By Wendy Rhein
Mom? Will you make that grape cake for me? The one with the orange zest glaze?
I swear, I almost welled up with tears at the very sound of these words coming from my 7-year-old. The very fact that he knows what zest is, or that a grape cake does not mean a bright purple Kool-Aid inspired out of the box cardboard flop topped with a tub of lard concoction, well, it was enough to send me sprinting into my tiny kitchen to start the baking.
In these modern times it is hard to get kids to eat real food. The temptations of fast food, sugared cereals, instant everything, is all around them. Encouraging them to seek out real foods for snacks and for meals is an ongoing project of mine and after several years I see the kinds of results that remind me that I’m winning the battle with McDonalds after all.
And never mind the temptations for kids, how about the temptations for us as working parents? Easy. Fast. Made by someone else. Cheap. Did I mention fast? How many nights have we all rushed in the door at 6:02 to nearly frantic hungry kids who have to be at a choir rehearsal at 7? Or have a soccer game at 7:30 and need to have enough power food to get through the third quarter? We’re already exhausted, but now we have to cook too? The McDonald brothers made it possible for us to have an out, a solution that will fill up their bellies and no one even has to get out of the car!
I have this mental image of Ronald McDonald, Colonial Sanders, that scary anthropomorphic Burger King guy and a Jack in the Box all sitting in a doomsday like bomb shelter, controlling the health and industrial food complex from some far off land. They sit around a dark, dank room, chain smoke hanging in the air like special sauce, planning the next 1000 calorie sandwich that we are all certain to eat. These are my bad guys, the ones I’m really scared of. With diabetes sweeping through middle schools, hypertension and heart disease tackling more and more of us every day, making smarter food choices for my family is one of the best, most core ways to say I love you, I cherish you, I want you to live the best life you can. Yes, it takes a lot more planning than organizing the take out menus in alphabetical order in a drawer (ahem, don’t mock). Yes, it takes prepping foods the night before in some cases, and power cooking on weekends to have go-to items ready for those crazy long days. But when I see my kids race to a bowl of tangerines instead of asking for cookies, or they chomp through a pound of sesame oil sautéed green beans at dinner, I sit back and know that all the effort is worth it.
And that grape cake?
It is really tasty. Try it with a glass of sweeter white wine and you’ll think you’ve done something decadent, instead of just making a cake your kid asked for.
Grape Cake and Orange Zest Glaze
(adapted from Epicurious)
2/3 cup sugar
4T butter, melted and at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup reduced fat milk
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4t baking powder
zest of one orange
1 1/4 cup purple grapes
juice of the zested orange
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a springform pan. Set it aside. In a mixing bowl set with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, 2-3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla and mix until blended together. Sift the flour, pinch of salt, and the baking powder in a bowl and add the zest. Toss to coat the zest. Spoon the flour into the wet ingredients and stir with the spoon until all the flour is blended in, make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down. Now leave it alone for about 10 minutes.
Slice the grapes in half lengthwise. Stir in about ¾ of them into the cake batter and then pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, open the door, and add the rest of the grapes on top of the cake. Continue to bake the cake until the top is deep gold and firm to the touch. The total baking time will be 50 – 55 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. After that, run a knife along the sides of the pan and release the springform. Top with the glaze (with a fork mix the juice of the zested orange with the enough powdered sugar to make a milky looking glaze.) and serve at room temperature.