Back to Basics

The Simple, Do-It-All Cake Noma Alums Bake At Home

December  7, 2017

Do-it-all recipes rank up there with “The Best” or its iterations: ultimate, easiest, fastest. How can a single recipe truly fit your million and one needs? Call me jaded, but I typically eye those dishes with suspicion and move on to humbler-titled recipes.

But sometimes I’m wrong. And the ‘Do-It-All Cake’ in Noma alumnus Nadine Levy Redzepi’s new book, Downtime: Deliciousness at Home, is definitely one of those moments. Levy stripped a vanilla cake to its barest essentials, allowing its buttery, comforting flavor to shine. The already-in-your-pantry ingredient list forms the ideal batter for a host of desserts—dress it up with citrus or berries, flavor it with your favorite alcohol, or drizzle a caramel or chocolate or simple glaze.

What *can't* this cake do? Photo by Julia Gartland

“This may be the most valuable recipe in the whole book,” Levy says. “I make it all the time, really. It’s a great way to use most overripe or bruised fruit, or I use the batter to make a very traditional Danish Dream Cake, which is topped with caramelized brown sugar, butter, and coconut.”

Levy learned the recipe from Noma’s former pastry chef Rosio Sanchez, who has since opened her own restaurant in Copenhagen. Her version included lemon oil, but Levy wanted an even more basic batter.

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“I remember tasting this cake batter the first time. It was so good—the best cake batter I have ever tried. It wasn’t too sweet, it was so rich with all the cream and vanilla, the salt gave such good balance, and then it left me with an aftertaste of cream and flour. I was transported to childhood memories of when my mom let me lick the bowl.”

Despite its simplicity, this cake tastes anything but basic. When shooting the recipe for this story, our staff inhaled every last crumb in less than 30 minutes. Once you master the format, Levy recommends experimenting with different flours, toppings, or even shapes. Your family and guests will never know that you’re making the same cake over and over again. Sounds like the perfect do-it-all recipe to me.

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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Daisyloo April 2, 2018
I love this recipe and have made it twice. Bought vanilla bean for the first time and there is a large variation in the size and quality. The second bean was a very large and flavorful bean from Savory Spice Shop. It occurs to me that second bean was so good that I didn't need the entire bean. Is there any rule of thumb for using vanilla beans?
Daisyloo April 3, 2018
Thanks for trying. It wasn't helpful. I am trying to get more specific than just a recipe that calls for a vanilla bean. Would 4 inches of a moist and tacky bean be the equivalent of 1 tsp of vanilla extract? Someone must have done this work in the Food 52 kitchen.