It is one of those strange paradoxes of life that the more you have, the less you seem to need.
I notice it most frequently when it comes to my wardrobe. The more clothes I have (and as my boyfriend will tell you, I have a lot of clothes), the more I tend to wear the same handful outfits on rotation.
As the years have passed, my kitchen equipment has become better stocked. From the shiny black stand mixer and gleaming red food processor on the counter to the fancy graters and knives in the drawers, not to mention the growing collection of plates and bowls that are piled high on the shelves.
And yet, more and more, I'm drawn to recipes that don't require any expensive equipment or any particular investment of time. Give me a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon and I'm far happier than when I'm standing over a machine, watching it do my job for me.
It is, I suppose, a reaction against a world that is filled with the noise of all our options and choices - all those shoes (both real and metaphorical) lying around the flat that I don't really need. Something quick and easy and straightforward, like this cake, can end up feeling like a luxury.
I had grand plans to bake something complicated last weekend but it was cold and wet and grey and all I really wanted was to be eating cake in the quickest possible time and with the least effort on my part. This is a a real dump it all in the bowl and give it a stir kind of recipe. There's no need even to take anything out of the fridge in advance; just turn the oven on and go. In a life packed full of 'stuff', it's a welcome reminder of just how good the simple things can be.
Spiced treacle loaf
Adapted from Mary Berry's treacle spice cake
Yield: A 1lb loaf (serves 8)
I've made this cake in its original form before, at a similar time of year. Quite apart from pouring it into a loaf tin rather than a square tin, I made some tweaks to the quantities and included two of my favourite cake ingredients - olive oil and ground almonds. The robustness of the treacle and spices mean that whole wheat flour works very nicely here but I would imagine that gluten free flour would also be fine. With the olive oil and almonds, you won't get too much of that chalkiness that gluten free flour sometimes has. The lemon glaze is optional but adds a little touch of brightness to remind us that winter is nearly over.
For the cake:
- 135ml (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 90g (1/2 cup) muscovado sugar
- 170g (1/2 cup) treacle (or molasses)
- 3 eggs
- 165g (1 1/2 cups) flour (I used whole wheat spelt this time but most flours will work)
- 40g (A little under 1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- A pinch of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 25g (1/4 cup) icing sugar
- 1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 150C/300F (fan) and line a 1lb loaf tin with non-stick paper.
- Put all the ingredients on a bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until combined.
- Pour into the baking tin and bake for 45 - 55 minutes until firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean if you poke it in the middle.
- Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- When the cake has cooled, make the glaze by mixing together the sugar and lemon adding more sugar or lemon juice if needed to reach a pourable consistency.
- Drizzle the glaze over the cake and enjoy!