Orange Cake, Ancona Style

Marcella Hazan Orange CakeIn a delightful tribute to Marcella Hazan in the New York Times magazine, Mark Bittman recalls fondly how Marcella taught him “to interpret Child’s (Julia) work in a way that felt contemporary.”    He rightfully concludes “. . . we can drink to the woman who was largely responsible – however unintentionally – for bringing real Italian food to the United States.”

I am pleased to reproduce below one of Marcella’s few dessert recipes that was printed in Bittman’s New York Times article:

Orange Cake, Ancona-Style


  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • Grated peel of 3 oranges
  • 4 Tbs ( 1/2 a stick) butter, softened to room temperature, plus butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar
  • 2 Tbs of ouzo (Pernod is OK as substitute)
  • 1 Tbs whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice with 3 Tbs sugar dissolved in it.


  1. Heat the oven to 350º
  2. Put the flour, eggs, orange peel, 4 Tbs softened butter, sugar and ouzo in a food processor and run until all the ingredients are evenly amalgamated.
  3. Add the milk and baking powder, and process again to incorporate into the mixture
  4. Thickly smear a tube pan with butter, and dust with flour.  Put the cake mixture in the pan (It won’t fill it up all the way), and place the pan in the preheated oven.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of the cake becomes a rich gold color.
  5. When the cake is done, place the bottom of the pan over a bumbler or tall mug, using pot holders and push down to raise the loose bottom.  Take the tube with cake out of hoop, work the cake loose from the bottom with a knife and lift it away from the tube.  Place it on a plate with a slight raised rim.
  6. While the cake is still warm, poke many holes in it using a chopstick or any similar narrow tool.  Into each of the holes, slowly pour some of the orange juice.  At first the hole fills to the brim with juice, bus this will subsequently – in about an hour – be absorbed by the cake
  7. Serve an room temperature, with more orange juice drizzle over each slice.

Yep.  It is as good as it sounds.

Compost Cookies and Corn Cookies from Christina Tosi

Yesterday, I watched David Chang’s recent Mind of a Chef which focused on making desserts. If you clicked the embedded link, there is a two-minute teaser on cookies, an Arnold Palmer cake, a strawberry foam dessert, ice cream and other goodies. Most importantly, there was a delightful explanation of how Christina Tosi, pastry chef and part owner of Momofuku Milk Bar, makes her famous corn cookies. Sadly, I don’t have that video, but I do have the recipe below. In the meantime, I suggest you take a look at another instructional video by Christina demonstrating how she makes the “Compost Cookie” which is pretty much all of the junk food anyone could imagine being thrown into a delicious looking cookie:

I am not a big dessert eater, so these recipes are pretty much of a non-starter for me, but they do demonstrate the proper cooking techniques for some highly original dessert recipes.  Judging from the many New Yorkers that hang around the Milk Bar at all hours of the day, they must be pretty good.  Found below quoted in its entirety is the now famous Milk Bar’s Corn Cookie Recipe:

Corn Cookies Recipe

Momofuku Corn Cookies
Author: The Crepes of Wrath
Prep time: 2 HOURS Cook time: 40 MINS Total time: 2 HOURS 40 MINS
Serves: 15-25 cookies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup freeze-dried corn powder (available from Momofuku’s online store, Amazon, or a variety of other places)
  • ¼ cup corn flour (NOT corn meal – there is difference so check the label!)
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda


  • Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the egg. This is important, now: beat in the egg and keep beating on medium for at least 7 solid minutes. The mixture will becoming very airy and whipped looking – this is good.
  • Combine the all-purpose flour, corn powder, corn flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl, then gradually add it to the butter mixture, until well incorporated, being careful not to overmix the dough.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper, and using a cookie scoop (mine is about the size of 3 tablespoons, but the recipe recommends using one that is about ⅓-cup in size), scoop out the dough and place the balls on the sheet. You won’t be baking them quite yet, so go ahead and place them close together so that they will fit. Flatten the tops of the cookies slightly with the palm of your hand. Wrap the tray tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge, or as long as overnight. This is essential – the cookies will spread out way too much if you don’t chill them.
  • Once chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the dough on a new parchment-lined cookie sheet so that the balls are at least 2-4 inches apart on the pan (again, this depends on the size of your cookies). Bake for 13-18 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Mine were 3 tablespoons each, so I baked mine for 11-12 minutes, until just barely browned on the edges but still bright yellow in the middle.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely, then move them to an airtight container or serving tray. They will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days (or you can freeze them for up to 1 month).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I much prefer visiting Momofuku’s Milk Bar and ordering out.

Mammaw’s Coconut Cake Recipe

Coconut Cake with Jelly BeansI am so thrilled that my brother David (aka “Bogey”); my sister, Trish (aka “The Dish”);  and my daughter Miranda (aka “Peace and Joy” or “PJ” for short) are all cooking Mammaw’s Coconut Cake for Easter this year.  I have no idea why Coconut Cake seems so appropriate for Easter, but it has evolved into an Easter dessert tradition for the May family.  I always sprinkle a few jelly beans around the cake and make sure there is one  liquorice jelly bean  for Rick.  After all, there is always a “black sheep” in every family.

I am attributing the following recipe to Mammaw Pinson, my grandmother from Forney, Texas who aside from her great Coconut Cake was the hands-down expert on making fried chicken. In fact, she was simply a great cook who effortlessly seemed to put together the best meals in my childhood.     Unfortunately, I have misplaced  her Coconut Cake recipe, but this substitute from the Greenwich Times is as close to the original as I can remember.  Good eating!

Mammaw’s Coconut Cake

2 1/2 cups of flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 Tbs freshly grated lemon peel
3/4 cup jarred lemon curd
3 cups shredded coconut (fresh, please!)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed.  Beat 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. 

Add the eggs and vanilla extract and blend in.  Add milk, alternating with the sifted dry ingredients, beating ingredients to blend thoroughly.  Stir in the lemon peel.  Spoon batter into prepared cake pans.

Bake about 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.  Place one layer on a place and spread it with the lemon curd.  Top the second layer.  Cover the cake with the frosting (see recipe below).  Place the coconut on top and around the sides of the cake.  Garnish with jelly beans and make sure you put on one black jelly bean for the black sheep in your family. 

Frosting Ingredients
3 egg whites at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/3 cup of cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation of Frosting

Put all ingredients except the coconut in the top part of a double boiler set over simmering water.  Beat with a hand mixer set5 on medium-high 7 minutes, or until the mixture stands in soft peaks.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Beat another 3 minutes or until the frosting is very thick and stands in peaks.

Enjoy and Happy Easter everybody.