Monday, 22 September 2014

Ciambella con Frutta Secca, or Mummy Thorne's Little Cakes Recipe

We're back in the UK now, currently homeless but staying with Rowan's parents in Rutland while we find a place to live in Nottingham. We visited my parents in the Forest of Dean at the weekend, and spent Sunday meandering around Malvern and eating a tasty pub lunch at British Camp, followed by a tentative rummage through the pile of furniture and crap we stored in their barn to find our cooler weather clothes, taking great care not to disturb the bat guano scattered all over the protective dust sheets.

 My mum almost always has a batch of her delicious fruit cake-style fairy cakes ready for us when we visit. In our family they're affectionately known as Little Cakes to distinguish them from mum's normal-sized fruit cakes (she makes an excellent fruit cake too). They're incredibly simple, and to me they taste comfortingly of home; memories of lazy Sunday evenings spent watching Ski Sunday and the Antiques Roadshow, eating sandwiches made from leftover roast, mum's coleslaw and homemade pickled onions, with Little Cakes for pudding. I used her recipe while we were in Italy to make a very tasty ciambella - a sort of Italian Bundt cake - during a big thunderstorm. I adapted it a little to make it a bit more ciambella-y (I added marsala), but otherwise this is all my mum's recipe, and it worked just as well for ciambella as for fairy cakes.

                                                                                                                    (c) Becca Thorne 2014

This makes either one ciambella or approximately 12 little cakes. It's in ounces, as that's how mum gave it to me (she's been making these a long time), and I used this page to convert the original quantities to cups as I had no scales.

8oz plain flour
6oz butter
4oz sugar
2 eggs
2tsp baking powder
8oz dried mixed fruit/sultanas
A little milk - dairy or non-dairy
Optional: a generous glass of marsala or the tasty liquid of your choice - brandy, whisky, amaretto, sherry or Earl Grey tea would all work well - plus just enough apple or orange juice to cover the dried fruit in a small mixing bowl. Omit the milk if you do this.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

If using, soak the fruit in the marsala and juice for 10-15 minutes.

Lightly grease your ciambella pan, or line your fairy cake moulds with cake papers.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fairly smooth. Using a wooden spoon, beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon or so of flour with each to prevent curdling.
Fold in the rest of the flour and the baking powder. If the mixture feels a little stiff or dry, add either a little milk or, if using, the soaking liquid from the fruit, to loosen it up to a good dropping consistency. Fold in the fruit.
Spoon the mixture into your pan or papers. If making individual cakes, sprinkle with a little demerera sugar. Bake in the centre of your oven for 15-20 mins until golden and a clean, sharp knife inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove onto a wire rack to cool fully. Keeps well in an airtight box for several days.