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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.
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