The Kapow of Absinthe Cake & A Dave Lebovitz Book Giveaway

Looks so innocent, doesn't it? But wait until you get a taste of the glaze. Yowza!

So, you might not want to get behind the wheel of a car after eating a slice of this unique cake.

Or try to recite the alphabet backwards. Or even attempt walking a straight line.

OK, I exaggerate — but just a little.

You see, this cake has absinthe in it. Yes, the potent Green Fairy, the once illicit spirit that was once thought to be hallucinogenic (a notion that’s since been debunked) that’s typically 100-plus proof.

The recipe is from “The Sweet Life In Paris” (Broadway Books) by cookbook author and blogger extraordinaire, David Lebovitz.

There’s 1/4 cup of absinthe in the batter, which largely mellows through baking. But there’s also a glaze of sugar mixed with another 1/4 cup of absinthe that’s brushed over the cake after it cools, giving it the appearance of a winter white icing. This glaze is so wicked strong that my husband wouldn’t even let me give him a few slices to take to his colleagues at work, because he feared they’d all end up tipsy.

This moist, anise-forward cake is made with a little almond flour or stone-ground cornmeal. However, you also can use pistachio meal, which will give it a faint yellow-green tinge like that of absinthe.

To make your own 1/2 cup pistachio flour needed in this recipe, just grind up about 3/4 cup shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachios in a blender until fairly fine. It will still be pretty coarse. It won’t be as fine as flour, but more like gritty sand. I like using the blender for this as opposed to a food processor, because you can grind the nuts finer without risking it all turning into nut butter as quickly as in a food processor.

Lucid absinthe from France.

Just as when cooking with wine, you want to bake with an absinthe that is good enough to drink. I had a sample of Lucid absinthe on hand, so that’s what I used in my cake. This French-made spirit was the first absinthe allowed to be imported into the United States in 2007 after the Alcohol and Tobacco and Tax and Trade Bureau ruled that absinthe could be sold here again for the first time in more than 95 years.

Poured straight into a glass.

Mixed with ice to create the distinctive milky appearance.

With its distinctive cat-eyed decorated black bottle, the 124-proof Lucid has a mellow anise-herbal taste that’s pleasant enough for even someone like me, who normally hates black licorice but loves fennel (I know, go figure). It worked well in this cake, especially with the ground anise seeds in the batter that accentuated the fennel flavor even more.

Enjoy this cake with a kick.

CONTEST: Three lucky Food Gal readers will win a copy of “The Sweet Life in Paris,” which just came out in paperback. The book recounts the amusing ironies and foibles that Lebovitz, a former pastry chef, encountered when he first moved to Paris.  It’s also filled with recipes, such as this one for absinthe cake,  inspired by the City of Light.

Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight April 2. The winner will be announced April 4.

How to win?

Just tell me your favorite memory of Paris or why you most long to visit there. Best three answers win the books.

Here’s my own answer to that question:

“I’ve only visited Paris in the winter. I remember one time when it actually snowed lightly, with snow flakes dusting the ground outside the magnificent Louvre. I stayed at small hotels, where you’d wake up to a simple breakfast of cafe and croissants. It was satisfying to be sure, but all it took was walking out the door to go exploring for me to end up having a second breakfast a mere hour later. But how could I resist when no matter what direction I turned, there was bound to be a pastry shop, with its big glass windows filled with macarons, brioche, and pain au chocolat just beckoning for me to come in out of the cold to enjoy. I could never resist. It’s the only city, where I always relished eating two breakfasts, one right after the other. But in Paris, you just have to indulge.”

Custom cereal for the winner.

WINNER OF LAST WEEK’S CONTEST: In the most recent Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me what your favorite cereal was when you were a kid — and why. The winner will get a chance to design their own custom cereal blend for free at Me & Goji.

Congrats to:

Elise, who wrote, “Growing up, I ate frosted flakes but then in the mid-nineties, there was a commercial about Mr. Mini Wheat going on a blind date. (a Canadian commercial). And so I ate Mini-wheat while looking for a real Mr. Mini Wheat (sweet and funny on one side and serious/stable on the other.)  Finally found him!”

Moist and with an intense anise flavor.

