Don't believe a recipe can make you more popular with family and friends? Think again...
Not nice, but true: there exist recipes so fabulous and compliment-garnering they make you want to share their secrets with no one. The upside? It is these recipes we often rely on without fail to please a crowd. The downside? It is these same recipes that can turn an otherwise generous, recipe-sharing cook into selfish, hoarding one.
Herein lies the irony: it is only when we let go of our most treasured recipes that we can see their true beauty and value. Infinitely capable of feeding and pleasing any countless number of people, we have to give away our best recipes before they are able to work their magic---winning hearts, filling tummies, spreading love, and creating bonds between enthusiastic cooks and eaters alike.
Overcoming any temptation to be selfish, I am sharing one of my most poular recipes of all time. Armed with the following, you can create what is quite possibly the world's finest tea cake.
What is tea cake you wonder? Depending on your geographic location (as tea cake definitions vary greatly from region to region and culture to culture), there exists many variations and all of them are correct. For today's purposes, we are loosely defining tea cakes as any specific type of bread, cookie, biscuit or cake that is ideally suited to pairing with afternoon tea. Often understated and refined in flavor (yet sweet), sturdy enough to be picked up with the fingers and typically served un-frosted, tea cake can be enjoyed any time of the day but pairs best with lighter meals such as breakfast, brunch or lunch, or as a stand-alone snack. As the name implies, tea cake is best enjoyed with hot tea (and fresh coffee as well).
The little bit of elbow grease this recipe requires is well worth any effort you put forth. Bear in mind, the most time-consuming portion of this recipe (making the raspberry filling) can be prepared and chilled days in advance, with the tea cake itself being left to assemble at a later time. Also, this recipe (in its entirety) may be baked up to 3 days in advance, cooled, covered airtight and chilled until needed. The one caveat? Don't forget to remove the tea cake from your refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for at least 45 minutes prior to serving.
Ready to get popular?
Raspberry Ripple Tea Cake
recipe adapted from my Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Baking magazine, 2008
For the filling...
- 1 (12 ounce) package frozen raspberries
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the batter...
- 2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cold butter, sliced into thin pats
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10" round tart pan that has a removable bottom; set aside.
To make the raspberry filling: in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar and cornstarch over medium heat; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Push raspberry mixture through a fine, mesh sieve, discarding seeds and pulp. Set filling aside to cool slightly; alternatively you may store airtight, refrigerate and use within 3 days.
To make the tea cake batter: in a large mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. *Measure and set aside 1/2 cup of this flour-crumb mixture and reserve for crumb topping. To remaining flour mixture add baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir well to combine. Make a well in the center of flour mixture to accept wet ingredients.
In a small mixing bowl, beat egg; stir in buttermilk until combined. Add all at once to the well you just created in the center of the flour mixture. Stir gently until just moistened; batter will be thick. Spread two-thirds of this batter over the bottom and up 1" of the sides of prepared tart pan, using fingers to pat into place if necessary. Next, carefully spread the prepared raspberry filling on top of this batter. In small, irregular mounds, drop remaining batter on top of filling, spreading ever-so-gently with fingers or back of spoon if necessary. Allow mounds of batter to rest atop raspberry filling without pressing into bottom layer of batter. Sprinkle entire cake with the *reserved flour-crumb topping.
In the center of a preheated oven, baked tea cake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean (filling will turn toothpick red). The cake should appear lightly browned (baking times may vary from oven to oven, so keep a close eye on your cake after 30 minutes). When tea cake is properly baked, remove tart pan from oven and allow to cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. When time has elapsed, remove cake from tart pan and place on cake stand or serving plate.
Cut cake into wedges or squares and serve warm.
Yield: 8 servings. Enjoy!