#136-137 Sponge Cake II and Butter Cream I

April has not been a bumper Grigson month like March was. This is due to the fact I am uber-busy with my PhD work at the minute, plus I’m doing the tiling in the kitchen too which does not help. No indeedy. Anyways, enough of the excuses… A kick up the arse came from the fact I had to provide a cake for the Dictyostelium group lab meeting, so I thought I’d do something straightforward – a sponge cake with butter cream. Great stuff; they have separate recipes in the book, so it would be two Grigsons with one stone. There are two recipes for sponge cakes and two for butter cream in English Food and I have already attempted one of each (see here and here), although in a funny order as you can see – this is because the Butter Cream I required a sugar thermometer, which I didn’t have at the time.

Ok, here’s the cake recipe. A word of advice though before I carry on – do not attempt this cake unless you have either an electric mixer or a very strong wanking hand…

Start off by whisking three whole eggs together with 6 ounces of caster sugar until light and frothy – this took 10 minutes using the Kitchen Aid on full whack. Stop when the eggs have reached the ribbon stage. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen, heat the oven to 190°C and grease and lightly flour two 7 inch sandwich tins. Also, gently melt 2 ounces of slightly salted butter with two tablespoons of water. Once melted, leave to cool until at least tepid. When the eggs are whisked, gently stir in the butter. Now fold in 4 ounces of self-raising flour by sieving a small amount in at a time and gently folding it in with a metal spoon to prevent the air bubbles from popping. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked – use a skewer, or whatever, you know the drill. Cool on a wire rack. Griggers says jam and cream is the best, or a nice butter cream, like this one…

The butter cream can be made whilst you are waiting for the cake to cook – especially if it takes two attempts to get the bugger right!

Melt 4 ounces of caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of water in a small saucepan. Once dissolved, raise the heat and boil it until it reached the ‘soft crack’ stack, or 135°C. Be careful here: use a very small pan – too large and the sugar overheats too easily becoming a caramel, which will ruin the whole thing. Whilst it is heating up, put two egg yolks into a bowl and lightly whisk them. When the sugar is ready vigorously beat it into the eggs with a whisk. The mixture thickens up as the yolks are cooked by the hot sugar. When just tepid, beat in 4 ounces of unsalted butter in small amounts until it is all amalgamated. Once cool, you can add all sots of flavourings – I went with some vanilla, but Griggers recommends plain chocolate or a tablespoon of slaked coffee granules. Just go crazy, kids!

#136 Sponge Cake II – 9/10. When Griggers this recipe is foolproof, she did not say it was foolproof and brilliant. The sponge extremely light and not at all rubbery like the usual Genoese sponge on account (I assume) the addition of the melted butter. This is the best sponge cake recipe I have used. Excellent – go make it right now!

#137 Butter Cream I – also 9/10. Griggers totally slagged-off the half-butter (or even margarine, heaven forbid!), half-icing sugar as essentially awful. Having a soft spot for that type of butter cream I was keen to see the difference. The difference is huge – I know it is a bit of a faff using the sugar thermometer etc., but it is well worth it. Once you’ve tried it, ladies and gents, you’ll never go back…

High Tea, #52, 53

I got me mates Kirsty, Keith and Thom over for a quintessentially English high tea for Bank Holiday Monday, and made some nice cakes. I did ( #52) Sponge Cake I (of two) and (#53) Ginger Cake, as well as some biscuits – I still had some dough left in the freezer from when I made (#29) Elegant Sugar Thins way back in February. We had an ace laugh., but fell pretty sick. I’ve still got some of the ginger cake, and probably will do for a few more days! Kirsty and Keith got me some ace pressies – the best being the Chinese tea set with green gunpowder tea. There’s some recipes that have gunpowder tea in it too – I had no idea what it was (and still don’t – is it the same as normal green tea?) but will find out in due course.

Sponge Cake I was pretty easy and Greg and I enjoyed making it – I’m trying to get him baking, but there is some resistance. Simply whisk together 3 ounces of caster sugar and eggs until they are all whipped up and pale in colour; this takes a while even using an electric mixer. While you’re waiting sieve 3 ounces of plain flour along with a pinch of salt, and fold it into the eggy mixture carefully using a metal spoon. (Apparently the friction of the wooden spoon pops the bubbles). Divide the mixture between two 7 inch sandwich tins that have been greased and sugared and bake for – 12 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Keep an eye on it if you’ve got a fan oven like me though, it does keep the oven dry (I shall use the water in the bottom of the oven trick next time). Turn them onto a wire rack, sprinkle with sugar, and allow to cool. Fill with whipped cream and raspberry jam.

The ginger cake was easy too. It’s one of those dense treacly ones that sink in the centre and weigh a ton – at least in comparison to the sponge cake. Start by creaming 4 ounces of butter, then add 4 ounces of Demerara sugar and beat that in too. Next, mix in 2 eggs and 10 ounces of black treacle (it sounds like a lot of treacle, and it is!). Sieve together 8 ounces of flour and a generous teaspoon of ground ginger and mix into the butter and treacle. Then, weigh out 2 ounces each of sultanas and chopped preserved stem ginger and mix them in too. Finally warm ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and 2 tbs of milk in the microwave and stir them in. Pour the mixture into a 7or 8 inch cake tin that has been lined with greaseproof paper and bake for an hour and a quarter or more depending on the size of the tin at 160 degrees Celsius. Grigson reckons it gets better if you leave it. We shall see…

FYI: ginger is both a stimulant and a muscle relaxant due to it’s antispasmodic properties. It also does you wonders if you’ve got the shits. Plus, it is an essential seasoning for whale meat, according to Larousse Gastromonique!

#52 Sponge Cake I – 6/10. A nice sponge cake, but I’m used to a Victoria sponge with butter in it, and I’m not used to this super-spongy, like actual sponge, texture. This may be down to my new oven of course drying the bugger out. However any cake is nice by me, especially when it’s filled with cream and jam. We shall have to see what sponge cake II is like!!

#53 Ginger Cake – 7/10. I preferred this cake, although it was more of a treacle cake, than a ginger one. It reminds me of a stickier version of Yorkshire parkin, which is usually dry and crumbly. It’s definitely a wintertime heavy stodge cake, rather than a summery light teatime cake. The addition of the ginger pieces and sultanas made it very moreish. I reckon I would be nice warmed up and served with vanilla or ginger ice cream.