Making Martha’s Cakes: How to Save a Cake

In all fairness, I strayed far, far, far from Martha’s recipe this week. I was overly-stimulated by the whimsy of the contestants on The Great British Baking Show and thought I’d be able to freestyle it. I’m sure if I’d laid out my baking plans to Judge Mary Berry beforehand, she would have given her most delicate frown and delivered a sweetly-packaged warning… something along the lines of, “It sounds delightful and troubling all at once.” or “I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that, but perhaps it’ll be scrummy!” or maybe just a plain old, “That sounds different. Good luck.” while quickly skirting herself away and hiding her mortification.

This was supposed to be a raspberry almond chocolate pound cake, but all the filling sank to the bottom. In the before photo, the cake is upside down so I could surveil the crime scene in more detail.

It certainly was scrummy. Michael and I devoured half of it while watching The Queen on Netflix. But I still am not permitted to put this in the win column, so back to the drawing board I go.

Stay tuned.

Making Martha’s Cakes: Martha Stewart’s Pound Cake

Pound Cake Recipe from TvFoodAndDrink.com
I was able to master Martha Stewart recipes before I understood the “Pulse” function on my food processor. I was still afraid of slow cookers when I was pulling perfect cookies out of the oven because of her. Martha deserves all her success. Her recipes are easy to follow, they never fail, and they make everyone happy.

I met Martha when she was a guest player on Hollywood Game Night, a show I helped produce. I was going to bring her muffins I made from one of her recipes, in a basket, bedded with a gingham cloth napkin. But I didn’t do it because I decided I would have felt guttted if she wasn’t visibly impressed. I learned my lesson when I met Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I wore my best form-fitting, striped shirt with metal-docked pearly-snap buttons. I was hoping he’d get wide eyed and compliment me, but all he said was, “Where’s Kleenex? I think I’m getting a cold.”

I’m sure anyone who invites Martha to their home frantically cleans it before hand. But she doesn’t really go into your bathroom and judge you. Before she ever walks in to someone else’s bathroom, before she’s ever halfway down the hallway, Martha Stewart is already thinking to herself, “My bathroom is better.” And she’s right. Martha has the best bathroom. If I was at Martha Stewart’s house, I bet I would think her bathroom was so nice, instead of using it, I’d excuse myself and sprint to the gas station.

Martha Stewart can make a poncho work. She can do anything. I once saw Martha Stewart convince Rosie O’Donnell to sample low-calorie dip. Rosie said it was “delectable,” and that was absolutely the wrong word choice, but Martha just smiled, like there’s no reason in the world it should have ever annoyed her.

Pound Cake Recipe from TvFoodAndDrink.com

Pound Cake Recipe from TvFoodandDrink.com

Pound Cake Recipe from TvFoodandDrink.com

Martha Stewart’s Basic Pound Cake

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, and more for pans
  • 1 pound (about three cups) AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Preheat over to 325 F

Butter two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt

With an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (about 8 minutes).  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Reduce speed to medium; beat in vanilla.  Add eggs in 4 batches, beating thoroughly after each and scraping down sides of bowl.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in 4 batches, beating until just incorporated

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.  Tap pans on counter; smooth tops with an offset spatula.  Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 65 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes.  Turn cakes out onto rack to cool completely.

Serve with the whipped cream and macerated berries.

Whipped Cream Instructions

With an electric mixer (or by hand), whisk 1 cup cold heavy cream in a well-chilled bowl until soft peaks form.  Add up to 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (or leave out for unsweetened whipped cream), and whisk until medium-stiff peaks form.

For a lemon variation, decrease sugar to 1 tablespoon and add 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Macerated Berries

Combine 2 1/4 cups fresh berries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice,  and let sit for 1 hour

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies or “THE WORST DAMN JOB IN HOLLYWOOD”


I quit my job at a legal servicing firm when I was twenty-four to pursue a career in film and television. My very first interview in the business was for a three-week temp assignment assisting a talent manager named Celia Burr, who worked out of a large production office in Beverly Hills. I was nauseous in the lobby while I waited to be taken in to meet her. Having worked in the law, I had been accustomed to a clear understanding of procedure that all parties involved had to follow. I had been warned that in entertainment, all bets were off; every company had its own method for getting the job done. And at the sign of your first mistake, word would get out that you were a disaster, and you’d never find work again.

The manager of the office, Deborah, fetched me from my spot on the sofa and took me through a pass-coded door. From there, she led me down an under-lit hallway lined with other twenty-somethings at outer-office desks, all eyeing me suspiciously, bored faces and cheap shoes. Deborah had a tightly woven perm wrapped around her head like a helmet, and a skirt that extended below her knees. I noticed as she put one leg forward, she added a last-second kick before pulling it back to replace it with the other leg. This move caused her skirt to fire out ahead of her, as if she was clearing a path for herself, and anyone who was smart should get the hell out of the way if they knew what was good for them. Before we had reached the end of the hallway, Deborah had already told me plainly that the company had a very complicated copier machine, that they were heavily financed by investors from Saudi Arabia, and that she was a lesbian and people who had problems with it didn’t last long.

RECIPE for RED VELVET SWIRL BROWNIES – Click Here!

French Pork Pies (Tourtières) OR “Keep on Looking Busy for the Love of TV”




Don’t tell anyone this, but sometimes when I’m bored at work I go into the men’s room and watch myself in the mirror while I angle my arms in different directions and pretend I’m a hieroglyphic.

