I’m eating a piece of cake, remembering when my kids had birthday parties…the clearing of the table right after the cake, just before the presents, and all those paper plates with beheaded cupcakes on them.
Little cakes in paper liners with their fancy frosted tops chewed right off. I know some grown-up children who still consider cake a mere delivery vehicle for cream, fudge or frosting, but for me it’s always been the opposite. As a girl, I’d scrape off the frosting and go all in for cake.
I like plain, simple cakes which is why I’ve always loved summer desserts like fruit shortcake. It’s mostly about the fruit, with just the right proportion of cake to fruit stacked on a plate, soaking up the juices of strawberries, blueberries or peaches. And the cake can’t be too sweet or the taste of the fruit gets strange.
I’m delving into my cookbook library for Tuscan inspiration this month, and flagged a recipe for ciambella cake in Flavors of Tuscany by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. It’s one of those cakes that could stand alone as a plain tea cake; a perfect partner for fruit.
Ciambella refers to the shape of the cake – a ring. It’s a farmhouse cake, usually baked in a pan called a savarin mold to form the classic, smooth tube. I looked all over my kitchen and rummaged through some still-unpacked boxes, and it seems that somehow, for some reason, I’ve not acquired such a pan. Life is long, but I didn’t want to wait that long. I have one on they way, but meantime I used one of my trusty Bundt pans (as you can too).
I sliced a white peach (which was unbelievably sweet and delicious, unlike the disappointing mealy yellow peaches I’ve had lately), and made a sort of fruit salad with blueberries, red and golden raspberries and strawberries. I’m imagining that some softly whipped cream on top of the cake and fruit would be very, very good.
Enjoy the fireworks this weekend. And remember to vote here to send me to Tuscany this fall!
Adapted from a recipe in Flavors of Tuscany by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
- Butter and flour for cake pan
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Grated zest from 2 lemons
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar plus a teaspoon
- Mixed berries, 1 or 2 pints
- Summer fruits such as peaches, nectarines and plums, sliced
- Powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 or 9-inch tube pan.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
- Pour the milk in a large measuring cup and stir in the butter, vanilla and lemon zest.
- Beat the eggs with an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar until thickened and pale.
- Stir in the flour mixture into the eggs in 2 additions, alternating with the milk mixture, just until the batter comes together.
- Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack and cool completely.
- Gently combine berries and fruit in a bowl with a teaspoon sugar.
- To serve the cake, dust with powdered sugar. Pour the fruit mixture into the center of the cake and all around it.