What would you do if you knew you could not fail? If you had all the resources to fulfil one of your most cherished dreams; if the aspirations that the daily grind invariably crushes had a chance to come true? Most of the time, I think I’d cancel all my plans for the next couple of years, find myself a remote writer’s retreat, and hide away until I have a finished work of fiction in hand. But then, I take a closer look, and realise that juggling my daily routine and my short stories isn’t as hard a challenge as it sometimes may seem. So I turn my mind on the wildest flight of imagination of all: opening my own bakery.
When I daydream about it, I picture a homely cafe, with a bunch of dainty tables and a cosy garden at the back (you can probably tell this place has left a mark on me!). Walls would be lined with bookshelves, packed with books that customers can read for free; and there would be a record player, for everyone should experience the pleasure of having breakfast to the sound of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love vinyl at least once. I’d be the landlady and master baker, chatting to customers about the latest great read they stumbled upon, and serving up my very own bakes. It would feel like opening up my living room to anyone who wants to stop by, unhurriedly sip on a cup of espresso, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a slice of homemade cake. I don’t know about you, but I feel the world could do with more places like this.
As a self-taught and rather amateurish home baker, I’ve grown used to joking about my scruffy, less than picture perfect cakes. Every time I play with the idea of selling my bakes at a food market, excitement fades into fear within a matter of minutes: fear that no one will ever cast a look at them, too despairingly ugly to inspire any joy, hunger or lust. And then, sometimes, the miracle happens. Something comes out of my oven, that tastes and looks good at the same time. When my friend Emma said that my blueberry, yoghurt and rosewater cake was worthy of a spot on an independent cafe counter, I could almost see it happening. If my local dessert dealer sold it, I’d happily order a slice; so why wouldn’t others want to try it?
Like many new experiments, this one, too, was riddled with doubt. Even my mother expressed puzzlement over Skype: “are you sure you can use rosewater in baking?”. Well, I was about to find out, wasn’t I. Time proved me right: the smell coming from my oven was a teasing prelude of the sweetness to come. It was the smell of my mum’s beloved roses, lovingly nurtured to please the eye of the odd visitor, just like this cake will delight your taste buds.
This is the type of sugary, delicate cake you gracefully nibble on while sipping warm tea from a vintagey floral teacup (I’d have those in my cafe, too). It’s a girly cake, comically ill-suited to my inner country bumpkin, but ideal for the days I try my hand at turning into a charming hostess and cooking up a storm for my friends. Fat-free Greek yoghurt does a fantastic job of creating a light but nourishing batter, and rosewater is (quite literally!) the icing on the cake, the sweet mark of the cook’s impromptu yet inspired quirk. So, there you have it. I don’t know if I’ll ever learn what it takes to open my own bakery, but when I make cakes such as this one, I like to think I could.
Midsummer Night’s Blackberry Cake
(serves 8 – 12)
For the cake
- 220g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 150g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 – 2 tablespoons rosewater (to your taste)
- 20ml olive oil
- 170g fat-free natural Greek yoghurt
- 125 – 150g blackberries
For the glaze
- 25g granulated sugar
- 50ml rosewater
Recipe (adapted from Shutterbean’s Lemon Cake with Raspberries and Pistachios)
Prepare the cake
- Sift the flour in a small bowl, then mix it with the baking powder and salt.
- Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a separate bowl, until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and rosewater, and keep whisking.
- Gradually add the oil and Greek yoghurt, mixing until combined.
- Fold in the dry ingredients, and mix until you obtain a smooth batter, with no lumps of flour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°; meanwhile, pour the batter into a greased cake tin, and spread the blackberries on top.
- Bake for around 40 – 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool down.
Prepare the glaze
- Begin the procedure around 10 – 15 minutes before removing the cake from the oven.
- Bring the sugar and rosewater to the boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure the sugar melts completely.
- Remove from the hob, and set aside to cool down slightly.
- While the cake is still hot, brush it with the glaze, then leave it aside to cool down completely.
- Remove from the tin, serve and enjoy.
Make sure you take in that delightful smell of roses before you wolf it all down. Just a little sniff, and you’ll be sure to remember this cake for the months to come.