Grape-Cornmeal Snacking Cake

by rivka on October 17, 2013

in breakfast and brunch, cake, dessert, easy-as-a-1-2-3

Snacking cakes and I go way, way back. Our long history revolves mostly around languid summer Saturday afternoons, when lunch has long passed but dinner seems far away. Company is still over, we’re all sitting around a table, there are crumbs everywhere and half-empty cups of ice coffee with mostly-melted ice dribbling down the sides. But trust, there is snacking cake.

Summer has faded into fall, but that hasn’t stopped snacking cake from sticking around. I happened upon this specimen, plump with concord grapes, when looking for my usual focaccia recipe. Fortunately, with so many different kinds of grapes at the market, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I bought them all. That left me with enough for two focaccias plus this cake.

Right upfront, let me tell you that this cake bears a striking resemblance to cornbread. (If that’s not your jam, perhaps you’ll love this other snacking cake, my personal favorite.) It isn’t cornbread, per se: it’s a bit lighter and, well, cakier than your typical cornbread. But the genius touch here is the honey, which gets drizzled in but not fully mixed. The result is a thin thread of sweetness throughout the cake. The grapes on top also are key: they add some very important moisture, and when you bake the thing, they get plump and just shy of jammy.

Another honest moment: this cake is best when it’s just out of the oven. If you’re planning to bake it in advance, you’ll be far more enamored if you tuck it into the oven for one last spin before serving. You want those grapes warm, that crust crisp and steaming. Now that it’s fall, languid Saturday afternoons have plenty of room for a warm, toasty snacking cake.

Concord Grape Snacking Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

I made only minor adjustments to this recipe, mostly to indulge my preference for butter in pretty much anything. The recipe originally called for 4 T oil and 2 T butter, but I made it with all butter. If you’re more of an oil cake girl, go right ahead. Either way, it’s a no-mixer recipe. Aren’t those the best?

I will also confess to using a mix of Thomcord and Champagne grapes, those lovely hybrids with good flavor but no seeds. Concords have superior flavor, but as I sit there with a paring knife picking out each of the FOUR seeds from each grape, I get rather stabby and swear never to use them again. This time, I put my money where my mouth was, and I was much happier to eat the cake as a result.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter (or use 1/4 vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons butter)
6 tablespoons buttermilk (or substitute milk plus juice from half a lemon)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 a pound of grapes – Thomcord, Concord, Champagne, whatever you’ve got. But definitely red or black. De-seeded, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth and satiny. Add lemon zest and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add butter and/or oil; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. The drizzle in honey, and use a knife to swirl it into the cake without fully incorporating it.

Pour batter into prepared dish, and scatter half the grapes over cake batter.

Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly in pan. Serve warm.

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