He felt like he was in a kind of moon soup, with the stars turning slowly above him and his thoughts floating past like ingredients. He felt he was drowning in it.
~ Nigel Cox, Waiting for Einstein
They won’t come.
The pictures and words I’ve been saving up over the last few days to share with you… some in my camera, some in my mind. Snapshots of a (wonderful and mostly sunny) weekend in Wellington; thoughts on life; stories of eating, giving and receiving.
I’m almost irritated that they are piled high behind the door, refusing to come out. But it’s no use – I’ve been hovering here for over an hour, perched on the edge of my seat with a hot water bottle on my lap, typing and erasing, sighing and humming. They’re refusing to let me post them here.
I’m not sure why.
So I’ll let them simmer on in hiding… meanwhile, would you like to talk about Cake?
With my friend G’s birthday coming soon, I’ve been looking for a ‘yes cake’. You know, a recipe for cake that makes you say YES, I’m going to make you…?
I flicked impatiently through what felt like TONS of recipes in blogs, magazines, cooking websites – lots of lovely pictures and tasty sounding things, but no ‘yes cake’… and then, late this afternoon, I found it. Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon and Plums. An absolute ‘yes cake’!
Making this, I could imagine myself leaping into a mountain of Autumn leaves, feeling them envelope me in playful laughter, and gazing up at clouds and winking sunshine…
There’s the scent of warmed golden syrup, lyrical like someone you love saying “Honey, I’m home!”; the look and feel of butter – a generous hug, a glove around your senses; the kiss of cinnamon – a sweet and spicy fairy dust, making all it falls on special. All three together make for pretty delirious inhaling.
Oh, and the BROWN in this recipe – the different shades are glorious and luxurious, and chocolate doesn’t even make a guest appearance! There’s the shimmering, luminous brown of the honey + butter + golden syrup melting on the stove – which reminds me first of George’s Marvellous Medicine (Roald Dahl) and then of liquid gold. There’s the butterscotchey, dulce de lechey, yummy-caramelly look and flavour of the flour + golden syrup stirred together into a thick creamy mix – miracle I managed to avoid licking the spoon! Finally, towards the end when the elements combine to form the batter, there comes a demure woolly brown that reminds me of slim ladies, cashmere sweaters and milk chocolate melting in the sun.
This cake presents nearly no challenges – it’s mostly a breeze to make. There is just one point when it’s hard to imagine the cake turning out, those few minutes when the egg mixture splashes and swirls around the flour + golden syrup mix and you’re trying not to associate it with Things of the Bathroom… If not for the saving line in the recipe “it will resist incorporation and look weird at first”, I might have despaired. In the end, however, it comes together very nicely and reminds me that perseverance can sometimes lead to good surprises.
The cake rises effortlessly and proudly in the oven – and oh, I do so enjoy the look of the plums, round and sweet and delicate, on the risen cake, in the square tin. Smile inducing.
I did change a few things in the recipe, mostly due to pantry limitations. Sure hope the taste isn’t compromised – I’ll let you know tomorrow after the birthday girl has had a chance to try it! :-)
 We managed to surprise G with a birthday morning tea. J brought a scrumptious lemon cake, dense and moist and luscious, with crunchy miniature sugar crystals on the top. M brought brownie squares laden with invisible coconut threads. I brought Nigel’s cake. We had a rich morning tea – and all, it seemed, were smiling! I took home an empty cake tin. Happy, happy birthday, G. [/edit]
- Nigel Slater’s Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon, and Plums
Adapted from Orangette
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 slightly heaping tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 very generous tsp ground cinnamon
2 pinches salt
2/3 cup golden syrup
2 tbsp maple syrup
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (250ml) milk
5 ripe plums, pitted and quartered
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift and combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk well.
- In a saucepan, warm the golden syrup, maple syrup and butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the butter is melted, stir in the muscovado and caster sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool for a minute or two.
- Break the eggs into a medium bowl, add the milk, and whisk the mixture.
- Pour the golden syrup mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. The batter will be very thick at this point. Pour in the egg mixture, and continue to stir – don’t worry if it doesn’t resemble a good cake mix – it will come together and form a loose batter with no traces of flour
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then arrange the plums on top. (They will sink.) Bake for 30 minutes; then place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the cake, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more. The cake should look mostly set at this point. Remove the piece of foil, turn off the oven, and leave the cake in there for another 15 minutes. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes, then loosen from the pan and cool completely before slicing.
- See Molly’s recipe here for her version, and additional notes.