Absinthe Cake

(Makes one 9-inch loaf cake)

For the cake:

3/4 teaspoon anise seeds

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup pistachio or almond flour or 1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup absinthe

Grated zest from 1 orange, preferably unsprayed

For absinthe glaze:

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup absinthe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

Crush anise seeds using a mortar and pestle, or in a freezer bag with a hammer, until relatively fine. Whisk together the white flour, nut flour or cornmeal, baking powder, salt and anise seeds. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer or by hand, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, until completely incorporated.

Combine milk and absinthe with a bit of zest.

Stir  half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add milk and absinthe.

By hand, stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just smooth (do not overmix). Smooth the batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and let cool 30 minutes.

To glaze the cake with absinthe, use a toothpick and poke 50 holes in the cake. In a small bowl, gently stir the sugar and absinthe until just mixed, making sure the sugar doesn’t dissolve. (You can add a bit of orange zest here, too, if you  like.)

Remove the cake from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and set the cake on a cooling rack over a baking sheet.

Baste the cake with the absinthe glaze over the top and sides. Continue until all the glaze is used up.

From “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz

Another David Lebovitz Dessert: Cocoa-Marzipan Pound Cake

More Absinthe Brands to Try: St. George Spirits’ Absinthe Verte

And: Le Torment Verte Absiinthe

And: KublerAbsinthe

Finally: Manhattan Bay Scallop Chowder with Absinthe

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  • LOL, I see you’re finding ways to use up your supply of absinthe! Hope you’re checking the IDs of the friends that you give a slice to! 😉

  • That cake looks divine and scrumptious!

  • Favorite memory of Paris is definitely climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower in a jet-lagged, starving state. That was… interesting, haha. Took me a while to climb all those stairs!

  • That cake sounds so interesting, I’ve never tried anything like that!

  • My first and only time in Paris was when I was 20 years old and was in love with a french guy, who invited me to spend few days there. The funny story is that the same day I arrived he told me that he wasn’t interested in me anymore and that he was dating one of my “friends”. I say “friend” because she has always hated me… I spent a week heartbroken in Paris but made the best of it! I now want to go back with my husband to have a more romantic experience 😉

  • This cake sounds incredible with absinthe and pistachio flour!

  • I long to visit Paris because I have been visiting vicariously though David’s blog for quite some time and, more recently, through French Fridays with Dorie and Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I love Dorie’s little snippets before each recipe, sharing a personal story connecting Paris and France to that recipe. I spend an additional few hours looking up the restaurants, chefs, and places these wonderful food writers have been and it almost seems like I’ve been there with them…almost.

  • I LOVE Paris – tho I havent been in 20 years. The food, museums and a cute guy to boot!

  • What a great name for a bottle of absinthe “Lucid”. Kinda brings back memories of the “seventies”… Just kidding, the cake looks delicious. (Explain how you don’t like black licorice but like fennel) Always interesting Carolyn! 😉

  • I have to quote the fabulous fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, from his movie “unzipped”. “…going to paris, the best thing really?…having the best latte in the world w/ a perfect croissant…that’s really what’s it’s all about for me”

  • I have been lucky enough to go to Paris many times. The first time I was only passing through on my way to Madrid (from Ireland), but there was a train strike so I got “stuck” in Paris for 5 days. Of course, not knowing any French and not having a hotel/hostile I was freaking out. It actually ended up to be a great part of my trip around Europe. I was able to enjoy lots of museums and amazing cheese and wine. The view from the Sacre Coeur at night is spectacular.

  • I’ve been to Paris only once, but it was Great. Lots of food to eat, museums, & gorgeous views. Favorite memory is going to a cafe & seeing everyone had an order of steamed mussels, but since I don’t speak or read French didn’t know how to order it. I should have just pointed & somehow gotten an order, but too shy. So every time I see mussels on the menu anywhere I have memories of Paris. I did learn “moules” is mussels in French after the trip.

