Odette Williams’s Simple Cake arrived on my doorstep the day before Phoebe’s birthday, but something tells me even if it was a random Tuesday in the middle of the night, this book would’ve given me no choice but to beeline for the kitchen to bake a cake, like the one you are looking at above: What she calls Chocolatey Chocolate Cake with Silky Marshmallow Icing.
Simple Cake is my favorite kind of cookbook: Beautiful, personal, poetic without being treacly. While there’s something to be said for the biblical “category killer” type of collection, the one that has every recipe you’ll ever need, the baking books that get me to break out the standing mixer are the ones that feel like the author just pulled out a few stained index cards from her wooden recipe box; the ones that have the overall feel of How lovely of you to stop by. That’s what Simple Cake is. Williams gives us recipes for 10 cakes and 15 toppings. And though that might not sound like a lot, once you do the mix-and-match math there, you’ll see it’s probably all you’ll ever need.
Once you leaf through it, you will find yourself so happy you still have that bag of almond flour in the pantry because: Almond Gato! (So simple! Seven ingredients; one of them is salt.) It will suddenly occur to you that maybe a warm Cinnamon Donut Cake (think farmer’s market cider donuts, but in cake form) would cheer up your daughter who is injured and sidelined from playing her favorite sport. Or perhaps Bribery Cake (Chocolatey chocolate cake with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream) would work for that, too. As Williams’ writes, “It’s the cake you bake to help you or a loved one across the finish line.” Next up for me: TLC Cakes (pan-fried Coconut Cake), Self-Care Cake (Milk and Honey Cake with Whipped Cream); Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake, called A Cake for the Working Week.
In other words, it’s impossible to read this book and not think: It’s a good day to bake a cake.
Chocolatey Chocolate Cake with Silky Marshmallow Icing
You can double this recipe when it’s party time—just use a 15 by 11-inch sheet pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Makes one 10 by 3-inch round cake. To make this mocha, replace half the boiling water (so 1/2 cup) with freshly brewed coffee or espresso. Preparation: 20 minutes
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-by-3-inch round pan with butter, line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper, and grease the paper. (I’ll let you just grease, line the bottom of the pan, and lightly flour the sides if you’re feeling lazy.)
Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, cocoa,baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift.
Add the sugar and whisk until combined.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla together.
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until thereÂ are no lumps and the batter is smooth.
Carefully pour in the boiling water and stir until combined. (Watch the little ones with the hot water!)
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the centerÂ comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
Remove from the oven and let the cake stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Peel off the parchment paper from the sides. Invert the cake, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and cool on a wire rack.
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 1/2 inches of water, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Place the water, egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla in a metal mixing bowl. (Use the mixing bowl of a standing mixer if you have one.) Place the bowl on top of the saucepan. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.