I like baking. Despite a not-very-sweet-tooth, the mixing and pouring and measuring is satisfying, And everyone becomes your best friend when you have fresh, real cake...
To wit: Charne (Shar-nay) Human and the Chocolate Cake. Charne had big blue sad eyes and gold hoop earrings before anyone had pierced ears.We were little together at St Michael's, my school in Bloemfontein. She was Janine Oberholzer's best friend (the best friend business has always flummoxed me - if you have a best friend, then what are your other friends? Not Quite Good Enough?). Or perhaps I secretly have best friends, but don't tell them, in case I'm not their best friend...the horror.
Charne came over to play a few times. My mom - who baked everything from scratch - bought us a boxed cake mix to bake every time. Then one day Charne rang the doorbell, escorted by her mother, as usual. At the door I confessed: We don't have cake today! And Charne turned on her heel and marched back up the the garden path and through the big doors in the high white wall, and out of my life.
This cake is inspired by Nigel Slater with my usual, interfering tweaks. I read about it in The Guardian. The photograph made me hungry (it also made the cake look as though the oven may have been too hot!). He calls it a cake for midsummer. I call it incredible. His recipe is wonderful, if super rich.
I changed the quantities to less butter, with the addition of some milk (in other versions I have also used yogurt), and I upped the blueberry content. I have made it with gooseberries, and raspberries, too.
I use a hand whisk, as I have no electric mixer. In Brooklyn you are not allowed to have electric mixers, and in fact a churn is preferred for making your own butter from the cow on your roof.
As I say, I whisked, and everything was fine. (And I have used just a wooden spoon. No problem.)
I folded in the very last handful of terrace blueberries and used dripping sweet yellow peaches from the market.
Peach and Almond Cake with Blueberries
110g/3.5 oz butter
120g/4 oz self-raising flour (or regular flour + 1.5 teaspoons baking powder)
110g/3.5 oz ground almonds
1/3 cup milk
1 cup blueberries
1 ripe peach, cut into small pieces
a few drops of vanilla extract*
*Or 2 teaspoons mahlab (powdered cherry kernels, either foraged or from a Middle Eastern store)
Heat the oven to 180'C/350'F. Grease a spring form pan.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (easier when the butter is no longer cold). Beat in the eggs and add some flour, to prevent the mixture from separating.
Fold in the rest of the flour and the ground almonds, in two or three separate additions. Add the milk and stir well. Add the vanilla or mahlab powder. Last, add the chopped peaches and blueberries. The mixture will be pretty firm by this time. If it is too stiff add a little more milk.
Scrape the cake mixture into a greased springform cake tin or loaf pan and bake for about one hour. Test with a skewer – if it comes out clean, then the cake is done. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then loosen the edges, tip out and cool.
This is divine. Truly. Moist, pillowy, luscious, light (in feel, certainly not in calories), with a slightly, ever so slightly sticky crust. I am smitten.