I love steak. I love cake. I love them one right after the other. Together, they are the definiton of indulgent. Even the poetry of “steak and cake” is as good an excuse as any for a cookbook, especially when the author is the talented Elizabeth Karmel. Karmel is the brains behind New York’s Hill Country Barbecue in NYC and Washington DC, and Hill Country Chicken in Brooklyn. She’s also written several other cookbooks. Karmel taught a class in steak and cake for many years at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education and now shares all her indulgent wisdom in this book.
So you’re asking yourself, “I knew there were a lot of cake recipes, but how many steak recipes could there possibly be?” Well, far more than even I dreamed. In this case, about 50 steaks and 50 cakes, each paired. Then there is a Steak Primer section and a Cake Primer section. The Steak Primer has tips on shopping for steak, steak grades, steak cuts, and cooking technique. Karmel understands that one should not let steak come to room temperature first, that sirloin is overrated, that one should oil the food not the grates, that there are effective ways to deal with flareups, and that the importance of salt cannot be overstated. My only complaints are that she has not fully embraced the benefits of the reverse sear technique for thick steaks and of salting in advance (dry brining). She also hasn’t caught on that cross-hatch grill marks on steaks are less flavorful than an all-over sear. But these are not dealbreakers.
As Julia Child once said, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.” This book’s Cake Primer helps you throw a great party. Karmel discusses cake pan materials and shapes, ingredients such as fresh vs. sweetened dried coconut, using spirits in cake batters, and even which cooling racks are best. Recipes focus on the three most popular basic cakes: white, yellow, and chocolate. There’s also a selection of icings, glazes, and frostings.
Personally, when it comes to steak seasoning, I’m Mr. Salt and Pepper. But Karmel has opened my eyes to the indulgent potential of recipes like Cowboy Steak with Whiskey Butter, Knife & Fork Country Club Steak Sandwich, Carne Asada, Steak And Truffled Eggs, Tuscan Steak with White Anchovy and Truffle Butter and Grilled Lemons, T-Bone with Nduja Butter, Bob’s Steak au Poivre, Cofffee Rubbed Tenderloin, Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin, Luck of the Irish Flank Steak Sandwich with Charred Red Onions, and many more.
She includes some great sounding sides, too: Steakhouse Spinach, Bloody Mary Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette, Garlic Smashed Potatoes, Jicama Slaw, Chimichurri Potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, and Grilled Mexican Street Corn Salad, to name a few.
Then there are the cakes: Whiskey Buttermilk Bundt Cake, Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Baked Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Puffs, Houston Banana Loaf Cake, Latte Loaf, Chocolate Layer Cake, Carrot Cake, Turtle Brownie Bites, Red Velvet Four Layer Cake, Chocolate-Coconut Candy Bar Cake, Poppy-Seed Cake, Olive Oil Cake, Classic Key Lime Cheesecake, Tex-Mex Chocolate Sweet Cake, Pecan Studded Rum Cake, and Brown Sugar Pound Cake. I’m drooling just writing those words.
Karmel says, “This is a book made for celebrations and it should be more about the occasion than the meal – so don’t be rigid, and make your own rules.” Amen. Let us eat cake–and steak!
Paperback, 260 pages. Beautiful pictures by talented food photographer Steve Hamilton.