Monday 20 July 2009


If you're thinking about developing an American cookery book and magazine habit then I will give you a small piece of advice.


I know you've probably already got the measuring cups but believe me that is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

First you'll find yourself trying to translate a recipe into measurements that make sense. You'll attempt to work out exactly how much butter is in one tablespoon and will end up with a frankensteinian recipe utilising measuring cups, spoons, scales, and a good amount of crossing fingers behind your back for good measure.

You'll wish you had access to cake flour and butterscotch chips and cry, yet again, about how prohibitively expensive cherries are in this country.

Finally, and this is the most dangerous of all, you will develop a lengthy shopping list of essential kitchenware that you cannot live without as living without would mean resigning yourself to ignoring big hunks of baking books forever more.

And, so it was, that my must buy holiday shopping list included all of the current issues of all of my favourite US food magazines, a few cookery books, and, most important of all, a bundt tin. You can just imagine the fun I had lugging my case up five flights of stairs when we got home.

Bundts are not a regular feature in Britain so, sadly, there is not a big market for the heavyweight intricately moulded tins. I could have ordered one online but I wanted to see them in front of me and pick the shape I liked best. I was pretty surprised that Chris was on board with this purchase but I think the sculptural curves of the tin won him over and instead of wondering, aloud, where exactly this large tin was supposed to live in our already overflowing kitchen cupboards he stood beside me in Sur La Table and helped me to choose the shape for all our future bundts.

Friday came and an early finish from work meant I could sit on the balcony with my book for a couple of hours before knuckling down to some baking of the bundt variety. The cake of choice was a blackberry version of the blueberry raspberry pound cake from Molly Wizenberg's book which, in turn, is a recipe from the July 1986 issue of Bon Appétit. I swapped the blueberries and raspberries for blackberries and the kirsch for crème de mures. The resulting cake has a sweet crust, a firm purple stained crumb, and an easy manner that means it could be wheeled out for tea, pudding, or brunch. I suggest trying it for all three.

BLACKBERRY BUNDT (adapted from the recipe for Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)

2 cups plus 8 tablespoons plain flour (use cake flour if you have access to it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
2 tablespoons crème de mures
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Place a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Butter a standard-sized 9-cup Bundt pan and dust it with flour, shaking out any excess.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons flour, the baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor, blend the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the butter and crème de mures, and blend until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture looks curdled, don't worry. Add the dry ingredients and process to just combine. Do not overmix. The batter should be very thick and very smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour the batter over the berries and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, taking care that all of the flour is absorbed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly across the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake's center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours.

Transfer the cake to a rack, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan and onto a rack, and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Note. Sealed well and stored at room temeperature, this cake will keep nicely for 2 or 3 days. It should also freeze well.


Su-Lin said...

As someone coming from North America to the UK, I definitely understand this! I do like the European way of weighing ingredients though... measuring butter is an awful task!

racheleats said...

Cups drive me crazy (as crazy as I imagine oz's and 1lbs drive everyone else) but I persist, shoving it all in those pesky cups or doing complicated calculations otherwise I would miss out on too many good recipes.
See now I need a bundt tin.

Sarah said...

Ooh.. the Nordicware Bavaria Bundt! Very nice. I'm always intimidated by how big and heavy those pans are, but I see they produce lovely results! Such crisp lines.

xox Sarah

Gemma said...

Su-Lin - butter just doesn't lend itself to being measured in tablespoons!

Rachel - yes, I'm afraid you do need a bundt tin. I recommend going onto the Nordicware site and drooling.

Sarah - good to see you recognised the pattern. I was very impressed by how easily the cake came out of the tin. It was worth lugging the extra weight home.

Gemma x

shanna said...

How completely lovely - both the image of you two picking out a bundt "for all future bundts" at Sur La Table and also the resulting cake pictured here. Simply beautiful!

Sam said...

I've just about got the hang of using cups but I will never get the hang of measuring tablespoons of butter!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I am so impressed that you were able to turn that out! I would be scared of it sticking to everything.

I know what you mean about the American recipes - chipotle in adobo, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips etc that they take for granted and we just can't get!

Gemma said...

Thanks Shannalee

Sam - they just don't mix do they?! Oh well, I'l just have to keep mixing up my conversions as I go...

Foodycat - I was terrified but had buttered and floured the tin (even though it is non stick) and it just slid straight out. I saw peanut butter chips in a food shop off King's Road on Saturday but they were about £7 for a tiny bag (needless to say I didn't get any!)

Gemma x

Maggie May said...

This reminds me of Julia Child translating all the French measurements etc for U.S. in TAOFC

Wonderful blog!

Anonymous said...

Oh, geez, what's even more annoying is the fact that American baking books ARE always in U.S. measurements. It drives me crazy, and I was born and raised in the States! It's like...shouldn't we have evolved past the notion that anything can be properly baked without weight measurements? I convert all my baking recipes into metric until I'm sure it's correct, and then file it away in a safe! Well, not a safe maybe, but you get the gist. Love your blog!

Kelly-Jane said...

I've got this cake marked in Molly's book. Love the shape of bundt tin you picked.

US measures of butter are ok up to a point it's when it goes into third of a cups a I get a bit tetchy.

1 stick = 4 oz
1 stick = 8 tablespoons

So 1 tablespoon would be half an ounce. I have to measure it on the scale, I don't have the patience to do it in actual tablespoons!

Urban Foodie said...

LOL, we've all been there with that dreaded conversion charts, thanks for sharing in such an entertaining way.

Bundt looks lovely though!

Good luck with the over the Pond cooking.