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Jul 31, 2005 05:20 PM

Really good, ultra simple summer fruit cake

  • s

OK, this is no groundbreaking stuff, but man, it's SO good. I've made it no fewer than 3 times in 3 weeks. There are a gazillion variations on this theme out there, but this one is the best I've ever tried. I have adapted it - slightly - from MS Living.

Fruit tarts are great, but I have come to realize that I actually prefer cakes (spongy batter rather than crisp shell) as a vehicle for summer fruit. They just have more substance, and are all soft inside and you can have them for breakfast... This recipe is laughably simple, in terms of equipment you don't need more than two bowls, a whisk and a spatula. It's that simple.

6 tablespoons butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
scant 1 cup sugar; of this, put aside 2 tblsp
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
(optional: a few drops of lemon oil)
Fruit: berries (blueberries or raspberries; if using r-berries, frozen ones work better), apricots, plums...

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9" cake pan and coat with breadcrumbs or flour. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

With a spatula, cream together the butter and all but 2 tblsp of the sugar. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture and mix with a spatula until smooth. Transfer batter to the pan. Cover the surface of the batter with the fruit, pressing the fruit slightly into the batter. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.

(If using plums, mix the extra sugar with about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and toss the plums in the mixture, reserving a little to sprinkle on top. Also, a bit of lemon oil tossed with the plums gives the cake a nice zesty flavor.)

Bake for 10 minutes at 350, then reduce to 325 and bake for another 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Cool in the pan for 15 min., then unmold and cool completely on a rack.

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  1. Thanks for giving me a way to eat down the ten pounds of summer fruit I bought (ever heard of the expression "her eyes are bigger than her appetite?").

    Question: have you tried putting fruit into the batter? I am envisioning a cake with blueberries in it, with a layer of plum slices on top. Thoughts on workability and amount of b-berries I should try?

    4 Replies
    1. re: nooodles

      I think it's worth a shot, although the cake might get a little soggy if you don't eat it in a day or two. (Flavor-wise, I'm not sure about the blueberry/plum combo, but that's just personal preference. Who knows, maybe it will be good.) I usually use around 12 oz berries, but the batter could definitely take more if you fold them in. I would suggest putting aside part (1/3?) of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan, and adding the berries to the rest - that way you can be sure they won't make the bottom too soggy.

      But if you're looking for a way to utilize a LOT of berries, I can strongly recommend the linked cake recipe by WS, another workhorse of mine. It's only slightly more labor intensive and can be baked in almost any pan you have - cake, loaf, bundt, whatever, even muffin. Taaaastyyy. (If you don't have kirsch, I've also used white rum, slivovitz and even raspberry vodka with success.)


      1. re: Sir Gawain

        This should work with peach halves (perhaps laid cut side up in the batter and sprinkled with a little lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon). Peaches are at their peak now in TX. But do you think it would work with peeled, cut in half satsumas (perhaps with a little dark chocolate added somehow or dotted with almond paste)?

      2. re: nooodles

        That would make it a clafoutis.

        1. re: TCUJoe

          It wouldn't. A clafoutis has a different texture than this - much more poofy and custardy at the same time. This really is a cake batter.

      3. Thanks for passing on your tried and true recipe, SG. As you said, I've seen many variations on this cake, what I think of as butter cake. Perfect blank canvas for fruits or even icing. In fact, I immediately thought of galleygirl's pear tart (which I've made once) and the butter cake in my new book by Donna Hay, which I believe you also own.

        Ms. Hay's recipe calls for a cup of superfine/caster sugar. Have you ever tried your cake w/ superfine sugar? What's been your experience w/ superfine sugar? When does it really make a difference and when can you go w/ plain granulated? I like the idea of superfine, but it does cost a little more so I want to use it where it counts. Thanks for any info.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Carb Lover

          I have no wisdom to share re. caster sugar, but in this recipe I don't really see how it could improve the texture or the taste. Caster sugar must be sweeter by volume than granulated sugar (I think), since it's basically more finely ground granulated sugar, but without filler (unlike confectioners' sugar), so perhaps it aids in browning? I'll try it sometime, but maybe in a DH recipe that specifically calls for caster sugar rather than this one. This one really is perfect as is.

          I have tried at least 6 different versions of this butter cake recipe, including galleygirl's, several from Epicurious, and my own family's recipe, and found that this one has the best texture/flavor combination. I always pass it on to friends who think baking is "difficult" but want to give it a try... for advanced bakers like you, it might be a bit of a bore, but damn, it tastes good.

          1. re: Sir Gawain

            I would have thought superfine would have more sugar crystals (hence, more sweetness) than granulated per equal volume; however, the C&H box says it can be subbed 1:1 w/ no increased sweetness.

