I went back to the Hummingbird Bakery this week and made the maple and walnut streusel cake from Home Sweet Home. It’s a cake I always stop at when I’m flicking through the book and I can’t put my finger on why I haven’t tried it. Maybe it’s because it’s baked in a ring tin, which I’ve never used before, or maybe it’s because it involves decoration – only a minimal amount of glaze drizzling – but that’s been enough to put me off in the past.
The tin specified in the recipe is a 25cm diameter non-stick ring cake tin. I couldn’t find one. I think there was only one ring cake tin in the whole of Leamington Spa. I found it in The Cookshop, and it was 23cm diameter. I bought it. Perhaps, if I made the cake with the quantities set out in the recipe, there would be a lot more than usual left over for the spoon lickers and bowl scrapers in the house. Only me on baking day. Brilliant.
The first step of the recipe was to make the streusel. I had no idea what streusel was. I looked it up. It’s a topping for cakes made of flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon and chopped nuts. For this cake it was made by rubbing brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together in a bowl and then adding chopped walnuts. Here’s what it looked like. Crumbs. To make the cake I creamed together 170g of butter and 250g caster sugar. There’s a section at the back of Home Sweet Home called Methods and Techniques. In relation to sponge cakes, it says that butter and sugar should be creamed together for five minutes or more. I gave it five in the KitchenAid on level 4. I’m afraid to go any higher because there’s a bolt on the neck of the machine that has a tendency to shoot out at high speeds. This was how light and fluffy my mixture looked when the five minutes was up.
I added eggs (3 large) one at a time to the mixture. These were followed by vanilla extract and 280g of sour cream. I sifted the dry ingredients together (450g plain flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and half a teaspoon each of bicarbonate of soda and salt) and added them to the mix.
According to the recipe, half of the streusel mix goes into the cake tin, followed by half of the cake mixture, followed by the other half of the streusel, and finished off with the remaining cake mixture. Since my tin was a bit smaller than the one specified in the recipe I didn’t use half of the streusel for each streusel layer, but I did find that I had to use both halves of the cake mixture to fill the tin to the required two-thirds full. Bad news for the bowl scraper.
I’d checked and double checked that I had the oven at the right temperature after my mistake with the Simnel cake last week. Home Sweet Home doesn’t have fan oven temperatures set out in the recipes. The Equipment section at the back of the books tells you to read the manufacturer’s instruction booklet for fan ovens – Really? For those of us that don’t have the instructions it says reduce the recipe temperature by 10%. I just went with the 20 degrees lower rule and set the oven at 150 degrees. Far less complicated.
The cooking time in the recipe is 50-60 minutes. My cake needed the whole 60 even though it was in a smaller tin. While the cake was still in the tin, I soaked it with maple syrup and allowed it to cool. It came out of the tin looking like this.
I made the glaze by mixing 170g icing sugar with four tablespoons of maple syrup and two of water. Once the cake had cooled, following the recipe, I put it on a wire rack over a baking dish and coated the cake with the glaze. I had to do this at least three times before the glaze became anywhere near the shiny opaque topping in the Hummingbird’s version, but here’s my finished cake.
It’s actually not that unlike the cake in the book, although the Hummingbird glaze is a brilliant white – mine was a light brown/coffee kind of colour.
I’ll definitely be making this cake again, and the only thing I would do differently is make less of the streusel mixture (I think this makes it my most successful cake so far). The maple syrup in the cake and the glaze had a sweet, woodsy taste that was lovely with the vanilla sponge and the cinnamon and walnuts in the streusel. It’s a really comfy kind of cake. One for a rainy Saturday afternoon curled up on the sofa (probably still in pyjamas) watching Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman, or back-to-back episodes of Dawson’s Creek Season Three.