If you love sweet treats, beautiful irresistible desserts, simple home-made goodies, and elegant expressions of the professional pastry chef’s genius, you will love Jill O’Connor and her latest cookbook. Entitled Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-Able Recipes, this bright, delight-filled book is a whimsical valentine to the pleasures of baking, and also a smart, practical, and detailed workbook on how to create exquisite, spectacularly tasty confections for all the occasions that anchor and enrich our days.
Like her best-selling cookbook, Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey: Recipes for the Serious Sweet Tooth, this book offers bakers an extraordinary and unique array of ways to create sweet sensations, presenting every imaginable aspect of cake-creativity in recipes for everyday bakers and dedicated confectionary artists. Multi-layered extravaganzas share space with fun, friendly snack cakes, and elegant compotes play nicely with everyday bakes.
Seven chapters in Cake, I Love You cover the salient and sensational flavors of the sweet kitchen: Banana; Coconut; Chocolate; Caramel and Butterscotch; Citrus; Spirits and Spices; and Garden and Orchard. Within each flavor circle, Jill starts with can-do cake squares and moves on to challenging celebration centerpieces. Luscious Lemon Loaf for a busy day, and Lemon Bomb for a weekend baking day, with time to make lemon curd, French meringue kisses, and lemoncello syrup.
I love Jill’s affection for traditional confections like Sticky Toffee Pudding, a signature British cake which is made with chopped dates, molasses, and brown sugar, and crowned with a luscious toffee sauce. In addition to classic cakes, her cake line-up includes such memorable confections as Heartless Bastard Break-Up Cake; Coconut-Fudge Snowball (think Hostess Snoballs but freshly, brilliantly made and reimagined for grown-ups who loved that lunchbox snoball but wondered if there couldn’t be more? There is, and Jill has given us the key to it on page 58.
A prolific food writer, cookbook author, and professional pastry chef with best-selling cookbooks and a monthly recipe feature story in the San Diego Union Tribune, Jill knows all the secrets and techniques of the pastry pro’s kitchen. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London, Jill studied at the International Pastry Arts Center in New York City, and worked as a pastry chef before turning to food writing as a means of sharing her knowledge and love for sweets and baking in general and cakes in particular.
As a mom with two daughters, Jill knows the meaning and value of making cupcakes for soccer practice and school events. She applies her pro-skills to crafting dream-come-true birthday cakes for her family, as well as to her business, creating recipes and food stories for newspapers and magazines including Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Fine Cooking, and Food & Wine.
I made three recipes from Cake I Love You, beginning with Plum-Cardamom Cake. I used nectarines instead of plums, and remain amazed at how lovely, elegant, and delicious it is, spiced gently with nutmeg and cardamom, enriched with almond paste and almond extract, and dusted with crunch almond slices and a little blizzard of powdered sugar.
The English classic cake known as Sticky Toffee Pudding could have been chocolate, with the deep and intense rich goodness the layer provided. Yet all that intense flavor came from chopped dates. Incredible texture and flavor, new to me, but now it will be on my go-to list for ease and simplicity in a classic cake. Whipped cream made a fine accompaniment, though vanilla ice cream could also serve nobly in this cause of gilding a traditional and time-honored lily.
The Cake I Love You recipe I’m sharing in this post is simple and speedy, a delight to bake and take. Today would be a good day to bake it, since this is National Chocolate Cake Day. Now, if you’re feeling culinarily ambitious, Jill’s chocolate chapter also offers Chocolate-Peanut Butter Blackout Cake; Black Irish Chocolate-Whiskey Cake; and Shot in the Dark, a dazzling creation with Espresso-Stracciatella Buttercream and Milk Chocolate-Espresso Ganache.
But it’s already the day, and Jill’s Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake with Chocolate Bar Frosting delivers complex deliciousness with simplicity and speed. In Cake I Love You, Jill has created a book of recipes we can play with, choosing a challenge, reaching for new skills and lofty goals; or going straight for a can-do confection. It’s all there, with background, instruction, and education. We know the occasion; whether we’re looking for a challenge or more a simple, accessible treasure. Baking books are often one or the other: Simple or Advanced; Beginner/QuickEasy or Serious Baker!. Jill’s Cake I Love You truly works for both kinds of cooks, and for people like me who are both. I love a Big Project (Shot In The Dark, and The Scotchmallow, I’m lookin’ at you!); and I also loved stirring together a little of this and a little of that and getting this gorgeous and delicious and delightful nectarine-topped beauty.
Go find Jill’s book at your favorite indie bookshop, or order it online — and while you wait, look for Jill’s cooking and baking (not just sweets and cakes, she’s ALL the delicious kitchen magic!) in the San Diego Union-Tribune, where her monthly food columns are a treasury of tasty ideas. Here’s one (CLICK THIS) offering a cold-weather supper of chipotle beef chili, beer-raised bread, and okay, a cake, but it’s a Spiced Rum Pumpkin Bundt Cake and it’s very very fine.
Here’s Jill just this week, (CLICK HERE) making Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Chocolate Bar Frosting on Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel. So delightful and fun and full of great baking info. Watch it while you make the cake!
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¾ cup natural cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mayonnaise (do not use low-fat)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder or coffee powder
- 1 1/3 cups boiling water
- Ingredients for Chocolate Bar Frosting
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Large pinch fine sea salt
- 2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Spray a metal 9- by-13 inch sheet pan (or two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. (If using round cake pans, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.)
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the mayonnaise and the vanilla until smooth.
- Lower the mixer speed to its lowest speed and beat in 1/2 the dry ingredients just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder with the boiling water.
- Add 1/2 of the espresso mixture to the batter and beat on low speed just until the batter is smooth, about 5 to 10 seconds.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
- Beat in the remaining espresso and beat just until smooth. The batter will be somewhat thin.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (s) and bake 22 to 25 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- For the frosting: In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine the semisweet and milk chocolate chips with the butter. Heat on high power for 1 minute.
- Stir together until the butter and chocolates are completely melted and smooth. If not completely melted after 1 minute, heat again in 15-second increments, stirring until smooth.
- Use a large balloon whisk or a wooden spoon and stir in the sour cream.
- Beat in add 2 cups [xx g] confectioners’ sugar, just until smooth and spreadable. If a thicker, sweeter frosting is desired, beat in an additional cup of sugar.
- Spread the top of the cooled cake with the Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting.
- Cut into squares and serve.
Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil, and store at room temperature. The cake will stay fresh for about 2 days.
(For layer cake: place one layer on a cake stand and frost the top with about 1 cup frosting. Top with second layer and spread the remaining frosting on the top and around the sides of the cake.).)