Even though I would call this cake slightly unseasonal (lemon = picnics = summer = sunscreen), in LA there are no seasons, so this felt like something I could get away with serving so close to the holidays. This recipe was also the only one I liked that would use up the ludicrously expensive can of poppy seed filling I purchased at a weak point during some kind of baking adrenaline high or nostalgic Prague pastry spiral awhile ago, and I had discovered it was very close to expiring. I know myself– I really had to use it up, or I was going to start eating spoonfuls straight out of the can.
I made the cake on Saturday night and drove over to my friend Heidi’s magical house in Franklin Village that’s about to be demolished for a parking lot. She was hosting a reunion party for the 11 girls I recently spent a weekend in Lake Arrowhead with, who are all sweet and hysterical and pro-dessert. I thought a few of the single ones (and even not single ones) might be interested in hopping over to a bar later on in the night after some quality catch up time. A few new girls had been invited, and one of them interrupted me when I started talking about taking the cake to a bar. “Oh my god,” she said. “I’ve heard about you!” It turns out one of her guy friends had been caked, part of the birthday group I offered my sweet potato casserole cake to back in July at the HMS Bounty. “He told me this cute girl came up and offered them some cake, but she was really doing it to meet guys. He thought I should start doing it.”
Yesss! Free word of mouth advertising! I was also lucky enough to be interviewed for the LA Times’ Daily Dish. Maybe someone has a cute nephew they can set me up with?
The next time I looked up at Heidi’s clock it was past midnight. We had been eating our weight in cheese and crackers over a (real!) fireplace and I had lost track of the time. I turned to my friend Stephanie and said maybe cakebarring was not meant to be– it was already so late, and girls were starting to drift out the door. ”I’m down!” she insisted. (She’s one of the girls with a boyfriend, and still wanted to go.) ”Let’s do this!” And so it was that 7 of us mustered up the energy to walk over to bougey La Poubelle, where I once had a very hard time getting change from our waitress upon paying for brunch– so much so that she suggested I head over to the Gelson’s nearby and make change for myself. Luckily, I’ve put this unpleasant incident behind me and never ever talk about it…
A friendly southerner gave us his table when we walked in, and when I found him later to give him a piece of cake, he and his friend gave me poetically thoughtful reviews on how much they liked its texture. (But then again, they were southerners. And musicians.) When I told them about the blog and asked if I could take their picture, they said only if they could have a second piece. I agreed, and told them I’d come hear them play music some time in Hollywood.
We also offered cake to the table next to us, met with an exuberant cry of “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ABSOLUTELY YES!” Meet Jesse, the most vocally appreciative person I’ve ever given cake to. “This is the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in LA,” he said. (Granted, he’s been here for 2 weeks.) Then he said it was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for him period. (That is, a stranger giving him a piece of cake at no charge in a bar.) “I should hire you to come with me from now on,” I told him. “Do you work in PR?” (He does.) I told Jesse I thought he would be really good for someone I work with who looks closer to his age. “Wait, are you not available?” he asked me. “Because I’m very interested in you.” I was a little thrown by how bold this was, but flattered. I gave him my number, and he sent me what he announced as a “mild” text message, which I read when I got home: Don’t forget about me! But I think Jesse has actually forgotten about me, as I have not heard from him again. Which is totally fine.
Maybe I’ll see you on the cakebarring circuit, Jesse? I could sure use your enthusiasm for this last leg of the cakebarring marathon. I have 9 cakes to go…
Lovely Heidi gets full credit for thinking to sprinkle cinnamon on the cake, and tastefully added a pop of color with basil leaves from her plant. This recipe is from the amazing Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog, adapted from the one that used to be served at Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallerie in New York, a museum I have been to and like very much. Hashtag meant to be. Hashtag not meant to eat poppy seed filling out of the can like a crazy person.