Friday, 18 July 2014

Caraway Seed Cake

This is one of my mother’s favourite cakes and is also one that I am rather partial to. At heart, it is essentially a Madeira Cake which includes caraway seeds instead of lemon zest by way of flavouring. The seeds impart a mild aniseed-like flavour to the cake which I find very appealing. There is nothing fancy about this cake; it is almost austere in its simplicity – no frivolous frosting or sweet icings here – but it still retains a certain elegance and tastes wonderful to eat.
 
This is a close textured cake but if well-made should not be heavy to eat, but rather, it should leave a satisfyingly buttery but light feeling in the mouth. In a similar way, the flavour of the caraway seeds should be present and distinguishable but should not dominate. The food-writer and broadcaster Nigel Slater recommends the judicious use of caraway seeds when adding them to the cake batter and suggests using a mere teaspoonful in his loaf cake. Whilst I agree that overuse can result in a finished cake with a slightly medicinal taste, I use a tablespoon of the seeds. I feel that this amount is perfect in the recipe that I have given above.
 
Cakes including caraway seeds have been around for many centuries, with some of the earliest recipes being found in AW’s Book of Cookrye in 1591 and The English Huswife by Gervase Markham in 1615. In fact, historically, caraway was extensively used in cooking throughout the British Isles, including Ireland. Recipes for cake, bread and biscuits regularly included the seeds. I often include caraway seeds in my homemade soda bread or in my wholemeal scones. The soda bread is gorgeous served with some leftover baked ham and I find that the ham and caraway combination is a winning one.
 
Another way that I sometimes use caraway seeds is when making the shortcrust pastry for a quiche or an onion tart, where I add a generous pinch. Caraway complements a number of other ingredients and flavours; for example - onions, carrots and cabbage. It also cuts through the richness of fatty meats and as such, is a perfect accompaniment to pork or duck. I keenly urge you to experiment a little with this wonderful spice, but in the meantime, try out this recipe… It really is delicious.
 

Ingredients:

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
215g plain flour
35g self-raising flour
50ml milk
1tblsp caraway seeds
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 2. Line a 900g loaf tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
3. Sift the plain and self-raising flours together and fold into the egg mixture along with the milk and caraway seeds. Once everything is mixed together, spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 65-75 minutes until the cake is well risen and a thin skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
 
Serves 8-10.