Let Them Eat: Winter's Bounty Breakfast Cake
As anyone with a CSA membership knows, winter can be a season of consistency; when you open your produce box, you'll find a regular selection of kale, beets, fennel root, carrots, celeriac, parsnips, and other cold-weather goodies. I'm 100% pro-hearty greens and root vegetables, but even I can only make so many root purees and creamy, cheesy gratins. After a while, I start craving change.
This cake is an ode to my winter veggie box, putting to use all the vegetables that have been languishing in my root cellar (read: forgotten in the bottom drawer next to my refrigerator). By sharing this recipe, I'm hoping I can help you put to good use all those little roots that have been tucked away for weeks because your family threatens mutiny at the mere mention of one more roasted beet or carrot.
I opted to use half cake flour in this dish, as the lower protein content makes for a finer texture that holds solid chunks, such as walnuts and dried cranberries, more effectively in its clutches. I did want to keep a little of the chewy gluten that all purpose flour brings to the table, hence the half-and-half mixture.
Why a breakfast cake and not a crazy-sweet dessert concoction? When it comes to winter, I'm not always feeling the huge, lofty tower of flour which many bakeries turn out on a regular basis. Sure I love a superlative layer cake, but during the cold, short days of February I'm searching for comfort, not just a binky for my inner four year old's sugar cravings.
You'll like this cake if you're looking for something that's sweet enough for breakfast but not instant-cavity sweet. It's tender of crumb and incredibly comforting, but if you are looking to add a bit more sugar for a full-blown dessert, you can easily pour a little glaze over the top and voila! Dessert course!
This cake is hugely forgiving. It can be made with all AP flour, or all cake flour, or even whole wheat flour if you're looking for some added bulk. You can make it with all carrots or beets or even zucchini, and you can toss in a teaspoon of whatever flavoring you prefer if you want to change it up a bit (I like cinnamon and coriander). If you prefer, try making this cake in a bundt pan for an interesting presentation, but you'll have to carefully gauge your baking time to suit whatever size pan you're using.
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About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts. She publishes a monthly culinary newsletter full of stories, review, and helpful tips, and teaches home bakers how to make gourmet desserts in her online pastry classes.