Baking attracted me more than cooking when I was a kid. The logic and simplicity of baking’s chemistry provided a calm, reliable oasis in the chaotic landscape of childhood. The playground was a battlefield, but the kitchen was a refuge for a shy, bookish kid. And the results of my baking experiments pleased everyone around me as much as myself.
I cooked, too, according to the instructions my mother left each day for the gap between the end of the school day and my parents’ arrival home, but it was only as a young adult that I really began to blossom as a cook. Even then, baking was what I was known for. It still is, really. Meetings and gatherings are an excuse for me to make cookies and squares, cakes and loaves – they smooth the path toward decision-making and community-building. And social occasions are really all about eating together, aren’t they?
I’ve found over the years that people are impressed by elaborate desserts, but it’s the simple ones they remember and ask for again. This week’s recipe is just that sort of dessert, a white cake that relies on whipped egg whites for leavening and bakes into a sturdy shortcake-like round. It’s not heavy, though, the crumb is tender and able to soak up whatever topping you choose to serve with it. In this case, homemade lemon curd. In the summer, the cake makes a perfect vehicle for strawberries and cream. In winter, you could bake two layers, soak them in melted jam, then ice with crème fraîche whipped cream. As Dorie says in her introduction to this recipe, you can pair this cake with almost anything you can think of.
Best of all, it’s one of those recipes that are perfect for clearing the mind, while feeding body and soul.
You can find a version of this week’s recipe here.
See how the rest of the French Fridays crew served their cake: Visitandine