Sugar Rush: Chocolate Turtle Cake at Cask & Larder in Winter Park, FL

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[Photograph: Jay Friedman]

Cask & Larder is the new sister restaurant of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Florida. Calling itself a "Southern Public House," the restaurant features an on-site brewery, oyster bar, ham-slicing station, and an incredibly eclectic menu. After some pickled beef tongue, grilled lamb heart, and waffle fries (with chicken liver gravy and buttermilk cheese curds), why hold back on dessert, especially when you can sit at the counter and watch the pastry chef in action?

The dessert menu contains a number of whimsical creations. One is fried dough, which is "wit" beer doughnuts with soft caramel pudding and citrus caramel glaze. Count on something in a jar, such as pumpkin cheesecake the night I dined. Also look for a plate of "sweet treats," like a combination of honeycomb, banana bread brownies, and candy corn.

And then there are pies and cakes on pedestals. Turning heads, including mine, was the Chocolate Turtle Cake ($8). This is a classic Devil's food cake, sweetened up with some dark chocolate icing. But that's not all. There's a thin layer of dulce de leche in the cake, and more incorporated with toasted pecans on top. A sprinkling of sel gris shifts the chocolate to overdrive.

Dense and delicious, this dessert was worthy of its placement on a pedestal (even if it's hard to eat off of a cake stand). Especially after a stomach-stuffing Southern meal, this wasn't meant for one person to finish. But this person did. After all, when I was a kid, I couldn't get my mom to cut me a big enough piece of her chocolate cake. At Cask & Larder, I can have the whole thing, loving every bite along the way.

Cask & Larder

565 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789 (map)
(321) 280-4200; caskandlarder.com

About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.

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