Ultimately, the humble everyday cake reigned supreme over a celebration cake for very worthy reasons. First of all, it takes only a few moments of effort to whip up something lovely to slide onto the side of your saucer, and they're generally a no-fuss sweet. No chocolate icing smeared all over the side of your teacup, no multi-colored sprinkles staining your lips, no oily bits of wax swirled into the frosting from who knows how many candles. They're minimal effort for maximum satisfaction, something to perfume your living room when unexpected guests arrive, at least I think it would be good for that since I'm never home long enough to have people over. Oh dear. Someone come visit me. This is officially my desperate cry for help.
Second, think of this cake as a take-me-home-to-mama sort of treat, the type that looks a little shy at first but turns out to be surprisingly delicious, a little sweet and a little tart (or a lot tart if you're anything like me) and leaves your Mama clapping her hands and applauding what a lovely young lady you've brought home. On the other hand, showing up with a cream cheese frosted red velvet cake might give off the impression that you're a little showy, and a lot like a gussied up two-bit floozy. It's just not okay.
This cake is tangy with buttermilk and freckled with fresh raspberries and dusted with white sugar before you pop it in the oven. The sugar sweetens the raspberries just a touch, but more importantly, it makes a sugary crust just on the top the cake that will crunch ever so slightly under your teeth. The cake itself is fairly thin, and with a cup of tea you could probably occupy about five friends or so, but in my house it only fed two. Broken down - my mother ate one slice, my father ate the rest. So it goes in our house. Since they convened on the cake while it was still steaming hot, I don't have a finished cake photo, but you must trust me. It bakes up to a lovely shade of golden brown, the petite raspberry mountains are swallowed up by the buttermilk batter and the sugar glistens like little crystals.
You can swap out the raspberries for blueberries or blackberries or schnozzberries or whatever you have on hand. It will work just as well.
Buttermilk Cake with Raspberries
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009
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 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
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. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.
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 and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.