in the kitchen with: andi kovel

The colorful and simple forms of the work by esque studio‘s Andi Kovel come through in her recipe submission this week for a “Puffer Cake”– simplicity in the recipe, color in the sprinkles, with a bite of the unexpected inside. As you may know, I often try the recipes first before they go up, and I tried this one. I huffed and I puffed, and…on the fourth try, I got it right. My freezer is full of the failed attempts. My sidekick will have Puffer Cake for the next six months. Andi, who was a pastry chef for ten years, swears it is a cinch, after all, it really is just a simple pound cake! – Kristina

About Andi: Andi Kovel is a principle and partner at esque studio, as well as a fine artist, focused on painting and sculpture. Originally from New York, Andi attended the University of Colorado, where she received a BFA in sculpture. She returned to New York in 1995 to attend the School of Visual Arts, and received a degree in Art Education. It was during this time that she began her education in the art of glass blowing at Urban Glass in Brooklyn. Andi has apprenticed under New York’s best glass talents, and worked creating pieces for many local contemporary art icons. Exhibiting frequently in and around New York, highlights from her career include a solo show at 55 Mercer Gallery, and a group show at Printed Matter which included artists such as Damien Hirst, Claus Oldenburg, and Mona Hatoum. She is currently designing for Ralph Lauren, Coca-Cola, and Citizen. She founded in esque studio in New York in 1999, with partner Justin Parker, and relocated to Portland, Oregon in 2001 in order to open their own glass studio, where all of esque’s pieces are produced by hand.

CLICK HERE for Andi’s Puffer Cake Recipe after the jump…


Vera Violin’s Puffer Cake {Tassenkuchen}

[Note from Kristina: Please use a non-stick spray, or alternatively, use a pastry brush to thoroughly butter whatever mold you decide to use, and then dust the mold with flour making sure every millimeter of the pan is dusted. The fancier the pan, the more you will cry if you don’t take precaution before baking!]



1 cup butter (leave butter out for a while to soften)
3 cups sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
11/2 cups raisins
4 eggs
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, add flour, salt and baking powder, sift or mix very well with a fork. Set aside. In a second bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Be sure to thoroughly scrape the bottom of the bowl while mixing to ensure it all gets mixed. Pour this into the flour mixer, then add milk. Stir until smooth, then add lemon zest and raisins. Pour the mixture into a greased Bundt pan. It is ok to use an electric mixer.

Bake for one hour, rotating 180 degrees halfway through baking time. Cake is done when a skewer or toothpick tested toward the center comes out clean, but with a few moist crumbs.

While cake is baking, start on the icing.


2 bars of semisweet baking chocolate ( I like Ghirardelli’s)
1 tbs of vanilla
1/4 cup brewed coffee (this amount is variable)

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
rainbow sprinkles (balls, not jimmies, if you want to really replicate)

In a double boiler add all ingredients, except the sprinkles. Stir until smooth. Set aside, uncovered.

When the cake is finished, take it out of the form immediately, and onto a cooling rack (or plate). Once the cake has completely cooled, pour icing over the top, add sprinkles, and enjoy its campy awesomeness!
[Puffer Cake was photographed by Kristina Gill. Heart-Shaped jewelry dish by mat&jewski / /, tea towel hand-printed in Western Australia by Judy Sullivan, round plate by Cote Table, the rest are vintage pieces.]


Why Andi chose this recipe

My German grandmother Vera and I are very close, and I adore her, more then anything. When we were small we nicknamed her Vera Violin, after a character from an alphabet book. A few years ago, a pile of her recipes arrived in the mail, handwritten on index cards. The Puffer Cake recipe lists only the ingredients, and the amounts. No other directions were indicated (bake temperature, time, process, etc.) I spent 10 years working as a pastry chef, so I’m translating this according to my knowledge of cake baking. This is my favorite recipe for a number of reasons. I was going to put nostalgia at the top of the list. But, it is really delicious, in an overtly German way. It is dense and hardy, not specifically sweet, and includes raisins. The real name of this cake is Tassenkuchen.


I want it! I want it right now :)
I was wondering what to have for breakfast, and after reading about Andi’s cake I wish I could just reach into the screen and grab a piece. It looks soo delicious! :)


I should say that my failed attempts involved the cake sticking to the pan…not photogenic…but the cake itself is wonderful!!!


This recipe brings back memories of cake and coffee with Oma after school! I’ll have to try it for Easter. If you’re looking for other German pastry recipes, I suggest the Dr. Oetker book German Baking Today.


My stuff never looks this good either. I have found a good spice company for vanilla sugar and cinnamon (ceylon) is the best, its Juliet Mae, online but really located in San Francisco.


I have a Puffer Cake in my oven as I type this. At the half-way turning it looked very liquid. Unnervingly so! Fingers crossed, eh?


Wonderful feature! One cake I have not made yet but that I see in the very near future. Wonderful story behind it too.


These cake look so yummy! Bundt cakes are one of my favorite with a good cup of hot coffee… what a wonderful combination!

Kimmi Jo

Hey sis! Grandma is going to love this. Thanks for documenting her greatness. Next up Stanley & Rebecca…..


I have adored Vera’s tassenkuchen since she made it whenever my family visited in New Rochelle. I also love Vera.