Cookbook Club #20 is back in action today!! Turning it over to our girl Kristina Gill to give you the latest on our favorite cookbook this month. And if you missed the intro to Kristina – please put your hands together for our very first editor here at What’s Gaby Cooking besides me! All yours KG! And remember, if you are looking for something that matches our featured cookbook or cookbook theme, check out the two books at the bottom of each Cookbook Club post.
Our theme this month is: Thanksgiving! Some people like baking, some people prefer to make mains or sides. Make something different, make a traditional pie! We’ve got you covered.
I think I could write just one word for this book and post the recipe– CAKE! But I’ll keep going. EASY RECIPES for CAKE. Is that enough to hook you? Yossy Arefi, author of Sweeter Off the Vine, is back with the little cake book that could. In her new book, Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings, Yossy brings us recipes for fruit cakes (actual fruit cakes, not Christmassy fruit cakes), warm + toasty cakes (spice cakes, gingerbread, and the likes), chocolatey cakes, and not your average vanilla cakes. What makes them easy recipes? Most all of them can be made in just one bowl, they don’t require creaming or electrical equipment, and Yossy includes suggestions for different pans to use with each one. OK, I can REALLY stop here.
How many times have you wanted to make a cake, picked up a book, realized you needed to get a machine out, push a bunch of crazy buttons, and then decided you’d just buy something that hit the spot? That’s me ALL the time. Except that my problem is that the line at the farm where I buy my eggs is sooooo long (like an hour!!), I can’t stand it. I haven’t had eggs since June. I’ve given up. But back to cake– you will need eggs for these recipes. So you know I haven’t had eggs in almost six months, you know I haven’t been able to bake from this book, but I know Yossy. I know Yossy is scrupulous with her recipes. And people have been writing to me to tell me how much they love this book and have used it multiple times! No joke! So if I could finagle a place at the front of the line to get some fresh eggs, let me tell you what I’d make– obviously the Fudgy Chocolate Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Frosting (recipe below) because who can say no to chocolate cake?? Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting because I love being transported back to childhood birthday parties, Espresso Chocolate Chip Cake (“this cake is a serious pick-me-up, packed with a hefty dose of espresso and lots and lots of chocolate chips”), and Sparkling Gingerbread. But really, any cake from the book because they all look amazing.
Here’s a link to the book at The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas: Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings. Or on Amazon if you prefer:
Time for a little Q+A with Yossy:
What’s your favorite recipe in the book and why? It changes all of the time, but I love the brightness and crunch of the Orange Poppyseed Cake (with or without the glaze), and savory spice of the Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake with Maple Olive Oil Glaze, and the Cocoa Yogurt Cake because chocolate.
What was the hardest recipe to get right and why? The vanilla cake was so tricky! I wanted it to be super tender and packed with vanilla flavor, but not one note. Buttermilk and a combination of oil and butter were the keys.
For someone who’s never cooked from your book before, what recipe would you tell them to cook first and why? I’d tell them to think of their favorite flavors and find a cake to match. If they love fruit cakes, I’d suggest the Black and Blueberry Ricotta, if they love spice I’d suggest the Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake or the Sparkling Gingerbread, and if they love chocolate the Cocoa Yogurt or Chocolate Peanut butter are great choices.
The quickest, easiest, least clean up recipe from your book that can be ready at the last minute? The Simple Sesame Cake, Spiced Honey Cake, and Swirled Jam Cake all come together so fast with pantry ingredients so you don’t have to plan too far ahead.
Tell me about your cookbook writing experience and how you choose which recipes make it into the book? I wanted to include something for everyone so the flavors range from super bright and citrusy, to spicy, to deep and rich chocolate. I thought of all of my favorite flavor combinations and combined them with my favorite bakery treats that would translate well to cake (like morning glory muffins and Ovenly’s currant and rosemary scone), and I just had fun with it. The one that got away was a white chocolate macadamia nut cake inspired by my favorite mall cookie from Mrs. Fields that I never got quite right. Some recipes have extra touches that take a little bit more time like toasted nuts, browned butter, or a glaze or frosting, but I wanted there to be lots of recipes that just about anyone could throw together on the fly. The recipes are meant to be super approachable and adaptable to what people have on hand. My ultimate goal was that people could buy the book and head straight to the kitchen to bake without a stop at the grocery store. After all, we are still in a pandemic.
What role did Arlo (pictured in Yossy’s portrait) play in making the book? Arlo is an incredible helper in the kitchen, whenever I open a stick of butter he is at my feet just in case some falls on the floor and needs to be cleaned up. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen together when he was a tiny pup because I used to attach him to my belt with a leash to keep him out of trouble. He still comes and hangs out with me for moral support.
The one dish you can never say no to? Ghormeh Sabzi or hot crispy french fries
The one dish you will always say no to? I’ll try anything once, but I do admit I have a tough time with some offal.
Pizza or Pasta? Pizza
Cookies with or without nuts? Depends on the cookie. I used to be firmly in the no nuts camp, but I have warmed up to walnuts and pecans occasionally.
Which sandwich would you choose from the menu: hamburger, fried chicken, pulled pork, falafel? Ooh tough one, it depends on where I am! Probably fried chicken or falafel.
Fudgy Chocolate Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
For the Cake
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, like canola or vegetable or grapeseed
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup hot coffee or water
- 1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips (optional)
For the Frosting
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
- 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- Shaved chocolate or sprinkles, to finish
- Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350.F. Butter or coat an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with a strip of parchment paper that hangs over two of the edges.
- MAKE THE CAKE: In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, oil, butter, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until smooth and emulsified. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth
- Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk until well-combined and smooth. Gently stir in the coffee, then fold in the chocolate (if using).
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top of the batter with an offset spatula
- Bake the cake until puffed and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then use the parchment paper to lift the cake out of the pan and set it on the rack to cool completely.
- MAKE THE FROSTING: Add the butter to a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to low, add the cocoa powder, and mix until smooth, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary, then slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix until the sugar is moistened, then add the vanilla, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons milk. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip until light and fluffy, adding more milk as necessary to make a smooth and fluffy frosting.
- Top the cooled cake with swoops of frosting and scatter the shaved chocolate or sprinkles over the top. (Store the cake, covered, at room temperature or in the fridge for up to three days.)