I saw myself making a mad dash to Pets At Home on Monday morning to find a replacement, or, worse still, explaining to a roomful of weeping four-year olds why Abigail wasn’t coming back. The panic in my eyes must have been obvious. I was hastily reassured that Abigail was, in fact, a teddy who was weekending in the home of each pre-schooler in turn. She was pretty good in the kitchen as it happened, although I did have to prise the cooking brandy out of her hands on more than one occasion.I made an almond spice cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible this week. As well as almonds, it’s flavoured with cinnamon and cloves, and it has a layer of marzipan in the middle. I was making it for my aunt’s birthday. She loves all things marzipan, so this cake would be ideal.
I started with the marzipan. Having made it a few times before, with varying degrees of success, I decided to go with Delia Smith’s recipe. I’ve always had decent results with her recipe (plus it’s got brandy in it – a bit of booze will sway me every time).
I mixed icing sugar, golden caster sugar and a beaten egg, and whisked over a pan of simmering water. Since the last time I attempted marzipan, I’ve acquired an electric hand-whisk (my husband bought it to make a gorgeous passion fruit soufflé). I got to the thick and fluffy stage that usually takes ten minutes of hand whisking and fifteen recovery time in a few seconds. I should have got one of these ages ago, instead of wishing for Mrs Patmore’s arms.
I added almond extract to the mixture and then, accidentally, flooded it with brandy (I was supposed to use a teaspoonful and I don’t quite know what happened – maybe it’s me that needs watching and not the bear). I added ground almonds to the mix (I needed a lot more than the recipe amount because of the brandy) and kneaded the mixture until I had a firm paste. I took 100g of it (I had about 375g in all – I predict I’ll be trying several marzipan-based bakes in the next few weeks) and rolled out a circle to fit my cake tin.
For the cake itself, I mixed softened butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, baking power, cinnamon and ground cloves. I used the electric whisk again and got into a bit of a mess. I think I’ll reinstate the KitchenAid for cake mixes next time.
I spooned half of the mixture into my (greased and bottom-lined) cake tin, and then discovered that it was an inch bigger than the tin required by the recipe. It was too late, I was in too much of a mess, and I’d already rolled my marzipan to fit, so I didn’t attempt to search for a smaller tin. I put the marzipan on top and put the rest of the mixture on top of the marzipan. It went into the oven at 160° fan for an hour. I gave it a few minutes to cool in the tin, then turned it onto a wire rack. It looked OK.
Once it had cooled I topped it with a mixture of butter, light muscovado sugar and cream that I warmed together in a saucepan. It smelled lovely. I haven’t really notice before, but the muscovado is cigarette-paper smokey. Delicious.
It’s a really good tea-time cake, although it does taste sugary sweet, rather than almondish. Perhaps I should have added more almond extract as well as ground almonds to the marzipan. My aunt enjoyed it anyway which, for this cake, was all that really mattered.