Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

by ck


(Sorry for the radio silence there, folks. We’re prepping for the Fall semester at work and my evenings haven’t been my own.)

I love how rituals change with the seasons. In the winter, with slushy roads and icy wind, my Saturday afternoons were reserved for baking with friends. Every week around noon I would find myself seated at the island in our little kitchen (how lucky are we, three 20-something-year olds, to have an island?) with a cup of irish breakfast tea.  In it: a spoonful of milk, a dollop honey, and the teabag, weighed down with a spoon (I never take it out, blasphemy, I know.)  Friends would stop by to help knead or eat, depending on the stage of the process (never got any complaints about the latter task.) My roommates would come home in the early evening and we’d roast up a big dinner, cramming five, seven, ten people into the space between the sink and the fridge, eventually plucking up the courage to turn our faces into the cold and move, pack-like, to one of the closer Squares.

Rainy Saturdays in April and May often found me settled into the corner of a bookstore, usually Bryn Mawr or Porter Square Books, with a hot coffee and a waterlogged umbrella. I went through a bit of a dry spell then, where I couldn’t muster the energy or desire to cook full meals or save leftovers. I ate a lot of toast and soup that month (no complaints here) and rarely touched the flours in my cabinet, save birthdays and special occasions. I bought a few plants; they bloomed and are still blooming. I steadily worked my way through Bryn Mawr’s collection of art criticism. Not sure if the owner was thrilled with my weekly visits, but I did buy an old textbook (this one) that I’ve been looking for since I read it two years ago.

These days I have a new weekend routine, a series of activities made possible by the beautiful New England weather, my bike (recently mended), and my new library card (why did it take me this long??) Saturday morning, I take my bike to the sun-lit, glass-walled, simple and clean Cambridge Public Library, where I spend as long as I want browsing the stacks. After passing many hours at work in the Harvard Library last year, I feel very at home running up and down stairs and weaving through aisles. An hour or two later, I’ve returned books, picked up a new one if necessary, and collected a massive stack of magazines. Magazines! This month, I’ve really learned to love magazines. According to my library card, I have recently checked out multiple copies of the following publications:
Wired (4)
Vanity Fair (2)
Food & Wine (3)
Cook’s Illustrated (3)
Saveur (4)
Bon Appetit (3)
ARTnews (3)
Lucky (2)
Cooking Light (1)
Archaeology Magazine (2)
Not a bad collection. Bounty in hand (or, more accurately, in bike basket), I pedal to one of my favorite cafes, where I plunk myself down at a table, purchase a tea, sandwich, pound cake, etc, and read to my heart’s content. (Having worked at restaurants and cafes in the past, I feel it necessary to note that I will leave the table to other paying customers if they start to get busy.)
I’ve started baking regularly again, but usually late in the afternoon. The early afternoon breeze feels too good to ignore.

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while now, but couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to change it up until a couple of weeks ago. Here’s my take on it, baked late one Saturday afternoon, Archaeology Magazine in hand:

Gather your ingredients. 1/2 c. AP flour, 1/4 c. whole wheat, 1/4 c. almond meal, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 2/3 c. + 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 stick butter, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, 1/2 c. “buttermilk”*, raspberries.

*for buttermilk, I used 1/2 c. of 2% milk and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, then waited 5 minutes ’till it clabbered.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Batter 9” springform pan & line with parchment paper. Mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In mixer or by hand, beat sugar (2/3 c. only) and butter. Add lemon zest, vanilla, and egg. On low speed, mix in flour in three batches and buttermilk in two (so flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour.) Pour batter into cake pan. Scatter berries on top. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the top of the cake. Bake for 25 min, but check at 22. Most of the raspberries will sink under the surface, so I poked a few holes after the cake had cooled and added some on top for added prettiness.
N.B. you MUST let this cake cool before you dive in! The almond meal makes it more crumbly than it normally would be, so it’s essential that it firm up a little.