The Water’s Warm and Children Swim

All right, so maybe the song to which this post’s title alludes isn’t entirely relevant to my life and to this post itself. Nonetheless, Death Cab for Cutie’s “Summer Skin” is definitely one of those songs that remind me of summer, obviously. The basic sentiment behind the song, though, is essential to me. Summer isn’t simply about vacations, ice cream, grilling, and watching more hours of television than you spent in class the previous semester (as I did last summer. True story, bro). It’s a crazy, fleeting period of the year unlike any other season. It’s also one for which we yearn all year long, one which we mourn the loss of as soon as it’s over.

And now summer’s over for many of us. I’ve just finished my undergraduate degree over the summer term and am in the weird, unemployed space between college and a job or career. It’s a weird existential mode, sure, but it’s fortunately not permanent. This fall I’ll be co-facilitating a DeCal (short for Democratic Education at Cal, a program at UC Berkeley in which students create and teach their own courses). Other than that, my future is a weird haze that hopefully includes a Master’s Degree, teaching credentials, and a career as a high school English teacher. The future is a weird thing insofar as it exists in a debilitatingly infinite amount of modes and possibilities. In one future, I absolutely love my life, my job, my friends, and everything else. In another, I can’t stand any of those. In yet another, my name is Joey Joe Joe Jr. Shabadoo, and I have the worst name Moe has ever heard. I guess I’ll never know until then.

Anyways, I suppose that today’s post is really just about holding onto what you have even though it’s time to move on (blah, blah, cliché themes/life lessons, blah, blah). On a much lighter yet thematically appropriate note, the summer produce to which I hold on most dearly are berries (which will be in today’s recipe) and tomatoes (which will not). When I saw that Smitten Kitchen made a Bundt cake with a buttload of berries, I did three things. First, I shed a single tear. Second, I noticed that my pet unicorn also started crying beautiful, beautiful tears. Third, I bookmarked the darn thing and waited for a Very Special Day to make said cake.

So, maybe a random Tuesday afternoon (when I made this cake, which obviously isn’t today because I’m far too lazy to make something and immediately blog about it) isn’t Very Special. Do you know what is Very Special? This cat:

Anyway, here we go.

Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt Cake
(totally, straight-up from Smitten Kitchen)

A brief note: I TOTALLY used frozen berries (and am not afraid to admit it) because those were immediately available to me. I used a mix of strawberries (chopped to the size of the other berries), blueberries, and raspberries). This is probably super dumb, but I didn’t even thaw out the berries before using them. I’m sure that somehow affected the outcome of the cake, which was delicious nonetheless. If you’re not into mixing up your berries, feel free to use a different blend of berries. I would even suggest using different fruits with this cake and adjusting the flavorings accordingly (like, using diced apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg or even persimmon or even pears. My mind is exploding thinking about it). You may need to adjust the amount of flour with which you mix the fruit, though. Finally, I took Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion and added extra fruit (specifically, an extra 1/2 cup). The cake would definitely improve with even more berries, if you’re that kind of guy or gal or [insert appropriate (non)gender(ed) label].

For the cake:

2 1/2 c (355 g) plus 2 T (20 g) all-purpose flour
2 t (10 g) baking powder
1 t salt
1 c (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 c (340 g) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (don’t discard; you’ll need the juice for the delicious glaze)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c buttermilk (or, if you never have buttermilk in your house like I do, pour 2 1/4 t white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup and pour milk into the measuring cup until it reaches the 3/4 c line. Let rest for at least five minutes)
3 c mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 350F. Generously grease/butter and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan. If buttering, refrigerate the Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 1/2 c flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until incredibly fluffy (3-5 minutes). Feel free to start creaming and then mix your dry ingredients in the meantime. You’ll save some time that way and feel like you’re temporally economic. Once the creaming is complete, add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one until just blended. Add the vanilla.

Add one third of the flour mixture, half of the buttermilk, the next third of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, then the final third of the dry ingredients. Put simply, you’ll want to alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Using the same bowl in which you mixed the dry ingredients, toss together the remaining 2 T flour and the berries. Fold the berries into the cake batter, and don’t be afraid if some of the berries break and release their delicious, delicious juices into the batter.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and level off the top. Bake for 55-60 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan approximately halfway through baking (to ensure even browning). You may need to bake for longer. I, for example, made this cake twice using the same pan and oven. The first time, I baked for about 70 minutes. The second time, I added five more minutes to my baking time. No biggie. Either way, a toothpick should come out of the cake cleanly.

Once baked, let the cake rest in the pan and on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter and let cool completely.

For the glaze:

2 c (240 g) powdered or confectioner’s sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (see? I told you that you’d need the rest of the lemon)
1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
Table salt or sea salt, to taste

While the cake is baking, set out the butter to reach room temperature. So as not to wash more dishes, I did this in a small/medium bowl in which I could fit the remainder of my ingredients.

Once the cake is cooled, add the lemon juice and powdered sugar to the bowl with the butter. Whisk together thoroughly. Here’s the tricky part: add milk by the tablespoon, whisking thoroughly (more thoroughly than you want to be) between each addition, until you reach a desired consistency. This is all up to you, but I would estimate that I added about 3-4 tablespoons before I reached a delicious, thick glaze. Finally, season with salt to taste.

Drop spoonfuls of glaze carefully onto the cooled cake. Let the glaze ooze down the sides of the cake. Salivate. Eat cake shamelessly.

And now for my usual musical recommendation:

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