Archive for November, 2010


Giada’s ricotta orange pound cake kinda makes up for her annoyingness

Most folks would argue that Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee is the Food Network equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. For me, that person is Giada De Laurentiis. Her head-to-body ratio and mannerisms scream human bobblehead. Her cleavage-revealing tops make me want to toss peas at the TV screen. And people who pronounce foreign words in the native accent are inherently annoying. I’m not totally sure she gets a pass for being born in Italy.

Rant aside, I’ve tried a few of her savory recipes before and found them a bit bland. But when I saw that this ricotta orange pound cake was one of her favorites, I decided to give it a go. With her pastry chef background, I figured she’d know what she was doing in the baking department.

Sure enough, Mr. X-sXe declared this the best pound cake he’s ever eaten. I stuck closely to the recipe, extending the bake time at least 15 minutes past the 50 minutes recommended to solidify the center. The extra minutes in the oven resulted in a super-brown top crust that added a nice crunch. Thanks to the ricotta, the cake stayed very moist, giving it a nubby, cornbread-ish texture. (Don’t expect it to toast up the way a traditional pound cake does.)

A few recipe notes. You can substitute lemon zest for orange zest, and almond extract for Amaretto. The cake flour (pastry flour) was a bitch to track down. I tried Target, Giant, and Trader Joe’s before finding it at Safeway. Looking at the user reviews, some people who tried substituting regular flour ended up with a mess on their hands, so that’s one thing you probably don’t want to skimp on.

The orange zest lends plenty of flavor, while the alcohol in the Amaretto bakes off, leaving the smallest hint of almond.


Frosting: A cupcake calamity

I’ve been to Frosting in Friendship Heights once before, and recall their riff on French toast being pretty good. This time around I got a box of four: Baba’s baby (carrot), Raspberry Zzzurbert DC (chocolate-filled cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Raspberry Zzzurbert WC (white chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream), and Bleubelle (blueberry streusel).

It’s tough to tell what’s what because after a short walk back to the car, the cupcakes looked like this. I take partial responsibility since I paid little mind to whether I was keeping the box level. But the real issue is the way they dollop the frosting high on the cupcakes in a ball shape. No doubt other customers have also gotten theirs home to find a cupcake massacre.

Good thing that looks don’t detract from taste. Among these, the carrot was the best, texture- and flavor-wise. The cake part of the Zzzurberts was on the dry side, and the raspberry frosting lacked a tartness that could’ve kicked up the flavor. The Bleubelle was a muffin (fitting, since it’s featured on their daily morning menu); cupcake fans should pass on this one unless that’s what they’re looking for.


Lobster rolls with a side of whoopie pie

Last weekend we chased the Red Hook Lobster truck all the way from Maryland to Eastern Market. Turns out we weren’t the only ones making the holy pilgrimage. We met a lady who had driven from Lorton, VA. (Good news for folks who can’t stalk the truck during the week: it’s going to be making regular rounds at Eastern Market on Saturdays).

This whoopie accompaniment to your Maine- or Connecticut-style roll is from Brooklyn’s Margaret Palca Bakes ($3.50). It’s a more natural version of the classic whoopie pie, with no shortening in the filling. The flavor reminded me of the Devil Dogs of my childhood but way better. I’ll probably getting one during every visit to the lobster truck to help fill me up. One lobster roll doesn’t do the job, but at $15 apiece, shelling out $30–more if you get a meal combo–for lunch on a patch of grass that probably doubles as a doggie rest stop seems wrong.


Pie V. Cake product extensions

As we wind down 2010, it’s safe to say that the pie-cake trend has been big this year–and we’re not just talking food products. Check out these limited-edition Kleenex boxes.

Photo via

Yoplait has been rolling out the pie and cake flavors all year, their latest being the black forest cake and triple berry torte (not pictured).

Lately, gum has been getting in on the act.

Ice cream has been doing the pie and cake thing for a while now. For instance, Ben & Jerry’s offers 3 brownie-based flavors. They also introduced a limited-edition key lime pie flavor over the summer and just rolled out this new Boston cream pie flavor.


Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Crazy Good

Bakersfield, California has never really been on my travel wishlist until now. It’s home to Sweet Surrender, a bakery that does an undercooked, fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream (the “Matterhorn”) that made that local news when Giada singled it out for this episode. Since she’s got some serious pastry chops, I figure this cake isn’t gonna suck.

Here’s where to get the Matterhorn and the other 2 desserts featured on this episode.

Matterhorn Cake – Sweet Surrender

6439 Ming Ave.

Bakersfield, CA 93309


Maple Budino – Locanda Verde

377 Greenwich St.

New York, NY 10013


Banana Special – Fentons Creamery

4226 Piedmont Avenue

Oakland, CA 94611


A cupcake that’s wronger than turducken

The turkey gravy and cranberry cupcake from LA’s Yummy Cupcakes looks innocent enough.

But then there’s this description:

A turkey gravy cupcake seasoned with savory Thanksgiving gravy, topped with a fresh cranberry relish cream cheese frosting.

(Which sounds like the opposite of appetizing.)

For those of you who love making the most of those turkey day leftovers, I pray that turkey cupcakes aren’t on the list.


Free-cupcake Friday at Crumbs DC

Crumbs opened in Metro Center this week, upping the ante for the DC cupcake wars. Be one of the first thousand in line on Nov. 19 to get your free cupcake. (I bet Red Velvet isn’t too thrilled about competition in the neighborhood.)

Personally, I’m more excited about the impending Sprinkles opening, which feels like it’s been forever in the making.


Cake or pie? The stars’ answers are telling.


Pimped-out pumkin pie: why you don’t mess with a classic

I thought that trying this recipe from Food Network Magazine would help me use up a tiny bottle of Amaretto di Soronno that’s been sitting in the cupboard for years.

But for the crust, I had trouble finding amaretto cookies that didn’t cost over $20. So I ended up copping out with a store-bought crust.

The almond brittle is a nice touch and was simple enough to make. It definitely adds crunch to a mushy pie. But the heart of the pie, the filling, didn’t thrill me. Maybe it was a mistake to use canned pumpkin over pumpkin pie filling. It tasted like amaretto-infused pumpkin that’s just a bit too pumpkin-y. I missed the traditional blend of pumpkin pie spices, too. (This recipe just calls for nutmeg.)

Moral of the story? Don’t make your own pumpkin pie for the holidays when you can get a great 12″ one from Costco for $6.


November’s seasonal flavors at Georgetown Cupcake, caramel apple and pumpkin

The tourists may be gone, but the lines at Georgetown Cupcake are still ridiculous.

Luckily, we did a pick-up order online. While the store may not have a red velvet rope outside, it kinda feels like you’re sailing past one as you flash your order confirmation to the cupcake bouncer.

Georgetown Cupcake is offering a pumpkin and a caramel apple cupcake through November. The  caramel apple was very tasty with a moist apple cake, dulce de leche filling, and cream cheese icing. (See cross-section below.) Mr. X-sXe noted that there were actual bits of apple that gave the cake a slight tartness.

The pumpkin, a more modest cupcake, was good too. If you’re into spice cakes, you’ll enjoy this one.

Ever since Pie brought over those Baked & Wired cupcakes, though, everything else has seemed wimpy in comparison. Georgetown Cupcake is no exception, since their cupcakes are among the smallest in DC. And don’t be surprised if the ratio of icing-to-cake leaves you with a serious hankering for more cake.