The only thing better than failure is failure at 3 in the morning. I mean, in general I prefer my failures to occur at an obscure time of night: all the better to reinforce their obscurity. But when the thing you’re screwing up is meant to be broadcast to the world anyway, it doesn’t really matter when it happens.

It’s just, you know, it’s 3:30am. And I’m cranky.


The Smackdown tonight comes from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. I was flipping through the cookbook piles this morning looking for a recipe, because I’m on a mission to see how close I can cut things before I actually end up at the grocery store wandering the aisles aimlessly with no list in hand because I’ve not actually chosen anything to cook. When I’m scrambling, I know I’m not feeling it.

Add that to the fact that I have tomorrow (Friday) off and spent all day thinking today was Friday and preparing myself for Friday night queso dip and frozen sangria – this week, stunted though it is, was a WEEK –  and I’m not feeling anything except that sangria. Especially not a long night of culinary photojournalism, unless it involves drinking frozen sangria while I drunkenly take poorly lit pictures of it with my cameraphone.

When I’m not feeling cooking dinner, that = dessert. In this particular case, zucchini and olive oil cake with crunchy lemon glaze.*

*Made after returning from cheese and sangria night, we both needed it. Hence the hour.

Zucchini bread is one of the few “sneaky” foods I would eat as a child because it still tasted like cake, unlike some eggplant “meatballs” I can think of.

Brian’s parents also tried to trick him into eating eggplant by making eggplant parm and calling it “tiny pizza.”  Nice try; do not underestimate the palate of a 7-year-old.*  Seven-year-olds cannot be fooled into thinking wheat germ on yogurt is ice cream with sprinkles the way 3-year-olds can.  (Stupid toddlers, they wouldn’t know good food if it bit them on the Tickle Me Elmo. And a lot of them will eat dog kibble.)

Anyway, if zucchini bread is good there’s no reason zucchini cake shouldn’t be, especially considering the extra flavor boost from the entire cup of olive oil used as the fat. That the recipe is from Gina DePalma, she who inspired these delightful little donut bites, is gravy.

I creamed eggs, sugar and the oil together, incorporated the dry ingredients (which include nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon) and folded in minced walnuts and a big honking pile of grated zucchini. Which came from a big honking zucchini that was a full 16 inches long and 4 and a half inches in diameter (Yes, I measured.  Also, keep it clean.  I know how you think). For a moment, it occurred to me to wonder what’s going into the water around here that could contribute to such a frightening reimagining of what a zucchini should be; then I remembered where I live and decided that “ignorance is bliss” is an oft-used adage for a good reason.

*Although I think they win in the end, because he now loves eggplant and I remain mildly squicked by it.

Side Rant: If Buitoni can’t be bothered to have its spokesperson pronounce agnolotti correctly in their commercials (“ag-no-lotti”), what hope is there for any of us?  Hyperbolic?  Maybe, but no less true.

I scraped the finished batter into some mini-bundt pans because I didn’t read the instructions all the way through before starting which would have informed me that I needed a 10-cup bundt pan, which I don’t have thought it would be cute to have single-serving cakes.  I slid them into the oven and made the “crunchy” lemon glaze.

The glaze is your run-of-the-mill confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice affair; the crunch comes from sneaking in some granulated sugar. Or doesn’t come, because the granulated sugar dissolves into the juice just like the confectioners’ does.

Really, by 2:30 in the morning, everything is dissolving into everything else.

My unknowing little cakes came out of the oven a little puffed over the tops of their pans but otherwise browned, moist and fragrant.  I let them sit on the cooling rack in their pans – pans which had been assiduously greased and floured – for the specified ten minutes and then tried to flip them out and glaze them.

Operative word: tried.  I flipped.  I shook.  I eased with the tip of a knife.  I prayed over them.  I thumped.

I became ornery.  I shook harder, like I’d do to a crying baby if I were that kind of person which I am NOT.  I left them alone for a few minutes, extrapolating from my standard method of fixing uncooperative electronics: ignore them until they start to work again.  (In extreme cases, you may have to turn the device off and on again.)

I commenced round two of flipping, shaking and thumping.  And then: movement!  Yes, the movement of the top of the cake popping off while the remaineder clung obstinately to the pan.  I may have called the cakes cruel motherfuckers; it’s late and I can’t be held responsible for all my behavior.  Making it extra-sad: I ate the part that popped off, and it was damn good.  The zucchini was a little more subdued than I might have liked – I think the mutant baseball bat zucchini I had was probably not as flavorful as your garden-variety squash – but the spice blend enhanced the nuts and squash without overwhelming them, the walnuts added pops of texture and the grated zucchini kept the whole thing meltingly moist.  At least, the scant morsel I managed to eat was all those things.

I am trying the advanced corrective method of leaving them in the pans overnight; I’ll report back on what happens in the morning.  This is a corrective method, and not just me not wanting to pry out and clean four tiny bundt pans at 4 in the morning.

Good night, and good luck.

ETA: Overnight test = fail. Dig the cake out with your hands and eat it anyway = success.

ONE YEAR AGO: The Great E-Scape…Get it? Because there are scapes in here.

[tags]dessert, baking, cake, mario batali, babbo, gina depalma, zucchini[/tags]