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I had an old great-aunt who resided in a swank corner of Buenos Aires when I was very small. Her memory is faded now, and blurrily intertwined with that cigarette-skinny lady from the Babar books. I do recall tea being a big to-do, with any number of finger sandwiches and delicate pastries elegantly served and tidily consumed. My mother and I observed teatime throughout my childhood, with white toast points spread with guava jelly and topped with cheese. Sometimes it was a simple cake.
Tea is not part of my daily routine, but every now and then I think of Buenos Aires, Babar, and my mother, and crave something sweet and nostalgic in the late afternoon. This cake is simple and filled whatever heart and hunger pangs hit me every so often. The crumb is compact and the flavor bare bones: all butter. This plain canvas supports tart blackberry preserves and a brown sugar-based crumb topping that includes fresh thyme leaves. Each bite is an uncomplicated blend of cake and fruit, with a whisper of herbs that adds a sophisticated touch.