Fathers day. An event rarely given much consideration, let alone celebrated, in our household. Why? Dad passionately abhors the materialism and commericalisation that it embodies. Not to mention that he feels that we should treat everyday like fathers day. Tough luck mister. In primary school we would always buy a trinket from the ‘gift stall’ – a mug filled with sweets, or handkerchiefs or socks. Seriously, do the schools source those items from? Every year the gifts are practically identical. Each kid proudly goes home thinking they have bought dad a unique gift, failing to cotton onto the fact that every other classmate has done the very same thing with virtually the same item. Mum used to have to tell my sister to buy a mug and me to buy a hankie so that we didn’t do just that. With that in mind I actually can sympathise with dad’s misgivings, to an extent. The gifts aren’t what fathers day should be about. I mean, he drives me bonkers a fair bit of the time and I could list twenty traits right now that make me want to go stick my head in the oven, but all in all he’s an alright bloke. That’s an understatement. He’s a bloody brilliant dad. So, yesterday I attempted to walk the fine line between saying thanks for everything and ignoring the event altogether, like we usually do. In order to do that I turned to what I know best. Food.
If there’s an opportunity to cook, flimsy as it may be, I’ll jump at the chance. Particularly if it means I can bake. I’m afraid to say that dad’s not really a steak and chips kind of man. He likes his sweet things, a fact that I have learned to use in my favour. “Here’s a tray of freshly baked cookies Dad. By the way, can I have…” I think he’s cottoned onto that by now, but he rarely refuses baked treats. I decided that a cake was in order. As per usual I spent far too long agonizing over what to cook (something that happens far more often than I would like to admit). It finally reached a point in which most cakes were out of the question, if we were to have afternoon tea before it got dark. This teacake was my savior, taking just 20 minutes to bake and very little time at all to cool. It isn’t in-your-face decadent – halfway between a butter cake and a sponge, with an ever so slightly gooey top due to the berries. Like licking the bowl and eating cake at the same time. Kiddie heaven. It’s pretty enough to seem ‘special’, yet not blatantly celebratory. A subtle cake. For situations in which gaudy gifts are just so overrated.
The cake is also very versatile, so whilst it was cooking I had enough time to mull dither over how best to fill it. Earlier that morning we had picked up a jar of passionfruit curd from the farmers market, so my decision was somewhat easier than usual. The tanginess of the passionfruit cut through the buttery crumb wonderfully. Lemon curd would work just as well, or if you’re feeling traditional, try good ol’ strawberry jam and whipped cream. It also works a treat for dessert, drizzled with luscious creamy custard.
Did it achieve what I wanted? Well Dad devoured over a third of the cake, a pretty accurate indicator that it was a hit. He wasn’t alone – my sister ate another third. It looks like I’m the only one who shows any sort of restraint around here. So when you need/want a cake and are strapped for time, turn to this recipe. And dad? Thanks for putting up with me for the last nineteen years, annoying sitting-on-the-fence habits and all.
Strawberry Tea Cake
1 egg, separated
1/3 cup caster sugar
½ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
30g butter, melted plus a 1tsp extra for topping
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
120g strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced lengthways
1 tsp icing sugar
Fill with Lemon/passionfruit curd or strawberry jam & whipped cream
Or serve warm with custard
Preheat oven to 190C. Grease an 18cm spring-form cake tin. Line the base with baking paper.
In a medium bowl whip the egg white with a balloon whisk until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of the sugar and gently whisk in. Repeat with the remaining two thirds. Whisk in the egg yolk.
Ever so gently stir in the milk, vanilla and melted butter. Fold in the flour, one third at a time, either with a balloon whisk or a flexible spatula.
Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top gently with a spatula. Arrange a circle of strawberries around the outer edge of the cake, with the tips facing outwards. Then arrange another, smaller circle in the same fashion. Bake for 20 -25 minutes or until done when a skewer inserted comes out clean.
When cooked, remove from the oven and set the tin on a wire rack. Leave in the tin for five minutes and meanwhile brush the top with the extra teaspoon of melted butter. Dust over the icing sugar (most will form a glaze on the strawberries). Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.
Once cool, slice in half and sandwich together with lemon/passionfruit curd or strawberry jam and whipped cream. Alternatively, serve warm for dessert with custard.
Source: A Taste Without Waste original. Basic tea cake recipe inspired by Margaret Fulton’s Baking: The Ultimate Collection.