Posts Tagged With: Cake

361/365: National Fruit Cake Day

If you don’t take a bite of today’s food, don’t worry: it’ll still be around, in pretty much the same exact form, 10 years from now. Or so the jokes go. December 27 is National Fruit Cake Day!

Fruitcakes are cakes made with chopped candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices. They are dense and rich, with detractors complaining that they’re rock hard and nearly inedible. We can blame ancient Rome for this monstrosity; the first fruit cakes, containing a mixture of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins – mixed with barley mash – appeared during Caesar’s heyday. They became popular all over Europe, and closely associated with Christmas, when fruit cake was often given out as a gift (and subsequently re-gifted). When made with alcohol, fruit cakes can remain edible for years! These overly preserved monstrosities get such a bad rap that a holiday devoted to getting rid of them – National Fruit Cake Toss Day – has been created (January 3rd). Hmm, this may have to become one of our first food challenges next year!

To celebrate, we bought a fruit cake from the grocery store. Took a couple bites and decided its reputation is well deserved. Blech! Overly sweet and dense pretty much sums it up.

National Fruit Cake Day

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349/365: National Lemon Cupcake Day

Pucker up, baby! Today’s celebrated food is a little bit sweet, a little bit tart…and a whole lot delicious. December 15 is National Lemon Cupcake Day!

We’ve had multiple cupcake holidays this year, and on other occasions, have substituted cupcakes for cakes, saving us both calories and money. So we feel like we have paid due tribute to these small, individual cakes that – true to their name – really could be served in cups, if so desired. Most cupcakes tend to be very sweet, but I’ve always found the presence of lemon in baked goods to be a nice, light, tangy contrast to all that sugar. It’s no surprise that my favorite type of cake is lemon.

Not much else to say that hasn’t already been discussed elsewhere, so let’s just dive in! Tara made these from scratch. They were moist and delicious!

National Lemon Cupcake Day

Categories: Desserts, Pastry | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

342/365: National Chocolate Brownie Day

If you can’t decide between a cookie or a slice of cake today, why not settle for a cross between the two? December 8 is National Chocolate Brownie Day!

Now, we’ve already celebrated blonde brownies and cream cheese brownies and butterscotch brownies. I was surprised we hadn’t yet paid homage to the most popular of all brownies, chocolate. But it turns out we did, kind of. Tara made chocolate brownies for National Bittersweet Chocolate Day back in January. So, we have definitely been down this path before, and talked about the history of the brownie. It was created at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago and originally featured an apricot glaze and walnuts; this version is still sold there to this day. But there are some enduring myths about how brownies came about, legends that refuse to die. According to various sources, brownies:

  • Were the result of a chef accidentally adding melted chocolate to biscuit dough;
  • Were invented when a cook forgot to add flour to the batter;
  • Were the creation of a housewife who did not have baking powder but decided to serve the flattened cakes to her guests anyway.

Like the Loch Ness Monster, these are nothing but tall tales. Although…

I’ll let you be the judge of that.

For our challenge, we baked a batch of chocolate brownies!  had every intention of baking a batch of chocolate brownies, but were so busy with cleaning and cooking and football watching it was easier just to run to the store and grab a gourmet chocolate brownie from the bakery. Plus that way, we were limited to 1/2 a brownie each, instead of who-knows-how-many we would have been tempted to eat. So, good choice! (It was amazing, too).

National Chocolate Brownie Day

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330/365: National Cake Day

Today’s food holiday is a piece of cake! Literally. November 26 is National Cake Day!

Hardly the first time this year we’ve celebrated cake. There have been cupcakes, shortcakes, spongecakes, pound cakes, angel food cakes, devil food cakes, applesauce cakes, cheesecakes, hazelnut cakes, coffee cakes, carrot cakes, and even – though this may be a stretch – pancakes. I haven’t done the math, but I think only pies have been better represented this year. Here’s a great chart I found detailing the history of many different types of cakes. Credit goes to a website called Foodbeast for this. Hey, at least I don’t have to type very much today!


To celebrate, we shared a slice of lemon cake with vanilla frosting from the bakery at Fred Meyer. It was light, airy, and delicious!

National Cake Day

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314/365: National Vanilla Cupcake Day

If today’s a little frosty, well, that’s no real surprise. After all, it’s November 10. And National Vanilla Cupcake Day, to boot!

