Tag Archives: cakes

It’s a mistake to rush through this cake.

My friend Timothy told me yesterday that the only people he knows who can truly multi-task are mothers of young children. It’s true, when you are a mother, you often are solving their problems, teaching them, or nurturing their souls more generally even while sweeping the floor or cooking, etc.

But if like me you are often alone and can fully focus on one thing at a time, that is best. One of my favorite quotes on this subject has long been from St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Whatever you do, do it gently and unhurriedly, because virtue is not a pear to be eaten in one bite.” And this morning I read on Lisa’s blog this good word from Fr. Jacques Philippe:

“To live today well we also should remember that God only asks for one thing at a time, never two. It doesn’t matter whether the job we have in hand is sweeping the kitchen floor or giving a speech to forty thousand people. We must put our hearts into it, simply and calmly, and not try to solve more than one problem at a time. Even when what we’re doing is genuinely trifling, it’s a mistake to rush through it as though we felt we were wasting our time. If something, no matter how ordinary, needs to be done and is part of our lives, it’s worth doing for its own sake, and worth putting our hearts into.”

When I read that, I had just finished eating a piece of the most delectable cake — while reading at the computer. Everyone knows that is a bad thing for an overeater to do! But the other unfortunate thing is, I missed the full experience of this cake, which I don’t exactly want to put my heart into, but which I do want to receive “gently and unhurriedly,” in a way that promotes the greatest thankfulness and encourages virtue.

I’d been wanting to try this cake to make use of my fig harvest; I think of it as an autumn cake because it is now that the figs really come in. The recipe is from Martha Stewart, but I combined the figs with dried apricots instead of fresh plums, because I had just bought the wonderfully rich Blenheim apricots from Trader Joe’s, and did not have plums on hand. The apricots were both more flavorful and colorful than plums would have been. Also I cut down on the sugar.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a more buttery cake, but the flavor of butter was even lovelier — is that possible? — by being in combination with the almonds and fruit. As it turns out, the fruit and nuts and eggs are all products of California farms or gardens, and perhaps the butter as well? So mine is a California Cake, but yours might be otherwise.

You start with a cookie-like crust that gets pre-baked, an eggy almond-flour paste spread on top, then the fruit over all, before it goes in the oven again for a long time. I added a little water to the fruit to make up for the apricots being dried. I definitely had to give the whole process my full attention.

AUTUMN FIG CAKE

Trying to warm the butter a bit.

2 sticks unsalted butter, cool room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 pound fresh figs, halved or quartered
6 oz dried apricots, preferably Blenheim variety, sliced
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
Almost 1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup finely ground almond flour
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan; line with 2 wide pieces of parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Butter parchment. Toss fruit with 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. If you are using dried fruit add the 1/4 cup water; set aside and stir occasionally.

In a food processor, pulse 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to combine. Add half of butter and pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer to prepared cake pan and use floured fingers to press dough evenly into bottom of pan. (If too soft to easily press in, refrigerate 10 minutes.)

Bake until crust is light golden in color, about 20 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes.

In food processor, pulse remaining half of butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt with baking powder until combined. Add almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, eggs, and almond extract; process until smooth.

Spread batter evenly over crust. Gently stir fruit to reincorporate sugar mixture and arrange on top of batter (cut-side up). Bake until fruit is bubbling and filling is firm, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (Mine took 10 minutes longer). Let cool in pan 15 minutes, then use parchment overhang to lift cake out of pan and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool 1 hour and serve. Cake can be stored in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Wouldn’t the base of this cake be good with just about any fruit topping? I think it would.

Whatever you make of it, when you do partake,
I hope you can do it with attentive thanksgiving. 🙂

Goldilocks and Jim

Goldilocks is the nickname I am giving to the little girl who had her first sewing lesson from me yesterday. I was very nervous leading up to the appointed time. She’s only six years old, for one thing, but she’s been using a needle and thread (and even Scotch tape) to construct clothes for her stuffed gorilla toy and a naked doll she inherited. I hadn’t had a look at her stitches until our first class, by which time I had come up with a few ideas we might pursue. It seemed wise to have a few projects in case her attention span was as short as I imagined from what I know of her from church.

I picked Goldilocks up at school and brought her here, so we needed to have a snack before beginning our work. Offering a child cake and milk sounds like something a woman in a storybook would do, so I felt very romantic about it, and I didn’t mind changing the liquid offer to hot cocoa, it being a rainy day and all. This yummy marzipan cake came in a heavy foil wrapper all the way from Germany so that our Czech friend Jerry could give it to us for Christmas. I had stowed it in the freezer for such a time as this.

As it turned out, my student didn’t yet begin any of the projects I had in mind, which included a 9-patch potholder, a hat for her, a blanket for her gorilla, and embroidering a dish towel. She seemed to want to get some clothes on that doll (poor doll doesn’t even have a name), so we started on a skirt. I showed her how to plan for the right amount of fabric based on measuring the doll, and she took home a rectangle of flowered cloth which she had started basting along one edge. I will show her how to pull up the gathers and sew it to a waistband.

Earlier in the day it was raining when I first came downstairs and found “my” feral cat Jim sitting outside the sliding door with his fur getting sprinkled as he waited for me to feed him. I thought perhaps he would be willing to stick his head in out of the wet this time, so I set the bowl just inside the door, and went away a space. After some deliberation he did partly enter the house, so I took his picture.

I hadn’t put quite the usual amount in the bowl, though, so he waited outside again after finishing it.  I added more food and set the bowl even farther into the kitchen. The temperatures have been higher lately and I hadn’t turned on the heat yet, so I didn’t mind leaving the door open for Jim for a little while. He came in again, and I busied myself building a fire on the other side of the room.

When I turned back around, he was sitting all the way inside on the rug, while he ate. But when he saw that I saw, he was greatly embarrassed, grabbed one more bite of food and ran out the door with it.

The sun is shining today, but again, the air wasn’t too cold, so I put the bowl inside, and once again he came part way in and ate it. When he had finished and was walking around the corner through the gate, I looked out the door, he looked back at me, and I told him to have a good day. He switched his tail. So we have leaped a great hurdle, Jim and I.

This morning I’ve been researching flights to take me across the continent in about two months to visit Pearl and family. It seems that the two airports I want to use have almost no direct flights connecting them. I had thought that if I paid enough money or reward miles I could make the trip less exhausting. Now I find out that not much can be done to make traveling easier, and I’m suffering a temporary setback in my excitement. I will have to focus on taking healthy snacks, and on the wonderful reading I can do. But for now I’ll just be glad I don’t have to go anywhere today.