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Lockdown in 42 Baked Goods
I became THAT person this past year & wow did it taste great
The last post was a bit grim and it’s been a rough week or two where my Ehlers Danlos has caused some issues where I keep throwing out my back so I am wearing braces, living off IcyHot, being pretty immobile. In a way that is related to this post, because I am pretty sure it’s because I gained a whole bunch of weight in the pandemic thanks to baking a lot! Worth it but anyway. . .it is snowing a lot again—this is the snowiest winter I remember in ages—and so I thought what might be better to talk than cakes. I’ve been baking a bit more in the last couple weeks and I decided to count how many cakes I had made in lockdown and if we imagine next month as the start, well, I may just about average a baked good a week. I am at 42 currently. It’s pretty shocking especially considering that I ate them all myself, occasionally a friend participating, but really these cakes were all mine. I’ve baked all my life but never like this year. This was something else.
I definitely think cooks and bakers are very different people. I cannot cook—I dread cooking. I hate the free-spirited, intuitive, “random” energy of cooks. I am high-strung, perfectionistic, big on chemistry and math, I like precision. And like I said many times, I don’t even like eating most of these—past the batter and a few slices I get very “over” these cakes. But it’s nice to create them, especially when writing is too much.
The first was just after I had returned from Europe in mid March. 1) A lemon olive oil cake. I had been making olive oil cakes occasionally when I had classes that I taught here in my live/workspace in Queens that past year. The students seemed to love them and I just loved making them. Olive oil cakes are very forgiving if you are off in any direction. There is something about the glossiness of the batter than you just pour into a springform pan that is so satisfying. Somehow the batter just tastes wholesome. I always break the rules of most bakers and use a strong extra virgin so I can taste the olive oil—there are few flavors I love more.
Then I made two batches of nut butter cookies, 2) Justin’s white chocolate almond butter cookies and 3) Nuttzo cookies my preferred nut butter brand. They were fine. I decided I did not enjoy making cookies as much as cakes.
Still, I had cookies to conquer so then I went on three rounds of thumbprint cookies which I had never made but always admired from afar. These are one of those those things that look great on Instagram. I had become transfixed by “cottage core” last spring and these just felt very cottage core. So I went about using a jar of lemon curd for 4) lemon curd thumbprint cookies which looked awful but tasted great and then I had a jar of mixed berry jam from Juice Press that I used for another batchand that looked better. 5) The berry jam thumbprint cookies were better. Finally I figured out how to make them look better an did a half/half lemon and berry 6) which were basically perfect.
Ugh more cookies? Yep. My roommate was into them. So I decided I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies that looked like the emoji—really basic ones. I made them with oat milk. They were very good 7) chocolate chip oat milk cookies but god did cookies bore me.
I decided a 8) French yogurt cake with lemon might be the move. Wow this cake was pretty! It was very chic and gorgeous but I have to admit rather boring. Still it felt like something a supermodel might have lying around on her kitchen counter when a journalist visits. It was easy to eat, a very casual, pretty, careless thing.
I had to balance the sophistication of that last one with the least glamorous, most slutty monstrosity imaginable—9) the pistachio JELLO pudding pie! I had a memory of my friend Lindsay serving this to me in Chicago once—it was like she had just poured pistachio pudding in a graham crackers shell. So that’s what I did. I put some chocolate chips on top and even made my own whipped cream to top it cuz this cake is just that tacky and weird.
One of my best cakes came next: 10) banana cake with almond butter frosting! I had way too many bananas by some botched Instacart order (seems like everyone was dealing with this—new Instacarter reading 3 items for 3 pounds). I forgot you could freeze bananas! Anyway I made this and I was shocked by how good it was.
Why I went back to cookies, I cannot say, but I had some vision of 11) pistachio pudding white chocolate chip cookies. I had extra boxes I guess of JELLO pudding! Anyway, they were great though kinda gross at the same time. I am really not a cookie person. But I have to admit I do like white chocolate! I think most chocolate is good but milk is my favorite. Dark is fine. But white gets a bad rep mostly because it isn’t even chocolate. Anyway, good white chocolate to me is really good.
(AGAIN honestly I kind of hate sweets! I find being obsessed with sugar extremely gross! I guess this is how I can bake like I do. People seem to imagine I eat all these treats at once but I eat them as slowly as possible. I get really overwhelmed by sweets while I could eat fried shrimp and ketchup chips and ramen for ages and never be full.)
