i make cake. also, destroy pancakes.

Have you guys heard about this new book on habit formation? For a few weeks I couldn’t swing a dead habit without hitting this bro Charles Duhigg, who popped up everywhere from NPR to the New York Times to talk about his book The Power of Habit. The Times article, which you seriously seriously want to read (go. now. i’ll wait.), focuses on how mega-department-store Target uses the science of habit formation to track its customers, predict and/or guess at their life choices (based on their purchases, online browsing, etc), and advertise to them accordingly. The example discussed in the article revolves around predicting when customers are pregnant and targeting advertisements to their baby-havin’ needs. However, the article goes beyond that sort of deeply creepy Minority-Report-style marketing application of habit science to discuss habits more generally: how we form them, what keeps them going, and how to break them. I’m usually pretty resistant to these sort of pop-psychology books (never read a single word by Malcolm Gladwell and don’t intend to, thank you, I am elitist) but the excerpt in the Times really sucked me in. And my sick book-buying habit has led to a copy of The Power of Habit sitting on my family’s living room floor, and my procrastination-of-reading-books-I-bought habit has led to it being read soon, okay, stop bothering me.

All of which is to say that I am more than usually armed to understand that the craving for sweets I experience after dinner pretty much every night is simply a habit, reinforced by years of dessert, and as such is fully within my power to break. I don’t need cookies after dinner every night, and in reality, I don’t have a sweet after every dinner. (Just most of them.) But lately when I have a free evening and we have no dessert, I’ve been wholeheartedly giving into that habit via joyous baking. Why? Because it is delicious; I have approximately ninety bajillion dessert recipes bookmarked for making; and I never have time to cook anymore, so I grab the opportunities where I can.

What I actually wanted to make was chocolate beet cake and slow your roll if you don’t think that sounds delicious, Joy the Baker (whose cake is stupid pretty) and David Lebovitz have two totally separate delicious ideas on how to best carry this thing off. But while I had the beets, I didn’t have the other stuff. Like superfine sugar, wtf, also cream cheese and other items. So I went in the total opposite direction from chocolate beet cake with this super simple Busy-Day Cake from Lottie + Doof, a Chicago-based blogger I’ve loved for awhile but I don’t think I’ve ever cooked from before. The cake was super easy to make; more details below.

I also made pancakes for breakfast last Monday (no, I didn’t get up at an ungodly hour, I took off work and made them at like noon) and it was a total shit show. I tried to combine the multigrain flours of this recipe with the liquids in this recipe, and even though I adjusted my ratios I basically wound up with crepe batter. I don’t know if the lowered gluten in the multigrain recipe means that I need more aggressive liquids, like the yogurt the recipe calls for, or if I’m just making shit up at this point, but I do know that even an extra half cup of barley flour did me no good.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I ate them. They were delicious. But I’m pretty sure folks with brain impairments could have made more attractive and physically coherent pancakes than I did. Make of that what you will.

Notes & Verdicts
Busy-Day Cake by Lottie + Doof
Notes: No real changes. I did as I was told. Scanted the sugar as always, eyeballed the nutmeg, things like that, but as long as you follow the recipe you’ll produce the same cake I produced. Which, incidentally, is very easy to produce.
Verdict: Holy shit this is good. It is so light and fluffy and wondrous. Make it right now. Eat it right now. A+

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About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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10 Responses to i make cake. also, destroy pancakes.

  1. SWNC says:

    I heard a Fresh Air interview with Mike Duhigg–it was totally fascinating.

    Baking is one of my favorite ways to relax, which leads me to consume more cake than is probably a good thing.* I have often thought I would be a happier person if I could bake a cake every day. I want to try that Busy-Day Cake soon.

    *But, really, one can’t subsist on legumes and wheat germ alone. One must live.

  2. R. H. Kanakia says:

    I _love_ these pop-psychology books. I’ve read all the words written by Malcolm Gladwell. And I definitely want to read this Habit book.

  3. Gretta says:

    Hi! I am so glad that we met, and I really like your blog! While I was in NYC I stopped at Sugar Sweet Sunshine and had the best pudding of my life, the Chocolate Chip Cooking Pudding (http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2009/10/sugar-rush-chocolate-chip-cookie-pudding.html).
    Have you had this before? If not, I think you should try it… My goal is to be able to recreate this pudding at home in Boston. I am curious to know if there is sweetened condensed milk in the butterscotch pudding, if they sneak in cookie dough into the mix, and how they make this in general. Seriously this is the best dessert I had in NYC.

  4. LizR says:

    Oh god, that cake! I made it like two days ago, it was easiest thing ever and still delicious. No whipping egg whites, no million dirty dishes. Thank you for rec’ing it!

  5. SARAH! you have to visit Smitten’s site today! Her book is coming out in the fall! I kinda cried when I read the post… I get so emo about this type of thing! I love my bloggers.

  6. k___ says:

    I just wanted to drop in and say that even though you didn’t end up making the beet cake, you introduced me to the concept… and now my friend (who loves cooking with beets because they turn everything pink) is getting one for her birthday tomorrow! Just made my shopping list to get ingredients 😀

  7. Pingback: corn pancakes again, or how i learned the difference between cornmeal and corn flour. | Ends and Leavings

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