It’s been raining a lot over here. April showers have come early, or maybe they’re winter rains that lost their way. Normally I like rain, especially after a dry winter that made me think I’d forgotten the sound of rain on the roof. In typical be-careful-what-you-ask-for-fashion, I am totally re-familiarized with rain. I still like the rain, particularly when I’m inside reading a book in my favorite spot on the couch. I’m not such a big fan anymore when I have to take my apparently hydrophobic dog out three times a day and stand for about 10 minutes outside convincing her to do her business.
So I’m ready for spring. And what better harbinger of sunshine than this package of dried apricots I got on my doorstep from Enduring Sun?
Apricots have such a maddeningly short season for such a jewel of a fruit. The alternative is to used more readily available dried apricots, but the quality of dried apricots is frustratingly variable; oftentimes they fall short of the memories in my mind’s eye of their fresh, ripe counterparts.
Thus, I was excited to get some samples of these apricots from Enduring Sun, the same brand that was featured in a Lucky Peach article(if that paean to apricots didn’t make you want to run out and find some fresh apricots, you have a heart of stone). These apricots are heirloom varieties from Tajikistan, carefully dried to preserve their moistness and flavor.
I received four different varieties: the Valentina, Larissa, Jelena, and Natasha. As you can see, they differ in size, color, texture, and yes, taste. I think it’s long overdue to see dried fruit represent the quality and characteristics of their fresh forebears: probably the reason I was never super enthusiastic about dried fruit was that they seemed like faded shrink-wrapped memories of the real thing (when you live in the Bay Area, it’s easy to be spoiled).
These apricots were delightfully plump and tender, and tasted like fruit, not just sugar. The Jelena and and Valentina (top two in the photo) had a nice, nuanced balance of sweet and tart. My favorite, though, was the Natasha – they had a wonderful soft yet chewy texture, and a really pure apricot flavor – I really felt like I was eating apricots, and not mystery fruit leather.
Although I could have eaten them all myself, I thought I should probably use some of them in a dessert. I was craving something simple and comforting to eat by a rainy window, and could be made without having to venture out again into aforementioned rain, so after rummaging around in the kitchen cupboards I came up with this butter cake with a apricot cream cheese topping and cinnamon streusel. The cake is rich and buttery and spiced with cinnamon and cardamom. The cream cheese adds sweetness, the streusel the crunch, because I’m currently into crunchy layers in my desserts. The apricots add some bright little grace notes to this cake.
Not bad while I’m waiting (along with my dog) for the real sun to come back out.
- 1 cups (140 g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup (56 g) whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Filling
- 8 oz (227 g) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (76 g) sugar
- 1 large egg
- About 6-8 dried apricots, diced into small pieces
Streusel Crumb Topping
- 1 cup (125 g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 1/2 g) salt
- 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-in pieces
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan.
- Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together in stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined.
- Combine milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Add flour mixture and milk mixture to mixer in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture, beating just until combined.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan. Set aside while you make the toppings.
For the cream cheese topping:
- Combine the cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until soft and combined. Add the egg and beat until combined.
- Add the apricots and stir to combine. Set aside while you make the streusel.
For the streusel:
- In a food processor, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine.
- Add butter and mix until crumbly and the butter pieces are very small. If you squeeze the mixture together, it should hold together in small lumps.
- Pour the cream cheese topping over the cake batter and carefully spread evenly over the top.
- Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cream cheese topping.
- Bake cake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool on wire rack before removing springform ring and serving.