Oh, I still get SO excited when I get a new cookbook. Even though I know, from experience, that I’ll probably only find one or two recipes in it that I’ll use again and again, the childish pleasure of flicking through it the first time and finding unthought-of combinations is a treat.
On Friday I was sent a copy of Nigel Slater’s new book, Tender II and, having proofread parts of it back in the summer, I was eager to see the finished product and to find some of the wonderful fruit cakes that I remember checking. I’ve said before that I find his writing a bit flowery these days so I skipped all the long descriptive sections (I’m certain they’re getting longer and more self-important, like Delia’s…I mean the first line is ‘And then there was fruit.’) and went straight to the recipes.
Since I bought a rather large box of cheap plums yesterday, the first thing I looked for was a plum cake. What I’ve noticed about Nigel’s cake recipes is that he uses endless variations of the creamed butter and sugar method, and his other great cake is the wonderful ginger one, which involves melting sugar, syrup and butter then mixing it with the dry ingredients. In Tender II he manages to combine elements from both of these methods in this rather glorious plum, cinnamon and honey cake. As with the other cakes I’ve written about here, the timings are not the most trustworthy but I didn’t use the right size tin so that will have affected it. It still tasted amazing though. And the smell of cinnamon and plums cooking is a perfect antidote to a wet Sunday afternoon.
Nigel’s plum and honey cake
You will need:
250g plain (all-purpose) flour
a lightly heaped tsp of baking powder
a level tsp of bicarbonate of soda
a lightly heaped tsp of cinnamon
200g golden syrup
2 heaped tablespoons of thick honey (not sure how you can ‘heap’ honey on a spoon…)
125g unsalted butter
125g light muscovado sugar
350g plums (I found this was about eleven medium-sized ones)
2 large eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas mark 4 (take off 20C for a fan-assisted oven) and line a 24cm square baking tin with baking parchment. (I only have a 20cm square and a 28cm x 17cm rectangular tin so, since the first was too small and the second too large, I made it in the large one. Does anyone know of any reliable conversion tables for different sized tins or do I just have to go out and buy them all…?!)
2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, cinnamon) into a bowl.
3. Put the golden syrup, butter and honey into a saucepan over a medium heat.
5. Halve and stone the plums and then, if they are large, quarter them too.
6. Beat the eggs and milk lightly together.
8. Add the egg and milk and mix well to make a batter that looks and feels just like the ginger cake one I mentioned above.
9. Tip the mixture into the lined tin, drop the plums onto the batter (they will sink) and bake. Now the recipe says: ‘bake for thirty-five minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the top of the cake with foil and leave to cook for ten to fifteen minutes longer. Switch off the oven, but leave the cake in the oven for a further fifteen minutes, then remove and leave to cool.’ However, as ever, I found that the timings didn’t quite work but then I didn’t use the right size tin. I baked it for forty-five minutes and covered it for ten. Finally, Mr Slater doesn’t mention how to tell if it’s ready but I found that, after the first forty-five minutes and another ten, the knife-clean test worked.