The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? I wouldn’t disagree with that! But I think it’s also true of women and children, and I find that a slice of cake can bring out the best in us all. I’ve found a little cake goes a long way. It’s not just the eating of the cake that brings happiness; it’s the smell of that cake baking in the oven.
I love many kinds of delicious cakes – lemon meringue pie, black forest gateau, baked cheesecake… But these delights take time, and I am usually after a quick hit. This is why I’m returning to almost-forgotten goodies from my childhood. Like buns!
For quite a while, the American-style cupcakes, heavily laden with creamy toppings, seem to have taken over the bun market. Penny and Louis like to demolish the topping then casually hand over the (less interesting to them) cake bit to the nearest parent.
But what if the cake bit is the prize? What if we return to our roots and rediscover the humble queen cakes, the fairy cakes of our pasts? That incredibly simple but perfect mixture of butter, sugar, eggs and flour morphs into something so much greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s nothing fiddly about these treats, and they are quick to make and super cheap. Beat 110g sugar together with 110g butter, and whisk ’til pale and creamy. Add two lightly beaten eggs, bit by bit, and add a drop of vanilla essence if you like. Then fold in 110g of sieved self-raising flour, and maybe a spoon or two of milk if the mixture is dry. Line a twelve-bun queen-cakes tin with paper cases, pop the batter into each case, and bake for about 8-10 mins, and then feast. You can dollop a bit of icing on the top of these (icing sugar and water) but, really, they don’t need anything.
Using the same basic butter-sponge recipe and two punnets of blueberries that needed using up, I recently (accidentally) made an utterly delicious cake that I will definitely make again. After popping the sponge mix in the tin, I put the blueberries on top – note: this is a highly incorrect way to make a cake! They sank without trace to the bottom of the tin – but when the cake was baked, they’d turned themselves into the most mouth-watering jam at the base of the sponge. Win!
Red’s Blueberry Sponge
What you need
- 2 blueberry punnets
- 200g butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 free-range eggs, beaten
- Vanilla essence (optional)
- 200g self-raising flour, sieved
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp of milk
What you do
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and pale. Gradually whisk in the egg mixture (add a spoon or two of flour if the mix curdles). Add the vanilla essence if you are using it. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Spoon the sponge mixture into a greased and paper-lined 23-inch spring-form tin. Arrange the blueberries on top of the cake (good luck!). Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. To insure it’s fully cooked, insert a knife/skewer into the centre – when it’s withdrawn, the surface should be clean. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.