The first week in August, 2011 is behind me, and I was enjoying watching it recede in my rear-view mirror. It was a rough one, what with losing Woods and my friend’s daughter’s diagnosis with leukemia, a disease with which my family is achingly familiar.
As I turned on the computer this morning to check email, facebook and twitter like a good little plugged-in writer, I came across a post written by the amazing force of nature who is Shauna Ahern, better known in the blogging world as Gluten Free Girl. At first, I thought that the post was going to be sad. Then, I got caught up in the writing and the sharing. Until she punched me in the stomach with some tragic news. Jennifer Perillo–recipe developer, editor and food writer extraordinaire–from In Jennie’s Kitchen lost her husband on August 7. Just dropped to the ground in front of her. At the end of the first week in August.
And I found myself crying over strangers living through the hell that so many of us know–the hell of saying goodbye before it’s time.
London is burning, Woodsy is in the ground, the stock market is roller coastering all over the place, my friend is getting her classroom ready while her husband stays with their daughter in the hospital which makes me think of my brother, gone 13 years, and Jennifer Perillo is planning the funeral of her beloved and the father of her young girls.
It’s at times like these when I know I could use a little simplicity and comfort in my life. A little bit of Happy, of Joy, of Innocence. OK, I’m just going to say it: a little bit of cake.
I made just such a cake at the very end of July for a friend’s birthday brunch. She took a bite and told me it was so good that it gave her goose bumps. And if that isn’t at least a temporary antidote to the Sad, the Heartbreaking, the Depressing, then I don’t know what is.
If you need a little bit of Anti-Sad, do try this cake. And if you feel moved to do so, make a peanut butter cream pie on Friday. For Mikey. Along with a Very Ton of other people in the food blogging community, I’ll be making one along with some of The Beloved’s favorite foods. And I’ll light some candles to help push back the dark.
- 3 sticks (12 oz) butter, at cool room temperature
- 19 oz granulated sugar
- 1 very slightly rounded teaspoon sea salt
- 1½-2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
- zest of 1 large orange, or about ¼ teaspoon orange oil
- 1½ teaspoons very best vanilla
- 5 large eggs at cool room temperature
- 13 oz. cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- scant ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 oz buttermilk, at cool room temperature
- 4 oz heavy cream, lightly whipped just until thickened and mounding
- Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan Very Well with pan spray. Dump in some flour and knock it around until it completely coats the spray. Knock out all the excess flour.
- Position an oven rack on the 1st rack below the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Use the creaming method to put this cake together, creaming the butter first, then the butter and sugar, and then adding in the salt, cinnamon, zest or oil and vanilla. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
- Rather than adding one egg at a time, crack them all into a measuring cup and whisk them together. Drizzle them into the batter in about 10 additions. This helps to maintain a stable emulsion so you’ll end up with a better batter. I promise.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, and add alternately with the buttermilk on low speed. Begin with half the dry, then half the buttermilk, ½ of the remaining dry, the rest of the buttermilk, and end with the last bit of dry. Only mix for about 15 seconds in between additions. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
- Turn the mixer to high for about 3 seconds. No more.
- Fold in the softly whipped cream by hand.
- Spread evenly into your prepared pan and bake for about an hour and five minutes, give or take. Test it at about 55 minutes and then go from there.
- Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn out onto a rack, and then put the cake right back into the pan. Wrap the whole thing up in Saran wrap and place in the freezer until cool. You can let it freeze all the way if you want, but it’s not necessary. This step allows you to keep inside the cake all the moisture that would otherwise evaporate during cooling. It is a magical and useful step. You can skip it, but once I tried it, I haven’t looked back.
- Dust with a bit of powdered sugar–it’s really all this cake needs.
- Tell your family you love them as you serve them their cake.