’re fancy) chocolate or even cocoa powder to the top of your triple decker. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and pop the edge off your springform pan. If you’re a perfectionist/patient, run a clean knife around the edges of the cake to smooth it out (read, I was not this patient).

Voila! One of my favorite birthday cakes to date. It’s actually light, despite the rich ingredients. Great introduction to mousse, and would certainly make again. I mean, this cake was even satisfying enough for my favorite vanilla/savory flavors taste tester! It’s lengthy in print, but very doable. Give it a shot.

*sc

One year…

…twelve cakes. Hello, strangers! The crazy singing cooking lady does still exist, and after many years, she now has the time to devote to those things called precious hobbies. And this year, she is on a mission to accomplish a very tasty resolution: to bake at least 12 different cakes using different techniques in one year.

And we are off to a jolly good start.

First things first. If you have not seen the episode of Chef’s Table that features Christina Tosi, please do yourself a favor. Drop everything, starting with the post, and pull up your Netflix queue. Christina is the creator of my first cake of the year, corn blueberry cake. If you are confused by the title of the cake, hang with me. We have some ground to cover.

This cake requires a few… nontraditional ingredients. For starters, allow me to introduce you to one of my new best pantry friends: freeze dried corn. Get yourself a box from Amazon and enjoy the following cake or, even better, the glory that is crack pie. Once you’ve acquired your delicious corn and decided how to use it, throw some in the food processor and grind it into a fine powder. Another pantry addition is corn flour. You can get it by Bob’s Red Mill or I used Masa so I will finally have an excuse to make my own tortillas (though do you really need an excuse?) Finally, when you’re picking up your corn flour, also add some powdered milk to your cart (has your family tried our powdered milk? Thanks NPR, for never failing to make me hear this ad). No, I don’t recommend you drink it. But it adds a delicious depth of flavor to baking, somehow. I think Christina refers to it as the msg of baking land, and she could not be more on point.

Alright. Let’s get to baking Christina’s Corn and Blueberry sheet cake. You need a fair amount of goodies:

For the actual cake:

    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
    • 4½ cups sugar
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 2/3 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
    • 1½ cups cake flour
    • 1¼ cups corn powder
    • 1/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons corn flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Then we need some blueberry sauce:
    • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1½ teaspoons water
    • 1/2 lemon
    • 12 ounces blueberries
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Now for some corn crumbs:

    • 2/3 cup milk powder
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 2 tablespoons corn powder
    • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Finally, we need some frosting:

    • 1 stick plus 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3¼ cups powdered sugar
    • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
    • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
    • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • And to put the whole thing together:
    • 1 recipe corn sheet cake
    • 1/2 cup whole milk
    • 1 recipe sour cream frosting
    • 1 recipe jammy blueberry sauce
    • 1 recipe corn crumbs
Let’s start with the cake. Go ahead and crank the oven to your standard 350. Grease two quarter-sheet pans with nonstick cooking spray and line them with parchment paper, or just line them with silicone baking mats. Now let’s make the base of the cake.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together starting on low so as too avoid sugar flying all over your kitchen (did I learn that the hard way?), then medium-high for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through this process, and again at the end of it.

Add your eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-high for 1 minute after each addition. After you add the last egg, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on high for 4 more minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Things should be starting to look smooth and puffy.

Whisk together the buttermilk and oil, and with the mixer on medium speed, stream them into the batter very slowly. It should take you about 3 minutes to add all of this mixture. Scrape down the bowl, increase the speed to medium-high, and paddle for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is almost white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogeneous. Don’t rush this, or your mixture will split and we don’t want any streaks of fat or liquid. Stop and scrape again.

Whisk together the cake flour, corn powder, corn flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Then, with the mixer on very low speed, slowly add the dry mixture and mix for 45-60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix for an additional 45 seconds to make sure no lumps of flour or powder get left behind. Divide the batter evenly between the quarter-sheet pans and, using a spatula, spread the cake batter into even layers.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans front to back halfway through baking. The cakes will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and DENSE. Your cakes are done when you can poke the edge and the cakes should bounce back slightly; the centers should no longer be jiggly. This might take an extra 3-5 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack or, in the fridge while you make your other ingredients.

Let’s make some blueberry sauce.

To start, mix together the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Juice the lemon into a small saucepan and add the slurry, blueberries, sugar and salt. Bring everything to a boil over medium heat. Knock the heat back to low and continue cooking until the blueberries blister and the mixture turns dark blue, 5-6 minutes. The blueberries should still maintain their shape and not break down completely. Cool the sauce before using.

