There really is a song,“If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” and somewhere in my stacks, I even have the music for it. This chocolate cheesecake, which can be made gluten-free (Double Chocolate with a nut crust) or not (Triple Chocolate with a chocolate wafer cookie crust), is without a doubt the cake you’d bake were someone ultra-special about to knock on your door. The wonderful original recipe by well-known baker and writer Abigail Johnson Dodge (author of the fun new book SHEET CAKE) is one I found in FINE COOKING magazine — or on its website–a number of years ago. (The famous site is no longer available, more’s the pity, though another site does have the recipe. See TIPS below.) I’d make it for one person’s birthday and someone else would say, “Can I have that cake for my birthday?!” Or I’d carry it to a dinner party only for the host to pull me to the side and whisper in my ear, “I’d really love that recipe!” It’s just that kind of cake. Everyone craves it, especially chocolate lovers. Even fine fruit folk (my apple and cherry pie people) have been known to ask for an extra slice to take home.
When someone’s turning 91, they deserve the birthday dessert of their choice. On second thought, everyone should get their most-loved confection each and every year! Birthdays are memorable causes for joyous toasts, laughter, and yummy dinners ending with apple pie/chocolate cake/strawberry cheesecake/butterscotch tart and, yes, great coffee. But 91 — wow. Not all of us make it to that special moment and those that do are blessed. My husband’s Dad, Gene, celebrated 91 great years this week and while it wasn’t a huge party, we had a few family members for a roast beef and twice-baked potato lunch (lunch is better these days and he loves roast beef) as well as Gene’s forever fave sweet — Lemon Meringue Pie.
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When your children are growing up, if you’re a baker (and sometimes even if you’re not), you bake a cake for their birthdays. I wonder if that’s still true? Most of the time my kids’ parties were simple affairs—celebratory and fun, to be sure–but sort of cake and ice cream parties for a bunch of their buddies or maybe even just the family and neighbors.
(below: Sean, a marvelous cook, making his world-renowned pizza–one of my frequent requests. He’s also a fine brewer. Nice combination, huh?)
As they grew,and our budget expanded, we might have extended the celebration a bit to include supper out (pizza) or to have a sleepover with pizza ordered in. But the cake remained. Mom made the cake. And it wasn’t always a cake, per se.
Sometimes there was a request for pie,cupcakes, or even for lemon bars. My famous brownies came up on the list. Actually, they still do. At one time, I taught myself to decorate cakes; I couldn’t afford the class. My cakes always tasted better than they were decorated, but at least I could get someone’s name written and a border piped. I did learn — somewhat — to draw on cakes and that’s incredible since I can’t draw at all. A carrot that looks like a carrot still appears on my carrot cake. Leaves show up come fall and so on. And my friends all know I’m good for a birthday sweet if they only say the word or tell me what they want. I just like to have an excuse to bake.