"Sing in me Muse, and through my tell the story
Of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy."
I wanted to bake on vacation, but of course forgot to pack my fancy delicate cake stands and spring form pans (woops). But who doesn't like a challenge, right? This bake is inspired by one of my favorite beach reads, Homer's Odyssey. I lug this book, complete with my notes from Freshman English class, to the beach each year.
Right about now I can hear you collectively groaning, thinking, "Mmmk Haley, sure you do. Please try and get even more pretentious right now." Yeah, I know what it sounds like. But it's true.
Try it: Plop your beach chair in the surf, flip through the Odyssey, and tell me the poetry doesn't snap into focus with the sand between your toes and the hazy blue horizon stretching out before you.
"But now a breeze came up for us astern-- a canvas-bellying landbreeze, hale shipmate sent by the singing nymph with sun-bright hair; so we made fast the braces, took our thwarts, and let the wind and steersman work the ship with full sail spread all day about our coursing, till the sun dipped, and all the ways grew dark upon the fathomless unresting sea."
When I imagined a cake at Odysseus' table, I pictured something like this (maybe with another tier or two): a rich fruit cake sweetened with honey and piled high with stone fruit and pistachios. I adopted the recipe from this beautiful fig cake at Cake Crumbs & Beach Sand. I so badly wanted to top this cake with figs! But fresh ones are hella hard to find, so I opted for nectarines instead.
IngredientsFor the cake:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup espresso, cooled
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped
For the topping:
200 gram tub Mascarpone cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
3 ripe nectarines
Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Place the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, honey, eggs, espresso, and vanilla extract. Add the wet to the dry, and mix until well combined.
- Carefully fold in the chopped apricots and pistachios.
- Pour into a greased 8x8 cake tin, and bake for 35-40 minutes until gold brown. Allow to cool completely.
- For the cream: Beat the mascarpone cheese, cream, and sugar with a stand mixer or a whisk until thick and billowy. A whipped cream texture.
- Pit and slice the nectarines into eighths. Pile the cream onto the cooled cake top, then arrange slices as you please. Sprinkle with pistachios. When ready to serve, drizzle with remaining honey and enjoy immediately. Without the additional honey, the cake will last while covered in the fridge for 1-2 days.
(The Odyssey is the epic story of the Greek warrior Odysseus and his extremely round-about journey home from war. For 20 years, a few poorly-timed sea monsters, pissed-off gods, and sea witches block his homecoming. It's a tale of resilience, fate, heroism, cleverness, and above all else, revenge. Heavier stuff than most beach reads, but there's no better place to dig in to its 3000-year-old goodness than by the sea.)