Stashing summer’s last gasp
When I left Seattle this morning, the city was still tucked snugly under a heavy blanket of clouds. It’s been this way for a week or two now, with autumn beginning its slow, sad tease, sending in an advance guard of low gray clouds every morning and sneaking the daylight away earlier and earlier every evening. Six-thirty this morning found me at the chilly bus stop with my wet hair and full suitcase, New York-bound and knowing too well that when I return, the Pacific Northwest summer may have already had its last gasp. The season will subtly shift its mandate from plum clafoutis to purple cabbage, from outdoor lamb roasts to oven-roasted chicken, and from test-kitchen beer floats to tea.
It’s not so bad, really. I’m a soups-and-stews girl at heart, anyway, and cool weather is as good an excuse as any to spend more time at the stove. But before I relinquish my halter tops, flip flops, and the oscillating fan, you can be sure I’ll stash a bit of summer in the freezer, in the form of a raspberry-blueberry pound cake.
This recipe has been my mother’s summertime standby for nearly twenty years, since it first appeared in Bon Appétit in July 1986. When the season calls, she opens the recipe card-catalog she keeps in a drawer in the kitchen, pulls out the index card reading “Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake,” and takes it, reference librarian-style, to the closet that houses her food magazines from the ‘80s to mid-‘90s. Today, the pages of that old Bon Appétit are yellowed around the edges and suffering a sort of low-grade rigor mortis, but the cake is no worse for the wear. Simple and sophisticated, its tight, buttery crumb is scented with kirsch and shot through with soft summer berries.
Served alongside a melty scoop of ice cream or dolloped with whipped cream, it makes a perfect barbeque dessert from July 4th to Labor Day. And even more importantly, it freezes beautifully, so after you’ve slipped out of your summer whites, you’ll find it goes remarkably well with a wool blanket and a pot of hot tea.
But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that too soon. After all, I’ll only be gone for ten days.
Raspberry-Blueberry Pound Cake
Bon Appétit, July 1986
This cake can be prepared a day or two ahead of serving; just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. If you choose to freeze it for future occasions, wrap it in plastic wrap and then seal it in large freezer bag.
It’s an awfully easy way to get a last gasp of summer at any time of year.
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature, plus a bit more for the pan
2 Tbs kirsch
2 cups plus 8 Tbs cake flour, plus a bit more for the pan
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
Generously butter a 9-cup Bundt pan, and dust it with flour, shaking out the excess.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the eggs and the sugar until smooth and thick, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the butter and kirsch, and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the bowl. Add 2 cups plus 6 Tbs flour, baking powder, and salt, and pulse twice or so to just combine. Do not overmix.
In a large bowl, toss the raspberries and blueberries with the remaining 2 Tbs flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter into the berries. Transfer this finished batter to the prepared Bundt pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Place the Bundt pan on the center rack in a cold oven, and turn the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake until a toothpick or knife inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes; then invert it onto a rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, with tea, ice cream, or whipped cream, as the weather dictates.