sim­ple cakes


Country Style - - CON­TENTS - WORDS AND RECIPES TAM­SIN CAR­VAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AND STYLING CHINA SQUIR­REL Tam­sin Car­van hosts cook­ing work­shops and lunches at her farm in Vic­to­ria’s Gipp­s­land. For in­for­ma­tion, visit tam­sin­sta­

I HAVE A SOFT SPOT FOR SIM­PLE CAKES. They are the cakes of our child­hoods, with those evoca­tive names — the pound cake, the sponge cake, the but­ter cake. They are never too sweet. They don’t need ic­ing. They are yummy with ic­ing. They are clas­sics; they never date. Sim­ple cakes are el­e­gant and re­source­ful. Few in­gre­di­ents, in eas­ily mem­o­rised pro­por­tions, a beau­ti­fully re­solved so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of what to make when there isn’t much, or of how to use up what one has. Sim­ple cakes are gen­er­ous; they are about oth­ers, not our­selves. They don’t try to im­press, their job is to nur­ture and nour­ish. They are not a grand an­nounce­ment or a so­cial me­dia sen­sa­tion, but a thought­ful ges­ture; a homely af­fif­fir­ma­tion of love. Th­ese are the cakes I love to eat, but also the cakes I love to bake. Be­hind the mod­est in­gre­di­ents are an al­most im­prob­a­ble num­ber of tech­niques for com­bin­ing them, all yield­ing vari­a­tions in tex­ture, moist­ness and taste; from fi­first cream­ing but­ter and sugar un­til light and flfluffffy (but­ter cakes), to tak­ing all the mea­sure­ments for the dry in­gre­di­ents from the weight of the eggs and us­ing melted but­ter (one ver­sion of the French qua­tre-quarts or ‘four-quar­ters’ cake), to whip­ping egg yolks and whites sep­a­rately to cre­ate lift and struc­ture with no fats at all (sponges). For years I baked and baked in search of the per­fect method — the one that would make the ‘best cake’. It took me far too long to re­alise that the se­cret to a good cake is not the method, but pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the pur­pose of each step. If you are cream­ing but­ter and sugar, make sure they are re­ally creamed, and full of air and light­ness, and that the sugar has al­most com­pletely dis­solved. When us­ing whipped egg­whites to cre­ate lift, use a light, stiffff spat­ula to fold them through your cake mix so you don’t knock the air out again. En­sure syrups are truly syrupy rather than wa­tery. All in­gre­di­ents should be at room tem­per­a­ture be­fore us­ing and err on the side of un­der­cook­ing rather than over­cook­ing. And when lin­ing your pan, it’s worth tak­ing the ex­tra time to grease both un­der and on top of the bak­ing pa­per, so you get a beau­ti­fully caramelised crust. It’s al­ways my favourite part of any cake. And, yes, I will fi­fight you for it!

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