Category Archives: Cakes

Desdemona’s Strawberry Handkerchief

Strawberry Hankie
The actual handkerchief prop from the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Othello”

The Backstage Baker has, as usual, gone from one show, Broadway’s “Farinelli and the King,” directly to another, “Othello,” the Public Theater’s first Shakespeare in the Park offering this summer.  Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (whom fans of this blog will know from our “Jitney” posts), “Othello” stars Chukwudi Iwuji as Othello, Heather Lind as Desdemona and Corey Stoll as Iago.  You can learn about ticket options here.

“Othello,”  in my humble opinion, is Shakespeare at his best.  In fact, my English professor mother thought so too, and in 1963 wrote one of the first academic treatises about Desdemona from the perspective of feminist.  Entitled “The Indiscretions of Desdemona,”  this essay was apparently quite ground-breaking in its time.  Here’s the JStor link. If you read it, do tell me what you think in the comments section below.

But, back to the napkin:  it’s an essential prop that drives the plot forward.  Othello gives it to Desdemona, Iago convinces his wife Emilia to steal it, Iago plants the hanky in Cassio’s bedroom and Othello thinks Desdemona is unfaithful — without that napkin there would be no story!!

Here’s a speech from the play about said napkin:

I am glad I have found this napkin.
This was her first remembrance from the Moor,
My wayward husband hath a hundred times
Wooed me to steal it, but she so loves the token—
For he conjured her she should ever keep it—
That she reserves it evermore about her
To kiss and talk to. I’ll ha’ the work ta’en out,
And give’t Iago. What he will do with it,
Heaven knows, not I.
I nothing, but to please his fantasy. (Emilia III.iii.294–303)

Oh Emilia, so clueless.

Now, here’s the cake James made for Sunday’s Wine and Unwind:

The dessert

Our Backstage Baker outdid himself this time, don’t you think?

Here’s the recipe he used, but really, you could make this with any sort of plain, vanilla cake.

Crustless Coconut Custard Pie Bars
NOTE from the Backstage Baker: The original recipe called for making it in a pie pan but handkerchiefs are square so I did a 9″square pan.  Of course.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups shredded coconut

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Generously grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, flour, and salt.

3. Stir in melted butter and vanilla extract.

4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

5. Mix in evaporated milk , then stir in the coconut by hand.

6. Pour mixture into pan and bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until custard is nearly set and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

7. Let cool, then refrigerate before serving.

Here are some photos of the cast enjoying their napkin treat!

Allison Wright who plays Emilia and finds the handkerchief and then gives it to her husband Iago and Caroline Siewert who is a member of the ensembleAllison Wright who plays Emilia (and finds the handkerchief and then gives it to her husband Iago) and Caroline Siewert who is a member of the ensemble
Miguel Perez who play Brabantio, Heather Lind who plays Desdemona and loses the handkerchief, Kevin Rico Angulo who is a member of the ensembleMiguel Perez (Brabantio), Heather Lind (who plays Desdemona and loses the handkerchief), and ensemble member Kevin Rico Angulo

 

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A Flourless Chocolate Cake fit for a King

IMG_0113 Mark Rylance, aka King Phillip V, star of “Farinelli and the King”

King Phillip V, that is.  Our James has hopped directly from “Time and the Conways” to another Broadway show, “Farinelli and the King.”  If you haven’t heard of it, you really, really should.  I was lucky enough to see it last week, and it is really a gorgeous, emotional and relevant evening of theater.  No spoilers here, but the entire production seems lit entirely by candlelight and the whole thing has a magical, poignant quality to it.  Here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article about it, here’s the New York Times review and here’s where you can buy tickets.  Do get them soon, because this is a limited run that ends on March 25.

But back to cake — Mark Rylance, (King Phillip) celebrated his birthday yesterday, and James baked his classic, simple and delectable Flourless Chocolate Cake.   Actually, as you can see from the photo below, he baked two.  While we’ve already blogged this recipe  (here), when the King commands, it seems necessary to blog it again.  Plus, the cake only has six ingredients, so it’s a definite keeper

IMG_0107

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Glaze:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter

Method:

1.   Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder.
2.   In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
3.   Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

For the Glaze:

1.   In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, the corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add 4 ounces chopped chocolate, swirl pan to mix, do not mix, and allow to stand until melted, about 3 minutes.
2.  Whisk 1 tablespoon butter into icing until melted and the chocolate is shiny and smooth.. Put wax paper under the cooling rack then pour glaze evenly over cake. Use a spatula to ease icing out to edges of cake and down the sides. Sprinkle the ground almonds around the top edge of the cake. Allow icing to cool and set before slicing.

