5 Genius Ways to Serve Cake

December 17, 2014

In honor of the holidays and the Genius Recipes cookbook pre-sale, we're asking some of the geniuses in question about their favorite things.

Today: Nigella Lawson -- cookbook author, television personality, and domestic goddess -- tells us her five favorite ways to liven up a good slice of cake.


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1. Balance is everything in life, and easier to attain in the kitchen than out of it: Sweet cake is made instantly more interesting, less unsubtle, with a dollop of crème fraîche to accompany it; smetana, whole milk Greek yogurt, and sour cream also work.

2. I love a plain poundcake, or a plain chocolate cake, and turn either into an elegant dessert with the addition of an almost-compote of berries. At this time of year, I turn to frozen berries -- preferably a mixture -- and let them clatter into a bowl, grate over lemon zest (or, for a chocolate cake, orange) then leave to defrost and get to room temperature. Before serving I add a squeeze of whatever citrus fruit the zest came from plus, if possible, a sprig or two of fresh mint.

3. Pistachios are the parsley of the dessert world: Just as any meat dish looks "finished" by a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley, so is any cake, however ramshackle, made immediately, exotically beautiful so long as you scatter finely chopped pistachios over it.

4. Yes, we all know that cake is always good à la mode -- but stop being so vanilla, and serve with a scoop of two of a flavor that will complement the cake in a more interesting way. Serve chocolate cake with coffee or raspberry ice cream, apple cake or applesauce cake with salted caramel or bourbon ice cream, and so on as your fancy takes you.

5. Stale cake lying around? And don’t laugh: It can happen. Slice into about one-inch slices, arrange on a plate, douse with the booze of your choice -- sherry, rum, cherry brandy -- top modestly but not meanly with whipped cream and then scatter berries or other fruit of your choice; at this time of year, a jewelled sprinkling of pomegranate seeds will do it.

Tell us: What clever ways do you serve your cake?

Photos by James Ransom



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  • Laura A Lafontsee
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Nigella Lawson, food enthusiast, television personality, and journalist, is the bestselling author of Nigellissima, Nigella Kitchen, Nigella Express, Nigella Fresh, Nigella Christmas, Nigella Bites, Feast, How to Be a Domestic Goddess (for which she won the British Author of the Year Award), and How to Eat, which together have sold 12 million copies worldwide. These books, along with her groundbreaking Quick Collection apps and her successful television series on Food Network, E! Entertainment Television, and Style, have made hers a household name around the world. She is currently appearing in her third season as a judge on ABC-TV’s “The Taste,” airing Thursday’s 8-10pm. Nigella lives in London with her family. Follow Nigella @Nigella_Lawson


Laura A. June 8, 2015
My favorite with about any cake is a couple diced up apples, marinades in the pulp and juice of an orange, touch of brandy. Mixed, marinated for a couple hours, toss in a handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
A dollop under and on top. Heavenly.
PieceOfLayerCake January 11, 2015
I'm a fan of topping cakes with a simple citrus glaze, in lieu of buttercream, and then using that to adhere all sorts of goodies (such as nuts, cacao nibs, feuilletine, etc.). I love carrot cake, but can't get behind cream cheese orange glaze (confectioners' sugar, zest and juice) with toasted walnuts and coconut is my idea of the perfect birthday cake.
Chef K. December 30, 2014
Imbibe the cake with boozy simple syrup.
mnr_t December 21, 2014
Angelfood cake toast was my favorite special breakfast treat as a child!
amysarah December 18, 2014
Haven't thought of this in ages, but my mother used to toast leftover poundcake and serve it smeared with yet more butter, for breakfast or an after school snack. Those were the days.
AntoniaJames December 18, 2014
Glad you mentioned this! Last time I toasted a slice of pound cake - a few weeks ago -- I slathered it with the Virant Pumpkin Butter featured here in the Genius column. Tasty, indeed. ;o)
AntoniaJames December 17, 2014
For using leftover cake, e.g., pound cake, or white or yellow cake, too, or fruitcake or plum pudding, or a combination of any of the above, this classic Devonshire Pudding

Dessert sauces for drizzling over cakes (and a multitude of other treats):

Brandy, Lemon and Quince Custard (super easy)

Quince and Lemon Sauce in this recipe (slightly more involved than the immediately preceding one) Raise the bar by letting less imaginative cooks rely on sticky confectioners' sugar-based icings for their breakfast buns, while you serve a luscious custard drizzle sauce - boozy or not

Or go elegant, with this Amontillado Dessert Sauce

Any of these sauces also do roasted pears proud, e.g.,
mcs3000 December 17, 2014
Totally genius.