July 30, 2012
Plum Skillet Cake and a Cast Iron Confession
My kitchen equipment wish list is ever-growing. It's not full of single-use items like a strawberry slicer, or a tomato corer, or an avocado slicer - because I own a knife and, last time I checked, a knife does just fine when it comes to slicing strawberries, coring tomatoes or cutting up an avocado. I've made it this far without a dedicated banana slicer - I think I'll be alright.
No - my list is full of items that I want to buy once and never have to buy again. Things I want my kids to use one day. Things that are multi-taskers and stand up to the test of time. Things like a cast iron skillet.
It's kind of embarrassing that I don't own a cast iron skillet. It's not that they are particularly hard to come by, or so expensive that I can't pull the trigger. It's because the only cast iron skillet I have ever owned came to its demise in my kitchen and now I'm afraid to ruin another one.
I'm going to share the story with you, but try not to be too judgmental. Keep in mind that I was only young, in my first apartment, with minimal understanding about much of anything, let alone proper care of cast iron. I'm going to say it fast and just rip it off like a band-aid - I cooked in my cast iron some gunk stuck to it I scrubbed and scrubbed but it didn't come off so....I left it submerged in soapy water overnight.
Phew. Ok. Feels good to get that off my chest.
You can imagine the scene when I checked it the next morning. After draining the sink, let's just say the skillet was no longer black, but mostly orange.
There was rust all over that puppy. And, here's the second of my sins - I tossed it - not easily mind you, it was rather heavy. What a waste! I didn't even think to consult with the world wide web about whether I could salvage it - I just threw it out. In my rather inexperienced brain I thought, well, it's all rusty, so I guess that's that.
Fast forward to a time when I am, about some things, a little bit wiser. How to properly care for uncoated cast iron is one of the things that I have learned over the last 8 years or so, and although I would most likely be a more competent user of untreated cast iron, I am still a smidgeon worried that I'll ruin it.
You know when kids want a new puppy, and the parents are all, well how do we know you are responsible enough to take care of it? And then, maybe the kids have to borrow their cousin's dog to see whether they like it and to prove they are responsible? That's kind of what I did. I did a test run a couple of weeks ago - I borrowed my friend's mini skillets to make a strawberry-sorrel crisp and it worked out ok. She didn't know about my past as a cast iron killer, although I suspect now she might. I was obsessed with taking proper care of those borrowed skillets. I cleaned properly - no soapy water - I oiled properly, I stored properly. I did all the right things. And I did good.
So now I think I'm ready to take the plunge - that might be a bad choice of words given how my skillet was ruined - and buy another cast iron skillet. But, I still don't own one. If I did, I would have used it for this plum skillet cake.
I got a slew of sweet plums at the market on Saturday and wanted to bake with them. We were headed to a BBQ at a friend's house yesterday and I wanted to bring dessert, which worked out perfectly. This cake is beyond easy to make and is as close to a baking one-pot-wonder as it gets. So easy that I kept one on eye on my cake and the other on the Olympics. Because of my cast iron insecurities, I had to make mine in a regular old frying pan, which I was not best pleased about. If I had used cast iron, the pan would have been hotter and the outside of the cake would have formed more of a 'crust.' I made do with what I had and brought the cake over to the BBQ, frying pan and all, and served it with dark rum whipped cream.
Guess what? When I got there, the first thing I saw in the drying rack next to the sink was an old cast iron skillet. It was beautifully old, with all of the wear and tear and marks of a skillet that has been passed down for a few generations. I took it as a sign and made a decision right then and there, my kitchen will be cast iron skilletless no longer.
And, fyi, this cake was a huge hit, even without the use of cast iron. If you don't have an 8' frying pan, you can even use a regular 8' cake pan.
Cake recipe changed in the slightest and taken from Martha Stewart
What you'll need:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the skillet
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
3-4 ripe plums
2 Tbsp brown sugar
For the rum whipped cream:
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 capfuls dark rum
Plum Skillet Cake
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Butter the skillet and dust it with flour, shaking off the excess flour. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with an electric beater, cream the butter and granulated sugar for a few minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the egg.
Alternating, add the buttermilk and dry ingredients - pausing in between each addition to allow the batter to come together.
Once all of the ingredients have been added and the batter is smooth, pour the batter into the prepared skillet - using a spatula or bread knife to smooth the top.
Thinly slice the plums and fan them on top of the cake, creating whatever pattern you'd like.
Dust with the brown sugar and place in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick into the center comes out clean.
Rum Whipped Cream
Pour the cold cream into a bowl. Using either an electric mixer or a regular whisk, beat the cream until soft peaks form.
Add the vanilla, sugar and rum. Beat until the cream forms stiff peaks.