i’ve lost track of the number of times the media has named durham the new “it” town of the south, specifically when it comes to food. southern living says we’re the south’s tastiest town. the new york post deems durham the foodie capital of the south. even buzzfeed ran an article called 34 amazing things that will make you want to fall in love with durham nc, 18 of which are food-related. with all our amazing food, a top-ranked university, the fourth most attended theater in the nation, and countless music, art, and film festivals, it’s hard to believe that just a few decades ago, before its urban revitalization, durham was viewed as dangerous and impoverished.
all too often, “urban revitalization” is a code word for gentrification. durham’s economic and cultural development — yes, a huge part of this is the surge of new restaurants — has come at the expense of traditionally african american neighborhoods. the construction of the durham freeway in 1987 cut the hayti community in half, stunting its vitality and adding racist undertones to the city’s growth. after the 2008 housing crisis, i’ve witnessed the walltown and lakewood neighborhoods become gentrified in a way that threatens durham’s economic and racial diversity. a trendy downtown should not be synonymous with the displacement of low-income minorities.
that being said, durham’s progress has not only come from harmful actions. much of it is a result of the town’s hard work and dedication to achieve a vision that many saw as impossible. i just think that for people who moved here after 2000, or who grew up here during the 2000s (me!), it’s important to understand durham’s history and what it has gained and lost through rapid growth.
moving on, let’s talk about this cookie layer cake! i love cookie cake, but i think everything tastes better when it’s layered (i cite lasagna, layer cakes, and seven-layer dip as evidence), so i decided to make this a tall cookie cake instead of a wide one. stacking the cookies also allows for waaaay more filling, which is always a good thing. make dis!
adapted from decorated
- 5 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 9 oz heavy cream
- 11 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
in a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, and vanilla until fluffy, about five minutes. add the egg and beat until incorporated. add the chocolate chips and walnuts. in a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. add gradually to the butter mixture. divide into 8 balls (i would highly recommend doing this using a scale), roll into thick disks, and set onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. freeze for at least an hour. preheat the oven to 335º. line two more sheets with parchment paper and divide the cookies between the three trays so that there’s plenty of room between them (they spread a lot). bake each tray for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown at the edges and almost set in the middle. let cool on the trays.
for the ganache, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. whisk until smooth. chill in the refrigerator until thickened.
to assemble, spread one of the cookies with ganache. top with another cookie and repeat with as many cookies as you’d like (i ended up with a stack of seven). top with washi tape flags, if desired.