So my Smitten Kitchen cookbook came in the post at the weekend, and as predicted, I want to cook absolutely everything in it. It is gorgeous, easily the prettiest cookbook I own, and everything looks delicious. I may never use another cookbook again, it’s that awesome. It tells you a great deal about my state of mind that I was genuinely fretting over what to cook first, undecided between all the tastiness. The author of this book, Deb Perelman, has been blogging for years about her quest for food perfection and cooking in her tiny New York kitchen. She leaves no stone unturned in her quest to perfect a recipe, takes beautiful photos of her creations and is a wonderful writer. I hate her. Of course, I don’t really hate her, in fact I’m bordering on wanting to move in with her after cooking the (much deliberated over) recipe I chose to break in this beauty of a book. I’m sure her husband and child won’t mind.
So what did I go for? Soured cream and peach pancakes? No (but boy I can’t wait for Sunday morning). Balsamic and beer braised beef ribs with parsnip puree? Not yet (but these are a definite must try very soon). Tiny but intense chocolate cake? No (still trying to work out why not). My heart fluttered a little when I came across Deb’s Gooey Cinnamon Squares and her description of them as something cross between toasted marshmallow, cinnamon French toast and crème brulee. Has there ever been a more tempting description of a cake? That’s when I knew. To the kitchen!
Deb states that these are a combination of two classic American baked goods: the snickerdoodle (a soft cinnamon cookie) and a St Louis gooey butter cake which I have never heard of but presume must be big in St Louis. You make two cake mixtures, one a plain vanilla and the other flavoured with golden syrup, cream and vanilla extract . Spread over the plain mixture in a baking tray, then on top of this spread the syrup mixture and scatter over copious amounts of ground cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 30 minutes and voila, you have an extremely plain looking cake that will excite no one upon looking at it. Do not be fooled by its appearance and do not underestimate it. This is an epic cake, and lurking behind its plain looks is sheer heaven. The base of the cake is very much just a vanilla cake, but through some sort of devilry and witchcraft the golden syrup flavoured layer has turned into a gooey, soft, oozing delight whose texture and taste is very reminiscent of a thoroughly toasted marshmallow. The sugary cinnamon topping has given the top of the cake a bronzed, crackled appearance and on biting into the cake you find that the topping has a similar crunch to a crème brulee. It’s perfect and there is just the right amount of cinnamon in there to whisk you off to wherever cinnamon reminds you of (for me, that would be holidays in Florida) and envelop you in a spicy hug. I’m in love. It’s unlikely you would have had anything like this before (I know I certainly haven’t and I’ve eaten a hell of a lot of cake. I mean, a lot of cake) and I can’t recommend baking this enough. It’s ridiculously good. I took some into my new office yesterday to avoid the otherwise inevitable fate of me having a bit every time I went into my kitchen (you know, to make a cup of coffee, cook dinner, wash up, shove more cake in my mouth, that kind of thing) but no one was there so I’m yet to learn if other people are as delighted by them as I am. No matter, Smitten Kitchen informs me that these last 7 days at room temperature so I’ll find out soon enough.
I really wanted to share the recipe for Gooey Cinnamon Squares with you but being a stickler for copyright rules and it not being one of the recipes on the Smitten Kitchen blog, I had no option but to heavily endorse the book to you. But wait! Pastry chef, blogger and buddy to Smitten Kitchen has kindly reproduced the recipe on his website Living The Sweet Life In Paris and I forcibly encourage you to try it yourself. This cake may look like the Taylor Swift of the cake world (you know, all safe, sweet and nice but you always know what you’re getting), when in actual fact it’s the Beyoncé – utterly fabulous.
Recipe for Gooey Cinnamon Squares can be found here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/11/smitten-kitchen-gooey-cinnamon-cake-recipe/