Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sand Cake with a Drizzle Topping

Sand cakes have been around in England for a very long time but they don’t seem to turn up all that often these days, unless I'm missing them somehow. In fact, various types of sand cakes seem to surface more frequently in other parts of the world such as Australia. The cakes don’t have sand in them, honest. They’re made largely with potato flour or cornflour (or cornstarch as it’s known in some parts of the world), which gives them a light and crumbly texture – a ‘sandy’ texture, I suppose. It’s a shame that they’re not better known because they’re beautifully light, very easy to make and they taste a lot better than sand.

Traditionally the cakes are associated primarily with Leicestershire, although in my head they’re forever associated with Ironbridge in Shropshire because that’s where I first came across the cake in a small, old-fashioned tea shop quite a few years ago. Many of the traditional recipes call for the cake to be iced with a light, usually lemon, icing but I've added a drizzle topping instead just for a change. Some people prefer to serve the cake without any form of topping and it works very well as a dessert that way alongside fruit and something creamy.
Sand Cake
I use a combination of cornflour and potato flour but replacing the potato flour with more cornflour will work – I'm just being a bit fussy with the texture. I've come across versions of the cake in the Lake District too and that explains why I add some rum – you can replace this with a lemon or orange liqueur or leave it out altogether.

70 g butter, softened
110 g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 lemon, very finely grated
1 tbsp dark rum
60 g cornflour
50 g potato flour
30 g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder

For the drizzle topping:
      Juice of 1 lemon
      35 g icing sugar
      20 g granulated sugar

Butter an 18 cm round cake tin – a springform or loose-bottomed tin is easiest for this cake, but the mixture is quite thin so make sure it doesn't leak. Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Beat the butter and caster sugar together thoroughly until very pale in colour. Gradually beat in the eggs, followed by the lemon zest and rum. Mix the three flours and the baking powder together, sift them over the mixture and fold in.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool a little before removing from the baking tin – you need to be a little careful because the cake is crumblier than a normal sponge cake. If you’re icing the cake or not adding any topping, then allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. If you want to add the drizzle topping, then poke some holes in the top of the cake with a knife and apply the drizzle while the cake is still warm. To make the drizzle mixture, simply mix together the juice and the sugars and pour as evenly as possible over the cake. (You don’t need to use both types of sugar, but adding a small amount of granulated sugar gives just a hint of crunch to the top of the cake, which I like.)
Incidentally, I can’t guarantee that you’ll find sand cake there, but if you've never visited Ironbridge and think you might one day then I’d just say:

          - There’s a lot more there than just the bridge (it’s a World Heritage Site, after all)

          - The bridge is probably smaller than you think it is

          - The bridge probably has more charm than you’d imagine a bridge made of iron could ever have