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Profile: Writer Ben Skerker

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    Ben Skerker
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    Walnut Coffee Cake
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    Floured cake pane
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    Cake ingredients
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    Hot chili peppers made by Ben's housekeeper. "The heat crawls up your arse and strangles you from behind," says Ben.

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Dec 7, 2014

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Ben Skerker is a very good cook. He grew up in London, and as a boy, he learned basic cooking skills by observing his mother. A gifted cook and hostess, she made everything from scratch: macaroni and cheese, Sunday roasts, multi-course Christmas feasts for 60 family members… She even baked her own bread.

When Ben was a teenager, he joined a sailing club in Norfolk in the East of England. The boys there—all under the age of 18—took turns cooking for each other. Ben’s signature dish (and everyone’s favorite) was spaghetti bolognaise, aka “spag bol.” This early success deepened his interest in all things culinary.

Age Mid 40s dammit — Hometown London, UK — Where do you live? Los Angeles — Occupation Producer/writer — Signature dish Don’t have one — Who taught you how to cook? Self — Favorite kitchen tool Global 8” chef’s knife — Always in your pantry Garlic, salt, butter — Go-to snack Raw almonds — Favorite cuisine Depends on my mood… but I certainly don’t get tired with Japanese — Do you diet? Sigh. I should — Food addictions Yes, food — Food allergies Kiwi fruit really itch my mouth — Food fad pet peeve Bespoke salt — Who’s your sous chef? My girlfriend...and then I'm her's — Drinking while cooking? I'll not say no — What’s for dinner tonight? Grilled lamb chops...going easy on olive oil, otherwise it will be a flambé flame thrower — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Depends on the amount and where it is. Half a cup on the counter...no, half a gallon on the floor and heading under the fridge...yep — Best meal you ever had In the Dordogne on a farm with everything made, found, grown on the farm… open fire roasted duck hearts, foie gras, red wines from bottles with no labels and truffles found that morning with the very eggy pasta

Walnut Coffee Cake

This moist cake—with a dense, cheesecake-like interior and a layer of sweet, crunchy walnuts—is an old Skerker family recipe. “I can’t count how many times I ate it,” says Ben. “I still request it from my mom when I visit her in England. It is easy to make and utterly delicious to eat—a great year-round, go-to snack.” 

O

  1. Serves 10-12
  2. 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  5. 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  6. 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, separated
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 2 cups sour cream
  9. 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  10. 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Butter and flour a round 9-inch springform cake pan.

2

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

3

Mix together the cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar.

4

Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.

5

Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the sour cream and mix until blended; do not overmix.

6

Spread half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the walnuts over the batter, and then sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Spread the rest of the batter on top of the walnuts.

7

Bake 40–50 minutes until golden brown or a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan.

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