Care in the Form of a Cake

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I don’t bake cakes very often, but lately I’ve had a hankering for one. I was contemplating a big chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache, but I was baking on the first day of summer and wishing for something a little lighter. I made a batch of very satisfying stuffed shells and with this filling main dish, I didn’t want to go overboard. There are only two of us to eat whatever I make, so I appreciate baking something that we don’t have to immediately ship off to our coworkers to keep us from eating “just one more piece.”

Maybe that sounds a little stingy. I love sharing food, especially baked goods, but this time I wanted to keep it simple. I didn’t have to search for long. There was a carton of buttermilk in the fridge, threatening to expire if it couldn’t be part of a cake. I just needed a few other ingredients, no more than a bit of measuring, a quick mix and it was in the oven. Although I baked it on a cool, rainy day, I imagine this as the cake you might go to on a warm summer day when you have an abundance of berries to smother it in but not much time or energy for baking.

I love chocolate and certainly don’t mind a rich dessert, but I don’t need more than this one layer of cake paired with fruit and a bit of whipped cream to feel at home. Like our cloth dinner napkins, the clean but worn dishtowels folded in the drawer, and those empty glass jars gleaming on the pantry shelf this is an everyday sort of comfort. It’s really nothing fancy, but adding this treat at the end of the meal was like a bit of extra love and care in the form of a cake.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
I adapted this recipe from the one on epicurious which originated from Gourmet. That recipe has you drop raspberries into the batter, for a raspberry buttermilk cake. I’m sure that would work well, but since I didn’t have berries, I decided this cake would takes its fruit in the form of preserves spooned on top. I used a jar of blueberry lime sauce I brought home from the food swap, but any berry or rhubarb preserve would work well, spooned onto individual slices and topped with barely sweetened whipped cream. I used a 9-inch springform pan, because it was easy to get the cake out of it, but you could use a cake pan, too.


1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 400′. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and 2/3 cup sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until smooth and completely combined. On a low speed, alternate adding half the flour and half the buttermilk until the batter is smooth. Don’t beat it more than that. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is golden on top and the middle is springy to the touch. Let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely. Serve each slice topped with berries, berry sauce or preserves.

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2 Comments

  1. El

    June 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    It's a beautiful cake and a great use of buttermilk. I always have so much left over after making pancakes and never know what to do with it. This is a great option.

  2. Anna

    June 25, 2011 at 2:21 am

    I've seen quite a few cake recipes that use buttermilk, but this one is nice and simple. I always like having to use something up when it means baking something tasty!

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