Last ingredient for today: corn crumbs!

Heat the oven to 250. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Mix the milk powder, flour, cornstarch, corn powder, sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters.

Spread the clusters on the lined sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. We should get a clumpy sand-like mixture. Let it bake until just starting to brown around the edges, and your kitchen smells ridiculous. Cool the crumbs completely.

Oh wait, the all-important sour cream frosting! YES you want sour cream. This cake begs for acid, and this is the perfect complement with sour cream and lemon.

Mix the butter, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 6-8 minutes, scraping the bowl down once to make sure there are no butter lumps, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, with the mixer on low, stream in the sour cream and lemon juice and continue creaming until the puree is fully emulsified and the frosting is smooth and fluffy again. Increase the speed to medium high and mix until the entire mass is bright white, silky, and shiny. It should hold medium soft peaks.

Let’s put it all together!

Put a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on the counter. Run a knife along the edges of one of the quarter-sheet pans of cake to loosen it from the pan, then flip that cake onto it and peel off the parchment or mat from the bottom of the cake. Clean the quarter-sheet pan and line it anew with clean parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the cake you just unmolded back inside the pan. Dunk a pastry brush in the milk and soak the cake with the milk. Then, spread half of the sour cream frosting in an even layer over the cake. Sprinkle half of the corn crumbs evenly over the frosting. Use the back of your hand to press them lightly into the frosting, anchoring them in place. Top the crumbs with an even layer of blueberry sauce. Loosen the other cake from its own and invert that cake directly on top of the frosting. Peel off the parchment or mat from the bottom of the cake and cover it with the remaining frosting. Garnish the frosting with the remaining corn crumbs.

Move the cake to the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours to set the cake and filling. Go get some sleep, you’ve been in the kitchen all day!

At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull it out of the freezer and, using an offset spatula pop the cake out of the pan.

Transfer the cake to a cutting board and fill a mug with hot water. Use a chef’s knife to trim the edges of the cake so you are left with flush, smooth sides, submerging the knife in hot water between cuts and wiping the blade clean. Defrost the cake on the fridge for at least 3 hours before you slice and devour it. Meanwhile, enjoy your delicious cake scraps and go for a walk or run to prep your stomach for all the delicious incoming butter.

There you have it. One down, 11 to go. You have to taste this cake to believe it-it’s like the most wonderful lemon bar you’ve ever had. Dense doesn’t even begin to describe it. It hits every mark on your taste buds-sweet, sour, salty, tangy. It’s work, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint and is a true testament to the power of the simple corn kernel.

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These brownies…

…are, without a doubt, the best brownies I have ever eaten. A good friend (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) gave me one of David Lebovitz’s cookbooks a while back and I could not resist baking one last thing before my final semester of school starts. In the introductory paragraph, David says “I’ve made a lot of brownies in my life, and these really are the best.” I could not agree more.

For “Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies”, you need:

  • 6 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, toasted and chopped (I used pecans)

Heat the oven to 350 and line a 9-inch square pan with parchment or foil, leaving about an inch of overhang. Grease the parchment with cooking spray and set aside.

Melt the butter over low heat, then stir in the chocolate until it is melted and smooth. Take it off the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth again.

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Then, beat in the eggs one at a time. Last, add the flour and beat “energetically for one full minute.” David really emphasizes beating the batter vigorously for a full minute, as this is what Robert advises. Apparently, excellent brownies will not result unless you enthusiastically beat the batter for this specified amount of time. I didn’t risk not following the instructions, and it was well worth it. Anyway, beat the batter until it is glossy and smooth, then stir in your nuts of choice. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

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Bake until the center feels almost (key word, almost) set, which will take about 30 minutes. As David directly says, “don’t overbake.” Let the brownies cool completely in the pan, then lift the parchment or foil out of the pan to remove the brownies. Prepare for your field trip to heaven.

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I really don’t know what else to say other than MAKE THESE RIGHT NOW. I am practically at a total loss for words, as these brownies are amazing, fudgy, rich, wonderful gooiness that I want to eat all the time. I might not ever buy a box mix again as, after eating these, that would be disappointing and might even feel sacrilegious, since these are practically as easy to make and are way more delicious.  In fact, it’s lunchtime. I’m going to go eat a brownie and love every minute of it.

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