Pilgrims vs Indians vs Martha

(Just as politically incorrect as it sounds)

November 2008

I remember seeing Magali around campus.  Her personality contrasted against the Pittsburgh gray.  There was something so unique about her, and it was evident even from afar.

We became acquaintances at her vegan baked goods table at the I Made It! Market.  There were a few more encounters in the small Pittsburgh scene, but shortly after that I left for France to spend my days with a 3 year old and Barbapapa.

On a sunny Parisian afternoon during the nanny stint, I had a rare midweek opportunity to take a stroll through the city instead of ironing little boy sweater vests.  It was a fanciful day, and I was following my whims wherever they led.  On the same day, Magali was also in Paris, walking a different route than her normal routine.  There was a bright orange coat, and with disbelief, I questioned, “Magali?”  Our paths had crossed, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Magali was studying abroad in Paris, and her semester was nearing a close.  We made plans to picnic and wander, wander and picnic.  I was so relieved to learn vegan friends had inspired her vegan cupcake sales, but her own diet included a healthy dose of roasted chickens, café crème, fromage, croissants, etc.

On a rainy Parisian afternoon, we made a beautiful pear, honey and blue cheese tartine on crusty, rustic bread and finished with hand pies oozing with red fruits fresh from the oven.  In French copain is the word for friend, but the word derives from co– (with) and pain (bread).  Through sharing bread with each other, on a rainy Parisian day, on picnic cloth on the floor, Magali and I really did become friends.

In Pittsburgh, we celebrated our friendship, our foodie sides and our love of the ridiculous by throwing a Thanksgiving potluck.  The goal was to channel the First Grade Feast in which half the class dresses up as “Native Americans” (but really, how politically correct is a paper bag cut into a “Native American” vest?) and the other half dons the conservative apparel of the Pilgrims.  We threw Martha Stewart into the mix also.  Had she been at the first Thanksgiving table, we really thought Martha would have been responsible for the survival of the expats and the unison of both parties in a craft hour to design the place settings.

We sent the ridiculous invitations and began the ambitious plan to roast a turkey!  Our spirits were high when I received a coupon in the mail for turkey!  We layered in mittens, hats, scarves and snarky excitement for a trip to the fancy “Giant Eagle” super market.  All coupon hopes were dashed when we saw the price tags on the specified turkeys:  $95!  The coupon laughed in our faces.

The next best turkey was still a free range bird, raised naturally.  It just hadn’t been raised with $95 worth of daily hugs, massages, yoga, caviar and love.  We accepted the difference and carried the frozen bird to the checkout. The cashier passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  Once again, she passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  She looked for a sticker.  Nothing.  She asked us if we saw a price.  Nothing.  She called for a manager.  Nothing.  Repeated nothing.

“How much do you want to pay?”

“$19.99,” I said sarcastically.

“$19.99 it is.  Paper or plastic?”

Blank stares.  “Was she taunting us?”

The groceries were ready at the end of the conveyor belt, and she printed the receipt.  We had a natural bird for at least half the price?!?!  Only one thing to do…

Ruuuuuuun before a manager realized!

Such a special turkey deserved a special dessert finale, and I had one vision in my mind:  a “roasted turkey” cake made from seasonal, Thanksgiving flavors.

It was a huge baking and sculpting endeavor, but the side-by-side comparison proved a success.  The cake played with people’s senses.  The eye saw a turkey, but the mind tried to process dessert flavors.

The Harvest Palette

The Recipes

I had conceived of this cake creation long ago.   As I see each cake as a fresh start, I only intended to do a turkey cake once, so I went big- four cakes big!  Each recipe was Thanksgiving themed in its ingredients and included local harvests wherever possible (squash, cider, eggs, milk, etc).  I used icing to stack the different cake layers and coat the surface.  I added the glaze for a more lifelike texture.

Butternut Butter Cake

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal soaked in 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup baked and pureed squash (butternut, acorn)
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon Bourbon Whiskey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl.

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in food processor until light and fluffy.  Add and mix the honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl once or twice.

Pour the mixture into a bowl.  Add one-third of the flour mixture.

Whisk together the vanilla, sour cream, squash and alcohols in a separate bowl.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture and the squash mixture into the sugar mixture, ending with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake about 30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Magali and I danced with the excitement of a successful Thanksgiving dinner party, with our feathers and face paint all a whirl.  Funny thing about those feathers and the face paint all a whirl.  As we were putting the final touches on the party scene, I said, “wouldn’t it be funny if we were the only ones who dress up?”  Funny thing about those feathers and face paint all a whirl.  When the guests showed up, we were the only ones dressed up.  That’s why you plan ahead with extra feathers and face paint!

Spiked Cider Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and the cornmeal in a small bowl; let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt and spices in a small bowl.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Beat in the vanilla, cider and rum.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the moistened cornmeal, stirring until batter is evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake 40-50 minutes.

Place on a rack to cool.

King of the Harvest Cake

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 cup unsalted buttermilk
1 package cream cheese
1 c raw cane sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey
1 cup finely chopped boiled beets
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease the pan of choice.

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for thirty minutes.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and potato starch in a medium bowl.

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition, until no lumps remain.

Add the sugar, molasses and honey gradually.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the beets, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Stir in the bourbon, rum and almonds.

Pour the mixture into a prepared pan.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Pumpcorn Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted, softened butter
1/2 cup olive oil
4 large eggs
15 ounces baked, pureed pumpkin
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey

Directions

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.

Mix together the brown sugar, butter and oil in a large bowl until thick and mayonnaise-like in consistency.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice to be sure everything is evenly combined.

Add the bourbon.

Stir in the pumpkin, then the dry ingredients.

Mix until evenly moistened.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and the edges of the cake pull back from the pan.

Remove from the oven to a cooling rack.

Icing

(Just eye it and taste it; you’ll be fine!)

Cream Cheese
Baked Squash puree
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure Vanilla Extract
Honey

Glaze

Organic Powdered Sugar
Water
Local Apple Cider
Molasses
Honey

Leave a Reply