I guess I was on a green kick and, well, I drink matcha pretty much daily—I am one of those matcha people (I order from Kettl)—and so I thought a 12) matcha olive oil cake might be great. It was great! Very chic again. I bought culinary grade matcha to not ruin my fancy ceremonial matcha and it worked well. I want to try hojicha in a dessert one day now!
Why did I go back to 13) pistachio pudding pie again??? I think it was very hot and I thought freezing it would make a delicious breakfast and I think it sort of did. I put gold edible stars on it for Instagram’s sake or something.
Okay this next cake I can’t recommend—it was a nightmare that just happened to work out. This is a cake inspired by the Harold & Maude cake. It’s a 14) ginger pie. It’s a blur how I made it. Lots of butter and lots of ginger and I think maple, that’s all I recall really. I had another crazy shipment of ginger and I just blended a ton of it and it turned it into this kinda gooey creamy cake that was absolute amazing and super weird. Like the sort of cake an elderly slovenly aristocrat makes—very shabby chic, kinda Grey Gardens.
15) Carrot cake!! Okay this was maybe my best cake. Just perfect. I had really good organic carrots. I also made a great cream cheese frosting that I topped with shredded coconut. It was so incredibly delicious.
After something that good anything was going to suck right? Well, no, this would have sucked no matter what. This is the cake I hate most. 16) A chocolate banana almond pie that I froze and just tasted hellish. I don’t know what I did. The shredded coconut and chocolate chips just made it worse. This cake tasted like poverty and depression.
I redeemed myself with this 17) cherry walnut yogurt cake. I started having crazy cherry cravings! My friend Homa who makes White Moustache Yogurt had sent me a jar of the tart cherry preserves she uses in her yogurts and that had inspired me. I think I also had ordered a box of really good tart cherries. This cake was really fresh and sour and lovely—a summer cake to the max!
More thumbprint cookie time! This time 18) strawberry jam thumbprint cookies. I am obsessed with the classic Smucker’s strawberry jam. Like I don’t even really like fresh strawberries—their texture is so off to me and it feels so rare to get a really great strawberry—but I would die for this jam. The flavor is so good and finally I got really good at shaping these cookies. These were perfect.
19) Another cherry yogurt cake that was amazing again but it made me feel sick of cherries so that was that!
This time I took my lemon olive oil cake and merged it with strawberry and corn flour to make a 20) strawberry olive oil corncake. A blur! But good. Cottage-core vibes for sure.
Oh wow, this next cake: I remember it being a triumph. It was a 21) classic vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream topped with some shredded coconut and edible rose petals I had just got in the mail. I get REALLY intense vanilla cravings. Like I have many pure vanilla perfumes. It’s a classic simple fragrance I love. People act like it is dull but it is a very potent floral. Around this time I had a viral tweet about vanilla coming from orchids which really shocked people!
My roommate was having her birthday so I made a 22) classic vanilla olive oil cake with confetti-style-sprinkles atop classic vanilla buttercream. I think she wanted chocolate cake but I honestly never make chocolate cake. I hate most chocolate cakes. The chocolate always feels dull and dusty, never like potent rich creamy chocolate bars.
Okay this next one was another masterpiece, I must say! 23). My first persimmon pudding pie topped with a vanilla yogurt frosting with chamomile flowers! It was my election night comfort food. I was SHOCKED by how satisfying it was to bake with persimmons. You just peel and pop them in a blender and they have the best texture—like olive oil cake batter, they are so silky and glossy and slick, a majestic blob. They just want to be pudding! Anyway this was magical.
24) Candied applies. Why? I don’t know. Autumn? I had these cute tiny apples and these popsicle sticks and I finally bought some food coloring. I thought it would be easy. I nearly burned down the kitchen. Not easy! And to be honest, they did not taste that great. Somehow I added too much red food coloring so the glaze looked almost brownish.
But I redeemed myself with 25) frosted animal cookies! Very cute! And very frustrating to make. The molds were a nightmare. I don’t even want to talk about it. I like the stale store stuff better to be honest.
I had to make something really good so I decided to tackle one of my favorite cakes, 26) key lime pie! I decided to make a graham cracker crust from scratch too. Both aspects were so easy—I had thought it would be so hard! The cake came out like a dream and was so so so refreshing! I didn’t even have key limes but the Persian limes were just great.