IMG_0108Champagne with a chaser . . .  Or is it the other way around?

The Backstage Baker ON STAGE!

decoratedThe cake on the prop table decorated with fresh strawberries and fat free, sugar free Greek yogurt.  Mmmmmm.

Sometimes, there are things asked of stage manager that are far outside their job description . . .

Now, as mentioned in a recent post, the Backstage Baker is stage managing “Time and the Conways” for the Roundabout.  They just started previews at the American Airlines Theater and I hear it’s a smash.  (So get those tickets now, because this is a limited run that closes on November 26.)

This show offered James a baking challenge and believe it or not, it’s not the first time he’s been called on to create something edible to appear onstage eight times a week. (The last time was for a blueberry pie that Dianne Wiest made and baked onstage in the play  “Memory House” back in 2005. Here’s the review where the pie features prominently.)

But back to “Time and the Conways.”  It so happened that one of the actors was staged to devour a mini-bundt cake, but no one wants to consume a sugar-filled, gluten-based cake eight times a week.

Backstage Baker to the rescue!  Late one night, right the middle of technical rehearsals, he got home and started experimenting.  Could a pancake batter of eggs and banana be turned into a cake?  Would it even be edible?  Would it hold the bundt shape and look like an elegant confection worthy of the Conways? More importantly, would the actor be able to eat it with gusto?  Into the wee hours, he baked.  The cakes auditioned the next day and were a hit!   Now you can see them on stage eight times a week at The American Airlines Theatre.

Matthew and cake
Matthew James Thomas (who plays Robin Conway) about to do the taste test.

Matthew tasting cake
It passed the first audition… now to the call back, on stage and in front of the director.

It’s hired!  Now, should you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s the recipe:

Robin Conway’s Gluten Free, Sugar Free Mini Bundt Cakes

Ingredients:

1 really ripe banana mashed
2 eggs separated
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate eggs and whip whites until soft peaks form. Mix bananas and egg yolks together, add flour. Mix well. Add cinnamon and vanilla, then stir gently into whites until incorporated.
Pour into two mini-bundt pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes until set.
Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack.

Raspberry Stuffed Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing

James 4

Our Backstage Baker is busy busy —  he’s already deep in rehearsal for his next Broadway show, J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, starring Elizabeth McGovern and directed by Indecent’s Rebecca Taichman.  (FYI, Indecent closed on August 6, but if you missed it, you can catch it on November 17 on PBS’ Great Performances.  Check your local listings, as they say.)

Last week was the first Wine and Unwind for the Conways cast, and James made the Flourless Chocolate Cake already posted on the site. (As an aside, do you realize there are over 85 recipes posted here?  All made by James for the various shows he’s worked on over the past four years.)

This week, he tried a new recipe, and it seems like a keeper.  Enjoy!

Fresh Raspberry Stuffed  Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing
NOTES:  The individual cakes are made in cupcake pans and then inverted to cool, iced and served.
This recipe is great for a party since it makes 24.

Ingredients
for the mini cakes:
Nonstick Coconut Oil cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups raspberries

for the Chocolate Truffle Icing:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Add about 1/4 cup flour mixture and 1/4 cup buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed. Keep adding flour and buttermilk until finished and beat until just combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more.

Divide half of the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Divide the 2 cups raspberries among muffin cups, adding 3 or 4 berries to the center of each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over berries in muffin cups. Do not fill the cups fully.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

To Prepare Chocolate Truffle Icing:
Put cream and corn syrup in a small pan and boil over low heat stirring constantly. Add chocolate chips and let set 2 minutes. Whisk to combine and add vanilla.

To glaze cupcakes, invert one cake at a time onto a slotted spoon. Hold the cake over the bowl of icing and spoon icing over cake, allowing excess to drip down side. Place glazed cakes on a wire rack set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill about 20 minutes or until icing is set.

James 1

If desired, decorate cakes with additional raspberries. Makes 24 cupcakes.

James 2
Actors Cara Ricketts and Gabriel Ebert ( 2013 Tony Award  winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical)

James 3
Anna Camp, Anna Baryshnikov and Charlotte Parry wining and unwinding

James 5
Assistant Director Katie Lindsay

Vegan Chocolate Cake

VEgan chocolate cake

When you need a vegan dessert this one is easy, moist and delicious. Jitney’s associate director, Awoye Timpo, is vegan, so the Backstage Baker baked this for her birthday.