Cupcakes again, eh? It seems we’ve celebrated these a dozen times this year, but in reality, there has only really been one other day specifically devoted to cupcakes: October 18 (National Chocolate Cupcake Day). But there have been several cake holidays where we opted to make or buy cupcakes instead, just to save us the trouble (and calories) associated with leftovers. Click on the link for a history of what the British refer to as “fairy cakes.” By the way, one alternate explanation for the name cupcakes has to do with the fact that the ingredients are typically measured out in cups: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, one cup of milk. And four eggs and one spoonful of baking soda. Commit that ratio to memory, and you’ll be able to whip up homemade cupcakes wherever you go!

To celebrate, we stopped by Freddy’s on the way home and picked up some miniature vanilla cupcakes. Same kind we had on our chocolate cupcake day. These little bite-sized treats lent the perfect sweet finish to our dinner!

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

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283/365: National Angel Food Cake Day

Today’s food of honor is a heavenly treat. October 10 is National Angel Food Cake Day!

Angel food cake is the culinary opposite of Devil’s food cake: a light and airy sponge cake made with no fat (butter, cream, or egg yolks). It was named for its angelic light color, and was described as a “food of the angels.” Personally, I think angels would be more into wings, but what do I know? It is made by whipping egg whites until they’re stiff, adding cream of tartar as a stabilizer, and then folding additional ingredients in. The Pennsylvania Dutch, who began mass-marketing bakeware in the early 1800s, are given credit for inventing angel food cake, which perfectly fit the specialized cake mold they developed at the time. The first angel food cakes were baked by African-American slaves in the American south, and soon became a popular post-funeral meal. Perhaps the name had something to do with that? An early recipe for a “snow-drift cake” appears in Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical, published in 1871, and a recipe for a similar “silver cake” is printed in What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. in 1881. Angel food cake was a favorite of Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of  Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th President.

We picked up some mini angel food cakes to celebrate, rather than messing around with making (or buying) a whole cake. They were like angel food cupcakes (though sadly, without frosting) and were just freakin’ adorable. I wanted to hug mine. But I ate it instead, with a cup of coffee before work.

National Angel Food Cake Day

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234/365: National Eat A Peach Day*

If you’re a lover of sweet and juicy summertime fruit, you’ll be quite keen for today’s holiday! August 22 is National Eat A Peach Day.

It’s also National Pecan Torte Day. But we just celebrated National Pecan Pie Day last month, and though a torte is technically more like a cake than a pie, it’s still close enough to give us a serious case of deja vu and want to branch out and try something new. Something not-desserty. So, a peach it is!

Think peaches, and chances are, Georgia pops into your head. But the fruit actually originated in China, where it was a favorite of emperors and kings, and dates back to 2000 B.C. Cultivation spread throughout Persia and Greece, and when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he introduced the fruit to Europe, where it quickly gained favor, especially with Romans. Archaeologists digging through the remains of towns decimated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. found wall paintings depicting peach trees (along with the curious discovery of Kilroy was here in spray paint). Spanish explorers brought peaches to England and France in the 17th century, where they became valuable and expensive treats. English horticulturist George Minifie brought the first peaches to the North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them at his Virginia estate. Commercial production began some 200 years later, centered in Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and Virginia. Peach trees are kind of finicky; they require both cool winter temperatures for proper chilling, and intense summer heat to mature the crop. For this reason, their range is fairly limited.

Peaches and nectarines are the same species, though they are considered different fruit. The fuzzy skin of the peach is dominant, while the smooth skin of the nectarine is the result of a recessive gene.

I love both fruits, and was eager to celebrate today’s holiday – especially since fresh peaches are very much in season right now. If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches every day!

Celebrating this holiday was a breeze, but I’m a little bummed out. Last week I had fresh peaches from the farmer’s market, and they were amazing: perfectly sweet and juicy, just the right consistency. Since we were out of town last weekend we couldn’t make a trip to the farmer’s market, so we settled on peaches from the grocery store. Which paled in comparison. If you ever think farmer’s markets are “too expensive” (hi, dad!), I’m telling you, the little bit extra you’re paying is well worth it. You get quality produce and are supporting the local community.

