Originally I started this blog to establish a forum to study and write about art as well as experiment in the kitchen (experimenting with photography was an added bonus!). I do however, have certain goals, one of which is to curate an exhibition revolving around the idea of a meal. I won’t go into detail but you can imagine my delight when I discovered Caitlin Williams Freeman’s Mondrian Cake from the cafe at the San Francisco Museum of Art. It is my dream! In cake form!! I decided I had to make one but I wanted my version to be easily recreated in any home kitchen. The cake was delicious but there are a few things I will change the next time I try this recipe. First, I will use angel food cake rather than pound cake – I think it would better absorb the natural food coloring and not appear so yellow. Secondly, I will try mixing the berry juices into the batter to see if I can achieve an even stain. Although the slice of cake pictured below turned out pretty even, my results throughout the rest of the cake were spotty at best. Finally, I would wrap the outside in fondant to hold all of the segments together. Using the natural food colorings will not achieve the bright results found in Freeman’s cake but it does provide a pretty tasty way to insert a bit a flavor into each slice.

The painting recreation was inspired by Bridget from The Way the Cookie Crumbles.

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 8, 1939-42
Oil on canvas, 74 x 68 cm, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

The canvas Composition No. 8 was painted during Mondrian’s time in London and New York where he fled from Paris because of the invading fascist forces. Mondrian worked within rigid self-imposed artistic restraints. Typically he only painted using primary colors and straight sided forms. He founded the De Stijl movement (Dutch for ‘The Style’) which had a profound influence on modern and abstract art. His later paintings feature more lines than the earlier works and have been likened to cartographic maps. During this period, the blocks of color were not habitually contained by the black lines and were instead allowed to ‘float’ freely upon the white space. Mondrian developed the idea of a ‘dynamic equilibrium’ evident through the relationships and patterns of the blocks and lines (1). The composition is not balanced, with more visual activity on the right side of the canvas. This however, is compensated by the inclusion of the large red square in the top left which is then stabilized by the strip yellow at the bottom center of the painting. There is no reason to the rhyme but Mondrian includes enough impetus to carry the eye over the entire surface of the canvas.

Traditionally, pound cake was made with a pound each of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar (hence the name). Often the ratio is paired down to make smaller cakes with additional ingredients added depending on the regional origin of the recipe. The British variation contains dried fruits and yields a very dense cake. My recipe, because of the inclusion of lemon zest, would be closer to the French version called quatre-quarts which features fresh lemon juice. The most favored recipe is the sour cream pound cake found in the United States (2). The sour cream addition makes for a wonderfully moist cake with a very delicate crumb.

{Mondrian Pound Cake}

Pound cake recipe adapted from Good Taste – April 1998
Yield: 8 servings

9 ounces butter, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 large eggs whites + 2 yolks
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F. In a large bowl begin to beat the butter with an electric mixer until it is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest and continue to beat until creamy, 5 minutes. Add the four eggs, one at a time and continue to beat the mixture between each addition, about 1 minute each time.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and gently fold until well combined. Spoon the mixture into a bread tin and after smoothing the top of batter, bake for 50 minutes or until a testing skewer comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool for 20 minutes.

Assembly: Prepare frosting and natural food colorings (see below). Slice the cake into strips of varying sizes lengthwise, paying attention to the order in which the cake was dismantled (it will be helpful to remember for a quick and painless assembly). Select three strips of cake to be stained and poke throughout with a toothpick to allow the berry juices to penetrate the middle of the cake. On a large plate drizzle all of the sides of each strip of selected cake with the berry juice. Be careful not to over-soak the cake and make it soggy. Allow to dry slightly before assembly for 5 to 10 minutes.

Place a piece of parchment paper on the cake platter. On the first strip of cake to form the base, cover all sides with the chocolate icing. Lay the next strip down and repeat the process effectively gluing the cake back together with the icing. Once the cake is reassembled, coat the outside with the remaining chocolate frosting. Before serving place in the freezer for about 20 minutes to set the frosting and to keep the segments together. Will keep for 2 to 3 days refrigerated.

{Chocolate Frosting}

adapted from Hello, Cupcake!

1 stick butter, cubed
2/3 c chocolate, chopped
450 grams icing sugar
1/3 c milk

Melt the butter and the chocolate stirring often. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer.

Add the icing sugar alternatively with the milk. Continue beating until smooth.

{Natural Food Coloring}

Red: Finely grate two strawberries.

Blue: Boil 1/2 of a pint of blueberries until the juice is released.

Yellow: Add 1/3 tsp turmeric to the juice from half of a lemon.