or…. “THE DAY DAN LEPARD TRICKED ME“
Maybe some cooks are fearless. They open any cookbook, pick any recipe, open their cupboards, and make it: no trauma, no drama. But, I am not such a cook. I notice some improvement over the years: in the past I wouldn’t even attempt a risotto or a souffle. But I’m still severely “cake-challenged.” Nothing infuses me with fear more than the phrase: “cream the butter and sugar“. Ever since a painful fiasco with a strawberry genoise “shoe” cake, that I regrettably served at a party back in 2003, I’ve successfully avoided recipes that instruct to beat the butter and sugar into the elusive “creamy” stage. Why would I even bother?
Fate plays strange tricks, though.
A couple of weeks ago I learned about an internet event – a Bake Along – organized by Dan Lepard (my bread baker guru). Folks from all over the world connected to “The Guardian” website at 3pm London time, and waited for Dan’s instructions to bake a traditional Dundee Cake together. He posted the ingredients the day before, and the bakers logged in for a virtual group meeting – even a lady from Australia who awakened at 2am to join the party!
Where I live, the baking started at 9:00 am. Well, to be precise it was 9:03 am…. Can you tell that I was ready for it?
I measured the ingredients, prepared the pan and waited for Dan’s first instructions, that arrived like a hydrogen bomb overhead: mix the sugar with the butter and beat until creamy. WHAAAT? I re-read it, hoping for a misunderstanding on my part. Nope.
I looked at my butter, it was not even “softened” (whatever that might be). I considered quickly logging out, explaining that a tornado was headed my way, but…. in November? Who would believe me? Then, a fellow baker, probably hyperventilating almost as much as me, related that his butter was still cold from the fridge, what was he supposed to do? “Don’t worry, Dan responded, ” heat it until about 1/3 melts, and proceed.”
Maybe that’s why his last tip before we began was…
“Stay calm and relaxed. We’re going to have the best time, ok?”
Yeah, right! Calm and relaxed I was not. Still, I took a deep breath, microwaved it slightly, added the whole pitiful blob to the bowl of my mixer, dumped the sugar on top, and…… beat it. To my amazement, IT WORKED!!!
I suddenly realized that I hadn’t done it correctly before. Maybe my butter was too cold or my sugar too coarse (this time I used superfine), but on this occasion it worked!
Thrilled, I moved on, adding the eggs, the marmalade, the dried fruits…
This cake baked in two stages: first a partial bake covered with foil to generate steam, and then after removing the foil, nuts were added on top and the baking resumed, uncovered, for the remaining time. I couldn’t find whole blanched almonds to cover the fruitcake, so I used macadamia nuts instead. My cake wasn’t as beautiful as those with the nicely distributed almonds, but it tasted great!
Beautiful cake or not, having survived the “cream the butter with sugar” battle, I was happy….
Maybe for the most part I was not calm and relaxed, but… I did have the best time that Sunday!
You can see the work of all my virtual friends by following the pictorial show organized by Dan and his crew in London, by clicking here
Verdict: A wonderful fruitcake indeed! I was planning to eat a few slices and then add Port wine to some of it, wrap and store. But there were only crumbs left next day… Next time I will make it in small loaf pans, and save a couple to taste later.
get the recipe after the jump, or by visiting Dan Lepard’s blog
MARMALADE DUNDEE CAKE
175g unsalted butter
150g superfine sugar
zest of 1 orange
250g all-purpose flour plain
3 large eggs
100g chunky marmalade
100g ground almonds
375g mixed dried fruit
200g dried, candied cherries (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
100g whole blanched almonds
a little milk
a 20cm round deep cake pan (I used a 9 inch springform pan)
Heat the oven to 335F.
Line the cake pan by cutting three strips of parchment paper to cover the sides, and 3 rounds to cover the base.
If the butter is cold, chop it and heat it in the microwave until about a third of it melts, then put it in a bowl, add the sugar and beat it until creamy and smooth. Add the orange zest and a third of the flour (no need to measure it precisely), then beat again until smooth.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the marmalade and the ground almonds. Add the remaining flour and baking powder, beat well, and then incorporate all the dried fruit using a wooden spoon.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the surface and crimp a sheet of foil over the top to keep the steam in. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the cake and carefully press the almonds (flattish side upwards) onto the top in circles. Return the cake to the oven, reduce the heat to 300F, and bake 45 minutes more or until a skewer comes out nearly clean.
Mix a tablespoon of milk with a tablespoon of superfine sugar until almost dissolved, remove the cake form the oven, brush this over the top and bake the cake another 10 – 15 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.
to print the recipe, click here