Sunday, March 28, 2010

everyday (cake).

Let's start with the name of this cake -- Everyday Cake. Obviously, this refers to the simplicity of the cake and the fact that it is perfect for any old day; there is no need to wait for a special occasion (though I'm of the belief that one never need wait for a special occasion to do special-occasion-kinds-of things, like baking fancy cakes. So that part might be a little lost on me).

But, as per the usual, I started thinking about how this relates to life as well. Living (obviously, though the fact sometimes seems to surprise us) is an everyday affair. This is, of course, the whole finding balance, living day-to-day, being thankful theme of my life at present that I really don't need to wax poetic about here too much more. So I'll be brief. It's simply that I want my everyday life to be meaningful and beautiful and thoughtful and gracious and just; I want to live well even on boring days and sad days and any-old-day days.

And this cake is helpful in that endeavor, because it is an everyday cake, and I absolutely adore it.

The recipe comes from the trusted Molly Wizenberg, who was inspired by Edna Lewis and her Busy-Day Cake. I made the cake first this summer, and I've thought about it far more times than can be considered normal since then. Now, I'm not usually a cake-kind-of girl. Baked goods in general, yes please, but try as I might, I just cannot get that excited about cake. Especially at weddings and graduation parties where it is too sweet and buried under frosting of varied and ridiculous bright colors. But this is not that kind of cake. THIS cake is crumbly and simple and rustic, made with whole wheat flour and perfect for sunny afternoons and well... I'm sold.

This weekend was filled with the aforementioned meaningful normalcy, and with this cake. My parents came for a brief visit (a stop by to see my office, out to dinner at a great local place for much good food and conversation, back home for dessert and the viewing of pictures of their recent trip, making frittatas in the morning with my dear father to enjoy with bakery-fresh bread and jam as sun came through the window and we sipped our coffee, a walk through my neighborhood full of its lovely old houses and little flowers popping up) and a quiet afternoon with one of my dearest friends, Nicole (who is ever-so-helpful as I try to understand living). She and I made this cake. Then we ate it, with high approval. When I dropped her off at home, we shared some with her Little One, who approved as well. And there was church and a very long run and cabbage salad (again) and housecleaning and a happy movie or two. Everyday things. Good things.

Just like this cake.

Everyday Cake
(Very minimally) adapted from Molly Wizenberg

Though I haven't experimented a great deal, it seems that this cake is quite versatile. I think that the all-purpose flour could be nearly or completely replaced by more white whole wheat flour without any adverse effect. As for spices, Molly uses just a dash of nutmeg; we used both nutmeg and cinnamon. We also threw a handful of blueberries (frozen from last summer's harvest and contributed by Nicole, who clearly planned ahead for winter far better than I did this year) on top, along with a dusting of more of the spices. I'd imagine sliced almonds would work well also.

This cake is perfect for mid-morning or late afternoon; it would also be lovely breakfast treat or an actual post-dinner dessert. I think that a dollop of yogurt (normal or Greek), possibly sweetened with honey or maple syrup, goes nicely on top, as does any kind of fresh fruit, but the cake is also just wonderful plain. So follow your heart. And your stomach. And enjoy.

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used slightly less)
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (experiment with the proportions of the flours to your taste)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
A dash of nutmeg or cinnamon or both
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat)

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter.

In a large bowl, blend the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: the flours, baking powder, salt and spice(s).

Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. Add 1/3 of the yogurt; beat again. Add the remaining flour mixture in three more doses, alternating with yogurt and beating each time to incorporate. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in any loose flour.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The cake browns rather quickly on the top, so tent with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes. I did this after about 25, and you'll notice that the edges of my cake are somewhat dark, so I would certainly recommend this step.) Remove the cake from the oven. Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and continue to cool.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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