Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sultana cake: take 2

During the six-odd months I've been doing this challenge, there have been a few dishes that were absolute disasters. With most of these, the recipe wasn't at fault: it's just that sometimes I'm a total muppet.

A standout example of the muppet phenomenon is my attempt at sultana cake (p59). It's a very straightforward recipe - assuming you remember to put in the baking powder.

On my list of disasters and could-be-betters, there are a handful that I am determined to have another go at. These are the ones where I have a clear understanding of where I went wrong, or I have a theory of how the recipe could be improved. So, from time to time, I'll put up a 'take 2' of a recipe I've already done.

For my first 'take 2', I selected one of my most obvious blunders: the sultana cake incident described above. My original intention in making this cake was to compare the result with my Oma's sultana cake recipe - a particular favourite of mine. When compared to the gluggy horror I produced, Oma's recipe was the clear winner. But what about if I did it properly?

The two recipes are fairly similar, with only a few proportional differences in ingredients. Also, Oma's recipe uses both lemon and almond essence, whereas the Edmonds version specifies either one or the other.

As with Oma's recipe, I began by boiling the sultanas in water, then (having drained the water off) adding butter. I used canola spread in place of butter here - I've recently formed a theory that spread works even better than butter in some cake recipes. Anyway, I'd run out of butter, so I had to hope that this recipe was one of them. My quantities for the spread were approximate, to say the least: I still haven't replaced my kitchen scales, and a tub of canola spread doesn't have convenient cutting marks on it like a block of butter!

While the 'butter' was melting in with the sultanas, I beat up the eggs and sugar. This done, I tipped the contents of the sultana pot into the egg mixture, along with the almond essence. Then, the dry ingredients: crucially, I remembered to put in the baking powder. Once these were mixed through, it was time to get it into the oven.

The cooking time given is 1 - 1 1/4 hours. I checked the cake after one hour, and found that, while the top was unusually firm and crisp, the centre appeared completely uncooked. I put the cake back in for another 1/4 hour, but the centre was still gooey when I checked it. In the end, the cake had baked for a full 1 1/2 hours before I was satisfied. Naturally, Oma's recipe says an hour and a half!

Having let the cake cool down, I cut into it and had a taste. So how does it compare with Oma's version? Not favourably. The texture is crumbly, but I admit that this might be the result of my canola spread substitution. Even if you set that issue aside, it's also a bit lacking in flavour, and just isn't as packed full of sultanas. It's not quite a case of "you have to take a bicycle to get from one sultana to the next" (a delightful Dutch saying of Oma's) but they're more sparse than I'd like.

If you haven't tried Oma's version, you'll probably like this one well enough. But if you're going to make it, I'd recommend that instead of the 1/2 teaspoon of almond or lemon essence, use both. And while you're at it, up the quantity: Oma's recipe has 2 teaspoons of almond essence, plus a teaspoon each of lemon and vanilla. It may seem like a lot, but trust me: Oma definitely knew what she was doing!


  1. Yum Oma's sultana cake...I made one last week first time in ages and yep it really is lovely eh.It somehow has a continental edge to it with the almond ess and does have plenty of fruit. Have to say I generally add more fruit to recipes anyway whatever it is.c

  2. Just discovered your blog and it is exactly what I need to help me with my baking exploits. I have just popped my first attempt at Edmonds sultana cake in the oven, funnily enough I tasted the mixture and decided to add more almond essence, I never thought to add the others as well! Where is this famous Oma's recepie??

  3. As requested:

    Oma's sultana cake

    250g butter
    500g sultanas
    3 eggs
    250g sugar
    350g flour
    2t baking powder
    2t almond essence
    1t vanilla essence
    1t lemon essence

    Boil sultanas with a little water, then drain, but not too thoroughly.
    Add butter to sultanas while warm.
    Mix eggs and sugar in a mixer until thick; add the sultana and butter mixture.
    Add flour and baking powder, then stir though essences.

    Bake 140 degrees for1 1/2 hours. It may cook more quickly, so keep an eye on it.

    There you go - try this one as well and see which one you like best :)


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