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Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries

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 [1]!) 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.

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.

Buttermilk Cake with Sour Milk Jam and Gin-Poached Cherries (from Bon Appetit [1])

Buttermilk cake:

Sour milk jam:

Gin-poached cherries and assembly:

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.