I had every intention of this blog post being written by end of day yesterday, to tie in the end of august with beginning of the new season. Alas, here I am on the first of September kicking myself for not having done so but that’s just how August seems to have been this year; a waiting list of seasonal tasks to be completed before the cooler weather arrives and then the 31st has been and gone before I’ve had to chance to look up from the workbench.
How about an end of summer / welcome to autumn post to soften the blow, I wondered but its such a beautiful afternoon here in Cheshire I thought that would be rather criminal. As I write in the garden, I have chocolate mint and rose geranium brushing my legs, bumbling bees wafting by and plump wood pigeons sitting content in the sun on the wooden fence. I’m not sure if I am ready to say goodbye to this yet for another year.
On my wish list of summer tasks was to get back in the kitchen, no matter how full the diary, to make use of some of my most prized baking tins. I have always loved the Bundt tin as it makes the easiest of cakes appear like a work of art and often the simplest decoration is the most effective.
With this in mind, I picked a few garden roses from my trusty flower grower Carol one morning and resolved to come home that afternoon and bake. Unsurprisingly, it was 3 days later that I actually donned my apron, panicked by the roses fading fast on the kitchen table. These blush roses had turned deeper in colour in my absence; a more dusky peignoir than sugar pink, and I managed to catch them in their final flourish for this little project. I was delighted when I picked up the developed prints*; these simple vanilla and rose sponges decorated with a touch of icing sugar and blowsy summer roses – so simple yet undeniably seasonal. It is the kind of cake I am always drawn towards; simple, seasonal and made for sharing. Luckily a good friend popped round the next day so we cut hungrily into the large bundt, serving it in thick slices with crème fraiche laced with honey and topped with berries.
*I am very much an amateur when it comes to film photography, those in the know please humour me...
The recipe is an amalgamation of several different recipes I have tried and tested, shared below incase the urge takes you. The rose geranium is still going mad in the garden and I had several bottles of rose geranium simple syrup in the fridge from a batch I made earlier this summer. If you are not keen on rose, lavender or lemon syrup would work just as well.
Rich Vanilla Bundt Cake:
I used the same mixture for both the large and small bundt tins
225g soft butter, plus extra for greasing
300g caster sugar
6 free-range eggs
350g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml low-fat natural yoghurt
2 tbsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp icing sugar, to taste
Rose Geranium Syrup:
This makes plenty, use as little or as much as you like for the cake and use the rest over ice cream or with champagne for a special occasion.
200g caster sugar
8-10 washed rose geranium leaves
To make the rose geranium syrup bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat and add the rose geranium leaves and let them simmer gently for 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and remove the leaves. Cover the pan and allow the mixture to cool. Once cool, decant into sterilised bottles and chill.
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. a 2.5 litre/4 pint 8fl oz bundt tin very liberally with butter.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together. Mix the butter and sugar together in another large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of the flour. Carefully fold in the remaining flour using a large metal spoon, then fold in the yoghurt and vanilla bean paste until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread until level. Place the tin in the oven and cook for 60 minutes, until well risen and golden-brown. The old skewer trick works a treat here; if it comes out clean its ready and if not pop it back in until cooked.
Remove the cake from the oven and place onto a wire rack, without removing it from the tin. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then carefully turn out the cake onto the wire rack. Leave to cool completely.
Place the wire rack with cake over the sink and prick the top of the bundt cake with a skewer. Gently pour the rose geranium syrup over the top, and leave until it has all been absorbed.
Dust with icing sugar, adorn with roses and serve in thick slices with a pot of tea.
For now, I am heading back out into the garden to absorb the late summer sights, smells and sounds before the autumn truly arrives. It has been a wonderful summer wedding season and I have lots more to share, fingers crossed it shall be sooner rather than later…