And then the usual follow-up disaster 27) an orange version of the key lime pie which just did not work at all. It overflowed in my oven and the mess was insane. For many days my oven would not function right and the fire alarm kept going off. I had to really get real with oven cleaning which just was so annoying.
Okay then another good cake—this was my Thanksgiving contribution to my neighbor friend’s celebration. 28) Another persimmon pudding pie this time with eggnog buttercream that I tried to dye a persimmon color but turned into this very flamingo hot pink lol. It looked crazy—I made it crazier by putting chocolate covered espresso beans around the edge but whatever it was so good.
This cake is a blur. 29) Some kind of nut butter cake with homemade toffee sauce. I don’t know—it was so ugly but pretty delicious I must say.
I decided to go kinda paleo again just out of boredom so this was a 30) paleo strawberry almond flour cake with a yogurt icing lined with strawberries. It was better than I thought but forgettable!
I strayed from paleo life with a 31) clementine olive oil cake with orange buttercream frosting. I get orange cream cravings a lot! I miss Orange Julius or something. I just think citrus with dairy is heavenly. This was a great cake.
I think this was the day after Christmas and some Instagram post made me crave making a 32) coconut flour cake with crushed candy canes atop coconut cream. It looked great but it was a B-/C+ for me.
I guess this paleo thing was still continuing for me so these were 33) almond and coconut flour chocolate chip cookies. Did I mention I do not like cookies? Yes.
I remember I woke up one winter morning remembering I had a jar of quince jam thanks to my same friend Homa and I had also months before made a rose petal jam that was kinda too sweet to eat much of. I though they would look and maybe even taste amazing as thumbprint cookies which I had not made in some time! I went wrong by making it paleo but they were fine: 34) quince and rose petal thumbprint cookies!
35) These Hu Kitchen recipe paleo cookie dough ball things became something I made many batches of as a healthy snack. Whatever!
I saw a TikTok about 36) matcha brownies and I felt I had to make these, fuck paleo life! I ordered the wrong size brownie tin so I had to put it in a cake pan but wow, matcha brownies are so good. I love the slightly gooey chewiness of a good brownie.
I decided to make my own birthday cake! I always wanted to make an 37) earl grey olive oil cake with a really decadent cardamom buttercream that I tinted a robin’s egg blue/grey with dried rose petal garnish. God, this cake felt so damn couture! It was somewhat avant garde but also just classically highbrow and handsome. I loved it and so did my friend pod!
38) A Valentine’s cake? Why? Well, I toyed with a paleo/keto heart shaped cake and realized I despise keto frosting mixes so much. I added sprinkles, flower petals, it was just all bad.
The my ex boyfriend who was an amazing cook began texting me about black tahini and I thought what was the big deal? Well, I bought a jar and WOW! Within a day I made the best black tahini hummus. I decided 39) black tahini chocolate chip cookies would be amazing and my god they really were. The black tahini love affair continued into 40) black tahini black bean brownies which were really great. I could have sweetened it more as I used cacao powder instead of cocoa but it was a healthy treat that tasted really decadent and interesting. I love black baked goods also! Very goth.
Okay, I have always been intimidated when I see photos of pineapple upside down cake and to be very honest, I am not sure I have ever tried one? Well, I was reading a recipe online and I realized it seemed kind of easy. You just needed the right materials—sliced pineapples and maraschino cherries were not something I kept in stock. Once I ordered those I went at it and WOW! 41) Pineapple upside down cake is so easy! The batter is so amazing too—heavenly creamy delight! And I was so stressed about getting the flip right so it would have that gelatin-like mold appeal, like a 50s cookbook, and wow, it could not have been more perfect. I am so proud of this cake. The friend pod came by to check on me when my back went out and they tried some and were sooo into it!
And this other cake I made last night out of pure boredom/procrastination! 42) A banana cake with coffee cream cheese frosting and chocolate covered espresso beans. Why not? I never bake with coffee and I thought I might as well try. It was extremely good although it tasted my patience—this recipe called for very long baking times at low temp. I also used way too many bananas as I had another weird Instacart order but note to self: you can really freeze excess goods! You have a freezer, girl!
So that’s it. I decided I need to stop. I am baking too much! I do want to try a cheesecake, the one cake I have never tried that I sort of like. I also want to try a pitaya cake as I have been buying frozen dragonfruit and I just love the pink color. I found a recipe for a pitaya rose cheesecake so that might be the one for me next week!
SORRY FOR THE TYPOS—this is the sort of entry I had to sprint through!