There is something depressing about things that are supposed to unmould beautifully but which emerge in a sorry heap with half their insides firmly attached to the mould. And it's no good saying they taste just as good, even if they don't look right. They ought to, but there is an aura of disappointment that hangs round them. This to my mind affects the taste. It shouldn't, but it does. And it certainly affects presentability to the outside world. Teenage boys being the exception to this, as to every rule!
Of course, one can always do something different with an unmoulding disaster but this is a nuisance when one wants to put a cake on a plate, not at the bottom of a trifle, say.
However there is no doubt that bundt cakes do look beautiful and the fact that they are presented plain, with just a light dusting of icing sugar has much to recommend them. Elaborate icing and I do not get on. I get in a fearful mess, with clouds of icing sugar settling in light, snowy drifts on everything in sight and I never seem to manage to get the perfect effect that the glossy picture in the book suggests.
Anyway I digress. Despite the above, when I was in Berlin in the autumn, I spent a happy hour in the kitchen department of the fabulous KaDeWe department store and came across a whole selection of bundt moulds. You can get them in metal or silicone and in all sorts of fantastic configurations - a cathedral, a fleur de lys, a cottage, (the sort the witch, in Hansel and Gretel, lived in), a castle, (complete with a portcullis), a beehive, a star, even a fully armed and ready-to-sail pirate ship or an (empty!) football stadium!
Mine is a cathedral shaped one.
And you don't have to go to KaDeWe in Berlin either to get one - you can get them in good kitchenware shops over here or on good old Amazon. Armed with my magic Bake Easy spray - see my post on sticky toffee puddings for details - I wondered whether this might now be territory that could be ventured into.
It was! And I have to say the results are extraordinarily satisfying. The cake itself is easy as pie to make. You shove the butter and sugar in the food processor and whizz until fluffy. You add the rest of the ingredients and whizz again before pouring into your prepared mould and baking.
You let it cool a bit, before turning out - I left it twice as long as the recipe said the first time because I was nervous.
And then you invert the tin onto a plate and simply lift it off. Bingo!!!
No shaking, no prising around the edges, no patching up of bits that did not come away cleanly. A minor and very satisfying miracle.
And the cake itself is very good. It is also versatile.
You can eat a slice, just as it is, with a cup of tea mid-afternoon.
You can serve it as a dessert for dinner, perhaps with some mascarpone and some fruit (sliced oranges with a shot of cointreau or stewed red plums with brown sugar and cinnamon would be especially good accompaniments at this time of year or strawberries or raspberries in the summer).
You can have it for breakfast with a glass of orange juice and some good, strong coffee.
It's one of those cakes that are plain but don't taste plain, if you know what I mean.
The recipe I used is Nigella Lawson's Spruced-Up-Vanilla cake. If you don't want to splash out on a special mould, just use a plainer ring mould or of course you can cook it in a bog-standard cake tin and not worry about the unmoulding bit. It's fun though! As good as unmoulding perfect sandcastles on the beach as a child.
This is what you need to make the cake:
225 g unsalted butter at room temperature
300 g caster sugar
6 large eggs
350 g plain flour
half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
250 ml natural yoghurt (Nigella uses fat-free yoghurt but I used homemade, full fat yoghurt because that's what was to hand. I don't think it matters much.)
4 tsps vanilla extract
1-2 tsps icing sugar to sift through a tea strainer over the top once the cake is unmoulded
(oh, and the Bake Easy non-stick spray of course if you are going to use a complicated mould!)
Preheat the oven to 180 C (175 if a fan oven) and bake the cake for about 50 - 60 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.
Mine rose so enthusiastically it won't sit down flat on the plate but hey, you can't have everything! So long as its top knots are intact and its sides still connected to its middle, I'm happy! So will you be, if you make one!
I shall be out late for work this evening. When I get back, a slice of this and a large mug of tea will do nicely instead of supper.
These are my babushka measuring cups that I got for Christmas - aren't they gorgeous?