12.21.10

In Awe of Ina Garten

When food writer Petrit Husenaj went to visit TV food star Ina Garten, he got nervous and ruined a pound cake. You can read more of his posts at My Social Chef.

Over the summer, a colleague invited a few of us to Ina Garten’s house in the Hamptons. My colleague didn’t realize that Ina has been my obsession for the past seven years. Could this really be happening to me? Up until this point, Ina was just a friend in my head. I felt like a kid about to walk through his television into his favorite TV show. Was Jeffrey going to be reading his books in the study? What about all of Ina’s gays? Were they going to be in the garden making flower arrangements for us? The questions that had been running through my head for years were about to be answered.

Ina greeted us at her door and we walked into her kitchen. It really felt like a dream. I felt like I’d spent countless hours there without ever physically stepping a foot inside. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. We sat around the kitchen and Ina started slicing a homemade pound cake, from a recipe that was about to be published in her next cookbook. Watching her slice the pound cake, smiling and laughing, was exactly like the television show. It wasn’t a façade; she really enjoyed every minute of this. She handed us a slice and we began to chat.

Ina asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves. I was sixth in line and prayed that she wouldn’t notice me. I felt as if I was going to explode. Unfortunately, being 6’3” and way over 200 pounds, I was not easy to miss. She called on me and I began to introduce myself. I played it cool… told her who I was and what I did and she smiled. For some reason, she decided to carry on the conversation. This is where I began to panic. My heart rate spiked up and I wanted to faint. I ended up using my slice of pound cake as a stress ball, squeezing it so hard that crumbs were popping out of my hands as if popcorn was exploding. Thinking that no one could see me, I quickly put the pound cake ball into my back pocket. We finished the conversation and I couldn’t have been happier when she turned her focus to another colleague.

Then, as we were leaving, one of the other attendees grabbed my arm and said, “You are so cute.” I was still all sweaty and nervous. I looked at her and said “Why?” She said, “I saw what you did to that poor pound cake.”

Unfortunately, Jeffrey was not there and all the gays were in Fire Island for the weekend. So my questions remain unanswered. But I’ve created an awesome pound cake recipe as a reminder of that dream-come-true afternoon, regardless of how nerve-wracking it was. Just don’t use your piece as a stress ball.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake inspired by Ina Garten

4 ounces cream cheese – softened at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer whisk. Next add the sugar and whisk again for 5 minutes with your mixer. Don’t cut this short—be sure to whisk for the full 5 minutes. Then add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add all the other ingredients and mix for another minute.

Butter a 8½” x 4½” x 2¼” loaf pan. Add the batter and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted in the center. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice and enjoy!

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Petrit Husenaj is a writer based in New York City and the creator of the food blog My Social Chef.