It was a gutsy move baking these for the best French chef around, but I learned to make them from chef Mark Ramsdell of L’ Academie de Cuisine. I was elated when Jacques pronounced them “terrific!” and his daughter (and TV costar), Claudine Pépin said they were the best she’s ever had.
A layer cake is like a fanfare: It blares “Celebration!” Full of flavor, this cake is based on nuts, cranberries and grated parsnips, a vegetable that might not spring to mind immediately when you’re thinking cake.
You can mix up this flourless chocolate cake batter and put it in the pan well before you bake it, so it’s easy to put it on the grill while you’re having dinner. The cake will puff up nicely and look gorgeous, and then it will deflate and look less gorgeous. Don’t worry, you can make it lovely on the plate.
This light olive oil cake can be served alone or accompanied by pears poached in red wine or brandy-soaked cherries or prunes, but the success of the cake depends on using a top-quality olive oil.
My version of the candy classic tastes just enough of delicious bourbon without it feeling like you’ve done a shot when you pop it in your mouth. A little sorghum syrup brings out the earthiness of the pecans and bourbon. For a true indulgence, I like to dip these in milk chocolate, but you can use bittersweet for a more sophisticated edge, or a combo of both.
There’s no reason to feel deprived if you’re doing without gluten—or if you know someone who is. It’s got a sturdy, toothy texture and intense, surprisingly “grainy” flavor. It’s also got both a buttery almond topping and a tart lemon glaze over that for the joy of sheer excess.