Cake and steak is a tasty treat

July 14, 2014

We always look forward to talking to our friend Tim Hall about his latest culinary adventures. He not only loves to eat, but also enjoys experimenting with recipes and trying new twists on familiar foods. Last month, he shared pictures on his phone of an entree he’d assembled: cake and steak.

If you search the internet for cake and steak, the results are filled with entries for steak and cake; I'm not sure why. You’ll find all sorts of unusual combinations, including an organic farm that sells both steaks from grass-fed cattle and elegant layer cakes for special occasions. Some of the appealing dishes you might discover are grilled rib eye with corn cakes or hanger steak with rice cakes.

In addition, you will find steak cakes, which can be made with or without meat. One blogger posted instructions on how to build a multi-layered meatloaf cake, with piped “icing” made from whipped mashed potatoes. Another included photos of the step-by-step process to bake a cake shaped like a t-bone steak using chocolate frosting to mimic grill marks. Martha Stewart offers tips on perfectly crafted hamburger and fries combo cakes.

When Tim created his dish, he didn’t follow the standard restaurant plating of a piece of meat placed alongside a seafood selection. Last week’s newspapers were filled with examples of those: burgers sharing a plate with skewered shrimp or slices of grilled bison next to seared tuna.

Although the photo is of our version, you can see the concept Tim had in mind: combine the crab cake and steak into a single tower of flavor, making sure the seafood and the meat are infused with pan sauce from the steak. He topped his crab cake with slices of broiled tenderloin and drizzled both with well-seasoned au jus.

Tim’s crab cakes were another inventive approach to the basic recipe. Instead of eggs, mayo, cracker crumbs and Old Bay, he cooked a cream-based binding with sautéed mushrooms, peppers and onions. The photo illustrates the light and fluffy texture of the crab cakes, made with lump or claw (not jumbo lump) crab meat.

I’ve included his recipe, which we followed with a few tweaks. We chose red bell pepper over green simply because of personal preference; either will work fine. We omitted the final dusting of flour or cracker crumbs before cooking the crab cakes, just to hold down the carb count.

As for the steak, be sure to make the investment in a tenderloin or rib eye; the delicate crab cake needs a tender companion. Many cooks have the tendency to over-season their steaks before cooking, often adding oil and herbs as a marinade. This approach is fine for a less-tender cut of meat, but not the best way to treat a fine piece of beef or bison. All you need is kosher salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Grab a generous pinch of salt and, holding your hand as high as your head, evenly cover the entire surface of meat on both sides. You’ll be able to watch the salt melt into the meat as you follow up with a delicate spray from a freshly cut lemon half. Now all you need to do is preheat your broiler.

Using the broiler provides the opportunity to make a sauce from the pan drippings. Always remember to give any cooked meat a chance to rest before slicing. Deglaze the pan with a combination of your favorites from among balsamic vinegar, soy, Worcestershire and steak sauce. Simmer the mixture long enough to reduce and thicken slightly before you assemble your tower of flavor. Many thanks to Tim Hall for sharing his delicious ideas.

Tim Hall’s Cake & Steak

Crab Cakes
1 lb lump crabmeat
1 t butter
1 small onion, minced
1/2 C minced mushroom caps
1/2 C diced bell pepper
1/3 C heavy cream
1/8 t cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
1/2 C cracker crumbs
1 T butter

Melt 1 t butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in onion, mushroom and pepper; sauté until softened, but not browned. Turn heat up to high and whisk in cream. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened slightly. Remove from heat and pour into a pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When ready to make crab cakes, place the crab in a mixing bowl and pick over to remove any bits of shell. Add chilled vegetable-cream mixture, stirring gently to combine. Season with cayenne and salt, to taste. Spread cracker crumbs on a paper plate; set aside. Form crab mixture into 4 patties and dredge in crumbs. Melt 1 T butter in a skillet and sauté crab cakes until browned on both sides, turning once.


1 1/2 lb rib-eye steak
kosher salt
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t A1 Sauce
1 t soy sauce (optional)

Season both sides of the steak with salt. Sprinkle with lemon juice and allow to reach room temperature before cooking. Place oven rack 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler. Place steak in ribbed grill pan and place under the broiler; leave oven door slightly ajar while steak is cooking. Cook for 8 minutes; turn using tongs, not a fork. Continue cooking for desired degree of doneness; depending upon thickness, from 4 to 10 minutes. Remove steak to a cutting board and allow to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, place pan on stove over medium heat. Deglaze pan with remaining ingredients, making sure to incorporate the pan drippings. Simmer a few minutes to thicken slightly.


For each serving, place crab cake in the center of the plate and arrange steak slices on top. Drizzle sauce over the meat and plate in a decorative fashion.