Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries

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Last month’s issue of Bon Appetit was devoted to the country’s best restaurants. It included a recipe for a buttermilk cake that sounded delicious. But when I got to the end of the recipe they instruct you to tear the cake up into little pieces and carefully place them on a plate along with little dollops of cherries and milk jam. Sure enough, I turned back to the photograph (see!) and it was a sparse plate of carefully arranged bits that is common enough in restaurants, but that would be very absurd in my kitchen. I imagine that I would feel like a first-class tool if I presented someone with a  plate of torn up bits of cake. Also, I would be laughed out of the room.
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Presentation aside, the recipe was compelling. I made it and served it as a slice of cake, and also as a little parfait. The three recipes are all very simple and the flavors work really well together. I was especially excited about the gin-poached cherries, which are just lovely. I had some on yogurt the next morning and they made me very happy. The sour milk jam is also great (we used the extra as a dip for strawberries), as is the cake. I am realizing that sometimes cakes are too moist for me, and this one approaches that territory. I must be in a minority here, since moist cakes seem highly valued in our culture. In any case, this is a nice recipe to have on hand as we look toward winter.

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Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries (from Bon Appetit)

Buttermilk cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Sour milk jam:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup crème fraîche

Gin-poached cherries and assembly:

  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup gin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • Fennel fronds (for serving, optional)
  • Special equipment: A 9″-diameter cake pan

For buttermilk cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour pan. Whisk baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and 1 1/4 cups butter in another medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and scraping down sides of bowl.

Reduce mixer speed to low and, with motor running, add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake until cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool before turning out.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

For sour milk jam:

Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat and simmer gently, whisking occasionally, until mixture measures a scant 1/4 cup, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool (it will thicken as it sits). Whisk in crème fraîche, cover, and chill.

DO AHEAD: Jam can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

For gin-poached cherries and assembly:
Bring cherries, gin, sugar, juniper berries, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is syrupy, 6-8 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon a few dollops of jam onto plates. Tear cake into pieces and arrange around jam. Top with cherries and fennel fronds.

DO AHEAD: Cherries can be poached 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

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21 comments to “Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries”

  1. Very little is as appealing to me as a slice of cake, and this one would be almost impossible for me to resist. I grew up dunking, eating, and loving cake in almost every imaginable form and yes, cake is a part of our culture. The accompaniments of gin-soaked cherries and sour milk jam firmly plant this specimen in only one position – over the top. Nice job in sharing this one!!

  2. This post cracked me up. I think your presentation looked way better. I feel more and more like BA and I are living on different planets.

  3. Haha! I laughed out loud at the “first-class tool” part. (And I agree with you – you definitely chose the better route with that one.)

    And I have to say, you pick such good recipes. This one is simple enough, but I think that sour milk jam and those gin-poached cherries sound perfect with that buttermilk cake. Looks as good (or better – in the case of that picture you linked to) than a restaurant. You must host pretty damn spectacular dinner parties!

  4. This is wonderfully unique! Love that jam :)

  5. The sour milk jam sounds really intriguing, and a really interesting accompaniment to the cake and cherries. Great recipe! Thanks

  6. That is a lot of butter so I imagine it would be super moist and delicious. The sour milk jam and gin poached cherries are pure poetry though.

  7. Simple cakes like these are my absolutely favorite. I usually top them with a little bit of yogurt and eat them for breakfast. The sour milk jam sounds even better, of course.

  8. You made me laugh again. If someone served me the torn cake, I’d feel like I was getting the leftovers, but the recipe sounds delicious.

  9. I was just cleaning out our cabinets the other day and discovered a jar of juniper berries that I don’t remember ever buying. I’d been wondering what the heck to do with it, and now I know…gin poached cherries! Genius.

  10. “first-class tool” has got to be one of my favorite blog lines ever. it’s funny: this cake held no appeal for me when I saw it in the magazine, probably because it was in stupid bits. this post, however, makes it look wonderful!

  11. “First-class tool”!!!

  12. Brandied cherries have long been a staple in our house, but I am very intrigued by the concept of the gin soak. I imagine it would be a lighter, cleaner taste and love the idea of pairing it with a rustic, buttery cake like this (sans the froo froo torn presentation :) ).

  13. Haha! I feel the same about the moist cake issue. Love the first photo :)

  14. BA’s torn up version is completely unapealing to me. If presentation is such a big deal, what’s with the wispy fennel fronds? The L+D version in a solid wedge minus the stunt has my attention.

  15. If you really loved us, you’d tear up our cake :)

  16. You’re right, this recipe is really amazing!

  17. Tim, I am completely with you on Excellent Women and Nigel Slater. A London friend gave me his Really Fast Puddings and it’s and I still thumb through for simple dessert ideas.

  18. What a great post! Also, is it just me or does the BA portion looks really measly? Much prefer a good wedge of cake and I love the sound of both the gin cherries and the milk jam, yum!

  19. Just made this for Sunday lunch. Partner described it as a ‘hug in a bowl’. A perfect marriage of textures and tastes. Also made the spinach salad and aubergine dip, so it’s been a Lottie & Doof day – all to great acclaim – thank you!!

  20. schneiderluvsdoof says:

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Torn yet contained- the perfect compromise.

  21. This cake looks simply delicious! I’m a huge fan of moist and simple to bake cakes. this is a winner!
    X, K.

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