I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I don’t make very pretty cakes. I’ve found that when I do make sculpted cakes, they are prettiest when layered, filled and covered carefully in frosting. The frosting that looks best is a royal icing or buttercream that has a lot of sugar to it in order to keep it’s shape. I do not love to eat this kind of frosting. My favorite frostings really aren’t frostings at all, but rather ganache, lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream, or on the right cake, a very rich cream cheese one with just an edge of sweetness. And these toppings are often a sign of trying to make something special out of something simple.
My favorite cakes are simple, everyday cakes. Always made with butter, eggs, flour, and sugar. The only exception here is that my carrot cake is better with half applesauce, half oil instead of butter. But I digress …
Everyday cakes are not pretty. They don’t beg to be frosted and make an underwhelming entrance to the table. But these are the cakes you can keep on your counter. They’re better the second or even third day. They make excellent snacks, go well with tea or coffee, and you always have room for a little slice after dinner. I’ll admit to getting into a bad habit of grilling thick slices with butter on hard mornings.
Pretty cakes that lead with frosting and follow with the cake have their place. They take time and show considerable care when presented on occasions. I hope everyone has a homemade birthday cake, every year. But on the in between days, our every days, try a simple cake. Switch to whole wheat flour and start cutting back on the suggested sugar called for in a recipe. Soon, you’ll appreciate the taste of balance. Have dessert whenever you like. Sense the presence of real butter, excellent eggs, hearty grain, and just enough sweetness to make you smile.
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef
This everyday cake is named such because of the flavors of nutmeg and vanilla, reminiscent of plain, old fashioned donuts. When I think of donuts, I think of light and sweet confections. This cake is neither very light or very sweet. But make no mistake, this cake is incredibly delicious. This is my kind of cake. The buttermilk balanced with the egg-y sweetness along with the texture of the cornmeal studded throughout the whole wheat … ah! I just had to go get another slice.
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan and set it aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition, then add in the vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with flour. Make sure each addition is incorporated before adding the next, but don’t over-beat it at the end. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top.
4. Bake until the top is puffed and golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving warm or room temperature.