Ok so as I’ve already outlined, this was supposed to be our easy entry into baking and the whole filming process. There are ‘rules’ we had to follow regarding cakes coming into and out of the oven, combined with the fact that our shopping is done for us (along with the washing up!!) , that in effect meant that the cake I baked for the competition was the worst version I had done up to that point.
First off we all got 10 minutes instruction from the home economist for the oven company along with a leaflet explaining what the symbols and dials on the oven meant, and then that was it. We were off with the new ovens. The leaflets of course got lost after the first day so if you didn’t get it then, you had to ask one of the others or guess. Some people had oven thermometers but I didn’t find the one I borrowed much help. It was the first test of our baking skills and ability to test our cakes. I was too conservative and overcooked mine by a small amount. Paul advised me to pull it out of the oven a couple of minutes before I thought it might be ready and leave it in the tin. It’s good advice and I stick to that, so that now, my cakes are never knowingly overdone.
My second problem was the fruit. I hadn’t stipulated rock hard fruit and was given perfect ripe plums which of course mushed up too much in the oven and didn’t give me the beautiful pattern I had taken the trouble to create in the tin.
It was acceptable, but the hard lines of the cut edges of the plums softened up a bit too much for my liking and so the contrast of the deep red edges with the dark ginger cake underneath wasn’t quite as effective as I’d hoped for.
Anyway my tip for making this cake is to use the sort of plums you get in the shops as the home ripening ones: they’re like little cricket balls and seem to go from rock hard to wrinkled mush without ever perceptibly ripening. They’re often on sale as two for one offers, so buy the two cartons and cook them as soon as you get them. The cake and the compote keep well.
You need a 23cm, 9 inch cake tin. I use a fixed base.
60g unsalted butter
60g soft brown sugar
6-11 firm red plums depending on size, washed (should weigh 400g at least, ideally 2 small punnets to cover for cake and the compote)
180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
180g soft dark brown sugar
3 medium eggs (150g ish ), lightly beaten together
160g plain flour, sieved
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp mixed spice
3/4 tsp almond extract
60g ground almonds
zest of 1 orange
3 pieces of preserved stem ginger from a jar with syrup, chopped small
pinch of salt
1 tbsp milk
6 (or the rest of the punnets) red plums, washed
30-60g caster sugar (you need 30g sugar per 500g plums)
2-4 tbsp water
Juice from 1 zested orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Orange strip Decoration
100ml water to make stock syrup
strips of orange peel obtained using a canneliser
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (170 fan assisted)
- Base line with parchment and grease a 23 cm circular solid cake tin with a fixed bottom.
- Melt the 60g butter in a pan with the 60g soft brown sugar to form a paste. Spread the paste over the base of the tin.
- Cut the plums for the cake tin in half, remove stones, cut into slices of 8-10mm width, and cut each slice in half and pack tightly in the tin cut sides down. Start from the tin sides laying out the slices in a cartwheel formation and finishing in the centre with a single plum slice and pack around it.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (the mixture will look coffee coloured rather than the initial dark colour of the sugar). Add the eggs slowly whilst beating to avoid curdling. Sieve together the flour, mixed spice and baking powder and fold in to the batter.
- Add orange zest, ground almonds, stem ginger and almond extract. then carefully fold in. Add milk if the mixture is firm and not soft so it is dropping off the spoon.
- Spread carefully over the plums and bake for about 50 minutes in the tin . The top may need to be covered with foil after 30 minutes to stop it drying out. A skewer in the centre of the cake should come clean.
- Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before inverting on the cake plate after loosening around the sides with a knife.
- Whilst cake is in the oven make the compote. Bring sugar, water, spices and cut fruit to the boil and then simmer until just tender. The fruit can be cut any way you like. You are aiming for a loose compote, slightly more solid than the kind you get in the corner yogurts.
- Leave to cool and then remove cinnamon stick and anise.
- Add orange juice before serving.
- Serve the cake with syrup spooned around over the cake and plum compote separately. Decorate with the candied orange strips.
For the candied Orange Strips put the sugar and water in a pan and simmer together until the sugar is just dissolved. Using the cannelizing zester take off strips of orange peel in long single strips. Immerse rinds in the stock syrup and simmer for 10 minutes until the white pith is translucent and the rind is soft. Remove the pan from the heat, and wind the rinds around a greased wooden spoon handle. Leave to cool in position. When cooled use to decorate the cake.