Monday, March 30, 2015

Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake

"Fishing in the Dark" -- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Where were you when you first heard it and in what kind of truck?

I've been listening to a lot of dated country music again. I have a Spotify playlist called Guilty Pleasures that I blast all over town, sort of compulsively at this point? I don't know. It's not, like, "good" music. I do know that, I'm not a dumb-dumb. But I AM an extra nostalgic person (no surprises there), so I think it just reminds me of riding in my dad's truck and eating a Dairy Queen crunch-dipped cone. I love Dairy Queen. And my dad.

I recently heard "Fishing in the Dark" (FITD) and sort of lost my mind. I was on... Franklin and Hillhurst? This is the last place one would typically lose their mind to FITD. So much aggressive car-singing. I was unrecognizable even to myself.

I was once in a figure skating show where all of the skating instructors did a routine to FITD. It was very strange -- they all took turns showing off their individual skills and regrouped for the chorus. At the time, my precision skating coach was a woman named Jean who was VERY serious and sort of mean? But in a way we could appreciate because we won competitions? We learned she was a grandma and I remember thinking, wow, I would not want Jean to be my grandma, but I bet I would be thinner. Anyway, I know Jean hated having to figure skate to FITD. You could just tell. Jean was meant for more -- and definitely classier music. Something by Vivaldi. Not this redneck anthem about humping on a riverbank.

I skated for over ten years, which is an insane thing to think about. I took individual lessons and made it up to Freestyle 3, but was basically done when my coach wanted me to start getting serious about jumps. "Do you know how far away I am from the ice?" I would reason. "I don't jump at school dances when the song tells you to jump. I'm not jumping with blades." My coach was not sympathetic to this. She wanted me to rent this terrifying harness located at the end of the rink that had an intricate pulley system (but still not intricate enough, you know?). She would control it, and reassured me she wouldn't let me fall "too hard." No thanks. I don't need to fall at all, but thank you for that option.

While I didn't make it very far as an individual skater, I was very active on the aforementioned precision teams. My rink had several teams that all started with "p." I was first a Penguin, then a Pepper, Pixie, and finally, a Polarette. I was never a Powerette and yes, that is a sensitive issue. Precision skating is like synchronized swimming (which I also did for one terrible season), but on ice. We made formations like "pinwheels" and "blocks" to badly-mixed music. Being tall, my job was fairly easy in most formations -- I just stood in the middle and basically marched in place to anchor the whole thing. The tiny girls on the end would fly at top speeds and sometimes accidentally let go (Jack-and-Rose-style) and hit the side boards really hard and break their little bird bones. I never had to deal with that. I just had to be a Clydesdale. I could handle this.

I had to quit my freshman year of high school when basketball conflicted with a major skating tournament in Duluth. I feel so far from my days as a figure skater, but every time I hear "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," I do the Pixie warmup steps in my head. Girls DO just wanna have fun. On skates! This was my main takeaway from figure skating -- that and, although long gone at this point, very strong legs.

Grace in its purest form.

This week, I made a lovely brunch cake for a lovely brunch. If this cake were a figure skater, it would be one of the tinier ones on the end of the pinwheel -- light, airy, very sweet, not a Clydesdale. It felt like cheating to use a box mix for the foundation (especially following an amazing from-scratch yellow cake that will be on the blog soon). But, let's be easy on ourselves, right? The recipe I modified suggested the box mix and I wasn't in the mood to modify that away.

Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake

1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
1 cup water, minus 4 tablespoons
4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice*
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon poppyseeds

4 cups powdered sugar
5 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice*
1/2 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter

*I used a total of one large grapefruit.

Preheat the oven to 325.
Grease 2 round, 9 inch cake pans. I used butter to grease well and really went to town.
Combine the cake mix, egg whites, water, grapefruit juice, and oil in a large mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, beat for about two minutes on medium speed. 

Using this caption to admit that I wasn't wearing pants when I made this cake.
Add the poppyseeds and stir until just mixed.

