One of the most annoying questions in the world is the one that begins with “What’s your favourite…”. It’s also one that I love to ask, not so much to get a proper answer but just to see the person’s reaction to it. How do you pick your favourite film (although that’s easy for me, it’s the one that I watched 5 times in 4 months), your favourite band or your favourite food? More importantly, how on earth are you supposed to pick your favourite cake?!
No one should ever have to choose between a moist chocolate cake, a fragrant orangey one or a beautiful, summery, fruity cake. Notice, I said fruity cake. Not fruit cake. Fruit cake makes me feel cheated – you take a bite hoping for sweet, soft carbohydrate to satisfy your crave and you end up with dry bits of overly sweet fruit sticking all over your teeth. And there’s loads of them, you can’t even pick them out! Fruit cake should be banned.
Fruity cake, though, is a whole different story. I’m talking about the usual sponge cake turned into a lemon or orange cake, with real bits of real fruit (berries, please) or even banana to turn it into a decadent moist loaf. The beauty of it is that you don’t even need a recipe. The rule is simple: equal amounts (weights) of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, a teaspoon of bicarb of soda and one of baking powder, a splash of vanilla extract and your base is ready. (If you want real measurements, 3 medium eggs, 150 grams of sugar, flour and butter will do).
Now go crazy! Add lemon or orange juice and zest, fresh or frozen berries, chocolate chips, or mashed bananas. Just remember that if you add more liquid stuff you will need to compensate for it with a bit more flour. And if you add the bananas, double the baking powder as it will be harder to rise. If you’re a fan of nuts, replace half of the flour with ground almonds or hazelnuts.
This is my standard, no-fail cake recipe. The variation I’m sharing with you below comes from the Masterchef cookbook and, although this is the first recipe I’ve made from it, it has loads of good looking things and I will be using it more soon. It also looks like there is an identical recipe on the Waitrose website so I don’t even feel guilty for putting it up here. Did Waitrose steal it off the book? Or did the Masterchef contestant cheat a little? Who cares? It’s delicious.
Orange and Rhubarb cake
Ingredients (enough for a 23cm diameter cake)
400g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
50g caster sugar
150 gr caster sugar
150g butter, softened
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and a juice of 1 orange
a handful of flaked almonds
Mix the rhubarb with the 50gr of sugar and leave on the side for 30 mins while preparing the cake mix.
Whisk the butter with the 150gr of sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, the flour and the almonds and whisk until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and, finally, add the rhubarb and its juices and combine.
Butter and line a 23cm tin (or butter and flour a tray like I did), spoon the mix into it and scatter the flaked almonds over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.
It’s lovely eaten by itself with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The cake is sweet and fragrant and the tart rhubarb balances it perfectly. As it’s not overly sweet, it’s also really nice served as a pudding with some cream, chantilly or custard.
Note: For the cake in the pictures above I have added some frozen berries as I had only a little bit of rhubarb – they worked nicely together.