The raspberries were looking gorgeously plump and delicious at the Andel Market in Prague 5. I picked up a few cartons of red and white ones. As I was thinking about what to do with all these raspberries, this cake recipe came to mind, as well as the following kitchen incident…
I’ve heard about the pregnancy haze- the bouts of forgetfulness that suddenly sneak up on you, the brain fog, and the many clumsy accidents. But I never imagined it happening to me. Like an elephant, I never forget a thing! Nonetheless, those hormones overtook my system, and I can’t believe the consequences of what occurred when the pregnancy haze casted its net upon me.
I was sixth months pregnant when my husband and I received an invitation for dinner at a friend’s home. I happily volunteered to make a dessert. On that morning I picked up a huge basket of ripe strawberries at our local farmers’ market and planned to use them in my “go-to” cake. Normally, it is a simple recipe to follow, so easy, that one large bowl and a few ingredients are all you need to make this treat. The cake is made with buttermilk and topped with fruits, such as apples, pears or berries. I thought the strawberries would make a fine accompaniment to the cake’s tender and moist texture, and adding a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on the side, certainly wasn’t going to hurt.
The menu was perfect for such an unusually warm evening at the first appearance of spring. Blocks of tofu were coated in breadcrumbs and then lightly pan-fried. Afterwards, they were baked in an herb-seasoned tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella. Accompanying our meal were slices of homemade garlic bread and a mixed green salad. The food was so delicious that it made my hungry palate yearn for more. Heck, I was pregnant with twins. There didn’t seem to be any shame or harm in going after some seconds!
After the plates were cleared, our hostess asked me to bring out the dessert. My cake was sitting on its platter waiting for the cream to be whipped. As I removed the thin plastic sheet that protected the cake, it started to stick to my fingers like fly paper. Using my teeth, I slid the wrap off and a few golden crumbs clung to my hands. Instead of wiping them off with a towel, I licked the crumbs off my fingertips and suddenly my mouth felt like I had swallowed a glass of seawater!
“Hmmm. That’s strange.” I thought to myself. I traced my finger over another small part of the cake, tasted it, and there it was again, that salty surprise. I carried the cake over to the table. “Can you guys try the top of the cake?” I asked. My husband and our host threw me a look of confusion. “Just swipe the top part and tell me what it tastes like,” I ordered in a hasty and anxious tone. Without any questions, the men quickly surrendered to my request.
“Does it taste salty?” I asked impatiently. They shook their heads, “No,” and my husband continued to look baffled. My heart took a break from its excessive pounding and I felt a slight sense of relief. For a second, I thought I might have wrongly executed the last part of the recipe, which is to sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar, before baking it, over the fruit and batter.
I dashed back to the counter. After slicing the cake and serving each plate with a generous spoonful of cream on the side, I returned to the dinner table with the hope of ending our meal on a sweet note. “Ooooh, this looks good!” my friend raved and smiled with excitement. She quickly dug her fork into the cake and took a huge bite. Suddenly, her head began to twist wildly from side to side. Her face cringed as she reached for her glass of water and without a break, gulped the entire glass down. Aghast, she announced “Oh, yeah! No, no, no… salllll-ty!”
Biting into mine, I realized that I had indeed dipped my silver-measuring spoon into the canister of salt and not the sugar bowl! In an effort to save the dessert, we decided to slice off the roof of the cake and frost it with the whipped cream. It passed, but it wasn’t the best example of my “go-to” cake. I spent the rest of the evening endlessly apologizing for the spoiled dessert. Our friends were both forgiving and understanding of this bizarre baking faux pas. This embarrassing kitchen incident shattered my flawless culinary track record. The only explanation for such a terrible error of judgment could only be an attack of the dreaded pregnancy haze!
Berry Buttermilk Cake adapted from Bon Apetit Magazine
Heat oven to 400˚F/200˚C
Grease an 8 inch circular baking pan
1/2 to 1 cup of sliced strawberries/raspberries/pears/apples or plums (you choose)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 stick softened butter (50 grams)
2/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon of SUGAR
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
optional: if using pears, apples or plums, sprinkle some cinnamon along with the 1 tablespoon of sugar
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat the softened butter with 2/3 cup of white sugar. Beat at high-speed until light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla and lastly, the egg.
At low-speed, begin to add a little of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and also alternate with the cup of buttermilk. Continue to pour small doses one by one, ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to over mix the batter.
Pour mixture into the pan. Then decorate with the fruit of choice. Evenly sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of SUGAR over the fruit and batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool and serve with sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or nothing at all.