Brown Butter Tea Cake

I’m going through a disgruntled few days. I have no real reason for it. Work is under control, NewHuman is being cute, Boyfriend is being lovely, Dog is being affectionate even though we sent her to the vet last week to get her teeth cleaned. Which, by the way, cost the same as it would to whiten my teeth; that is, so much that when I had a quote for mine I said, ‘oh no, too expensive’. But here we are, the Dog having enjoyed a general anaesthetic and being returned to us with gleaming gnashers and wonderfully fresh breath.

Yesterday was full of people being shit at their jobs, or just being shits. I am hopeful for better things today but have descended to full self-pity as rather than recovering from last week’s cold I am, instead, apparently steaming full ahead into a new one. POOR ME. Disgruntled of Average Baker.

We had some leftover Granny Smith apples and over the weekend I knew I wanted to use them in something. As is usual I stood in my handsome, bankrupting kitchen looking at all the lovely cookbooks on the shelves there, then turned to hunch over my phone like a baking Quasimodo and went straight to the Australian Women’s Weekly website for inspiration. They have approximately a million recipes for tea cake, apple cake, and everything in between. I had some bits and pieces to use up and so I decided, which one should never do in baking, to freestyle the recipe. I did some strange shit. I mostly mean I used self raising flour AND ground almonds. I’m not sure I can recommend you do the same, but regardless the cake turned out a very good version of the kind of thing you want by your side as you sip a hot drink. Not tea. Tea can do one. I don’t get tea. I drink it maybe once a year, around mid-winter, generally after a bracing walk in the Welsh hills. Then I think, ‘Tea, huh? Waste of space’ and don’t drink it again for another year.

When I mean hot drink I pretty much mean coffee.

I have a thing for burnt, or brown, butter, so I decided to melt my butter and brown it a bit, before using, to try give the cake some yummo flavour. It worked, I think. Recommend. So below I will set out what I THINK the recipe should be. I haven’t, like, triple-tested it or anything proper. I made it once. It was fine. Good, in fact. A prosaic kind of cake. The kind of cake who will just sit quietly with you when you’re feeling disgruntled and not try to make you feel better with platitudes or fancy icing or, god forbid, try to be a bloody cupcake.

Dependable, therapeutic cake. There you go.

Preheat your oven to 170C (fan) and grease a cake tin. You could go 20cm round. I went slightly larger square. I’m sure you could use a couple of small loaf tins, too. This cake will not get mad if you experiment with shapes.


around 3 apples, peeled and sliced (I did this at the last minute to avoid the whole going brown thing)

2 eggs, separated

around 3/4 cup of milk (don’t use this in one fell swoop – trickle it in as you’ll need to stop when consistency is right)

50g butter

good slosh of quality vanilla extract

100g almond meal

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 cup SR flour (use plain, go on – let me know how it turns out)

And then for when the cake is cooked you want:

20g or so of melted butter. More is fine but less is not fine.

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon caster sugar

  K. This first bit is a slight pain and may not be necessary, specially if you’re using SR flour. If you’re using plain flour then definitely do it.

Put the eggwhites in a bowl and with an electronic mixer whisk them till firm peaks form. See below for what I mean. If you’re feeling all He-Man then by all means go for it with a hand-held whisk. Good luck with that.
  Then whilst it’s whisking add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, till it goes all glossy. Then beat in the egg yolks.

Below you’ll see what I ended up with. Grainy, shiny meringue. It was fine.

  Whilst all that is going on have your butter gently melting in a small saucepan. Then once it’s melted let it continue to bubble away. It’ll stay a buttercup-urine-yellow for a long time and then quite quickly it’ll start to change. It’s hard to get a picture of this to show you the colour so below is the best I could do. I swirled and photo’d. Welcome to brown/burnt butter, y’all.
  With a big metal spoon gently fold through the flour, almonds, milk, butter and extract in alternate goes, beginning and ending with the flour. You may find it’s a bit runny if you use all the milk upfront so remember what I said. If you think it’s too runny just add a little more flour. It’ll look like nursery school glue, with a slightly softer consistency. Tastes ok, though.  Scrape the mix into whatever crazy cake tin you’ve decided on and layer on the apples. You’ll see below that I was a bit parsimonious. That’s not at all like me, I don’t know what I was thinking. Be generous. Sprinkle over with a little caster sugar and shove it in the oven. Should take around 45 mins but test with a skewer from 30 mins and if the skewer comes out clean it’s done.
  Boyfriend did a sterling job of pumpkin carving this year, helping me with any of the latent homesickness guaranteed to descend around this time of year. Shame it rotted before the actual night itself and we instead stuck up a hastily-cut-out version of the same and stuck to the front door with dodgy sellotape. We are nothing if not classy.

Right. When the cake is done turn it out onto a cooling rack and put the cooling rack over some kitchen towel. Whilst the cake is still warm, melt your butter and using a pastry brush feed the cake with it. Use it all. Use more, if you think you should. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it over the cake whilst the butter is still wet.

  See below for the done thing, uncut, and cut.
   It looks such an odd texture but eats really well. Baking, eh? Wizardry.

I’m going to do some proper work now, sitting in my corner of this offensively open-plan office with a face like, as I described to someone yesterday, Maggie Smith having just sucked on a particularly bitter lemon.


3 thoughts on “Brown Butter Tea Cake

  1. narf77 says:

    You just pushed ALL of my food buttons at once (well, maybe not the “potato” button but you can’t have it all…). “Brown”, “Butter”, “Tea” and “Cake” are 4 of my 5 food groups. Commiserations for the cold to cold hop. “YOU DON’T DRINK TEA!” o-O. Obviously that’s where you are going wrong and why you are disgruntled and cold ridden. All of us tea drinkers are supremely gruntled and cold free ma’am. I invite you to the dark side. Perth is going to be stinking hot this year. Not just the regular stinking hot that it usually is in summer but “FUCK ME DEAD I AM ABOUT TO MELT!” hot so stop lusting after Australia and start thanking God that you live in mild auld blighty ;). Love the cake. By the way, Maggie Smith and the lemon have NOTHING on Dame Edna’s Madge.

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