Archive for June, 2012


A cake for pie fans, and vice-versa

First there was the cherpumple. Now there’s the (not as over-the-top) strawberry pie cake, offering something to please everyone, no matter what side they’re on.

The strawberry pie cake

It’s a pie! It’s a cake!

The recipe looks relatively easy–you use store-bought cake mix and pie dough. I haven’t attempted this yet, but it would be good for a party with some fresh whipped cream and maybe a layer of strawberry jam between the cake and berries.


A pie that’s too good to throw in anyone’s face

The coconut-banana cream pie from Black Salt, Washington, DC.

Brûléed bananas and pineapple slices accompany this king among pies from Black Salt.

A good pie is hard to find. I’m not talking about a just-satisfactory pie. I’m talking about a pie that makes you swoon—the perfect proportion of filling to crust, sweet to salty, soft to crunchy.

This coconut-banana cream pie’s from Black Salt, and everything about it is pretty über. The chef exercises restraint with the sugar. The crust is super thick. And the accompaniments all bring something to the party–if you share, you might be fighting over the brûléed bananas with the crunchy tops.

While I bristle at any dessert that costs $11, this was a damn good pie, as Agent Cooper would say (if only he could get his hands on it). Almost as good as the Ritz Seafood coconut cream pie. But a lot closer to home.

Black Salt fish market

While the fishmongers get points for creativity, this tableau doesn’t exactly put me in the mood for brunch.

Aside: To get to the restaurant section of Black Salt, you have to walk through their fish market. We’re not talking Asian-grocery-store-seafood-department emanations,* but it’s pretty darn pungent. Good thing the main dining area is far away enough that you can enjoy your meal without those olfactory distractions.

*I’m Asian, so I’m allowed to say this.


mouth-puckering lemon curd bars

This lemon bar recipe comes from a helpful series on called “You’re doing it wrong.” The articles cover everything from Brussels sprouts to pizza, explaining how to make the best possible of each, along with common pitfalls.

A genuinely tart lemon bar, from

These will satisfy your craving for tart summer sweets. They also have a thicker crust and filling than normal lemon bars.

The filling turned out less solid than the typical lemon bar. I thought I got the lemon juice-to-egg proportion wrong at first. (Still smarting from my epic lemon bar disaster, I don’t trust my baking instincts.) Then I looked at the Slate article again. The author does refer to the filling as a curd–it’s also apparent from their photo that the finished product isn’t meant to have a fully solidified center, but more of a pudding texture.

There’s nothing worse than a lemon or lime dessert where the flavor of the natural fruit is drowned out by the sugar. Luckily, these have enough zest and lemon juice for the tartness to shine through.

Recipe from Lemon Bars

(from Cafe Los Feliz)

Yield: 9 servings
Time: About 1 ½ hours, largely unattended

Butter for greasing the pan
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup powdered sugar, plus more for garnish
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
6 large eggs
2¼ cups sugar
1¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Combine 2 cups of the flour, the powdered sugar, and the salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and blend with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also do this in a food processor, but don’t overprocess it.) Press into the greased pan, pushing the dough all the way up the sides. Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes, then remove and reduce the oven temperature to 315°F.

2. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Gently stir in the lemon juice and zest. (To minimize aesthetically displeasing little bubbles on the top of the bars, avoid whisking further.) Fold in the remaining ½ cup flour.

3. Pour the egg mixture over the hot crust and bake until the curd is set and no longer jiggles when you move the pan, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Cake trends circa 1900

One of the many pleasant surprises of visiting Minneapolis (apart from the 85-degree weather in May) was discovering that it was the “cradle of carbohydrates”: the flour milling capital from the late 1800s-1930s. Which means—yes—it has long been cake central.

King Midas recipes from the early 1900s.

Recipes from about 100 years ago, Mill City Museum exhibit. I wish I could’ve flipped through these to see what some of the oddly named baked goods were.

Mill City Museum is a good place to spend a couple hours if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s not a big museum, but it’s fascinating for anyone into the history of food and manufacturing. The museum is on the site of an abandoned flour factory, next door to the iconic Gold Medal Flour sign.

Giant Bisquick box at Mill City Museum.

The Flour Tower (behind the giant Bisquick box) is a freight elevator that takes you between the floors of the museum, where they’ve re-created scenes from its flour-processing days.

The King Midas recipes pictured up top date back to the early 1900s and set me off on a Google frenzy trying to find the original recipes. Google had surprisingly few answers. My best guesses:

  • Marygold Cake: Since the Primrose Cake didn’t have any primroses in it, it’s safe to say the marygold cake didn’t have marigolds. I found more than one recipe that incorporated lemons–though this recipe also calls for marigold petals.
  • Kingdom Krums: Probably some kind of branded crumb cake.
  • Nugget Rusks: I came across a UK/India thing called “cake rusks” that are a bread (biscotti-type creation?) that you dip in tea. But the name is so unappetizing. No wonder it never made it over here.
  • Gordian Knots: These were probably just dinner buns in the shape of the namesake knots.
1950s King Midas cookbook

Unfortunately, this 1950s cookbook didn’t give me much insight into the recipes I’d seen at the museum. Either cake trends had changed in the intervening years, or King Midas had little consistency in naming their kitchen creations.

I researched further by purchasing this King Midas cookbook, which dates back to 1950.
Sadly, it didn’t illuminate me on any of the recipes from the museum exhibit. I did learn that cake recipes have basically stayed the same through the decades, no surprise. Regardless of what they’re called, they’re all a variation on flour, eggs, sugar, oil/butter, and some kind of leavening agent.

Cakes seem just as susceptible to trends as hemlines and hairstyles. Will Red Velvet cake still be a thing in 50 years? Will cupcakes still be the cake du jour, or will they go the way of molded JELL-O? It all remains to be seen.