How I love a trip to Edinburgh when I’m back in the UK. I went to university there, and heartily enjoy popping back to revisit my old haunts. I am always hosted by my good friend and former flatmate, whose kindness is repaid, naturally, with baked goods (we have a traditional exchange of gifts: when I host him, he brings Chocolate Oranges and FrizzEase. When he puts me up, I take a baked good). Last time I visited, this was my offering – it was also the first cake I baked in 2013, and, I believe, got the year off to a good start.
Generally we spend my brief visits complaining that nowhere is as good as it was when we were at uni. The service in our favourite cafe has gone seriously downhill, the less said about the music at indie nights, the better, and the animal section of the museum has been reorganised so the smiling pygmy hippo and the moa have vanished. Happily though, some good beasts remain…
…as do, elsewhere in the museum, The Maiden, our beloved guillotine…
… and this bust who we hunt down every time then promptly forget his name (somebody Chalmers?).
Not to mention the fact that last time our usual Indian restaurant plied us with free Baileys, and this dazzling delight remains on the menu of our preferred cocktail bar:
I hope to make another visit this year (if he’ll have me back again – there will be cake!), and I’m already looking forward to complaining about and enjoying all the usual things.
Sticky Toffee Traybake
For the sponge:
200g dates, stoned and chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml boiling water
80g butter, softened
160g light brown muscovado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
75g walnut pieces
For the topping:
100g light brown muscovado sugar
100ml double cream
4 tbsp mascarpone
pinch of sea salt flakes
walnut halves or pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and baseline a tin (it was meant to be made as a traybake, but I only had a foil loaf tin that I felt could reliably transport it on the train, so it turned into a loaf).
2. Put the dates into a saucepan with the bicarb and pour in the boiling water. Simmer for 1 minute, then remove and leave to cool and soften for 15 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.
4. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla too.
5. Sift in the flour and salt and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.
6. Mix in the walnuts and cooled date mixture – it is quite a liquid batter, in order to create the stickiness you want.
7. Spread evenly into the prepared tin.
8. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the sponge feels springy when you press it gently in the centre.
9. Cool on the tray for 15 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
10. To make the topping, but the sugar, butter and double cream into a pan and heat gently until melted.
11. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes without stirring.
12. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.
13. When both the cake and the caramel have cooled, beat the mascarpone until smooth and then fold in the caramel mixture and salt. This, incidentally, is the most delicious icing I have ever tasted.
14. Swirl it over the top of the cold cake and decorate with walnut pieces. Leave to set before cutting and serving.