I've been feeling a bit 'blah' the last three days - not blah enough to call myself sick, but blah enough to feel sapped of any energy, enough to hope not to cough again, because coughing hurts (so, so much) and enough not to want to enter the kitchen.
This blahness did, however, make me feel incredibly bored. I am not used to being home during the day, and if I am home, I'm always in the kitchen where time flies and, well, by day three I couldn't take it anymore. Even though I wasn't hungry, I wanted to get back into the kitchen and bake something. Under the conditions that this something didn't involve me standing up for too long, or ingredients I didn't have, or too much thinking. I wanted something simple, quick, uncomplicated - but satisfying. Something to make me feel better.
Then I remembered Edna's Busy Day Cake, a simple creamed cake with added nutmeg, that has gotten rave reviews from bloggers and has its name due to the fact that it's so simple and quick to make that you can even make it on a busy day. Perfect. I did end up tweaking the recipe to my liking - using less sugar, more milk, different types of flours, and orange zest. Because you know, sick people and vitamin C...
I also sprinkled a tablespoon of demerara sugar on top about 30 minutes into baking, to give it an extra crunch.
The cake fulfilled all my demands and then some - I had forgotten how therapeutic the smell of a cake filling your apartment can be. The cake itself was exactly what I needed - nothing fussy or complicated, not a birthday or dinner party type cake. Just a humble, barely sweet creamed cake, with a hint of nutmeg and orange. It's the kind of cake you crave in the late afternoon and have along with a cup of tea. Or the kind of cake you fancy in the morning with your coffee while reading the newspaper.
Or simply the kind of cake that will lift you up when you're feeling blah and make you feel... well, much less so. This one is definitely going to become a regular.
Simple orange and nutmeg scented cake
I adapted this recipe quite a bit from its original source(s). I used 60g less sugar, light brown flour instead of all plain flour, added the zest of one orange, 1/4 cup more milk, changed the baking temperature and sprinkled a tablespoon of demerara sugar on top. I'm pretty sure that counts as basically a new recipe, but I want to credit the source of inspiration!
I should note that after baking this I realized that I now had a 9-inch cake in my flat and nobody to share it with... Luckily this cake tastes even better on the second day and I was able to bring it to school. Phew.
113g // 4oz of butter, at room temperature, cubed
200g // 1 cup granulated sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
135g // 1 cup plain flour
130g // 1 cup light brown flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
a very generous grating of nutmeg
zest of one medium orange
3/4 cup of whole milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon of demerara sugar, for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 180°C // 350°C. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and orange zest.
In a second medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy - this will take a few minutes. You can pause now and then to scrape down any sugar/butter bits on the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Once the butter and sugar have been well creamed, add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Beat briefly to incorporate.
Add about 1/4 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed to just combine. Add 1/3 of the milk, and again just beat to combine. Add the flour mixture in three more additions, alternating each time with a bit of the milk and beating to just combine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir to incorporate any flour not yet absorbed.
Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. If you want - about 30 minutes in - you can sprinkle 1 tablespoon of demerara sugar on the top. This will give the cake a little something extra.
Remove from oven, let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-20 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and continue to cool.
Serve at room temperature with a little bit of cream, some tea or coffee. Or eat for breakfast with some sliced oranges or....