It’s been a regular sort of a saturday morning (walk the dog, drink tea, absorb the internet) which was shadowed by the urge to bake a cake. I think it’s the imminent arrival of winter. I’ve noticed that the blog definitely has a pattern, in that recipe posts from me only seem to appear from September to May. Maybe I was inspired, as this week marked the end of The Great British Bake Off. What a finale, and I’m really pleased that John was the winner. To compensate, I was lucky enough to have spent a delicious 24 hours as a guest at Turnberry Hotel & Resort in Ayrshire. Our visit to this belle of a hotel started with a classic afternoon tea in their lounge, replete with excellent sarnies, baby Scotch eggs, and gateaux-a-go-go ! Beautiful, delicious little bites, and a favourite was a surprise amongst all the pretty little things. A plain-ish looking baby spiced fruit cake; just so yummy. I don’t think this morning’s inspiration to bake is in any way unrelated.
We were taken for a tour of the hotel, where it seems every view over the golf links towards the sea is better than the last. Then, time for cocktails and canapés ‘ringside’ at the kitchen pass. Oh, and when I say canapés, I’m not talking about a puny bit of pâté on an oatcake. We had a feast of treats to choose from, including rillettes de canard on crunchy toast, mini-cups of lobster bisque, little croque monsieur, and wickedly firey chicken saté.
We met the hotel’s Executive Chef Justin Galea, possibly the most chilled out, affable chef I’ve ever met, and then ate in their signature restaurant 1906. Think classical French, charmingly retro in touches (the evocative theatre of steak Diane and crèpes Suzette) yet with a flash of modern presentation and genuinely the finest of Scottish ingredients. The hotel was built as a railway hotel in 1906, and the building’s elegance is more than matched by the food. I learned about why Chef has a preference for grass-fed Orkney beef, and a bit about the local dairy, produce and farm suppliers they source from. Suffice to say my seared scallops with a zingy tomato concasse, a buttery rump steak and that citrussy boozy flambéed syrup on the crèpes were all perfect. The next morning, breakfast with a view (Bircher’s muesli then eggs Benny) a spa treatment and a packed lunch to see us on our way sadly brought to end our lovely visit.
So, that brings me back to Saturday morning. I woke up with the idea of a specific flavour mix of apricots and pistachios, and to use up some of the Greek yoghurt. The internet failed me on finding a useful recipe match, so I’ve used the usual 6/6/6 oz method from Delia (i.e. flour, sugar, butter) but tinkered with it a bit with the pistachios substitution for 2 oz of flour. I wanted to make sure the cake would be light (which, thankfully it did turn out to be!) so went with the ‘separate egg whites’ method which I’ve used a few times and really like. Mostly because I have an irrational love of making meringues!
So, a wee cake recipe for a Saturday morning.
Pistachio and Apricot sponge with Greek yoghurt icing.
Oven temp 170c
4oz Self raising flour
6 oz cater sugar
3 medium eggs
2 oz shelled raw pistachios, blitzed to a fine flour-like texture
1 level teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime
a handful of dried apricots, finely chopped
For the icing
Icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons of butter
3 teaspoons Greek yoghurt
Chopped pistachios and apricots to garnish
For the filling
1/2 jar of good quality apricot conserve (like Bonne Mamman)
Butter and flour the baking tin.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks, add 2 oz of caster sugar and whisk until stiff peaks formed (like for meringues).
Cream the butter and the remaining 4 oz of caster sugar, add the egg yolks, vanilla, baking powder and lime zest and mix until smooth.
Sift in the flour and fold in to the wet mix using a spatula
Do the same with the pistachios and chopped apricots.
Lastly, fold in the meringue mix slowly, and combine until the batter is fully combined.
Transfer to an 8inch baking tin, and bake for approx 35 minutes. Check after around 25 that it’s not browning too much (if so, cover loosely with some tin foil).
When ready, set the cake to rest on a wire rack & prepare the icing.
Icing – Method
I never actually measure ingredients for making icing. Just blend together the wet stuff with the powdery icing sugar and mix til it looks right!
To Decorate the cake
Once cooled, slice the cake in half horizontally, spread the apricot jam on the bottom half.
Put the ‘lid’ back on.
Ice and dust with extra pistachio powder and a few apricots.
Leave the icing to set for an hour or so before serving.