i-woke-up-like-this cake / flourless chocolate torte

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You know how in movies, and maybe sometimes in real life, a lady will show up dressed in something cute, looking Veela status amazing, get complimented on it, then she’ll giggle-laugh and say “oh this old thing!” ? Maybe she’ll even throw in a casual hair flip or hand wave. And she’s being all nonchalant and Beyoncé like “I woke up like this” and you KNOW she didn’t wake up like that and just throw something on. You know she spent hours in the bathroom grooming, buffing, scrubbing, tweezing, shaving and exfoliating. You know she spent hundreds of dollars at the gym, running and cycling and ab-crunching. You also know that she went to about 18 different boutiques to find “this old thing” that she “just threw on”. You just know. Unless you’re a dude, and then you probably don’t know. Believe me, this kind of charade is a thing.

Unless. Maybe she really did just wake up like that and throw on something old and still look amazing. Perhaps she’s distantly descended from the same ancestors as Gisele or Taylor and she was born with model thin legs, perfect skin and Michelle Obama arms. And she makes you question all that time and money you spent in the bathroom, at the gym and in all those boutiques.

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This cake is like that. It feels fancy. It easily impresses others. You taste it, and you think WhoaThis took hours to make. Its dark and smooth. The chocolate melts in your mouth like fudge, but without being overpoweringly sweet. It’s decadent. It’s fancy enough for a wedding, but it’s not so fancy that you can’t serve it for a birthday or a book club.

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how to make pie crust

butter

Make your own pie crust. Just do it.

butter, chopped

Homemade pie crust is one of those things that make people feel fancy. Decadent. Spoiled. Because it is sold ready-made in grocery stores, it makes home bakers feel like it is somehow out of their reach. “That’s too serious for me, I’m not a serious baker.” you might think. Or, “That has to be difficult. I’ve got enough difficult things in my life, thank you very much.”

Wrong! Homemade pie crust is not too serious for you, and it is not difficult! You can do it! Think Rosie the Riveter.

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lemoniest lemon cake / rachel getting married

finished lemon cake

When I was 22 years old, I was engaged to be married. I was also a senior in college, frantically trying to graduate from nursing school and look for a job and buy a house and plan a wedding all at the same time. Basically I was a train wreck. I remember looking at the wedding budget I had and the enormous guest list of friends and family and thinking This is not going to work! There’s not enough money! There won’t be enough food and everything will be UGLY!! I remember sitting on the floor of my brother’s apartment, sharing my sorrows and generally freaking out, and there were lots and lots of tears. Through what must have been a mixture of love, pity, and a strange desire to fill their limited spare time, my brother and sister-in-law volunteered to participate in my hand-made wedding. They would create two of the main wedding components themselves: David would screen-print the invitations by hand, and Jennifer would bake the cakes, and it would be so much cheaper. It will all work out they soothed, and that was that. I’m not sure they realized what they were taking on, because there ended up being 600+ (!!) invitations hand printed and hundreds of cakes baked. Maybe not hundreds of cakes, but I’m sure it felt like it at the time.

wedding cake 1

wedding cake 2(photo credit for the above two images: W + E Photographie)

The cakes (and the invites) turned out to be perfect and exactly the way I wanted them to be. It was truly a labor of love, helping two people celebrate their new marriage and their commitment to one another.

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Almost four years later, and The Lemon Cake is still talked about in hushed, reverent tones. Multiple people, relatives and friends, have admitted to me that it was the best cake they’ve ever had. “Share The Lemon Cake recipe with me!” they ask. “Bake The Lemon Cake for me!” they plead. “Tell me how to make The Lemon Cake or I’m writing you straight out of my will” they threaten.

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