I’m feeling inordinately chuffed with myself. I, who am normally fairly immune to the charms of cakes – hormonal fluctuations notwithstanding – not only broke out of my comfort zone and yesterday made a cake, it was only ruddy World Baking Day. How zeitgeist of me.
Or at least it said so on Twitter. Where it was, of course, #WorldBakingDay.
I never know whether food days on social media are in fact real days, or a marketing wheeze dreamed up by some pr whippersnapper out to get noticed. I guess all food days are marketing wheezes. In fact I’m fairly sure that most days, such as Asparagus Day (yes, celebrated here in the UK), World Bacon Day and Raw Cookie Dough Appreciation Day (I may have made that up), can be traced back to a hazily-remembered pub evening involving a sticky envelope and an Ikea pencil.
But it doesn’t matter, really. It is kind of cool to think that on a certain Sunday in May, a few thousand extra people are in their kitchen making a cake from scratch. Even if – like with me – it was completely unintentional, and they were just being gripped by hormones and a sudden urge of domestic goddessness that didn’t involve ironing or cleaning the lint filter. And they had rhubarb.
Of all the cakes one could have – Victoria sponge, chocolate, fairy, polenta, etc – I do think ones involving yogurt are up there with the best. Not only is a yogurt cake always going to be moist, but – hooray! – you bung it all together, shove it in the oven and 50 minutes or so later you have a nice cake. It also keeps very well, so perfect for lunch boxes and unexpected guests.
We love the lactic tang from the yogurt and the usual tempered sweetness of a yogurt cake. So unlike a blowsy chiffon cake, or towering ganache-spackled chocolate cake. As nice as they are. I think of yogurt cakes as the demure but self-assured cousin to their in-yer-face worldliness. Jennifer Lawrence to the Kardashian.
Maybe it is just me who prefers the simple to the involved. Certainly my baking skills are aligned with my tastes. But there is something ever so comforting and universal about a slice of yogurt cake. As lovely unadorned – save for a pretty plate – as it is studded with fruit (or in this case, vegetable) and glazed with a water icing.
This cake is made for sharing. Twelve slices is recommended. Or even 16, cutting it thinly and catching it on a fork so it doesn’t topple and break. Make it and take some round to neighbours, or to the office.
To accompany your slice, the hint of bergamot in the cake lends itself most naturally to a bone china cup of Earl Grey tea, but even a mug of green tea goes very nicely.
So today, after yesterday’s rampant cake testing, it is back to greens and beans and all those nice things. But it was certainly a pleasure to bake this cake and feel part of a global event. Even it was just made up.
Did you celebrate World Baking Day? If so, what did you make? Do you think ‘food days’ are fun, or you a bit cynical about them? What’s the weirdest food day you have heard of?
Bergamot and Rose Rhubarb Cake
The floral-citrus note of bergamot oil – the main flavour in Earl Grey tea – is not essential here but, if you can get some, you may find many more uses than just for this cake. I found mine on the souschef.co.uk website. Otherwise, a teaspoon each of orange zest and lemon zest will provide some of the taste, if not the scent. If you have orange blossom water, a dod of that will add to the aroma – but just a few drops as it is usually strong stuff.
As for the rose water, well it is essential. Most large supermarkets and all Middle Eastern markets will have at least one or two brands from which to choose. Twist open the top of the bottle (if you dare) and have a sniff. You want a pure and light rose scent rather than anything sickly or alcoholic. Think Turkish Delight.
And, as with most of my recipes, adjust to your own particular diet – unless it is sugar-free. Because this ain’t, I’m afraid.
150ml Greek yogurt or thickened plain yogurt (vegan is fine)
150ml light olive oil or rapeseed/canola oil
150g coconut sugar, sucanat or unrefined caster/superfine sugar
3 medium eggs (I haven’t tried this with vegan eggs or chia eggs but don’t know why it wouldn’t work)
240g spelt flour or unrefined plain flour (or gluten free flour mix for cakes)
2 tsp baking powder (or you could use 250g of self-raising flour)
½ tsp oil of bergamot OR 5 drops orange blossom water
1 tsp finely zested orange peel (add lemon too if you aren’t using bergamot)
100g rhubarb, diced not bigger than 1 cm
50ml rhubarb juice – made from juicing about ½ a stalk of rhubarb OR 50ml lemon juice
4-5 drops rose water (or more, depends on the strength – start with the least amount and add more if required after icing is made up)
200g unrefined icing sugar OR coconut sugar finely milled in a spice grinder
1 drop of natural food colour OR a little beetroot juice – just if you wish a colour boost (I used the latter)
Dried culinary rose petals, to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/340F.
2. Use oil spray or paint oil in a bundt or savarin tin. You may also use a loaf tin.
3. Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl whisk the yogurt, oil, sugar, eggs and bergamot/orange blossom water. Add the flour and zest and mix until no flour is visible.
5. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, top with the rhubarb, pushing some into the batter. Pour over the rest of the batter, smooth it a little then pop the tin into the preheated oven. Bake the bundt or savarin tin/cake for 35-40 minutes, or the loaf tin for about 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil if necessary towards the end to prevent over-browning. Test for doneness with a skewer – it should come out clean. If not, pop it back in to the oven for a further five minutes.
6. Carefully upend the cake onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool.
7. While the cake is cooling, make the icing/glaze. Add the icing sugar to a bowl, followed by the rose essence and drop of red colour. Gradually add the rhubarb juice until you have a thickish glaze (you may not use it all). Pour it liberally over the top, letting it spill voluptuously down the sides – a sexy, pink volcano.
Note: My icing was thick enough but I was in a hurry to glaze the cake and much of it initially absorbed. Take the time to let the cake cool. Also, I should have trimmed the cake’s top to flatten it before leaving it to cool upside down. Not a very good icing job but please believe me when I say that this is one delicious cake!
This cake – like most yogurt-based cakes – keeps well for a few days at a cool kitchen temperature in a cake tin.
Miss R’s track of the week is Single Girl by The Haden Triplets, a fine close harmony song that is a perfect cake baking and cake eating song.