            Below is a link w/ some info w/ another link to their website on baker's sugar. They seem to have some credible endorsers, and I wouldn't be surprised if good bakeries use superfine sugar in most recipes. Makes alot of sense in recipes where you want the sugar to really blend in evenly. I'm hoping that this will take my baked goods to the next level...


            1. re: Carb Lover

              That's really interesting, thanks. I think I'll try it too.

              But... HOW is it possible it isn't sweeter than granulated sugar when measured by volume (not weight)? After all, some people make "homemade" caster sugar by grinding granulated sugar in a blender, which most definitely reduces the volume.


              1. re: Sir Gawain

                I've done exactly that, and it defnitely decreases the volume.

                But then, I've also substituted it 1:1 in recipes, with no significant changes in taste; and I do hate things too sweet, so I probably would have noticed if something was suddenly sweeter. Maybe the volume does change, but not enough to affect anything at home kitchen quantities?

                1. re: nooodles

                  Sounds like a side-by-side kitchen science experiment is being called for. It's just that I'd rather use less sugar than more if I can help it - all those baked-goods calories add up, and if I can use 2 tablespoons of sugar per recipe less, all the better.

                  Maybe they just don't want to put people off wih calculations...

                  1. re: Sir Gawain

                    Yeah, I'm thinking the flavor difference is not that detectable in most recipes, but you're right, there is more sugar by volume.

                    BTW, I wondered if I could just grind up granulated sugar instead of always buying the superfine, but here's a quote from C&H's website:

                    "Don’t put sugar in a food processor or coffee grinder to achieve a finer crystal size! According to professional baker Elizabeth Falkner [of Citizen Cake in SF], sugar processed this way will not result in a finer, uniform whole crystal, but simply rough, pulverized broken-crystal powdered sugar that will not perform as well in baking."

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Now I wish I had a microscope...

                      My homemade "caster sugar" actually seemed more powdery than the storebought because I let the processor go for a long, long time. Come to think of it, I've only really used it in things where the sugar needed to be melted: drinks, whipped cream, custards, etc. I used it in a cake once, but didn't pay close attention to differences.

                      1. re: nooodles

                        Hi - thanks for the great recipe - I made your cake last night with blueberries, and added the lemon extract as you suggested as an option. Delicious, and beautiful, shimmering crust from the extra sugar on top. Much appreciated!

                      2. re: Carb Lover

                        Interesting! I am intrigued.

                        Of course, they also need people to believe that they can't substitute a homemade version for their product... but who knows, maybe there is some truth to what they say. This is a job for Cook's Illustrated if I ever saw one.

                        (...I would tend to think that if DISSOLVING is the objective, i.e. the dissolution of the crystalline structure, even those ugly, misshapen, broken crystals might work... ;P)

                        1. re: Sir Gawain

                          Yeah, I agree with you on the dissolving front. Isn't that one of the differences with kosher salt? The actual shape of the crystals? Or have I made this up?


                          P.S. eager to try recipe--I've got some plums on countertop that look like they want to become part of a cake.

                2. re: Carb Lover
                  Becca Porter

                  In all my baking books, even ones that are really ticky, they say to use it 1:1. They also say that you can easily make it at home, by processing it for several minutes. I've read it in at least 10 prominate cooksbooks. I do it all the time.

                  1. re: Becca Porter

                    Thanks for the info. I knew that C&H's opinion would be clearly biased. I will try to grind at home to maybe do a side by side comparison.

              2. re: Carb Lover

                Sir G-thanks for sharing the recipe. I'm glad it allows for frozen berries & I usually keep a bag of raspberries in the freezer. Do you defrost them?

                1. re: petradish

                  No! Their very frozen-ness makes them hold up in the oven much better than fresh ones.

                  1. re: Sir Gawain

                    Interesting. I'm new to baking with frozen fruit so this is all good to know.

              3. stoooopid question: unsalted or salted butter???

                1 Reply
                1. re: rumdrinks

                  Not at all. Unsalted.

                2. would love to try this - is it ok to sub buttermilk for milk, do you think? (i have some buttermilk to use up, is why i'm asking).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: queue

                    Gee, I don't know. I've never done that, and think that it might make the cake denser, because the acid of the buttermilk would - uh - and here's where I run out of my non-existent store of food science knowledge - somehow make it denser. Well, aren't you glad you asked.

                    Maybe you could start a new thread on this. I'd be quite interested in what the well-read bakers have to say.

                  2. Thank you very much. It sounds very good and with the favorable comments - I'll have to try it soon,