It’s amazing.  And super easy to make.  In fact, I think I’ll go bake one now.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Method

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a sifter, sift twice. Sift all into and ungreased 9 inch square pan.

3.  Make three holes in the mixture. Pour oil into one hole, vinegar in the second, vanilla in the third. Pour water over all. Mix with fork until smooth and blended. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (no more).

This cake is so moist it doesn’t need frosting.  Make like the Backstage Baker and top it with fresh raspberries tossed in powdered sugar and shave some chocolate on top.  Mmmm, delicious!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting

the-play-the-cake-the-wine

The Backstage Baker is back on Broadway with August Wilson’s Jitney! Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, it’s part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh/Century Cycle of plays (two of which won the Pulitzer Prize) and is the only one never produced on Broadway.  Until now.

James sent me this recipe several weeks ago, having baked this delicacy for the company’s first Wine and Unwind.  I’m only just getting around to posting it, while in the interim James and the company have rehearsed, teched and had their first preview on Broadway! (Oh, and they celebrated some holidays in there too.)  Opening night is January 19, 2017, so get your tickets now!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Sweet Potato Frosting
(with thanks to fellow stage manager Buzz Cohen)

1 pound (453 g) zucchini (about 4 small), trimmed
2½ cups (360 g) white whole wheat flour
½ cup (48 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (312 g) sugar
1 cup (245 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (112 g) grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (180 g) semisweet chocolate chips

Sweet Potato Frosting:
1 (15-ounce; 425-g) can pure sweet potato puree
10 ounces (283 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
1. To make the cake: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Coat a 9 x 3 x 2-inch cake pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray. If you’re using a metal pan, line the bottom and sides with foil or parchment paper and spray again.

2.  Set a box grater on some paper towels and grate the zucchini on the large holes. Spread it out on the paper towels, top with more paper towels, and press gently to remove excess moisture.

3.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until very smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk, gradually drawing in the dry ingredients, just until smooth. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips with a silicone spatula until evenly incorporated. Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared pan.

4.  Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back a little when lightly pressed with a fingertip, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

5.  While cake is cooling, make the frosting: Bring the sweet potato puree to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is at room temperature and the consistency of canned frosting. It should hold soft peaks when you lift the spatula from the pan but not be stiff. Spread the frosting all over the top of the cake, creating swoops and swirls.

*Make ahead notes: The cake is best the day it’s made, when the chocolate chips are still a bit melty and the frosting is soft, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.*carra-patterson-and-andre-holland Carra Patterson and Andre Holland

brandon-dirdenBrandon Dirden in a sugar coma . . .

Apples LeRoy

apples-leroy

The Backstage Baker made this apple sheet cake for the company of Plenty.    Cast member LeRoy McClain (who plays Mick) really, really liked it, so it was unanimously decided to name the dessert Apples LeRoy. (And that’s pronounced Apples LE-Roy, not Apples Leeroy!) The recipe originally came from the Better Homes & Gardens website, but our Backstage Baker did some fiddling with it to make it even tastier.

Here’s a very happy LeRoy with the (almost) empty pan.

leroy-with-whats-left-of-his-cake

I had the opportunity to chat with LeRoy who, it turns out, is quite an accomplished baker himself.  A native of Cambridgeshire, England, he shares a lot of the same holiday baking memories that I have — mincemeat pies, Christmas cake, lemon curd tart . . .   But he’s also mastered new delights, such as French Vanilla Pineapple Upside Down cake (“Oh, I bring this one to all the Thanksgiving dinners I get invited to — it’s obviously not a holiday I celebrated as a child.”  Hmm, what are you doing for Thanksgiving this year, LeRoy?)  He’s promised to share a recipe for the blog – -perhaps his Caramel Apple Candied Pecan cake or his Raspberry Streusel Crunch Cake.  So stay tuned!

Apples LeRoy

Ingredients:
2 medium baking apples
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried apples, finely chopped

Maple Icing:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. Peel, core, and coarsely shred one of the apples. Thinly slice remaining apple, removing seeds; cover and set apples aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the butter, brown sugar, apple butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk until combined. Fold in dried and fresh shredded apple. Spread batter into prepared pan. Arrange apple slices over batter.

4. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack. Spoon Maple Icing over hot cake; spread evenly, using a pastry brush if necessary. Cool completely. Dust with ground cinnamon.

for Maple Icing:

In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth.