Dancer's Kitchen

Allison's Celebration Cake

  • Photo courtesy of Cummings
  • Cummings / Photo courtesy of Cummings

Many dancers, choreographers and arts sector workers have a side hustle. For Allison Cummings, this has meant being the go-to cake maker for the Toronto dance community. Cummings recently made this cake, including chocolate and vanilla layers, buttercream, shortbread and a chocolate drip, for dance artist Andrew Hartley.

Cummings is the performer and choreographer behind Sore for Punching You. Throughout her twenty-year career, her work, while based in dance, has engaged in crossing disciplines and it has been presented nationally and internationally. She was the 2000 recipient of the Toronto Emerging Artist Award in Dance, shortlisted for the K.M. Hunter Award in 2006 and 2008 and recently awarded the John P. and Susan D. Fellowship in recognition of her residency at the prestigious Djerrassi Resident Artists Program in California (2012). As a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Chalmers Professional Development Grant, she utilized the award to study intimately with renowned Eda Holmes, then associate director of the Shaw Festival.


Multi-Layer Neapolitan Cake 

Many parts of this reciper are adapted from various recipes through trial and error. Most significant credit to Sweetapolita Bake Book by Rosie Alyea.


Chocolate Cake Recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dark cocoa

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup hot coffee

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Directions :

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add sugar and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, hand whisk buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla together.

Keep mixer running on low speed and gradually add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Beat until smooth.

Divide mixture evenly between two 8” cake pans.

Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean when tested.


Vanilla Cake Recipe (Sweetapolita – Rosie Alyea)

1 3/4 cups cake flour

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into cubes

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

4 egg whites


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment.

Set the mixer to low speed and gradually add butter, one cube at a time. Beat until butter has been incorporated. Mixture will be crumbly in texture.

Using two separate bowls, combine vanilla, lemon juice and half of the milk in one bowl, and whisk the egg whites and remaining milk in the other.

Set the mixer to medium speed and gradually add the vanilla mixture.

Scrape down sides and add the white mixture, pausing a few times to scrape down sides.

Divide mixture evenly between two 8” cake pans.

Bake 18–20 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean when tested.


Strawberry Puree

1 pint of strawberries

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 Tbsp. sugar


Heat all ingredients in saucepan over medium heat.

Occasionally stir and break up berries as they break down.

When berries have broken down completely and mixture has slightly thickened, take off heat and set aside.

Set aside 4 Tbsp. of puree for Swiss Meringue Buttercream.


Chocolate or Vanilla Shortbread Crumble

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 Tbsp. dark cocoa (optional) 

1 Tbsp. vanilla (optional)

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into cubes


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder or vanilla in bowl of electric mixer.

Set the mixer at low speed and gradually add butter, one cube at a time until mixture is crumbly but combined evenly.

Transfer to baking pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.


Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Sweetapolita – Rosie Alyea)

7 egg whites

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 cups butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

4 Tbsp. Strawberry Puree


Combine egg whites and sugar in bowl over simmering water.

Using a candy thermometer, whisk continuously until temperature reaches 16 degrees.

Transfer to electric mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, and mix on medium high speed until bowl is neutral to the touch- about 10 minutes.

Switch to paddle attachment.

Set the mixer to low speed and add butter, one cube at a time. Beat until silky smooth.

Add Strawberry Puree.

Beat on low speed for 3 minutes.


Chocolate Drip

4 oz. dark chocolate

1/2 cup butter

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup


Melt chocolate, butter and corn syrup in bowl over simmering water.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly.


Directions to Assemble the Cake: 

Trim top and sides off cakes with a serrated knife to create flat even layers.

Place one chocolate cake layer on platter. Spread  3/4 cup of strawberry buttercream on top.

Cover with half the shortbread crumble.

Place one vanilla cake layer on top and spread with all of the Strawberry Puree.

Repeat these layers until the final vanilla cake layer, place bottom up on top.

Wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and ice entire cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Prepare chocolate drip.

Using a spouted cup, gently and carefully pour chocolate drip starting in the centre of the cake top, allowing it to drip down the sides. 

Return cake to refrigerator to set the chocolate.

Cakes are always best served at room temperature.

This recipe was originally published in the May/June 2018 twentieth anniversary issue.

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