"If Meth smelled like this cake, I'd probably sell you. Or maybe cake is just the new Meth."
Get ready for everything that is wrong with my brain, and a delicious cake recipe. I am telling you this because I have nothing else even remotely related to food to talk about and also because I am too ashamed to tell anyone who might have eye contact with me on a regular basis.
Lately I've been having Wifey Fantasies, which is a specific brand of avoidance daydream, where I am living in a pale yellow townhouse in a Major Metropolitan Area, with white trim and black wrought iron details, large windows and a roof where we entertain. We is my husband or Mate For Life, and our six-month old daughter who has a name like Luella, Margo or Pearl, and our dog, a little fierce-faced Brussels Griffon named Beezus*.
That's it. I don't know what my husband, daughter, Beezus and myself do all day other than go to the market, which is what we were doing the last time I had this daydream, which was in the car coming home from a road trip. I do know that I have a specific outfit, and that is a pair of dark-rinse, faded jeans that are cuffed just above the ankle, green Havianas and a 3/4 length sleeved black shirt that is long enough for my liking. And somehow I am always walking down the street with Luella, Margo or Pearl on my hip and a huge bouquet of fuchsia peonies in the crook of my other arm. And my hair is always blown-out and my bangs are never too short or too long. When my hair isn't blown out, no one tells me I look like a Samoan Warrior. A Samoan Male Warrior.
There's nothing like being militantly involved in forecasting your daydreams, because when something goes right in the now, you can program it in. And my daydreams are always the complete opposite of my current waking life. I am approaching my 25th, unmarried and while I have the flip-flops and jeans, I have no need or even real, panicked desire for a child with a name that could also be the name of a product in a European shoe catalog. But I do have a need for this cake, now and then. Maybe I'll bake it when my husband and I get into a fight, and I'll stand there in my jeans and apron made out of a vintage bedsheet and say something like "Fuck it, if you get a midlife crisis, then I get a horse I can name Oprah."
I sound like such an idiot, but I DARE YOU to tell me that you don't have your own version of this, Wifey or not.
After reading Molly's wonderful site (you all know and visit it, and if you don't, welcome back to the future), I decided to try her adapted recipe for a cake originally constructed by Marion Burros. I didn't have apricots, but I did have a bagful of deep, bursting red cherries perishing, along with pints of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, a couple of white nectarines buzzing with honey sweetness and filling the air with their aroma. I love this time of year, because every fruit in season builds to a deafening, sensory hum sooner than you can stand it -- I am the gross girl with fistfuls of fruit in her hands, inhaling and huffing. I am Paula Abdul.
So I made the adapted cake, subbing halved and pitted ("They're like tiny avocados. ARE YOU BLEEDING? WHAT? DO YOU STILL HAVE CUTICLES?") cherries for the apricots, a little brown sugar and adding vanilla and almond extracts, which both go so nicely with cherries. I have a 10-inch springform, so it came out thinner and denser than Molly's well-risen child star of a cake, and the cherries sunk into the batter, completely invisible. It doesn't matter.
The cake smelled so good that an hour later, I made another one. This time with no almonds, all flour, pinches of cinnamon, and blackberries. We sunk into that one after a dinner of salads, which I have been eating with gusto lately, taking slivers and one person taking 1/3rd of the outer rim, the rest wrapped tightly for breakfast with tea and coffee tomorrow.
It is easily made -- I used a wooden spoon to beat together both of them, and they smell like someone who has no regrets about the year 1997 and the choices in clothing made, or maybe an angel's scalp. Good for breakfast, modest and approachable as a dessert after a simple dinner, and even better late at night, by the sliver as you sit on the counter.
Now I'm going to make another one. With Barbie heads.
* Yes, Beezus as in Klickitat Beezus.
1 stick (half a cup) of softened, room temp. butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups pitted, halved dark red (Bing) cherries
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
2/3 cup AP flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
Make the Cake:
In a mixing bowl, with a hand-held mixer or wooden spoon, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy and light brown. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, and stir until combined.
Add the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, and salt to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add the flour-almond mixture to the butter and sugars, and then add both eggs. Working quickly but gently, stir together until the batter is light brown, and the egg is mixed in completely.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the bottom of your springform pan (if you want to remove the cake for freezing, as suggested by several of Molly's commenters) and clip the ring around it. Tear or cut off the excess, and pour the batter inside the ungreased, parchment-lined pan. Smooth with the back of a spoon or a spatula, and drop the cherries, cut-side up, on top in any pattern you like, random or planned. Scatter with a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
If you like, sift a little powdered sugar on top and serve with whipped sour cream, or vanilla ice cream.