Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Easy, Versatile Buttermilk Cake

Summer tends to be a time for simple desserts.  With all of the glorious fresh fruit available that hardly needs fussing with, the elaborate desserts of winter are easily forgotten.  Besides, who wants to hang around a hot stove or deal with melty doughs?

But, while fresh fruit is delicious on its own, sometimes you want something a little more special.  This basic buttermilk cake goes with everything that summer has to offer.  Fluffy, tender, and softly sweet it is always a crowd-pleaser.  It's quick and easy to throw together and with it's fast cook-time your kitchen will hardly heat up.  What I especially like is that the recipe is great to tinker with.  Add flavor with zests, add fruit to the top, (like the original recipe calls for), or the bottom as an upside-down cake.  Cut it in half and spread some jam in the middle or make a giant strawberry shortcake.  Make a buttermilk or citrus glaze to drizzle over the top.  The possibilities are endless.

- 1 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 2 tbsp brown sugar or demerara sugar (for more crunch)

- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest.  Mix with your fingers to release the oils of the zest until the sugar is moist, clumpy, and fragrant.
- Add the softened butter to the sugar and beat until fluffy.
- Add the egg and beat until combined.
- Add the flour in three batches and the buttermilk in two batches, alternating between them, gently mixing until it is just combined.
- Pour the batter into a buttered 8" pan.  A tart pan is the perfect size and created a pretty edge, but if you're adding fruit you'll need something deeper.  A 9" cake pan can be used, but the cake ends up a little thinner than I prefer.
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with the brown sugar.
- Bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes.  If fruit has been added, it may take a little longer.

Serve at room temperature with fresh fruit and perhaps some creme fraiche if you're feeling fancy.  Covered tightly with plastic wrap, the cake will last 2-3 days.


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