My Favorite Cakes

I’m not one for too much sweet, so my favorite cakes are usually the moderate ones, nothing very sinful as a devil’s food cake, but still, each one is an indulgence that is always welcome.

1. Pound cake.

I have to admit, I am a fan of simplicity, and for all the fancy cakes in the world layered with toppings, a simple slice of pound cake and cup of coffee is my chosen delight. It’s so rich and satisfying in and of itself that it needs no frosting, owing to its 1:1 ratio of all ingredients, including butter and eggs. This also makes it a simple cake to whip up at home!

2. Black forest cake.

I often had this on my birthday as a child, so it’s linked to many fond memories. Originating in Germany, according to Wikipedia, “Black Forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings. In some European traditions sour cherries are used both between the layers and for decorating the top. Traditionally, Kirschwasser (a clear liquor distilled from tart cherries) is added to the cake.” This cake sounds complicated enough that I think I will stick to cake delivery for this one, lest I make a mess of the kitchen.

3. Carrot cake.

Another birthday favorite of mine, this cake owes its wonderful moisture and texture to the carrots in the batter, which release water while it’s cooked. It turns out that this practice originated in the middle ages, when sweet flavorings were difficult to come by, due to the sweetness of the carrots… But it was only really revived during the 1960s, at which point the classic cream cheese icing was added.

4. Coffee cake.

What I love most about these is not that they taste like coffee (they’re not actually required to contain any coffee flavoring), but that they are rich in spices and not overly sweet, making them a good breakfast cake, or lunch cake (I don’t know about you, but I can’t handle anything too sweet in the morning.)

5. Cheesecake.

Though commonly associated with New York city, the love of cheesecake actually goes back as far as ancient Greece, and was adopted by the Romans. Modern American cheesecake has several varieties, and the New York kind relies heavily on sour cream or heavy creams, as well as eggs and cream cheese. When served with some fruit, to add crisp lightness to this heavy dish, you’re getting a little slice of heaven. Is it little wonder that in the United States, there is actually an unofficial National Cheesecake Day? (July 30th)

Although cakes have been associated with parties and celebrations, we can enjoy it as an everyday dessert, each day having a different variety. There is no limit to the possibilities of enjoying a cake, be it a single slice, or a mini version. So what are you waiting for? As they say, go and have your cake and eat it, too.

Spice-Rubbed Steak With Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

Rich, aromatic spices add depth to beef, even before it’s cooked. The smoky, savory taste of chile powder, cumin, and paprika penetrate the meat for an intensely flavored steak. Searing the beef in a hot cast-iron skillet with very little oil seals in the flavor and fragrance of the spices-and results in tender, juicy, flavor-packed meat. And, of course, less oil means less fat.

I seared a 1-1/4-inch-thick top sirloin steak that had very little noticeable fat. You can use a different cut, such as New York strip or boneless rib-eye, but make sure it’s trimmed and fairly thick.

Sweet potatoes are naturally high in nutrition and low in fat, and they need nothing more than a little oil and seasoning to bring out their creamy, caramelized goodness when roasted.

This dinner is done in less than 45 minutes. It’s steak and fries, without the guilt-and all the flavor.

Serves 2 (easily doubled)


For the Potatoes

1 medium, rounded sweet potato (about 3/4 lb), scrubbed and cut into 8 wedges
2 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the Steaks

1/4 tsp ground chile powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1 10-oz top sirloin steak, about 1-1/4-inch thick
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for brushing


For the Potatoes

Preheat the oven the 400� F.
Place the potato wedges in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season with cinnamon, salt, and pepper and toss well to coat.
Place a wire rack in a shallow baking pan (line the pan first with parchment paper or foil, if desired). Spread the potato wedges skin-side down on the rack.
Roast until tender and browned, 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with a little more salt before serving.

For the Steaks

Combine the chile powder, cumin, and paprika in a small bowl. Trim any side fat from the steaks and rub the spice mixture all over them. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
Heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat and brush with oil.
Season the steaks with salt and pepper and sear until lightly charred, 5-6 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until desired degree of doneness. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 3 minutes.

To serve, cut the steaks across the grain into thin strips. Divide between 2 plates and serve potato wedges alongside.