Monday, February 13, 2006

"A simple cake to serve with summer fruit"

This weekend we didn't host any lunches or dinners so it was high time to catch up on some baking. This cake is one of the goodies I got to make. I baked so Elliot could take some goodies to school and this cake I brought to work today to celebrate two birthdays for some of my team members, one birthday last week and one today.

The photograph below is how I decided to serve my cake, with double cream and peaches and nectarine poached in vanilla syrup. It was a hit!
When I would first opened the cake carrier, we were hit by the fragrance of zested lime, and then the richness of peach. The cake itself has a smooth velvet texture (due to the ground almonds) punctuated by small pieces of dried peach.

For some time I have been wanting to bake a cake that I research and choose myself. I am hoping this cake might serve as inspiration for someone else to try to make. I am usually on the receiving end, being inspired by so many of the wonderful food blogs out there, just for once I want to be derivative of one source rather than two.

Since Christmas last year I have acquired a few new cookbooks; "Simply Bill" Bill Granger , "How to be a domestic goddess"Nigella Lawson, Jill Dupleix "Very Simple Food" and Nigel Slater's "Appetite" plus a subscription to the very excellent "Delicious". I spent a bit of time pouring over recipe books in search of, for a change, a non-chocolate cake. Summer fruit and stone fruit in particular abound at the moment at marvelous prices so I wanted to make something that would also incorporate peaches and nectarines.

I had made some of Nigel's dishes over the past few weeks so I thought, his recipes usually only consist of four or five ingredients and are fuss-free. You would think with a title like this "a simple cake to serve with summer fruit" and in addition qualified with Nigel's comment "absurdly easy to make" how could I go wrong . One other thing I like about his recipes are the slight variations he lists for each dish - so you can certainly play to some extent with his recipes but he suggests that the basic elements for cake should be adhered to. One of the reasons why I keep to recipes with cakes is I consider baking to be first and foremost a science.

Well having made this cake, I have to say that I think the title is a tad misleading because this cake involves are a number of steps and processes, it starts very familiarly - creaming butter and sugar, but there is also processing dried fruit, lightly beating four eggs, zesting and squeezing the juice of a lemon, combining flour and ground almonds then incorporation of the lightly beaten eggs a bit at a time, combining the flour a third at the time.... well I think you have the picture and you will hear all about it in the instructions.

butter 250g
caster sugar 250g
a lemon - organic or unwaxed
ground almonds 75 g
plain flour 100g
soft-dried apricots - 100g (I used some dried peaches I had in the pantry instead)
eggs- 4 large free range, lightly beaten

A shallow 23cm cake tin (I used a deeper 20 cm cake tin as I did not have the required one) the base lined with baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4.

Grate the zest from the lemon and squeeze its juice. Mix the ground almonds and flour together, then whiz the apricots in a food processor until they are very finely chopped. Nigel suggests that the the dried fruit be finer than candied peel - almost but not quite a puree. While I didn't get my dried peaches that fine, I don't think it was to the detriment of the texture of the cake at all.

Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until white and fluffy. Add the lightly beaten eggs to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, with the beater on slow. Turn the machine off and add the lemon zest and a third of the almonds and flour, then turn the mixer on slow until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the second and then the third lot of almonds and flour, switching the machine off each time. If you do this too quickly you will end up with a heavy cake.

Lastly, with the machine still on slow, mix in the lemon juice and the apricots. Transfer the mixture to the lined cake tin with a spatula, gently smooth the top as you go and bake the cake till firm to touch. Nigel suggested about 35 minutes, mine took a little bit longer due to the deeper cake tin probably 10 minutes more. Test the cake by inserting a thin metal skewer into the centre; if it comes out clean, without any cake mixture attached then the cake is ready otherwise bake a bit longer.

Nigel suggests running a palette knife around the edge of the tin and turning the cake out on to icing sugared greaseproof paper. Peel off the lining paper, then flip the cake back on to a plate.

I, however, cooled the cake on a rack then made a thin white icing and let it drip slowly at whim down the side of the cake ("run carelessly" is Nigel's instruction) .

I also decided to add the extra embellishment of the zested lime, though next time I would wait for the icing to set before adding it to the top. I thought it might look a bit like I put some herb or grass bits on top, but everyone at work really liked the lime touch.

Nigel suggested that the cake is wonderful served with poached fruit, especially pears, greengages (don't know what they are), apricots or rhubarb - or with thick yoghurt.

Having now made and eaten the cake, I am wondering whether Nigel meant "simple" as in simple flavours there is nothing complex about the flavour of this cake. I find the smell of citrus evocative and whets my appetite - I served it with the poached fruit a little more complex with its vanilla syrup, my friends who were not even keen on the fruit tried it and thought it a wonderful addition.

The verdict: ultimately this not so simple cake is worth every bit of effort.


Niki said...

I also have that book and remembered that recipe too late when I was looking for something to make for my grandmother's lunch party. I ended up making the dense almond cake from Domestic Goddess (the one with a block of marzipan in it) to which I added lemon juice and zest. Nice! But I looked at this recipe as well and have it high on my list. I like your lime addition.
The chocolate cake in "Appetite" (final recipe) is also excellent. I made it to the variation he lists in his preface, with wholemeal flour. I posted about it for a SHF last year. Highly recommended!

Lushlife said...

Hi Niki thanks for dropping by, I would love to see what your interpretation of this cake will be as I think your embellishments are always worthwhile.

I will try that chocolate cake in "Appetite" too and have a look on you site for it.

augustusgloop said...

Yum! I love lime anything and those icing drips look so delicious. It sounds a little complex but definitely worth it.

cin said...

you've certainly inspired me with this post. i love the look of the lime zest too.

Lushlife said...

Thanks AG and Cin, for dropping by and usually I would say that lime is one of my most favourite accents too. I am feeling most uninspired today by food as I have picked up a tummy bug. As I said to my friend at work tomorrow I must be sick, I don't even want lunch. When I can stomach the look of food again I will be able to post and check on what everyone else is up to.

anna v said...

Greengages are a small green plum rather like mirabelles. At their best, they are exquisite. The closest thing I have seen here are the Californian sugar plums which seem to be in season for about a week in Woolies.

They don't travel well and are best eaten straight from the tree.

I must read Rumer Godden's _Greengage Summer_ again. ;)

Lushlife said...

Thanks Anna, I was sure someone knew what they are. But you mention mirabelles another fruit I have not heard of. I will have to google them when I get time.

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Mother of two with one of each. Wife of one.Dogless. Busy working five days a week, baking and cooking when time allows. Writing rarely these days. Wishing I had time to read more often.