Cherry Cola Cake

Share your comments...

cherry cola

I wrote another book.  It’s called COOK, EAT, DEATH METAL, and it’s for charity.  It is dedicated to my favorite band, THE EAGLES OF DEATH METAL, and all proceeds go to assist survivors and the families of the Paris attacks, through the organizations Fondations de France and The Sweet Stuff.  You can get a copy right now from Dissention Records, at

The recipes are based on song titles, and there is definitely a rock’n’roll edge to it (translation: it has swears).  The band is out on tour now, so if they come to your town, please stop by the merch table and pick up a copy…it’s an entertaining read for a good cause.

This recipe is an excerpt, based on their song  Cherry Cola, from the 2006 album Death by Sexy.


The southern United States is obsessed with cola, because Coke is made there, and it gets hot as balls. It is in this sweltering region that the Cola Cake really took hold. A regular feature of church potlucks and Civil War reenactments, this cake is more popular than hair spray.

Cherry cola was popularized in the 19th century, when cherry syrup was added to jazz up the medicinal flavor of a carbonated beverage made with coca leaves and kola nuts. It surged in popularity during prohibition, when it was illegal to have a beer, but totally cool to suck down a cocaine float.

This recipe presents this recipe as a layer cake. But since you are probably completely stoned, feel free to make it in a rectangular brownie pan, which is faster.


  • 2 cups fresh, frozen, or canned cherries. cleaned and pitted – Avoid maraschino cherries, which have no actual cherry flavor or color. They are only good for tongue dexterity demonstrations.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup brandy or rum – if you are on the wagon, this is optional
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder – extra dark if possible
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cherry cola
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips or chunks
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 chocolate bar for shaving
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat two 8-inch round cake pans, or 1 brownie pan (9×13 inches) with pan spray. Chop the cherries, mix in the vanilla and brandy, then set them aside.
  1. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and lump free. Lumps at this stage would be the pits. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  1. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Separately combine the cherry cola and buttermilk. Add the dry and wet mixtures into the butter alternately, in about 3 increments, stirring well between each addition. (This means add 1/3 of the flour, stir, then 1/3 of the buttermilk, stir, and repeat.) Fold in chocolate and cherries, then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until risen and firm. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  1. In a separate bowl combine cream and sugar and whip until stiff. (Do this by hand with a whisk if you’re a stud, or use an electric mixer, if you skipped arm day at the gym.) Spread the whipped cream evenly on top of the cooled cake. Use a potato peeler to shave curls off the chocolate bar to decorate. Keep chilled until you’re ready to serve. You’re gunna love this cherry much.

Citrus-Bay Laurel Mug Cake

Share your comments...


Those of you who are new to baking (and new to me) may find it a bit odd to see herbs in desserts.  But those who know me know will recognize my MO.  My pastry friends and I started doing this in the 80’s—in San Francisco, when California Cuisine was hitting its stride.

But, as is the case with my clothes and music collection, I find it hard to let go of culinary styles.

The thing is, you shouldn’t find it odd.  Herbs are a natural partner to fruits.  Aromatic oils from leaves run the gamut from sweet to and floral to piney, all of which taste great with tomatoes (a fruit that is sweet), carrots (a vegetable that is super-sweet), and onions (also super sweet, especially when caramelized, as happens in the sauté pan).  Citrus has long been a savory ingredient (lemon with fish, crammed up a chicken, or zested into gremolata). And fruit has been a friend to meat since there was fire—and modern cooks can’t resist rolling a pork loin around wintery-sweet dried fruits) .

So, you see, it was inevitable that we would start using a formerly “savory” ingredient with peaches and berries.  Its what all the cool kids are doing nowadays.

This recipe is from my Mug Cake book, and while it is mug ready, you can also make it in a large batch (start with x4) and bake it in a conventional oven.


1 large egg

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon pulverized bay leaves

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1tablespoon orange juice

1tablespoon lime juice

1tablespoon milk

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour*

Pinch of kosher salt

¼ cup citrus supremes



1.  In a large mug, whisk together the egg, oil, and bay with a fork.  Stir in the zest, juices, milk, and sugar.  Add the flour and salt.  Beat the batter until smooth, then fold in supremes.

