Brown Butter and Orange Tea Cake

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There’s a thing that came out of Kentucky, that’s called a jam cake. It’s a simple concept: add a generous amount of jam to a basic spice cake batter. Traditionally it’s a red jam, which gives the finished cake a pretty pink or purple tint, and the whole thing usually gets frosted with a thick, caramel icing. I couldn’t find any more information about its origin, but i suspect it has to do with an abundance of jam after a hot summer. It’s a completely delicious thing.

This week I came across one such recipe when I was looking for something to bake for a breakfast outing in the park, but it seemed like just a little too much Southern decadence. Which is how I ended up with this bastardized, slightly more austere, perhaps even justifiable as a morning meal, but still very addictive version. Orange marmalade replaces jam, brown butter enhances the spices, burnt caramel glaze stands in for voluptuous frosting. Most importantly, it goes extremely well with tea, at any time of day, and therefore it’s a winner.

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Concord Grape Cake with Hazelnuts

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For someone who loves food as much as I do, I regularly seem to be oblivious about things that everyone else has known about forever. It was a glorious epiphany to me last week when I discovered the existence of seedless thomcord grapes. For years, I have made this cake once, and only once, during each concord grape season, because the tedium of having to seed the grapes takes at least 364 days to forget about, before it can be blissfully attempted again.

No more. The thomcords are mellower than the non-hybrids, but the distinctive concord flavor is there, which makes this cake so unique and part of what August in Brooklyn tastes like. The orange and the bourbon don’t stand out on their own, but rather support the grapiness with their hints of oak and sweet fruit.

Since hazelnuts are not a big part of American baking, and the concords are almost impossible to find in other parts of the world, the cake itself is a hybrid of sorts. If, like some of my New York friends, you just don’t love the idea of that many filberts, I’m sure most other nuts would be a happy substitute.

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Watermelon Frosé

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Frosé. A questionable name for a questionable beverage, that has been popping up everywhere lately. As someone who lives with the consummate oenophile, frozen wine is something I normally wouldn’t dare to whisper, much less write about, and the un-fun portmanteau title doesn’t help. But sometimes a notorious drinking light-weight like me needs something that won’t knock her off her feet, and I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that this slushy pink beverage has absolutely hit the spot lately. It’s cold, it’s refreshing, not too sweet, and still the tiniest (!) bit adult.

Freeze watermelon. Place it in a blender with an equal amount of cold rosé. Process. Drink. Repeat.

And if anyone can come up for a sexier name for it, please share.

 

Oatmeal and Blackcurrant Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Last week I bought a box of red currants at the food co-op and several people on the check-out line asked me what they were. It isn’t their fault. They’re hard to find in this part of the world. A little research has revealed that they were once banned across the United States because they were potential carriers of a fungus that affected the timber industry, and they remain illegal in some states, even though resistant varieties now exist.

I don’t consider it a huge loss, since even though they’re incredibly healthy, they’re also kind of tedious to eat, and often quite sour. But they make incredibly good jam, and happily lots of that makes its way here from Europe.

Homemade ice cream is easy enough to make if you have the equipment, but there is no a reason you couldn’t swirl a great jam through a store-bought pint of vanilla. Dinner party tip: ice cream sandwiches are almost always the perfect dessert when you have company. They’re casual but nostalgic, and people get excited for them even if they’re full from the meal.

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Blueberry Pudding

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There are very few supermarket desserts from my childhood that I still fantasize about eating, but those little cream topped puddings in plastic cups somehow continue to hold tremendous appeal. I don’t buy them because doing so would no doubt lead me down a slippery slope of dessert for breakfast, mid-morning naps, afternoon cocktails and other potential death traps of a freelancer’s life. Making said puddings at home on the the other hand, seems domestically goddess-like, and while incredibly simple, the recipe requires just enough effort to prohibit overconsumption.

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Weekend Kaffeklatsch

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Photo: Summer Fog in Prospect Park ©Anja Riebensahm, 2016

It’s a hot one out there in NYC today! What are you doing to stay cool? We’re going to the movies (Tarzan or Ghostbusters), then meeting friends for dinner. Here’s a little reading material for you, in case you’re inside…

 

Crazy how the world changes.

A few weeks ago I mentioned we were going to watch this documentary. Now that we’ve seen it (four times!) I can’t recommend it enough.

Das Brooklyn’s most popular recipe is perfect for the season.

Just discovered the beautiful work of artist Ann Wood.

Cute pennant.

Dreaming of a summer dress made out of this fabric.

The prettiest tart.

This series is always a great read.

A Quick Summer Cake with Berries

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What’s the first thing you do when you come back from a week of scuba diving, with a bag full of salty, sandy clothes, an almost empty fridge, and several illustration projects that need to get done? Ever the brilliant strategist, I started baking. The first cake of the day came out funny (due to the arguably adventurous but ultimately ill-advised addition of juniper berry dust), so then I baked some more. In consequence, instead of dinner there’s cake and a pile of shirts to be folded. We’re taking this whole re-entry into real life nice and slowly.

Happily, now that I’ve gotten the weird experiments out of the way for you, this cake is the easiest thing you could possibly make. One bowl. 5 minutes. Wait for it to bake. Summer dessert is done. If you’re feeling ambitious you could top it with ice cream or yoghurt, but it doesn’t need it.

 

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