National Eat A Peach Day

Categories: Fruit | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

157/365: National Applesauce Cake Day

Today we’ve got a golden delicious treat for you: June 6 is National Applesauce Cake Day!

Cake has been around for eons, and applesauce dates back to the Middle Ages. But the two never co-mingled until fairly recently: during World War I, when a shady sugar shortage shocked the country. Cooks were urged to display patriotism by substituting applesauce for the sugar that cake recipes called for. The concept wasn’t entirely unheard of; Medieval European fruitcakes sometimes called for fresh or dried apples. Applesauce adds sweet flavor to a cake and makes it impressively moist. The cakes grew in popularity through the 1920s and 30s, before falling off the radar for a while. They were rediscovered in the health-conscious 90s, and seen as a healthier, low-cholesterol and low-fat alternative to a traditional cake. They are typically spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and make a perfect autumn treat.

But it’s June.

Nevertheless, we soldiered on (pun intended) and completed our challenge. We kept it simple with a yellow Duncan Hines cake mix and chocolate frosting. When you substitute applesauce for oil, you keep a 1:1 ratio, so it was easy enough to switch that out. Oh, and the cool thing is, last fall Tara and I went out to Hood River for bushels of fresh apples, and I made homemade applesauce. That’s what I used in the recipe, so in that sense, the cake is sort of “from scratch” too. And I have to admit, it turned out tasting pretty good! Just a hint of cinnamon-y spice.

Applesauce Cake

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139/365: National Devil’s Food Cake Day

Today is one hell of a delicious food holiday. May 19 is National Devil’s Food Cake Day!

Devil’s food cake is a moist and rich chocolate layer cake that was created in the late 19th century. Its name was a sarcastic response to angel food cake, which was the complete opposite: light (both in color and texture) and airy. Interestingly, devil’s food cake was originally more like a red velvet cake. It was actually dyed with red food coloring and topped with white frosting. It didn’t become the sinful chocolate dessert we associate it with until the 1970s. In fact, in many turn of the century cookbooks, the names are used interchangeably. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel claims to have invented devil’s food cake, but has been unable to back up this claim with any proof other than “we did, too!” They still serve a red velvet cake similar to the original devil’s food cake recipe.

Nowadays, what distinguishes devil’s food cake is its decadent chocolateness. (My computer says “chocolateness” is not a word. I’m using it anyway). Typical recipes call for cocoa and, sometimes, coffee. It is usually frosted in chocolate, as well.

We had a long drive home and a busy afternoon, so there were no fancy made-from-scratch cakes today. But that’s why they invented Duncan Hines, right?

Devil's Food Cake

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72/365: National Coconut Torte Day

If you’re a lawyer in the tropics, then today is right up your alley: it’s National Coconut Torte Day! (Torte…tort…a case in which damage, injury, or a wrongful act was done willingly or negligently…okay, this joke was a stretch). The truth is, I never really knew what a torte was before today’s challenge. I thought it was a pie-like pastry, but Tara informed me that’s a tart. Talk about confusing! As it turns out, a torte is a fancy name for a multilayered cake.

Multilayered cakes date back centuries. In fact, the oldest known cake in the world was a Linzer Torte, an Austrian confection with a lattice top and a funny accent. Originally made in the town of Linz, Austria, the cake can be traced back to 1653 thanks to a recipe discovered in an abbey in Vienna in 2005. In the 1850s an Austrian tourist brought the recipe to Milwaukee, a city best known for beer, cheese, and Laverne & Shirley. From there, its popularity spread across the U.S.

If you’ve been reading this blog the past few days, you’ll know that I have recently learned that I do, in fact, have some baking skills. I found a recipe for a coconut torte that seemed easy enough (though perhaps a little too easy, as it was basically a box of white cake mix and a frosting made of sour cream, Cool Whip, sugar, and coconut). I can’t say it was difficult to make, though I did have to knock on my neighbor’s door after dark and borrow the sugar. She’s so used to me doing that, when she opened the door and saw me standing on her doorstep the first words out of her mouth were, “Do you need eggs or sugar?” So I’m giving a special shout-out to Andrea, who saved our coconut torte!

We brought it over to my parents’ house to share after dinner. And guess what? It got rave reviews! The first cake I’ve ever baked in my life turned out to be a rousing success.

Coconut Torte

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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