To me this sponge cake sums up what baking is all about, a strange and mysterious science, but also a tasty, fun, and delicious one.
Just three simple things combined create a tasty cake that can be filled with all manner of treats.
Well when I say three ingredients, the observant bakers among you will know I mean four, as self- raising flour contains the raising agent that is all important in baking.
Self-raising flour is handy to use as the baking powder which helps the cake to rise is evenly distributed throughout the flour. The raising agent in any baking is the little tricky part that allows the magic to happen.
It is the most temperamental ingredient that needs to be treated with caution and reserve. An extra tea spoon of flour in a cake and not many people will notice, but an extra tea spoon of baking powder or bread soda and you will have disaster on your hands.
When I host baking classes, I often get asked the difference between baking powder and bread soda. When using bread soda, which we do for scones and soda bread, you will need an acidic substance to start the chemical reaction such as butter milk, yogurt, lemon or even honey.
In baking powder, all the ingredients to activate it are self-contained and cleverly the acid only starts into action when heat is applied. The acid then reacts with the sodium carbonate and the air bubbles start to become alive then get trapped by the egg which begins to harden.
So it looks and smells like a simple cake but there is a lot happening under that beautiful golden crust.
Lamb and quince hotpot
600g of lamb shoulder, chopped into eight pieces but left on the bone
2 onions, finely diced
4 tsp of ground cinnamon
2 tsp of ground ginger
2 tsp of ground cumin
1 quince, deseeded and thickly sliced
4 tbs of honey
2 tbs of butter
2 tsp of ground ginger
rice for four
a small handful of sesame seeds
Boil your quince for about ten minutes to soften it, remove it from the water and set aside. Meanwhile brown your lamb in a large saucepan.
When it has evenly browned add half the diced onion, half of the cinnamon, the ginger and cumin. Add some water so that your meat is two thirds submerged and leave to bubble away on a medium heat with the lid on.
In another pot, fry the rest of the onion in the butter and then add your honey, the rest of the cinnamon, the ground ginger and the parboiled quince. Let it bubble away gently for ten minutes. Add some of the juice from your meat dish and leave this aside.
Put the rice on to boil in lightly salted water and drain when cooked. Allow your meat to cook gently for about 30 minutes and keep topping up the water if needed, add your quince and all its sauce to the top and replace the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Add your sesame seeds at the end as a garnish.
Butternut squash hot pot with chicken wings and red onion
1 medium squash, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
A dash of olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp of cumin seeds roasted
A bunch of thyme, removed from the stalk and chopped
3 handfuls of chicken wings
2 tsp of honey
2 tbs of stock
Toss the squash, red onion, and slices of garlic in the olive oil and roast for 15 minutes in an oven-proof dish.
Brown your chicken wings in a pan. Add the chilli, cumin, thyme, and chicken wings, toss them around so they too are covered in oil. Place your dish back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Now add your honey, stock, and season it and return the dish to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the squash is completely soft and the chicken wings cooked through.
Puffed up sweet cranberries
200g of fresh cranberries
200g of sugar
120 mls of water
¼ tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of baking soda
Put all of the ingredients together in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow to bubble away for 15 minutes with a lid on.
Take care not to stir the ingredients but shake the pot gently once or twice.
Leaving the lid firmly on allow to sit overnight.
It is important not to remove the lid as the steam inside helps to puff up the cranberries. The next morning they are ready to spoon over your sponge cake.
Delicious and simple sponge cake
150g of castor sugar
150g of self raising flour
Cream for whipping and the cranberries from above
To me it is the simplest yet most glorious of cakes. I like to put sliced bananas and cream with a shaving of chocolate or a slather of ganache, if I have made some.
Here it is paired it with soft, sweet cranberries from the recipe above, but a berry jam would work just as well.
Heat your oven to 180 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit or Gas mark 4.
Mix your eggs and sugar for ages with the balloon attachment until really light and fluffy.
Sieve in the flour and then fold so the mixture does not lose its volume.
Pour into a greased and lined tin and bake for about 20 minutes until it has risen and is nice and golden.
Do not open the oven door during the first half of the baking time.
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