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Cake is universal. Everybody is familiar with the likes of devil’s food cake, coconut cake, white cake and yellow cake, pineapple upside down cake, and red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Cheesecake is a subject unto itself, originally a New York favorite but now known to everyone. Likewise, crumb cake – still a definitive New Jersey dish – is a familiar presence on breakfast menus everywhere.
Many cakes retain regional flavor, among them southern caramel cake and hummingbird cake, Upper Midwest turtle cake, northeast whoopie pie, (which, despite its name, is a hand-held cake), Delaware Valley Jewish apple cake, and southern soul-food Key lime cake.
Cakes that are virtually unknown beyond a very specific place include gooey butter cake in St. Louis, Smith Island Cake around the Chesapeake Bay, and gateau sirop in Cajun country.
An abundant sub-category of cake is the cupcake. Praiseworthy American cupcake destinations include Sally Bell’s of Richmond, Virginia, where the little cakes are frosted all over, not just on top; Prantl’s Bakery of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the burnt almond torte is the apotheosis of cupcakes, and the Bakin Bishop of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where each cupcake is frosted to order with the likes of fudge chocolate, buttercream, peanut butter, Key lime cream cheese, or amaretto pecan cream cheese. In fact, Bakin Bishop frostings are so good that the menu actually offers little cups of nothing but frosting!
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