Friday, July 10, 2009

Let them eat cake

Hypothetically, let's say it's Friday afternoon. You were doing something boring at work today (in my case, ACLS training; B sang "Stayin' Alive" as I left the house in the morning). You got out from your class a little earlier than you expected, and instead of staying at work to do some research, you decided to come home. And make cake. Soon, the house is filled with the smell of baking, and then freshly baked, buttermilk cake. You and B are salivating. Not long afterwards, because you chose such a quick and easy cake recipe, you and B are sharing a warm and decadent late afternoon snack, a strange (and strangely satisfying) pre-dinner appetizer. B liked it so much that he ate his piece in four (quite large) bites.

When should you eat cake? Obviously after dinner is the classic time to eat a sweet treat. And since lunch is often filled with dinner-like components, after lunch seems to be an automatically appropriate time too. But don't forget about late afternoon tea! As B and I demonstrated today, cake tastes lovely in the afternoon, with or without the tea. And I happen to know from experience that a slice of this cake makes an excellent breakfast.

Basically, any time of the day can therefore be the right time to eat cake. This fits with and extends B's philosophy that sweet breakfast items could easily be eaten for dessert if called by a different name. After all, what is a muffin if not a cupcake without icing? (Mmm, cupcakes. Must post some sort of cupcake recipe soon, so that I have an excuse to make cupcakes.)

I have lots of cake recipes, but I've turned to this one a few times since I read it in last month's Gourmet. Somehow the combination of buttermilk cake, raspberries, and the slightly crispy sugar topping seems classic and yet novel. I brought a few slices to A&K when they had us over for dinner last month, and was endlessly amused to see that A had made the same cake (with cherries, though, so totally different) to serve us for dessert. She has a good recipe eye, so I knew this one would be a winner.

The cake is a cinch to make, and relatively healthy as well (half the butter and eggs of my old standby buttermilk cake recipe). If you don't have any fresh buttermilk in the fridge (though it does last for a long time), it's perfectly acceptable to use powdered buttermilk. Use the directions on the package, but, briefly, don't attempt to reconstitute the powder yourself or you'll end up with a clumpy mess; mix the powder in with the dry ingredients according to the proportions on the package, and then use water in place of liquid in the recipe. Interestingly, JB has had such difficulty finding powdered buttermilk in Manhattan (Manhattan!) that I'm going to send her some this week with some of last month's jam bounty.

I think it's also important to know that the raspberries sink down during baking. This picture is from right before the cake went into the oven. Beautiful in its own way, but very different from how the final cake turns out.

The original recipe says you can use any kind of fruit, but so far I like raspberries best. (Sorry, A! The cherries were good too.) My mom tried blueberries alone, but she said it wasn't as special as the raspberries. Next time, I think I'll add some lemon zest to the batter, and mix in some blueberries with the raspberries. I'll try a slice of that variation at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or maybe at all three. Enjoy!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009

Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 20 min active, 1 hr total

1/4 c. unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened
2/3 c. sugar, plus 2 T. additional
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. flour
1/2 c. buttermilk
6 oz. raspberries (a little over one cup)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan; line bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Then butter and flour the parchment and sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and 2/3 c. sugar together until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla completely. Add baking powder, soda, salt, and 1/3 c. flour to bowl; mix well. Then add buttermilk and remaining flour, alternating in two batches and mixing well between additions.

Turn batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle evenly with raspberries and then with remaining sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and tester plunged into center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, then turn out onto a rack (cake will be upside-down) and cool for another 10 minutes. Peel off parchment. Cover cake with serving platter and invert (cake will be right-side-up). Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. I totally agree that raspberries make for a far superior cake. I just didn't have them on hand. Adding zest is a great idea. Speaking of zest, I just made lemon sherbet. You and B will have to come over to try it!

  2. I have read this recipe every day since you posted it. All week long I would drool as I thought about making it. Today was the big day! Not only did I make it and eat 1/3 of it while my husband was at the bike shop, I also blogged about it! And I NEVER blog! Wow! What a cake!! What an impact on my life! Thank you, coz!!

  3. That sounds insanely good - I might even be inspired to bake this...It's quite possible it will be the first cake I have ever baked. Wish me luck! =)