June 19, 2013

A Cake for Midsummer

I am so confused by the concept of midsummer, I've written about this before. How can it be midsummer right after it officially begins to be summer? (Usually on or around June 21.) Apparently midsummer is just the name for celebration of the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year. BE THAT AS IT MAY, I am a very literal person and it confuses me as to why midsummer is not really in the middle of summer.

To take our mind away from these puzzling and weighty matters, let's look at a cake from Mr. Nigel Slater, with whom I am obsessed. I'm going to buy, yes, BUY his two Kitchen Diaries cookbooks. Either that, or do some tricky ninja technique of keeping them on semi-permanent renewal from the library. I tore through the first one and loved every last thing in it and I've heard that the second one is fab as well.

His cake for midsummer though, comes from his book 'Ripe', which is a stunner and I just loooooooove that book. Looooooooooooooove that book! It's all about recipes involving fruit. His book 'Tender' highlights veggie recipes, but it's not a vegetarian cookbook. You should read it, and be prepared to want stews and roasts and tagines.

Nigel can lay a scene for you and then make you WANT TO EAT IT ALL.

And he wrote a recipe for a midsummer cake. Which I think is the most charming idea I've ever heard of. There should be more cakes for this kind of thing, random obscure holidays and whatnot.

Like, a Weekend cake. Or a It's Tuesday cake. Or a Harvest Moon cake. Or a Eat Cake at 10pm cake. Or a Snuggle cake. OMG a snuggle cake. I am a genius, just like Nigel! I am totally going to make a snuggle cake, when I figure out just what such a cake might entail.

But for today, a cake for midsummer.

It has delightful things in it. Almond flour, apricots, and raspberries. I will show you. It isn't the most beautiful cake in the world. But that's ok, I prefer more rustic, homey-looking cakes anyway. I can eat a cake with frosting maybe once a year these days; I just can't take that kind of sugar hit anymore.

We all ate this cake warm right out oven. Andrew went to go get Julia from school that day because I had to babysit the cake in the oven. As soon as she walked in the door, I had a slice of cake ready and I shoved it at her and made her sit down within two seconds of dropping her backpack. Then I hovered and hopped around, there might have been some hand clapping as well, and I kept saying, 'isn't it great? what do you think? it's awesome right?'

I am the first one to compliment my own cooking, I never wait for others to do it. If I make something that's good, you'll hear about it....FROM ME. I believe in self-congratulation. Congratulate first, and then wait for secondary affirmation. If that's not forthcoming for some reason, that's the time to let people know that they're crazy, or wrong, or misinformed.

Don't ever accept anything other than congratulations when you cook, even if it sucks. You went to the effort, you deserve congratulations. Yes you do. I'm trying to train my kid to say "Thank you for the very nice dinner Mommy." Every one dinner out of 10 she remembers to do it. If she hates it, she can think it in her mind. But by gum, I want some congratulations. Or a high five. I'm not picky.

But back to midsummer cake. It was great right out of the oven, and it was great on the following three days when we ate it for breakfast. This cake is somewhat akin to a coffee cake in nature, and the fruit most definitely makes it an appropriate choice for morning. You can even put a little butter on it, that wouldn't be anything but A Good Thing when you're heating it up a little to have with breakfast. You could soft boil an egg to go with it, and have some tea, and think that it really IS some kind of special holiday, this midsummer thing.

A CAKE FOR MIDSUMMER  ~via Nigel Slater's (I love you!) book 'Ripe'


3/4 cup butter (175g)
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar (175g)
4 or 5 ripe apricots (200g)
2 eggs
1 and 1/3 cups self-rising flour (175g)
a scant cup of ground almonds (100g) ~ I used ground almond meal/flour
2 tablespoons milk
about 1 and 1/2 cups raspberries (170g)


Line the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. (I used a 9 inch round pan with high sides and greased and floured the pan.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Halve, pit, and coarsely chop the apricots. Beat the eggs lightly, then add to the creamed butter/sugar a little at a time, pushing the mixture down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. If there is any sign of curdling, stir in a tablespoon of the flour.

Mix the flour and almonds together and fold in, with the mixer on a low speed, in 2 or 3 separate batches. Add the milk, and once it is incorporated, add the chopped apricots and the raspberries.

Scrape the mixture into the cake pan and bake for an hour and 10 minutes. (start checking at 55 minutes, just to be safe.) Test with a skewer; if it comes out relatively clean, then the cake is done. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes or so in the pan, then run a thin spatula or knife around the edge and slide it out onto a plate, decorating "as the fancy takes you", says Mr. Nigel.

~enough to serve 8-10.

(The cake is not overly sweet, which I liked. I thought it was plenty fine and sweet with the generous dusting of confectioner's sugar on top. But if you like your sweets really sweet, I'd throw in a 1/8 to 1/4 cup of additional sugar mixed in with the fruits.)


  1. Wow. Yum. I wish I could pop over for tea and cake now.

  2. I shouldn't have looked at your post... now I am drooling drooling drooling! Plus apricot and raspberries are my favorites fruits so it's really hard to just sit here and have one to eat :P

    Can't wait to see your snuggle cake!

    1. I can't wait to see it too! When I figure out what a snuggle cake might be.....

    2. I meant to write "none to eat" but you see all that drooling has impaired my typing skills >.<

  3. looks delish. I don't have any of his books. I think at one point i felt i had to choose, Nigella or Nigel, and I went for Nigella because I loved her stuff on feeding babies so much and thats what I was doing every day at the time. I do read him in the Observer though. Yeah, I'm sick of too much icing(frosting) too. Would LOVE this for breakfast.

    1. tough call between the two....Nigel gets more in depth with his stories....I think Nigella is more treat and kid friendly.....oh I love them both...also that cutie pie Jamie Oliver.....and I also like Tamasin Day Lewis!

  4. I love every single word of this post, Melissa, just as much as I relish Nigel Slater's writing, and recipes, of course. 'Ripe' and 'Tender' are almost as good bedtime reading as they are kitchen reading, don't you think?

    And I TOTALLY agree with you about training our children to appreciate our efforts in the kitchen. As a child I always grew enthusiastic about my mother's cooking and I know full well that that's what got her through the EFFORT that can sometimes be cooking for a family of six for decades and decades. It's all about respect. We cook good food for them (most of the time) and they should appreciate the time and effort and love it takes to do that. Mealtimes are great when they are about sharing and enjoying and talking!

    Three cheers for my soapbox :-)


    1. I read Nigel's work before bed ALL the time! Just got his novel 'Toast: A Story of a Boy's Hunger'.

      I think kids, boys and girls, should really be raised from a young age to learn how to cook, to appreciate food and where it comes from, and to respect the effort and time it takes to produce....right there with ya on the soapbox, exiting stage right :)

  5. mmmmmm you sold me at apricots and raspberries! Both of which I will have available for the picking right in my own backyard in a month! hooray!

  6. It looks really yummy, and Friday is our least busy day this week... I need something to do for Midsummer.

  7. Suddenly, I'm a starving man in the desert.