As well as the lovely orangeade, I thought I’d make a cake. As much as I love cooking and cake, I don’t often make them. So I thought I’d go for the basic plain sponge cake – a pound cake being the easiest because so you put all the ingredients in a mixer in one go. What could possibly go wrong with that!? The parsnip cake was very good, but seemed very easy; I reckon the only way to tell if one is a good baker is to make a basic cake very well. My favorite filling for sponge cake is butter cream, and I’ve always used my Mum’s recipe, which is simply icing sugar and butter (in fact, being a child of rationing in the UK, she uses margarine). There are two butter cream recipes in English Food, but the first requires a sugar thermometer and since I don’t have one of those (but if anyone fancies buying me one…), I went for (#48) Butter cream II.
The whole idea behind the original pound cake is that the ingredients all weigh a pound EACH! This is of course overdoing things in the modern home, I think the original recipe must have been for housekeepers making cakes for households. Therefore, nowadays all the ingredients weight a pound altogether: 4 ounces each of softened butter (if you keep it in the fridge, put it in the microwave on a medium setting for 45 seconds), sieved self-raising flour and vanilla sugar (see previous entry), along with 2 medium eggs (which should be 4 ounces). Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of ground almonds, which apparently make the final cake more moist, plus a level teaspoon of baking powder. Put all the ingredients in a food mixer and beat until a smooth mixture forms. An early recipe from Hannah Glasse in 1747, says that beating the mixture by hand takes an hour! No thank you, lady. Add to a lined 23cm long loaf tin and – here is where I may disagree with Grigson – bake at 180 oC for one hour and 5 minutes. When I baked mine I checked after 45 and it was overdone! I think that 30 minutes may be enough, though my loaf tin, although 23cm long, does seem quite wide.
The butter cream is a custard-based one, which sounded very nice. It was quite easy too, now that I’m sufficiently experienced in the art if custard-making. My amounts differ to Jane’s because I didn’t have enough butter, or the right sized eggs, but it made enough for a middle and top layer to the cake:
In a food mixer, whisk 2 egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of sugar until it becomes fluffy and very pale. Meanwhile boil 90 mls (a generous 2 fluid ounces). When it comes to a boil, beat it into the egg mixture. Quickly return to the pan and stir on a low heat of a couple of minutes – it should thicken very rapidly. It was hard to judge as the was so much foam; however, as it cooled and the foamy bubbles began to pop, it became noticeably thicker. When the whole thing begins to get cooler, but it still warm, gradually whisk in 5 ounces of very soft butter cut into small cubes. I then added a few drops of vanilla extract. When it is properly cold, use as required!
I simply cut the cake lengthwise in half and added a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thick layer of the butter cream and sandwiched the two halves together, then I spread the rest of the gooey cream on the top.
#47 Pound cake – 6/10. Little disappointed in the cake. It was very tasty, but rather dry. However, this may be my own fault as I haven’t got used to my new oven yet. The vanilla sugar that I’d made a cuople of weeks earlier, also gave the sponge a nice, sweet scent.
#48 Butter cream II – 8/10. A lovely creamy, but not overly sickly alternative to normal butter cream. I loved it, and shall be definitely doing it again!