We didn’t live in the Bay Area for a terribly long time, but it was long enough to collect a good handful of people, places and things that are worthy of never-ending love. These are loves that are typically managed easily from a distance, given a few visits each year where you get to stock up on the goodness.
My girlfriends are just a few of those things; I can never go for very many months without seeing their faces, giving them proper hugs, hearing their belly laughs as we drink beers on the patio watching the sunset. I suppose for any worthwhile friendship, this is a given. But there are other things that I start to really hanker for; a good dose of California sunshine, for example. There’s just something about the way the sunshine hits the cityscape, rolling green fields in the country, the magnolia trees as they begin to bloom. It’s a warming sunshine – not just for its heat – but for the red-orange warmth it seems to cast.
The rolling hills, endless coastline and rolling cerulean waves of the coast are another. Of all the things that Boulder has, the ocean is not one of those things and there is something in my soul that longs to see the sea. There is nothing like spinning between verdant green hillsides, making eye contact with cows, ever-so-gently disturbing the grasses and wildflowers as you pass.
There are other things too; favorite shopping streets, that little restaurant we used to frequent near our apartment that made the most amazing roast chicken and truffle-salt sprinkled mushroom pizza. Then there was that bakery near the end of our morning bike ride where we got the good pain au chocolat. Popping into the Mission to indulge in baked goods, specialty foods, coffee and all manner of exotic vegetables and fruits from Bi-Rite Market and the little shops and cafes in the surrounding streets was one of my favorite Sunday pass times. And, sometimes when I had weekend mornings alone, I’d go to Blue Bottle Coffee an espresso, and something sweet to go along with it, just to watch people waking up. I’d order a Double Chocolate Cookie, other times bit of shortbread, but most of all I loved a good slice of their seasonal buckle.
This buckle is one of the ways that I manage in between opportunities to get to the Bay to indulge in beloved rituals. The original recipe comes from a buckle recipe in the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee Cookbook; they make a pumpkin and spice crumble for winter, a blueberry + lemon version in the summer. There’s really no wrong way to prepare a buckle, but this Strawberry + Pistachio Buckle is my favorite.
The preparation is very simple here, and I’m sure that the simplicity is what makes it truly good. And, what’s more, the deeper the crags and cracks caused by the batter splitting as it rises and bakes, the better to nestle buttery chunks of streusel in…which is to say that the beauty of this cake is imperfectly perfect. This is not one of those cakes we make on a weekly basis; again, it came of a special ritual, a true treat. But it is perfect for a Mother’s Day brunch, or a another weekend where you want to do something a bit indulgent while still practical. The cake is great made up to six days before consuming it, and the streusel can be made well ahead and frozen until you’re ready to use it if you’re short on time and big on foresight. I suggest using the freshest Meyer lemons + early strawberries you can find.
I’m in the Bay Area this week, soaking up the rituals, making new ones, seeing friends and doing a bit of work. I have a feeling that this cake will be woven into the mix somehow. Enjoy! xo- L
- 6 Tbsp (3oz/ 85g) cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup (4.9 oz/140 g) unbleached pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100g) granulated organic sugar
- 3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- finely grated zest of one meyer lemon
- 1/2 cup (2.7oz/76g) unsalted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (4.9oz / 140g) unbleached pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 11 tablespoons (5.5 oz/156g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5.3oz/150 g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 2 eggs (3.5oz/100g), at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (4.7oz/ 133g) fresh strawberries, cut into bite sized pieces
- First, make the streusel: cut the butter into small chunks and let it sit at room temperature for five minutes. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles beach sand — about 2 minutes. Add the pistachios and mix just until the streusel begins to clump together and look like gravel, being careful not to let it come together to form a dough. If you’re not using the streusel right away, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to one month.
- Next, make the cake: preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform baking pan.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, roughly 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure there aren’t any little butter pockets lurking! Then, mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the eggs and the vanilla extract and whisk vigorously until well blended. Then, with the mixer on medium speed, add the egg mixture very slowly in a steady stream, and mix until well-incorporated and very smooth, roughly 30 seconds or so. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl one more time!
- Lastly, add the flour mixture in three stages, while mixing on low speed. Continue mixing until the batter is just uniform in texture, and no longer. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the strawberries until evenly incorporated.
- Now, you’re ready to assemble and bake the cake! Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth it with an offset or rubber spatula, and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the streusel is dry and golden and the buckle is firm, rotating the pan midway through the baking time. You’ll know it’s done when it springs back if gently pressed in the center.
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Stored in a covered container at room temperature, the cake will keep for up to 3 days.