Doing it right
I believe in everyday cake.
I may have remembered to floss four times last week, up from my usual count of zero. I may have had avocado toast one sunny morning at Vif, with za’atar, aleppo pepper, preserved Meyer lemon, and celery(!). I may have even rediscovered R.E.M.’s superlative Green after forgetting about it for twenty years and then sung along loudly and with feeling to “World Leader Pretend” and got goosebumps during the bridge like I used to when I was seventeen. But nothing makes me feel like I’m really living, really doing it up right, like having a cake on my kitchen counter on a weekday.
About a week ago, my friend Shari posted a photograph of a cake on Instagram and declared, “New favorite, I think!” Instagram has more shots of cake than there are particles in the Milky Way galaxy, but then again, you may remember that Shari is the person who, six years ago, introduced me to sweet potato pound cake. Her opinion is not to be questioned. And as I studied her photo, I realized that her cake, pale gold and splotched with berries, was from a recipe that I had read and dog-eared only the night before, as I thumbed through the March issue of Bon Appétit: a simple, single-layer cake enriched with whole-milk ricotta and spiked with frozen raspberries. Ding ding ding!
So I picked up some ricotta over the weekend, and on Monday afternoon, when I found myself with a free half-hour, I made a cake. This is a cake that you can actually throw together, not just in word but in deed: there’s no mixer required, just a spatula and a whisk and an arm. The batter is thick and rich, like a mousse, and bakes up light, pillowy, terrifically moist. (I know everybody hates the word moist now, but I don’t mind it. British recipe writers seem to be into damp, but that usually reminds me of basements, or other people’s towels, or the point in a day at the beach when your bathing suit starts to itch.) A few people on the Bon Appétit website have commented that they would reduce the sugar, but I wouldn’t: it’s just right, especially against the tart shock of the berries. If anything, I’d up the amount of raspberries by a third or half – or, whoa, hey, maybe try it with frozen sour cherries instead? Ricotta and sour cherries. That’s doing it right.
P.S. If you’ve got time to make your own ricotta, do. There’s a recipe in Delancey, and what you don’t use for the cake, you can use on crostini, on toast with jam, in pasta, on pizza, stirred into eggs, you name it.
P.P.S. More everyday cakes here. And this looks a little more involved, but man oh man.
P.P.P.S. Earlier this week, I wrote on Saveur.com about one of my favorite things, the seven-minute egg.
P.P.P.P.S. Luisa started a good discussion about food magazines, and I’d love to know what you think.
And this P.S. thing is getting ridiculous, but P.P.P.P.P.S. My favorite (ancient) photograph of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe.
Adapted very slightly from Bon Appétit, March 2015
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan (I used springform), and press a round of parchment paper into the bottom.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then fold in the butter, followed by ¾ cup of the raspberries, taking care not to crush them. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly, and scatter the remaining raspberries on top.
Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding. Cool completely before serving.
Yield: 8 servings