The best cakes for me are the simple ones. Butter or oil, eggs and milk. Flour. The ones that are completely confident with nothing but powdered sugar, a small ball of vanilla bean. Something fresh strewn across it before baking. Something of a crust. In summer, things strewn are usually berries and they have a fierce way of dying things they’ve touched with their juices, red and blue, indigo, maybe. Everything about a true summer cake is bold and simple and direct-tasting. A little bit tart even.
I’ve been reading about berries all summer – and there are some beautiful ways that they’ve been talked about. And really, what’s gotten me most after baking up a berry storm is: how authentic can I be about a fruit that didn’t come to me in budding admiration like something wild growing around my house just beyond the white picket in a thicket of plump juice? The best I can do is discuss raspberries that I’ve only ever known in little plastic cartons from the grocery store.
I don’t have a story about mucking through the berry bushes with my big brothers or getting caught like a fish on berry bush thorns because, well, I was raised in a city where the deepest sinking thorns were those big hooped barbed wire fences that looked like mean slinkies.
But then, that city is full of it’s own authenticity. The other day, I was boggled and giddy to see a humble farmer’s market with just a few tables selling accessible freshness for food stamps: potatoes, onions, peppers.
What I love most about this cake besides its city berries buried just below a summer surface made snowy with powdery sugar, other than that it satisfies my desire for simple and straightforward flavors, is how the raspberries go into the oven bobbing across the batter and come out of the oven nestled into a fluffy pillow of cake — they only reveal themselves again once you’ve sliced through the dimpled golden top.
Adapted from Epicurious.com.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- raw turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously grease a 9 “cake pan, and dust with flour. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract and egg. Alternating between the buttermilk and flour mixture, beat in a third of each, ending with the buttermilk and beating well after each addition. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan, smoothing top if necessary for even distribution. Scatter raspberries across the top of the cakeand then sprinkle with turbinado sugar if desired. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes, before turning cake out of its pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with powdered sugar.