I might as well drop all attempts to stay cool in my first sentence: I am THRILLED by how this week’s baking has turned out. I haven’t eaten anything quite like this before, and I can’t find any recipes that are quite like this either. This is the sort of thing I was hoping I’d find when I was first thinking about this project.
I’m not completely convinced that this is what Mary meant for this recipe, but we can talk about that and how I ended up here a bit later. First, the recipe:
I don’t know if you could tell, but there was a certain amount of resignation creeping into my voice at the end of the last post. At the back of my mind, perhaps while I was slowly ingesting the rather claggy ‘buns’ from last week, the thought had begun to occur that this was a fool’s errand. I was, let’s face it, unlikely to get an edible result at the end of all my guesswork and re-calculations. Worse, now I’d have to go through with this anyway. I could see my future for the next however many weeks: my husband trying to come up with many different versions of his ‘no, I think it’s lovely’ routine, me stubbornly chewing through slice after slice of rubbery, crumbly or soggy cakes.
Well. I am here to tell you that the Mary Bradley Project has had its first success: a recipe for a cherry cake that I don’t mind suggesting for your attention and cake-making pleasure. What follows is not a sophisticated or novel dessert but for a calm afternoon snack, perhaps with a cup of tea, you could do a lot worse than this simple loaf-cake.
So this week’s recipe was chosen because I leafed through Mary’s’ notebook looking for something where I understood what all the ingredients were, and I understood what the end result was. These are, after all,the early days of this project and I thought this would be a bit of stretching and limbering up before tackling the trickier cakes and tarts to come.
So I thought, and I thought this because I didn’t carefully think about the list of the ingredients and what they meant.
The notebook you see above is – I’m guessing – about ninety years old, maybe a hundred. It contains recipes for all sorts of baked things, and it belonged to my great-great aunt, my grandmother’s aunt, Mary Bradley. Mary was one down in age order from my great grandmother, Alice, but still the oldest of four sisters (the others were Lily, Doris and Florence) that went into business together as confectioners in Oldham. I remember visiting Auntie Florrie when I was a young girl, and my dad tells me that that was a house in the same road as their shop.
If you saw the last two posts here, and if you’ve noticed that this is a very new blog, you might think that what I really wanted to tell the world about myself is that I’m a baker, and maybe that I’d continue in the same vein, baking cakes, telling you about them and so on. Nothing like that amount of forethought went into the decision to start this blog, or what the first two posts should contain. I’m not really that confident a baker – baking doesn’t allow me to make things up as I go along – nor is there much demand for baked goods in my two-person household.
Which just goes to show that sometimes you know what you’re doing before you know what you’re doing.
This isn’t what you’d call refined, but it was intended to bring a bit of innocent happiness to a group of people working somewhere not quite as colourful. They seemed slightly happier than usual.
The train of thought that led to this cake was: I’m leaving a work team that all worked together on a project called ‘Spectrum’ or ‘ROYGBIV’, or ‘an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain’ or something like that. Perhaps it would cheer the other peons up if they had a brightly-coloured cake.
Quick version: if you want to do something similar, you should find a good basic cake recipe for your size of baking tin. Weigh the bowl that will hold the finished batter – probably the one you start with your butter and sugar in. Make it up until the point where otherwise you would be be pouring in to the tin, and now weigh the bowl again. So now you have the weight of the finished batter, which you can divide by however many colours you have. In my case this was six so I divided the weight of the batter by six and divided into six equal amounts and added the colours to six smaller bowls. You’d then pour them into the tin in the order you want them to appear. Easy, eh? Now get someone else to do the washing up.
Much more detail follows…
The chain of thought that led to this cake was: I have had that flower cake mould that I bought from that shop that does silicone moulds for a while and have not used it for anything yet. That is a shame. I have mucked my book group about, they are nice people, and they deserve cake. The last time I thought about using that mould I was going to try to do like a jelly or something with yellow radiating from the centre. Hey, what about something with saffron in it?