Back in August, we asked readers to send us their original cake recipes to be judged by Paul Hollywood at this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. We had scores of entries, with readers sharing family favourites and recipes handed down the generations.
The next step was to enlist the expertise of colleagues at our sister magazine Good Food who, together with eager volunteers from RT, spent days sifting through the recipes and (after much agonising and testing) came up with a shortlist. On Sunday 7 October, in a jam-packed tent at Cheltenham, the final six came under the master baker’s scrutiny.
“I love the idea,” said Hollywood, sniffing at a slice of lemon drizzle cake with meringue icing, before suggesting a layer of lemon curd. Fellow judge Miranda Gore-Browne, who was a finalist in the first series, marvelled at the light texture of a Bavarian spice cake and the “zinginess” of a rose-drenched lime and yoghurt cake.
“This is one of those old-school classics,” noted 2010 Bake Off winner Edd Kimber, sinking his teeth into a Devon apple cake. Hollywood eyed up a flamboyant white chocolate poppy-seed cake: “I’ve never had one like that. It’s daring.
“The standard is extremely high,” observed Hollywood. “It’s going to be a difficult choice.”
Even so, it took less than a minute for the judges to come to a unanimous decision: the winner was a sticky rhubarb crumble cake from Sandra Romano of Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. “It’s delicious,” said Hollywood. “The texture is perfect, the rhubarb is coming through and there’s a nice crispiness to the top.”
“That was nerve-racking,” smiled a slightly shaky Sandra, “but it was a fantastic experience. I’ve never won anything before!”
“The recipe for this rhubarb cake belonged to an old friend who passed away a few years ago,” says Sandra Romano, winner of RT’s competition. “The fresher the rhubarb, the better the cake.”
* 225g/8oz rhubarb, cut into batons
* 50g/1¾ oz soft light brown sugar
* ½ tsp ground cinnamon
* Zest of 1 orange
FOR THE CRUMBLE
* 60g/2oz dark brown sugar
* 60g/2oz granulated sugar
* 1tsp ground cinnamon
* ½ tsp mixed spice
* Pinch of salt
* 80g/2¾ oz butter, melted
* 100g/3½ oz plain flour
FOR THE CAKE
* 90g/3¼ oz butter
* 80g/2¾ oz soured cream
* 1 egg, plus one egg yolk
* 2 tsp vanilla essence
* 140g/5oz plain flour
* 85g/30z caster sugar
* ½ tsp baking powder
* ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
* Pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in square cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
2. In a bowl, mix together the rhubarb, brown sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. In another bowl, mix the crumble ingredients into a solid dough then set aside.
3. Place the cake ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth (this should take no more than 40 seconds). Pour half the mixture into the cake tin and arrange the rhubarb over the top. Add the remaining cake mix. Break the crumble dough into smallish lumps and scatter over the cake.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown.
Serve the cake warm with clotted cream, cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious!
THE RUNNERS UP…
Rose drenched lime and yoghurt cake
by Mrs P Longbottom
* 200g self raising flour
* 110g ground almonds
* 150g caster sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 250g Greek yoghurt
* 150ml sunflower oil
* Zest of 2 limes
FOR THE SYRUP:
* 27ml water
* 175g caster sugar
* Juice of 2 limes
* 1 tablespoon rosewater
1. Sieve dry ingredients into bowl. Add all the zest in a well in the middle and fold in well.
2. Bake reg .4 middle shelf for 50m minutes on average (can sometimes take 1 hr 10 mins). Cool before turning out.
3. Make syrup in a pan by mixing water, sugar and lime juice. Heat gently at first, stirring continually, bring to boil and boil for 5-7 minutes. Cool and add rosewater.
4. Dust with icing or caster sugar when cool. Serve with mixed berries and crème fraiche.
Devon Apple Cake
by Mrs Janine Lishman-Peat
* 225g self-raising flour
* ½ tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp mixed spice
* Pinch of salt
* 75g butter
* 75g caster sugar
* 225g prepared weight apples. I use a mix of Bramleys and Granny Smiths. Peeled, cored and cut into chunks
* 50g sultanas
* 1 egg
* Milk to mix
* 2 tbsp Demerara sugar
1. Grease and line a 7inch round loose bottomed deep cake tin. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and salt together and rub in the butter until the mix looks like fine breadcrumbs (a rubbed in cake would have been much easier to make before the advent of electric mixers).
3. Stir in the sugar, sultanas and apple (the apple is best in quite large chunks). Mix to a sticky consistency with the egg and a little milk.
4. Place in the tin and level the top. Sprinkle over the Demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes away clean and the cake has stopped sizzling.
5. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin without turning the cake upside down, and cool on a wire rack.
In times of plenty this was served with a spoonful of clotted cream but it’s equally delicious without. I sometimes serve it still warm as a dessert with some ice cream.
Bavarian Spice Cake
by Elizabeth Brown
* 2 cups dark brown sugar
* 1 cup shortening (Crisco or trex but veg suet just isn’t the same)
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 1 cup chopped dates
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* ½ tsp allspice
* ½ tsp cloves
* 2 cups beer or ale
* 3 cups sifted flour (plain)
* 2 tsp baking soda
* ½ tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C
2. Cream sugar and shortening. Stir in the eggs, nuts, dates and spices.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda and salt; stir in the beer.
