Salter challenged me to make a cake; they’d obviously heard about my cake-making skills – which are non-existent – and wanted to laugh at me. Still, they said they’d send me some tools to use in the challenge and I’m a sucker for a gadget, so I told them I’d be happy to accept their challenge.
They asked me to make a sponge cake. I looked at the recipe they’d sent and it looked easy enough, plus, as an added bonus, I already had all the ingredients in the house, bar the icing sugar. As I didn’t want to buy a whole bag of icing sugar, just to use a tiny bit (I’d assumed this would be my first and last attempt at a cake), I decided to decorate the top with fruit instead.
The instructions weren’t very thorough – I suspect Salter are more used to dealing with people who know what they’re doing – so I spent a bit of time asking friends on Facebook for advice (does the shiny side of the silicon baking paper face up or down? Is it supposed to look like this?).
In this photo, along with my ingredients, is the Salter Aquatronic Electronic Scale. It’s just your average scale, except this one can measure liquids, which will come in handy as I never know from what angle to look at a measuring jug from. Also sent to me were a couple of Heston Multipurpose Spatulas and a (not pictured) Heston Precision Whisk. These spatulas are cool – they have a flexible end for when you’re baking and need to do all that creaming and stuff and a rigid end for frying and flipping. The whisk has a non-slip handle and a large balloon which allows lots of air to be whisked in. I didn’t whisk lots of air into my cakes as the instructions said to fold the flour in, so I just made a stiff gunk. It was probably supposed to be light and airy and this is probably why I ended up making what were closer to cookies than cakes (as you will see later). Cue Mary Berry death stare.
I added the butter to the sugar. So far so good.
Then I creamed the butter and sugar together until pale. I found this instruction quite odd – butter and sugar is already pale – is it supposed to get paler? Still, I mixed them together until they were, um, mixed.
I added the eggs. (Heston Precision Whisk now pictured)
Then beat them into the creamed sugar and butter mixture.
Next I had to sift in the flour. I don’t usually bother with sifting flour because a) it’s a faff (actually it isn’t, I just think it’s going to be); and b) it involves sticking my arm into a dark dingy floor cupboard while trying to find the sieve and I’m scared I’ll find a spider or dead mouse instead.
But, I’m undertaking a challenge and a bit of professionalism would be appropriate so I risk the cupboard of doom and dig out the sieve.
I then folded in the flour to the eggs, sugar and butter mixture.
The next instruction confused me. It said the mixture should be of a dropping consistency. Dropping? Like if I turn the bowl upside down, if it drops on my head it’s right? Like a reverse egg-white-for-meringue thing? I decided it meant it should drop off the spatula. Which it didn’t, even if I shook the spatula up and down.
The instructions said if it isn’t dropping consistency, add a little milk, which I did.
I wasn’t sure if it was dropping consistency after I’d added some milk but it did drop off if I shook the spatula hard enough, so I decided that’d do.
I poured the mixture evenly (sort of) into the two tins (lined with baking paper – shiny side up).
When they came out of the oven, they looked a bit thin and burnt. Oops.
They looked even worse when I took them out of the tins.
In fact, they looked more like cookies than cakes.
After the cakes had cooled, I whipped up the cream. I’d like to say I was hardcore and did it by hand, but I’d be lying – this was done with an electric whisk. Do you really think Heston stands there for three hours, whipping cream by hand? He probably gets a minion to do it and the minion probably uses an electric one, anyway.
I spread one of the cakes with cream, the other with jam. Looks better already, doesn’t it?
Then I sandwiched them together. Oh, okay, it still looks a bit crap.
I covered the top with cream. Admit it, you’re jealous of my cake-decorating skillz.
As the challenge was called The Great British Sponge Cake Challenge – how more British do you get than the Union Jack? The fruit transforms it and not only that but it actually tastes fine and the sponge isn’t as thin and dry as it looks in the photos. Honest. The Meat Eater, upon being asked if it was nice, said ‘nice enough’, which I’ll take as a compliment.
Because I was so pleased with my creation, I took it into the garden to photograph – I thought the grass added a nice summery feel to it.
Great British Sponge Cake Challenge
125g/4oz butter or margarine, softened
125g/4oz caster sugar
2 medium eggs
125g/4oz self raising flour
1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Line two 18cm/7in cake tins with baking parchment.
3. Measure your ingredients with the Salter Aquatronic Electronic Scale.
4. Use the Heston Multipurpose Spatula to cream the butter and the sugar together until pale.
5. Beat in the eggs using the Heston Precision whisk.
6. Sift over the flour and fold in using the Heston Multipurpose Spatula.
7. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency; if it is not, add a little milk.
8. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and gently spread out with the Heston Spatula.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when they’re golden-brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. Press them gently to check – they should be springy to the touch. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool.
10. Sandwich the cakes together with jam and whipped cream.
11. Spread more cream on the top and decorate with the strawberries and blueberries.