For some years now, a core group of food-loving friends and I have been getting together for what we call “Cake Night.” It started with the January issue of Martha Stewart Living in 2006, which featured an article called “A Year of Cakes.” There were different cakes for each month, often sort of seasonally chosen or picked to match a holiday. I decided I wanted to bake through that issue, so I invited two of my talented culinary friends to join me on the adventure. Once a month, we’d get together for dinner, and while I’d bake the cake, my friends would provide the entrées.
It was such a fantastic tradition that once we finished the article, we continued our “cake nights,” and I would choose a new cake or other dessert that I wanted to try out. My goal was to try some new things, learn a few new techniques, and make sure we were all getting together for some quality time on a regular basis.
So on Sunday, we had a cake “afternoon,” since kids were a factor and we all wanted to have the evening to unwind. I made Japanese Cheesecake which I’d seen recently on a blog (can’t for the life of me remember which one, though; I feel like there was something featured on The Kitchn?), and my friends brought asparagus soup and salad. I also tossed some no knead bread into the oven. But more on this event in a moment; first, a trip through the annals of Cake Night History.
The first entry in a long line of cakes was Martha’s Meyer Lemon Anniversary Cake.
Other highlights from that year of cakes article:
Cardamom Streusel Coffee Cake at a cake “brunch,” which included this amazing fruit spread
This coffee cake was a big surprise. I figured it was going to be kind of run of the mill, but it was fantastic. Probably one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had.
I was pretty proud of these, too, since they looked right. Each person got to indulge in one of these. The bottom layer is devil’s food cake, and then there are two layers of mousse, one dark and one milk chocolate. It was pretty divine.
This cake was ENORMOUS. I don’t think it was supposed to be that tall, but my layers rose and puffed and it seemed a waste to cut them and discard any. You can see the piece barely fits on a plate! It was delicious if you like coconut. You can see from the photos that my photography skills were nil at this point.
This one looks boring, but it was one of the favorites of the year (we have a lot of chocolate lovers in the group). It was a very moist, lovely chocolate cake with nothing fancy, just good flavor.
Probably the biggest coup of the year was this concoction:
This one was a doozy to make and very impressive to serve. See that white stuff in there? That’s a hazelnut filling. The dark parts are chocolate crepes. So I made about 40 chocolate crepes, laid each one down, covered it with hazelnut cream, and then repeated. 40 times. Or so. Then, the whole thing is covered in chocolate ganache. It was pretty cool.
There were other cakes from that year; ice cream cake, pound cake, cupcakes, petit fours… But then we ventured out on our own, and I made:
This recipe comes from Matt Lewis at Baked in Brooklyn, and it’s a pretty rockin’ cake. The moist chocolate cake is layered with both a salted caramel sauce and a whipped caramel chocolate icing. The whole thing is topped off with a little fleur du sel. And I made it look pretty, too.
Then, for those peanut butter/chocolate fans, I made:
It was so good that my friend made it for her husband for his birthday, too. Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting coated with a chocolate ganache? Get OUTTA heah.
So, those are some of the highlights of several years of cakes. We’ve done other fun little desserts, too– once I did a brownie taste test which was a very good time.
Anyhoo, Sunday we had Japanese Cheesecake, which is lighter than regular cheesecake. I find regular cheesecake to be too heavy, so I was intrigued by this concept. I found the recipe online, where everyone universally seemed to come back to Diana’s Desserts blog. The hardest part of the recipe was using weight instead of volume measurements. Thank goodness I have a kitchen scale.
It’s actually quite easy to make; you melt the cream cheese, butter and some milk in a bain marie, mix it with the other ingredients, whip some egg whites, fold it all together and voilà. The pan takes a little prep since you have to bake it in a water bath, so I covered the outside with foil.
And it turned out lovely.
Since we were all of the opinion that cheesecake is generally too heavy, I think everyone agreed it was one of the best cheesecakes ever. I made a little strawberry sauce to drizzle over the top, and it was a perfect spring afternoon dessert. Especially with our other treats:
It was a lovely afternoon. And you can expect more updates to come on our adventures in dessert.