On Monday, I caught a death cold (wheezing coughing, extreme fatigue and so much mucus I thought I would never breathe right again) which was probably compounded by staying up until 1 a.m. to finish this cake for my sweet friend, Cali.
Once again, another roommate’s birthday has come and gone and while no one is going to award me prizes for making perfectly leveled cakes, at least everyone said this one tasted good.
Halfway (or so) through business school, I re-met my friend Skyler. We had been vaguely acquainted in college, but had never really interacted (save for one VERY MEANINGFUL MOMENT OF EYE CONTACT). But I ran into him at a concert in June, and then again at a shop in July, and at a friend’s pedal party, and then again while out with friends.
At the beginning of this year, I had the intention of sharing some of my classic family recipes on a monthly basis. One finished business degree, trip to Australia and Thailand, start of a semi-demanding new job and continued freelance work later…that goal had to be moved down the list of priorities.
To the readers who have stuck with me through my irregular posting schedule this year–you are the best! Part of my spotty posting has been due to the fact that I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go with The Pancake Princess in the future. I think the opportunity is ripe to expand beyond a recipe-only blog, so we’ll see if 2017 brings more time to flesh out some ideas.
Wine cake was often made for bake sales, or occasionally for when people came over. After letting the steaming, craggy-bottomed cake cool in the pan, we would breathlessly (though the fear of ripping off the top of the cake due to sticking wasn’t really real thanks to the magic of cake mix) unearth the whole cake by plopping it upside down on a plate and dust the top with a gentle cloud of powdered sugar.
The ridges of our bundt cake dictated the size of each slice (alternating thick and thin) and the thick pieces were far superior, not only for the obvious size difference, but also because of the greater surface area of browned, gently crisp yet-still-tender crust that formed around the pale, plush, wine-scented interior (the alcohol bakes out leaving just a mild flavor, don’t worry). I always ate the middle part in short geometric fork strokes, leaving the caramelized crusts for last.
Hilariously, I had plan to recreate the exact cake, but when I found the recipe my mom always uses in the recipe card box, I almost had a heart attack. You guys, the original recipe uses Orville Redenbacher Butter Flavor Oil. As oil. In the cake. And a lot of it. Plus yellow cake mix. Plus packaged pudding mix.
I mentally wrestled with the recipe for approximately 10 hot seconds and then decided to scrap it and try a from-scratch version (for some reason, 95% of wine cake recipes with yellow cake seem to be made with cake mix! Is this some 80s conspiracy?!). Taking inspiration from this DIY instant pudding mix, I added a smidge more sugar and cornstarch to the recipe to act as the pudding replacer. Then, I used this recipe as a guide to replicate the boxed cake mix-type cake.
In the end, the cake turned out deliciously–maybe it was just my imagination, but I think the from-scratch version cake had a more natural, less synthetic-buttery taste to it. The crust was also crisper (major bonus!) and though I have to admit the crumb was slightly less fine (boxed cake mix, why u so darn magical), there’s still a really fresh and plush tenderness to it. This cake makes for great holiday baking and gifting in case you’re looking for inspiration!
I made a LOT of mistakes with this cake, but it still turned out, well, as Momofuku cakes do. Multiple layers of cake, frosting, jam and cookie-like crumbles never turn out that terribly bad.
I made this for my classmate’s bachelorette party (wine tasting and lake housing off a lake near Austin). Although I love her, she’s the type who loves lemon, prefers fruit over chocolate (*suspicious side eye*). After much brainstorming, I thought this cake would be a good fit with its layers of cheesecake, strawberry jam, vanilla cake, graham cracker crumbs, and lemon curd. Overall, even though it got slightly mashed up in the freezer, it went over well–the texture of those crumbly, salty-sweet graham cracker crumbs against the creamy cheesecake, uber-silky lemon curd and dense cake, UGH. Feed me.
Also, KIND OF BIG NEWS. I graduated!!!!!!!!!!
From my MBA program!!!!!!!!
Wait what? Didn’t I just start?
That’s how I’m feeling too. It’s unreal. But I am now a for real, 100% genuine real person miraculously holding a pretty cool job in product marketing who gets to add three big, fat letters to her resume.
And though everyone has been congratulating me all weekend (as normal people do), I feel like I should be passing on the credit to the small country of people who helped me through the program: my parents, who heavily encouraged me to go in the first place, my classmates, who tried countless times to explain LIFO and FIFO accounting to me, cool new friends who commiserated with me and assured me that feeling 100% lost actually means you’re doing it right, old bosses, new bosses, certain ex-boyfriends who tutored me through introductory Finance, siblings who provided encouragement and giggles, friends who boosted my confidence and lifted me up when I didn’t think I could.
I’m leaving my program a very different person from where I started, and I can’t begin to cover how I’m feeling, doing graduation second time around. So I’ll leave it for another time, but in the meantime, I also want to thank YOU, every single blog reader who has stuck with me for the past two years–I know my posting schedule has been slow and erratic, but thank you for reading and being here. I wish I could feed you this cake in appreciation.
When I tell you this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, I’m not exaggerating. It got the stamp of approval from the roommate (though she doesn’t love cake, this went into her top 5 cakes of all time). It got a thumbs up from a classmate who hates salt (and this cake veers salty). It got a double thumbs up from my cousin who ate it frozen out of the freezer.
Five or so days after making this cake (for no reason other than we had ripe bananas and leftover s’mores ingredients from camping) and giving about 60% of it away, I found myself balled up around my computer wondering why I was incapable of finishing this one school assignment and seemed to have been racked with major PMS symptoms with no period in sight and why I felt like I wanted to cry and curl up into a ball and sleep for a day. And then I realized it was probably due to eating slivers of cake several times a day, occasional to the detriment of real meals #adulting
Sugar overload. Sneaks up on me every time. (And right before spring break in tropical Costa Rica + Puerto Rico! Nice.)
This is why I can’t make nice things and keep them around.
After that awful afternoon, I put on my responsibility pants and froze the rest of the cake and started eating kale and tofu again and felt much better.
I think that was a long way of me trying to tell you that this cake should be an occasion cake, not an everyday cake. There’s far too much gooey, toasty marshmallow, silky graham cracker cookie butter-ish frosting and irresistibly salty cookie crumbs to remain unmolested in any single household for long. Oh, and it’s SUGARY in case you didn’t get that. And incredibly dense. The moist banana cake definitely compresses under the weight of thick layers of textured frostings (fluffy marshmallow! toothsome ganache! smooth graham cracker frosting!). Start people unaccustomed to these types of crazy layer cakes off with very small slivers.
Like any momofuku-inspired cake, there are more than a few components to this (five, to be exact), but it’s really not that difficult to pull together (like one of the components is melting chocolate chips and almond milk together. Takes like 2 minutes, with stirring). However, for your sanity, you may want to break this recipe up–for example, by making and freezing the banana cake and crumbs ahead of time, then making the frostings the day of assembly. This cake was heavily influenced by much drooling and lusting after Michelle’s banana cake (thanks Michelle!)
It’s your party, do what you want.