Ben Franklin & Lisa

JENNIFER MACDONALD AND THE WINNING CAKE I've always thought that september should be the beginning of the year instead of january. january is the quietist month after all the holiday hubbub, but in september new york wakes up from summer hibernation and is at its most event-full! the top two baking related events for me this september were the beginning of an extensive celebration of ben franklin's 300th birthday in philly and the d.c. launch of my dear friend and colleague lisa yockelson's long awaited, exquisitely written, and magnificently published cookbook: "ChocolateChocolate." it seemed perfectly appropriate that lisa's event came on the heels of the ben franklin one as ben franklin is the muse of writers of all books. after all, where would be without his invention--the printing press! the benjamin franklin event was held in the franklin institute science museum where many of the city's top bakers prepared desserts that will be featured on their menus during the year long celebration, with themes designed to honor him. only five of them, however, actually entered the official birthday cake contest. the winner was assistant pastry chef jennifer macdonald from the fountain restaurant at the four seasons hotel philadelphia who prepared a cake modeled after benjamin franklin's desk with realistically tinted wood-grained rolled fondant as the wood and feather pen, and green blown sugar apples so perfectly executed that two of the judges (dorie greenspan and i) thought they were real apples. the third judge, roland mesnier, former white house pastry chef, wasn't fooled for an instant as he himself is master of the rare art of blown sugar.

the following week was a longer car trip to d.c. for lisa yockelson's book launch. as a fellow baker, cookbook writer, and kindred spirit, lisa and I are in lively competition over who can do the most helpful and lovely things for the other! while many cookbook authors, especially those in the same field, are possessive of their editors, lisa , in an act of extreme generosity introduced me to her beloved editor--pam chirls of wiley. lisa knew of my dream to do a beautiful four color comprehensive cake book published with the quality of her chocolate book (few publisher do this kind of book), and she also suspected that we would work wonderfully together. to surprise her, and support her new book, I joined pam chirls for a weekend of celebration, beginning friday night with a quiet late dinner in a neighborhood restaurant near georgetown where we had a gab-fest of bake and book-talk, and culminating with a grand party thrown by her friend and designer, Frank Babb Randolph, in his beautiful townhouse. saturday night's celebration dinner was at the mini bar of jose andres's café atlantico where we were presented with a seemingly endless array of mini courses each more stunning to the senses than the next. another highlight of the weekend was a saturday afternoon book signing at the french linen store yves delorme in bethesda, md. as lisa has incorporated many of their exquisite linens into the photographs of her new book. recipes from the book were prepared for the guests but hidden behind the back of the store was a special stash of brownies lisa herself had prepared for her special friends visiting from out of town. these brownies will explain better than words why she is called "diva of deep dark and fudgy." here's the recipe for bittersweet chocolate brownies.