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"What can I bring? Wine? And dessert, of course!"
I don't know if my friends expect it, but I feel, quite strongly, that it is bad manners for me not to bring a homemade dessert to a dinner party. Aside from the matter of politesse, I imagine them building a scene in which I am cast as the selfish kid in the school cafeteria who is withholding her peanut butter-and-jelly on white while the rest of her friends have stinky tuna sandwiches.
If I'm familiar enough with the hosts, I'll often bring one of the cakes you see in this column, minus the one slice that I used for the photo (and then ate for quality control.) Alternatively, I'll bake a duplicate of the latest cake, search the roster for something appropriate, or, if I don't know much about my fellow guests, make something in a flavor that is generally popular, like chocolate.
Recently the trees have exploded into bridal white blossoms and tropical bird greens and the shops are dressed in pastels. Spring has sprung, and egg hunts are in the planning. With these fresh palettes in view, images of pretty confections began to take shape in my head.
My dear friend, New York City photographer Mimi Ritzen Crawford, and I opened the spring season with a casual gathering. The menu included Southern fried chicken, scallion mashed potatoes, brown sugar roasted carrots, freshly fried cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, beer, bourbon, and, as luck would have it, this gorgeous cake. Corralled within the white chocolate-painted, cookie picket fence lie four layers of feathery lemon cake that are layered with ribbons of blackberry preserves and a white chocolate icing. Sitting on top: a lavish pile of midnight blue, fresh blackberries. And a little secret: if your icing skills aren't amazing, the wafer wall and berries will conceal that perfectly.