Saturday, May 21, 2011

Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake

Oh my goodness. This cake is SO good! It's actually pretty healthy as far as 'cakes' go--but that's because it's a more rustic, homey cake. The kind you want to eat with coffee in the morning. The kind you linger over after dinner while looking over at a view....the kind you wat to try with different kinds of fruit, the kind you give to your kids because you figure it won't kill them....a cake that instantly becomes a family favorite and you feel has always been something you've made.

When I first saw this cake on Heidi's blog (, the raspberries she used in the batter drew me in....and then I began a love affair with desserts that were made with fleur de sel at restaurants. Brownies, truffles, name it...seems like everything is better with salt--you don't get that sick, cloying sweet taste that sticks in your throat. So the coarse salt and raw, shiny sugar crystals really will seem like they are kissing the cake!

This cake has a wonderful crispness in the crust and would adapt well with many fruits or flavor combinations. The buttermilk gives it incredible flavor...mellow, you can't put your finger on what it is but you keep wanting to come back for more. And the lemon zest works well with the saltiness. The whole wheat pastry flour gives the cake a wondeful crumb texture that still manages to stay together instead of fall apart and yet the cake is still moist with only 1/2 of stick of butter. I like it as much as I like my Romanian tart cherry cake and for different reasons. Thank you Heidi for such a delicious, comfort treat....I may even make another one this weekend with different fruit!

Please try this recipe. I dare say it will make you happy.


  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Heidi says not to try with white whole wheat flour-texture not as good)
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used low fat with no problems)
  • *1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit (If you melt this in the microwave-watch, as it can explode)
  • zest of 2 lemons
 For Topping:
  • 1 cup of raspberries (more if you like)--I used blackberries, but any berry could work
  • 3 Tbsp. large grain raw sugar (like a Turbinado sugar or Demerera sugar)
  • 1 tsp. large grain salt (I used a smoked champagne sea salt I never know what to do with)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees, racks in the middle. Grease and flour (or line bottom with parchment paper) one 11-inch tart/quiche pan. Alternately, Heidi has done this cake in a 9x13-inch rectangular baking dish - just keep a close eye on it after it has been baking for 20 minutes.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk, whisk in the melted butter, and the lemon zest. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined - try not to over mix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, pushing out toward the edges (Yes, not like a typical batter than you drop in and it is more liquid-like and easily goes to the sides--this one you gently coax to the edges with a spatula). Now drop the berries across top. Heidi says she likes to smush them a bit between her fingers before letting them fall to the cake - no so perfect looking and the juices meld with the sugar (and that's what I did too).

Sprinkle the cake with the large grain sugar and then the salt. This is what it looks like going in the oven (SO PRETTY! YUM!)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until cake is set (or a toothpick in the center comes out clean), and a touch golden on top.

Serves about 12 (super funny--Heidi, let's talk about this, shall we? Between my husband, myself, and a 2 year old, we devoured half of it in one evening.)

*Heidi's note: I melt the butter for this cake, so sometimes while I'm at it I just keep going and brown it - this adds an entirely different deep buttery flavor. If you go this route, strain out any solids and let the butter cool a bit before stirring it into the egg-buttermilk mixture. As I mentioned up above - feel free to experiment with other types of seasonal berries and fruit. The coup de grace is a floppy dollop of sweet, freshly whipped cream on the side.

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