Let me talk to you about perfection.
Perfection does not always equate to presentation. We’ve all been to fancy coffee shops or bakeries, where you take out a loan to buy a perfectly-iced, not-a-silver-ball-out-of-place, very disappointing cake. The perfectly piped icing is too sickly, tasting of nothing but sugar. The bite of the cake is not quite right. Good luck if the coffee’s anything to write home about. No, perfection can be many things, and while it’s great when things look beautiful, what makes me fall in love with a recipe is when it can be made with joy. I promise you, it shows.
So, perfection is changing the recipe, going slapdash, chucking ingredients in a bowl, beating with a wooden spoon. It’s cakes sticking to the wrong-sized tins, sunk slightly in the middle, filled in with generous dollops of icing. Scraped, smoothed and swirled with a palette knife, licked off sticky fingers.
Yes, this week it’s marmalade cake with cream cheese icing.
200g butter or margarine, softened
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
150g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g ground almonds
4 tablespoons thick-cut marmalade (homemade is best, and not too sweet. I used some from last year that my parents gave me)
115g butter, softened
200g cream cheese
1.5 cups icing sugar*
*Why am I mixing weights and cups? Well, butter and cream cheese it makes sense to weigh. Icing sugar, I do not like pouring out to weigh as it all flumps out in one go, in a big pouff of sugar-dust, which makes a mess on things when it settles and is not terribly nice to breathe in. So I prefer to scoop it out carefully in a cup and not sugar-coat my lungs.
For the cakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan). Grease two 7 inch cake tins
2. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. No need for an electric beater, just grab a wooden spoon
3. Add the eggs and mix in well, then beat in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds
4. Finally, add the marmalade and give a good stir to make sure it’s evenly distributed
5. Split between the two tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked in the middle (I had to rotate mine due to an uneven oven, and cover with foil halfway through as they were browning too quickly. They are very moist due to the marmalade, so won’t be terribly springy to touch)
For the icing:
1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese with an electric beater
2. Carefully mix in the icing sugar, then beat on medium speed until light and creamy
Carefully remove the cakes from their tins. Smother the bottom one with half the icing, top with the second cake and finish off with the rest of the icing.
As I said, this was not a beautiful cake, at least not in the traditional perfectly-coiffed sense. The cakes stuck to the tins a little, and one almost broke when I was manhlandling it. But really? For a cake that’s one bowl, wooden spoon, minimal effort and completely delicious, it doens’t matter.
I will most definitely be making this again. I can try to find more favourable cooking conditions, grease the tins with oil instead of butter, handle the cakes with an oh-so-light touch. But I’m not sure I will, because I don’t see any need for this cake to be improved. It is brilliant, simply, sloppily and beautifully, just the way it is.