Other times I sit at my desk and stare silently, with a balance of frustration and thought on my face.  You’d swear I was trying to work out a production issue.  But in my head, I’m actually deciding what music I want played at my funeral.  I’m nearly ceratin that the “thinking theme” from Match Game ‘76 is what I’d like for when they carry my casket out of the church.

Working in television is not glamorous.  Appearing on television is glamorous, but working in television is just long hours.  Minimum ten to twelve a day, sometimes sixteen or more, almost all of it on your feet when you’re in production, and then far too much of it in a chair when you’re in post-production.

You’re often working out of rooms with no windows, overhead Gestapo lighting, a shortage of trash cans, and heavy, boxy old Mac desktop computers that crash when they try to bring up a website and auto-save a phone list at the same time. The kitchen has nothing but diet sodas, Hershey’s Miniatures and Cheez-Its.  You may start a television show eager and optimistic.  But by the time the show spits you out the other end, you’re pale, your pants don’t fit, and you discover all your house plants are dead.

But there’s no time to express how tired you are while you’re in the thick of it.  You’re almost always behind schedule.  Your shows aren’t being edited fast enough. The network has decided your set should be red instead of lime green even though you wrapped production six weeks ago and the set is sitting in a dumpster in Lancaster.  Also, you can’t use that shot of the breaded chicken strips you desperately need because the camera caught some idiot standing where he shouldn’t have been standing, and upon closer inspection, it turns out that idiot is you.

You just have to keep working.  You have to always be busy.

And when you’re not busy, you have to make it appear to everyone else that you are.

When I absolutely can’t concentrate on work any more, I’ll pick up a piece of paper and walk around the halls for ten minutes or so with a look of rushed worry on my face.  Another producer might say, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say to them, “Trust me.  You DO NOT want to know.”  And then they’ll run away from me as fast as they can, like I’ve just started talking about my experiences with prison sex.

Sometimes I have the phone up to my ear and when someone comes up to assign me another task, I just hold up the “can’t do it right now” finger, then point at the phone and make a sad face.  They’ll walk away thinking I’m trying to convince a contestant to sign that release form no one remembered to have them sign before they appeared on the show. They’ll never know what I’m actually doing is listening to what time Inside Out is playing in theaters across the country, one zip code at a time.

I believe in breaks, but television production does not, so I have to make them happen any way I can.  I’m really not qualified to participate in any other field except show business.  Thankfully in show business, with a lot of stamina, a little bit of brains, and a massive talent for being able to trick people into believing what you want them to believe – home viewers, studio audience members, the person about to hire you –  you can go very, very, very far!

I’d share more tricks on how to always “look busy,” but I’m under the gun to get these pork pies done in time for dinner tonight.

Or am I??

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Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies OR “If You’re Wimpy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands”

A 22 year old man died trying to swing by a rope from Utah’s 110 foot tall Corona Arch. The Corona Arch is a natural landmark made of sandstone and shaped like, you guessed it, a giant arch. People climb up to the top, secure a rope to it and then jump off with the other end tied around their waist. The idea is when the rope reaches the end of its slack, the person attached at the bottom will swing wildly back and forth beneath the arch, suspended in mid-air like a human pendulum. But the guy who died miscalculated the amount of slack he needed on his rope. So when he jumped off the Arch, he just plowed straight into the ground. And that’s that.

When I read that story, I realized something wonderful. I realized that nothing like that could ever happen to me because I am a complete wimp.

I don’t mean to say that I’m a coward. I have courage. I just know where I don’t care to apply it.

The reason I would never jump off the Corona Arch is not because I’m afraid. It’s because I know me! I’d be that one hapless ninny up there who miscounts the number of feet in his rope, jumps off the top thinking, “Look at me! I’m really out of my comfort zone!” then slaps straight into the ground, ending my life at the center of a giant dust cloud just like Wile E. Coyote.

Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s wonderful when you finally accept being a wimp as part of your natural human make-up. I no longer have to pretend I’m okay with things that make me afraid. Like the iron. I hate the iron. Do you know how hot those things can get? You might as well keep a fuel rod from Fukushima under your sink. Most people don’t worry about using the iron. But again, I know me! Enough time around one of those things and I’m sure I’ll find a way to accidentally burn off my appendix.

I’m a wimp and I’m ok! I no longer have anxiety over it. Meditation and has freed me from it. Meditation and the little blue pill I have to take every morning. So what if I run from danger? Lots of people do that. Don’t ask me who right now because I can only think of C-3PO, and he’s not actually a person.

But they’re out there! Lots of them, all waiting a full three hours after eating before they get in a pool, and hiding in the basement when the stove needs to be re-lit. So what if I’ll never jump off The Corona Arch with a rope tied around my waist? I do other things well. I’ll keep to them. And I’ll also keep wearing shoes whenever I’m on shag carpet, just in case there’s a scorpion. I know me! It’s just a matter of time before one shows up. I plan on being prepared. And that’s that.

Click here for the recipe for Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Texas Dogs

Please understand that I have no interest in discrediting the standard summer hot dog served up on that doughy white bread bun and weighed down in yellow mustard or store-bought ketchup.  Plant one of those babies in front of me right now and I dare you to predict how long it lasts!

The whole experience of the low-brow, shiny stadium-style dogs clumsily wrapped in cheap wax paper and dripping with salty juices will never get old. Forget that they’re considered traditionally American, family-oriented, and best of all, cheap.  They just taste good!

But a simple, inexpensive hot dog can go so much further.  And right now is the perfect time of the year to take this standard summer staple out for a test drive, and see what it can really do for you.

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