Sunday night of a cold weekend, having stayed in both days doing the usual winter weekend activities, which, despite my promise to myself to take weekends off, turned out to be late breakfasts, David drawing and me working on editing projects at the computer. Here it is after 8 pm, the Oscars are starting shortly and we want something sweet. The fridge and pantry options are slim as, having stayed in all weekend, I skipped the food shopping, too.
Cakes are chemistry – you need the right balance of leavening, fats, proteins, sugar and flour to succeed, so it’s not a good idea to casually mess with substitutions. And yet I can seldom resist the impulse to do so. Short on key ingredients I came up with the following:
- ¾ c light whole-wheat flour combined with ¾ semolina flour.
- 3 tablespoons of butter plus 3 tablespoons of homemade lard
- ½ c plain yogurt with 2 T water instead of milk.
- 2.5 c frozen raspberries instead of strawberries.
Come June when I start freezing strawberries I’ll be careful to grade them into large and small, and then cut all the large ones in half. It won’t make any difference for the berries that make it into batches of jam but it will be a huge help when I want to make crisps or cakes, and the smaller berries work better in pancakes. Fortunately, I have a bag of flash frozen raspberries (thanks to Ed the Mailman) ready to go.
This single layer cake recipe works well just as written below – but it also worked beautifully with the substitutions. It is similar to my cornmeal lemon cake, but with a softer crumb.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for cake pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup less 2 tablespoons granulated sugar – (set aside the 2T for sprinkling)
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved or 2.5 cups of raspberries or black berries
Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9- or 10-inch spring form or cake pan. The 10-inch will make a cake of lower height (which reminds me that Randy Newman is missing in action this year.)
Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
In a larger bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry ingredients gradually, mixing until just smooth, but not longer.
Pour into prepared cake pan. Arrange berries on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F (to avoid drying out the berries) and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (The extra moisture from the berries accounts for a longer baking time but the cake should be fully set). Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serve with or without lightly whipped cream (but with cream is always preferred!) in time for the best supporting actor award.
And the leftovers make a great coffee cake for the morning after.