Al’s Easy Almond & Vanilla Sponge Cake

In some cultures, it is traditional among the male of the species to ply his other half with chocolates and flowers to get on her good side. But if even these efforts fail to locate her elusive “Gee darling” spot, then may I suggest you have a bash at this really easy (and abso-jolly-lutely delicious) sponge cake. In the past this delight has been known to bring about such unexpected outbursts of joyful agreement (“Of course you may do a bungee jump dear, I’ll even cheer you on”) that one has been sufficiently taken aback, feeling like the dog that actually catches the car and doesn’t know what to do with it…. So without any further ado (you’ll be relieved to note that this cake contains absolutely no ‘ado’ whatsoever)…on with the cake.

DSCN9765

The finished product. Waiting to be noshed.

Ingredients – Cake

  • 1 x pre-heated oven to 180C (or 170C if you have a fan oven)
  • 2 x 20cm cake tins
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (vanilla essence will do just as well)
  • 1 teaspoon of almond essence
  • 4 fresh eggs at room temp – eggstra large (couldn’t resist the pun – sorry okes)
  • 260g castor sugar
  • 280g cake flour (I try to get the organic, stone ground stuff)

    DSCN9755

    Precisely 280g of cake flour.

  • 3 slightly rounded teaspoons baking powder (about 18ml)
  • 1 cup (250ml) full cream milk – also at room temperature
  • 100g of your best butter (margarine is ok, but good butter is best)

Ingredients – Icing

  • 2 x Tablespoons of soft butter
  • About 1.5 cups icing sugar. This is an approximation as different folks like differing amounts of icing.
  • About 30ml hot water
  • 1 x teaspoon almond essence
  • 6 Maraschino Cherries – halved. More if you want.

Method

  1. Turn up the oven to 180C (160-170C for a fan oven)
  2. Using some butter, grease up the two baking tins and add a sprinkling of flour into each tin (about a dessert spoon in each tin). Shake the tins about until the flour lightly covers the butter. You can use a spray on anti-stick product too – but the butter/flour process makes you look definitely more Jamie-Oliver if anyone’s watching.
  3. Gently heat the butter in a small saucepan until melted

    DSCN9757

    The butter and milk mixture – remember to watch it carefully – don’t let it boil.

  4. Add the milk and stir. NB Don’t allow this mixture to boil, as it horses up the makeup of the mixture. Once the milk and butter have mixed – turn off the heat.
  5. Sift the castor sugar into a clean bowl. Add the eggs
  6. In a lively fashion (i.e. with your electric beater on high), beat the egg/sugar mixture until it’s a pale yellow colour and quite thick (3-5 mins). Be careful not to beat it too much. Keep turning the bowl to ensure that all the sugar is dissolved. Towards the end, I also angle the beater a bit to maximise the aeration of the mixture.

    DSCN9758

    Whisking the egg and castor sugar mixture.

  7. Slowly sift the flower and baking powder mixture into the beaten egg/castor sugar mixture – gently folding it in with a clean wooden spoon. It’s important to sift the flower as it gets rid of any foreign objects and it gets air in between the particles – making the cake lighter and spongier. The boffins also tell us to fold the mixture using a figure-of-eight movement – but maths was never my strong point.
  8. Add the two teaspoons of essence (one of each, remember)
  9. Now add the warm milk/butter mixture slowly – repeating the folding movement. Again, don’t over-do it but when the lumps have all disappeared pour equal amounts of the mixture into the two waiting baking tins.
  10. Put the baking tins side by side into the oven and occupy yourself for 25 to 30 minutes rummaging through the kitchen drawers for that spiky cake-pricking thingy. If you can’t find it (and the better half is not watching over your shoulder) a thin flat screwdriver will do just as well. But clean the blessed thing first – as there is nothing worse than the taste of axle grease in your koek.
  11. At the end of the baking time pierce the highest point of the cake with your screwdriver or cake piercing thingy – pressing it down to the bottom of the tin. Withdraw it and inspect it for any of the batter adhering to the metal. If it does – quickly shove the cakes back in the oven for another five minutes. If the metal is clean – remove the tins from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes.

    DSCN9761

    Cakes resting in their tins for ten minutes.

  12. After 10 mins turn the cake tins upside down onto the cooling rack and the cakes should easily come away from the tins.

    DSCN9764

    What the cake should look like at close range. If your cake has a crack on top – it could be because your oven is a tad too hot – try adjusting down a smidgeon for the next cake.

  13. As soon as you can, turn the cakes right side up and allow them to cool completely.
  14. If you REALLY want the better half to swoon away completely, do the dishes – there’s a good chap.
  15. While they’re cooling, grab another clean bowl and lob the icing sugar, almond essence, butter and hot water into said bowl and beat the mixture until the icing is light, pliable and fairly fluffy. To achieve this, add either icing sugar or warm water in very small amounts until the desired consistency is attained.
  16. When the cakes have completely cooled, grab a plate and a doily and place the bottom layer topside-down and apply some icing with a spatula. Then place the second cake right side up and apply the remaining icing (or as much as desired) to the top bit.
  17. If you want to, you can get creative with a fork and inscribe patterns into the icing an all that stuff – but if, like me, you just want to get the dinner manglers into the cake, then just place the halved cherries onto the cake like a clock.
  18. Slice, serve and enjoy.
DSCN9766

Another close-up to make the mouth water and to motivate you to get busy in the kitchen.

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About Freud Fission Chips

Despite the banality of the name, FFC has led an intensely varied life. Grateful for surviving almost three years as a 'troepie' (soldier for non-South African Readers) in the Angolan war, he determined to wring as much out of life as possible. Currently providing Business Analysis services, trading on the stock market and developing web pages to pay the bills, FFC also dabbles in wildlife, landscape and people photography, writing, and far too many interests for his own good. He has also travelled extensively in southern Africa (working on the sound theory that a moving target is more dificult to hit). These peregrinations also include over 1500kms on foot through some of the worlds most spectacular scenery. It hasn't all been plain sailing, beer and skittles, and endless beds of roses... Chief amongst the prerequisites for surviving Africa, with its mind-bending characteristics, is an appropriate sense of humour.... So, for now, he will be recounting the amusing among the annoying, the frustrating wrapped in the funny and extracting the mirth from the melancholy... Oh yes, there might be some alliteration too.
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