Popular summer cakes

If you are opening your garden to visitors, or just simply having family and friends around, what could be nicer and more quintessentially English than having tea and cake in the garden. In the 10+ years since the opening of Driftwood, I have baked over 7000 portions myself, to serve to over 17000 visitors. When we first started, cup cakes were all the rage and I spent hours making them up to sell at my openings. These were very easy to make with a simple sponge mix baked in cup cake papers. The time consuming bit was preparing the different icing and decorating them all. Within about 3 years the fad had really moved on and we didn’t sell any so I changed to conventional portions of cake, or traybake items.

Spinach and pine nut muffins

I did however retain cupcakes (or muffins) to serve as a savoury item if visitors did not want something sweet. A very popular one in recent years has been Spinach and Pine Nut. If you fancy a go yourself, here is the recipe for 6 muffins:

  • 265g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • quarter teaspoon nutmeg
  • 240 ml milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 200g chopped cooked spinach
  • 100g pine nuts

Easy to make, mix dry ingredients in bowl. Combine milk, egg and oil with whisk, fold in flour mixture, stir until combined then stir in spinach and pine nuts. Spoon into greased muffin tin, bake for 20 mins at 175C. There you go! 1 in 10 sales last year was a savoury item.

Coffee and walnut cake
Polenta and lime cake (front)

OK I hear you say, what best pleases the other 9 in 10! I think I can safely say that there are really only two cakes I’ve baked over the years that have left their mark on visitors, in terms of both comments and return visits to sample. One comment from our visitors’ book, “The journey from North London was more than worth it. A truly amazing garden and scrumptious cakes. Thank you.” Julia Crowe. The two cakes in question are coffee and walnut cake and a lime and polenta cake. The lime and polenta cake has probably had the most impact. I’ve actually used the same recipe over the last 4 years and just changed the citrus fruit each season. I found the recipe on line and I get 10 portions out and it goes like this:

  • 300g butter
  • 300g castor sugar
  • freshly grated rind and juice of 2 limes
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 150g polenta

For the glaze:

  • grated rind and juice of 1 lime
  • 75g castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • icing sugar to dust the cake

You’ll need a greased 23 cm spring form tin and it will need to bake slowly for an hour and 15 mins at 150 degrees. Put butter, sugar, and lime rind in bowl and beat with mixer until pale and fluffy. Gradually whisk in eggs, add ground almond, polenta, lime juice and baking powder and carefully fold in until fully mixed. Then spoon into prepared tin (place baking paper on base to ease removal). Bake in oven for 1 hour and a quarter or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The sponge should be golden brown but a good tip is to check it and you may need to cover with tin foil for the last 20 minutes or so. Remove and leave to cool. Make up the glaze by heating the lime rind and juice with sugar plus 2 tablespoons of water over a low heat and sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until syrupy. Pierce top of cake with skewer all over and pour syrup over evenly. Perfect, I find it freezes well too!

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