Sunday, 30 October 2016

Chai Swirl Loaf Cake

My local branch of The Clandestine Cake Club held it's most recent meeting to coincide with the Great British Bake-Off final. I think it was an inspired idea from our organiser as it was fun to watch the final in the company of other enthusiastic bakers.  A very brief video of our meeting was even shown on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show the following day, during her tribute to GBBO and it's demise from the BBC.

For me, the final was a bit of an anti-climax, as it lacked the tensions of the previous weeks. Without an elaborate show-stopper which required assembly, there were no nail-biting moments when collapse looked imminent, and after the picnic finale, it seemed to me that Candice won more because of the others' soggy pastry than anything really outstanding on her part, which isn't how it should be.

Our brief for taking a cake to the Clandestine Cake Club meeting was any recipe from any of the GBBO contestants over the 7 years of competition. I have to admit that I don't own any books by any of the contestants (although I would like Chetna Makan's book), so I had to trawl the internet to see what I could find. I wanted something unusual in flavour, but not so fancy or complicated that I wouldn't enjoy baking it.

Because of her time as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper, there were a lot of Ruby Tandoh's recipes available. I made one of the recipes she published during that time and wasn't very impressed with the result, which rather put me off trying any more, but when I couldn't find anything else suitable from other contestants I had another look and found this recipe for a Chai Swirl Loaf Cake. It's based on the classic sponge cake proportions, and has a swirl of marbling made by adding brown sugar, and the spices traditionally used to flavour chai, to a portion of the batter. The recipe adds a cream cheese frosting, but I didn't use that for the trial bake.

For the trial I simplified the recipe by making an all-in-one sponge with SR flour and an extra half teaspoon of baking powder. Experience has shown that for simple cakes the all-in-one method works as well as the traditional creaming method, as long as the butter is very soft. I decided to add an extra tablespoon of milk to slacken the batter slightly, so that it would spread more easily in the cake tin.

The recipe suggested dolloping alternate spoonfuls of batter into the cake tin, and running a knife through to marble the two mixtures together, but the accompanying photo showed a cake produced by layering the batters alternately and letting the convection currents within the batter swirl the mixture as it cooked. I prefer this method which gives a much smarter appearance. So, starting with the plain batter, I layered up four layers of batter alternately with three layers of flavoured batter. Each layer was roughly two heaped tablespoons of batter, and needed to be eased towards the sides of the tin, although the weight of each successive layer helps spread those beneath.

The spices used in the flavoured portion of batter were cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper and they came together with the extra sugar to make a really unique mixture - warm, mellow, and sweet, with a slight mouth-tingling kick. I didn't think the cake really needed any frosting, as it was light and tender, but I did add a cream cheese frosting to the cake I make for the CCC meeting, although not Ruby's recipe, as I have a very reliable recipe from Dan Lepard. As usual, baking a cake for others didn't go as smoothly as the trial bake - for one thing, the cake stuck to my baking parchment liner - how could that have happened? - and the swirls weren't as well defined, but those who tried it really liked the unusual flavour.

This cake may not have been a show-stopper in appearance, but it was certainly a star when it came to flavour!


Alicia Foodycat said...

I have Chetna's book. It's lovely, but I don't think I am going to get very much use from it (I wasn't expecting it to be *just* baking!) so I will bring it for you next time we have lunch.

Suelle said...

That's very kind of you - thank you!

Snowy said...

Love the mixture of spices, and the cake sounds interesting. I have Ruby's first cookery book, but haven't used it.