Monday, 21 April 2014

Childhood memories and baking a cake

Now to get it out of the tin in one piece ... 
I've been missing my Mum a lot over the past few days. She always loved big family gatherings, having grown up surrounded by dozens of aunts and uncles in London, so looked forward to times like Easter when we would all visit for the day. Plus her favourite bright springtime flowers are everywhere at this time of year - daffodils, primulas, crocuses. In a sudden flash of nostalgia this afternoon, I dug out my copy of an old recipe book we used to use together when I was a child - the wonderful brick that is the Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium. (The link goes to Amazon where there's a few copies available second-hand if this tome is on your memory lane too!) My party piece recipe was always the Farmhouse Fruit Cake and that is what's currently baking in the oven and delicately scenting the house. Even the raw cake mixture had an evocative taste.

1 lb plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
6 oz butter or margarine
6 oz sugar
9 oz dried fruit and peel
2 eggs
cup of black tea

Preheat the oven to about 200c. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with greased greaseproof paper if you have any. This is supposed to make the cake easier to remove from the tin. Sometimes it works.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. I can rarely be bothered with sieving so just 'put' and stir together.

Rub in the butter or margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.

Beat the eggs together and whisk into the dry ingredients. Slowly add the tea and keep mixing until a soft dropping consistency is reached. (The original recipe calls for milk but we always used cold black tea. Today I used fairly warm tea as I wasn't prepared far enough ahead of time.)

Spoon mixture into the loaf tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven. Bake for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, lowering the temperature slightly towards the end of the cooking time. I use the metal kebab skewer method of checking - pierce the centre of the cake with the skewer and if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Serve still warm in crumbly chunks or cold in slices.

While you're waiting for your cake to bake, you could take a listen to this +YouTube track that Dave discovered recently has been uploaded. It's from his John Peel session at the BBC, recorded live in the 1970s, and is the band Shoot with their beautiful song Ships And Sails. Dave is playing guitar and singing backing vocals. And if you want to know what he looked like back then, he is the guy on the left in the fab photo at about 30 seconds in!

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