"I'm so tired! This sucks! I should've got up at 3am when I had the chance and used that time to blog!" - a thing I just said, at 6.52am. With more imprecation. From which you could deduce that while I'm very dedicated to this blog, my brain is not always that dedicated to my being a human. Yes, my sleeping has become worse than ever, leaving me oddly nostalgic for the time when I was merely a terrible sleeper. Yes, I'm going to go see a doctor about it. Yes: I will talk about cake soon.
This weekend was the ideal mixture of ridiculous and spontaneous yet cosy and involving a lot of sitting down in my own house. There were spontaneous beers and a launch party and a photoshoot for a local magazine, but there was also a lot of Bob's Burgers and pizza, a trip to Holland Road to buy more yarn for exciting new knitting projects, and a Sunday evening watching Fire Walk With Me with some babefriends.
I needed some basil for the magazine photoshoot. They always come sheathed in plastic at the supermarket, so when I unwrapped it, it turned out I'd scored the most abundantly leafy plant. Basil in everything! Summer is coming! That, plus the fact that I wanted to bake something for the friends coming to watch the movie, but also knew we had dubiously meagre ingredients in the pantry, led to some creativity: A tin of black doris plums plus some sugar with an explosion of basil leaves in it might be the perfect early Spring cake. The wintry stewed plums, handily seasonal all year round in their can, plus the musky, smoky hint of summery basil - the faint spicy pepperiness of the leaves providing warmth while also heralding the warmer weather to come. Or something. I told you I haven't had much sleep. I stand by the use of "heralding" in regards to a cake.
I'm really sorry that this cake uses a food processor - if you can work out a way to get the basil all up on the sugar efficiently without one then by all means, do it, and then mix the rest of the ingredients by hand. In my defense, I do have a lot of recipes that don't require a food processor. And you could always hunt around for a friend who does have one, then make this at their house and eat it with them. Cake! Bringing people together. Though: the food processor thing means that this is ready to go in about ten minutes with a minimum of fuss.
The cake is sweet, yet headily perfumed, yet still very straightforward and not requiring too much defensive explanation. The plum syrup in the icing really doesn't add any extra flavour, but it does become a fantastically molten-fancy-lipstick colour which looks rather beauteous with the extra basil leaves strewn artlessly (haha, I arranged them SO carefully, with instagram in mind) over the top, their rich green even more glowingly vivid against the pink. Speaking of glowing vividly, Fire Walk With Me was equally hilarious, distressing, and terrifying, as though David Lynch had set out to make a parody David Lynch film. It did have a cameo by David Bowie, but - cruellest blow - the character James was in it heaps. James, you're so dull. No wait, the cruellest blow of all - no Audrey Horne.
a recipe by myself
150g sugar1/2 cup (very loosely packed) basil leaves
150g butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
1 400g tin of plums
1/2 cup icing sugar
Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a 20cm springform caketin with baking paper.
In a food processor, blend the sugar and basil leaves until the leaves are all dispersed and chopped up and the sugar is flecked with green. Throw in the butter and process again till the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is fluffy and light, then throw in the eggs, flour, and baking powder and process again to a thick batter. Pour in the milk and process again. Roughly slice the plums (or kind of hack them apart with a spoon, which is what I did) and add them to the mixture. Spatula all of this into the cake tin and bake for around 40 minutes. Truthfully: I lost track of time at this point and wasn't watching the clock, so it may be closer to 50 minutes. Once cool, mix together the icing sugar with a tablespoon or three of the canned plum syrup and drizzle it over the cake. Scatter over basil leaves if you like. They're more decorative than necessary for flavour, as the sugar provides all you need. So remove them before eating, if you like.
Tonight - adding somewhat to my general state of "whoa, um, okay" - Tim and I are flying up to Auckland for my cookbook launch party tomorrow. Want to come along? Email me! It will be MC'd by Rose Matafeo and I will be making a speech and there will be snacks and drinks and books for sale and really, none of that is concerning me so much as how I'm agonising over what to wear. Got to look fancy and Auckland-ready, but not like I'm trying too hard, but also spectacular. Which is an issue: trying too hard is one of my signature looks. I really am so, so very excited though - I will make sure there are plenty of photos and so on from the night to share with you all.
Wish me luck! Just kidding, I make my own luck.
title via: Beastie Boys, Ch-check it Out. I love these guys so much. Not least because they're always talking about food.
David Dallas, Runnin' - really feeling the lyrics and the beat and the chords and everything in this song. I mean like in a "I relate to this sentiment really hard" kind of way.
Icona Pop, I Love It. I don't care, I love it. Sometimes you just want to shout that really loud.
Porcelain Raft, Drifting In and Out. Let's get dreamy. Thanks to Amy for mentioning it in the first place.
Next time: better have slept. Will be reporting back from my launch party. Reporting on its massive, amazing success, I hope!