This post is dedicated to Colin Firth. Why? Because I want to. Because I feel like it. For his freshly baked Oscar. Because he’s been one of my favorite actors for hundreds of years. Because he’s had to wait to have wrinkles, to lose some hair and for his cheeks to drop for critics to appreciate his performing art. Instead, we all know that Nicole Kidman, an instance among many, is a smashing actress ever since she was born. Yeah.. Maybe the film critics are mostly men? That’s the reason why I recently made this utterly British classic, that the Britons used to have for high tea while sipping a glass of sweet Madeira wine with their little finger raised, hence the name of the cake… This is a touch of genius, nothing better than sweet wine to accompany this luscious cake… In fact the cake is quite a normal cake flavored with lemon, but if you picture Mr. Darcy tasting it, it suddenly and unexpectedly becomes more appealing…
Precisely because of the almost-zero recognition of movie hunks by the film critics, I worship George Clooney, because the guy must be as sharp as a tack for winning an Oscar before needing a walking stick (okay, who won for a role where he was hardly recognizable, with 20 kilos overweight). Okay, I worship him for this and for some other reasons I will not mention. It’s not that I feel quite the cinephile lately, I always do because I love cinema, of course good cinema (you’re wondering what good cinema is? In my blog I say what is good… and what is not). I just do not usually talk about it here, it does not usually fit with the recipes I post. This time it did not fit either, but I could not resist myself. What for?
The recipe for this cake, born in the 18th century, comes from a cute British cookbook published by Harrods, oh dear, quintessentially British (the Anglophile in me again). It also caught my attention because it carries a small proportion of rice flour, and since I had a brand new brown rice flour, I told myself this cake was the opportunity I expected. But fear not, the few healthy brown rice molecules are well neutralized by tons of butter…
To the point:
- 150g soft unsalted butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 225g AP flour
- 50g rice flour
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 tsp leavening agent (or 2+2/3 tsp baking powder)*
- 4 medium eggs
- Candied lemon peel (optional)
*To prepare a leavening agent you mix cream of tartar with baking soda. This agent is like any store-bought baking powder, that is, a mixture of an alkaline compound, sodium bicarbonate, with an acid, in this case the cream of tartar. The acid and the alkali get in contact when dissolved in the liquid of the batter and they react. The acid-alkali reaction releases carbon dioxide that makes the cake or cookie rise. In the case of store-bought baking powder, acid usually has a slow-action or is activated only by heat (that is, the reaction will not start until you put the batter in the oven). On the contrary, cream of tartar acts very quickly, immediately on dissolving in the liquid. If the dough has an acidic component, such as buttermilk, depending on the amount it might not be necessary to add the cream of tartar, but only the baking soda. Equivalence between store-bought baking powder and the mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar is as follows:
1 tsp of baking powder equals:
- 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tartar or
- 1/4 tsp baking soda + 120ml acid liquid, like buttermilk, sour milk or yoghourt
The ratio of cream of tartar to baking soda must always be 2 to 1, that is, double amount of cream of tartar. Well… sometimes my past as a chemist just shows. Source: On food and cooking, Harold McGee, and Joy of Baking.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC if conventional, to 160ºC if convection type.
- Whip the soft butter with the sugar till white and fluffy.
- In the meantime, weigh and sieve the solid ingredients, set aside. Zest the lemon and add the zest to the flour mixture.
- Crack the eggs and mix with the lemon juice.
- When the butter and sugar mix is ready, add the solids and the eggs alternately, in 2 or 3 batches, mixing all the time at a slower speed than before.
- Line a 18cm cake pan with parchment paper. When the batter is ready, pour it in the pan (it will be quite thick) and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake immediately as the cream of tartar will start acting at once.
- Bake for one hour. Unmold and let cool on a wire rack.
I have to agree with the British: the obvious lemony taste of the cake along with its dense texture (but not heavy), coupled with a deliciously crispy crust combines beautifully with a good sweet or raisin wine… hics.
And last but not least (I’ve been forgeting to mention this for a month already). I was one of the judges for the photographic contest DMBLGIT, January edition, hosted by the very lovely Katherine of A girl in Madrid… Check the winners at her site. I do apologize for not posting this earlier, I kept forgeting all the time! And the experience was a tough one, so many beautiful photographs to choose from… Congratulations to all the winners, it was well deserved.