The Art of baking

Spiced sultana cake, by Carol Kearns.

Spiced sultana cake, by Carol Kearns. - Credit: Submitted

Known as The Cake Lady when a mature student at Norwich University of the Arts, Carol Kearns of Wymondham combines a love of baking with a talent for illustration.

My family has a long tradition of home-grown and home-made. My great-grandfather was a village baker and his wife, Great-granny Rollings, a keen gardener who used some of her garden produce to make potent home-brewed wines. Her wonderful garden was designed as a series of outdoor rooms – perfect for playing hide-and-seek when we were children – and my family says that it is from her that I inherited my own green fingers. Grandad Hadwell trained as a gardener and grew fruit and vegetables in his own garden. I remember helping Nanny Hadwell to can pears and she regularly used up garden surplus by making chutneys, jams and pickles: It was an autumn ritual for my family to join Nan and Grandad in peeling mounds of pickling onions, sitting outside in their backyard to avoid crying while doing so! Dad had an allotment and Mum made preserves, too. I loved helping to make the beetroot chutney or Christmas mincemeat at it meant using the hand-cranked cast-iron mincer clamped for the occasion to the end of the kitchen table.

Sunday afternoon tea at either my childhood home or my grandparents’ house always meant produce fresh from the garden, home-made preserves from the larder and, of course, a slice of home-made cake. This delightful recipe is reminiscent of the sort of cake Nan would have served with scalding-hot cups of tea from a Brown Betty teapot kept warm by a hand-knitted tea cosy. It is unashamedly old-fashioned and is the antithesis of today’s stylish cupcakes - however, what it lacks in glamour it more than makes up for in substance and taste.

Spiced sultana cake

Makes 8-10 slices:

100g self-raising wholemeal flour

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100g self-raising white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

120g light soft brown sugar

120g soft butter or baking margarine

3 medium eggs

Grated zest and juice of half a large orange

200g sultanas

2 tbsp demerara sugar

You will need:

A 2lb/900g loaf tin

Non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper

Wooden or metal skewer

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark four.

2 Lightly grease and line the loaf tin or pop in a liner.

3 Sift the white flour, baking powder and mixed spice together into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients (except the sultanas and demerara sugar) and beat the mixture with an electric hand-mixer for two minutes. Fold in the sultanas.

4 Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar, then bake for about 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

5 Leave the cake to cool in the tin for five minutes, remove and place on a cooling rack.