I recently made to visit to my friends in their 18th century house in Mallerstang, Cumbria and have been meaning to bring the ingredients up with me to make this dish. It’s one of those lamb, onion and potato based meals you find in the North of England such as Lancashire Hot Pot and Lobscouse, or indeed Irish stew and Scotch broth. It mysteriously appears in the Meat Pies & Puddings section of the Meat, Poultry & Game Chapter.
We all went up to Cumbria to visit Frances and James last weekend. It was also Dean’s birthday, so I thought I’d make a cake. On asking him what cake he’d like, he said ‘anything, as long as it’s not from that bloody book of yours’. Well that’s just lovely, isn’t it? I think he’s expecting brains and gonads in every recipe. After giving many alternative suggestions and turning them down, he eventually went for a walnut cake. Where did I find a recipe? You know! It’s a good cake too, for a walnut cake – the icing is a complete faff though. If you can’t be bothered to do the icing, do butter cream instead.
For the cake:
Cream together 5 ounces of butter with 6 ounces of sugar; beat in 2 beaten eggs, then 8 ounces of sifted self-raising flour, 3 ounces of coarsely chopped walnuts and 4 dessertspoons of milk. Lastly, add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence (or use vanilla sugar instead of normal sugar). Line an 8 inch cake tin, add the mixture and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours at 180°C. Test with a skewer, and when ready turn out onto a cake rack and allow to cool.
For the icing:
A bit tricky this bit…Stir a ¼ of a pint of water and a pound of sugar lumps in a pan under a low heat until the sugar gas dissolved. Raise the heat and add a generous pinch of cream of tartar. Boil the syrup until it has reached the soft-ball stage which is 120°C; easy if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. Alternatively, as it boils, carefully remove a teaspoon-full of syrup and drop it into small cold water. Fish out the blob of sugar, and if it is soft but can form a ball between your fingers, you are done. You mustn’t stir the syrup as it boils; this reduces the temperature, causing the sugar to crystallise, resulting in total disaster. It takes a few minutes, so in the meantime, whisk two egg whites until stiff in an electric mixer, and when the syrup is ready pour it into the egg whites with the electric mixer on full-whack. Keep mixing until it has nearly set and then add a teaspoon of vanilla essence. You should have a lovely smooth meringue icing. Spread this over the cooled cake with a palette knife and decorate with some walnut halves.
It is very important to wait until the icing has nearly set – I didn’t and it went everywhere!
Not a wedding hat, but in fact, a cake.
#86 Walnut Cake – 6.5/10. Certainly an above-average cake as far as walnut cakes go. Not normally a big fan really. I think it may have been nicer with some coffee-flavoured butter cream instead of the posh icing, but that’s just me.