Tuesday, 4 June 2019
I am turning into my mother. She told me it would happen, more than once, with a wicked - borderline evil - smile on her face. And now it has. I have little flecks of grey around my temples, exactly where she had them, am evangelical about public libraries... and I simply cannot bear to let the smallest skerrick of food go to waste. I am constantly making ricotta (and freezing it) with milk about to expire, or zesting citrus I need for juice (another ziplock bag freezer stash) or burying bits and pieces of wilting greens in curries. Last week I had half a carton of cream in my fridge to use up. Happily, it was exactly the amount needed for this recipe, which I'd had bookmarked for ages since first reading about it on Food52.
It's the simple cakes I gravitate most to these days. This one - dubbed Do-It-All Cake - by its author, Danish cook Nadine Levy Redzepi (wife of René, head chef and founder of Noma in Copenhagen) is monk-like in its simplicity. But that's probably not the right analogy for something so rich, delicious and slightly subversive. The latter comes from the use of salted butter, rather than the traditional unsalted, and additionally, a light sprinkling of sea salt over the batter before it goes in the oven, which perfectly balances the creamy sweetness of it all.
This cake is the very definition of something being more than the sum of its parts. All the ingredients are everyday ones, there's nothing more to making it than a bit of beating and folding but it leaves your whole house smelling amazing and tastes incredible with a cup of black coffee. I wish I could make it for my mum but it does the next best thing, by making me think of her.
Recipe adapted from Downtime from Nadine Levy Redzepi, as published on Food52
Nadine recommends using this cake as a vehicle to use up overripe or bruised fruit (just fold it in gently at the end before spooning into the tin), which my mother most definitely would have done.
1 3/4 cups (245g) flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (110g) salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (175 ml) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9x5-inch (23x12-cm) loaf tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and sea salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise then scrape the seeds in with the butter and sugar (my mum put the empty pods in with her store pantry jar of sugar to infuse it with flavour). Beat on high speed until it is pale, 4 to 5 minutes. Nadine stresses to not shortchange this step.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until integrated. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the cream. Beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, just until smooth.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared tin and sprinkle the top with the flaky sea salt.
Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top is nicely golden 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Let cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, remove the paper, and turn right side up to cool completely.