2.  Divide the batter between two mugs, and microwave then separately for 1 ½-2 ½  minutes each, until risen and firm.

To finish, top with whipped cream, lemon curd (or a 50-50 blend of both), powdered sugar, or candied citrus peel.  (a recipe for which can also be found in Mug Cakes).

*We use self-rising flour in Mug Cakes because it is easier, and Easy is a Mug Cakes middle name.  But…


Make your own mixture, and keep it on hand for mug cakes at a moments notice.


1 cup all purpose flour

¾ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt



Whisk together with a fork and store in a dry, airtight container.  Measure out from this batch for individual Mug Cakes.

(You can double, triple, or quadruple this if you feel a lot of Mug Cakes are in your future.  Or…go to the store for self-rising flour.)


Red Velvet Cake

Share your comments...

Next week my oldest is returning to college.  Her favorite cake is Red Velvet, so that is the cake currently in the oven … with one alteration. She has requested Blue Velvet.  (Her favorite color is rarely found in food naturally.)  I did a half recipe test using blue food color instead of red, and I think Dennis Hopper would be proud.

I love this cake, but I must admit that I am a bit disappointed to see it all over the place lately. I was making this cake before it was cool. (Yes … I say that about most things, but in this case its true.)

Here is my recipe, which is authentic. It is an old-fashioned recipe that I got from a real old-fashioned southern belle in 1976. (I remember it well, as it was the Bicentennial.) You can tell this recipe is old, because the cake is leavened by vinegar and baking soda. This is how all cakes and cookies were leavened before the advent of baking powder (a product that premixes the baking soda and acid for you). I like the flavor the vinegar imparts. To me, that flavor makes this cake special.

Real red-velvet cake should never be bright red. It’s a deep, dark red, like Scarlet’s dress. The color is achieved with a ton of food coloring and a touch of cocoa powder. Traditionally this cake is paired with cream cheese frosting, but I also like to cover it with 7-Minute Icing also known as Italian Meringue.


1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 TB. cocoa powder
1/4 cup red food coloring
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 TB. cider vinegar

For the Frosting:
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 TB. vanilla
1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 10-inch round cake pans with butter and parchment paper. In a large bowl use a sturdy spoon or electric mixer to combine the oil, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the cocoa and the food coloring, mix well, and add. Add the sifted flour, salt, and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a small bowl combine baking soda and vinegar, and mix until foamy. Add immediately to batter, and stir just to combine. Divide batter between 2 pans, and bake at 350˚F for 30-45 minutes, until a pick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack. Cool completely.

For the Frosting:
Cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla with a sturdy spoon or electric mixer until lump-free. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and mix until smooth. Fill and frost red velvet cake, and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.
I think Red Velvet really popular after the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, in which the red velvet groom’s cake was shaped like an armadillo and resembled road kill once cut. A classic bit, and the only good part of that movie in my opinion.

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

Share your comments...

I grew up in, Los Altos, California. In the olden days before it was Silicon Valley, Los Altos was apricot country. I remember driving through miles of orchards with screen after screen of apricot halves drying in the sun (we called them ears). The orchards stretched for miles. We had a couple trees in our yard, too, and we always made apricot jam, which I would promptly get sick of. In fact, I remember coveting the peanut butter  and grape jam sandwiches  of my friends. It seemed so extravagant to me!

Apricot season is approaching, and I have been sampling the early crop at our farmers market. I cannot get enough of these sweet, juicy fruits, which means there is an apricot tummy ache in my future.

The apricot is easily adapted to many recipes, but today I am offering one of all-time favorite cakes. Upside-down cake is usually made with pineapple, and I love it that way, too.  But right now the apricots are a perfect match for this delicate, buttery cake. When their season comes to a close, substitute whichever fruit comes next in your area. Peaches, plums, cherries, pears, apples, or maybe even pineapple!


1 TB. melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sliced almonds
10-12 fresh apricots, sliced in wedges
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup amaretto


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 10″ round cake pan with pan spray, line with a circle of parchment paper, and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly across bottom of pan, then top with almonds and neatly arranged apricot wedges. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth and lump-free. Add egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and add alternately with milk. Stir in amaretto, then pour batter over apricots. Bake 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch. A pick inserted should come out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then invert and cool. Serve wedges with a dollop of whipped cream.

apricot cake(1)