Simon and Garfunkel– Cecilia. Now I’m ready.
It feels good to just sit and write, even if it’s something completely unrelated to course content. The mind can think and meander, explore different routes, modes, moods. Creative inspiration seems much more inclined to approach a weary mind when you’re willing to let a bunch of different feelings and experiences coalesce. To just let yourself go.
Fluffy, moist brown sugar pound cake ‘spotted’ with dark brown sugar bits, peanut butter and chocolate spread.
I personally have nothing against the word moist, which I think describes this perfectly, along with sweet, treacly and buttery. Are those last 3 ok? I actually recently read an article on word aversion which I could fully relate to. I have zero aversions to any word. I just love English. And words. But I do have an aversion to word aversion.
Right smack in the middle of exam season, and everyone is jostling in the library. Noses to books, noses to screens, pen to paper. I can feel the heat emanating from everyone’s bright and burning brains almost immediately upon stepping foot in the silent arena. A battle zone of books. There seems to be little time for anything now, but having just a little time in the kitchen to experiment has become a priority to me. The other day I came across a well-known brown sugar pound cake recipe by one of my favourite lady bakers, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity, when it struck unexpectedly one free day, to give it a go and perhaps see where my creative endeavours led me down the road.
I used an especially dark, treacly, molasses-y brown sugar (oh, what is English?). You’re probably wondering what’s with the ‘spotty’ label, and I figured that the picture right above provided an appropriate example– something which arose from chance rather than prediction. You take thick chunks of sticky dark brown sugar, and crumble it with your hands. The result? Some larger chunks (not too large) some sandy pools, some little peas.
You make the batter, pour half into the pan, dot with blobs of peanut butter (I used all-natural chunky) and chocolate spread, spread on the other half, BAKE.
I term this ‘loaf cake’ instead of ‘pound cake’ because I did have to modify the recipe a little with the quantity of brown sugar I used. The ‘spotted’ factor makes it all the more rich without being sickly. The rise and density of the loaf is spot on. Though it doesn’t have quite the same sharp crust as my favourite-ever banana bread recipe, the flavour is there, all you want and more. There’s a real nice split down the middle as it bakes, relatively even, revealing a little of the sticky, soft inside. Like the formation of the primitive streak during gastrulation in embryo formation. Hope that didn’t sound too weird.
You might die of joy from the smell, but then you’ll take a bite. Life, welcomed. Relish all the fused flavours, all that nutty, brown sugary goodness, hit the tender middle with speckles of brown sugar and chocolate and peanut butter which seeps right into the batter. Pick at the caramelised edges and tops, which are always the best bits.
Spotted Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Loaf Cake (makes one 9×5-inch loaf, adapted from Yossy’s brown sugar pound cake)
200g (a little more than 1 1/2 cups; used slightly more than stated in the original recipe) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
110g (1/2 cup) white caster sugar
220g (1 cup) dark brown sugar, the darkest you can find at your store, packed
200g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
3 heaping tbsp peanut butter of choice
3 heaping tbsp chocolate hazelnut spread
Preheat your oven to 170C (325F). Butter your loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the softened butter (has to be soft!!) and white sugar. You could use an electrical whisk here if you wish as well, but I just like to use a standard wire whisk. Take your brown sugar and crumble it into the butter and white sugar mix, leaving some large and some small clumps. Whisk briefly so as not to break up those larger lumps.
Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Pour the dry mix into the wet, add the milk, then whisk everything together. Pour half of this batter into your loaf pan, then dollop blobs of peanut butter and hazelnut spread on top. Spoon the rest of the batter into the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes; take out when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle has moist (and peanut buttery) crumbs clinging to it. Leave to cool, then serve. As the original recipe states, wrap and store this at room temperature for 4 days (mine just didn’t last as long; thank you fellow floor mates).
Perfect for breakfast, tea, those tiny breaks between lectures. Ho yes.