I've been wanting to make this cake from Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess for years and this bank holiday weekend I had the perfect excuse: a mini family reunion and a large amount of maple syrup.
This cake requires half a litre of maple syrup, so to get such a large amount you can either remortgage your home or ask your Canadian aunt to pop a demijohn of the stuff in her suitcase next time she visits. I accidentally emailed asking her for "male syrup", so either she understood or else she's spent the summer boiling down some Canadian men, in which case they are surprisingly tasty.
To bake the cake you need:
2 x 8 inch sandwich tins, buttered and lined
100g caster sugar
beat these together until pale and fluffy
3 large eggs
added one at a time
350ml maple syrup
to make a smooth mixture
500g self raising flour
175 ml hot water
add these alternately, then bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes
You also need to flare your nostrils at an imaginary camera now and then and give it a lingering stare that suggests exactly where you'd like to pour that batter. I'm not sure it helps the baking process but it's a lot of fun.
While the cakes are cooling, you can make the icing:
2 large egg whites
125 ml maple syrup
125g caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
Whisk these in a bowl that is sitting over a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes until the mixture stands in peaks like meringue, then add 1tsp vanilla extract and 1/4tsp maple extract. Nigella describes this latter as "optional", which means "good luck finding this ingredient". I got some maple extract posted from Toronto - thank you, cousin! Ice the middle, top and sides of the cake giving it a swirly effect. Lastly, chop 100g pecans and sprinkle them over the top and sides.
Nigella calls this "autumnal cake" because she made it in autumn for a birthday, but there is something autumnal about the flavours and colours, and unfortunately there was definitely something autumnal about the August bank holiday weather. The photo in the book decorated the plate with dead leaves and although there are plenty of these in the back yard, I know what the cats get up to out there and there's no way I'm sticking it next to a cake. Instead I coloured some florist paste, cut and curled some leaves and dusted them with the lovely new copper shimmer I'd just bought.
The recipe book says this cake serves eight. This might be true if you're serving eight massive greeders, but there were nine of us (and we are fairly greedy) and we only ate half of the cake.
It was lovely to see grandma looking so well (I mentioned her recent travails here) and to catch up with my aunts, cousin, sister, brother-in-law and cute-as-a-button nephew. It also gave me a hilarious new insight into my parents' life.
As we were driving west, I could hear them muttering "GP?" "Garden of Kent. Brighton" "Oh yes. A lot of Ps!". "Mmm, we're near Carlisle". It turned out they were playing the fun game known as "identifying DVLA offices from passing registration plates". When I laughed, they only dug themselves in deeper by explaining "we were bored of I spy". They hadn't memorised the DVLA mnemonics, they actually had a printed list in the glove compartment. AND IT WAS LAMINATED. When I laughed some more, they kept on digging by explaining "well yes, the last copy blew out of the window".
I asked to have a look and I took a photo. "Oh no", said my mum, quicker on the uptake, "she's going to Facebook and Twitter it". As always, mammy was right. But she forgot "blog" as well.
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