Exciting things happen when you move out of college and into a real human apartment. If your real human apartment happens to be in a place like Texas where there is space for all of your items, one of the exciting things that happens to you is that you are suddenly reunited with all of your long lost kitchen equipment. In others words, your parents make you take all that stuff you left in their garage when you went college four years ago in a city with no storage space. Among the goodies awaiting me in my parents’ garage was none other than a food processor. A few years back my parents got themselves a new one, and being sensible people, decide to hang on to the old one. Now it’s mine! Holy Cuisinart! This can only mean one thing – pie crust!
After graduating from college, moving yourself and your stuff half-way across the country, and unpacking 40-ish boxes without tripping over your boyfriend’s cat, it is time for cake. It is most definitely time for cake. It seems that in some kind of moving and MCAT studying haze, I felt that now would be a good time to make a red velvet cake. I do not, in fact, like red velvet cake. For years the wild enthusiasm this cake appears to inspire in people both above and below the Mason Dixon line has totally baffled me. People have, while struggling not to swoon head first into the mountain of cream cheese frosting atop their red velvet cupcakes, waxed poetic to me about the subtle cocoa flavors, the rich, moist crumb. Horse hockey. Are you bananas? This stuff tastes like food coloring! What is WRONG with you people? If you, too, have spent a lifetime mystified by red velvet, I say to you I have solved the mystery. I have found the cake that people think that they are talking about when they get all excited about the subtle cocoa flavors and the rich, moist crumb, and, man, is it good.
Sometimes you need a simple cake. Sometimes you need a simple cake that looks impressive (So impressive, your adoring fans gobble it up before you can take a picture of the whole thing). Enter the upside-down cake. Specifically this upside down cake. I think you ought to make this cake. It’s simple, like I said, and stylish, too. Heck, tell people that it’s healthy. There’s a whole two pears in it. But wait – there’s more: how delightfully springy it is, the wonderful texture from the polenta, and the perfect subtle sweetness of those pears. Like I said, I think you ought to make this cake. It’ll get you right side up again.
These scones go fast. I don’t just mean the making of them either. I mean the impressive consumption of them that occurred at about light speed. They were inhaled. By me. By my roommates. Not by anyone else though – there was no sharing of these glorious breakfast bites. Someone would have had to stage a pretty impressive sneak attack to get their hands on some of those scones. It’s certainly not surprising that we ate them all, or that no interloper got a hold of them. Why? Because they have bacon in them, obviously. And I would probably defend bacon foodstuffs with my very life or least a skillet. But you know what else they have? Cheese – and not just any cheese mind you. Gruyere. It’s Swiss and awesome. It keeps these scones from being anything but neutral. We should know. This isn’t our first Swiss cheese filled bacony rodeo.
Apparently, I have a desire to deprive you, dear reader, of delicious chocolate cake. This is a bad habit I am attempting to rectify post haste. You see, I made this cake, um, ages ago. By which I mean, of course, summer. I was home, basking in the glory of my parents’ fully stocked kitchen and abundant Texas sunshine, and I made this cake. Then I ate it. Well, my dad helped. It was good and chocolatey and – well, suffice it say that it went pretty fast. Despite its tastiness, I kept this recipe from you, swathed in mystery for months. Well, NO MORE! I reveal to you at last:
This banana bread was sort of a process. Not that the actual making of it was long and drawn out. It was more the hoarding of super ripe, extra mushy bananas that became somewhat harrowing. First we only had four – but needed five – so we cleverly outwitted nature and jammed them in our freezer. Unfortunately, our freezer has the surprising and unpleasant habit of ejecting its contents or not closing all the way or opening every time you close the fridge. It does this last bit so sneakily that I got a nice whack to my occipital lobes the other day when I was putting away groceries. It was, to say the least, unpleasant. At last we procured the fifth banana, and promptly stuck that in the freezer, too, because it was the middle of the week, and we were far too busy for tasty banana bread. But the weekend arrived, the freezer was relieved of its frozen tropical contents, and a warm, cinnamony bread was whipped up in no time.
Because we had leftover pumpkin from our adventures in coffeecake. Because it’s Halloween. Because my mom sent me these wackadoo toothpicks with monsters on them, along with enough Halloween themed items for a legit tablescape, Sandra Lee style. So we celebrated the holiday, a little early, with a Halloween feast. These tasty little numbers will make your day. Especially if your day was filled with bizarre wet snow that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Is it winter? Wait, did fall happen? Even if you missed autumn, which you haven’t according to the calendar, you can make it yourself. With these cupcakes. These warm, friendly cupcakes.
Sometimes you know when it’s going to be a good day. Blue sky. Scarf weather. Spring in your step. Smile on your face. A stranger waves at you cheerfully from the window of his vintage teal Chevy pickup truck as you set out for your morning jog. You wave back. Good days beg for good food and an apartment filled with the warm cuddly scent of cinnamon and brown sugar. This cake can make your good day better. It could probably make a bad day good. It’s warm and soft and filled with spices with just a hint of pumpkin to round it out.
I’ve been holding out on you. You see, I’ve made this cake before. I know, not a big deal. But you know what is a big deal. A few weeks ago, me and the lady who told me all about this cake were in the same room together. For a WHOLE HOUR. Yes, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen stood on the third floor of the West 14th St. Apple store and radiated the most beautiful tales of warm kitchen loveliness at me and a fellow admirer from my apartment. Because these few words can’t really describe the intense escalation my fondness for her that occurred as I listened to her tell me how and why she wanted to share the best of her kitchen with the universe, I decided to make this cake. Twice. You should make it, too. Because it’s warm, delicious, chocolate, and it leaves you a bottle of wine.