Monday, September 10, 2012
French Vanilla Cake
I made a cake on the weekend, one that I'd been dreaming about for weeks, so much so that I could taste it in my mind before it ever appeared on the plate. Nielsen-Massey sent me some of their sublimely wonderful Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla products, both the extract which I always use in baking and some bean paste which was new to me and smelt divine. It was that luscious smell that made me want a French vanilla cake, the likes of which I loved as a child but which, if memory plays no tricks, was actually a packet mix, one where you just add an egg to the stuff in the box and after a quick bake - hey presto! We have cake.
I figured if it tasted that good remembering it had to be worth recreating. So I searched the net but mostly came up with things to do with the packet mix version which was really not where I wanted to go. Sorry to say I missed a masterclass with Eric Lanlard (who's patisserie is the fabulously named Cake Boy) where he made a frasier, that classic French strawberry cake. I would love to have had a slice of that and learned a trick or two about its creation but all I had was a detailed recipe for sponge and mousseline and some extraordinary decorating with strawberries and toasted marzipan and lots of dark chocolate drizzles. My excuse for not attempting it is the strawberry season is gone for the year (which is true) but I'm fairly sure I'm just not that talented. (which is also true!)
What I did have though was a fresh batch of passionfruit curd - another taste of my childhood. I could see a simpler cake by far, a sponge redolent of vanilla joined with a thick slick of curd and another of clotted cream - a passion I have developed since coming to London.The old and the new, simply dusted with icing sugar, must surely be fabulous, a last of the summer treat.
French Vanilla Cake
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g golden caster sugar
5 medium eggs, beaten
350g plain flour, sifted
1.5 tspn baking powder
1 tspn pure vanilla bean paste
1 tspn pure vanilla extract
10ml whole milk
About 6 tablespoons of passionfruit curd, or lemon curd or strawberry jam
About 100g clotted cream - or more to taste!
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Butter and line 2x20cm round sandwich tins.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, which takes at least 5 minutes with electric beaters. Gradually add the beaten eggs, then fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, along with the vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract and milk.
Divide the mix between the two tins and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes till the sponge is golden brown and springy to the touch.
Leave the sponges to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
Turn both cakes onto their baked top then slather the base of one with passionfruit curd and the other with generous quantities of clotted cream, then join together to make cakey heaven. Dust with icing sugar and eat in big slices.
It was a really tasty cake, tasting richly of vanilla, but I must confess I slightly undercooked it and the middle was not properly cooked through. Note to self, use a skewer to double check until you understand 'springy to the touch'. Not so disastrous that it couldn't be eaten, but next time - and there will definitely be a next time - I'll give it a couple more minutes.