26 October 2012

Cornmeal and Concord Grape Cake

This afternoon, I'm sitting here at our faux kitchen table nee vintage drafting table listening to Irma Thomas, and entertaining a mild weekend hankering to watch Mad Men again. I'm feeling a little glee that we gave into our realization that it would be nice to sit somewhere in the apartment other than the table or the bed, stopped waiting, and ordered a settee. You see, I usually hate couches. I think they are often large, take up space and in general I like to feel like I'm working. But once and awhile, I can be convinced to sit down on one. Especially since it's pretty.

I'm looking at a pile of DVDs from SAG and thinking about which to watch this weekend and which to save for this hurricane... And I'm eating this cake. It's a good cake, the kind of cake I saw a photo of in a magazine and said, "I'm gonna make that." A couple of things stood out: the colors, I'm a sucker for them, anything with cornmeal, and I just haven't been in the mood to roll out a tart dough yet. But I assure you, soon. I'll happily let you know I skimped on sugar and  oil a hair and this cake is still incredibly moist and sweet. I mean, it has got concord grapes strewn through it and a swirling kiss of honey at the end for gosh sakes.

Bless those people at that magazine. It is my opinion that, if you can get over the tiny seeds, and in this case, most definitely seed them before adding them to your cake, concord grapes have an unmistakable inimitable sweet grape flavor unlike other table grapes, that remind you of what the candy companies were trying to do when they invented grape flavored jolly ranchers.

Now, if you can get over the fact that I just said that and separate your taste buds for a moment from those artificial thoughts, I'll describe this cake adapted, barely from Bon Appetit: fluffy, cakey, cornmealy, with just the right amount of form and structure, smacked with dollops of these grapes. And grapes in cake? I just have never thought of it. Enjoy this cake as it is or make adjustments but I don't recommend straying much. It sort of has the feel of a buleberry cornmeal cake, with lemon zest and vanilla accents, but grape. If that wasn't clear already. Next time, I'd use a finer ground cornmeal, as here I only had a medium grind on hand but I think I'd like it even smoother next time.

Cornmeal and Concord Grape Cake  Recipe (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; more for grapes 
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt ((MN Note: I used 1/4 teaspoon slightly heaping sea salt)
2 large eggs 
1/2 cup sugar  (MN Note: I used a heaping 1/4 c)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 cup vegetable oil  (MN Note: I used 3 Tablespoons)
6 tablespoons buttermilk ((MN Note: a mix of plain yogurt and milk stirred together))
2 tablespoons honey 
1/2 pound Concord  grapes, stemmed, seeds removed, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8x8x2-inch baking dish. You can use a 6 x 10 x 2 one as well. Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Stir in honey, being careful not to fully incorporate. Pour batter into prepared dish. Toss half of grapes with a large pinch of flour in a medium bowl until well coated. Scatter over cake batter. Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 15-20 minutes longer. Let cool slightly in pan before slicing. Serve room temperature for best flavor. 

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