10: 15 on a Saturday Night Cake (This Is What My Memories Taste Like)

Before we begin, if you don't know the song by The Cure. Give it a listen:

Now, the cake.

When I was 16, at exactly 10:15 on a Saturday night, that song came on the radio while I was parked in the lot of a Loaf & Jug waiting on the crazy boy I was crazy about who was inside buying a Cherry Pepsi, and thinking how cool it was that the song was playing right then. At the same time. (It's amazing what impresses teenagers.)
     To this day, every time I hear the song, I think of that parking lot and that boy and how we would drive around in my car drinking Cherry Pepsi laced with cheap whiskey, me doing all of the driving and he doing (almost) all of the drinking. Now, that makes it sound like I was a responsible teen, but really I was just the one with the car and he didn't have a license (sorry Mom). 
     One of my long-term personal projects is This Is What My Memories Taste Like, wherein I interpret memories through cake. Kinda wacky, I know, but it's awfully fun trying to figure it all out. Sort of chosen synesthesia.
    The idea for the cake itself (Chocolate Cherry Pepsi with a Whiskey Caramel-ish Sauce) came easily enough, but how to incorporate the song? Had to think on that one. I really wanted the drip drip drip but, as portable leaky faucets are not really a thing, I decided to try out another high school standard: lab equipment. I think it worked out rather nicely:

Chocolate Cherry Pepsi Layer Cake with Whiskey Caramel(ish) Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°; prepare three 8" round cake pans

For the cake:
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (64 grams) cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (112 grams) neutral oil
1 1/2 cups (330 grams) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 grams) Cherry Pepsi

For the Caramel(ish) Sauce:
1 stick (226 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (220 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) heavy cream
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (45 grams) whiskey, baker's choice

To serve: Whipped Cream and Cherry Jam

To make the cake: In a medium-sized bowl, sift or thoroughly whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs until very well combined. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Whisk in the Cherry Pepsi.

Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes start pulling away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center come out clean. 

Set the pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans to cool completely. 

To make the sauce: Stir together all of the ingredients except for the whiskey in a saucepan set over medium heat. Let gently bubble about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and carefully stir in the whiskey. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

To knock up the cherry flavor a bit, I spread 1/4 cup good cherry jam between each layer and then sparingly filled and speckled with unsweetened whipped cream. 

Serve the slices with the sauce on the side; spoon it on or use lab equipment about let it drip drip drip drip drip drip drip drip. 

Blackberry Lemon Upside-Down Cake Layer Cake

The other night I became weirdly obsessed with the idea of making a layer cake out of upside-down cakes and could not rest until I had done just that.

Mind you, not splitting one upside-down cake layer into two, but rather baking one or two separate upside-down cakes and stacking them so that the glorious, jammy, caramelized fruit becomes a baked-in filling. 

My initial plan was to do a riff on Strawberry Shortcake, one of my favorite things on the planet, but the market near me had nothing but neglected, over-priced Strawberries. The blackberries on the other hand were looking pretty good for the end-of-summer, so I put my strawberry desire aside, and decided to go with . . . 

Blackberry-Lemon Upside-Down Cake Layer Cake
Serves 8

Preheat your oven to 350*
Prepare two 6" round cake pans. (Sometimes I just want a small cake, so I chose to bake this as two 6" layers. That said, this recipe can be easily doubled and baked in two 8" or 9" pans.)  Liberally butter both, but add a parchment round to the bottom of just one of the pans. 

200 g (1 c) granulated sugar
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
188 g (1 1/2 c) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
120 g (1/2 c) whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

10 plump blackberries, fresh or frozen. If fresh, rinse lightly and let dry. If frozen, there is no need to defrost
1 tbsp granulated sugar

• Toss the blackberries with the granulated sugar and lay them out in the bottom of the pan without the parchment liner. Set aside with the other prepared pan.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
• In a glass measuring cup, add the milk and vanilla. Set aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the oils are well distributed, then add the softened butter and cream on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until fluffy and lighter in color.
• Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium for one minute after each egg. Don't forget to stop and scrap the bowl!
• On low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Once the batter is mostly free of flour streaks, remove from the mixer and finish mixing with a light hand. 
• Divide the batter between the two pans as evenly as possible. The batter will come a little higher up in the pan with the blackberries.
* Put into the pre-heated oven and bake about 30 min. for the plain layer and 35 min. for the upside down layer. They are done with the sides begin to pull away from the pans and a toothpick test comes back with just a few crumbs attached. (Don't poke the toothpick all the way in, especially with regards to the upside down layer. Just 1/2 in or so should suffice.)
• Remove the pans from the oven and set on racks to cool for 5 min. before turning out of the pan to cool completely. Remember to let the upside-down layer cool with the fruit on top. 

Is lovely frosted with whipped cream. I tried out a new-to-me recipe for Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting for this cake, but the next time I do it, I want to use simply plain, unsweetened whipped cream as I like less sweetness. 

This is an extremely versatile layer cake. As I noted above, the recipe can easily be doubled, but you can also switch up the fruit (the amount of which will depend on the fruit itself as well as the size of cake you want), omit the zest, change the flavoring, and/or make both layers upside-down cake . . . I'm thinking of trying out a three layer cake next using two upside-down layers!


This slim volume, published in 1997, comes from the knowledgeable folks at Cook's Illustrated. In less than 100 pages How to Make an American Layer Cake lays out recipes for basic chocolate, white, and yellow cakes (with a few variations on the standard), as well as frostings and fillings. The signature CI illustrations run throughout the book which also includes sections devoted to technique and decorating suggestions. It's worthwhile to add to your collection if you're searching for a concise, pared-down handbook on layer cakes or if you are a layer cake (or just cake) devotee. That said, this is another out-of-print volume, but copies go for pennies (literally) online.