AT SEA, en route to Alaska, via Vancouver and Victoria, Canada — A genial group of Cambrians and other Central Coasters were escorted from the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street by Diana and John O’Regan of San Simeon Travel directly to the Crystal Symphony cruise ship at the international pier in San Francisco. My sister Erica joined us there from Burlingame and was told, “Yes, I just checked your sister in 15 minutes ago — long white hair, right?”
Small world, isn’t it? And a shipload of 860 passengers and 560 crew comprised but a small village, almost all of whom soon became more than passing acquaintances — as in “ships passing in the night,” ’scuse the pun. Thanks to Alex Ferguson at the travel agency, my sister and I were ensconced amidships near the waterline, so experienced a lot of convenience and very little discomfort when we bucked the California current’s 7-10 foot swells our first night out.
We all were blessed with a dining staff that was more than happy to serve with unpretentious and gracious hospitality and humor. Table No. 2 became a beachhead for most of us as we mixed and matched with several other options for dinner and lunch. It also became noted for the hilarity — more on that next week.
As usual, I got lots of pictures of our companions and the marvelous scenery as well as lots of pictures of our meals — allowed for an avowed food editor. (It wasn’t until the fourth day that I presented my “credentials” to the headwaiter, so that had no influence on our special service.)
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Needless to say, I really enjoyed my research, sampling what the chef would provide that I could not usually prepare. We had some little tarts which varied in the topping each day, and I knew I had the perfect recipe to adapt for a cake-let which would be dense enough to support different glazed fruits. My friend Marty Main had baked her family’s favorite Sunday brunch dessert, and brought me a slice of this:
Marty’s Tuscan Cake
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup butter
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Butter for pan
- 1/3 cup almonds, peeled and sliced thinly
- 4 tblsp. granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tblsp. milk
- 1 tblsp. all-purpose flour
In a large mixer bowl, beat eggs and sugar until very light, smooth and fluffy. Melt butter and allow to cool. Add flour (That IS the right amount) to egg mixture and stir in melted butter. Pour batter into an 8-inch lightly buttered and floured pan. Bake on the middle rack in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the almonds finely. Prepare the glaze in a small saucepan — combine sugar, butter, milk and flour; bring to a boil, stirring constantly so mixture does not burn. Add almonds. Remove cake from oven and carefully spread with glaze.
Bake for another 10-12 minutes until slightly brown and crispy on top. Marty turned up the oven to 360 degrees for this step and placed a sheet under to catch any drips of glaze as it caramelized, watching carefully through the oven’s glass door until just right. Allow to cool or serve warm. Makes eight servings, plenty for friends and neighbors.
To replicate the ship’s tarts, I bake the batter in mini cupcake pans for about 15 minutes, and remove them from the pan when cooled. Substitute for the almond topping glazed lychee or mandarin oranges, using the canned fruit simmered in apple jelly. Dock the cakes with a fork, and drizzle with a little of the juice to enhance the flavor. Top with one or two fruits. You may also use fresh blackberries, raspberries or strawberries simmered in simple syrup.
For some of the highest quality and most unique treats I hope to see you this Saturday, July 30, on the Great Kitchens of Cambria tour to benefit Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Their recipe book has been updated and will also be for sale.
Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria. Please send your recipes to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA; or e-mail to email@example.com.