Sunday, October 4, 2009


Photo by Tom Wallace

I've been keeping a little secret for a few weeks now. But now that it's been published for all to see I think it's safe to share it with all of you! About a month ago Rick Nelson from the Star Tribune called and asked if I would like to share a cake recipe for the Taste Section 40th Anniversary edition. Luckily he left this message on our voice mail after hours or I may have screeched in his ear! Or course we would like to share a cake recipe with the wonderful people of the Twin Cities. And so I quickly rifled through all our cake recipes and decided on one that I made with my Grandmother growing up. It's a depression-era cake called Crazy Cake. I tinkered with the recipe when I returned from culinary school and created a moist, delicious cake. Slather it with Mocha Buttercream Icing and you're all set!

" With this special birthday cake recipe for coffee, you'll want to have your cake and eat it, too.

A 40th birthday party needs a suitably extravagant cake.

Which is why we turned to pastry chef Laurie Pyle of Cocoa & Fig in Shakopee. Whether she's concentrating on her catering clientele or selling to farmers market shoppers, Pyle focuses on baked flights of fancy: stunning custom cakes for every occasion, a rainbow's array of delicate macaroons, tarts bulging with ripe fruit, clever cupcakes on a stick, beautiful brioche and sneakily addictive cork-shaped brownies, to name just a few temptations in her well-stocked creative arsenal.

"Splurging on something that you can't make at home is our business," said Joe Lin, Pyle's partner.

We asked Pyle to step outside her business plan of impossible-to-replicate-at-home treats and create a birthday cake that Taste readers can prepare in their kitchens. She did not disappoint. Pyle devised an easy-to-make recipe that reflects her indulgent side (wait until you get a taste of its intense chocolate and coffee flavors, super-moist cake and ultra-creamy icing) while remaining within the uncomplicated layer-cake genre. It's going to be our go-to birthday cake for a long, long time.

One detail you'll notice right away is that this is a tall cake. "Home cooks usually make two layers, but we always do three," said Pyle. "Isn't a three-layer cake so much more fabulous?" Absolutely.

Pyle likes to prepare the cake a day in advance ("To let the flavors marry," she said. "It's like grilling meat, and letting it rest before you cut it.") and then stores it in the refrigerator; to serve, bring the cake to room temperature. She prefers to use Valrhona cocoa powder (which she purchases at, but also recommends the more widely available Ghirardelli cocoa powder. "Buy the best you can afford, because the end product will only be as good as what you put into it," she said.

Next up: The couple -- Pyle and Lin are partners at work and at home -- are eyeballing locations for their first retail outlet ("'Where is your shop?' is the No. 2 question we get, second only to 'How do you stay so thin?' " said Lin with a laugh). In the meantime, look for them on Thursdays at the Nicollet Mall Farmers Market, Saturdays at the Prior Lake Farmers Market, Sundays at the Minneapolis Farmers Market and online at

Now get baking, and celebrating. "


1 comment:

Martin Conover said...

I have to lead this with the comment that I'm still grieving the loss of Gourmet next month. Having said that, your cake for Taste's 40th Birthday is stupendous. I made it last weekend and it is so delicious that I had to get it out of the house or my partner and I would be blimps. The mixing of the two icings takes some time, but it's well worth it. THANKS for a great recipe...and the extra 5lbs!

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