There's a secret about baking that most great bakers keep hidden, but I'm about to blow it for all of us. Here it is: it's not really about the baking. For those of us with even the tiniest bit of anxiety, shyness, or fear of rejection, baking is a profound expression of our affection. It's the least creepy way to extend a heartfelt message without saying a word, whether that message is "Hey, I really like sitting in this newsroom with you all day," or "Hey, I'm secretly in love with you and maybe want to have your babies." See? It's a totally non-creepy, non-verbal way to say something that could potentially be VERY awkward. Baking is a safe haven for your heart and a substitute for your words.
Keep in mind that when a baker offers you a slice of their latest project, they might as well be offering you their fragile little heart. That said, there is nothing us bakers love more than an enthusiastic eater. Eat our cake happily, and we'll adore you forever. (Reject it, and we might curse your name a few times.) It's for that reason that we spend our best efforts on our favorite people, in which case the term "labor of love" applies most literally. The enthusiastic eater is the type of person for whom you make a crepe cake. A 32-layer crepe cake filled with layers of hazelnut cream and drenched in a dark chocolate ganache glaze.
This is a recipe I unearthed during my time working at Martha Stewart, a cake that sprang forth from the recipe rubble with a blinding ray of light and a heavenly choir of angels. It's the kind of recipe that looks daunting, with more steps and link-outs than you'd care to count, but try not to think of it that way. Let's think of it as "more fun time you can spend in the kitchen" (that may be a stretch, but I'm really trying to convince you how much you need to make this cake).
You can watch videos of Martha and Fran Drescher making the cake (with the volume on mute, of course), but they actually make it look more difficult than it really is. If you break it down, these are the basic steps you need to take:
1. Make 32 chocolate crepes. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself one of these handheld crepe makers. It's cheap, it'll speed up the process tenfold, and it'll create uniformly sized crepes, which is very important when you're stacking 32 of them on top of each other and expecting them not to slide off in an avalanche.
Best news: You can make the crepes a couple of days in advance.
2. Make the hazelnut cream filling. Don't be a hero: Whip out your stand mixer (or a hand blender) and let it do the work for you. There's meringue involved, and there's a thermometer involved. Don't let either of those things scare you away, because listen -- you're probably blessed with the same temperature-reading and button-pressing skills that Martha is. She's not a robot, contrary to rumor.
Also of note: The hazelnut filling calls for "hazelnut cream," which has confused everyone in the Martha Stewart universe. This is just Nutella, guys. What's that? You don't like Nutella? Fine. Replace it with whatever you want -- peanut butter, melted chocolate, caramel, butterscotch. Anything that's a similar consistency to Nutella is just fine.
3. Assemble the layers. This just takes a large offset spatula and some patience. Just remember that every layer counts: If you spread the first layer of filling unevenly, you'll end up with a cake as asymmetrical as Javier Bardem's nostrils.
4. Drench the cake in ganache. (See photo) That's the fun part. Martha will show you the way. Then stick it in the fridge.
5. Feed it to someone lucky.
The recipient of this cake called it the best birthday cake she's ever had, and asked for the recipe so she can make it for herself and her kids every year for the rest of her life. If there weren't more cakes to be made in the world, that'd be enough to make any baker die happy.