I recently read Ruth Reichl’s latest book called “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.” It’s about the former New York Times restaurant critic’s experience, and her stories about disguising herself to fool restaurant managers and owners is very entertaining. Part of the charm of the book is that she intersperses a handful of recipes throughout. One of them is Nicky’s vanilla cake, named after her son. I love vanilla, so I decided to make this for a brunch I hosted a week ago. The result was so disappointing — it tasted too much like baking soda — that I decided to make it again this past weekend. After all, what’s the likelihood that the former NYT critic and current Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief would get a recipe wrong? It seemed more likely that I made a mistake and perhaps put too much baking soda in.
I made it yesterday, and as hard as it is to believe, it appears that there’s something wrong with the recipe. I got a little worried so I used less baking soda than the recipe called for, so it tasted a bit better but there’s still something wrong with it. This time, I know I didn’t make any mistakes because I was very careful. I can’t believe I wasted a pound of butter to make the two cakes. The second cake is on its way to the garbage.