I think I’d have to point to the Great British Baking Show as the beginning of my baking journey. In middle school, after watching bakers with charming British accents produce incredible cakes and breads out of boring flour, I wanted to give it a go. I baked through high school partly as a way to attract both friends and potential lovers, and it remains a successful technique in college.
That being said, my passion for baking has changed a bit in college. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best things about having my own kitchen is being able to start an arduous and technically difficult bake at 11:24 p.m. on a weeknight without my dad throwing me out of the kitchen. But, there’s a limit to how many dishes I’m willing to do on a Wednesday night in order to have a bite of cake.
About midway through last year, I found out about snacking cakes. I was absolutely delighted, a cake, just for snacking? How wonderful! The concept of them felt made for college students. A snacking cake is a cake you can make using just one bowl — it takes roughly ten minutes, and then you put it into a little pan, and it bakes for about 40 minutes. In less than an hour, you can have a delicious cake that’s not too rich or sweet and perfect for cutting little slivers off of every time you go into the kitchen.
Snacking cakes are a more recent phenomenon, although the concept of having a sweet treat is not. In 2020, Yossy Arefi published a book called “Snacking Cakes,” with 50 recipes for cakes that were fruit-filled, spiced or chocolate-filled. While she didn’t coin the term “snacking cakes,” her recipes are terrific examples of what a snacking cake can be.
The moment I found out about this phenomenon, I found her cookbook online using one of my many library cards and started to bake my way through them.
Last semester when the storms were really crazy, there was a day in which a WarnMe got sent out about avoiding the strong winds, falling tree branches and flooding. I holed up in my apartment and made a little spice snacking cake. It was light and easy and had cardamom and cinnamon, and I ate the whole thing with three cups of tea for dinner.
Over spring break, my friend came to visit. We spent a few days of our break in rainy, stormy Berkeley, watching horror movies and baking snacking cakes. I made a dense, rich version studded with sesame seeds and mixed with tahini — we ate with our hands huddled on the couch, laughing at each other when we were startled at the jump scares.
Another late night turned into morning, and I sliced up strawberries and mixed them with vanilla and cardamom. Baked into a cake made with whole wheat flour and yogurt, my snacking cake technically became breakfast. It didn’t last until lunch, as four college students were snagging slices on their way out the door.
Warm weather found me branching from Arefi to bake a recipe by The New York Times for a one bowl carrot cake with a cheesecake topping. While the cake is made of two different components, The New York Times said that you didn’t have to wash the bowl in between — a perfect bake for those who possess a dishwashing aversion.
Once, I returned home to find the house empty of any form of chocolate other than cocoa powder, and it was one of the days that chocolate was not optional; I baked up a quick chocolate snacking cake and dusted it with powdered sugar. My friend and I didn’t even bother with plates and ate it piping hot straight out of the pan with our forks.
My mom bought a house in Illinois and moved there this summer. For her birthday in May, I bought her a copy of “Snacking Cakes” from one of the local Berkeley bookstores. I scribbled notes in the margins of all the recipes I’d tried and offered tips on ways on mixing up the spice blends.
From what I’ve heard, the Midwest has a reputation for chattiness, with people stopping by unprompted for cups of coffee and to tell you news of their niece, grandson or neighbor. I figured if my mom was going to move there, she should have some quick recipes under her belt in case someone came around.
I’d say really anyone could benefit from snacking cakes: college students, lazy bakers and maybe even new Midwesterners alike.
Good for when you’re feeling blue, late night studying sustenance, a sudden celebration or really just any time you’d like a snack, snacking cakes are here for you!