Saturday 24 March 2012

Blueberry cake for day of loafing around

Blueberry loaf cake sliced for serving

I doubt I’m the only person whose cooking habits change with the weather. As someone who grew up by the seaside I’ve always been a sun-worshipper, so once spring has sprung I like my meals to be ready within minutes and leave me feeling refreshed. But when it’s pouring with rain I can think of no better way to spend the day than in the warmth of my kitchen, cooking up a storm.

One such rainy Sunday occurred recently, so I took the spontaneous decision to put my huge to-do list on hold and whip up a host of sweet treats to help my man and I survive the working week ahead. Like an episode of “Ready, Steady, Cook”, my recipe selection was dictated by the ingredients I had to hand - going outside for additional supplies would not be a sensible option, unless I also wanted to return home with hyperthermia!

After blending another vat of roast apple and squash soup for my weekday lunches, I psyched myself up for a baking experiment: Poires au Chocolat’s toasted coconut and dark chocolate blondies, which I’d been drooling over on Pinterest for far too long. Despite the minimalist decoration due to my lack of coconut strips, I was so delighted with these chewy brown butter chunks interspersed with gooey chocolate that they earned the honour of representing Day #64 on my #project366 challenge.

Spurred on by the proof that I’m not such a dumb blondie after all when it comes to baking, I chose to strike whilst the iron (and the oven!) was still hot, and put a punnet of blueberries to good use that were looking past their best. Having already successfully accomplished low-fat muffins, surely loaf cakes should be the next level in my culinary training?! My reasoning was that these aren’t such as taxing as a layer cake (as there’s no icing involved), but that they still require a bit of skill to make sure they rise properly!

This recipe for summer fruit drizzle cake had tempted me when it first featured on the front cover of last August’s BBC Good Food magazine, but I’d never been brave enough to test it out. Always seeking out a way to cut down the calories, I left out the syrupy fruit topping. Whilst the cake tasted great at first I personally felt like it dried out after a day or two, so I think this lighter option would only work if you were planning to serve up the whole loaf in one sitting - hopefully at a dinner party, as eating an entire cake on your own in one day will never be healthy…!

No matter how miserable the weather is outside your window, the sweet scent of vanilla wafting through your kitchen is bound to put you in a relaxing mood for loafing around!

Blueberry loaf cake (serves 10 – 12, adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food)

175g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing

175g golden caster sugar

250g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

100g blueberries (or other summer fruit, stoned and diced as required)

1. Heat the oven to 180C, grease a 900g loaf tin and line the base and ends with a long strip of baking parchment.

2. Put the butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat until the mixture is pale, creamy and very thick. If you are using an electric hand mixer this should take about 5 minutes – if like me you are just using old-fashioned elbow grease, this will probably take 8 to 10 minutes…keep going until your muscles ache (then you’ll know you’ve earned a slice of cake too!)

3. Spread one third of the cake mix into the loaf tin, then scatter over around 50g of blueberries.

Blueberry loaf cake being layered

4. Carefully dot and spread another third of the thick cake mix on top of this layer, then scatter over around 40g of blueberries. Dot the rest of the cake mix into the tin, spread the mixture with the back of a spoon to ensure there’s a smooth layer and then gently push the final handful of berries into the top.

Blueberry loaf cake hot out the oven

5. Bake the loaf in the oven for approximately an hour, until the cake has risen, the topping has turned golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin until the cake is cool, then slice up ready to serve – the berries should burst in your mouth and the vanilla scented cake should be light and fluffy.

Taking a bite of blueberry loaf cake

An ideal way to rejuvenate any leftover loaf slices before they turn into rock cakes would be to reheat them and serve alongside ice-cream, perhaps with a small spoonful of honey drizzled over for added moisture.

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