I have a folder full of recipes written on scraps of paper, torn from magazines and newspapers, printed from emails my friends and family have sent me. I keep promising myself that I’ll organize them into a book or onto a computer file but so far that goal has eluded me. Yet I go back to many of these recipes again and again. The paper gets more and more crumpled and spattered with cooking ingredients. They have become old friends.
Harvest cake is one of those recipes. My daughter Barbara made it for me during a long-ago visit at their house and I so liked it that I phoned her after we got home to request the recipe. I’ve never re-written it from the original piece of paper on which I jotted it down all those years ago, but I’ve amended the ingredients to better suit my tastes.
I like recipes that use ingredients I keep in my pantry and I like them better still if they can be adapted to use up a bit of this or that. Harvest cake suits my needs exactly: I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand, and it affords me a means of using up the last bits of whatever seasonal fruit are residing in our fruit bowl. I’ve made this cake with rhubarb, soft fruits, berries, pear, and apples. I’ve even made it with sweet yellow tomatoes. I’ve never had it turn out badly.
To make Harvest Cake, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-1/2 cups finely diced fresh fruit (I used peaches this for the cake in the photos.)
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and stir it in just until incorporated. Follow with half the buttermilk. Continue to alternate the flour mixture and buttermilk, ending with the flour, mixing after each addition. It’s important not to over-mix the batter. It should be slightly lumpy.
Once the batter has been mixed, gently fold in the fruit pieces until they are distributed throughout the batter.
Turn the cake batter into a buttered 9-inch-square pan and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. The original recipe called for a baking time of 30 minutes but I find it can take longer—up to an hour—depending upon how much moisture the fruit adds to the batter.
Harvest cake makes a wonderful dessert, served warm, with ice cream. If you choose to let it cool, it can be topped with your favourite cream cheese icing.