Here in London we’ve had a not-very-long, not-very-wintery winter – which somehow seems appropriately British: no epic snow storms (shout out to North America) or ice-paved streets, just a pervading sense of disappointment and resigned monotony (with a bit of extra rain just to make wearing a wool coat particularly unpleasant).
However! The last month or so has seen delicate green fuzz appearing on the branches of trees, daffodils and crocuses popping up in in parks and squares, and the sun putting in an appearance or two, warming the city enough for us to enjoy a few hours of short sleeves and beer garden basking.
I decided to give this weather a big old Hell Yeah by baking a light, bright, tea-on-the-terrace style cake in its honour. I also went for a walk, but the cake is probably why you’re here so we’ll keep talking about that.
There are no hacks or adaptations here, folks; this is a recipe I saw on Milk and Honey that looked far too good not to get up to my elbows in right away. Among other things, I’ve never come across orange and poppy seed as a cake combo – usually the citrus element is lemon – so that was intriguing, but frankly this recipe had me at the cream cheese frosting. I love cream cheese frosting and the only thing stopping me eating a whole bowl of it is… Nothing. Hmm. Moving on.
When getting my cake on I generally expect to see more or less equal measures of flour and sugar in the recipe, ditto butter, plus an egg or two, a dash of vanilla extract and, in a few cases, a splash of milk for added liquid/fat.
This recipe has twice as much flour as sugar, and no butter, using instead a comparatively small measure of oil and upping the egg count for extra binding and flavour. This combination makes for a drier crumb (not too dry, thanks to the sour cream) and dials the sweetness right back which makes for a more delicate, grown-up cake – and cries out to be paired with a warm cup of tea or coffee.
As you can see, I went the route of the sandwich cake purely because my springform pan was drunkenly left at a friend’s place a few Thanksgivings ago – with an entire pumpkin bourbon cheesecake inside – and I’ve somehow neither retrieved it or replaced it. (Apparently the cheesecake was a hit. Silver linings.)
I’m going to go right ahead and say that the two-pan approach was largely responsible for the slight dryness of my finished cake, though balance was restored somewhat by the slathering of cream cheese frosting adorning both layers – particularly after resting overnight.
The thickness of the frosting is easily adjustable: a little more juice for more of a drizzly consistency, a bit more icing sugar for a more robust spread. I added extra sugar for thickness but next time I’ll stick to the recipe’s measurements for a runnier frosting: drips would look lovely and I’d like the sponge to soak it up some.
(I had leftover batter because of the pan switcheroo and also I wanted to see the pretty inside of the cake without cutting it. So I baked and savaged a muffin. As you do.)
Verdict: Baking success. This is a great treat to make the day before a Thing (the resting time suits it), and would be perfect for a Thing in the shape of a picnic, garden party or other sunny outdoorsy business. Or with a mug of tea on the sofa because it’s not that warm out yet… Not in London anyway.
Let’s have some cake while we wait.