- Food & Drink
Great British Bake Off is back and kitchens across the country resound with the rattle of wooden spoons against mixing bowls. As I watched episode one along with the rest of Twitter, misswhiplash and I talked about doing the ‘signature bakes’ bake along. Last year she baked along with the technical challenges, but those got a bit ridiculous towards the end of the season.
Misswhiplash, being a more committed baker than me, got straight on with her Madeira cake (blog post here) and even candied peel. I’m a lot lazier, and waited a full day before applying butter to sugar. And there’s no way I’m messing about dunking peel in boiling syrup. Especially if it’s supposed to pass the bizarre plate drop test. Honestly, who has ever in their life needed rock hard candied peel?
Anyway, I decided my signature bake twist would be fennel seeds, because they’re one of my favourite things and they go nicely with lemon. I have a vague memory that one of the bakers used fennel seeds in their Madeira cake on the show, but it has already become fuzzy in my mind as I look forward to next week’s episode on biscuits.
This version is based on the sainted Nigella Lawson’s recipe for her mother-in-law’s Madeira cake in How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It’s a cake I’ve made dozens of times and is the sort of thing you can have for breakfast without feeling like you’re being too over indulgent.
Madeira Cake with Lemon & Fennel
240g butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing
200g caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
3 medium eggs
75g plain flour, sifted
60ml whole milk
225g self raising flour
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 Heat your oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas 3/325°F. Grease a 900g loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
2 Beat your butter to make sure it is soft and creamy, then beat in the sugar till it’s combined, pale and fluffy. Beat in an egg. Add 1 tbsp of the plain flour and beat that in. Repeat, till all the eggs have been added. Beat in the milk and tip in the last of the plain flour with a pinch of salt. Beat again (this recipe is almost all beating, either with a wooden spoon or electric beaters).
3 Sift in the self raising flour and beat away till you have a smooth cake batter. Add the lemon zest, juice and fennel seeds. One last round of beating, then scrape the cake batter into the tin.
4 Bake the cake for about 40-45 minutes till it is risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle the top of the hot cake with a spoon or two of caster sugar. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve it in slices with plenty of tea / Madeira.