A few weeks ago, Williams-Sonoma asked me to bake them a birthday cake for their founder, Chuck Williams. The occasion? His 100th birthday, which is today. Happy Birthday, Chuck!!!
But I'll be honest — when I first read the request, my initial reaction was panic. Because what on earth do you bake the dude who is almost single-handedly responsible for introducing the US to European cookware like Mauviel, Le Creuset, and All-Clad??? And looking through this list of Chuck's finds, it seems that I can pretty much credit Chuck with finding a lot of the stuff I rely on when baking. Like Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract and my KitchenAid mixer. Both were only available to professional cooks and kitchens until Chuck came along and convinced the companies otherwise and that home cooks were interested in them too. ALSO, fun fact: Chuck was actually the one who encouraged KitchenAid to offer their signature mixer in other colors besides white. How crazy awesome is that???
But here's the truth: Williams-Sonoma is kinda, sorta one of my happy places. I know that's a little sad or pathetic or something, so before you feel sorry for me, hear me out. There's a Williams-Sonoma a few blocks away from my office (and not just any Williams-Sonoma — it's the flagship store on Union Square and it's beautiful), and whenever I'm having a bad day, I like to sneak over there during my lunch break and just... be.
Because at Williams-Sonoma, everything's always bright and airy, shiny and lovely, classy and sophisticated, etc, etc. I try some samples, I mentally register all the cookware I want, and I chitchat with the salespeople who all seem to indulge my lunchtime fantasy that I'm Somebody Important (with lots of money, of course) stocking her gourmet kitchen (with a Lacanche range because this is a fantasy, duh) with beautiful stuff like Mauviel copper pots, Staub cocottes, and Pillivuyt porcelain ware.
So with that in mind, I decided to make a cake that was kind of a celebration of all that. A classy, lemon butter cake baked in a vintage bundt mold, topped with a vanilla chamomile glaze. Because both lemon and vanilla are bright, classic flavors that can never go wrong. And that chamomile? Just the right touch of elegance and sophistication that is all things Williams-Sonoma.
So once again — Happy 100th Birthday, Chuck! Thank you for everything that you brought to the food world, and really, everything that you do. Stay classy, stay wise. We love ya.
This post was sponsored by Williams-Sonoma, who invited me to bake a cake for Chuck's birthday and provided some of the ingredients and equipment to make this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I really do consider the Williams-Sonoma on Union Square as one of my happy places. Plus, after doing all the research for this post, Chuck Williams is now one of my culinary heroes. That guy rocks. Thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors!
ball wide-mouth mason jar || cargo portland vintage embroidery scissors || clyde common matchbox and matches || chuck's 100th birthday nielsen-massy vanilla extract || williams-sonoma mini copper cocotte || wilton gold birthday candles
Some baker's notes:
- I baked the cake in a "vintage" cake pan I found at a yard sale in Portland, but I took great pains to measure out how much liquid it could hold (around 2 liters, or 4-ish cups) so that you could bake it at home; this recipe could also work to create an 8-inch, double layer cake.
- Alternatively, I also took some time to see if I could find a pan similar to the one that I used and it turns out it ain't so vintage after all. This pudding mold is pretty similar to the pan I have, minus all the wear and tear. Oh, my life.
- The chamomile glaze requires you to infuse the milk with chamomile, so be sure to plan ahead and prepare the chamomile and milk infusion the night before you make the cake. The glaze recipe will make more milk than you likely need, but you might need more or less depending on your confectioners' sugar (some are drier than others). When you make the glaze, be sure to work quickly and use it immediately after making — it tends to set pretty quickly.