I’m addicted to cookery competitions on TV: Come Dine With Me, Masterchef, and my new favourite, The Great British Bake-Off are all compelling programmes to me. As enjoyable as they are to watch, I wonder how much fun they are for the participants. I really love cooking, but doing it against the clock, as well as against other people, seems to suck the fun out of it. I hate cooking under pressure. I like to take my time, gather my ingredients, prepare them carefully, and bring it all together at a leisurely pace, generally with a cup of tea alongside me. Having John Torode or Greg Wallace barking “Ten minutes left” whilst invading my personal space to peer despairingly into my pots and pans really does not appeal to me. Nor would I like to hear their criticisms of my efforts: when I cook for other people all I want them to do is appreciate the thought and make various yummy noises.
Yesterday I got to cook in ideal conditions: on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, with the house to myself, taking my time over something which was slightly tricky to do, and all for someone else to appreciate and enjoy. It was an effort, but all in all it was a labour of love, and a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend my weekend.
The dish in question was, unsurprisingly, something sweet and delightful. I’m sticking with my new Hummingbird Cake Days book for the time being, and this time I opted for a courgette, walnut and cinnamon layer cake. Truthfully I just wanted to make any layer cake, considering I’ve never even tried so much as a sandwich cake before, and happily there are a few options included in the book. This one was the winner because I’ve been curious about courgette cakes since I first stumbled across a recipe for one in Good Food magazine about 18 months ago. At first it sounded so unappealing, but then when you think about carrot cakes it starts to make sense.
The batter itself was easy to make (I won’t give away the recipe, you should get the book!), but baking and assembly took some time. To make a layer cake, you are supposed to divide the batter equally between three tins and bake them. Being in possession of merely 1 cake tin, I had to weigh the batter and divide it by three, then bake it in batches. Rather time-consuming, but perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I must have done a decent enough job dividing up the batter, because the three sponges ended up just about equal.
Once they had all cooled down, it was time to piece them together using a delicious buttercream, made using cinnamon, butter, icing sugar and Greek yogurt – a surprising but successful addition. After sandwiching the cakes together (and filling in the uneven bits with excess buttercream) it was time for the truly messy part: covering the top and the sides as well. It was rather sticky work, and it took a fair bit of effort to get a result I was satisfied with, but at last, satisfied I was, and here is the end result.
The sponge itself is quite similar to a carrot cake – very moist and tasty. The buttercream is absolutely heavenly! And the two together are a marriage made in cake heaven. Well worth the time and effort I put into it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid first attempt and I will definitely be having another go at layer cakes in the future. I would certainly recommend courgette cakes as well. Next vegetable to experiment with in cake form: beetroot. Do I dare?!