Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Want to Talk About Cake Too

Awhile ago now, I stumbled upon Molly Wizenbergès blog Orangette; I believe I read an article of hers in Bon Appetit magazine, looked up her site, fell in love with her writing, bought her book, fell even more in love with her writing and now try to find the balance between reading what she writes and wishing I had written it myself. Actually, Orangette is one of the reasons, or at least gave me a push, for starting my own, this, blog. But more on my drawing inspiration from Orangette later, right now, I want to talk to you about something Molly once talked to me--and many others--about. And that is cake.

Last March I got a craving for cake: a sweet feel-good bit of comfort to make it the rest of the (very) long, (very) cold, (very-very) grey winter. But it seemed a mighty silly thing to bake an entire cake for one, especially when a slice usually suffices such cravings. I knew this time was different though; I didnt just need a couple of bites worth cut from the pan, I needed a whole cake. All for me.

Yes, I needed to be able to eat two, three, however many slices I wanted while curled up in a blanket wishing and hoping for Spring. Like Molly and her need for a convenient, eat at the counter, get through the frazzled moments, not quite dessert, I wanted baked comfort, and found companionship in her note. So I set to finding my perfect busy day cake.

Well, but the next day, I just so happened to be skimming a Gourmet magazine in my favorite Kelowna bookstore, when I flipped to a recipe for Vanilla Cardamom Pound Cake. Bypassing the bargain books, I headed straight for the till. This was no longer a craving coincidence--this was cake destiny.

And the cake did not disappoint. I swapped the butter for olive oil (part of the craving stemmed by another reading), and used buttermilk (my not so secret baking ingredient) for the plain whole milk, both giving it a grassy, zingy lightness that was fresh in a time of heavy drear. Moist, but not too rich. Plus I love cardamom, its subtle warmth gives sweets a bit of spicy life. And as each day passed the spices intensified, just as the original recipe promised. I ate the whole thing--albiet over a week--toasting the last slices as it became a little less than fresh, and dipping the toasted fingers in straight cream. Bliss. This was to be my cake; my busy day, my every day, my go to cake.

Agreed, Molly, everyone needs one of those. My ma has three: her upside down cake--an always raved about blank canvas of carmelization--her uber moist carrot cake, and her Black Magic cake, something I willingly endure a chocolate migraine for a hefty chunk of. Even my Grandma, notoriously anti-cooking, has a lemon loaf that is not only expected by the family at all get- togethers (and as birthday presents for some of my cousins), but now by anyone who has eaten it at a church bake sale or luncheon. And now I have mine, revamped and perfected, and best enjoyed without guilt at peice numbers or sizes.

I tell you this now, because I am eating a slice. Ever since making it in the season of no fruit, I have dreamed of how the vanilla and cardamom would pair with the Okanagans fresh peaches. Well, summer is here, and having poached peach slices in a little white wine, I now have my answer: sublime. I thought the cake was perfect on its own, but with the peaches it is a whole new treat...but I still want the straight whip.

Olive Oil and Buttermilk Pound Cake (laced with Cardamom and Vanilla Bean)
Adapted from the March, 2009 issue of Gourmet, the original recipe was done with butter, a cake very different from this, but still eatable over the kitchen sink--unless you put drippy juicy peaches over it as I did...Oh, and I should mention Gourmet suggests toasting slices and serving with icecream, a brilliant idea, especially if it is just you and a slowly drying out cake.

Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the middle. Prepare a loaf pan or a nine inch cake pan (though then you will also need a 6 cup muffin tin too...cupcakes!).

Whisk together:
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
1é2 tsp baking soda
1é2 tsp salt

Beat together, scraping down sides, until pale and fluffy:
1é2 cup plus 1 Tbsp mild in flavour olive oil (or 2 1é4 sticks butter, softened)
1 1é2 cups granulated sugar

Scrape in seeds of:
2 vanilla beans, halfed lengthwise
Beat in, one at a time:
4 large eggs
Then beat in until well combined:
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternately add to butter mixture just to combine with: 1 cup buttermilk

Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing top and gently rap on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until wooded skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan for and hour, than invert onto rack and cool completely (though it is ok if you cant wait, and want the first slice warm from the oven, but that flavours do intensify with time)

No comments:

Post a Comment