When my daughter JDE came home from college two summers ago a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours soon appeared on my kitchen counter. In quick succession she baked the Perfect Party Cake (which she wrote up as a guest post on my blog) and then the Tarte Noire (which has not yet been chosen as a TWD recipe but is, by the way, indulgently delicious).
She mentioned that a group of food bloggers were baking their way through the book and pointed me to the Tuesdays With Dorie site. I was hooked! I joined the TWD baking group in July 2008, becoming the 200-and-something-th member of the group. I've baked along every single week since I joined - this is my 90th TWD weekly post. I have learned many baking techniques, conquered some fears (cough, cough, caramel, cough) and have enjoyed myself immensely.
When I opened the covers of Baking for the first time, the recipe that immediately appealed to me was the Swedish Visiting Cake on page 197. It looked straightforward and inviting. Even the name was homey and welcoming. Of course a cake that looked this good would be have to be made with almond, one of my favorite flavors. I vowed on the spot that I would choose this cake if it were still available when my turn rolled around, although I couldn't imagine that it would happen.
Time went on, and as things go in this kind of group, bakers came and went, so I've moved up the list and my turn to choose a recipe came much sooner than originally estimated. Lo and behold: the Swedish Visiting Cake was still available! Although my head was turned just a bit by some of the flashier recipes in Dorie's book, I stayed true to my original resolve and chose the Visiting Cake.
This one was baked in an 8" cast iron skillet
- If you want to bake the cake - and you should - I've included the recipe at the end of this post, see below. But you truly should bake many more of Dorie's wonderful recipes, so you'll be well served to buy your very own copy of the book.
- Dorie Greenspan has written about the Swedish Visiting Cake on her blog and it's worth a visit there to check out this and other wonderful treats that she features. About this cake Dorie says:
- Dorie also posted a Swedish Apple version of this cake in her column for Serious Eats. I fully intended to bake that variation and include it in this post, but I couldn't bear to stray from the original recipe (it was just that good!)
Making the cake just now reminded me for the nine-millionth time why baking is so dear to me: it is a pleasure that engages all your senses. In the 10 minutes it took me to get the mixture into my old cast-iron skillet, I rubbed sugar and zest between my fingers, watched a batter grow from thick and dull to lithe and shiny, caught the fragrance of lemon, vanilla and almond and had the satisfaction of knowing that I was making something completely by hand and that it would be something others would soon enjoy.The fact that the house will smell like butter, sugar and vanilla for hours is just a happy extra.
- I LOVE that this cake requires just one bowl, one pan, and very few other dirty dishes. No mixer, no creaming of butter. "You're welcome," fellow TWD bakers!
- In an effort to be a good hostess this week, I took "process pictures" of each stage of the cake-making (well, nearly), but this cake is so easy that photos are not really necessary (although I did include them, below). If you can stir with a spoon, you've got this cake made.
- The cake has no leavening, and the eggs are not beaten, so it doesn't really rise. As a result it ends up with a distinctively dense and chewy texture.
- I baked this cake twice. First I made 3/4 recipe in my 8" cast iron skillet. (If you go to the P&Q for the Visiting Cake on the TWD site, I posted the ingredient amounts for 3/4 recipe.) I used 1 duck egg and 1 bantam hen egg, which came out to the perfect weight for the scaled recipe. I order these unusual eggs, along with regular chicken eggs, from my farm box, so I always have a variety of egg sizes on hand for recipes. If I do end up with extra egg parts from my baking activities, I usually throw them into my next batch of scrambled eggs.
- The second time, I baked this cake in my 10" non-stick skillet, and made 1 1/4 recipe. (This cake is the one pictured at the beginning of this blog post. The math for scaling the recipe up is on the P&Q post) I served this cake, along with a David Lebovitz chocolate flourless cake, to my book group.
- Dorie says that this cake is best eaten the day it is made, and she is, of course, right. However, if you should find yourself with some leftover Swedish Visiting Cake, you might agree with me that it's quite acceptable on the second or even the third day.
It was quite fitting that my daughter JDE was home for Spring Break when I baked this cake, since she got the TWD ball rolling around here in the first place. One taste of Swedish Visiting Cake, and she said "Oh man. This is good."
I was also glad to be able to share the cake with my book group. The members have tasted and evaluated over half of the TWD desserts. The group is filled with great cooks and I value their honest opinions about the baked goods (well, and about the books we read also!) Reviews were quite positive about the cake, although it was a tiny bit overshadowed by the showier chocolate cake that I also served.
The Visiting Cake was all that I'd hoped for, and more. Simple but not boring. Substantial in texture and subtle in flavor. The lemon was a background player and the almond more up front. The cake reminded me somewhat of a big chewy (almond-flavored) sugar cookie.
The recipe is extremely quick and I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy the finished product since the flavorings are optional and can be customized to individual tastes (although I'll be visiting all of the TWD bakers' blogs so I'll get to find out!)
Thanks so much to everyone who baked along with me!
Swedish Visiting Cake
from Baking, From My Home to Yours
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch cake pan or even a pie pan.Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest and blend the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts.
Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour.
Finally, fold in the melted butter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar. If you're using a cake or pie pan, place the pan on a baking sheet.
Of course I forgot to take a picture of the cake in the pan BEFORE I popped it in the oven. Here's a very blurry picture of the cake IN the oven; I made it reeeeally small so the lack of focus won't hurt your eyes as much
One reason I don't take "process pictures" more often: the need to keep an eye on the doggies to make sure the food survives the photo shoot! Meet Bro, our new rescue Australian Shepherd.