You ever have a week where all you want to do is break things down to their smallest possible version, smash them flat, and bake them into submission?
Yeah. These are your cookies.
These cookies have other good qualities! They taste like summer. They are ridiculously thin and crisp. You can eat them by the fistful, the flavor profile only deepens over time and they stay good for weeks. But to be completely honest, the main attraction is shredding the shit out of some aromatics and then smashing stuff with a rolling pin.
I’ve made this recipe about 6 times now, but I am only 55% certain that I have discovered all the possible ways to fuck them up. I do not understand cookies. Cakes, I get. Cakes, I can diagnose like a human pastry tricorder. Cookies? I have never known what is going on in those flat bastards. I may never know. So I did some things, and they worked, but I can’t really guess why. These are catharsis cookies, not Greek Theater 302: The Cookies Of Emotional Completion. Proceed with caution.
AS EVER, THE ASSHOLE IS ME.Writing a giant-ass blog post every week is a little beyond me. So I’m shifting to an every other week schedule, which will help to avoid shame/avoidance spirals when I miss a week. Also, I am a monster who feeds on instant gratification, and thus incapable of waiting until Sunday to post things I’ve written. Let’s call Sunday the biweekly deadline.
I DO WHAT I WANT AND WHAT I WANT TO DO IS APPRECIATE YOUR PATIENCE
I love whipping egg whites. My mixer works way faster than recipes think it will, so I always feel like I’m ahead of the curve. I like motors and going fast. And I get a great deal of joy out of bending eggs into unlikely shapes through by holding my hand in place for a really long time. It makes me feel like Magneto.
That’s why this cake is such a joy to make. It requires nine eggs, whipped up to obscene heights and molded into unexpected forms. It’s also a joy to eat. The filling is silky, the icing shines, and the cake itself just dissolves on the tongue. Also, it’s safe for gluten-free and dairy-sensitive people to eat. (There is milk in the chocolate, so it isn’t completely dairy-free.)
A Brief Word on Baking For People With Food Sensitivities
Feel free to skip this part if you are making the cake for non-gluten-sensitive people, or already have a gluten-free kitchen.
I am a lazy, corner-cutting bastard by nature. But food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances are not to be fucked around with. This is how I try to keep my friends and assorted cake-eaters safe. It takes a little work, but so does all baking. You shouldn’t feel obligated to make someone a gluten-free cake, just like you shouldn’t feel obligated to make ANY cake. But if you do say your food is free of an allergen, there isn’t any room for error on your part.
Personally, I am a trash human being. I don’t trust a single thing in my kitchen to be free of gluten or any other allergen. I get so much flour on my countertops that you could probably drop my entire kitchen in a deep fryer and serve it at a county fair. If you are anything like me—and by that I mean, if you have any doubt at all that your implements are not 100% clean and could never have been exposed to gluten since you put them away—wash them again with hot water, soap, and a new sponge. Scrub down the surfaces you’re going to be working on, or at least put a bit of plastic wrap down to rest your equipment on.
Think about your ingredients. Is it possible that you stuck a used measuring cup or spoon in those ingredients? Could you have possibly failed to scrub all the flour out of that jar before storing sugar in it? If so, open up a fresh version. Fortunately, this recipe only calls for two ingredients that could have been cross-contaminated–sugar and cocoa powder–and they’re both pretty cheap to buy new.
ON TO THE BAKING.
In fantasy novels, peasants with birthmarks are born to fulfill heroic destinies. In critically acclaimed literary sci-fi, children are born in order to provide organ transplants to their siblings. In my kitchen, on my birthday, tiramisu cakes are born to be doused in high-proof liquor and lit on fire.
I made a big announcement. I invited people over. In the end, though, I just couldn’t do it. In part, the cake was too beautiful, too delicious, too wonderfully varied in flavor and texture. Like the huntsman in the Snow White story, I couldn’t stand to rip out the heart of something so innocent.
But also? I saw some horrifying shit while making this cake. My guests only saw it in its perfect, mousse-filled final form. But I witnessed what happened when I strayed from the recipe. The cloudburst-frosted facade cracked, and when I looked beyond it, I saw the abyss. It’s my personal policy never to provoke the powers of evil. So instead of opening a fiery gate to hell, I cut the cake into sixteen pieces and enjoyed it in its sweet, idealistic form.
My birthday cake was four layers of yellow cake brushed with coffee syrup, filled with alternating chocolate mousse and diplomat creme, and frosted with a brandy-vanilla cloudburst frosting. My birthday cake was possibly a portal to hell. My birthday cake was absolutely worth the risk.
Or, How To Make Three Kinds Of Muffins Without Doing Every Step Three Times Because Oh My God Who The Fuck Has Time
The universe likes to kick people. I like to kick the universe. The cycle goes merrily around, with lots of chest thumping and yelling about don’t tell me what to do and what do you mean that’s illegal and JUST WATCH ME.
When the cosmic pain machine turns on one of my friends, though, I turn off the yelling and turn on the oven. I can’t stop life from kicking anybody, but I can hand out baked goods (+5 to emotional resilience). This past week saw not just one, not just two, but three friends become cosmic soccer balls. And that calls for One Million Muffins. They taste like cake, they can pretend to be real food, and they make handy projectiles in case of emergency.
I am sick to fucking death of complaining about snow. Which is remarkable, because I love complaining. Let’s talk about this cake instead. It tastes like summer! It’s stuffed with fresh strawberries and orange zest and whipped cream. The strawberries are out in Florida, according to my parents, and so they’re three pounds for five dollars at the grocery store. With the power of my Safeway Club Card, I can eat this cake and pretend I’m hanging out on the beach. I can’t punch winter into submission, but I can sure as fuck ignore it.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that I made two cakes that taste like summer. That was a mistake. One of the cakes was a disaster, but it would have been a mistake even if it had turned out perfectly. I hate baking multiple cakes at the same time. I neglected to keep this in mind and promised two separate sets of people dessert. I enjoyed being a person who bakes so much that I didn’t set myself up to actually enjoy baking. I ended up taking a bunch of breaks from the second cake to fling myself on various pieces of furniture and whine. I just wanted to finish the fucking cake and go to sleep. That’s no way to bake, and it’s no way to live. So I’m not blogging that second cake. Let it remain an untested ideal in our minds.
On the other hand, I actually really enjoyed playing with meringue, so I’ll be repeating that experiment sometime in the future. It’s a great way to use up the egg whites from pastry cream, or the bastardized genoise layers here.