Christmas may be over but winter is definitely here, which is why I was drawn to a spicy cake this week. This cake had so many lovely facets that appealed to me: tea, spice, treacle, brown butter and even a bit of citrus. All the flavours were offset by a very simple classic buttercream.
It’s worth taking your time over making the brown butter. Your nose will tell you without any doubt that there is a huge difference between brown butter and burnt butter! Gently heat the butter and it will become foamy; let this stage pass and the butter will turn clear and a wonderful dark amber colour…and it smells divine. It’s also a bit like caramel in that you’re better to take it off the hob just before it’s at the stage you want, as it carries on darkening and you risk taking it too far.
This is such a comforting, homely looking cake but it packs in so much flavour – the best of all worlds. The tea and citrus lifts what would otherwise be a lovely but ordinary dense gingerbread; I expected the cake to be more sponge-like but it isn’t – it’s definitely in the gingerbread camp. Not sure what I did but my cakes came out huge! I had to shave a bit off each one just to get it to a size that would fit in any of my storage tins! Still, it gave me the opportunity to photograph a whole layer:
This cake is a keeper, by which I mean you’re best off making it a day or two in advance – it gets stickier and more flavoursome. Bring on the snow – I’m ready for it!
For the cake:
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
250ml tea, made using 2 teabags
Grated zest of 1 orange
600g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon mixed spice
For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/350F/ gas 4.
Line two loose bottomed 20cm round sandwich tins with baking paper.
Now make the cakes: melt the butter in a pan until it turns brown (but not burned). Do this over a gentle heat – at first it will foam, but will brown shortly after.
Strain the butter through a coffee filter or several sheets of kitchen paper into a bowl and leave to cool.
Beat the cooled brown butter into the sugar, eggs and treacle.
Stir in the cooled tea and orange zest (I put the zest in the tea so that it infused the flavour into the tea).
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, spices and baking powder.
Beat the butter mixture into the flour mixture.
Divide evenly between the prepared tins and level the surfaces.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine actually took a fair bit longer – nearer to 40 minutes.
Cool, in their tins, for 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
Now make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is soft and whippy.
Beat in the vanilla and icing sugar.
Beat in the water.
Place one of the cakes on the serving plate and spread the buttercream over it.
Place the other sponge on top.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.