It’s been a while! I had intended for this post to be all about the Royal Ascot horse races we have every year in June: a great excuse for a lunch with friends before going to wave at the Queen and the royal party as their horse-drawn carriages take them from Windsor Castle, through the Great Park and up into the racecourse. People with houses on the short stretch of public road they travel along throw ‘waving at the Queen’ parties (it’s a good excuse to drink Prosecco at lunchtime on a weekday) and this year I was invited to a lunch hosted by one of the lovely people in my circuits group. This cake was my contribution.
However it’s now almost the end of August so that’s all a bit old news. We have had an incredible summer here in the UK: weeks and weeks of unusually hot and dry weather that made us all feel like we were permanently on holiday in the Mediterranean. I took advantage of the weather and the fact that it’s a slow time in my cake-making year to take a holiday, both literally and figuratively. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity to have a bit of a ‘what have I done/am I doing with my life?’ crise de confiance (crisis of confidence, it just sounds so much better in French): I think we were all a bit hot and bothered by the time the weather eventually broke.
In my spare time this summer I did a lot of reading in the sun and some thinking about my life as well. I take great pride in producing cakes on request that really do taste as good as they look, and I love learning about baking and teaching what I have learnt to others. I love writing my blog. But sometimes it’s important to take a step back and really look at what is working and what isn’t for us. I think these days we all have a tendency to put pressure on ourselves to do or be things that are not always in our best interests or that help us to be happy. It’s not always easy to identify what those things are, but if you get the opportunity to really look in from the outside it can be helpful. It may be obvious but it’s taken me a long time to understand that I can take steps to control any of the stress in my life that’s self-imposed. So when I realised that the only person putting me under pressure to come up with original recipes, decent photos and to publish blog posts on a regular basis was me, it became clear that I could also take a holiday from it and nothing bad would happen. Hence no posts for a couple of months!
It’s back to school for the kids and back to real life (and weather) for me, so I will most probably be thinking about the other aspects of my life I can de-stress while I’m running in the rain between cakes, rather than lying in the sun between books. But at least I have the beginnings of a plan! Do you have any advice for me? I’d love some tips in controlling self-imposed stress and avoiding it in the first place.
In the meantime I have this great strawberry swirl cake recipe for you and even if you don’t make it this year make sure you save it for next year. More about the Queen and her carriages then…
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g plain yogurt
450g SR flour
15g strawberry powder (and pink food colouring if required)
600g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60ml water or milk
Strawberries to decorate
Set the oven to 170°C and grease, and if necessary line the bottom of, a large bundt tin.
Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat together until pale and creamy.
Beat the eggs together and then add them, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar mixture, making sure each amount is properly incorporated before adding the next lot.
Mix in the vanilla extract and yogurt.
Fold in the sieved flour. Make sure it is fully mixed but take care not to overwork.
Put 500g of the mixture into a bowl and add the strawberry powder. (And pink or red food colouring if using). Mix gently so that it is fully incorporated.
Put half of the remaining mixture into the base of the bundt tin in large spoonfuls. Do not level.
Then spoon the strawberry mixture over the top of the first layer. It doesn’t need to go to all the edges.
Cover with the remaining mixture and gently level.
Bake for around 45-50 minutes, until the cake is well risen, browned and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin before carefully turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the icing:
Sieve the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Cut the butter into pieces and add to the icing sugar.
Add the vanilla extract and water or milk and beat, slowly to start with and faster once the icing sugar is all mixed in, until the buttercream becomes light and fluffy.
When the cake is completely cool you can crumb coat it – apply a thin layer with a pallet knife to ensure that all the crumbs are caught in the base layer.
Refrigerate briefly so the icing dries.
When the base layer is dry, use the rest of the icing to evenly cover the cake. Either leave with a rough finish, smooth or use a pallet knife to make a pattern.
Decorate with strawberries.