CAKES THAT TRAVEL
for birthdays, parties and picnics (Chocolate! Olive Oil! Blueberry!)
For as long as I can remember, birthdays meant a date with my mom’s irresistible double-decker Devil’s Food chocolate cake, with her famous (to us) chocolate icing on top. She never failed in this consistent brand of love, making this classic cake for every family member, plus my dad’s nurses, our special friends and neighbors all through the year—even if it meant tucking it into her Tupperware cake carrier and delivering it by airplane (which she did, often).
She brought it to my college dorm room, to my first apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, to my house in upstate New York, to my siblings’ houses in Chicago and out West… and now to her grandchildren from San Diego to South Carolina (that cake carrier has a lot of frequent flyer miles; more about that, way below).
My mom will stop at nothing for the love of tradition, and her family.
Not all cakes travel well. I know—I made extravagant birthday and some wedding cakes for friends and colleagues for decades, jumping through hoops to get them to where they need to go, without looking lopsided and jet-lagged.
Those days are behind me. Life calls for more simplicity, now.
Lately, I’ve been called on to make birthday cakes for the spring birthday club—a crew of special women in my world who were all born between March and June. Since I’m not hosting all of these parties at my own home, finding cakes that fit the personality and mood of each person and event—and travels well—is key.
I have a few I’ve come to rely on this season that never fail me. The first, my Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cake (above)—is perfect for deep dark chocolate lovers. Bonus: It can easily be made up to 1 day ahead. There’s also this Almost Famous Cranberry Bundt Cake, from my book Every Day is Saturday, which right about now I start making with fresh blueberries (see this post by Sarah Kieffer for details!). For a less formal occasion—say, a picnic—you can do the same with these cheeky Snacking Loaves.
But my new favorite—which is what we’re really here to talk about today—is the Almond Olive Oil Torte, pictured above (and below!) from Colu Henry’s luxe new book, Colu Cooks. The cake (and this book) are both, for lack of a better and more succinct description—perfect.
This cake is easy to make gluten-free (just sub in Cup-For-Cup, One-for-One or King Arthur’s All Purpose GF flour), as I have three times, dusted with powered sugar and served with whipped cream. This tender cake was contributed to Colu’s book by Alexandra Stafford (or as the internet knows her, @alexandracooks) and here’s what Ali has to say about it.
It’s got lots of bright citrus flavor, thanks to orange zest, freshly squeezed juice, and a splash of orange- flavored liqueur. The inclusion of almond flour not only gives the crumb texture but also keeps it soft and delicate. Olive oil keeps the cake moist for days, so don’t be afraid to make this one ahead of time. —A.S.
I’ll link to these recipes in a tidy list for your spring fetes and feasts, along with the full recipe for Alexandra (and now, Colu’s!) Almond Olive Oil Cake, below.
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ORANGE, OLIVE OIL, AND ALMOND TORTE
by Alexandra Stafford for Colu Cooks* — Reprinted with permission from Abrams.
SERVES: 10 TO 12
TIME: 50 MINUTES
BUTTER OR NONSTICK COOKING SPRAY, FOR GREASING THE PAN
3 LARGE EGGS
1 CUP PLUS 1 TABLESPOON (215 G) SUGAR
ZEST OF 1 ORANGE
¼ CUP (50 G) FRESHLY SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE
2 TABLESPOONS GRAND MARNIER
¾ CUP (180 ML) OLIVE OIL
1 CUP (90 G) ALMOND FLOUR (FILL THE CUP LIGHTLY)
1 CUP (125 G) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
1 ¼ TEASPOONS KOSHER SALT
CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR, FOR SERVING
PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 350°F (175°C). GREASE A 9-INCH (23 CM) ROUND PAN WITH BUTTER OR NONSTICK SPRAY. LINE THE BOTTOM WITH A ROUND OF PARCHMENT PAPER.
IN A LARGE BOWL, WHISK THE EGGS UNTIL FOAMY AND COMBINED, ABOUT 1 MINUTE. ADD THE SUGAR AND THE ORANGE ZEST AND BEAT UNTIL SLIGHTLY THICKENED AND, WHEN YOU LIFT THE WHISK FROM THE BOWL, A RIBBON OF THE EGG AND SUGAR MIXTURE TRAILS BEHIND, 2 TO 3 MINUTES. WHISK IN THE ORANGE JUICE, GRAND MARNIER, AND OLIVE OIL, UNTIL COMBINED.
IN A MEDIUM BOWL, WHISK TOGETHER THE ALMOND FLOUR, ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, AND SALT. ADD THE DRY INGREDIENTS TO THE WET INGREDIENTS AND STIR WITH A SPATULA TO COMBINE. POUR THE BATTER INTO THE PREPARED PAN AND BAKE FOR 25 TO 30 MINUTES, OR UNTIL THE TOP FEELS SPRINGY TO THE TOUCH AND A TESTER INSERTED IN THE CENTER OF THE CAKE COMES OUT CLEAN. LET THE CAKE COOL FOR 10 MINUTES IN ITS BAKING PAN, THEN INVERT ONTO A COOLING RACK.
SERVE WARM OR AT ROOM TEMPERATURE AND USING A FINE- MESHED SIEVE DUST CONFECTIONERS’ SUGAR OVER TOP.
*The rest of this book is exceptionally delicious and visually divine—get the book at this link, below! You won’t be sorry.
SIX CAKES THAT TRAVEL WELL:
ALMOST FAMOUS CRANBERRY BUNDT CAKE (but make with blueberries!)
EASY ITALIAN APPLE CAKE (but make with plums!)
NOTES ABOUT PRE-WHIPPING CREAM
Pre-whipping cream sounds like a good idea, because it makes à la minute cake service a breeze. It’s fine to do it, just know that when it sits, the whipped cream can separate into a thicker, airy (almost-dry or over-whipped-feeling) whipped cream on top, with a luscious but droopier whipped cream at the bottom.
A quick trip: slightly under whip your cream, transfer to a tightly sealed, reusable container with plenty of extra space at the top. Bring along a whisk, and when you’re reading to serve, give your cream a few folds to bring it back to life before serving.
FOUR CAKE CARRIERS THAT EARN THEIR KEEP
PRACTICAL, NOT PRETTY: My mom bought me an updated version of the same Tupperware Cake Carrier she uses, that doubles as a pie carrier (with an insert, you can safely stack two pies). I love it because it has the safety net of a sturdy handle that locks in, and can be carried with one hand from the top.
OLD SCHOOL: I also inherited my grandmother’s vintage tin cake carrier, which she made into a double decker pie carrier with a simple foil-lined. You’ll find these at garage sales and vintage shops and if you have room to store on, they’re a sweet find. THIS is the exact one I have.
A REAL CHARMER: Less practical but charming for picnics, is an Amish Pie Carrier—which would certainly work for all the simple cakes above, too.
BUDGET MOVE: You can find cheaper options of the Tupperware carrier on Amazon (like this one), but without the lock and sturdy handle. If you decide to give this version a go, always carry this style by the base, with both hands.