Confidential to home cooks about to embark on another epic holiday baking season: Amanda Culver has faith in you.
Culver, who for a few years at the turn of the current millennium served as pastry chef for Birmingham, Ala.’s celebrated Highlands Bar & Grill, in 2018 challenged herself to bake one cake a week. The only rule was she couldn’t make the same cake twice.
“I had taken a long respite from regular baking over the years and just decided it would be a good way to get back into a creative spirit,” says Culver, who now lives in Charleston.
Throughout the project, which recently concluded, Culver posted photographs of her 52 cakes to a dedicated Instagram account. Over the course of a year, the account filled up with French apple cakes, brown butter cakes with clotted cream, chiffon cakes and flourless chocolate soufflé cakes.
In many cases, the pictured cake is short at least one slice, since Culver says she prides herself on what’s inside a cake, rather than just how it looks prior to cutting.
Typically, Culver distributed her cakes to friends in the form of slices, although she sometimes gave away complete cakes for special occasions. Still, she says, “I did gain 10 pounds.”
Despite the exercise in experimentation, Culver says she still likes white velvet butter cake more than any other kind. And she hasn’t wavered in her belief that cookbook authors Rose Levy Beranbaum and Stella Parks are responsible for the best modern cake recipes in circulation.
“There are still cakes out there I haven’t cracked,” admits Culver, who’s considering a follow-up series involving pie.
“It really reignited my passion,” Culver says of the baking project, chronicled in perpetuity at instagram.com/52_cakes.