Today’s cake is inspired by Israeli food blogger Keren Agam https://www.instagram.com/keren_agam/?hl=en who I discovered through my lovely friend Hagar who has been spoiling us with Rugelach and Challah and all manner of baked treats. If you want the English version of her recipes (and you will) go to her blog using Chrome and click translate. I added a little lemon juice/icing sugar drizzle after baking to add a bit more punch.
What is it about making cake that is therapeutic?
One part nostalgia- there is something about the sense of smell that is one of our earliest and deepest memories. It is connected to our long term memory in ways we are not even conscious of. One of my favourite food memories is my mum making Chicken Everest by Charmaine Solomon, a roast chicken, covered in spices, fragrant yet delicate, cooked in a bag to contain the juices and keep it moist. I used to request it all the time.
My grandmother was also a fan of Charmaine Solomon, and I was surprised to discover that my grandmother’s famous Christmas cake recipe was actually from the pages of a Charmaine Solomon classic tome, first published in 1976, The Complete Asian Cookbook. Rich with eggs, spices, almonds, semolina and fruit, sticky with ginger, lemon zest, rosewater…truly delicious and unrelated to a dry fruitcake studded with sultanas alone.
One part scientist- whether it is the fascination of watching bicarb fizz in water, or a yeast mixture rise and turn bubbly or a cake grow and set in the oven, there is something exciting about watching and smelling these changes in the kitchen.
I’m often amazed when making a cake that one minute the kitchen will smell of nothing much, then the next it will smell slightly sweet and ‘cooked’ a little caramelised but in a good way, this is often when I know the cake is done, even if the timer hasn’t gone off yet. if you leave it to go longer (maybe you’re in the shower etc and don’t notice the smell) it will start to smell like a darker caramel and eventually burn (ask me how I know). As well as the colour of the cake and the time recommended it’s good to keep a nose out for this change in smell too.
Many people don’t realise most baking recipes are not written for a fan-forced oven so if you don’t have a non-fan setting (which is my preference for baking as it is more gentle and even) you should drop the temperature by 10-20C from say 180C to 170C. Using an oven thermometer would save many a cake from being dry and overcooked as some ovens run very hot.
One part greedy glutton- I’m just talking about myself here ok? One of the main joys of being able to make something at home is to have something fresh, warm, straight out of the oven, and exactly what you were craving- it is such a pleasure.
One part superfairy- there is something about being able to make something special for someone who you know will enjoy it and know it will make them feel appreciated and looked after. It doesn’t have to be sweet either, some of my favourite food gifts have been salty sour pickles to be eaten alongside a curry or a bag of lemons to be turned into lemon curd or preserved lemons, or an invitation to pick olives that will turn into treats for months.
So if the mood takes you take your nostalgia, scientific discovery, gluttony and super fairy powers into the kitchen, clear some time and space and enjoy making yourself or someone you like something delicious.