Last week I had a request for my cottage from a guest who has been here several times before. Crystal’s note included: My daughter and myself absolutely looove that cake you make. It’s my birthday and my friends are trying to bring me to your place tonight. I will pay extra if you have one of those cakes laying around! I know what cake she means.
There’s always something freshly baked under the glass dome waiting for my guests, and sometimes it’s this Strawberry Ripple Tea Cake. (I am not sure what the difference is between a coffee cake and a tea cake, but we’ll just put that point of pondering in the category of Things I Don’t Need to Know.) The recipe came from a hardcover cookbook sitting on my shelf called Old-Fashioned Home Baking, back when (decades ago!) you got recipes either from someone you knew or from some printed material – usually a cookbook or a magazine.
If you know me even a little, you know that I am all for tweaking/simplifying. This recipe, for instance, calls for making a thickened mixture using strawberries or raspberries. I might have done that the first time, but then I realized it was basically jam. Henceforth, guess what, jam it is! How much simpler and just as yummy.
Also it calls for one large baking pan, but why not two smaller pans? Why not muffin tins? I’ve tried it numerous ways, and with strawberry jam, raspberry jam and this week (on account of a bargain jar) blueberry jam. All good! This recipe is a keeper, and simpler than it looks.
Mix together the 2 ¼ cups flour and ¾ cup sugar. And whatever you do, use butter, not margarine! (I wonder when decent recipe books stopped suggesting margarine as an alternative…) Use a knife to cut up the cold butter in the bowl with the flour and sugar, then a pastry blender till it resembles “coarse crumbs.” My half-cup set aside looked like this.
To the flour/sugar/butter that remains in your bowl, add the baking powder, baking soda, egg, salt and buttermilk (or sour milk, which is nothing more than milk with a teaspoon or so of vinegar added to it, no kidding; vinegar will sour the milk in no time).
Stir this up, just enough to blend. Overbeating will not make a better cake.
Here’s where, in a hurry, I forgot one of the key steps of this recipe. You are supposed to put most of the batter in the greased (and in this case springform) pan(s), then the fruit, then blobs of the remaining batter, then the crumbs. I just spread the batter in my two pans…
…added the blueberry jam (about ¼ cup per cake, a little more would not have hurt it)…
…spread the blueberry jam…
…and topped it with crumbs.
It would have been better to mix that jam into the batter a bit, even swirling it in with the blade of a round-tipped knife, before putting the crumbs on top, even if I bypassed the blobbing step. But as my sister would say, “Oh, well!”
The forgetfulness of the baker aside, the result was not so bad.
It makes a terrific cake for someone who is having a stressful time, or for a neighbor who is always doing kind things for no seeming reason, or just because for people you love, or (oh, right!) for yourself! It is not overly sweet or messy, not trying to be splashy or gorgeous. It’s simply light and moist and delightful with the freshness of fruit and the tender buttery crumbs. It says, “How about a cup of tea or coffee, a slice of this goodness and a few minutes of relaxation?” Some days, sometimes, that’s just perfect.
*Better Homes and Gardens Old-Fashioned Home Baking, 1990, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa