It’s back to the blog this week after a bit of a break. It’s been a time thing. Back in September I imagined that, with my little boy at school five days a week, I’d have more time for baking and photographing and writing about it. Turned out I was being ultra-naive. With a three o’clock pick up time, I don’t have time to make complicated things any more (unless I can spread them over several days) and taking photos has become really difficult, given that I have to be on the look out for the sticky fingers that are itching to “help”.
For the next few weeks, I’ve decided not to be particularly adventurous, I’m going to try a few of the more basic things in my books. If I can make a fine marjolaine or fraisier surely I I’ll be able to manage a cherry cake, lemon drizzle or scones. Let’s see shall we?
I decided to start with a cherry cake. I used a recipe for English cherry cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I had all of the ingredients already so a trip to the shops wasn’t required. What a relief after the expedition I’d had trying to find yuzu juice. The recipe also only had four instructions. What could go wrong?
Step one: I greased and lined my cake tin and put the oven on.
Step Two: I quartered 200g of glacé cherries, rinsed them, drained them and dried them with kitchen paper. I knew that I had to dry the cherries really well to prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake. I had an inkling that I hadn’t done this well enough, but I had used half a roll of Bounty so I decided to stop.
Step three: I sieved self-raising flour and baking power into a bowl, added ground almonds, softened butter, caster sugar and eggs and beat everything together. Mary Berry’s instructions say you should do this for a minute. She doesn’t say what you should do it with. A wooden spoon, an electric mixer, the KitchenAid? I don’t know why , but I used a wooden spoon and beat the mixture until my arm felt as though it was going to spontaneously combust – about 10 seconds. I had a rest and carried on until I’d accumulated a minute of beating time. Next time I’ll be using electricity.
I folded in about two-thirds of the cherries (I was keeping some back to poke into the top since I wasn’t convinced they wouldn’t sink), and poured the mixture into my cake tin. Once I’d put the rest of the cherries in, my cake looked like this.
Step four: I put the cake into the oven at 140° Fan. The baking time in the recipe was 1½ hours at the least, so I watched a couple of episodes of Home and Away and picked up my little boy from school before I checked it. The cake was cooked but it had sunk in the middle and it looked like all of the cherries, even the ones I’d scattered onto the surface, had sunk to the bottom. So much for going back to basics. I double checked that I’d used self-raising flour and baking powder, instead of plain and bicarbonate of soda. I had.
Mary Berry says that a cake may sink if you’ve put too much or not enough baking powder in (helpful), if the cake was taken out of the oven before it was cooked, or if the oven door was opened before it had time to set. It could also be that the mixture had been over beaten. The cake was definitely cooked when I checked it, and I hadn’t opened the door at all during the cooking time – I was too engrossed in Home and Away. I didn’t think that, given my struggle with the wooden spoon, I could have over beaten the mixture either. It must have been the baking powder. Too much or too little I do not know.
Here’s a slice of the finished article.
I don’t think my cake would have got me through “cake week” on the Bake Off, but as a cake with cherries on the bottom it went down very well. The kids and Jon loved it despite its imperfections. Staying with the basics for a while might well be a very good idea. I need the practice.