Given the choice, I would pick a simple, everyday cake without frosting, over the fancy, tiered, frosted creation. I know that sounds practically sacrilegious – to prefer cake without frosting. But I just do. Most of the time.
Don’t get me wrong – a well-made frosting is a thing of beauty. But I really have to be in the mood for it. Whereas a regular every-day cake is something I could have, well, every day. It requires no fancy occasion, no long waiting between crumb-layer of frosting and its second one. You simply mix, bake, cool and eat. This four step process appeals to me because it gets me that much faster to cake consumption – which is the goal here. Such cakes are a salve to my busy days, a slice of comfort on my plate.
This is a great, every-day cake. The kind you can make on a whim, when you have an unexpected guest, or when you are absolutely keen on having home-made dessert, but are feeling slightly lazy in the baking department. Except, the cake is sort of more impressive than the sum of its parts (my favorite trick!) as it’s got this fancy fruit thing going on – dressed up with generous chunks of nectarines, or, depending on your preference and farmers market offerings – peaches. Of course, you could get all Rosh Hashana crazy creative, and put some apples in it instead. Which makes me think – this could be really good drizzled with honey. Right?
And here’s what happens. These glorious chunks are too heavy for the batter when you place the slices on top of it, and so while the cake is baking, the slices sink deeper and deeper into the batter. Sounds sexy, right? The fruit just can’t help itself, the pull is far too much.
When you take your cake out, it’s like a vanishing act, you wonder, what could have possibly happened to that fruit you so carefully arranged? But you patiently let the cake cool before you serve yourself a generous slice (that’s before your guests arrive, because let’s face it, you cannot possibly be patient around a cake like this). It’s at precisely this point that you discover that this amazing fruit went into hiding – and you see its beautiful slices inside. It really is a stunner of a piece, you will note to yourself.
Of course, what kind of a person would I be if I didn’t do a quick confessional here. The first version of this cake was a fail. An EPIC FAIL. Despite being picture-perfect and smelling oh-so-seductively, it tasted like a box of baking soda. Imagine licking some baking soda off a spoon – disgusting, right? Well, it was.
How did this come to pass? How did such a lovely, easy, moist cake come to be inedible? Well, simple – instead of baking powder, I had put in baking soda (truly a d’oh moment in Sassy Radish kitchen) – and a generous amount as such. I should have caught on while measuring out my ingredients – who uses two whole teaspoons of baking soda on one little cake? Quite mad at myself for being so unattentive, I made this cake the very next day, this time being careful to use the proper ingredients – and the results were truly noteworthy. The cake proved to be everything I imagined it would be. It was the reason I eschewed frosting in favor of something like this.
And you see, if you read the directions carefully and put baking powder instead of a baking soda, your first bite, that moist, light, laced with vanilla and almond will not taste even remotely like toothpaste and you will not even think of this thing called frosting. Not even for a moment. You might think of me and of baking soda – and hopefully it’ll make you smile.
Nectarine Golden Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2009
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in extracts. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined.
4. Spread batter evenly in pan, then scatter nectarines over top. Stir together nutmeg and remaining 1/2 Tbsp sugar and sprinkle over top. Bake until cake is golden-brown and top is firm but tender when lightly touched (cake will rise over fruit), 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove side of pan and cool to warm.