At a time when life seems more chaotic than ever and more inconceivable by the second, that’s when we need to pause, take a deep breath, close our eyes — and have a piece of cake.
Yes, times like this call for equal measures of comfort, sweetness, and escape.
Cake does all of that.
Not one dressed to the nines in layers, swirls, swooshes, and a flourish of doodads.
But a simple one that’s honest and straightforward — characteristics we sadly seem to be in short supply of these days.
“Walnut-Crusted Oat Flour Genoise” embodies all of that. It’s just one layer. It’s baked in one pan. It doesn’t even require frosting. It’s also gluten-free — but doesn’t taste like it, if you get my drift.
Raspberries and matcha flavor this unique mochi butter cake from Republique.
When Campanile restaurant and its adjacent La Brea Bakery closed in Los Angeles in 2012, I admit I shed a tear.
After all, Chef Mark Peel and Pastry Chef Nancy Silverton (then a married couple) together had created two of the most landmark establishments in the city, with the Wolfgang Puck-proteges turning out stupendous California cuisine, and extraordinary artisan breads and baked goods. In fact, the bakery was always my last stop, where I loaded up on pretzel bread and ginger scones before flying or driving home to the Bay Area.
But the iconic Spanish building that Charlie Chaplin supposedly built couldn’t have gotten better new tenants than Walter and Margarita Manzke. The couple lovingly remodeled it, maintaining its spirit, to open their Republique in 2013. It even features a bakery in the exact same spot that La Brea Bakery once operated, only now it is fully connected to the restaurant.
If you’ve ever visited the bakery, you know it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off the front-and-center glass case overflowing with cookies, tarts, cream puffs, breads and assorted pastries of about 50 varieties. And if you’ve had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into any of them, then you know just how skillfully they are made.
Yes, this is the way this chocolate and olive oil cake is supposed to look.
I think of this as the Frank Gehry of cakes.
It’s all angular pieces that jut this way and that. It seems to not make sense or be of this world. But the longer you gaze at it, the more you appreciate its quirky distinctiveness.
Just wait until you taste it, too.
“Chocolate & Olive Oil Cake” is a recipe by the incomparable Diana Henry, the London-based columnist, broadcaster and author who has a true gift when it comes to food writing, making you see, smell and taste an ingredient or dish in its totality just from the words she pens on a page.
The recipe is from her newest cookbook, “How To Eat A Peach” (Hatchette), of which I received a review copy.
It’s a compilation of her favorite dishes in her menu notebook that she’s jotted down entries in since she was 16. These are the dishes she most wants to cook for friends, family and herself. They include such scrumptious fare as “Sea Bass Crudo with Radishes & Nasturtiums,” “Autumn Vegetables with Hazlenut, Roast Bell Pepper & Anchovy Relish” and “Arroz Nego with Romesco Sauce.”