Last week I was cooking for a group of art students under my Mum Annie Herron’s tutelage at the art classes she runs from the family pad at Rydal NSW. Every time we have one of these groups we take them for a picnic to do some ‘en plein air’ arting and eating. This time, we went to one of my favourite places in the world – our friend Rob’s farm on the Fish River between Tarana and Oberon. In late Autumn, this valley and river puts on quite the colour show and to sit in a shower of golden poplar leaves by the clear river eating short loin chops from the fire and then a slab of the below cake must surely be one of the best things you could ever do.
A good sturdy picnic cake
If this cake were a woman, she’d wear sensible shoes. She’d be a reliable, fun, self-deprecating sort of Chummy/Miranda Hart character. She wouldn’t mind if you burnt her bottom, she would be a good sport about being transported over rough paddocks for a picnic and maybe even dropped, in which case, she’ll mostly hold her shape and taste great even if she doesn’t. All she asks is to be served with a thermos of strong tea.
So anyway – I love this cake and all she stands for.
She can also take any fruit you throw at her (within reason – lyches or fejoas are not recommended, mostly because I don’t really like them). She lasts for ages and is really easy to make, but if doubling the quantities just watch the oven temperature, she’s a big’un and so needs a long cooking time. I had my oven up a smidge too high so burnt the sides and bottom a touch – didn’t matter at all, I just cut away the worst bits and everyone still LOVED this. Ps for the cake pictured above I’d doubled the below quantities and used a 24cm cake tin.
150g plain flour
100g almond meal (it makes big difference if you roast then blitz the almonds fresh for this)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
a pinch of ground cardamom and one of cinnamon
120g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla pase
1/4 cup buttermilk
About 10 plums, quartered
For the topping
60g butter, melted
100g caster sugar
Juice of that orange you zested
100g almond meal
Icing sugar, to dust.
Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin. Whisk together the flour, meal, baking powder and spices and set aside. Now creamt he butter, sugar and orange zest together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the vanilla and half the buttermilk, now add half of the dry ingredients and repeat with remaining buttermilk and dry ingredients.
Spoon half the mixture into your cake tin, dot this with your plums, repeat with the remaining cake mixture and smooth down the top. Bake for 50 minutes.
Meanwhile, to prepare the topping, whisk all ingredients together until well combined. Once 50 minutes for the cake is up, pull it from the oven and very carefully pour over the topping mixture. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes or until the top feels firm to touch.
Remove from the oven, let cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out to a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar when cool.
Just a warning – this post is a bit poplar heavy. I couldn’t help it. Sorry!