Our toddler left us. Or, at least until Friday. Over the last 2 3/4 years, we’ve occasionally been blessed with the chance to go away for a few days sans bébé. We return well-rested and smiling, sandy grit in the bottom of our suitcases, traces of whatever had vexed us before we left deliciously eviscerated from memory, and almost giddy with excitement to start scraping spaghetti from the underside of the high chair again. But this is the first time — with barely a “Sayonara!” as he ran out the door or a single “Wish you were here!” postcard from the road — that Jacob has headed out for lazier climes without us. He’s spending a week at the mountain retreat of Camp Grandparents, where he’s forced to endure petting zoos, baby pools, wide expanses of fresh air, nonstop adoration, and, no doubt, all of the ice cream he can talk them into.
Meanwhile, Alex and I have been left behind to attend to our assigned daily grinds and realize how totally dull this place is in the morning without a toddler buzzing from room to room at the crack of dawn, pulling on our earlobes to announce, “I’m awake! Wake UP!” and serenading us with ABCs on his guitar. We’ve also learned that we share differing interpretations of a week’s Vacation From Parenting. For example, I was thinking that, freed from the daily whirlwind of tight schedules, tantrums, irregular sleep patterns and spontaneous song-and-dance-and-marching! parties that life with a toddler demands, we could finally get caught up on things that have been neglected for the last 2 3/4 years. My to-do list for this week involves such enticing tasks as “Get the apartment painted!” “Rearrange furniture and pictures!” “Clean out closets!” “Meet at gym every day after work,” and “Back-up and replace laptops.” I was also thinking we could read and discuss “War and Peace” every night before we hit the pillow, but didn’t want to be overly ambitious. Alex’s comparatively modest list includes such audacious suggestions as “Get lots of sleep, get drinks with friends, watch TV with the sound on and the Closed Captioning off, and very little else.” Yeah, so who would you rather party with? It’s okay, I won’t take it personally.
Whichever version of our week off will prevail remains to be seen, but at least for the weekend, as it should, leisure won. Shortly after Jacob hit the road on Saturday (armed with eight books, Ernie, Bert, two monkeys, a soccer ball and glockenspiel, just the basics) I set out two sticks of butter, picked through all of the market berries I’d bought and let languish throughout the week and baked what has to be the most perfect summer embodiment a buttermilk bundt — bronzed with a faint crunch at the edges, tender to the point of pudding-ness in the center, and welcome wherever you take it. It’s dotted with slumped berries, marbled with pink and purple streaks and topped with a thick, tart lemon glaze. And if that doesn’t scream summer enough to you, consider taking it to a housewarming party on a gorgeous evening with the skyline of Manhattan in the distance, where you don’t have to nervously glance at your watch as the babysitter’s tab adds up, nobody cares when you get up the next morning, and as you have long, uninterrupted conversations with friends about life itself, start to imagine that maybe if the closets have gone neglected this long, another week without cannot hurt them.
One year ago: Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes
Two years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Improved
Three years ago: Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
Four years ago: Zucchini Strand Spaghetti
Five years ago: Lemon Risotto and Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake
Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts
The recipe, as originally published, uses 3 cups rhubarb for the berries and 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil for the vanilla. As you can imagine, you could likely use 3 cups of many chopped fruits or berries for different, delicious bundts throughout the year, such as cranberries in the fall or even diced peaches and other stone fruits in the month or two to come. Have fun with it.
Although I made these with the 3 cups of berries listed below (using one cup each of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, though currants or huckleberries or whatever you can get would also be delicious) I think this cake has the potential to be even more of a “berry bomb” with a fourth cup of berries. The cake as written below is full of berries, but it’s a balanced amount — they don’t overwhelm the cake, and I do really like a cake that’s almost overwhelmed with fruit.
Updated with weights, at last, 7/10/12. Plus, a note about weights: Making it even more confusing for home cooks, not every recipe writer agrees on the weight of a cup of flour or sugar. However, when there’s a discrepancy between what I would get and what a recipe writer has included in their ingredients, I default to their measurements, as I do below. The weights are on the heavy side by my measurements (my spoon-and-sweep cups clock in at 125 grams), but will work as listed in this recipe.
2 1/2 cups (355 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (340 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
3 cups (350 to 450 grams) mixed berries
2 cups (240 grams) powdered or confections’ sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, very, very soft
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray.* Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 2 1/2 cups flour (leaving 2 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla, briefly. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to. In the bowl where you’d mixed your dry ingredients, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little, but just do your best and remember that squished berries do indeed make for a pretty batter.
Spread cake batter — you might find it easier to plop it in the pan in large spoonfuls, because it’s so thick — in the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter. At 10 minutes before my baking time was up, a tester was totally wet with batter and I was certain it would never be done in the estimated time. 7 minutes later, the same tester was clean as a whistle, so fret not.
Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely. Once cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. (If you’d like it thinner, add more juice, but I like the thick drippiness of it, seen above.) Spread carefully over top of cake, letting it trickle down the sides when and where it wishes. Serve at once or keep it covered at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
* Updated note, due to comments about cake sticking: If you have a nonstick Bundt, just a coat of butter or nonstick spray should do. However, if you have a regular Bundt, not nonstick coated, you’re really going to want to make sure every nook and cranny is well-coated with butter or even shortening (the solidity of both helps them stick to the cake walls), and then dust the inside with flour. Setting your cake pan in the fridge or freezer (to set the coating even further) while you make the cake batter will provide even more insurance. I hope this improves the release rate of the cake!