I won't say it was the hardest thing, but definitely one of the sticky points of living in Asia last year was the fact that my baking adventures were limited by our toaster oven (capacity: 6 cookies), a general lack of baking pans in the region (save a gutsy trip Jena made to the other side of town to scavenge for appropriate bakeware for Thanksgiving casseroles), and hardly any measuring cups or spoons (I used the teeny measuring cup that came with our ancient rice cooker--learned later it is not a real American cup, much to my horror). We still managed to bake stuff, but I would inwardly pray/cringe every time I would throw what I hoped was a half-teaspoon's worth of baking powder into some would-be pancakes. "Close enough!" was my motto, although I can't bear to use it now.
So when this raspberry buttermilk cake (RIP Gourmet Magazine) made the rounds last June, I dutifully bookmarked it, but the dearth of berries in Asia prevented me from actually baking it. I promptly forgot about it.
Last week this recipe re-sailed into my life via our weekly CSA newsletter! I just about ran to the farmers' market downtown to get me some berries, vowing to not let another year pass before baking the cake. Berry buttermilk cake...mine mine all mine. Tender and not too sweet, this cake is equally good eaten just out of the oven or while stumbling around the kitchen in the morning searching for the coffee (note: it is in the same place every day; I am just not a morning person). It's almost embarrassingly easy to throw together, a fantastic use of summer berries, and will delight pretty much anyone who is lucky enough to get a slice.
I have a feeling it's going to be showing up on a regular basis all season long.
Berry Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from the June 2009 issue of Gourmet)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (a half stick) of butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk (I squeezed the juice from half a lime into a liquid measuring cup, then added half & half until it reached the 1/2 cup mark and let it sit for 10 minutes until curdly)
1 cup berries of your choice (I used blackberries and strawberries because (gasp!) I do not love raspberries)
Preheat oven to 400. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch square or round baking dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a medium bowl for a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and egg.
Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk (2 parts) (mixing should begin and end on flour). Don't overmix! You want the cake to be tender.
Scrape the batter into your prepared pan, then scatter the berries over the top. (Hint: if you use raspberries, place them so the open part is facing up. This will prevent them from sinking all the way to the bottom. Have not yet figured out how to prevent the other kinds of berries from sinking, but this is purely an aesthetic issue.) Sprinkle an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar over the top for a crunchy crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cake is ready when golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for a few minutes: you can then invert onto a plate or eat out of the pan (the second is my preferred method).
PS: I recently added a list of my favorite food blogs to the right over there, so peruse at your leisure: each is a heavy dose of inspiration for me.