Every month or so, my mum has a magazine declutter. She passes them my way, where I happily sift through to see if there are any new recipes I fancy, rip out a million pages and file them in my recipe folder. Well, I say file, they are shoved into the front to spill out every time the folder is taken out of the cupboard, until I get around to trying them. Then I might deem them worthy of actual filing and slip them into one of the plastic sleeves for wipe clean posterity. This is one that gets to enter the hallowed baking section. Definitely.
I found this recipe in an old Sainsbury’s magazine, from a husband and wife team working out of their restaurant Honey & Co in Fitzrovia. The other evening, after making this cake, I posted the following on my Facebook page:
When Jet saw me making this orange, fig and walnut loaf cake for breakfast tomorrow, he asked, “Is it like one of those disgusting ones with all the seeds that you always make?”.
It is so epically delicious, with a blend of spices that make it taste like gingerbread, but more intriguing, and its baking has filled the house with a wonderful aroma. It’s full of honey and the crust is magnificently chewy. It is the kind of thing you make and then you know before you have even eaten the whole of the first slice that this is a recipe you will still be pulling, crumpled and yellowing, from some greasy binder in twenty years time.
(Yes, I tried some. Someone had to. And yes, there were noises.)
But yeah, son. It is disgusting and full of seeds and you probably wouldn’t like it.
Here’s the recipe, which will keep for up to 2 weeks and is suitable for freezing:
120ml whole milk
40g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
75g light soft brown sugar
225g self raising flour
4tsp sweet spice mix (recipe below)
75g chopped walnuts
75g chopped figs
75g mixed peel
1 large egg
25g demerara sugar as a topping
For the sweet spice mix
10 cardamom pods
1/2 a whole nutmeg, in pieces
1tsp fennel seeds
2tsp mahleb seeds (optional – available from Ottolenghi)
3tsp ground ginger
4tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 190º, fan 170º, Gas 5. First, make the spice mix. Roast the cardamom pods, cloves and nutmeg on a tray for 5 minutes, then add the fennel and mahleb seeds, if using, (I didn’t) and roast for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Take the seeds out of the cardamom pods, discarding the husks, and finely grind the roasted spices using a grinder or pestle and mortar, then mix in the ginger and cinnamon. Set aside 4 tsp for the cake; transfer the rest to an airtight container (save it to make the loaf again another day or add to cookie dough or sprinkle a little onto yoghurt to serve with fruit – it will keep for 2 months).
- Butter a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin measuring 20cm x 10cm x 7cm and line with baking paper to cover the base and sides, allowing a little overhang to help lift the loaf out. (I didn’t butter the tin, and the loaf came out easily) Set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180º, fan 160º, Gas 4. Warm the milk, honey, butter, caster sugar and light brown sugar together until the sugars have dissolved and the mixture is just starting to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, the 4 teaspoons of spice mix and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in the walnuts, figs and mixed peel, then add the egg and combine before transferring the mixture to the lined tin. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. (I decided that I would leave off the sugar coating – the vast quantity of honey made me pretty confident this would be sweet enough already 😉 )
- Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20-25 minutes. At this stage it should still be a little soft to the touch, but stable and with a lovely thick crust. You can’t really test this cake with a toothpick as it contains so much fruit, but if you push down a little with the tip of your finger in the centre and it doesn’t sink, remove it from the oven. Allow to cool in the tin. (I was a bit concerned that mine was perhaps not done after the full 45 minutes, but although it is moist, it is definitely baked)
- Serve sliced and toasted with butter and orange marmalade. (I deemed this cake delicious enough without this added extravagance. The bit I snaffled unaccompanied was, anyway)
294 cals; 10g fat (3g sat fat); 5g protein; 2g fibre; 47g carbs; 31g total sugars; 0.3g salt (It is unclear whether or not this nutrition info applies to the buttered and marmaladed version. It is said to serve 10-12)
The next morning, I served it with creamy, slightly sour natural yoghurt (the Collective is my favourite), and some dried fruits that I soaked overnight in earl grey. Chris and I loved it. The cake still had its crusty outer shell, soaked up the juices from the fruit and made a nice change for breakfast.
Jet ate most of his yoghurt and the dried apricots with relish. Having asked why there was bread in his bowl and where was the cake, once it was identified he ate almost half a slice with slightly less relish. Stella sucked the apricots for a bit and flatly refused a prune. She kept saying lunch, so I suppose she also mistook the cake for bread. I selflessly demonstrated how to eat the cake, after which she took a big pretend bite and said “mmmm!”. I think I’ll give them cornflakes tomorrow.
I have sliced the loaf, kept a couple of pieces out for tomorrow’s breakfast (for us, not the mini philistines) and popped the rest in the freezer so I can defrost, or possibly toast, a slice to eat on the way to work.