Chrissy and I went to the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday, where it is actually possible to have a one-of-a-kind poem written for you on the spot on ANY SUBJECT YOU WISH for ANY PRICE. I asked the poet responsible for this magic, Jacqueline Suskin, for a poem about cake. She wrote the perfect words above.
This weekend I baked what has been my very favorite cake and took it to my new favorite bar, the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood, (though sadly I doubt I’ll be back any time too soon– I have to keep venturing to new places with cake to expand more than just my dating horizons). Sassafras felt like a fuzzily remembered southern museum with all its antique furniture and lounge sections. There’s even a kind of cabin within the bar with tables and chairs. Friday night’s band, The Love Haters, was as spectacular as the bar’s decor.
I made this cake for my lovely lovely friend and frequent cakebar companion Alex for her 24th birthday. Alex is super into being Greek, (which she thinks she mentions all the time, but really has only mentioned once), so I made her a cake with Greek yogurt, adding apricot jam as a glaze and sesame seed covered almonds for decoration. It was fluffy and dense and sweet and not sweet all at the same time. IT TASTED LIKE PANCAKES, Y’ALL. Two nice boys from Michigan ate 3 giant pieces each. With the exception of the Michigan boys, (who most definitely said thank you), cakebarring results were a little off this round. A huge group of people approached us pretty early into my cutting the cake with hungry eyes. “What do you have to do to get a piece of that cake?” the Asian ringleader asked. “I’m happy to give you all some after I finish serving my friends,” I assured them, and luckily, they all disappeared to go make out with each other and dirty dance, Alex later reported. “Not part of our tribe.” Another man older than my dad threw his arm around me, and I actually thought I knew him for a second. “What kind of cake is this?” Stranger said into my face. “It’s for my friend for her birthday. I’ll see if I have any leftover in a little bit.” My friend Andra managed to make him leave by lots of real and fake picture taking that required her to continue backing him up until he was out of our cake zone.
My all inclusive, enforced hospitality can only go so far when I have a limited amount of cake and people are being weirdos.
Most of the guys around us appeared to be part of a deeply enmeshed couple, or too cool for school handsome– definitely not part of my tribe. But I had the best time with all my friends– friends from work, friends from home, brand new friends, and my surrogate brother all joined in this week’s mission, 12 of us all together to scope out cake eaters. A USC journalism student and her friend were very excited to overhear our cakebarring schemes, and asked lots of nice logistical questions. People always ask if it works.
Good news: people in LA are huggers. About 85 people hugged Alex when they heard it was her birthday.
Bad news: people in LA get chummy and may start eating off your cake carrier after a few drinks. At least they usually say thank you for the cake.
I stole the Greek yogurt cake recipe from the Food Gal blog, but doubled it so I would have plenty for my sweet friends and for cakebarring. I spread apricot jam Chrissy and I made last year over the top and in between each layer (thanks, Fernando!), and lined it with Trader Joe’s sesame seed honey almonds.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Walnuts for garnish (optional)
Sour cherries in syrup for garnish (optional)
Extra Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees wit a rack in the middle position. Butter and flour a 9-by-2-inch springform pan. (I used 3 standard round pans.)
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together the yogurt and honey in a small bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Beat in vanilla extract.
Add flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the yogurt and beginning and ending with the flour.
Transfer the batter to a prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and invert the cake, lift off the pan bottom and let the cake cool completely.
Slice the cake and serve plain, sprinkled with sugar, or with the topping of your choice, such as walnuts or cherries.
From “Made Hungry Cravings” by Lucinda Scala Quinn