SPRUCED-UP VANILLA CAKE

This is a sleight of hand, or a trick of equipment rather than an act of brilliance. True, the cake does look incredibly complicated and seasonally impressive as it comes to the table, but that is all down to the shape of the tin. It’s an expense to get a tin that can’t be used all year round, but it really is a beautifully Christmassy creation, and a doddle to make. For the “spruced up” of the cake refers to the Holiday Fir tin I bake it in; at other times of the year, I call this Eggy Vanilla Cake and cook it in a 2.5-litre bundt tin, as you can now, too. And the thing is, it doesn’t need just to be brought out as a festive flourish for a supper party, but can be satisfyingly baked and left to preside grandly over the kitchen, commanding anyone to have a slice, damply plain, or toasted, by way of a seasonal treat.

To turn this into Spruced-Up Spice Cake, even more seasonal and just as good – though with less appeal to children – halve the vanilla and add 2 teaspoons each of ground cinnamon and ginger and a half teaspoon of ground cloves.

And do make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before you start.

INGREDIENTS

Makes: about 12 slicesMETRICCUPS

  • 225 grams soft butter (plus more for greasing)
  • 300 grams caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 350 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 250 grams plain fat-free yoghurt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/350ºF and put a baking sheet in at the same time. Butter or oil your large, regular or fir-tree shaped bundt tin (2.5 litres capacity / 2½ quart capacity) very, very thoroughly. (I use oil-sodden kitchen paper.)
  2. Either by hand or in a freestanding mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of flour.
  4. Fold in the rest of the flour, and add the bicarbonate of soda, the yogurt and vanilla extract. Don’t overbeat or the cake will rise too much, giving an overly-domed bottom later – though it’s not the end of the world, as you can always trim it if necessary.
  5. Pour and spoon the mixture into your greased tin and spread about evenly.
  6. Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45–60 minutes until well risen and golden. After 45 minutes, push a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Let it sit out of the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then turn out the cake, hoping for the best.
  8. Once cool, dust with the icing sugar pushed through a small sieve, to decorate: think fresh snowfall on the alps.

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