This all started when I read Joanna's post about a book she'd read that she'd loved during her pregnancy (this one). In that post, she asked her readers if they had any other books to recommend for pregnant ladies, which was like Christmas morning for me and soon I was clicking and bookmarking away, leading me further and further into an Internet wormhole. I came up for air at Catherine Newman's blog, the author of Waiting for Birdy (ordered, shipped), and soon found myself reading about a cake that tastes like doughnuts, which is a riff on Edna Lewis' Busy-Day Cake, which I'd only wanted to make since, oh, forever and so I decided to take that serendipitous find as a sign from the gods that I should waste not a single moment longer before making it.
So I made it. And, lo, it made my house smell of doughnuts, nutmeggy and sweet.
(Let's not discuss the fact that I was far more inclined to make something called Donut Cake than I was to make something called Busy-Day Cake. I am, in culinary terms at least, apparently something of a magpie.)
It really is the loveliest thing. Buttermilk makes it tender and gives it the faintest, barest tang. A few spoonfuls of cornmeal give it a little crunch. And the intersection of vanilla and nutmeg make your house smell like a old-fashioned doughnut shop, MINUS the stench of boiling oil and the slickness of greasy fingers. It's intensely wholesome and lovely, this cake. If it was a person, it'd have perfectly creamy skin and a natural glow all the time, no makeup or raw spinach smoothies required.
It's the archetypal afternoon cake or breakfast cake, to be dunked in hot chocolate or coffee, and I'd gladly serve it to children, too. You could, I suppose, gussy it up with whipped cream and fruit. But I like how stark and plain it is all by itself. In fact, in the terms of auld, I'd say this is one for the lamination files.
Which reminds me that I actually meant to tell you guys about a different cake entirely before I got completely sidetracked by this one. But that will have to wait until next week.
Catherine Newman's Donut Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
Catherine says that the cake is destined to sink once it cools, but I had no such problem.
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
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.