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Really good, ultra simple summer fruit cake

Sir Gawain Jul 31, 2005 05:20 PM

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. n
    nooodles RE: Sir Gawain Jul 31, 2005 06:50 PM

    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
      Sir Gawain RE: nooodles Jul 31, 2005 11:25 PM

      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.)

      Link: http://content2.williams-sonoma.com/r...

      1. re: Sir Gawain
        TCUJoe RE: Sir Gawain Aug 2, 2005 11:50 AM

        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
        TCUJoe RE: nooodles Aug 1, 2005 01:41 PM

        That would make it a clafoutis.

        1. re: TCUJoe
          Sir Gawain RE: TCUJoe Aug 1, 2005 02:06 PM

          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. c
        Carb Lover RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 03:15 AM

        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
          Sir Gawain RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 08:24 AM

          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
            Carb Lover RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 02:03 PM

            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...

            Link: http://www.chsugar.com/Consumer/ch_bs...

            1. re: Carb Lover
              Sir Gawain RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 02:26 PM

              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
                nooodles RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 02:31 PM

                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
                  Sir Gawain RE: nooodles Aug 1, 2005 02:37 PM

                  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
                    Carb Lover RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 03:32 PM

                    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
                      nooodles RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 04:40 PM

                      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
                        JennBenn RE: nooodles Aug 3, 2005 09:30 PM

                        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
                        Sir Gawain RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 04:52 PM

                        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
                          Smokey RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 05:18 PM

                          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 RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 11:39 PM

                  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
                    Carb Lover RE: Becca Porter Aug 2, 2005 01:43 AM

                    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
                petradish RE: Carb Lover Aug 1, 2005 03:11 PM

                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
                  Sir Gawain RE: petradish Aug 1, 2005 04:48 PM

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

                  1. re: Sir Gawain
                    petradish RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 06:48 PM

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

              3. r
                rumdrinks RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 03:01 PM

                stoooopid question: unsalted or salted butter???

                1 Reply
                1. re: rumdrinks
                  Sir Gawain RE: rumdrinks Aug 1, 2005 04:49 PM

                  Not at all. Unsalted.

                2. q
                  queue RE: Sir Gawain Aug 1, 2005 06:07 PM

                  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
                    Sir Gawain RE: queue Aug 2, 2005 11:01 PM

                    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. c
                    Curious RE: Sir Gawain Aug 12, 2005 09:53 PM

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


                    1. spigot RE: Sir Gawain Aug 6, 2006 01:52 AM

                      Damn! Just made this, and it is GORGEOUS. More love for Sir Gawain.

                      I am a terrible baker. An artist not a scientist, or so I tell myself. But *I* made this, and it was great.

                      - I dumped in too much Boyajian's orange oil - about a half teaspoon. It didn't seem to suffer from it.

                      - Brown sugar on the top and bottom, which caramelized nicely.

                      - Added a tablespoon of Triple Sec.

                      - And the zest of one lemon.

                      - Used blueberries, peaches and apricots. Put peaches on the bottom and pressed the blueberries and apricots randomly into the batter on top. It is NOT as beautiful as others I've seen shots of here, but it looks fine and I would serve it to guests.

                      And it tastes GOOD. Really, really good. Mission accomplished once again, Sir Gawain, thank you so much.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: spigot
                        Carb Lover RE: spigot Aug 6, 2006 02:09 AM

                        Wonderful! I was wondering when someone was going to revive this recipe. It's a great cake w/ lots of possibilities, and I regret to say that I haven't made it all summer...

                        I think my favorite combo so far is raspberries, lemon zest, and buttermilk instead of milk.

                        PS. Maybe this will get Sir Gawain to post again...haven't seen you in a while...miss your posts.

                        1. re: Carb Lover
                          Funwithfood RE: Carb Lover Aug 6, 2006 07:30 PM

                          I've yet to make this or the Galley Girl Tart. I'm wondering which to try first...any suggestions for those who have made both?

                          1. re: Funwithfood
                            vicarious RE: Funwithfood Aug 7, 2006 02:43 AM

                            It depends on what you like. I love the Galley Girl Tart, which is closer to pound cake and has fruit throughout (I cram in a lot--either pears or prune plums). Sir Gawain's cake has the fruit on top. It's pretty, and easy, but was not a big hit in our house.

                            1. re: Funwithfood
                              Carb Lover RE: Funwithfood Aug 7, 2006 04:42 AM

                              I don't think you can go wrong w/ either recipe. SG's cake is a bit lighter and pairs well w/ summer fruit, whereas GG's tart calls for pears and is a little more dense and rich/buttery. I personally would make SG's tart now and then wait til pear season for GG's tart.

                              I've made both cakes a few times and prefer SG's recipe for the taste and texture. I've also come to the conclusion that I just don't like pear in baked desserts...

                            2. re: Carb Lover
                              spigot RE: Carb Lover Aug 7, 2006 12:09 AM

                              I am eating it now! And next time I'll try with raspberries, buttermilk and superfine sugar, thanks Carb Lover. I lurve raspberries.

                          2. drewb123 RE: Sir Gawain Jul 29, 2007 12:38 PM

                            This is delicious mine just came out of the oven i just ised a container of blueberries. DELISH!!!!

                            1. Bat Guano RE: Sir Gawain Jul 31, 2007 07:50 AM

                              This was perfect for using up some really ripe, on-the-verge-of-going-bad plumcots (or pluots or plucots or whatever they're calling them now) and raspberries. Very good!

                              1. Dave MP RE: Sir Gawain Jun 23, 2010 06:11 AM

                                Just to revive this thread once again.....thanks to recommendations in another post, I made this recipe last night. Came out awesome, and was really easy.

                                Here's my post about it!

                                I'll attach the pictures I took to this post as well.

                                Thanks Sir Gawain!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Dave MP
                                  ChrisKC RE: Dave MP Jun 23, 2010 11:11 AM

                                  Oh I'm so glad you revived this. I was looking at home for my copy of this recipe and couldn't find it. A search didn't bring it up either, I probably didn't search far enough back.
                                  But thanks!!

                                2. DiningDiva RE: Sir Gawain Jul 17, 2011 10:14 PM

                                  I had 4 peaches, 2 white and 2 yellow, that were on the verge. Used them up making this cake and, boy, was it good. The recipe is definitely a keep and would probably be good with almost any fruit.

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