Catherine Newman's Donut Cake

The recipe promised that if I made this cake, my house would smell like donuts. 

That was reason enough. 

So I made the cake. I beat the butter and sugar together, I was careful. I even sifted the flour. I put the cake in the oven. 

And I waited for my house to smell like donuts. 

It didn't. 

I wondered if it was because my nose had somehow gotten accustomed to the smell, so I stepped outside and crumpled sage and rosemary between my fingers, and smelled it, to try and freshen things up. And I came back inside, and for the briefest hint of a second, I could smell the donut smell-- like yeast and sugary glaze, which quickly faded into the background scent of my house and the eggs my father made for breakfast. 


Nothing is ever quite the way you think it will be. I don't know what I've expected for this summer, but it is different than I thought it would be. I don't know if I'm disappointed exactly, no disappointment can ever quite match the sadness of your house not smelling like donuts when it's supposed to, but there's a vague sense of something missing right now. And I'm not quite sure what it is. 

I wasn't quite sure what this cake would be like. 
It ends up that this is a very, very simple cake. 
A plain cake. There is no frosting, no extraneous steps. Just. Cake. It does not have the consistency of a donut. It does not waft donut smells, it's very name promises to be something that it's not. 

But you know what?

This cake is about as close to perfection as a truly simple cake can be. 

I think there is a moral or story here. 

I think I need to learn it good. 


Catharine Newman's Donut Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake
Darling, I am not kidding. This cake really is just beautiful. It would be especially lovely with some blueberries or strawberries, either mixed into the batter or served with a tall glass of cold whole milk or whipped cream. 
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, and set it aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition, then add in the vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with flour. Make sure each addition is incorporated before adding the next, but don't over-beat it at the end. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top.
4. Bake until the top is puffed and golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving warm or room temperature.