Apparently today is the official first day of Spring, and the weather in London has certainly been in compliance. It's been fresh and bright today, lots of sunshine. The perfusion of yellow continues, as do the smiling faces.
There's only one problem, my brain and body are giving me some seriously mixed messages. Earlier this week I felt rather coldy (a highly unusual thing for me), it started over the weekend and managed to coincide with some gorgeous weather. Fortunately it also coincided with a serious football marathon, so being curled up on the sofa sniffling wasn't all bad.
My brain then seemed to take a leaf out of my body's book, and decided that it simultaneously wanted light salady spring foods, and yet wasn't quite ready to give up on the warming spice combination of winter. Cue a cooking and baking dilemma.
I was going to fight the urge to cling to these comforting foods, but forces aligned and I was destined not to. So I've been trying to make lighter main meals, and maintain the spices and depth in the baking, that way satisfying both needs and allowing the melding of the seasons (the chilly air from the last winds of winter with the warming sunshine and yellows of spring) to show in my cooking.
I spotted this caramalised onion and goats cheese cornbread on Smitten Kitchen and decided it would be the perfect thing to serve alongside the first roasted tomatoes and bright salad of the season. Oh, and it was yellow too! Ever notice how sometimes you spot a colour in one place, and then suddly start seeing it everywhere? (Hmm...I might do a "yellow" post this weekend) All I needed now was something to show winter I was every-so-slightly sorry to see it go.
I found a Guinness ginger cake on Andrea's Recipes and knew it would be perfect. It not only had the spice I wanted, but it made up for the fact that this year I was too busy watching the football to bake anything for St Patrick's day. Plus, it would fit in my new 9x9" pan. Fate.I adapted it slighty, and threw it together in no time at all while N took a conference call yesterday afternoon. There's something about him working from home that makes me even more prone to baking (I know, as if you thought that was possible!). It was quick to make, and was done in no time (really, make sure you watch while it cooks, it was done nearly 15 mins before time for me) meaning that it was ready and iced just in time for a 4 o'clock cup of tea. Perfect.
At first I wasn't sure it was gingery enough, but then the moist, but delicate crumb suddenly exploded with warmth in my mouth and I was hooked. It's not a ginger cake as for me there's not enough of a ginger flavour, but it is a gorgeously warm spice cake with a subtle touch of Guinness, and the zing of lemon icing really makes it. Definitely one of the best things I've made in a while, and I think it might be a whole lot longer now before I'm able to give up those winter flavours.
Oh, looking at the photos it's just occurred to me that with the white icing the little squares actually look a bit like pints of Guinness! How did I miss that?!
Guiness spice cake, adapted from Andrea’s recipes
Makes a 9x9-inch cake that I then cut into 16 little squares (don’t worry, you can eat two at a time, no-one’s judging you!)
160 ml Guinness Stout
240 g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
2-1/4 tsp ground ginger
three or four good grinds of black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
88 g granulated sugar
37 g demerera sugar
60 ml molasses
170 ml groundnut oil
Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 180C. Grease or line a 9x9” pan. In a small saucepan bring the Guinness just to a simmer then remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and molasses until smooth. Add the canola oil and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the stout (dry, beer, dry, beer, dry). Whisk abetween additions then mix at the end just until combined. Do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (I actually only needed about 40mins for mine, so keep an eye on it!). Place cake pan on a wire rack to cool. Once cool ice with a lemon glace icing. (I made this by just adding lemon juice to icing sugar, but leaving it very thick so I could spread it.).
Housekeeping: I've added a new link to the blog roll type thing I have. A good friend of ours is desperately looking for a job in New Zealand. In the theme of mixed messages, she had a job, but has told the position is no longer viable in the current climate. She has a visa, and a family who are ready to go, and now no job. Please, please, if you can help, take a look at her blog and read her story and pass it on. Thanks.