June 21, 2012 § 1 Comment
I imagine that if some intrepid researcher helped herself to a wedge of my brain right now, she’d find quite a sight. There’d be a jumble of onsies and diapers, parades of strollers, facts about the pelvis and prenatal yoga modifications. Every third thought would involve meat, or almond butter, or some other protein delivery device. The whirling stream would, however, cease its incessant flow approximately every four hours, when it would be defeated by the kind of desire to nap ordinarily only felt by narcoleptics. In the wedge of brain, however, there would not be much baking to be found, and really only a minor amount of cake.
Before I get on to the joys of one of the two cakes I’ve baked in the two months we’ve lived in our new place, please indulge me and let me regale you with two of the cooler facts I’ve learned while beefing up on all things baby. Number 1: did you know that babies are basically born with jet-lag? They reserve their acrobatics, high kicks, plies, goal-scoring practice (insert any other prodigious talent you have already begun to project onto your unborn genius) predominantly for the night hours, when you are still and relaxed. So they basically emerge into the world with the body clock of a Spanish club-goer. This simultaneously delights and terrifies me. Number 2: 10 days after the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake, rescuers pulled several newborn survivors from the rubble of a hospital, where there had been little remaining hope of life. Babies are basically born with immense reserves of energy and nutrition from their time in the womb, leaving them with innate initial survival capabilities of which Bear Grylls can only dream. It is possibly only one facing the responsibility of keeping a tiny other person alive in the ever-nearing future who finds reassurance in such macabre stories, but I still think it’s pretty awesome all the same.
And so, with that bit of mental clutter aired, to the cake. I had imagined that the first cake I would bake in our new home would be a Victoria sponge, for all its significance to me, but I wanted to save that for a Jubilee-themed dinner that was on the horizon (aka an excuse to make coronation chicken disguised as mild patriotism). Otherwise I was looking out for something light and summery, featuring a hint of the current seasonal fruit bounty, but straightforward so as to give our oven a fair trial without too much chance of user or recipe error. This cake, consisting of a buttery almond batter, with a layer of fresh raspberries baked into the centre, was sufficiently simple in the first place to appeal enough to my baby-soaked brain for the Kitchen Aid to be dusted off, and then proved to be a great addition to my (limited) summer cake repertoire by pairing perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. The fragrant almond base to the batter sets off the ever-so-slightly tart berries in an addictive fashion, but what really makes this cake is the crunchy topping of flaked almonds and large-grained sugar. And trust me when I say it’s one of the easier cakes I’ve posted here: if I can fight past the hormones to make it right now, it must be child’s play.
Almond Raspberry Cake
Adapted from a little baking booklet that accompanied an issue of Jamie Magazine (a great publication)
5oz/140g butter, at room temperature
5oz/140g cane/caster sugar
5oz/140g self-raising flour (or 140g all purpose/plain flour plus 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt)
2 eggs, ideally at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk
9oz/250g raspberries (basically one punnet)
a handful of flaked almonds
2 tbsp large-grained sugar, such as turbinado or demerara
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm/8 inch spring-form round cake pan (if you only have 9 inch that’s probably ok although your cake will be flatter) and line the base with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer, electric whisk or wooden spoon, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one by one, and then the vanilla extract.
Whisk together the flour (and baking powder and salt if needed) and ground almonds in a small bowl and then add to the batter. Mix gently until just combined. The mixture will probably be quite dense – beat in a small amount of milk, gradually, just to loosen the batter slightly – a tablespoon or two will be plenty here.
Spread half the mixture over the base of the cake pan, and then evenly distribute the raspberries over the top. Cover them with the remaining batter and then sprinkle over the flaked almonds and 2 tbsp of chunky sugar – raw, turbinado or demerara are ideal for this. Bake for 50-60 minutes until firm and golden.