Recipe Review: Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake from 101 Cookbooks

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Until it showed up in the bulk bins at our local co-op, we had no idea that whole-wheat pastry flour even existed! When we asked what recipes we should try first, one of the recommendations was the salt-kissed buttermilk cake from Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks. This sounded good to us, so to the kitchen we went!

Here’s the recipe:

Preparing the cake was just as easy as Heidi promised – mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, spoon into baking dish, and into the oven it goes! Since we love its flavor, we browned the butter as Heidi suggests in the headnotes, and then we added blueberries as the fruit topping.

The cake looked simply beautiful when it came out of the oven, golden and marbled with juices from the berries. But when we cut ourselves a slice, the taste just didn’t seem to match. We were serving it for dessert at a small dinner party and after a few moments of thoughtful chewing, we all agreed that it was interesting, definitely, but not really something we’d want much more of.

The texture was fairly moist, though a bit crumbly and more like a dense soda bread than cake. Instead of the earthy, nutty flavor we’d been expecting, we thought it tasted flat and rather bitter. Normally we like a sprinkle of salt paired with sweet desserts, but here it felt distracting and misplaced without the contrasting sweetness. We were disappointed that none of the browned butter flavor came through (that we could tell) and wished we’d put more berries on top.

We’ve made plenty of successful recipes from Heidi’s site, so we really wonder if we did something wrong – left out the sugar or used too much baking powder? Maybe the bitter flavors came from pastry flour that was past its prime? Or maybe we’re just not used to whole wheat in a dessert recipe, so the flavor caught us off guard.

The whole experiment felt disappointing, and we’re trying to get up the gumption to give it another try. Have you made this recipe? What do you think?

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)