- Go for family jog
- Bake cake
- Taste Talia’s cocktail alongside cake
- Meet friends at the neighborhood bar for barbecue
“You know what they say…” I huffed as we tackled Item 1 on the list. “The family that jogs together…” I wracked my brain for a verb that rhymes with “jog” while willing one foot to move in front of the other, trying to keep pace with my leaner, lengthier, more-athletic husband, “…snogs together?”
We both let out breathy laughs at my sad rhyme and I spent the next fifteen minutes of our run explaining that, no, snogging isn’t just fancy Harry Potter lingo, it’s real British English; yes, I do actually need to stop and smell all the pretty flowers every thirty paces, especially if you’re going to run that damn fast; and oh hey, look at that house we just passed. It’s for sale and it’s got the cutest garden ever and we should totally go back and look at…
Husband flat on his back in the middle of the sidewalk. Blood red like a fire engine running rivers down his face. There’s a car-mounted kayak towering above him, mocking what will soon become the story that brings belly laughs to every single doctor and nurse in the urgent care center that afternoon.
Sadly for us, there was no cake or cocktails or barbecuing with friends that particular afternoon. Happily, however, there was also no major brain damage. “Just seven shiny staples to the dome and one bruised ego,” as my husband has taken to saying.
This weekend we revisited the cake and cocktail pairing plan, sans head injury, to celebrate the removal of the seven dome staples. This idea of doing a drinks and dessert pairing is something Talia – the talented, warm, and witty blogger behind Two For the Bar – and I dreamed up months ago while we were gabbing our way through a grenadine-making class at FEAST and doing our best to fight the alcohol- and food-coma that comes with being a part of a four-day food festival in Portland. (For the record, I still don’t have a damn clue how to make grenadine and, Talia, I blame this entirely on you, dear friend!)
The rich cornmeal bundt cake is spiced with saffron—one of the scarcest (hence the price tag), and in my opinion, unique spices in the world. Instead of heating it, as I usually do in savory dishes to express its earth-leaning floral flavors, I’ve steeped it in vanilla overnight, which creates a delicate base that lightens and brightens the otherwise-dense, thick-crumbed buttery cornmeal cake.
Now, I’m going to be completely honest with you. Talia had the much harder job here. To craft a cocktail around a cake that someone else has dreamt up, a cake with floral and earthy sweetness and just a hint of bright citrus, is no easy feat. But I can honestly say, after trying the two together post-staple removal, her concoction was perfect. The Penicilina carries a warm kind of zippiness from the ginger syrup that married almost too perfectly with the saffron. With a subtle smokiness from mezcal and some lemony tang, I couldn’t help but long for the not-so-far-away summer barbecues…the kind that are filled with good friends and that aren’t interrupted by life’s most random kayaking-ish accidents.
Head over to Two for the Bar for more on how to make The Penicilina! And cheers to good friends, cocktails, and cakes!
- 1 teaspoon of saffron threads, plus more for (optional) garnish
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 2 cups of cake flour
- ½ cup of fine-ground yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or ½ teaspoon of regular table salt
- ½ pound (1 cup, 2 sticks) of unsalted butter, brought to room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons more for greasing cake pan
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup of buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons of fresh blood orange juice, about 1-2 oranges
- 1-3 tablespoons of milk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt or one pinch of regular table salt
- 1 ½ cups of confections sugar, sifted
- Combine the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks, continuing to beat to combine. Add the saffron-infused vanilla and buttermilk.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour, mixing to combine just until streaks of flour disappear from the batter. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, scraping down sides with a rubber spatula and scraping down the paddle attachment as it has likely accumulated several of the saffron threads in it and you want those to wind up in the batter. Bake until the sides begin to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean, about 55 minutes, rotating cake 180 degrees halfway through. Let cool in it’s pan for at least 20 minutes and then bang its bottom (hard) against your countertop or floor. (The resting and banging part are crucial, in my humble opinion, to getting it to turn out properly.) Then flip onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
- While cake is cooling, prepare the glaze.
- Combine the blood orange juice, milk, salt, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add the confectioners sugar to a medium-sized bowl. Add the blood orange mixture to the sugar a little bit at a time, stirring constantly, until it becomes a pourable glaze. Add more milk to thin the glaze, if desired.
- Pour the glaze over the cooled cake.