"For every two minutes of glamour, there are eight hours of hard work."
I reckon there is probably rather more than eight hours work in this particular cake. But fear not, this article is not going to be about being this glamorous. It's also not going to be about 8 hours work. This is obviously the work of a professional - well the decoration anyway. Who knows what the actual cake is like? It might just be a very dry and tasteless sponge cake. And how on earth would you slice it up? Again - you would need a professional. And unsurprisingly, because I just looked - it's an Instagram thing. It's all about the glamour.
No this post derives from two things that came together today.
First - in my various magazines sitting on my desk waiting for their turn on this blog - I had bookmarked three rather glamorous looking cakes, although I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with them. Just a brief mention in an oddments post perhaps, along the lines of give it a try.
But then I was feeling particularly low this morning - mostly about the diminishing prospect of our week in Port Douglas later this year. It was going to be in a a couple of weeks time, but that has been cancelled; definitely by Qantas who cancelled the flights, and potentially anyway by COVID in general and the premier of Queensland in particular. It didn't help to read in the AFR this morning, of various celebrities and rich people who have somehow - either legitimately before lockdowns - or rather more dubiously, since - got themselves up to Port Douglas or luxury resorts on the islands, where they are very comfortable thank you and not planning to return to their various homes any time soon.
All of which emotion is summed up by the current weather. The sun is actually shining but at the same time an enormous black cloud is looming. No rainbow appears to be present though.
So here I present some ways of potentially lifting the gloom without too much skill, expense or time. Because:
"Where there is cake, there is hope. And there is always cake." Dean Koontz
Chocolate and hazelnut fondants with pickled grapes from Florence Knight in an old delicious. magazine. There's always something especially decadent about chocolate isn't there, and the photograph makes those hazelnut crumbs almost look like gold. As to pickled grapes - well according to the author
"they add sourness to what would otherwise be an overly rich dessert."
Can you ever have an overly rich dessert? But yes, I do think that they might be good. They'd certainly be different if you are into making a statement. Given that the particular edition of the magazine from which this recipe comes, dates back to 2014 it's not surprising that the original is not online. However, the author included it in one of her cookbooks - One: a Cook and her Cupboard and Google Books has a copy. There is one slight difference in that the delicious. recipe calls for cabernet sauvignon vinegar - or red wine vinegar, and the book version calls for Moscatel vinegar or white wine vinegar - a good one. Red grapes, red vinegar surely? Strictly speaking this is not a cake I suppose, but it caught my eye because of its glamour and it's horrendously easy, if a bit lavish with the eggs - 3 eggs and 3 egg yolks. So easy that I should maybe make it with the grandchildren some day. And certainly very wow.
Zabaglione ice-cream cake with grappa strawberries from Valli Little in delicious.
"Glamour really has to do with good lighting, doesn't it?" Nigella Lawson
The two pictures above are of the same cake - indeed it's the same photo but cropped differently. The one on the right is online, the one on the left in the magazine, and indeed I cropped that one even more. There is more darkness below with highlights the whiteness of the cake which makes the strawberries look more luscious. The one on the right looks wonderful, but somehow not quite as richly glamorous as the one on the left. The difference is not quite so striking here, but the originals certainly have a completely different feel to each of them. So yes - it's all in the lighting.
I confess that this one is a little more complicated in that you are making an ice-cream first, and it's equally demanding in the egg area - 8 egg yolks - so there might be pavlova alongside and therefore a party involved. It also requires Marsala and amaretti biscuits, but then it also uses a store bought sponge cake for the crumbs. Well why waste the effort on making a sponge cake that's only going to end up as crumbs anyway. My initial thought was keep this one for your next party - whenever that will be - but why not have a go now? It might cheer you up. And we have a lot of time our hands as well.
"Glamour is assurance. It is a kind of knowing that you are all right in every way, mentally and physically and in appearance, and that, whatever the occasion or the situation, you are equal to it." Marlene Dietrich
Citrus semifreddo ice-cream cake from Curtis Stone in the latest Coles Magazine
From Zabaglione to semifreddo which is also a kind of ice-cream. I must be hankering after summer, but I just loved the look of this. Well I'm more into citrus and caramel than chocolate really. Some of the ingredients are a bit cheffy - almond flour, extra virgin coconut oil, cream cheese but then again they are, of course, readily available in your local Coles supermarket. There are three parts to this - the citrus kind of curd/sauce (lemon and lime); the crumb mixture for the shell and the cream cheese filling. Only four eggs required with no separation. Really the only potentially tricky bit is the making of the citrus sauce or whatever you like to call it. But this is Coles Magazine, even if Curtis Stone is a Michelin starred chef, so it's really not that hard. You do need a bit of time - bits have to chill or freeze. But, as I have said already, time is not in short supply at the moment.
"A party without cake is really just a meeting." Julia Child
Or perhaps that should be reversed to be something along the lines of 'if you have a cake, you have a party'.
Double amaretto semifreddo with golden gleaming sauce from Nigella Lawson
I know - I said there were three. This one probably doesn't meet he criteria of cake, but it certainly has glamour, and not just in the persona of the author - Nigella.
This is another example of how lighting can make a difference to the glamour. On the left the delicious. version, on the right a version emanating I think from Serious Eats. Yes it's a semifreddo so not strictly a cake, but if you serve it as Nigella Lawson does in delicious. magazine and probably in her book NIgellissima, it almost looks like a cake, and the dark background - the rest of the page is fundamentally dark - makes it glow like a jewel. The jewels in this case being apricot jam and amaretti biscuit crumbs. Also simple, and only one egg white but you do need some amaretto liqueur.
There are lots of other doable glamorous cakes out there. Pretty much every edition of every food magazine has at least one. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to that subject alone, and god knows how many Instagram photos. Alas I am not part of that world. I have never been much into making cakes unless I have to produce one for a book group, a dinner party or any old party really. And, of course, these days there are no parties. But nevertheless when I see beautiful photos such as the above, and then when I read the recipe I am sometimes tempted. Often the reason I don't make them is because there is no 'occasion' to make them for, but this is stupid isn't it? Why not make one just for David and I. Something to lift the spirits and make the day special. The meal special in fact. You just have to make sure that it's a cake that will last a couple of days, because there are only two of you. If you're a family - there's no excuse. Get to it now.
"Remember, no matter what life throws at us, we can always bake a cake! Sarah Ban Breathnach
I could have a go at the chocolate fondants though. You could halve that. Not quite a cake - but definitely glamorous.
I found these two cake quotes that are not particularly relevant but which I couldn't resist.
"My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it." Boris Johnson
"Love is when you have a really amazing piece of cake, and it’s the very last piece, but you let him have it." E. Lockhart