Sweet of the Week: Cotton Cake at Oak + Char
Angel food cake is the undressed salad version of dessert. It's the closest to eating nothing you can get without actually starving. The egg white-based confections are far too often neglected as a health food alternative to dessert, rather than respected and dressed up as they should be. In the same way that salad can rise above the stigma to be delicious and appetizing, so can sponge-y angel food cake. A prime example of this is the cotton cake at Oak + Char, a light and fluffy finale that proves density isn't everything when it comes to cake supremacy.
The perfect light capper to a meal of modern Midwestern fare at Oak + Char, a haven of savorous seasonality in River North, cotton cake sounds a lot more modest than it is. Albeit sponge-y in texture and presentation, this thing is far from the bland angel food cakes of dietary yore. Rather, the cotton-y cakes are enriched with essence of cheesecake, each pillowy bite erupting with tangy-sweet cream cheese flavor. Some puddles of melted cheesecake line the plate, providing an apt sauce for smearing and licking. Each morsel of cake gets a welcome splash of persimmon jam, lending a dose of mild spice and citrus to help cut through the cheesecake depths. Then there's the basil streusel, a vivid green smattering of herb-infused crumble, a contemporary far cry from the standard buttery fare that commonly lines cakes and custards.
Altogether, this is a dessert that thoroughly and simultaneously redefines the concepts of sponge cake, cheesecake, and seasonal ingredients.
- Matt Kirouac