THE INSPIRATION Thousands are the Seattle-based duo of Kristian Garrard and Luke Bergman who write gorgeous, barebones folk songs, mostly comprised of delicate dueling guitars over hushed vocals, occasionally with a harmonium or pedal steel. Their album The Sound of Everything was recorded in abandoned barns and other unconventional spots (like silos and state parks). One of my favorite tracks, “Everything Turned Upside Down,” starts with what sounds like waves in the background, and has a line that goes, “You should’ve seen the fall leaves blow up/ They never fell at all.” Of course I had to make some kind of upside-down cake, but I went with apple instead of the traditional pineapple, and added fall spices to make it even more appropriate for the season. Aesthetically, it’s also very rustic-looking and kind of reminds me of a tart with the way the caramel-soaked apples sink into the cake.
Red wine chocolate cake with whipped cream and mascarpone topping and red wine–poached pears (recipe here)
When I first heard The National maybe about three years ago, I disliked by frontman Matt Berninger’s voice and wrote them off immediately (and quite unfairly). When I returned to their music last year, around the release of their album High Violet, I finally got hooked and wondered why I was so put off by them in the first place; although since then I’ve certainly acquired a taste for a wider range of voices. Anyway, I spent a lot of time with 2005’s Alligator, which has become my favorite album of theirs. I knew I had to make something based on the song “All the Wine,” partially because, like The National, it took me a few tries to call myself a wine fan, too. (Now, while I still hardly know anything about wine, I do love it and drink it quite often.)
When I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for red wine chocolate cake, I knew it was a perfect match for this band, but I had to take it a step further by not only topping it with Deb’s suggested mascarpone whipped cream, but also with pears cooked in more red wine. The cake itself is dense and rich and one bite goes a long way (the wine flavor does not disappear after baking), while the toppings give it a more complex mix of flavors. It’s similar to how The National’s music can be lyrically dark and sonically layered, but it’s contained and sort of coiled up, rather than exploding in every direction. Not to mention this is decadent and self-indulgent, just like “All the Wine”‘s chorus of “And all the wine is all for me.” Don’t feel bad, though, just indulge in this one. I made it for my dear friend Jena’s birthday because she totally deserves all the wine. It was served at our housewarming party last month, and there were only about two pieces left over.
Cake balls dipped in chocolate, sprinkles and Pop Rocks (Recipe at bottom)
If you’re familiar with the electro-pop duo Matt & Kim, this one doesn’t need much of an explanation. This inseparable Brooklyn-based couple — Matt Johnson (keyboards and vocals) and Kim Schifino (drums) — is an explosion of smiley faces, rainbows and energy. These cake balls also explode (hello, Pop Rocks!), they’re guaranteed to cause smiley faces, they have rainbow colors, and they will give you energy — maybe even too much. This was my first time making cake balls (or eating them, for that matter), and they were as much fun to make as they were to eat. I highly recommend taking on this project with someone who has never eaten Pop Rocks before, like my friend Jill, because it will be a hoot. Also, how can you not giggle every time you say cake balls? CAKE BALLS! Matt & Kim on MySpace