Oh friends. We are living through an extraordinarily strange and disorienting time. My little family is doing well, despite our relatively close quarters. The babies are nearly 11 months old and are now overwhelmingly mobile. Their needs give shape to my days and I am grateful for the structure they lend (especially since Scott is now working from home and so can’t rely on his comings and goings to give me some sense of rhythm).
I have groceries all over my apartment because at the beginning of this thing, I did a little anxiety-fueled shopping. Worried I wouldn’t be able to get fresh vegetables, I bought multiple bags of spirulina powder thinking we might need it as a source of healthy greens. Thankfully, we haven’t had any trouble getting fresh produce, so I’ve been making smoothies on a near-daily basis to try and use some of it up.
Like just about everyone else, I’ve been doing a whole lot of baking as a way of coping. And because I’m me, I’m always looking for ways to incorporate my preserves into any and all baked goods. Ages ago, I spotted a post on Instagram from fellow cookbook author Anja Dunk for a simple cake that is topped with berry jam and and dried coconut. A classic UK school dessert, it was typically served in a puddle of custard.
I didn’t have any custard mix, and sadly dried coconut isn’t an ingredient Scott is into, but the bones of the treat spoke to me. An easy cake topped with a layer of jam?! Sign me up.
Reading through the comments, Anja mentioned that she used a classic recipe using 125 grams of sugar, flour, and butter with two eggs. I took those instructions and ran with them. I kept the measurements the same, but included 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon fine salt. However, any cake recipe would work fine here, since the bulk of the trick is to spread it with a goodly amount of jam while the cake is still hot.
Scott and I ate this over the course of three days, carving off slivers whenever we passed by. He offered his highest cake compliment, which is that it tasted like one made from a box (this might not sound particularly flattering, but he is someone for whom there is no better cake than Funfetti made from mix).
If you’ve not encountered Anja Dunk in your travels through the food world, she is someone well worth a follow. I greatly enjoy her Instagram account (she has the most glorious wall of jars) and her books are just so good to read and cook from. She co-wrote the charming book Do/Preserve and Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings is one that I often read, novel-style when I need a moment of escape from two very active crawling, climbing babies.
I have included instructions below using the metric measurements that I cribbed from Anja. If you don’t have a scale, you can either use a converter to switch this recipe to work with cups, or just use one like this.
Simple Vanilla Cake with Jam Topping
- 125 grams all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 125 grams room temperature butter
- 125 grams sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup jam according to my research, berry is traditional, but I think apricot or even marmalade would also be good here
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C.
- Butter a baking dish that can hold 6 cups. It can be a square 8x8, a round 8x2, or some other shape. I used a vintage rectangular pan that happened to be in circulation at the time I was making this cake.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set them aside.
- In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, whip the butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes. You want it to become really light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on the slowest setting, just until everything is uniformly combined.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean (a couple dry crumbs are okay).
- Let the cake cool for a few minutes and then top with the jam. You want it to be warm so that it absorbs the flavors a bit, but not so hot that the jam liquifies.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.