It was Saturday morning and I was up to my eyeballs in apricots. That I was canning and jamming to beat the band wasn’t enough, oh-HO-no. I also had to try my hand at an apricot sorbet and a honey-roasted apricot ice cream, and then, just to put myself over the top, throw in an apricot cake, too. (Plus, I threw together a full-blown lunch of sweet and sour beef—using an apricot jam I made earlier—with cabbage, rice, and a zucchini skillet.)
This, after a week of baking a passel of apricot goodies: apricot crostata, apricot crisp, apricot crumble, apricot upside down cake, and that apricot sweet and sour jam. (And lest you be confused, the jam didn’t involve baking, but it was apricot.) There was also a dehydrator load of apricots and a failed recipe of apricot freezer jam. (Don’t ever try the apricot freezer jam that comes in the pectin box. It will make you pull out all your hair and call your aunt, the apricot canning queen, three times in one day. Consider yourself warned.)
The reason there’s been so much apricot tomfoolery going on in my kitchen is because I don’t really know what to do with the little plump critters when they come rolling in my door. I deal with fresh apricots only once a year and then I’m so busy preserving them that, before I know it, the apricots are all packed into jars without me ever learning how to cook with the sexy fresh ones. This year I determined not to miss my chances. I’d make as many apricot recipes as I could, and I would, by hook or by apricot crook, find something splendid.
And I have: this cake, the one I made on Saturday morning, a Honeyed Apricot Almond Cake.
It’s like this: a thick batter comprised of ground-up almonds, some whole wheat flour, and a healthy flurry of nutmeg.
Then, a large handful of apricots cut in half and nestled cut-side up atop the batter, their little hollows drizzle-filled with honey.
Finally, after a turn in the oven in which the apricots settle to the bottom (or perhaps only halfway down), a cake that, to all appearances is as plain as plain can be.
It’s anything but.
Bespeckled with almond flecks, rich with nutmeg and butter, and tangy-sweet from the occasional apricot, this cake is what I will make every single June when apricots are in season, forever and ever, amen.
Honeyed Apricot Almond Cake
Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup whole almonds, ground to a fine meal in a blender
5 large, or 7 small, fresh apricots, torn in half, pits removed
1-2 tablespoons honey
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the almond meal, flours, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.
In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry.
Grease a 9 or 10-inch cake, or springform, pan (you can see that mine, a 9-inch tart pan, got filled to the brim and nearly overflowed) and pour in the batter, smoothing it out with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves on top and drizzle a little honey into their hollows.
Bake the cake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until the cake’s center no longer wobbles and a wooden skewer pierced in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for ten minutes, run a knife around the rim of the pan, and then cool the rest of the way. Serve as is, or gussy it up with a flurry of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream.
Yield: one 9 (or 10)-inch cake. Stores well for a couple days, covered with plastic, at room temperature, but if leftovers linger longer, it should be transferred to the fridge to prevent the apricots from souring.
Updated on June 30, 2010: use more apricots, perhaps four to six whole ones. Make sure to use a bigger pan, a ten-inch springform would probably be perfect.
About one year ago: Oregano, Garlic, and Lemon Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus and A Sketchy Character
About two years ago: Brown Bread, Simple Granola (it’s central to our existence, and it’s what my kids will think of when they remember home), and the spit rag. Aaaaand, Fancy Granola and French Chocolate Granola. Beware of the French chocolate granola. Be very aware.