Sunday, February 10, 2008

Home Warming Cake

Today I visited Laura who just moved into a new house. I brought her a little plant which I decorated with paper butterflies and a variations of my lemon cake which in turn is a variation of a basic Madeira cake. This one, which I decided to call Home Warming Cake given the above sub-text, is enriched with spices (cardamon, cloves) and happiness, kindly of a sprinkle of turmeric. I cannot think of anything more warming to the soul that spices and yellow, and this is why my kitchen is painted yellow. I am not one for the bland, hence in the recipe that follows you will find unapologetic quantities of all ingredients. I wanted a cake deeply lemony and soft but with bite (hence the butter brick as opposed to a stick), a cake that is plain and simple but neither boring nor simplistic in taste. And do not worry about the rosemary; it won’t make it a rosemary cake and the quantity is just enough to complement the spices without bordering into savoury pie-land. The sprig is from my own thriving rosemary and since this is the first plant I ever had that is looking entirely great, I thought I'd mention it.

You’ll need:

250g of very, very soft unsalted butter
210g of caster sugar
220g of self-raising flour
90g of plain flour
3 eggs
grated zest of two lemons, plus their juice (or one lemon if yours is of orange proportions)
grated dark chocolate
3 cardamon pods
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
a 10cm sprig of rosemary
6 cloves

a loaf tin lined with corrugated baking liner (makes it neater and easier than cutting paper to fit, trust me)

You’ll do it like so:

pre-heat the oven to 170C degrees or equivalent. Cream the butter and sugar, then add all the lemon zest. Add one egg at a time with a couple of spoons of flour, then add all the remaining flour and all the lemon juice. I use an electric mixer with two little kneading hooks and takes no time at all. Crush the pods in a mortar and remove the skins. Add the turmeric and the rosemary which you will have cut into small specks (I do this with scissors and throw away the main stalk). Add all of this to the cake, mix some more, then grate the dark chocolate on top and sprinkle with demerara sugar. This will give a really crispy crust which is my favourite bit! Whack it all in the tin and then in the oven for approximately 50 minutes. And for crying out loud, do not check the cake every ten minutes, leave it in at least 45 minutes before opening that door. It will not burn. Take it out once it is well gold on top and you have tested with a stick.

It really pays to let this cool for at least two hours before slicing. In fact, get to it in the evening, cool it overnight and start the following day with a slice of happiness which tastes so good you won’t stop at one. This is tremendously complemented by a cup of Prince Vladimir tea which is both spiced and sweet.

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