4 Spring-Inspired Cakes from Seattle’s Polina Chesnakova
With spring upon us, we find ourselves dreaming of fresh, vibrant ingredients and delicious bakes that let those ingredients shine.
But, instead of curating a list of spring bakes from our own archives, we thought this would be a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the talent and craveable recipes coming from our own neck o’ the woods.
So, we teamed up with Polina Chesnakova—food writer, recipe developer and author of “Everyday Cake: 45 Simple Recipes for Layer, Bundt, Loaf, and Sheet Cakes” –to bring you 4 fresh, spring-inspired recipes.
Check them out below and get to know a little more about Polina and her inspiration behind these seasonal creations.
Even though I’ve worked on both the sweet and savory side of kitchens, I like to say that baking was my first passion.
In high school, I would take home baking books and read them from cover to cover. Then head to the kitchen and experiment, to the delight of family and friends.
I’ve come a long way since those early days of learning—I now write, teach, cook, and bake for a living—but the excitement of donning my apron and pulling off flour and sugar off the shelves still hasn’t grown old.
I find inspiration from going to the farmer’s markets and seeing what’s in season, eating out at restaurants and bakeries and trying the work of others, working at Book Larder and hosting guest chefs and authors, traveling, and social media. My style, as a result, is a bit eclectic, but always with a classic or familiar bent. And of course, I always strive to make my recipes as simple and straightforward as possible.
So, if you pick up “Everyday Cake,” my hope is that no matter the mood, craving, or occasion, no matter your skill level, you’ll always find something in the book to inspire you to get baking.
This delicately sweet, floral French yogurt loaf celebrates the fresh notes of springtime.
You begin by grinding lemon zest and lavender buds together with sugar to release their natural oils. Then pour the flecked sugar into a bowl and whisk in the remaining ingredients—that’s it! As the cake bakes, it perfumes the kitchen with the scent of lavender fields and citrus groves. A lemon syrup gets brushed over the top for an extra puckering bite. It’s the sort of cake that will brighten any mood, even on spring’s rainiest day.
When rhubarb’s green and pink-hued stalks start to pop up at the farmer’s market, I know spring is right around the corner. And what better way to celebrate the warmer and delicious days to come than with a cake where rhubarb is the star!
Its gorgeous color and zingy flavor is a welcome foil to the muted tones of prior months and makes for a fun geometric topping that belies the easiness of the cake. Bring it to a weekend brunch or casual dinner party and prepare to have your guests be wowed.
While carrot cake is great all year, it especially shines at Easter, alongside pastel-colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. Unfortunately, many tend to be overly spiced, stodgy or way too sweet. Not this one!
It hits just the right balance between the warm spices, rich, yet fluffy carrot-flecked cake, and tangy browned butter cream cheese frosting. I fold in plump golden raisins and toasted walnuts into the batter and finish the frosted cake with a flurry of coconut flakes. But if those additions aren’t your thing (or your guests!), that’s okay too, because this carrot cake is a winner however you make it.
Spring is all about taking advantage of strawberry season, but their high-water content can make them a bit tricky to bake with. Enter freeze-dried strawberries.
Stripped of all its moisture, tart, sweet and crunchy freeze-dried fruit adds a one-two punch in flavor, color and brightness wherever it’s used. Here, I grind up the stuff into a powder and mix it into an easy American-style buttercream. The result is pretty-in-pink frosting that tastes exactly like strawberry milk. Spread it atop a plush confetti cake and you’ve got yourself a spring-worthy dessert.
POLINA CHESNAKOVA is a food writer, recipe developer, and the culinary director at Book Larder in Seattle. Her work has been featured in culture, the Washington Post, Saveur, the Kitchn, Food52, and Seattle magazine. She is the author of Everyday Cake: 45 Simple Recipes for Layer, Bundt, Loaf, and Sheet Cakes and Hot Cheese: Over 50 Gooey, Oozy, Melty Recipes.
(c) 2022 by Polina Chesnakova. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Everyday Cake by permission of Sasquatch Books. Photography by Charity Burggraaf.