"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blackberry Jam Cake with Caramel Icing

I've had my eye on this cake from Day One. Something about the homey nature of the anecdote in the headnotes ("Every year for twenty years, Gourmet's production director baked this cake for our mailroom manager on his birthday, so it has clearly stood the test of time") made me want to bake the cake too, and share in the family love.

The title of the recipe is a little misleading, I think--it calls to mind a cake that's sandwiched with jam, and if that's what you're jonesing for you'll be disappointed because this is really a spice cake with blackberry jam providing some flavor.

This is a pretty straightforward cake recipe--no surprises. I was a little puzzled by the direction to line the pan with parchment paper, since that means you're going to turn it out onto a platter to frost it--but my plan was to bring this to my book group and that extra step would have disqualified it from the "excellent dessert to bring to a potluck or casual dinner party" because it would have meant extra fussiness. So no parchment paper for me.

My only mishap making the cake was after I had taken the cake out of the oven I stood there looking at my new container of organic golden raisins, thinking to myself 'weren't raisins in this recipe somewhere?' Yes they were, they were supposed to go in the batter, and it was way too late to add them in. I just skipped right over them, and I really hate it when I do that!

I was determined to get them in there somehow, and I mulled over adding them into the caramel icing but decided that would be weird and opted for this instead:

OK, it's not the most elegant solution. But I didn't get any complaints from my bookgroup--they were wildly enthusiastic about it and happily took home the leftovers as well. Actually, the feature that really got the swoony response was the icing, which is (as the headnotes state) grainy before it melts on the tongue. I'm not used to icing like that and found it a little sweet for my taste, but as I said it got a very favorable reception with my fellow book groupies.

Would I make this again? Yes--it's a sturdy, flavor-packed cake that makes enough for a crowd. If I were trying to fancy it up a little bit I'd make it in rounds for a two-layer cake (as they suggest for an option)--it would be an ideal birthday cake for somebody who doesn't like the usual suspects (like chocolate).

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