Baking For Others: Midnight Cake

DISH: Chocolate Chip Cake
TYPE: In the Night Kitchen

Phoebe thinks I have a weird obsession with freezing things. I don’t, really. Growing up, all the freezer held besides ice and ice cream was butter. We didn’t freeze meat, and we didn’t eat many frozen vegetables (except peas; I have fond memories of eating frozen peas—undefrosted). With a few exceptions, I’ve stuck to the rule of thumb that food is generally better from the fridge or the pantry than it is reheated from the freezer. (If you’ve ever been to Picard, in France, you might beg to differ, and likewise if you regularly partake of Trader Joe’s frozen meals.)

To the point: we had a high school potluck last summer, before we started Big Girls, Small Kitchen, and I labored over this three-layered lemon cake as my contribution. It was very rich, and 10 girls, already full from all the savory food, only got through about half of it. Because I couldn’t bear to see the product of my labor go to waste, I insisted that Phoebe put the rest in Tupperware (she was hosting), so we cut it into two pieces, fit it into airtight containers, and stuck it in the back of her freezer.

It is still there.

the lemon cake, circa September 2008

She has no idea when or why she would ever eat it, though she sometimes offers it to me when I’m over and she’s making fun of my predilection to save things in the freezer. I argue that I really don’t have this predilection at all, I just don’t like things like cake to go to waste.

But since I get these cravings, especially since having the blog, to bake—even more than to eat—I’ve been leaning on my freezer as the master preserver so that I can bake when I feel like it and then eat or serve my treats at a convenient time. Unlike, say, midnight on a Tuesday.

portrait of my kitchen, a Tuesday, 2:30am

For whatever reason, I recently spent a very insomniac week. I’d get home exhausted, go to bed at a normal hour, then pop up around 3am totally awake and bored out of my mind. Once it was apparent that sleep was off the table, I found myriad ways to entertain myself. I caught up on a couple TV shows. I read for work and for fun. And I baked. In fact, one of those ill-fated nights was just before the last mag club meeting, and the result of my middle-of-the night baking was the black-bottomed blondies that the mag club members ate to the very last crumb. But I also made two other cakes, both humble pantry affairs, not too sweet and not too heavy. (One needs a bit more daytime tweaking before the recipe is right to post, so stay tuned.)

I’m not exactly sure when I’ll eat them, but I probably will eventually. I think both will be great toasted, as breakfast, or warmed and served with ice cream to guests. Freezing them right after baking means they never went stale, and if they’re warm, I doubt people will guess they came from the freezer and not the oven. It doesn’t make them any less homemade.

From my kitchen, which often smells best at midnight, to yours,



Chocolate Chip Cake
Makes 1 cake

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt (you can subsitute milk here)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9″ round cake pan with removable bottom.

Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until even fluffier.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredents. Add to the butter-sugar mixture and fold to combine. When flour is somewhat incorporated, stir in the yogurt, followed by the chocolate chips.

Bake for about half an hour, until the top is browned and a toothpick stuck in comes out clean. Cool on a rack to nearly room temp, then serve or cut into wedges and freeze.

in the freezer bags, awaiting preservation
Posted in: Baking For Others
  • Kate

    This sounds like a delicious midnight snack and I bet it would be good with a creme fresh or homemade yogurt sorbet!!!

    p.s–your older sister just allowed me to get out all of my baking cravings. I made her: Lemon squares, brownies, oatmeal raisin cookie bars, and honey-ginger snaps!!

  • Frankie

    How do you get such a light-looking cake with whole wheat flour? When I try baking with w.w. the pastry goes heavy and limp.

  • mandy

    if you don't have whole wheat pastty flour, what can be used as a subsitute?

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Whole wheat pastry flour is part of what allows you to use whole wheat flour AND have such light cake. If you don't have any, just use all-purpose flour for the entire amount (1 3/4 cups).

  • Sarah L

    this is the cutest post ever

  • Becca

    I have recently found that I do much of my best baking after midnight! My roommates think I'm crazy, but that doesn't stop them from eating the results. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

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