I made a quick blueberry jam for the center, layered it in between layers of cake batter and swirled with hesitancy, barely incorporating the two. I turned the cake out of the pan and the bottom layer plopped out. A moat of deep-dark jam glued the crown of batter to the base of the pan.
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It was 95° F in my kitchen. The fire alarm was going off. I had spent two and half hours baking. I was feeling sorry for myself. I was having trouble with the whole "perspective" thing. So I cried. I cried about what was immediate and right in front of me and my fault and mine alone. I cried about what I could have fixed. I cried about something trivial but graspable, stupid but frustratingly immediate.
When I complained about my failure to Caroline, she told me, sensibly, to make it into a trifle. I refused. I needed to be angry about this; and at myself for this.
This is not what it's supposed to look like.
And then the next time I made it, the cake was right. Less blueberry jam, swiped into the cake batter with more assertion did the trick. The Bundt inverted onto the serving plate in one piece: an anti-climax. The tall slices, freckled with sesame seeds, ribboned with blueberry curlicues, tasted really good. But they were not world-changing. They were not right-making. They were not important enough to measure myself by. But they were as good a place as any to put my homeless emotions, at least for that moment.
And that first cake did turn into trifle—with orange zest and honey and whipped cream—just like Caroline suggested.
Now less about me, more about the cake:
The foundational cake here is lush and bronzed, a dessert with effortless summer glow. It's like the Genius Maialino Olive Cake, but with a bitter edge that bites back against sweetness.
It works without the blueberry swirl—which is a great option for the non-summer months (but try not to think about that yet!).
Instead of buttering the pan, you brush it with tahini, then sprinkle it generously with sesame seeds (I like a mix of black and white, but you can use all white if you'd like, or all black). Make sure to brush all the ins and outs of the pan thoroughly so that your cake does not stick. (You can also spray with nonstick spray for extra reassurance.)
For the jam layer, the blueberries get blitzed first, then cooked down with citrus juice and cornstarch. This reduces cooking time and means you don't have to transfer hot mush from your stove to your blender or food processor.
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