Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake (Foodie Book Club: A Homemade Life)

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche

As I mentioned earlier (when I made bouchons au thon), this month's selection for the Foodie Book Club was A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette.

If you are not familiar, this book is an autobiography of Molly's life. Each short chapter tells a story and ends with a recipe. The stories span from her childhood to college to Paris to her father's death and finally her romance with her now husband Brandon, whom she met through her blog. I think what I love most about this book is although it is definitely about food, it is actually more about the people in her life. Each recipe is tied to a specific person or a specific memory and Molly invites you into her world and describes it so well that the recipes end up being an added bonus.

And what an added bonus they are! The first time I read the book last summer it seemed that at the end of every chapter I was making a mental note: "Must make this soon!" Soon, I was wondering if I would come across anything I wouldn't want to make. Since then, I have made several recipes from this book, as well as her blog, and not a single one has been disappointing. I made her Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger at Christmas, the Tarte Tatin, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, roasted rhubarb, the bouchons au thon earlier this month, countless others I can't recall at the moment, but mostly, her Buckwheat Pancakes.

The Buckwheat Pancakes have become my go-to pancake recipe. I make them maybe once every month or two (in fact, I made them this morning before dropping my little sister off at the airport). I almost always make them with sliced bananas and sometimes, when I'm feeling indulgent, a few dark chocolate chips. But that was a complete tangent. I'm not writing about those pancakes today, but the Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche.

I made creme fraiche for the bouchons au thon and knew I would have some leftover. I happened to flip past this recipe and decided it would be the perfect way to put that extra creme fraiche to use, along with the buttermilk I used to make the creme fraiche in the first place. It fit perfectly. Molly's version actually includes glazed oranges, but I decided to omit them. The cake turned out perfectly. Tangy, light and not too sweet. Molly says that it is best on the day it's made, but leftovers "make a nice 'dessert' after breakfast." I actually kept the cake around for maybe even 5 days. It did dry out slightly but was still delicious. I wasn't sure about this after-breakfast dessert thing, but every mid-morning that the cake was around, I found myself cutting off a thin slice, so I think she was definitely onto something.

Coconut Macaroons
(The macaroons pre-chocolate ganache)

Just as the bouchons led to this cake, this cake led to Molly's coconut macaroons with chocolate ganache. The cake calls for 4 egg yolks, leaving you with just enough egg whites for her recipe, which yielded rich, chewy sweet macaroons dipped in a bittersweet chocolate ganache. A definite must if you make this cake and are feeling naughty enough to go for something indulgent instead of the usual healthy Leftover Egg White Omelet.

All in all, I am a huge fan of Molly/Orangette. We are actually going to Seattle for our honeymoon and I am definitely making sure we eat at Delancy (her and Brandon's restaurant) while we are in town!

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche
From Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life

4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cups cake flour (I was too lazy to make my own and used whole wheat pastry instead)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

Creme fraiche (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line with parchment paper and grease the paper as well.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and set aside.

Put the sugar in a medium mixing bowl and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl. Use your fingers to rub the seeds into the sugar and break up any clumps. Add the flor, baking powder, and salt and beat at a low speed for a few seconds to combine.

Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients along with the rest of the buttermilk. Beat on low until moist and then medium to combine for about one minute. Add the egg mixture in 3 doses and beat well inbetween each addition. The batter will be thick, airy, smooth, and pale.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

Pour into the ban and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before removing and then cool completely. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche


  1. That's on my list of things to make from her book too! I am so glad that this was on our book club list, I'm going to make the Banana Bread tonight with the bananas that have been in my freezer for months for my book club post....I have dogeared all of the recipes, they all sound so good!

  2. Mmmm the banana bread is so good, especially with a little bit of whipped cream! I'm looking forward to your review!

  3. I am dying to try the bouchon au thon, how are they? How do they keep?
    You gotta try the prunes, be brave and you'll see, they taste decadent but are healthy and comforting and just plain YUM!

  4. Callie- I loved the bouchons au thon! I posted about them here if you want to read more. Mine were only around for 3 days, but they kept great for that long at least. I'm assuming you can also freeze them like Molly's host mom did, but I'm not sure if you would freeze the 'batter' or the corks after they are cooked....

    Okay, I'm putting the prunes on my to-do list!

  5. Oh this banana bread does look delish! I'm so jealous you were able to make some of the recipes from the book; I've been flagging the ones I want to try but I've been living out of a hotel this week so I'll have to wait awhile before I can. I'm so glad I was able to see your pictures of some of the recipes though because it is certainly helping me prioritize which ones I try lol (those macaroons and the bounchons au thon look amazing). :)

    I'm hoping to get around to posting my review sometime soon - just been working a lot of late hours and have found it hard to have much blog time.

    Bre @

  6. Oh Yum!! Everything looks delicious! I've found myself with a post-it filled book, dying to try all the recipes. Your pictures are wonderul!

  7. Oh, those photos of the cake are gorgeous! And I'm super jealous about your Seattle honeymoon! Have a blast <3

  8. I'm glad you made it with whole wheat pastry flour, since I have that and do NOT have any white flour right now. =)