I never anticipated coming to this point, but here I am, taking posthumous advice from a decapitated (not to mention notoriously frivolous and insensitive) French queen. Not only that, but I firmly believe you should sit up straight and pay attention, because this advice is to die for. (Pun intended.)
Marie Antoinette’s extravagance may have been political (monarchical?) suicide, but in her own egocentric way, she had indisputably good taste. Historians even partially attribute peasant disillusionment with the French Monarchy to M-A’s clandestine purchase of a massive diamond necklace. . . a necklace commissioned to surpass all other diamond necklaces. To put it in nerd-terms: One necklace to rule them all.
To most people in the late 1700s, Marie-Sauron-Antoinette’s advice was worthless. She might’ve been an innocent princess once, but she put on The One Necklace and sparkled her way right over to the dark side. . . proof-positive that diamonds are not actually always a girl’s best friend. (Try that one on for size, Marilyn Monroe.) Suffice it to say, all this is just hearsay from centuries ago; gossip they never would have printed in a 1780s French version of People Magazine (it would’ve been the only one worth trusting . . . even back then). Historians usually say that Marie was an obvious scapegoat. The Monarchy was going down regardless and poor Marie was merely left holding the bag . . . so why not a bag of diamonds? You can hardly blame the woman. If you are going to start a revolution, why not do it with style?
As far as I am concerned, anyone whose bling caused enough jealousy to bring an entire nation to bloodshed oficially has panache. . . or what some of my students might call swagger. Whatever the term, this quality is worth a little attention. Which brings us straight past diamonds to the really valuable trend Marie-A. seemed so anxious to set: Cake.
Like Marie, I promote cake as a solution to most problems. More than a mere solution, cake is a lifestyle. With this worldview firmly in hand, and supported by none other than the Last Queen of France, it is (clearly) my duty to communicate this vital knowledge to the greater population. . . and what better opportunity to do this than by submitting not one, or even two, but THREE different cakes to our monthly staff cooking contest?
Cake number one was a classic . . . the little black dress of cakes. Cake number one was pure chocolate.
Just in Case You’d Like to Make It Yourself!
Set oven to 35o degrees Farenheit. Butter cake pans and dust with cocoa. Combine cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Add eggs (or “eggs”), milk, water, oil and vanilla. Beat together well.
Bake for 35 minutes. Cool.
Beat together 1/4 stick butter, coacoa powder, powdered sugar and milk . . . until it reaches reaches its happy place. This is the good part, really, because it means you’re going to have to taste it… a lot. It should be spreadable and rich and not too sweet.
Cake number two tasted like Holidays and Coconut . . . this recipe never fails to make warm, moist cake flecked with sweet rich flavor. If you’re not a coconut person, don’t worry. Neither is anyone else . . . before they try this cake!
So that you can enjoy it, here is how its done!
1 pkg. yellow cake mix (shhhh, don’t tell!)
1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding powder
1 and 1/3 c. water
1/4 c. oil
2 c. coconut
1 c. chopped pecans
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Any other favorite spices you might want to toss in (I usually throw in some vanilla bean paste, some nutmeg, and a little ginger)
Another 3/4 c. coconut and 1/4 stick butter (for toasted coconut!)
Blend together cake mix, pudding mix, water, eggs and oil. Stir in coconut and nuts. Pour into a bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees Farenheit for 35 minutes. Cool in pan for at least 15 minutes then remove to cool on the rack while you make frosting.
Frosting: Mix a splash of vanilla, 1/2 -3/4 c. milk and powdered sugar together until it’s thick and drizzly, but smooth.
Meanwhile, melt the 1/4 stick of butter in a pan and toss in the coconut . Stir the buttery coconut every once in a while over low heat until it is beautifully golden brown. Careful! It’s easy to let this go slightly too far and burn the coconut!
Drizzle the frosting over the cake and sprinkle generous amounts of coconut over the frosting immediately. The result? Gorgeous. It looks impressive and tastes like heaven. . .and nobody needs to know that you used a mix as the base. Keep it hush-hush and you’ll be the most impressive baker in town!
Cake number three is the most complicated of the bunch as far as directions might go . . . but it also happens to be the official 2011 cake-off winner! Whenever I’m called to compete with a dessert, this recipe is my stand-by favorite. With layer upon layer of meringue, cake, cream and almonds, the outcome is sheer fluffy, nutty delight. If serving an award-winning, delicious and impressive dessert isn’t incentive enough to make this cake, here’s the real reason why you should try this at home: This is technically a TOP secret recipe. Fortunately for you, I generally do not believe in secret recipes; good food should belong to everyone.
Without further ado, here is the breakdown of how to make . . .
Line 2 springform pans with foil carefully and spray with cooking spray. Set oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Seperate eggs and set aside the egg whites for now. Cream 1/2 c. butter and 1/2 c. sugar. Add 3 egg yolks and 1 tsp. vanilla. Sift together 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 c. flour. Stir into wet mixture with 7 Tbsp. of milk. Split this batter into the two different cake pans.
Now, beat the 3 egg whites and 1 c. sugar until stiff. Split this meringue between two unbaked cakes, spreading it gently over the raw dough. Sprinkle slivered almonds over meringue layer. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Allow to cool.
Careful, this last step should really only happen a little while before the cake is served! Since the cake is layered with whipped cream, you’re going to want to keep it cold and as fresh as possible! When cakes are cool, whip the cream, sweetening it lightly with powdered sugar or stevia and maybe a little vanilla bean paste. Now, carefully (this is the really tricky part, to be honest!) remove cakes from springform pans. Turn one of these cakes upside-down on a plate. Peel off the foil and cover with whipped cream. Carefully remove the second cake from all wrappings, keeping it upright!
If you have bad luck with de-panning the cakes, don’t despair! Make a lot of whipped cream and you can actually cover the entire cake with it and garnish with more sliced almonds. It can still taste like heavenly clouds and be a bit crumbled. BUT, if you keep the cakes intact, it is going to be prettier than uhn-uhn-uhn as well as luscious!
I like to think Marie would’ve been proud.
Now that you’re all equipped with my top 3, go forth and do likewise! There’s a great big world out there waiting for you to pull an Antoinette . . and let them eat cake.