I live with a zombie-blasting puke machine. He’s 27. He wore the same sweatpants for days, and they weren’t even clean when he put them on. And we ate soup.
And then Tuesday came and we finally got to eat the pulled-pork and beans leftovers I brought home from my mom’s on Sunday night. And we went to see Julie & Julia, which was good except that I can’t handle the sounds of eating noises or movie kissing and there it all was in surround sound, and then it became the day before the day before payday, and I plunged deep into the kind of financial despair that usually hits whenever I open my mail, and it seemed like the time to do something responsible. That responsible thing? Using up what’s in the fridge. Fortunately, when Nick was sick, he cleaned the whole apartment, so now I have clean surfaces to work on. So Tuesday night, I roasted some sweet potatoes and tossed them in the fridge for gnocchi, took inventory of crap in the fridge, and decided to make a cake with blueberries.
Is there such a thing as a run-on paragraph? I think there is, because I think I just invented it.
And when I was taking leftovers, I also swiped my mom’s tattered old copy of The New James Beard, which is not new any longer as it’s two years older than I am. But there’s a recipe in it for sponge cake with apricot glaze. A soft, light sponge cake that nearly floats, suspended by the froth of stiff-peak egg whites, sticky with a melted jam glaze that Beard, on page 520, says “makes it rather special.”
I added blueberries, and melted some of my peach jam, which became more of a sauce than a glaze, and served the cake with ice cream and fresh berries.
The great thing about this cake, aside from the fact that it’s delightful, to quote Jenna, my Wednesday dinner guest, is that it uses stuff you have on hand. You don’t have to buy anything fancy to make this – just use up what you’ve got.
Sponge Cake, adapted from The New James Beard
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 cup egg yolks (which should mean the yolks from about six large eggs)
- 1/4 cup cold orange juice
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tbsp. orange zest
- 1/2 cup egg whites (annoyingly, this means about four … save the two whites left over and make yourself an omelet for breakfast or something)
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, don’t panic. The recipe will still work without it)
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Mix the flour, one cup of the sugar, the salt, and the baking powder. Add the egg yolks, orange juice, zest, and vanilla, but do not stir or mix or combine any further than putting everything in the same bowl. Let it be.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the cream of tartar, continuing to beat, and then gradually add in the remaining half cup of sugar. Beat this until stiff peaks have formed.
Now you can mix the stuff in the other bowl. James Beard never says why you have to wait, but we’re following a recipe here, and even though I didn’t actually do what I was told (I beat it up from the beginning), I feel like I should still relay the process that he’s put forth in this fine volume. Beat until well blended, about one minute.
Using a spatula or other soft utensil, gently fold this mixture, about 1/4 at a time, into the egg whites. Folding is very simple, not at all intimidating. You will literally fold the egg whites over the batter until the batter and the egg whites are one light, fluffy super batter. Don’t stir. The bubbles in the egg froth are what keep this cake so light.
I added about one cup of fresh blueberries at the folding stage. Good call on that one.
When the batter is smooth, turn into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. I didn’t know what a tube pan was, so I used a loaf pan. It worked just fine. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake has started to shrink away from the sides of the pan. The cake should spring back slightly when you press lightly on the top-centre.
Once you’ve removed the cake from the oven, immediately invert it, allowing it to cool before removing it from the pan. Glaze with 1 cup melted jam, possibly spiked with 1/4 cup cognac or whathaveyou – James also suggests kirsch or applejack. I think a dry white wine would be pleasant. I have no idea what applejack is.
I skipped glazing and used the melted jam as a sauce, and it was perfectly lovely, both in taste and appearance.
This should serve eight people, or four if you cut it very thick. Top with ice cream, or whipped cream, and fresh fruit, whatever’s in season or in your fridge.
Eating this made me feel responsible, like I was being sustainable and fiscally prudent and all that good crap. Like I could even begin to start thinking about addressing what’s in all those scary envelopes. Just like that. Stay tuned for tears and Nick’s sweatpants and comfort food come Friday/payday.