Baking for Bill is easy. It’s actually very enjoyable. He likes everything. He is willing to try it all. He is also very much like an 8 year-old when I bake. He comes to the kitchen five times for the same imaginary glass of water. Goes back to his study with a banana. Comes back to the kitchen to dispose of the banana peel. Sixth imaginary glass of water. You get the idea. I love it. I also love that when I stacked the last layer of this cake, the first words that came out of his mouth were "Oh wow! That cake is huge! Yeah!!" Yes, The New England Cake, is indeed humongous and delicious.
I would not make a cake of this stature on the spur of the moment, just for us and two cups of tea. This is a Reunion Cake, a Birthday Dinner With Friends Cake, a Celebration Cake, a Date Cake! No really, I mean it. It is literally a lovely brown sugar cake filled with dates and iced with maple sugar buttercream. Trust me, you could make this for a first date and end up with a second. And a third.
There were a couple of reasons for this cake to start taking over the kitchen countertop. A family reunion and a book club. The reunion was as typical as can be: tiresome, crazy, at times scary but ultimately fun. Basically, no reason to elaborate on that but to focus on the book club instead. The Edible Word started last year under the initiative of Cath from A Blithe Palate and Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness. I had such a good time doing it that I said yes for this year’s book, "Confections Of A Closet Master Baker" by Gesine Bullock-Prado, a non fiction memoir. I am just a couple of days behind the deadline but I blame it on this cake. And the reunion.
Confections Of A Closet Master Baker traces Gesine’s journey as a Hollywood executive who finds her true calling in baking and decides to pursue her passion by moving to Vermont and opening a bakery in the small town of Montpelier. I devoured the book, all pun intended. So many emotions, "coups de coeur" and fun truths. Her passion is the air she breathed. You can bet I found myself in many of Gesine’s mornings, getting to the bakery at the crack of dawn, leaving after everybody else and never questioning getting to do it all over again the next day.
I also fell in love with Gesine, her writing style and her voice. Fun, honest, visual. Writing is definitely her other talent. She is a cool chick. Each chapter of the book ends on a sweet note with one of her recipes. I had plenty to choose from: Carrot Cake, Plum Tart, Espresso Cheesecake, cream scones, and the list goes on. I went with The New England purely out of necessity. I was given very short notice to bring another dessert and not much time to shop so I did have to match my pantry to one of the recipes in the book.
I did make a couple of changes to her original recipe. The cake calls for brown sugar and I substituted half the amount with muscovado sugar which gave it an even deeper brown sugar flavor and kept the cake ultra moist, even days later. The frosting is a wonderful maple sugar Swiss meringue that would also go very well with any other darker cakes. I did make the executive decision to leave it un-buttercreamed on the outside. I had this vision of the cake growing and growing the more I was spatulating the inner layers. It was also starting to be pretty hefty and I had to travel with this cake. Honestly, it was quite perfect as it was. Impressive and delicious, filled with dried dates and a soft hint of molasses and maple sugar.
Due to copyright restrictions I am not at liberty to post the recipe (although I have stumbled upon a few close recipes with a quick Google search) but trust me, this cake is worth getting the book alone. Wait! Wait! What I do have is one extra, brand new copy to give away to one lucky reader. If I could I’d add a slice of the New England cake with it but I am afraid it won’t work with the post office policies.
To enter the giveaway:
– leave a comment between Thursday September 10th 2009 and Sunday September 13th 2009 (midnight Eastern time)
– One entry per reader.
– no anonymous comment will be taken into consideration. Sign Zorro or X if you must.
– the giveaway is open to all. I’ll ship anywhere in the world.
– the winner will be randomly picked by asking Bill to call out a number from all the entries received.
If you happen to know or have a link to a great date cake recipe, feel free to leave it in the comment. I know I am ready to try more!