I’m not normally an envious sort of chap, but I would very much like to have as good a cake baking ability as my sister. Her cakes and pastries are in the award-winning category, light, with a uniform crumb, and delicious. Last time we saw her, we were treated to a slice of lemon drizzle cake, and I determined to have a go at one myself.
And, although I say it, it wasn’t too bad. It was a long way from being perfect, but it was OK. And so, emboldened by my limited success, I tried a simple recipe from River Cottage Baking, contained in a little booklet of sample recipes given away by the Telegraph last weekend.
The outer crust of the cake with its almond topping is fine. But the middle is horribly reminiscent of school suet pudding. The overall effect is “boiled baby en croute”. Oh, and it’s sunk at the bottom for reasons that are beyond my simple baking skills.
Now as you can imagine, my pride was deeply wounded. I’d followed the recipe to the letter, as I know you must with baking. One reason that I’m not good at cakes and pastry is my tendency to extemporise and “improve” from the printed page. But honestly, I’d been faithful to the original. I did have my misgivings when the mixture was so very liquid, but if it passed muster with Hugh F-W, then it was certainly good enough for me. I was further troubled when it wasn’t anywhere like fully cooked after the allotted 50 minutes, but another half an hour sorted that – probably just my oven, I surmised. But when it came out of the tin, I couldn’t fool myself any longer.
I was sufficiently annoyed to register with the River Cottage website with the intention of letting them know. They have a “Questions” section. As soon as I opened the page, what did I see but a question headed “Orange and Caraway Cake Disaster” from a lady who’d baked one especially for a lunch party, with exactly the same result.
Call it schadenfreude, but I’m afraid that her posting cheered me up. Not only did it confirm that the recipe is at fault, but at least I didn’t have 10 people about to arrive to share the dubious treat.