THE FUTURE IS CAKE.
Whether it’s for Mum on Sunday, or for you any time, you'll be needing a cake with a soft crumb, sharp icing and a scent of mandarin. A pound cake.
The classic pound cake is so-called because people pound at the doors to get at it. No, that’s not right, don’t be silly. It’s called a pound cake because originally ( Britain, 1700s), it was made with a pound (lb) each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. In France, it is even known as the ‘quatre-quarts’ (four quarters) cake.
The recipe in my battered copy of English 18th Century Cookery requires the cook to “beat one pound of butter in an earthen pan until it is like fine, thick cream”, before beating in nine eggs (they must have been quite small), a little lemon peel, a glass of brandy, and flour.
My Mandarin Pound Cake is smaller but just as simple, and I adore it for its dense, velvety, even crumb and brain-dead simplicity. I’ve seasonalised it with mandarin, but orange and lemon are just as beautiful. I’ve also replaced some of the butter with cream cheese for a bit of intrigue, but feel free to stick with the full amount (250 g) of butter instead.
Need to know
Get everything out of the fridge now, and bring to room temperature, which helps everything come together in a smooth emulsion.
Yes, the recipe says to cream the butter and sugar for 5 whole minutes. Just put some music on, and do it. You will be rewarded with a pale, almost fluffy mixture that trails into ribbons when you lift the beater, and the extra air results in a lovely, light, even cake.
If you’re feeling really persnickety, then weigh each egg. If it’s over 250 grams (eg 4 x 70 grams = 280 grams), then cut it back a bit to be an equal weight.
The icing on the cake is as important as the cake. I love a sharp, tangy icing as an aggressive contrast to all that comfort-food factor. Balance the juice with the icing sugar until it rolls languorously from a lifted spoon, seemingly in slow motion. As for method, first place a sheet of baking paper or an old newspaper under the wire rack to catch the drips. And don’t fluff and faff around, just pour the glaze onto the middle of the cake and encourage it – don’t push it - to spread to the sides with a flat knife.
The ‘I Feel Like Cake’ Cake
Rich, buttery, citrussy, and velvety smooth of crumb, this mandarin-scented pound cake is the cake I want when I want cake.
150 g butter, room temp
100 g cream cheese, room temp
250 g castor sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
half tsp sea salt, crushed
1 tbsp grated mandarin or lemon zest
1 tbsp mandarin juice
250 g self-raising flour, sifted
125 g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp mandarin juice
Heat the oven to 170C conventional.
Spray a 20cm cake tin with removable sides with olive oil, line the base with baking paper and spray the paper as well.
Beat the butter and cream cheese for 2 minutes until smooth.
Add the sugar and beat well until very pale, for a good 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one by one, beating until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Beat in the sea salt, juice and zest.
Add the flour all at once, and beat on low until just incorporated, without overdoing it.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
Bake for 50 to 55 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 15 mins, then gently remove the sides of the tin.
Mix the lemon and mandarin juice together for the icing.
Beat 1 tbsp of the mixed juice into the icing sugar, then add by the teaspoon until smooth and slow-moving.
Pour the icing onto the middle of the cake, then use a flat knife to gently move it out towards the edges, allowing it to waterfall over the sides.
Leave to set before serving. Store in an airtight container.
THE CAKE FLIP TRICK:
If your cake (this or any other cake) dips a little in the middle, just cover it up with a slice of mandarin or orange, cut right through, peel included. Shown above.
Or do the cake flip: turn it over so the flat bottom is on top. Brush off any stray crumbs, and ice that nice flat bottom. I did not mean that to sound as cheeky as it did. Oops, did it again.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has/had/will have a mother, and especially to mine.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to subscribe for more Jill Dupleix Eats in your inbox every Thursday. And special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for nearly killing himself moving the 11.3 kg Kitchen Aid mixer from the guest bedroom cupboard ( storage issues) to the kitchen, and back. Twice. Damn, that’s a heavy machine.
I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution. It’s about time, folks.