Not your usual Christmas cake
My friend is off on an adventure to Uganda in January. I personally feel that all major life events should be marked with cake. And so I baked.
'Tis the season for festivities of the Christmas kind, so I wanted to make something that would evoke the spirit of a traditional British Christmas without getting dried fruit and mixed peel involved. I raided my spice cupboard for inspiration and struck cinnamon. Cinnamon, along with ginger, mixed spice and nutmeg, pops up in all sorts of merry recipes, from mulled wine to mince pies. I deemed it a suitably Christmas flavour and prodded my poor, over-caked brain into thinking of a recipe.
I also wanted the cake to represent Uganda in some way, which is quite tricky to do in cake form without being literal. So...I thought of zebras. Zebra cakes have been popular Internet fodder for a while now, and it has been a while since I'd last made one. I forgot to take photos of the technique used to make the stripes, but a quick Google search should lead you to a pictorial tutorial. It's very easy and rather impressive.
This recipe makes for a light yet moist cake; think carrot cake without the carrot (and the muscle-aching peeling and grating, wahoo!). Instead of butchering the stripes and stuffing the centre with frosting, I thickly piled cream cheese icing on the top and sides, and served it with warmed toffee apple sauce blended smooth (see this post for the sauce recipe).
It is also possible to make this cake stripe-free; you won't be filled with the same sort of smug joy, but you will still be filled with delicious cake. And that's more than enough.
Christmas in Africa / Cinnamon Cake
450g butter at room temperature
450g self raising / all purpose flour (I use Doves farm gluten free as a coeliac)
450g caster sugar
5 medium eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Black food colouring (optional)
Line the base of a 9 inch springform tin with baking paper (the easiest way to do this is to cut a square of paper larger than the tin, clamp it onto the base by attaching the sides and ripping off the excess-a little overhang should be fine) and butter the sides. Preheat your oven to 170 degC. Stir the butter and sugar together until fully combined. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs. Slowly pour the eggs into the butter and sugar, whisking constantly. Sift in the flour and stir until smooth. Add the water and vanilla extract and stir again.
At this point, if you're not wanting to zebrify your cake, mix in the cinnamon, pour into the cake tin and bake for an hour, covering the cake with foil after 30 minutes. Start to check the cake after 45 minutes (there should be no liquid wobbling of the centre, the cake should feel firm and springy).
Otherwise, separate half the mix, adding colouring and cinnamon to it. How much colouring to use is dependant on the type, I used 4 tablespoons of black colouring gel. Just remember that the colour won't change much after baking, so be sure to use enough.
Put two heaped tablespoons of the black mix in the centre of the tin. Top with two heaped tablespoons of the white mix. Continue alternating the two colours, until they run out. My stripes were tiny enough to be from a newborn baby zebra - if you want grown up sized stripes, I'd suggest using four heaped tablespoons at a time.
If, like me, you finish with one colour first, use the extra to make a couple of cupcakes (bake for 30 minutes at the same temperature). Bake for 1 hour, covering with foil after 30 minutes. Start to check the cake after 45 minutes (there should be no liquid wobbling of the centre, the cake should feel firm and springy).
Let the cake cool in its tin.
Cream cheese frosting
300g cream cheese
300ml double cream
50g icing sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup (or 25g more of icing sugar)
Whisk the double cream with the sugars until voluptuously thick, but not stiff. Stir in the cream cheese.
Drop a tablespoon of frosting on your cake stand/plate - this will stop your cake from running away. Run a knife around the inside of the tin before removing the sides. Holding the cake in one hand and the stand in the other, place the stand on top of the cake and quickly invert. Remove the base and baking paper. Dollop two thirds of the frosting on top and smooth it to the edges. Apply the remainder of the icing to the cake sides (not your mouth) with the back of a table spoon or a palette knife. Smooth the sides by running a (palette) knife around the periphery.
I topped the cake with red currants and sieved icing sugar for a festive touch, but you could also try apple slices (tossed in lemon juice to stop them browning) or pecans. If I'd had a kitsch Christmas ornament, say, a fat Santa or jolly penguins, they'd have been sitting in the middle of the currant wreath faster than Rudolph's seasonal special delivery service.
What was the last cake you had occasion to partake in?