Lockdown, chilly weather & school holidays - if that's not the holy trinity of reasons to eat ones feelings, I don't know what is.
We thought that what was needed was a quick to whip up cake. A stir and bake affair. One that doesn't use 4 eggs and lots of milk which would lead to an unnecessary run to the shops. Something like...a simple, delicious tea cake. But then I thought, let's elevate it with a cunning but very easy trick: using browned butter, aka buerre noisette.
Browning butter lifts any cake or biscuit to a higher, intangible level. The caramel undertones and richness give baked goods an incredible depth of flavour.
Of course, feel free to use regular butter in the same quantity if you want an extra 15 minutes in front of Netflix, but I promise you this: if you go to that little extra trouble of browning the butter, you will be rewarded tenfold.
I love the outside crust of this cake most of all, and for that reason I tend to use a slightly larger than recommended cake tin. The result is a larger, albeit flatter cake, with all that gorgeous surface area to smother in the sugar butter glaze. If you want a regular, plumper cake, use a 20cm tin, or a loaf pan.
75 grams unsalted butter, cut into small, even sized cubes.
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup self-raising flour (Or 1 cup plain cake flour plus 2 tsp baking powder) *
1/3 cup cup milk
Sugar Butter Topping
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
Brown the butter: Place the pieces of butter in a small pan, on medium heat. Stir the butter with a wooden spoon as it melts. Over the next 5 to 10 minutes, stir occasionally and watch carefully - it will start to sizzle, and foam will appear on the surface. The butter will turn a deeper golden, and the milk solids will sink to the bottom and start to turn brown. The aroma will be heavenly - a rich, nutty butterscotch smell.
That's when you know it's time to turn off the heat and pour that gorgeous brown butter into a small bowl to stop it cooking further: there's only a few seconds difference between brown and burnt butter!
Pop the brown butter in the fridge to cool for about 30 mins. Butter needs to be soft, not melted, for the creaming stage coming up next.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
Cream the brown butter, sugar, egg and vanilla (use a fork or whisk, or electric beaters) until light coloured and creamy. Stir in sifted flour and milk, beat lightly until smooth.
Spread mixture into well-greased 20cm tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the butter topping. Melt the butter, then mix in with sugar (and cinnamon if using).
Once you take the cake out of the oven, brush topping all over the top of the cake immediately then leave the cake for 5 mins in tin. Then remove the cake from the tin and pop it onto a wire rack.. Serve warm with butter.
*To make a Gluten Free version of this cake you can swap out the flour with either our plain gluten free flour mix or cassava flour with 2 tsp of baking powder added to make self raising flour.
PIMP MY RECIPE:
Add a pinch of dried lavender to the topping instead of cinnamon
Make a lemon tea cake by adding a tbsp lemon juice to the cake batter, and a tsp lemon juice to the topping.
Make extra brown butter, then keep it in the freezer for the next time you bake - it's wonderful in cakes, biscuits and puddings! And it's also delicious melted through pasta, with some fried sage leaves and parmesan.