Monday, June 27, 2011

Cherry Summer Spice Cake

This post goes out to my sister who is celebrating her birthday this weekend. For those who don't know her, she is such a wonderful, kind, and talented person, as well as a gracious hostess during my numerous sojourns to Alexandria. In the past few years that she has been my Northeast partner in crime we have celebrated everything from new jobs, apartments, appliances, good riddance to bad exes and opening our hearts to better boys. And this weekend we celebrate once again, with some good ol' American 4th of July pastimes of baseball and beer, but also some Texas favorites thrown in, like margaritas and guacamole. It will be sunny skies and smiling faces and perhaps a proper homemade birthday cake too.
Along those lines, in what I like to think of as a totally endearing quality, I have this way of completely hijacking peoples kitchens when I come into town. For me it's a way to say thank you, by cooking a dish, participating in preparation for a meal where we sit and talk and laugh and enjoy. So when I came to visit my sister a few weekends ago (and honestly, where is the summer going?!?) I had my heart set on making us all a summer cake, which is basically a summery spiced version of the strawberry buttermilk cake I had previously made, but dotted with beautiful ripe cherries and fragrant with ginger, allspice and cardamom.

Smitten Kitchen originally turned me on to these lovely everyday cakes and I've since used the basic formula with my own little tweaks. And if you think a spice cake is out of season in the summer, it's absolutely not given the spices you choose to use. Cardamom and ginger conjure up warmth, and could easily take a tropical turn with some coconut and pineapple. Come late summer I'd love to throw this cake together with some chopped pecans and candied ginger, sprinkling in cinnamon and nutmeg for good measure, maybe even try out with some apples and honey in anticipation of autumn.

Cherry Summer Spice Cake
1 c. flour- sifted twice
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.  baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 large egg
1/2 c. well-shaken buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter and flour a cake pan.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spices and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light colored and fluffy, then beat in vanilla . Add egg and mix until combined.

3. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into the cake pan only to about 1/2 of the pan, as cake will rise. Scatter cherries over top and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

4. Bake until cake  is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Dust powdered sugar over top.

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