With the bright undertone of burnt sugar from the strawberries, hint of sour from yogurt, the herby note of fresh winter savory, this humble cake typifies spring. This week I had a craving for something sophisticated, but in a dessert form. I made a vanilla mini-cake that was good, but it felt cheap, teasing my mouth with flavors that I fell for as a kid. I made a frosting of Neufchâtel cheese to drizzle over this strawberry cake, but I thought it was one component too many and left it aside. I wanted yogurt and herbs in my cake. And citrus zest to bring out the sugars and add a bright note. A nod to simple sophistication and the new growths of spring, this cake isn’t fancy. But it hit the spot. I have been eating it for breakfast and dessert. Devoting my time to making and eating this cake inserted a pause into my hectic morning to be alone and savor the quiet.
I think every person carries within him or herself a small room, where from time to time he goes to check in. It’s important to keep things real and to take a time out from the things we get hung up on. While the world will always provide distractions, both good and bad, it’s important to examine the inner landscape. Now is truly the time when I start dreaming. With warm weather I dream of Wimbledon, of Provence, of farm and upstate living, laying in big open fields and gazing up at the stars. I dream of food, ingredients, sharing it over blankets on the grass or the beach. I dream that things can work out in amazingly unimaginable ways and if I consider this I really appreciate that moment. It’s a glimmer of true hope, which brings satisfaction. Both are so fleeting and hard to come by. It’s imperative to make time for that. There will always be something or someone to worry about. The world is a big and scary place. But it’s also miraculous. That’s part of why I like being here and visiting with you all on a weekly basis. It’s an obligation to myself and this amazing community to stop and recognize the morning, the moment, the season and remember that these things comprise a full life.
The other day, I had time for a rare lunch break and I was eating a banh mi, outdoors no less. A woman came up to me and asked what I was eating and then why a French bistro would have a Vietnamese sandwich. I was so excited to talk food with her. We talked about travel and how Americans sometimes view the world and I mentioned this here blog. At that she said, “Wow. You must have a lot of time on your hands.” I thought about how to answer that, if at all. We all ostensibly have the same amount of time in a day. Some things certainly will pull at your attention so much that it makes finding time for anything else nearly impossible (new moms, ailing family member). But I think that if you value something you make time for it without justification.
In the short moments while having this cake I realized that her statement didn’t dignify an answer. I never feel like I have a lot of time on my hands. It’s all a matter of priorities and obligations. But, the catharsis of cooking and feeding oneself and catering to your own cravings and then sharing it with a wonderful community is an end in and of itself and something worth celebrating with a spring cake. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
FRESH STRAWBERRY, YOGURT & SAVORY HERB CAKE
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 3-5 sprigs of summer or winter savory
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- juice of 1/2 orange
- 3 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup fresh strawberries
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a bundt pan and set aside. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking soda, salt, savory and orange zest.
In a separate bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs and orange juice. Add to flour mixture then mix in yogurt. Toss in strawberries and carefully fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 55-60 minutes.
Allow cake to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan before attempting to turn it out onto a large plate or cooling rack. It will fall apart if you try sooner. Frost as desired or cover with powdered sugar. Garnish with strawberries and savory.