Jam today, jam tomorrow
Posted by the Cake Shop
Here we are in wild and windy March, a time of curiosity and exploration. Stirring from winter hibernation, we peek our heads a bit further out of the cave and begin to poke around: what’s happening out here, look at the moss covering that awning, when did this new shop open on the high street? It’s the moment to catch up with friends you haven’t spoken to for months, to find out what revelations the winter brought them. Then we get battered about by the wind and rain and head back inside again.
The mood of subtle optimism and the growing light allow us to get industrious here at the Cake Shop, channeling our newfound energy into making spring things: new cakes, Easter cookies, jams, and of course our Spring Simnels.
I made my first Simnel cake 13 years ago. I’d learned about them at the London Bakery School, where I was studying – these cakes have a deep tradition. They are associated not only with Easter, but also with Mothers’ Day, when the servants who worked in stately homes would be given Sunday off to go see their families. They’d take Simnel cakes, baked in the big kitchens of those enormous houses, back to their loved ones at home.
That feels so resonant at this time of year: in some ways, winter feels like a foreign land, and spring is a kind of homecoming.
This year’s Spring Simnel is made with pineapple, walnuts, whisky, raisins, sultanas and all the classic dried fruits. In Australia we love a bit of pineapple in a fruitcake –pepping up a cake batter with fresh pineapple chunks is something my mum would typically do.
A heady brew of butter, spices and Guinness gives the cake richness and depth. Rye flour and buckwheat lend a toothsome bite. Finally, there’s a touch of bergamot zestin there – it’s a kind of orange, not a lemon as I originally thought – for that citrus zing I always crave.
This is also the time of year when marmalades are traditionally made, in response to the glut of oranges in countries like Spain. I’ve been making blood orange and passionfruit jam, rhubarb, rose and cardamom jam and quince jelly. I’m about to start a new batch of raspberry and lavender.I’ve also been using the vintage plums from the restorative drinks we made last November — they’ve been mellowing in a brew of red wine, brandy and spices, and now they’re boozy as hell. I confess, I wasn’t a jam-maker at all until lockdown, but the bread-baking phenomenon twisted my arm. It would have been a shame to let all that good home-made bread go jam-less. To each baker a jam-maker, and to each Simnel, spring zest.
Our jams and our Simnel cakes are all available to order via email to the Cake Shop. Jams are £4 for a 4oz jar or £6 for an 8oz; cakes are £25 for a 4-inch cake and £35 for 6 inches. All prices exclude postage and packing – we can post them to you for a small additional cost or, if all goes according to plan, you can collect them in person when we re-open on 22 March for takeaway! Stay tuned for more details.
Missing you still,
The Cake Shop team