The Cambridge Cake

One of my favorite things to do, always, has been to sit and read (I know, I know...this is soooo internetty) Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." No, no I'm not embarking on some gimicky personal cooking challenge to keep myself occupied. Rather, I am just recounting something I enjoy to do on days when there isn't much to do except think about cooking. I am planning a "Paris" themed dinner for next week for some friends who sadly have had to postpone their France trip due to some untimely issues, let's say, and so I'm treating them to some good old French standards. So, to whom do I turn to? Julia, of course!
Reading through "TWTC" is something I've always done, as long as the book has been around (well, around me). When I was fifteen I had my birthday off from school for a semester break. I remember it was a cold January day in LA and, having just finished finals and not really wanting to do anything other than stay in and bake myself a fancy cake - specifically the s0-called "Cambridge Cake" that is the cover star of TWTC's Cakes & Cookies section (page 454). This is what we did and still do at my mother's house - there is no cable, no video games, nothing to do but to bake elaborate dishes and play canasta. I remember when my lovely mother brought home the tome that is Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." I thought it one of the most beautiful cookbooks I had ever seen. Up until then she just had her copy of "The Joy of Cooking" which was held together with brown packing tape and had family recipes up and down the inner covers. That book, her old Julia cookbooks of course, which I actually never really picked up until that movie came out last year, a collection of hilarious Time Life "Cookbooks of the World," and maybe some Wolfgang Puck books which were cute and had great recipes, but were nothing like this one. "The Way to Cook" was the biggest cookbook I had ever seen, and had such sumptuous photos and so charmingly written. I think I've read it cover to cover 1,000 times over my lifetime. When I moved back to LA in June and into my own house she gave me my very own copy.
Back when I was fifteen and drooling over the pictures in TWTC, the Cambridge Cake was my favorite page. The walls and ribbons of black chocolate, layers and layers of beautiful Genoise cake tied up in bows of creamy, mocha-y French buttercream frosting. I determined that day, my fifteenth birthday, that, fuck it, I'm going to make this cake. It's just a bloody cake, how hard could it be? Well, it took me all day and looked nothing like the picture, but it was damn good. My chocolate wall was cracked and uneven, but my cake was moist and the buttercream buttery and smooth. I was quite proud of myself, having mastered making madeleines and cookies of all kinds, this cake was a triumph. A delicious, delicious triumph.

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