Vanilla Pine Nut Cake

My college had no campus, to speak of. It was in Washington, D.C. and was built simply around the blocks of Foggy Bottom. Most of the dormitories were converted apartment buildings. So my sophomore year, my dorm had a kitchen. Junior year, in addition to a kitchen, I became a vegetarian, and was no longer forced to be on the meal plan. I was also about 30 pounds heavier than when I'd started college. So it was at this point that I decided I needed to start cooking for myself. One of the first things I did was join a cookbook of the month club. And since I was trying to lose weight fast, I bought One-Pot Cakes by Andrew Schloss (and to think, I didn't even drink or do drugs in college, so the logic of a baking book being necessary to help lose weight was all mine). I bought this book in 1995 and, with the exception of an easy peasy mint frosting recipe using Peppermint Patties, which my mother used to send me every holiday, I'd never baked a single recipe from it. On Saturday, I wanted to make something. I had planned to make a Brownie Souffle cake from Pillsbury, but wasn't in the mood to wrestle with whipping meringues and folding them into the brownie batter. As I sat on the couch, staring forlornly at my cookbook rack, my eyes rested on One-Pot Cakes. If it's all capable of being made in one pot, I thought, it must be easy. At the least, it won't require me to whip whites, because that would require two pots. Flipping through I found several promising prospects, none of which required egg whites. I finally settled on the recipe for Vanilla Pine Nut Cake, since I had a huge bag of pine nuts sitting in the freezer from the pignoli I baked last Christmas. Surprisingly, the spice girls had left the pine nuts untouched in their nut-eating frenzy (2/3 of a pound of almonds and 1/2 pound of pistachios gone when we returned from vacation). 

The cake was incredibly easy to make, thanks to the fact that the butter is melted. From plopping the butter in the saucepot until pouring the batter into the prepared cake pan took 12 minutes - had I been more organized, it would've taken less. The batter is sprinkled with pine nuts and brown sugar and baked for 45 minutes. The cake comes out toasty (mine's a bit toastier, since my husband apparently cannot talk on the phone and listen for the timer beep at the same time) on top with a nice crumb that didn't crumble when sliced. The brown sugar melts in forming a light crumb-like topping. Nothing that you'll be able to pick off, ala Entenman's crumb cake, but along with the pine nuts, it gives a nice crunch. I only had 3/4 of a cup of vanilla yogurt so used sour cream to make up the difference. It didn't taste overpoweringly of vanilla to me, but that's generally a subtle flavor that I can't detect. My husband, however, says it did taste like vanilla. And thanks to Peabody, who unknowingly taught me that there is a lovely macro function on my digital camera that lets me take close up shots, so my photos will no longer be blurry, and for the wonderful cookies inspirations! I guess that manual really was supposed to be read, and not just tossed on top of my dresser for a year.

Total calories: 3176; Servings: Recipe says 12, I sliced 8; Whisks:3. Ingredients: 1 stick unsalted b utter; 1 cup granulated sugar; 1 cup lowfat or nonfat vanilla yogurt; 2 tsp vanilla extract; 1/8 tsp salt; 2 eggs; 1 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp baking powder; 2 cups flour; 1/3 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped (I left mine whole); 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and great an 8 inch layer pan. In large heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt teh butter, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the granulated sugar, yogurt, vanilla, salt and eggs. Add the baking soda and baking powder in pinches, breaking up any lumps with your fingers (I used a whisk). Stir in the flour until just blended. Pour batter into the pan and scatter pine nuts over top, pressing gently into the surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool for about 15 minutes more.