Chocolate Fudge Pie

There’s something about chocolate pie that seems sort of wrong, right? Not because it photographs blurry—that’s just science!—or because its appealing exterior could be hiding an unwelcome surprise, but because it’s too… showy, somehow.

Pie is barely sweetened peak-season fruit and soft, warming spices; pie is rich custard that refuses to hold its shape when sliced and placed onto a plate; pie is labor-intensive but somehow unfussy. Pie is humble. Pie is not a moist, dense, almost criminally rich flourless chocolate cake baked in a pie dish, a dessert that earns its name only because it happens to be encased in a buttery, fully unnecessary crust.

Yet here we are. Continue reading

Mocha Torte (and Chocolate Sauce)

I was raised on Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake—that is, a frozen cake base covered in smoothed-out ice cream, then decorated with completely extraneous, rock-hard icing. I thought it was delicious, even if it always left a trail of broken plastic utensils in its wake.

It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I learned people here have an entirely different conception of ice cream cake—that it’s not necessarily cake topped with a layer of ice cream, as the name would imply, but simply layers of ice cream in the shape of a cake (or maybe in the shape of a whale), separated by nubby little crunchy thingies that resembled nothing more than chocolate-flavored dirt. But like, good dirt. Continue reading

Chocolate Cheese Pie (and Graham Cracker Crust)

The last time I attempted a cheesecake recipe, I served it on a torn-up paper bag, the height of rustic-eco-friendly-chic sophistication. (That, or we were at a picnic and forgot to bring plates.) My second cheesecake-like concoction was served in much more cheesecake-friendly environs—indoors, on a table, bathed in soft mood lighting and the wafting strains of an excellent playlist. Yet I still managed not to take a single decent picture, because even in my third (!) year of food blogging, I have yet to figure out how to make brown, crumbly things look tasty in photographs.

All of which is to say this: both the title and look of this dessert are unappetizing. “Chocolate cheese pie” sounds like a mistake, or a gross idiom I’d rather not try to define; when sliced, the pie looks not like this, but like a particularly heinous Pinterest fail. Continue reading

Devil’s Food Cake (and Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting)

This spring, I became the last person in America—the last person in the world?—to fall head over heels for The Great British Bake-Off, an utterly charming reality competition about very nice people crafting elaborate pastries in the English countryside. Whoever wins gets nothing more than a quiet sense of self-satisfaction and a tacky glass cake stand. It’s comforting; it’s soothing; it’s an endless font of baking jargon I’d never heard before, and binging it over the course of a few months has given my husband and me an insatiable need to bring up frangipane and choux pastry and Victoria sponges (to say nothing of  joconde or genoise!!) as frequently as possible. But only when we’re alone, I promise.

I won’t say that the series inspired this cake, although there is, apparently, a recipe for devil’s food cake in a cookbook associated with the show. But I will say that our binge gave me a renewed appreciation for idiosyncratic pastries with silly names, the Bakewell tarts and charlotte russes and baba au rhums of the world. Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Cake (again)

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I was raised to prize homemade desserts over the grocery store kind, to always choose a slightly misshapen, even over-or-underdone chocolate cookie over a perfectly round, pale yellow circle with impeccably spread, machine-made icing. (Unless we’re talking about an Eat’n Park smiley face cookie, in which case all bets are off.) Desserts made from scratch are just better, my mom always said, and I’m sure she got that from Nonnie before her—they’re less sweet, more complex, filled with the rich, satisfying taste of real butter.

I still believe all this to be true. However: For those awful moments when, whoops, you’re feeling snobby and superior but don’t actually have time to whip up an entire cake from scratch (perish the thought!), there is in fact a decent halfway solution. Continue reading

Hot Fudge and Strawberry Sauce

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I dare you to name a Passover dessert that isn’t terrible. Cakes made with matzo meal? They’re inevitably dry and powdery. Macaroons from a canister? Grossly sticky and sickeningly sweet. Those disgusting jellied candy fruit slicesGet the hell away from me and never return.

Faced with options like these, you might as well stick to the sad bowl of grapes and sliced cantaloupe lurking at the end of your seder’s buffet.

There is, of course, a solution to the terrible Passover dessert conundrum. Continue reading