Buttermilk Cake

Anna’s offering this week, to clear the palette after the chocolate almond tart, was a buttermilk cake,accompanied with red currant jam. With great foresight, she brought two cakes, although the club’s diminished numbers this week due to field work and overseas expeditions, combined with the calorific count of Mandy’s tart, meant that only one was consumed. Nonetheless, the effect of swapping the last slice of cake for an entirely new loaf while club members were rubbing their full tummies and concentrating on digestion did not go completely unnoticed, and it is hereby announced that there will be a Cake Club prize for the first genuine self-reassembling, ever-lasting cake recipe, to be known as the Marburg Perpetual Cake Award.

Buttermilk cake
This recipe comes from “The Mississippi Cookbook” that my dad bought back in 1964 when he spent a summer working in Mississippi. It transports well and makes an excellent contribution to a potluck, or for morning tea. Buttermilk is a thick, cultured milk readily available in supermarkets (it’s usually next to the cream).

230 g butter, softened
3 cups (1 kg) sugar
5 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
3 cups (375 g) standard flour

Cream the butter until noticeably lighter in color, add sugar and cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp – the air bubbles you whip in now affect the texture of the final cake. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition (you’re creating an emulsion here, which is why you go slow). Stir in the vanilla.
Beat the egg whites until you get medium-stiff peaks.

Dissolve soda in one teaspoon warm water and stir into the buttermilk. Add flour and milk alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in the egg whites. The dough will be thick, but pourable. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch (25 cm) tube pan. If you don’t have a tube/bunt pan, use two loaf pans.

Bake at 180 °C for 1 hour 10 minutes. Cake will be quite brown – perhaps alarmingly so at the corners if you’ve used a loaf pan. Test by sticking a clean, dry knife in the center of the pan. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If the crumbs sort of smear along the blade, the cake needs another 5 minutes.

Cool in pan, and turn out when just slightly warm.

Serve with jam. I like tart ones like red currant or rhubarb. An orange glaze also goes nicely, but attempts to gussy it up with icing have generally failed.

* According to the internet vanilla extract is made by steeping vanilla beans in alcohol and vanilla essence is synthetic. Usage in new zealand seems to be more muddled. Look for something that states its alcohol content (usually 35%) and doesn’t list anything weird. Or just use vanilla essence – the flavor will be a bit less intense.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 22:54  Leave a Comment