I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti (and Hot Pink Cake)

May 20, 2009 · 31 comments · Print This Post

in Baked Goods, Book Reviews, Cake, Desserts, Gift Ideas, Pink Things

Hot Pink Cake

I first read about I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti while browsing through an article online in The New York Times Home & Garden section about the author Giulia Melucci. The description of her recently released book full of recipes and dating mishaps sounded like a dream come true for my chick lit and cookbook skewed bookshelves and if the number of times I found myself shaking my head in agreement, frowning in solidarity, and laughing out loud are any indication then it absolutely didn’t disappoint.

I’m sure many people are beginning to think that the popularity of personal narratives accompanied by recipes may have past their expiration date but in all honesty I adore this format. I feel that it allows these intimate stories a more interactive feel. This is doubly true for this novel in particular as not only are there scores of simple and elegant dishes that you can prepare with a minimal amount of fuss, but also, in addition, dozens and dozens of songs and musical artists are brought up in the text too as each relationship unfolds. Personally I know that there are definitely both foods and songs that will always remind me of certain men (good, bad, or indifferent) and I found the artful weaving of both of these items into the memoir very poignant. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to Giulia Melucci’s playlist right now.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

The men Giulia dates in the novel are changed a bit to protect the “innocent” but I can’t help but speculate that the character of Mitch, who is described as having written a novel “about a fifteen-year-old girl who really wants to have sex with some guy in a band” and that the book was optioned for a film that went straight to video is probably author Blake Nelson. Unless Giulia is completely screwing with us (which is of course a possibility and I could be completely wrong) I’m inclined to believe that the book she’s referring to is Girl and the film version starring Dominique Swain and Sean Patrick Flanery did in fact go straight to video. I kind of hope I’m right about my speculation just because I love the novel Girl, not to mention that it was actually the first item I ever purchased on Amazon.com way back when I was a freshman in college. But I digress.

While I usually find myself skipping over recipes in novels (but always marking them in some manner so that I can go back to examine them at another time) you absolutely cannot allow yourself to skip over the recipes featured in I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti as they actually are part of the novel. Interspersed amongst the ingredients and directions are clever quips like “Do not over mix, as this will make for tough cupcakes and you’ve suffered enough” or “I would add 1 teaspoon of vanilla or a little orange zest, and you should, too, but not if you’re dating Mitch Smith.” Even the titles are charmingly irresistible: Ineffectual Eggplant Parmesan, Italian Grilled Cheese for Teenage WASPs, and my personal favorite the Fuck-You Cakes.

Overall this is a highly enjoyable novel that accurately, humorously, and humbly portrays what honest to goodness dating is all about. In the end I couldn’t help myself and I whipped up the Hot Pink Cake (that Giulia makes for Mitch on Valentine’s Day) for a belated birthday gift for CK’s sister Brittany. Now my copy is covered in chocolate cake batter, but my kitchen smells heavenly.

Hot Pink Cake

Hot Pink Cake
Adapted from Giulia Melucci’s novel I loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder (the better the quality, the better the cake; I am devoted to Valrhona, but Hershey’s is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, left out of the fridge for about 30 minutes
1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour twp 8-inch baking pans and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until all ingredients are combined and the cocoa bits are smoothed out. Stir in the boiling water. Pour batter into pans and bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to cooking racks. Wait until the cakes have cooled completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

1 stick very soft butter
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
A little too much red food dye

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer at low speed until creamy. Add more milk if necessary. The trick is for the icing to be not too thin and not too goopy.

Something always goes wrong for me aesthetically when I make this cake, but it’s always delicious.

Hot Pink Cake

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elizabeth May 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Erin- I LOVE how much you like to make pink desserts just as much as I do! They are always delightful! And that book looks great- off to the library I go!!


2 Monica H May 21, 2009 at 1:31 am

How fun! I love the pink cake and the sprinkles 🙂


3 kristina May 21, 2009 at 2:46 am

The cake looks perfect: absolutely gorgeous! And the memoir sounds fab, too. K x


4 Erin May 21, 2009 at 7:40 am

Kristina – You are too kind. Thank you for saying that the cake looks “perfect” as in my opinion my decorating skills are severely lacking 😉

Monica – Thank you!

Elizabeth – The book is so fabulous and such a fun read. I hope you enjoy it, and we absolutely should never give up our love for whimsical pink edibles! Whatever would we do with ourselves?!


5 Giulia Melucci May 21, 2009 at 7:49 am

Dear Erin,
I can’t tell you how much better your cake looks than mine. I can’t get get frosting on there in any pretty way. How do you get those nice smooth lines at the top? Brava!
Thanks for the wonderful review. So happy you enjoyed the book.
Giulia Melucci


6 Erin May 21, 2009 at 8:03 am

Giulia –

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post/review. I truly did love the book and I’m certain that women all over the world will be able to relate completely to everything you detail — especially when you were able to present it in such a realistic and humorous way.

As for the cake, I’m flattered that you think it looks attractive. Decorating is the Achilles heel of my baking adventures. I sort of hate it, but due to a serendipitous turn of events yesterday involving me finishing your book on the subway and then finding a package in the mail from my grandmother that contained a brand new offset spatula I was certain the cooking Gods were imploring me to bake the Hot Pink Cake. So the secret is apparently an offset spatula. Grandma always knows best!


7 Megan May 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

I love these types of books too. You should check out Under the Table — about a girl in culinary school, includes relationship stuff and recipes too. I reviewed it on my blog recently.

I’ve been wanting to read I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti for a while now, so I’m glad to hear you liked it. I definitely have to get a copy soon!


8 Alana @ springpad May 21, 2009 at 10:12 am

Wow, that looks amazing. I love cake, and I love pink, so this is definitely a winner!


9 Julie May 21, 2009 at 10:18 am

I love that you figured out who Mitch was! I liked this book and I liked Giulia, but I didn’t love it. I would have liked to see her have more fun with more men instead of stick it out in a few relationships that just didn’t seem like much fun. She’s a good writer though and I also like the format.


10 Erin May 21, 2009 at 10:25 am

Julie – I really did love this book. Probably because until I started dating Chris all I had were very bad brief relationships with inappropriate men. Unfortunately I think that Giulia’s memoir is actually a very realistic portrayal for a lot of women. We often have a type and date the same sort of unavailable people over and over again but keep going until hopefully we get it right. On the bright side so many of the recipes sounded delicious and the majority of them seem as though they’d be perfect for summer. I do hope she writes another novel though – this time with a “happily ever after” ending.


11 EB May 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I love the format! Hell I teach ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ in my classes for the very reason that the recipes are part of the narrative. Love the cake. Love the star coaster. Love the pink computer… you’re such a GIRL!


12 Jess May 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm

You know how to do pink, lady!


13 Jen May 21, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I am enjoying this book format too and will add this book to my list…thanks!


14 Lindsey May 21, 2009 at 4:56 pm

This cake is adorable, and now I want to make it too…I’ll have to add it to the list, along with the book!


15 ttfn300 May 21, 2009 at 6:45 pm

ooh, i’ll have to check this book out! i’ve really enjoyed books that have recipes interspersed, but i need to find more time to read them 🙂


16 Elissa May 21, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I adore the color of the frosted cake. It makes me think of birthday parties when I was little and of baby showers. The book sounds funny too, it’s one I’ll look for!


17 Elyse May 21, 2009 at 8:42 pm

This sounds like such a great book. I’m seriously contemplating adding it to my Amazon cart. I love recipes intertwined with charming stories, and you’re so right about the titles: so cute and witty. Your hot pink cake only makes me want to buy the book more. It’s gorgeous!! I bet it tastes fabulous, too.


18 lindsey May 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm

I love Girl! I saw I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti in the bookstore and thought about picking it up, but now I’m going to have to get it


19 pjamma May 22, 2009 at 11:48 am

Hi Erin-
I too enjoy the reads with the recipies. Will have to check this one out. Just discovered a new author (for me) Mary Kay Andrews and her book Deep Dish. Only a few recipies detailed in the back of the book, but the story is shades of Iron/Top Chef. Don’t know if her others are culinary related, that will take the next trip to the library.


20 Lori @ RecipeGirl May 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm

It’s so cute! I love the simple way you did the frosting with the sprinkle stars. This is one foodie novel I haven’t picked up yet, but I do love to read this sort of thing. It’s fun to make the recipes in the book too!


21 Kerstin May 22, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I love your pink cake, especially the sprinkles on top! Thanks for the book review! I’m going to add it to my library list 🙂


22 joan May 23, 2009 at 10:48 am

I am writing this book on my list. Sounds fun.
Your cake looks delicious!


23 LoveFeast May 24, 2009 at 1:58 am

I love a good read & a pink cake is always irresistible! -Chris Ann


24 Mary May 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I made the Hot Pink Cake for a Memorial Day party. The chocolate cake tastes delicious. If you make it don’t freak out after you add the hot water. The batter will be more runny than usual making for a dense and yummy cake.


25 Erin May 26, 2009 at 5:46 am

Mary – This is an excellent point! Thank you for alerting my readers. I definitely felt a similar level of unease after I poured in the boiling water but you’re absolutely right. The cake comes out fabulously so there is no need to panic.


26 Elizabeth June 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Erin! Fantastic book find- I just finished it and it was highly delightful and very reminiscent of my own life. Definitely helped me pass the time while my knee is recuperating from surgery! And thanks for the blogroll addition! I am flattered. 🙂


27 The Food Addicts June 16, 2009 at 1:54 am

Hot pink cake! Wow! What a perfect cake to make for a girl’s birthday or a bridal shower. How cute! My girlfriend and I will be making cake pops this weekend and making it extra girly like this. I can’t wait!


28 humorous cakes August 31, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Yummy it reminds me of cheese cake and those other soft sweet desserts. It certainly looks delicious, thanks for sharing the recipe with us I’ll be sure to try it out when I get chance!


29 erin December 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I love that cake!! I can not resist a pink cake, especially one with sprinkles!


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