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Eating in

The craze for fake cakes

Cakes disguised as ordinary objects captured our imaginations during the pandemic, says Ligaya Mishan in The New York Times. It all began with a Tasty video that went viral last July, which showed someone slicing into what appears to be a red Croc sandal – only to reveal that it was in fact a cake. More crazy creations followed, including one in the shape of a loo roll, made by Turkish pastry chef Tuba Geckil. The video racked up 33 million views and spurred a wave of hyper-realistic cake videos and memes.

We’re not the first to be charmed by a fake. For centuries mankind has “delighted in the treachery of food in disguise”. Henry III, en route to become king of France, attended a banquet in Venice in 1574. Yet everything wasn’t quite as it seemed: when he reached for his napkin, it shattered into dust. The whole banquet, including the tablecloth, platters and knives, was made of powdered sugar paste. It was “a beautiful lie”.

Check out more cake fakery here.

Gelato + espresso = amore

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When John Steinbeck drove across America in the 1960s, he often stopped for coffee. Not because he wanted it, “but for a rest and a change from the unrolling highway”. I, too, turn to coffee on long stretches of boring road, says Eric Kim in The New York Times. “But for me, one addition is essential.” Ice cream. The Italians call the combination affogato – which translates as “drowned” – and it’s a sort of magic. “Even a bad one can be very good, but a very good one can change your life.”

The dish is simple: take a scoop of freezing cold gelato and drench it in a shot of piping hot espresso. The coffee must be good quality and fresh. The ice cream flavour leaves room for experimentation. “Fior di latte and crema are most popular in Italy, though vanilla and chocolate are also excellent.” I can imagine dulce de leche would be wonderful, as would amaretto. But my favourite is a large scoop of pistachio, “a welcome change from the unrolling highway of routine”.