My mother was, is, a magazine addict. When I was a child there were an awful lot of them in our living room, from the lowly weeklies such as Woman to glossy monthlies like Vogue, and I used to read every one, cover to cover. I missed them when I left home but once I could afford to buy my own I soon got bored with make-up tips (how many times do you need to read about putting your eyeliner on correctly…?).
Instead I found myself gravitating towards food magazines. The best in the UK used to be Good Housekeeping, because it had thorough and interesting recipes that worked (I still have some cuttings in a file but find it too preachy now). Later on I discovered BBC Good Food and Sainsbury’s Magazine in the UK (both okay, but the recipes were often a bit forced; I rarely ripped out any of their pages) and Gourmet (genius, but now sadly defunct), Bon Appetit and the New York Times‘ food pages in the States. I started to get almost as addicted to food print as my mother was to the fashion and home equivalents, except I kept cutting after cutting until at one point in the mid-nineties, when I wasn’t feeling particularly happy, I had carrier bags full of newspaper and magazine recipes but I wasn’t actually cooking anything…
The story could have been very different but, thankfully, I cheered up soon after that, someone invented the internet and I didn’t suffocate under an avalanche of newsprint. Nowadays it takes an awful lot for a magazine to part me from my cash and I’d much rather buy, or borrow a cook book, than spend £4 on one half-decent recipe and an interview with some television chef. However, the one exception to this tends to be the Waitrose magazine. The late Waitrose Food Illustrated was a bit self-satisfied and expensive, yet William Morris-like in its beautiful utility and, as you will see on this blog, I’ve used and still use tons of its recipes. Its replacement, Waitrose Kitchen, which launched in April at the sensible grab-it-at-the-checkout-what-difference-does-it-make price of £1, has already stolen space in my tiny kitchen. I tend to flick through it whilst queueing to pay and, if I spot something I want to make, or a combination/technique I’ve not tried then I buy it.
This recipe, for summer fruit and almond cake, persuaded me to buy June’s edition. Why? Because any cake recipe that a) uses ground almonds and b) has very few steps is worth trying in my opinion. It’s simple, summery and yummy. However, simple as the technique is, be careful not to overdo it in step two: if you use a food processor as I did, and overmix, it switches in seconds from light and fluffy to heavy. Still tastes fine but it becomes more squish than crumb.
Summer Fruit and Almond Cake (adapted from Waitrose Kitchen)
a 20cm springform tin or 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
200g frozen summer fruits (usually a mixture of raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blackberries), thawed and drained
1 teaspoon almond essence
150g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
175g unsalted butter, softened and chopped into small cubes
150g golden caster sugar plus an extra teaspoon or two (extra teaspoon is optional)
2 tablespoons milk
Obviously Waitrose wants you to use Waitrose-branded products but I’ve removed all those references from this list of ingredients…!
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 4 (knock off 20°C for a fan-assisted oven).
2. Butter a 20cm springform or loose-bottomed cake tin and line with baking parchment. (I never understood why you’d grease a tin and then line it. But, having done it this time, I now know that if you line a buttered tin, the lining sticks to the butter, and it’s much easier to get the cake out and clean the tin…)
3. Sift the flour and almonds into a bowl, or the bowl of a food processor/food mixer.
4. Add the butter, caster sugar and eggs. Mix on high in the processor/food mixer or for five minutes with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. As I mentioned be very careful not to over-mix here; my mixture went from this…
whilst my back was turned.
5. Add the milk and almond essence and mix in.
6. Fold in thawed and drained fruit.
7. Spoon into the tin and level the surface. (Sorry, I was so eager to get out of the kitchen… it was 30°C outside… that I forgot to take this picture!).
8. Now the recipe says ‘bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until golden and firm, and a skewer comes out clean’ but this is another one of those unreliable cake times (see Nigel’s ginger cake for another example). I took it out after an hour; any longer and it would have been burnt so be aware of your own oven’s character and don’t absolutely trust this time. I’d check it after an hour in a normal oven, maybe 55 minutes in a fan-assisted one.
9. Scatter with the extra sugar if you want a slightly crunchy top; cool in the tin for 10–15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.