May is one of my favourite months; Mother Nature is clearing her throat and tuning up for the full blown song of summer, new life is established in field, woods and garden. A late spring favourite in my own garden is a beautiful, blowsy peony rose, which faithfully bursts into glorious bloom for a few weeks at this time of year.
It is also the birthday month of my younger brother. He was born when I was 13, in the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. One of his birth gifts, from a generous friend of the family, was a pair of silver (or 'solid silver' as my 10 year old sister and I said in awestruck tones) commemorative cufflinks, from Hamilton and Inches, 'the Queen's jeweller', a fact still referred to semi-frequently by my mother. As we were living in the far north of Scotland at the time, and our retail needs were met by a row of scruffy shops twenty one miles away in one direction, and a lone 'Mace' store seventeen miles in the other, the mere existence of a shop sufficiently luxurious to supply such elegant trifles seemed impossibly romantic to us. The uselessness of silver cufflinks for a new born baby was also impressive.
I had given my new brother a crochet blanket of wobbly granny squares, made over many painstaking weeks, in purple and cream wool. My sister, seeing this effort and fearing that she would be left behind, had started knitting him a toy, which proved, unsurprisingly, too complicated, and my Mum quietly completed it for her to give to the baby. The cufflinks were in a stratosphere far beyond these humble offerings.
The baby in question is now 6'3", lives and works in London, and is grown up enough to wear his solid silver commemorative cufflinks any time he wishes. He comes home frequently to see family and friends, and it is always wonderful to see him when he does.
Last year, I wrote about his birthday brunch here. This year he just wanted tea and cake, which I was happy to supply.
I made a simple vanilla sponge, increasing the proportions of the ingredients to fit the size of the Bundt tin. I am always apprehensive about turning out a Bundt cake, for obvious reasons, however careful brushing with melted butter, and a light dusting of flour usually ensures success. This time, a simple shake of icing sugar and some strawberries finished the cake in a manner sufficiently celebratory for a birthday, but plain enough to be eaten at 11am with tea. Sometimes plain cake is just right, and this was one of those times. (I only managed a phone shot before the cake was cut, hence the slightly squashed proportions of the image above.)
It was delicious, here is the recipe. If you have a Bundt tin languishing at the back of a cupboard, do dust it off and use it. The high proportion of cake crust to soft inside is what makes it taste so good.
340g butter at room temp (and approx. 50g for preparing the tin)
330g caster sugar
310 g self raising flour (and small amount for preparing the tin)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
5 large free range eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons semi skimmed milk
Preheat oven to 180c/Gas 4. Melt approx. 30g butter and brush it over the inside of the tin lightly but thoroughly. Dust the inside of the tin with self raising flour, ensuring all inside contours are covered. Thoroughly shake the excess flour out of the tin. Set aside until needed.
Beat butter and sugar together in Kitchenaid mixer or with a hand held electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Sift together the dry ingredients. Break the eggs into a bowl and add the vanilla extract.
Alternately add the eggs and flour, mixing well with each addition, but not over-mixing, or the cake will be tough.
Start to add the milk until a consistency on the firm side of dropping is achieved, you are likely to need 3 tablespoons but may not need as much as 4.
Scrape carefully into Bundt tin, and smooth the mixture.
Bake for 45-55 mins depending on your oven. The cake should be golden and no crumbs should adhere to a cocktail sick inserted in to the middle of the cake. Set aside in tin to cool until the tin can be handled comfortably.
When the cake has cooled and started to settle in the tin (about 20 minutes), invert onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before decorating as desired.