As many of you know, Linnea and I currently live at my mom’s house. It’s a long story that involves my mom going back to graduate school, the family dogs, her eventually moving home, and me losing my job. It’s very temporary and while I never envisioned being thirty and living at home–really, it’s wonderful. I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my mom: sitting at the counter watching her cook; obeying her nonsensical driveway parking rules; talking about books, celebrities, Obama’s charm. But Linnea and I have set a date that January 1 we’ll be moving out. It’s time. I can’t wait to live right in the city, where you can get a piece of pizza after 9 p.m. (you can’t get anything after 9 p.m. in Marin) and walk out your door in the morning to grab a cup of coffee and hop on the bus. I miss the constant buzz of a city, the way the sun glints off the buildings, and the proximity of your neighbors. That being said, Linnea, my mom and I all had a lovely (albeit quiet) suburban Halloween. We baked, we drank, we ordered a pizza, we drank some more, we carved pumpkins, and we handed out mini candy bars to the –drumroll, please– one trick-or-treater who dropped by.
I had big plans for my pumpkin this year. I was going to carve a cupcake on the front, and it was going to be epic. Well suffice it to say, my vision fell flat (pumpkin below is mine, the two below that are my mom’s and Linnea’s).
Blame it on failing high school geometry or that second glass of wine, but it really ended up looking like a pumpkin with the entire front carved out. Oh well. At least one thing turned out just as planned: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s English Gingerbread Cake.
While I usually do a festive soup or a hearty pasta on Halloween, we were all pretty wiped. So we ordered pizza. And then my mom and I set out to make this lovely cake.
For those of you who may not know Rose’s blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum, she’s a cake goddess. She’s the real deal. Her first cake book, The Cake Bible, was quite the sensation although I must admit I do not own it…I merely ogle it at bookstores. But her second cake book just came out, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, and it’s downright lovely. While at first glance some of the recipes may seem tedious (and let’s be honest, some are), in reality Rose describes each step so clearly that the recipes are more narrative than many of us may be used to. She has a clear style of laying out exactly what needs doing, gives you conversions in each recipe for volume and weight, has organized the book logically into types of cake (butter and oil cakes, sponge cakes, cheese cakes etc.) and has beautiful photographs throughout to inspire and guide you. So while there are easily ten cakes I want to make right off the bat, the Gingerbread seemed perfect for a cool autumn evening. It’s a moist, spicy cake with a hint of citrus–according to Rose, a true English classic.
So while I miss having my own place to decorate and while this time of year makes me strangely wish I had my own little munchkins, we had a pretty great evening….I hope that you did, too. Oh, and I got a new camera! I had to refrain from posting 50 pictures of this cake–I’ve been taking photos of everything, and many of them. But hopefully in the coming weeks, the pictures around here will begin to improve. Happy Sunday.
From: Rose’s Heavenly Cakes
For Cake Batter
For Lemon Butter Syrup:
Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325. In a small heavy saucepan, stir together the butter, golden syrup, sugar, and marmalade over medium-low heat until melted. Set aside uncovered until just barely warm, about 10 minutes. Whisk in eggs and milk.
To make the batter, in a large bowl, whisk the two flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter mixture, stirring with a large silicone spatula until smooth (consistency of thick soup). Using the spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake cake for 50-60 min., or until wire cake tester comes out clean from the center and cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. While cake cools, begin syrup.
For syrup: In a small pan, stir together the sugar, lemon juice, and butter. Heat over medium-low, stirring until the butter’s melted and the sugar dissolves. Brush half the syrup over the top of the cake. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Brush the bottom with the remaining syrup. To prevent splitting, invert the cake onto a serving plate so the top is up. For extra moistness, cover the cake with plastic wrap while still hot and allow it to cool (I did this–don’t be scared, it works!). Wrap airtight for 24 hours before serving (I did not do this).
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.