I have been lazy in the kitchen. Last week, I cooked all of one (1) dinners, and you saw the soba noodles and tilefish on instagram if you follow. Though delicious, the meal was hardly ambitious. Partly I owe the lack of cooking to long summer days and fun plans. But we’re already picking up our CSA, which means there are vegetables in the fridge, which means I’ll be cooking again soon. I gotta!
This cake is for exactly that situation: when your motivation to cook clocks in lower than the percentage of your fridge occupied by seasonal vegetables and fruits. Maybe you picked up pints of cherries in a more ambitious moment than right now. Maybe you, too, are in a generously portioned CSA (great tips for using up CSA veggies in the comments here). Or maybe you come from the reverse angle, that you need to go to a party and bring a cake.
You’ve seen this cake before. The apricot-pecan version in these photos is another version of Grandma Esther’s Plum & Walnut Cake. When little plums are in season (September, round here), I make that. But in other seasons, I’ve found, the oil-based batter crisps up into a luxurious cake around any fruit, and any nut. That means cherries in July, peaches, in August, and plums in September. The flexibility also means that dried fruit works: plump dried apricots are a welcome addition in the colder months, and the add-in in the version of this cake I made for Food52.
Best of all, the cake, with its short ingredient list and delicious result, is an excellent one to remember should you be a houseguest this summer. Whip up your version with whatever fruit’s at the farm stand to impress and thank your hosts.
The Anything-Fruit Easy Summer Cake
Makes about 16 small pieces
1 cup neutral oil, like safflower
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup nuts (I like walnuts and pecans best), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh or dried fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9 x 9-inch baking pan and line the bottom with oiled parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil, sugar, and eggs. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet and fold in. Fold in the fruit and the nuts. Spread the batter in the pan.
Bake on the middle racks for about 1 hour, or up to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the top is crisp and brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted in comes out clean. Lower the heat by 25°F if the top is browning too quickly but the cake is still uncooked int he middle.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn the cake out onto a rack to cool.