Lately I have been thinking about friendship. I made this cake for my friend Joy’s birthday party yesterday. Joy’s kind of a bad ass. She wears a lot of lace but also rides a motorcycle, is a blacksmith, and has agreed to come whisky tasting with me. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been getting in touch with all of my friends in the States, and I keep being struck by how awesome they are.
My one friend is part of an art show put on by the Getty in LA. Another is planning a trip to Sweden to do cutting edge soil chemistry research (okay, I think this is rad; if you don’t, you can just go kick rocks). Somebody’s helping open a new farm-to-table restaurant here in town. Somebody else is a fleet captain in the Caribbean, teaching kids to sail and study ecology. It’s super wonderful, but it’s also kind of alarming.
Too many awesome people; not nearly enough time! I am trying to cram in as many morning coffees, baking parties, and yoga dates as I can in the next six weeks. I’m not doing badly, but at the same time, if I’m lucky, I’ll see most people once or twice. Which is hard for me.
So much of friendship is small, simple things over time; the accumulation of coffees drunk, goodies bakes, asanas posed and then later discussed. Little pieces of good times and also bummer times that weave our lives together and let us know and be part of each other’s stories.
But as I get older–live more places, meet more people—so many friendships become a single coffee, a long phone call, a periodic e-mail. There’s part of me that wants to rail against it. I want to spend a whole lifetime watching foreign films, traversing mountain trails, dusting off my dancing shoes—doing whatever we do together–with every person I know.
But of course, I don’t get a whole lifetime with each of you fabulous folks. If I’m lucky, and I have been, I get a few months or a few years in proximity to build shared memories, rack up inside jokes, learn everything I need to know to blackmail you, should ever the occasion arise. And then. And then I hear your voice or see your face for a couple hours or a couple days every few months or every few years. And I miss you and I think of you and I hope that you feel the joy and love that I feel for you even when we aren’t sharing it or making it in the same time or place.
If you want to feel some love, or share some love, this cake is a good place to start. It is homey and grounding and a little surprising; like a good friend, perhaps. It also happens to be gluten-free, not because I combined a bunch of random things to make it that way, but just because it’s an awesome cake that’s not made out of wheat. Poppyseed and buckwheat give the cake its fragrance and earthiness. Honey and plums add sweetness and tang. We eat a lot of poppy seeds in France. I dunno if that’s a regional thing or just ‘cuz Chef likes them, but it got me thinking.
They’re a little floral and a little herby and I happen to love them. They don’t get a lot of play, but I’m out to change that. This recipe was adapted from a cake that mixed buckwheat with almonds, but I’m swapped out the almond meal for ground poppy seeds. It’s a win. More experiments to come!
Recipe after the jump…
Plum Poppyseed Cake
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F (170˚ C). Line a nine-inch (23 cm–is this standard? Whatever’s close…) round cake pan with parchment.
6 ripe black plums
1 tablespoon (15 grams) cornstarch
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar
10 tablespoons (150 grams) butter, softened
1/2 cup (125 grams) honey
2 eggs, at room temperature
5/8 cup (75 grams) buckwheat flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) ground poppy seeds (a good smoothie blender or coffee grinder works for this)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Peel and halve the plums. Toss them with the cornstarch and sugar. Arrange them face-down in the bottom of the cake pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl or the stand of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and honey until fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, ground poppy seeds, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir until fully combined.
The batter will be fairly thick. I find that the best approach for bowl-to-pan is to use a spatula to plop the batter into the cake pan in sections, around the plums. Using said spatula, spread the batter evenly over the plum halves.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool at least twenty minutes. Turn the cake out onto a platter; remove the parchment circle; voila!