Sunday, July 31, 2011

cherry cake

"Happiness is a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry under a shade tree."
-Astrid Alauda

Nothing sings "summer" more beautifully than a handful of cherries. They make one's tastebuds dance, waltzing gracefully between sweet and tart, the sounds of gentle 'popping' filling the ears like Mozart. They stain the fingers like ruby paint on an empty canvas, elegant in their puerile innocence. They remind me of dirt and earth, Farmer's Markets, Sicilian breezes, and sunshine.

I love them.

I'm home for the weekend, since my parents officially received the keys to our new house on Thursday. We haven't moved in completely, yet [the date is set for this Saturday], but much of yesterday and today have been spent driving back and forth, seeing painted walls and polished wood floors, building bar stools and patio chairs, and marveling at how strikingly different everything is, now finished, since the last time I was home two weeks ago.

In honor of the occasion, mom had me bake. It was quite the interesting experience, baking in a completely vacant kitchen, lacking chairs and tables, almost like model kitchens one strolls past in a Home Depot.

Cherry Cake
Adapted from Joy of Baking

You'll need:
  • 1 pound fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup [1 stick] unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium sized bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed thick and bright yellow, 3-5 minutes. Pour in melted butter, milk, and extracts, and mix until incorporated. Lower mixer speed to slow and gradually add in flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in the pitted cherries, reserving half cup of cherries for the top of the cake.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cake from the oven, press the reserved cherries over the top of the cake, and return to bake for an additional 15 minutes, until cake is soft and springy to the touch. Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm.

But mom and my grandmother believe in blessings and good fortune. And so whenever we move, the first thing mom does is cook something sweet, as a way of bringing luck and happiness to the new home. Something my grandmother always did, something my mom learned from her, and something that has now passed down to me. Since I won't be here the day they move, I baked in our new oven, so that the first smell of food was the warm scent of cake and summertime wafting through empty hallways, filling vacant rooms with comfort and peace.

Even though it's still unfurnished, it made the house feel like home.

While at the house this afternoon [the old house, not the new], I whipped up a batch of toffee bars as well, as a thank you to the workers who have made the moving process so much easier and quicker than what we four, alone, would have been able to manage [which is, to say, nothing]. I brought them over, along with a pan full to the brim with unbaked batter, and so popped the pan into the oven, sliced up the bars and cake, and ate dessert off of small plates we brought back from the old house. A makeshift picnic in an empty kitchen, save for good company and good spirits.

A fitting way to spend a summer day, I think.

Though I will be missing the big move this weekend [heading back to the apartment on Tuesday], I'll be back home in another two weeks. I can't lie and say that I'm not excited to see how everything will look once furnished with familiar sofas and tables, how my room will look with its "inside of a cucumber green," so aptly dubbed by my mother, and how much the scents of turmeric and cilantro have permeated every nook and cranny.

I'm certain it'll feel as though I've lived here my whole life, but I'm more concerned with how our cat is going to fare.

Probably will have gotten himself locked in a cupboard, I'm sure.


Thanks so much for reading!
I'd love to hear your thoughts :)