Monday, September 16, 2019

Blackberry Cardamom Cake (Gluten free! Or not!)

Oh, hello, my loves! I am writing you from the crying pit of vipers otherwise known as September. Did your children go to college and leave you? I'm sorry! They suck. And even the ones at home still are probably off all day at high school, like assholes. Sigh. I am now the person who leans over, all melty and wobbly and weird, to speak to people at the store with babies in their shopping carts. "Ooh, lucky!" I like to say, because I can't remember how much it sucked to be scouting out a ripe cantaloupe while someone in a single zippery piece of clothing started to make the prewailing warning sounds of naptime misery.

I made Ben play one last, gloomy game of Booby-Trap with me before he left.
I will admit, under duress, that the second year of Ben going has been easier than the first. Even though he was home all summer and all any of us could do was drape ourselves over him in loving,  smothering relief. Birdy spent the first few days after his departure lying angrily on the floor and announcing, "Benny went back to college like a stupid fuckhole. Jesus FUCK." #theappledoesntfallfaretc

Back in the summer, we were laughing!
Anyhoo, I wrote some things since last we met! A piece about leaving for college here. Lots of recipes here. A little something about kids and chores here (scroll down for the more actionable piece of the article). Something totally weird here.

I also read some things. Lots of things. Some so incredible I may read them again: this and this and this and this, for example. And this.

And I did some baking. Onto the recipe portion of this brief missive.

I should mention that the berries will sink to the bottom. At least mine did!
Blackberry Cardamom Cake
For the past seven or so years, I’ve worked a weekly shift at our local survival center, serving lunch to hungry folks. Mostly I do this because I get a kick out of my own helpfulness, as well as out of the sustaining friendships I’ve been treated to there, and the many men who call me sweetheart and darling in what has become, in this, my 51st year, the last bastion of flirtation in my life. (I am lonely a lot during the week, and I am never lonely there.) Plus, Ben, whose college is nearby, works the dinner shift after I work the lunch shift, and during our 5-minute Thursday car transfer we gossip about everybody we saw. And also I like getting free food, which I do from the fresh foods distribution, where they give away lots of gorgeous produce from local farms and markets, everything only slightly dinged and dented—nothing you wouldn’t still call sweetheart or darling. We refer to it as “used food,” at my house, and admiringly so. “Ooh, are these used peaches from the survival center?” Birdy will ask. “They’re so good!”

So, with a half pint of used blackberries that were just a little past their bowl-of-berries-and-cream prime, I made this cake. Weirdly, I first thought that I was recreating a macaron we’d had in Paris years ago. Blackberries, vanilla, and cardamom! I remembered, incorrectly. In fact, the macaron has been raspberry lychee, and rose, which, wow, was maybe the best thing I have ever tasted. Nonetheless, blackberries, vanilla, and cardamom baked simply into this cake you will recognize from it being the same cake as the plum cake, is a marvelous thing. We are strictly gluten-free around here these days, so that’s what I’m offering—and the texture is, I unhumbly submit, absolute tender, buttery perfection. But feel free to swap in white flour. Or, better yet, 2/3 cup white flour and 1/3 cup spelt flour, like my old glutinous self would have.

1 stick butter (I use salted), softened
¾ cup sugar (plus 1 tablespoon)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup gluten-free white flour (with xanthan gum in it—or add 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 cup almond flour or meal (with or without skins)
1/3 cup gluten-free wholegrain flour (I make my own blend from equal parts brown rice, teff, sorghum, and oat flour, thanks to this book) OR more regular gf flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh, fragrant ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping cup (a half-pint container) of blackberries
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 350.

Use an electric mixer (if you have one) to cream together the butter and sugar—or do this all by hand, which is fine. Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, and add the vanilla too. Beat in the flours, which you’ve either sifted or whisked together with the baking powder, cardamom, and salt, and mix until the batter is well combined.

Now scrape the very stiff batter into your pan: I use an 8-inch spring form pan (and don’t grease it), but you could butter and flour a regular cake pan and use that, need be. Use a rubber spatula to even it out.

Dot the top of the cake with the blackberries, pressing them in slightly. Now sprinkle the cake with a tablespoon of sugar and pop it in the oven to bake until it looks nice and brown and doesn’t jiggle anywhere when you, uh, jiggle it—this seems to take about 35 minutes in my oven, but check it at 30.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or plain.