Uncake

Jasmine tea-steep Plum and Ginger cake, ready to end the meal.
Jasmine tea-steep Plum and Ginger cake, ready to end the meal.

So, not sure if you’ve picked up on this or not, but I really like cakes. I know, so unexpected. Cakes are special in the dessert category because they’re so versatile. They can be quite formal and elegant–perfect little super models of artistry and design– but they can also be the epitome of relaxed, down-home comfort that you might find at your grandmother’s house. A soft, tender cake with a slightly dense crumb and not-too-sweet frosting humbly applied can feel like curling your feet beneath you on the softest couch and talking with a best friend. And no, of course I don’t have issues with food as comfort–what would make you think that?

Jasmine tea-steeped plums fan around the bottom of the cake pan on a bed of brown sugar and melted butter.
Jasmine tea-steeped plums fan around the bottom of the cake pan on a bed of brown sugar and melted butter.

Anyway. Sometimes you want a cake somewhere in between the above polar opposites. Sometimes you need something that is special enough to say “I’m so glad you’re here!” yet simple and unfussy enough to say “you are close enough friends that showy pretense would be offensive”. For such occasions, you need an uncake.

Last night we had the pleasure of the company of our good friends Gregg and Brenda. It has been so long since we’ve seen them, but as it is every time we see them, the second they walk into the door, there is no gap, no space in between–just happy chatter that leads to catching up that leads to sincere conversations and real listening. It’s always a treat to spend time with them.

It was a simple dinner of Broccoli Beef Stir Fry and I usually struggle with an appropriate dessert choice following Asian cuisine. How to best honor and harmonize with the elegant, nuanced flavors of dinner in a satisfying way that is elegant but not over-the-top? Something simple but not still-in-your-pajamas-at-noon.

Jasmine tea-steeped black plums sprinkled with candied ginger.
Jasmine tea-steeped black plums sprinkled with candied ginger.

I made a Jasmine tea-steeped Plum and Ginger cake and happily, it was a perfect ending to our summer dinner on the patio. As a single layer, unfrosted cake, it is simple and comfortable. But with the lovely fan of jasmine tea-steeped black plums gracing the top of this upside-down cake, it brings a subtle elegance to the table. The cake is soft and tender with a firm enough crumb to withstand the plums and butter-browned sugar glaze that creates small tunnels of deliciousness. Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and it very nicely hit that sweet spot of just-elegant-enough and simple, unpretentious deliciousness, the delicate, exotic flavors harmonizing with the evening’s flavors like a song bird in the light of the setting sun. A perfect evening for a simple, sophisticated uncake.

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