This was the first week of I got APPLAUSE during cakebarring.
I am super thrilled to now be writing about this experiment for The Huffington Post and was recently mentioned on Jezebel, so it seems weirdly appropriate that on Saturday night I gave an impromptu presentation on the project to a large group celebrating a birthday at the HMS Bounty in Koreatown. We were having a hard time locating young men, (or really, anyone at all), and then an entire birthday party walked in… with no cake. No one had thought to bake something. It all worked out in a whimsical Amelie kind of way, as Chrissy pointed out we were meant to be there. Your friends forget to bring a cake? No problem– Audrey will be there waiting with one. I offered their table some cake to celebrate, and couldn’t help but be honest when the group asked what I was doing hanging out at a bar with an entire cake. I came clean. AND THEN THEY ATE THE CAKE AND APPLAUDED. I even got a Shirley Temple out of the deal. YESSS!
Chrissy was basically peeing her pants she was so delighted that I was delivering a cakebarring lecture while serving pieces of cake and fielding questions. My aunt pointed out to me that this whole project is a kind of performance art, which makes sense based on my liberal arts background and excess of childhood home videos where I’m acting like a total stage whore and kicking my sister out of the shot. (This was right before what my mom likes to refer to as my “withdrawn phase,” which lasted well into my middle school years. I’d like to think I finally balanced out.)
I really thought we would run into the right demographic at the HMS Bounty– it’s fantastic, decorated like a ship, with big booths and cheap drinks– but no real boy baiting luck. Maybe because I broke the rules again by coming to a place I’ve already been before. A boy I was dating a couple years ago brought me here for a fourth date, well past when I should have been letting him touch more than just my shoulder. The evening wrapped up nicely with me listening to classic Justin Bieber alone in my car for an hour or so while shame spiraling after I wouldn’t let him kiss me. But don’t fret, everyone– I got over this– and LUCKILY, aforementioned boy and I continued dating for awhile, and remain on good terms. He found the cakebarring strategy very funny when I pitched him the idea several months ago while cramming pancakes into my face at Norm’s diner. Thanks for being so nice, Jared Gxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
Even though we didn’t find our target audience on Saturday, I was so thrilled to have cake ready and waiting for a lovely birthday girl and her nice friends, and the best visit with new friends from New York and an old friend from LA. Sometimes this really isn’t about meeting boys– it’s just about having a good time over something sweet. My southern blood just won’t let up in the hostessing department.
This week’s cake recipe was stolen and modified from a Food Network recipe, as I wanted to use up a bunch of sweet potatoes I had lying around and some marshmallows. I chose to leave out the pineapple and raisins this recipe calls for. (Chrissy looked at me very seriously when I told her what I was making and told me how polarizing raisins are. I didn’t use them.) I baked the sweet potatoes myself instead of using pureed ones, which means that they did not blend in the food processor very well… Our birthday table got whole pieces of sweet potato in their cake, but they still applauded. Everybody came out ahead!
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts, plus additional for garnish, optional
Cream Cheese Icing:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust the position of the rack to the center of the oven. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) pans or 3 (8-inch) pans. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and granulated sugar. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream margarine and brown sugar on low speed, and then increase speed to medium and beat until well-combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg and scraping down the sides of the bowl after the addition of each egg. Add vanilla, sweet potatoes, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts and blend on low speed until thoroughly mixed.
Pour batter into pans and smooth the surface with a metal spatula. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; when you touch the center of the cake, it should spring back. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then invert onto a rack and cool completely.
For icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Gradually add sugar and beat on low speed until smooth.
Icing the cake: Place 1 cake layer, top-side down, on a cake platter. Using a metal spatula, spread a layer of cream cheese frosting evenly over the top of the cake. Take the next layer and place it on top, rounded-side up. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. The cake should be refrigerated for about 1 hour to make sure the layers are set. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of cake, if desired.