Half a cake

j and l oceanside
The day before the solstice, we went to the beach. We were sweatshirted up, expecting June Gloom, but there was not a cloud in sight when we pulled into the parking lot. The Pacific was sparkling green-blue over gray, celebrating the sun with us. We peeled off the layers, and the kids raced on the sand, and our hands were sticky with peach juice and it felt like summer was starting. 
Our days have become lazy-morninged and slow. After the year spent doubled-up on co-oping, the break from frenzy feels like pure luxury. On the last night of class, each class had a parents-only gathering in a separate area of our school. I moved between our two class groups, never quite catching up on conversations in either place, splitting time as I had all year. One boy done with his first year of preschool (!), one boy graduated and on to what’s next (!!), and me still trying to get a footing in our day-to-day.

I made a cake for the parent parties. It was a pound cake, and I cut it in half. Right down the middle. Half went to each class, and I really thought it might all just fall apart. But it held up. It turned out it was delicious.

But I think it might taste even better, at the beach.
boys at the beach

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s book, My Paris Kitchen, and from 101cookbooks

I used half whole-wheat pastry flour and got a wonderful cake out of it. Just make sure not to overbake, and you will have a cake that is rich and dense in that wonderful pound cake way, but not at all dried out. The bay leaves add a subtle but definite flavor note to the cake. (David suggests you could use other edible leaves (such as Rose Geranium) to change it up, but I really loved the bay leaves here.) I’m not always a fan of glazes on cakes, but actually loved this one with its punch of orange. The cake itself is moist and substantial and the pieces are sturdy; Heidi took them on a road trip, I took them to school. I imagine soon enough, we will be taking them along on another summer adventure …

6 tablespoons butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter, for piping

10 dried bay leaves
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze: 
1 scant cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice (or more as needed)

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 of the bay leaves. Cover, and let steep for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan (or equivalent). If you have a flat-bottomed pan, dab one side of each of the remaining bay leaves with a little bit of butter and place the leaves, evenly spaced, on the bottom of the prepared pan. (Use the little dots of butter to “stick” them to the pan. Great job for five year olds! If your pan doesn’t have a flat bottom, you can place the leaves on top of the batter just before baking.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla.

Remove the steeping bay leaves from the butter. (You may need to very slightly rewarm the butter to liquify it.) Whisk the butter into the sour cream/eggs/etc.

With a spatula, gently stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture. Do not over mix: batter should be just smooth. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the leaves (alternately, top the cake with any remaining leaves).

Put the remaining tablespoon of softened butter into a plastic bag, snip off a corner, and pipe a straight line of the butter down the center of the cake (alternately, a circle if your pan is round). (Yes, you are piping butter onto your cake batter. Just trust David, he is a genius.)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It’s better to slightly under bake, than over bake this cake.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool on a rack (discard leaves). Cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with the orange juice and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Let it set. (You may want to add a second coating of glaze after you let the first one harden.)

7 thoughts on “Half a cake

  1. Do you know, I went to your site yesterday afternoon, just hoping there might be a post even though I knew there wasn’t. I needed a dose of your calm, strong voice. It always makes me feel mentally sure-footed. And this morning, a new post in my reader from you! Nice to “hear” you again. I feel like my mom always had a similar split – I am seven years ahead of my sister. It was a miracle alone that led us to graduating from college and from graduate school in different Junes! *Raising a virtual glass to your family’s summer adventures*

    • Hi Grace! It’s actually pretty rich — but thin thin slices with berries over top would solve that dilemma nicely :). We are still getting oranges here but not sure about elsewhere — no matter what though it’s a bang up cake. Hope you’re well, and recovered from your travels west! :)

    • It was so good! We have been on something of a refined-free kick lately, so I have been avoiding sugar and flour excess. But one of these days, I will be making this again. It smells heavenly.

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