Odette Williams' bribery cake is simple, delicious, and unintimidating to make.
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Credit: Nicole Franzen/Ten Speed Press

Kitchen fears are an odd and personal thing. I have no problem with weird proteins or complicated sauces, but cake? Cake is scary. Pastry, in general, feels like the dark arts to me. You put it in the oven and it turns out or it doesn't. There's no time to tweak it! You just have to deal with the result! I know I'm not the only home cook out there intimidated by cake that's not from a box, and that's why I was particularly intrigued when Simple Cake, a new book from apron and bakeware designer Odette Williams, landed on my desk.

The premise of Simple Cake is that cake needn't be scary, complicated, or even reserved for a special occasion. Williams guides the reader through ten cake recipes, fifteen toppings, and a number of clever ways of combining the two. Her voice is warm and encouraging, and inspired me to go home and whip up a cake, just for fun. I was especially intrigued by her Bribery Cake, a chocolate cake with chocolate Swiss meringue icing topped with a little bit of sea salt, meant, as Williams writes, "to help you or a loved one get across the finish line."

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Credit: Nicole Franzen/Ten Speed Press

Nicole Franzen/Ten Speed Press

The cake itself is a casually excellent chocolate cake. Williams' trick of adding boiling water to the batter before putting it in the oven makes the crumb tender and moist. I had never tried making Swiss meringue buttercream before—usually I go with the American variety of buttercream frosting, or, if I'm honest, a can. It was a bit more complicated than just mixing together butter and powdered sugar, but the results were fabulous—less cloyingly sweet than the American variety with a beautiful texture. Adding a pinch of Maldon at the end gave it the perfect salty-sweet note. It made my Saturday night into a special occasion. It's the perfect cake to celebrate something as small as getting to the weekend again.

Get the recipe for Odette William's Bribery Cake.