Last night we celebrated my dear Jeremy’s birthday with a group excursion to Klong, a local Thai restaurant on oh-so-hip St. Marks Place. Klong is my favorite Thai in the city for three reasons: 1) it’s delicious, 2) it’s very well priced (except for the drinks), and 3) the menu is a little more interesting and innovative than other New York Thai restaurants. The fare is evenly split between Bangkok-style street vendor staples—pad Thai, pad see euw, chicken satay, pineapple fried rice, curry—and interesting, authentic alternatives. “Klong” means canal, and these klong-style dishes come from the rural suburbs of Bangkok and heavily feature seafood and an array of fresh vegetables. The Choo Chee Salmon, for example, is served with “Thai herbs and spices blended in mild chu chee chili paste with asparagus and kaffir lime leaves”; they also offer a Siamese paella with curry. The best thing on the menu (in my humble opinion) is a banana wrapped in sticky rice and folded into a banana leaf envelope; it’s served hot with homemade coconut ice cream. Last night, however, there was cake waiting at home, so I refrained from dessert and instead opted for an exceptional cocktail: a basil-ginger-honey mojito. Need I say more?
Replete, the birthday boy and his eight celebrants paraded home for after-party fun. Having come into the possession of a handle of apple schnapps, we decided to make sour apple martinis for everyone. Things that go in a good sour apple martini:
A lemon-flavored vodka
Apple schnapps or Apple Pucker
Cointreau or similar orange liquor
Sour mix (or sugar dissolved in lemon and lime juice) (omit if using Pucker)
A splash of vanilla syrup
Cut with ginger ale, if desired
Martinis were, appropriately, followed by a round of Apples to Apples. Then came cake.
Caramel cake has always been a birthday tradition in my family. I think this is the case because 1) it is beyond delicious, and 2) because it is almost impossible to make well. We’re talking an intensely difficult, imminently screw-up-able cake here. The difficulty is in the icing: a caramel candy that has to be cooked for a precise amount of time at a precise temperature. Dooms that will befall an undercooked or overcooked icing: 1) never hardening and subsequently denuding the cake, pooling on the plate; 2) becoming chewy and taffy-like; 3) hardening too fast and never making it onto the sides of the cake at all. Cakes resemble an archeological excavation in this situation.
Last night's cake was the first one I’ve ever made right! It was a delicious success, served with vanilla ice cream. I’ll include the recipe below, but I also noticed a fellow blogger has also written about this cake.
BOURBON POUND CAKE WITH DECADENT CARAMEL ICING
(My mom makes a regular white cake for this recipe, but I think the bourbon is a nice, complimentary addition.)
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup bourbon (I’ve found this recipe is also really good with spiced rum; in last night’s cake I even used coconut rum)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 and two-thirds cups packed brown sugar
Two-thirds cup milk
One-third teaspoon salt
Two-thirds cup butter or shortening
DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two layer-cake pans.
Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating at least 30 seconds after each addition.
Whisk sour cream, vanilla, and bourbon in small bowl. Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing well after each addition.
Spoon evenly into pans; bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and resilient. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove and cool completely.
DIRECTIONS FOR CARAMEL FROSTING
Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Bring to a boil; boil until soft-ball stage (drip into room-temperature water and see if it forms a ball—or use a candy thermometer. Whatever you do, be careful—if you overcook it, it will harden before you get it spread; if you undercook it, it will never harden at all).
Remove from heat; beat with spoon until of spreading consistency.
Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake.
In addition to being incredibly rich and wonderful, this cake also ages very well—it’s actually better on its second and third days. I suggest making it a day in advance to let the flavors settle into each other.
The evening ended in a rousing round of Squeak (the card game). Delight and deliciousness were had by all. Huzzah!