  • My memories of Paris are this: Small hotels with alley and courtyard entrances, breakfast at the nearby outdoor cafe which consisted on yummy, fresh baguettes, and cheese and coffee I couldn’t swallow. The 2nd hand bookstore next to the small cafe where we had wine and lunch each day and the Louvre…oh to be able to do it all again…

  • My favorite memory of Paris is from last October – staying in a small apartment off the Rue de Bellville, my husband and I shopped the local food markets for dinner. We had seen a Romanesco during our previous visit, but were staying in a hotel so we couldn’t cook it; this time we had a small kitchen. After enjoying dinner (with the Romanesco) we walked up the hill to the Parc de Bellville, known to be the best place to watch a Paris sunset. Beautiful!

  • In 1959 I was just a bout 16years old when i came to Marcie with the Cunard line and me and my father took the night train to Paris I was sitting between to guy that couldn’t take their hands of me without knowing the language my father dead a sleep I just start crying.they stop.

  • Best memory of Paris is finding is a cheese store that sold Mimolette and baguettes and having a simple lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. It was our cheapest meal – but probably our best.

  • I’ve been to Paris twice and I would love to go back. The last trip was 9 years ago, and I was in a small vocal jazz group. We had a gig playing two sets a night at a fancy hotel bar, and I believe the first set was 10:30 – midnight and the second set was 12:30 – 2:00 am. There was a moment that I remember sitting at the bar after the second set, drinking a glass of “vin rouge”, my eyes burning from the smokey room, my voice hoarse from the smoke and too much singing, thinking THIS is a great moment in Paris. Remember THIS. I was 24.

  • My favorite memory of being in Paris was being a teenager on a school trip. At the end of all of our meals they would send around the cheese plate. Being immature and uncultured teenagers we determined the cheeses too pungent and would routinely throw our napkins over the cheese so as to not smell it. I cannot even imagine now how horrified the restaurant management must of been at my behavior and now, being a cheese lover, I’m horrified for myself that I had access to such great cheese and didn’t eat it.

  • You’ve struck a chord this morning! I love Paris 😀 So many favorites to choose from but when I took my sister for her inaugural visit at the beginning of summer we went on an evening bike tour and we stopped at the ÃŽle Saint-Louis for some Berthellon and then finished the evening with a bateau mouche cruise with some wine, cheese and baguette. It was magical to see Paris thru a young, first-time visitor’s eyes!

  • I have never been to Paris, but I long to go for the coffee, breads, and cheeses! I have never met a artisanal loaf of bread of interesting cheese that I didn’t love, and I imagine Paris to be fill with delightful examples of both!

  • Pistachio flour and anise seeds sound great in this cake. I’m wondering about toning down the glaze by subbing some lemon juice for part of the absinthe? Now, I’m running to mark the recipe in the book!

  • Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog (Healthy Girl Scout Cookie Makeover). It’s great to discover your blog! Your cake looks fabulous and am a big DL fan.

    I’ve been to Paris three times, but I’ll always remember my first time. It was 1989. I met him in a little bistro and it was love at first bite. What a fella, that Nutella. That chocolate and hazelnut guy inside my crepe did things to me like no chocolate had ever done before. He was rich, dark and handsome, and I had to bring him back with me. He came in a jar that doubled as a drinking glass that had a white plastic, resealable lid on it, and I kept it in the cupboard with my drinking glasses for many, many years. A few years ago, when it broke, I was heartbroken. But I know we always had Paris.

  • I went to Paris with my fellow French students when I was in high school. It was a tour, so typically we were never let out of our chaperone’s sight, and we weren’t able to decide what to do on our own. However, we were given a day to wander the Champs-Elysees before taking the Metro back to our hotel.

    I spent the afternoon wandering through stores, finding presents for my family with the help of an older gentleman who ran a hole-in-the-wall jewelry store, eating un sandwich au jambon, and asking for directions from ice cream vendors. It was fun and empowering to know that I didn’t need my chaperone or my peers’ help to enjoy the city.

  • Contest is now closed. Come back Monday to find out the winners and for the start of a brand new contest.

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  • My first visit to Paris was en route to India one winter. I decided to spend a weekend there alone, where I wandered through streets and cemeteries, letting my senses absorb the city. Paris is truly magical, and I need to return with my better half and recharge my imagination.

  • Pingback: Absinthe Recipes for Your Sweet Tooth | Get to know Lucid Absinthe

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