Where was I? Ah yes, devouring the delicious tea cake that I made for dessert tonight.
And so begins another cooking rant.
I have grown fonder of cakes as I have gotten older. I think I was put off them by some pretty dry and ordinary specimens that I was presented with at smoko when working in shearing sheds in my school and uni days. I know the CWA has created a reputational idea of farmer's wives being great cooks - but sadly, it wasn't always so. Some were fantastic cooks - they would have put many a chef to shame - but others made boarding school food look good.
If my kids had their way, all we'd eat around here would be chocolate cake. I don't mind a good chocky cake, but I do need some variety from time to time - hence the desire to make the odd tea cake every now and then.
The first thing you need to know about tea cake is that it does not contain tea. I presume it's meant to be eaten with a cup of tea, or for morning or afternoon tea. I am yet to read a recipe that explains the meaning behind the name. So stop worrying if you don't have any tea in the cupboard.
Every cake recipe requires you to cream butter and sugar together. Some even mention that the butter needs to be softened. Now here is my gripe - how soft is "soft"? For those of us that didn't go to catering school where chefs yelled at us all day about the different stages of butter softness, stating that it needs to be "soft" is a bit useless. Does it mean you can cut it with something slightly blunter than a cleaver, or does it mean that it's about to collapse into a puddle under its own weight?
Here's what I'd like to see. It's easy to buy thermometers with probes these days. How about writing a recipe that says, "Allow the butter to soften to a point where the internal temperature of the slab is 12 degrees" - or whatever the appropriate temperature is. Alternatively, give us a table of softening times for a range of ambient temperatures. That is, if the temperature in your kitchen is 25 degrees, you need to take the butter out of the fridge 22 minutes before using it.
You know it makes sense. If recipes were written by blokes, they'd include useful technical information like this.
This cake is really bloody simple.
125gm butter - chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed sugar (don't ask me how much that weighs)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Throw the butter, vanilla and sugar in your mixer and mix it for 6-10 minutes on high speed. I find that is what it takes for it to become "light and fluffy". Again - a gripe. What the fripping heck is "light and fluffy"? It's ok if you've spent 4 years with a chef yelling at you that your mix is not yet "light and fluffy", but the rest of us need a bit more to go on. Hence my advice is to beat the living daylights out of it for at least 6 minutes. I set the timer on the microwave to make sure it gets beaten for long enough.
You've now got 6-10 minutes to do the following:
Hunt around in the cupboard and find a 20cm springform tin. I broke my 20cm tin, so I use a smaller one - it makes no difference. Grease the inside with margarine, slap a circle of baking paper on the bottom and strips of baking paper to the sides and put it down somewhere where you won't trip over it. It helps if you only grease the inside of the tin - it gets a bit slippery if you do the outside as well.
Turn the oven to 180 degrees and get your shelves in the right places. Nothing worse than having to rearrange stinking hot shelves when you need to toss the cake into the oven.
Find two apples and peel them. Quarter them, chop out the cores and then thinly slice the quarters. Remember - you'll be eating this cake with a spoon. You don't want slices so thick that you need a serrated knife to cut through them. Make the slices thin. Not paper thin - just thin. If you can't cut them with a spoon when cooked, they're too bloody thick - is that clear enough for you?
What sort of apples? The recipe says royal gala, but I love pink ladies. So I used pink ladies (that's all we had in the house). Does it matter what sort of apple you use? Dunno. I suspect the only reason some recipes tell you to use a certain apple is that is all the cook had to use when they first made the cake - and they stuck with that variety. If the recipe said that the acid content, sugar balance, cell structure and fruit density of a particular variety made it the best type for certain recipes, then I'd give it some credence. But I hate using one apple over another without an explanation why.
Hell, you're running out of time here. Grab your sliced apple, find the cake tin and either gently lay the apples slices in the bottom in a beautiful pattern, or toss the whole lot in and give it a shake until the bottom is evenly coated in two layers of apple slices. Whatever works for you. I am not the neat kind. I don't "do" decorating. I do cooking and eating.
Pour a few teaspoons of golden syrup over the apples. I used 3 generous teaspoons tonight. I could have used more. But 3 was a good start.
Find 2 eggs. If your sugar and butter have been beating for at least 6 minutes and now look "light and fluffy", crack an egg and toss it in to the mixer. Remember to take it out of the shell first. Let it beat for another minute or so, then chuck in the other egg. Give it at least another minute - it has to incorporate properly.
Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl and tip in the following through a sieve:
- 1 cup self raising flour
- 1/2 cup plain flour
Pour in 3/4 cup of milk.
Mix the whole lot up with a spatula or spoon until it's the consistency of wet cement. Don't over mix it and for heaven's sake, don't use the bloody mixmaster - that will kill it.
Tip the batter over the apples and bake for 35-40 minutes. It took closer to 55 in my crap oven. Stick a skewer in the middle to see if its cooked - if any cake sticks to the skewer, give it another 5 minutes.
When it's done, pull the tin out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Then remove the spring form side and baking paper and invert it onto a plate. Invert means "tip upside down". Remember to put the plate on top of the cake before you tip it upside down. The apple bits will then be on top. You can eat it once you've remembered to remove the last bit of baking paper.
Eat with whipped cream or ice cream. And a pot of tea, if that takes your fancy. Or even coffee. See if I care.