Upon reflection, I’ve recently copped to the fact that I am a total cake-pusher. To my mind, there is no occasion that is not improved by the addition of cake. Not just birthdays or weddings, though there’s little I love more than coming up with just the right birthday confection for a friend. And I maaay have bullied at least a few couples into having cakes at their weddings that would otherwise have forgone this sweetest of nuptial traditions. (“Think of the pictures!” I say, and I mostly mean it.)
But beyond those obvious events, cake should still always be welcome. Whether a humble loaf that lengthens a quiet afternoon tea with a friend or a grandiose, beglittered tower shining over a swanky soiree, cake is the sweet exclamation point to so many of life’s adventures, big or small.
This cake, flavored with tarragon and grapefruit, is a perfect harbinger of spring. But I’ll always think of it as engagement cake. Like my recent engagement to the lovely (and long-suffering) Mr. T, this cake also took a while to come together, but was ultimately very worth it. How, though, are they related?
Well, I popped the question to a (relatively) unsuspecting Mr. T the day he became an American citizen, which happened to fall on the week of our 11th anniversary and Valentine’s Day. (So trite I promise you it was an accident…) After our celebratory dinner we came home to a box of Recchiuti chocolates, our traditional Valentine’s Day indulgence.
As we generally do, we each selected a chocolate and cut them in half to share. Our favorite new piece was the tarragon ganache topped with a piece of candied grapefruit peel. Even in the chocolate, both flavors were pure and strong and really, really good together. I resolved to recreate the the pairing in some other form as soon as possible… which, of course, wasn’t till last week. In my defense, though, researching wedding venues is no small chore, and I also had to candy some grapefruit peel to start with.
Having candied the grapefruit peel a few weeks ago (here’s my take on candied orange peel, just use grapefruit instead), I finally got my act together to bake the actual cake last weekend. I wanted to serve it as an accompaniment to the grapefruit-lemon honeycomb I had planned for our secular spring chocolate bunny luncheon (you know the one…). The pairing proved a winning one, but the cake is quite amazingly good on its own.
As with the chocolate that inspired it, the cake’s combination of flavors is unusual and invigorating. The tarragon’s sweet, grassy, anise notes provide a dynamic counterpoint to the grapefruit’s bittersweet citrus tang. Delicious uniqueness aside, this is a perfectly behaved tea cake as well–moist and long-lived–and it pairs perfectly with an afternoon cuppa.