Like my grandfather, I like the solitude early morning offers at the cabin. I get up before anyone else and brew a pot of coffee. We still use a percolator there and I hover over it in anticipation, watching the liquid hit the glass top with a welcoming rhythm, becoming darker with every perk.
While it perks, I assemble a few coffee cups, a creamer and the box of sugar cubes. Everything goes on the island, an old butcher block that was my brother’s and is set atop a small cabinet my father brought from home.
I fill a thermos with hot water the way my grandfather did and when the coffee is ready I pour one or two cups from the pot in to mugs and the rest goes into the thermos.
The coffee is strong and rich. We add half and half and sometimes a sugar cube to it, which we never do at home.
I drink my coffee out on the porch, where it tastes best no matter what the weather or temperature is. From that vantage point, I can watch the sun come up from behind the canyon and spread across the tops of the hills or track the fog as it rolls in from the west.
A few years ago we started baking something to have in the morning with our coffee. Sometimes it’s sweet like a brownie. Other times it’s a breakfast treat.
One of my favorites is something I call Cabin Cake. The base is a buttermilk cake from “Food & Wine” that we loved so much I began adding different ingredients to disguise the fact that I was making the same cake.
I’ve baked it with banana and chocolate chips; oatmeal and leftover cranberry chutney from Thanksgiving; and lemon zest and applesauce. This version has dried cranberries and oatmeal.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Add the granulated sugar and rotate the pan to distribute the sugar evenly over the bottom and sides. Shake off any excess and pour out. Refrigerate.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan lightly until the butter begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Let cools slightly.
In a large bowl, beat the browned butter with the brown sugar with a whisk or electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Beat in the buttermilk and dry ingredients in alternating batches, one-third at a time. Gently fold the bananas, oatmeal and dried cranberries into the batter just until blended, then scrape into the cold cake pan.
Scatter the 1 1/4 cups of blackberries over the batter; lightly press them in. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar over the cake. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a plate. Set another plate on the bottom and turn right side up. Let cool. Serve with coffee.