No pants whatsoever.
Divide the batter between the two pans.
With purpose and like you really mean it, drop the pans on the counter to scare away any air bubbles/wake up your roommates.
Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test with flying colors.
Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes before gently flipping onto cooling racks.

Just underwear. I'm a monster.
To make the frosting, mix the soft butter until fluffy.
Add two cups powdered sugar with three tablespoons grapefruit juice and mix.
Once combined, add the remaining powdered sugar and grapefruit juice.
If you find the frosting to be too runny, add some powdered sugar or refrigerate for a bit to harden.
When the cakes are completely cool (don't be hasty), frost the top of one of the cakes. Plop that second cake on top and lightly frost.
Add the poppyseeds to the remaining frosting and frost the rest of the cake to completion. 
Add a slice of grapefruit on the top because IT'S CLASSY AS SHIT.

The cake isn't going to slap you in the face with grapefruit -- not like a lemon poppyseed situation where you're like "damn, yeah, I'm eating a lemon." The frosting will be sweet and tart, retaining the essence of grapefruit. Classy? You know it. We're talking Vivaldi, not FITD. But, you do you.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Cake

And, just like that, it's March. And honestly? LA has actually been feeling like spring lately, with beautiful rainstorms and thunderheads and chilly nights. The air smells really fresh and the mountains are clear. It's perfect baking-with-the-windows open weather. AND SO I DID.

Despite the lovely and active weather, though, I've been in a tiny little rage the past few days. I'm chalking it up to some epic PMS (sorry, dudes), which sometimes hits with a realllll vengeance. I once told a man in traffic to "die in a fire" which is probably the worst thing you can quickly say to someone and of course I didn't mean it but it felt very good coming out. Just terrible.

It's not just rage. I once started crying when a post office employee told me my favorite stamps had been discontinued. Crying. In a post office. Because I couldn't buy stamps with pictures of vintage seed packets. I could buy many other stamps at the same price. Still crying.

I'm not a crazy person but I guess it's sometimes hard to tell.

Also, FYI: Starbucks discontinued their breakfast hot dogs this week, which I can acknowledge as for the best but it does feel personal.

Ultimately, when you're feeling like none of your clothes fit correctly and the sound of strangers breathing makes your skin crawl and you can't stop eating grilled cheese sandwiches in your bed, I recommend making this soothing buttermilk blueberry lemon cake. Don't be misled -- this cake is for everyone at all times. It is even sometimes referred to as a "breakfast cake," which is a beautiful term. But know that it's extra comforting when comfort is needed, and very easy to whip up. Also, you get to use a zester, which can satisfy any extraneous aggression. 

I modified a recipe from a pregnant mommies Facebook group. :-/

Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Cake

1/2 cup unsalted or salted butter, room temperature
zest from one large lemon
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar for sprinkling like a sugar fairy
1 large egg, room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup flour for tossing with the blueberries
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk
(You can make your own buttermilk by putting 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a 1/2 cup, then filling to the top with regular milk. Let it stand for five minutes. 
...Or just buy buttermilk.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13 x 9 cake pan.
Zest the hell out of that lemon.

Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy and/or you wish you could use this mixture as lotion.

Probably really great for your skin?
 Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until combined.
In a large bowl, toss the blueberries and 1/4 cup flour until well-coated.

Floury blueberries. Blech.
In another bowl (this is three bowls now), combine the 1 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to bowl #1.

This batter is delicious unbaked, just sayin'.
Carefully fold in the blueberries and gently mix. I wasn't gentle, and my blueberries mostly exploded, but it's really fine and I'm over it.
Spread the batter in the greased pan. The batter is pretty thick and won't pour, but spread evenly as best you can.
Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of the batter. I didn't do it evenly and SPOILER ALERT you can tell.
Bake for 35-40 minutes and for pete's sake, use that toothpick test to determine when it's done.
Cool and enjoy!

This cake is extra lemony, so if you're not into that, cool it on the zest. If you ARE into that, be prepared to eat it with your hands directly from the pan, potentially burning yourself in the process.

Happy baking!