The renow ned chef a nd the pro­lific d r um mer/foodie get cre­ative wh ile wh ip­ping up a pop­cor n ca ke

InStyle (USA) - - Table For Two - BYKERRY DI­A­MOND pho­tographed by COLE WIL­SON

most adored drum­mer walks into Milk Bar’s N.Y.C. test kitchen and ad­mits he’s a lit­tle miffed. The pre­vi­ous night, on a rare break from his gig as­the Tonight Show­ban­dleader, he dee­jayed for six hours at a Michael Jack­son–themed party in Brook­lyn and got through only 209 songs. “I had planned on 274,” says Ah­mir “Quest­love” Thomp­son.

Ev­ery­body knows Quest­love is ob­sessed with mu­sic, but his other pas­sions run just as deep. He’s a foodie who oc­ca­sion­ally hosts salon-style dinners, an au­thor fo­cused on the art of cre­ativ­ity ( he’s writ­ten two books on the sub­ject), and a pop­corn fa­natic ( be on the look­out for a line of sea­son­ings he’s launch­ing this fall with Wil­liams Sonoma).

So when Christina Tosi, Milk Bar founder, Masterchef judge, and in­ge­nious baker, in­vited Quest­love to a pop­corn cake–lay­er­ing les­son plucked from her up­com­ing cook­book, All About Cake, the mu­si­cian couldn’t con­tain his ex­cite­ment. “That is right up my al­ley,” he said.

In the kitchen­tosi bounces back and forth in her sig­na­ture red Con­verse sneak­ers while ex­plain­ing how the in­spi­ra­tion for this cake is her reg­u­lar movie-the­ater­snack or­der: “Pop­corn with an in­sane amount of but­ter, a tall Coke, gummy bears, Ju­nior Mints, and some­times­reese’s Pieces.”

For this recipe, though, she pares down her mix of can­dies to fo­cus on the main in­gre­di­ent. She grinds store-bought pop­corn and adds it to the flour for the bat­ter (see recipe, right). After the sheet cakes are prepped, it’s assem­bly time. Tosi first shows Quest­love how to use a cake ring to create the cir­cu­lar lay­ers and fill in any gaps by press­ing in ex­cess cake bits. Then she con­cocts three lay­ers of cake fea­tur­ing pop­corn-steeped milk, pop­corn pud­ding, salted caramel, pop­corn crumbs, caramel corn, and a thick, silky sub­stance she calls “corn fudge.”

How does the cre­ator of the Com­post Cookie, Crack Pie, and Ce­real Milk come up with this stuff? “My cre­ative mind is my fa­vorite place to escape to,” Tosi says. “It’s where I get to ask, ‘ Why not?’ ” She’s not in pur­suit of per­fec­tion, she says, but rather some­thing­more hu­man: treats that are salty, sweet, smooth, and sur­pris­ing all at once. Her cre­ative process is not dis­sim­i­lar to the way Quest­love con­structs a song, whether he’s play­ing with his band, the Roots, or pro­duc­ing an al­bum for singers like An­dra Day or Solange. “You can­make the­most of mis­takes or im­per­fec­tion,” he says, hold­ing a fork­ful of cake. “Some­times when I’m drum­ming, I’ll go ahead of or be­hind the beat and play slop­pily on pur­pose. When you know the rules, you can break the rules.” And it’s al­most al­ways de­li­cious.

You can make the most of mis­takes or im­per­fec­tion.” —QUEST­LOVE

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