I wasn't aware of The Dorothy Parker Society of New York until I corralled a friend to attend their annual Parker birthday celebration with me. This was way back in 2003, maybe 2004, and the second to last they held on board an old, beautiful boat that went cruising around Manhattan for a few evening hours.
We dressed for the occasion in the best 1920s-esque garb we could find in our closets and spent a dazzlingly unforgettable evening drinking drinking drinking and dancing dancing dancing, the booze free flowing and the band playing old standards perfect for dresses with plenty of swing to them.
After that night, we became regular attendees of Parker Society events, mostly meet ups centered around alcohol and a mutual love of Parker's infamous wit. Eventually I was named Vice President of Bookish Matters, a position that meant nothing other than a name on the website, but as a proud Bookish woman it was an incomparable honor.
Time passed, my stalwart companion and I drifted apart and, though we never discussed it, I slipped away from the Society in case she wanted it in the break up (does anyone else find friend break ups to be weirder and sometimes harder than romantic ones?).
Though it has been years since I have been to an event, I keep up with them via Facebook and the books written by society founder, Kevin Fitzpatrick. One of my favorites is his 2014 cocktail guide/history book centered around the drinks of Parker's day, Under the Table.
I honestly can not remember what exactly I drank at any of the meetings (including on the boat), but when I wanted to make a cake honoring these memories I turned to Kevin's book for inspiration.
One of Dorothy's favorite drinks was a Whiskey Sour and, as the flavors of whiskey and lemon make prefect sense to me in baked form, I chose to go with that as my inspiration for this cake.
This one's for you, Dorothy. And no raisins ;).*
(Random, but I was once early to meet a friend for a drink at the Algonquin, home of the famous Round Table. While waiting I was chatted up by a well-dressed gentleman of a certain age. Took me a while to figure out he thought I was a call girl . . . whether it was my rose-colored Anthropologie sweater or naïve eyes, I can't say. But hey, flattered none-the-less. I think.)
Whiskey Sour Cake
Preheat oven to 350°
Prepare a 10" tube pan
For the cake:
3 c (300 g) cake flour, sifted
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c (240 g) whole milk
1 t vanilla extract
2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c (400 g) granulated sugar
zest of 1 large lemon
4 large eggs, at room temperatu In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the milk and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, rub the zest into the sugar for a few seconds, then add the butter to the bowl and beat on medium-high speed until lighter in color and very fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute between eggs. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often.
With the mixer on low speed, blend in one third of the dry ingredients until the mixture is streaky. Add half the vanilla milk and mix a few seconds, then add another third of the dry, then the rest of the vanilla milk. Once mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the rest of the dry ingredients until no dry spots remain.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula, and put in the oven.
Bake 37-43 minutes, or until you smell CAKE, the sides of the cake start pulling away from the pan and a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack for ten minutes, then remove the cake to cool out of the pan. Set the rack over a rimmed baking sheet and prepare the Whiskey Sour.
Adapted from Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide by Kevin Fitzpatrick
1 1/2 oz American Whiskey
1/2 t powdered sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Shake whiskey, sugar, and lemon juice. Strain into a glass and top with seltzer (I used about 1 oz).
Poke holes all over the still-warm cake with a toothpick and use a pastry brush to glaze the cake with the entire whiskey sour. Let cool completely.
Lemon Whiskey Icing and Garnish
2 c (200 g) powdered sugar, sifted
Juice of one small lemon
2 tsp whiskey (same as used in sour)
Before making the icing, throughly drain 8-10 nice, round maraschino cherries, setting them onto a paper towel and rolling them around very gently to get as much liquid off as possible. Set aside.
Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. In a separate small glass or the like, stir together the lemon juice and the whiskey. Stir the liquid into the sugar a little at a time until you have a nice, thick icing; you're looking for that line between strictly spreadable and loose-pourable. You may not need to use all of the liquid. If you do, and find that the icing is still too stiff, add in a little more lemon juice or whiskey—your choice.
Spread the icing thickly over the top of the cooled cake letting some slowly drip down the sides.
Let the icing set for a few minutes then top with the cherries, evenly spaced.
*A famous line of Parker's, "This wasn't plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it."
(Kevin, if you read this, I miss the society and count those evenings as some of the best I've had . . . may be time to hit up an event! And to that friend, if you read this, I hope you are well and happy and I do miss you.)