Cake is kind of my white whale. For the longest time, I just couldn’t get it right, despite being able to handle seemingly more complicated things (e.g., pie crust) without incident. After a slew of failures early on in my baking career (bundt cakes that got stuck in the pan, layer cakes that resembled the leaning tower of Pisa, etc), I came to the sorry conclusion that I might just be better off buying a box mix. But you can always tell when cake comes from a mix — it’s moist and has a nice texture, but it never tastes homemade. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of artificially-flavored things, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the taste of real butter or vanilla.
But this cake is practically idiot-proof: it is tender, moist, and light every time. Just like a box cake, except it tastes about a million times better. The secret is in the buttermilk. I’ve never baked anything with buttermilk that didn’t turn out amazing.
The original recipe calls for raspberries, but you can use any berry you want. The other change I made is the addition of almond extract. Having made this cake several times now, I find that it’s a bit dull with just vanilla. The almond brings out the sweetness and lightness of the cake and contrasts wonderfully with the berries. If you don’t like almond flavor, some citrus zest would also work nicely.
This cake is best eaten warm, while the sugar on top is still crunchy, but also reheats well the next day.
Blackberry almond buttermilk cake
Adapted from Gourmet
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 pint fresh blackberries
1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. (A springform pan also works well here.)
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla and almond. Add egg and beat well.
4. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
5. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Arrange berries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.
6. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.