4. Combine beer and creamed mixtures and mix until well blended.
5. Bake in a lightly greased and floured large (2.5 quart) pan for 1 hour 15 minutes.
6. Cool on rack and turn out onto plate.
White Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake
by Monika Pelka
FOR THE SPONGE CAKE:
* 5 medium eggs
* 150g icing sugar
* 2 tbsp ground almonds
* 2 tbsp cornflour
* 120g plain flour
* 1 flat tbsp baking powder
* 200g poppy seeds
* Pinch of salt
* 2 tbsp caster sugar
* 3 tbsp white rum
* 125ml water
FOR WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
* 450g good quality white chocolate
* 400ml double cream
* Approx 4 tbsp good blackcurrant jam (I use home made)
* Unsalted butter and fine semolina for the tin
Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare your tin: grease a high-sided 8-inch spring form cake tin with butter and then add a small amount of fine semolina and turn the tin to coat the sides and bottom, shaking out any excess.
NOTE: You might want to bake the sponge and prepare the ganache a day before.
TO MAKE THE SPONGE CAKE:
1. Separate the eggs. Place the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl and sprinkle in the salt. Beat the whites until stiff peaks form, gradually adding the sugar towards the end. The mixture should be shiny, fluffy and uniform, resembling a meringue. Add the yolks.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: the flours, ground almonds, baking powder and the poppy seeds. I normally sift the flours, but you don’t have to.
3. Gently fold in the floury mixture into the eggs. The batter should be very light and fluffy.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared tin, bake for about 45 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
5. Once the sponge is baked, let it rest for about 30mins outside of the oven. When just warm, remove the cake from the tin and leave it to cool completely on a wire rack.
I normally bake the sponge the day before and at this stage wrap the cake in cling film and rest it overnight at room temperature, It helps to seal the moisture in and makes the cake eaiser to trim and layer. If you don’t want to wait, just let your cake cool completely before cutting it into 3 (I use a cake leveller for this, but a sharp serrated knife will do too).
TO MAKE THE SYRUP FOR SOAKING:
Place the water and caster sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Set aside to cool down slightly and then add the white rum.
TO MAKE THE GANACHE:
Place the cream in a saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl, then pour the warm cream over the top. Stir until the chocolate has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Cool down slightly, then refrigerate for several hours (preferably overnight). When cold, whisk the mixture until light and fluffy. Reserve a tablespoon for decoration, use the rest to sandwich and cover the cake.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:
1. Place the first of your 3 sponge layers on to a serving board or plate. Using a pastry brush, soak the top of the sponge with syrup, then spread 2 tbsp of the blackcurrant jam followed by ¼ of the ganache.
2. Place the second sponge layer on top, again soak it with some syrup and spread with 2 tbsp of the jam, and then ¼ of the chocolate ganache.
3. Place the last sponge on top, soak with the syrup and then use the rest of the chocolate ganache to cover the top and sides of the cake. Use the reserved ganache to pipe decorations onto the finished cake. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Luscious lemon drizzle cake with meringue icing
by Jan Rice
FOR THE CAKE:
* 100g (4oz) softened butter or margarine
* 175g (60z) caster sugar
* 175g (60z) self-raising flour, sifted
* 2 large eggs
* 2-4 tbsp milk
* Finely grated rind of 1 large unwaxed lemon
FOR THE DRIZZLE SYRUP:
* 3 rounded tbsp icing sugar, sifted
* 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
FOR THE MERINGUE ‘ICING’:
* 1 medium egg white
* 50g (2oz) golden (or ordinary) caster sugar
1. Grease and line a 19cm springform cake tin. Preheat oven to 180C, gas mark 4, 350F.
2. Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar.
3. Add the eggs, flour, and lemon rind. Beat well.
4. Gradually add milk to the mixture, just enough to make a soft dropping consistency. Mix well.
5. Pour into prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for about 40 mins, until just firm.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C, gas mark 2, 300F.
7. As soon as it comes out of the oven, use a fine cake tester – or a length of uncooked spaghetti is perfect for the job– to prick the cake all over to about half its depth, then carefully pour or spoon the drizzle syrup evenly over the cake’s surface. Set aside while you make the meringue ‘icing’.
8. In a clean dry bowl, whisk the egg white until stiff. Gradually whisk in half the sugar, then gently fold in the rest.
9. Using a palette knife, spread the meringue evenly over the top of the cake, then lightly flick it up with the tip of the knife for a ‘roughened surface’, taking care not to disturb the surface of the cake beneath.
10. Return the cake to the (reduced temp) oven, and bake for a further 20-25 mins until golden brown. The cake is moist from the drizzle syrup and comes to no harm from the extra baking time.
11. Allow the cake to cool for about 20 mins in its tin on a cooling rack, then run a palette knife around the edge before releasing the spring on the tin. Leave to cool completely.