Dimply Summer Fruit Cake
Just the other day, my precious 5-month-old went to daycare for the first time. It was a big moment for many reasons, not the least of which was that we’ve been on that waiting list since last February. Yup, Stella was waiting in line before she even had taken human form. (She’s always been very advanced, you know.) From what I’ve heard, the first day of preschool drop-off can be an emotionally wrought experience for both parents and child. When Francesco and I closed the daycare gate behind us, our little starlight too engrossed in whatever she was banging on the floor to notice us leave, we looked at each other and said, “Wanna go to the beach?”
Well, no, I did say that, but he had to work.
So what did I do? I had a whole day (minus my trips to the daycare in my role as cow) to myself – law school doesn’t begin for another week – so what sort of shenanigans did I get myself into?
I did pretty much exactly what you’d guess, if you’ve spent over two minutes on this blog. I baked three cakes.
What may seem to others as a colossal waste of the only day for the next long while in which I am neither encumbered by the law or engrossed in how awesome of a toy thrower my baby is, to me? Was bliss.
Part of the bliss came from just how well the cakes turned out. Lately my cakes have not been bloggable, you see, because they’ve been variations on bad. But these were different, so, so different.
I flipped to page 92 of cibo and doubled my adapted version of an old Dorie Greenspan recipe which has become rightfully famous over the last few years. It’s a thick, brown sugar and spice batter that is topped with halved fruit, resulting in a perfectly simple but gorgeous and delicious everyday cake. In the past, I’ve used plums, as in the Dorie original, but my fruit drawer was literally overflowing with apricots and figs, so the poor dears had to walk the plank.
And man, oh, man, I’m so glad they did. I’m so glad Stella got into daycare. I’m so glad Francesco had to work so we didn’t go to the beach. I’m so glad school doesn’t start until next week. Because these cakes just made my life complete and my pants a little tighter.
My skills at complimenting food are not, unfortunately (considering what I write about), fine tuned. I use words like “good” and “bad” a lot (see above). So maybe I shouldn’t even bother trying to wax on and on about this cake. Shall I show rather than tell? Well, between Francesco and me (and one roadie for a friend) we finished one of the cakes (1/2 a batch) in just under 12 hours. Two people: dessert, breakfast and poof! Just make it, seriously. Figs, peaches, apricots, plums, pluots, cherries, whatever. Some fruit will have to die. Some sunny Sundays spent indoors. But – whatever you do – this cake must be made. Some pants? Are just meant to be tighter.
DIMPLY SUMMER FRUIT CAKE
The possibilities are endless here. I’ve added fresh grated ginger to wonderful effect, I’ve left out all the spices, added more; I’ve used all sorts of different kinds of fruit; I’ve left out the vanilla and added booze instead. Do whatever you want, as long as you make some version of this cake. The original recipe, from Dorie Greenspan, is a bit different (more sugar, for example) so feel free to try hers. It’s lovely served with whipped cream, custard, ice cream or yogurt.
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (such as canola or sunflower seed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or gran mariner or rum)
5 – 10 plums or apricots or figs, halved and pitted
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease a cake pan with high sides.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric beater. Add the eggs, oil, vanilla and ginger if using; beat to combine.
In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and spices if using.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan; it may be very thick. Press the fruit, cut-side up, into the batter. Feel free to squeeze them in – the more fruit the batter.
Bake 40 – 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The batter may be slightly undercooked under the fruit, so an extra 5 minutes won’t hurt. Cool in the pan for a little before removing.