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Outdone by the grandchildren

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

"Every once in awhile, a recipe comes along that's surprising in its efficiency, that employs smart techniques to squeeze every last drop out of a pared-down ingredient list. When each cup, teaspoon, and ounce called for has a purpose, you know the recipe comes from a true master."

Sarah Jampel - Food 52

Continuing with my cookery classes with the grandkids last week we decided to do cake. I gave them a choice of three, and they chose Nigella Lawson's Strawberry and sour cream streusel cake. You can get the recipe on Food 52. Well actually in lots of places because it's a very popular cake. I had made it before and it was delicious. This time however, as you can see from the photographs, I failed utterly. I remembered it as being easy, but it didn't quite turn out that way. Particularly for me it seems.

At the top of the page, on the left my granddaughters' version, in the centre the grandsons' version and on the right mine. To be fair, when mine came out of the oven it looked like this - pretty good eh? But when I cut into it the centre was found to be basically uncooked. It did taste good, but on later thoughts I decided to just cut out the centre and concentrate on the outside which was perfectly OK. Also to be fair to myself I have made this before and it was perfect. I just didn't get the timing right this time. I also have to confess that it stuck to the base of the tin when I turned it out. Maybe that should have been a sign. My husband was a bit ill that night. I try to tell myself it might have been the red wine we had with our dinner, but I fear it might have been the cake.

Interestingly too - my grandson' version might have looked less good on completion - it had sunk a bit in the middle, but as you can see at the top of the page, the slice looks perfect. Their mother said they cooked it much longer than the recipe said.

I remembered it as being an easy cake to make, but as we went along I found there were indeed some problems. And it seems that the world out there agrees - even Nigella herself.

"The cake is slightly tricky to assemble, and at some point it may look like a mess. But everything comes together in the pan as it bakes, resulting in a tender, fragrant cake." Nigella Lawson

The major difficulty is in assembling it all. The cake batter is very thick almost like a dough as somebody said. You have to spread it over the bottom of the pan and up the sides, put the strawberry purée on top and then put the remaining dough on top and the streusel on top of that. Well if you were thinking that getting the batter to spread across the bottom of your pan was tricky then getting it to cover most of the top is even trickier. It's sitting on fairly running strawberry purée and so has a tendency to just sit in blobs all over the top. Tricky when, in my grandsons' case, apparently a fair amount of the dough had already been eaten and they didn't really have enough anyway! But that's OK because the streusel topping can be made to fill the holes. And as I said, their finished product seemed to be pretty much perfect.

As I also said there are lots of different sources for the recipe out there and I found one which had obviously decided that the assembly was all too hard, so she had left out the top layer of cake mixture and simply put the purée on top of all of the mixture and the streusel on top of the strawberries. She had made a couple of other slight changes too, but not much. Well I notice that she added more eggs, which I actually think might be a mistake. Her cake looks a bit more solid. Not as light. Basically the same cake though and obviously purloined from Nigella, who is not given any credit. I have to say it looks alright, but I do think the original way is probably the best.

So what should it look like? Well the Food 52 version looks like this, and I think this is how I remember my original attempt. It's interesting isn't it how the strawberry layer sort of mixes in with the cake mixture so that it's not so much of a layer and more of a taste that runs through all of the cake? And below is the picture from delicious magazine, which I think is where I found it.

I have never been very good on cakes, so it's not really a surprise to me that mine turned out so wrong. I'm just not that good at telling when they are done. It looked done on top and the skewer came out clean - well I thought it did, so I thought it was done. And anyway this would have to be a morale booster for the grandchildren. Apparently my younger grandson was particularly proud of their effort, saying that he had only ever made simple cakes like chocolate cake before, and that this had been a challenge. They all said that it tasted delicious - and I don't think my older grandson likes strawberries all that much anyway. But he had two slices almost as soon as it was ready to eat. So a win for them - an embarrassing result for me.

Next time we are doing kebabs. I feel more confident about that.

But in the meantime we have launched into a photography exhibition. The topic this week is 'In my street', and my younger granddaughter has already submitted one entry - a beautiful slide show complete with poems. I'm glad I'm the judge not a competitor in this one. She is just eleven years old. I also hope the others will merely be stirred into competitive mode rather than daunted.


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