Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Raspberry & Rose Sponge Cake

Slice of Raspberry & Rose
Sponge Cake

I have a thing about roses.  The heady scent of old roses in a garden on a warm summer evening is intoxicating but the sight of them decaying softly through autumn is sadness personified.  Far better to sacrifice a few summer blooms and capture their essence in a jam, jelly, syrup or water to hold on to summer.  Being so highly aromatic, a little goes a long way.

Diana Henry has a recipe for Rose petal jelly in her preserving book Salt Sugar Smoke which urges you to "find roses whose fragrance makes you swoon".  For a jam, I could refer you to Sir Kenelm Digby's (or Digbie) 17th century recipe for a 'Conserve of Red Roses'.  Son of Gunpowder Plotter, Sir Everard, was an 'English courtier, philosopher and diplomat' but this hardly does justice to describing his colourful career.  Amongst his wide-ranging interests was cookery and a book 'The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened' was published by his family in 1669, after his death.  As with most recipes of this time, amounts are somewhat imprecise but I do love the instruction to boil until the petals "be very tender and look pale like linen".  I point you instead to this magical post on the beautiful blog of Emiko Davies where you'll find a much simpler recipe: Rose Petal Jam from a Venetian Monastery.

If you don't have a garden, or can't bear to pluck your roses, there are a few good products available to buy.  In London La Fromagerie stocks a fabulous Romanengo fu Stefano Rose Petal Jam.  If it's a Rose petal syrup you want, Fortnum and Mason keep a luscious version from Forage Fine Foods.  In the range there is a Sweet Rose Dukkah blend of rose petals, spices, nuts and vanilla which is wonderful too.

Raspberry & Rose
Sponge Cake
On a grey, rainy London day, November is trying to edge out October before it has drawn breath. A perfect day to bake a cake, but it's too early to resort to autumnal gingerbread or parkin.  I want to hold on to summer just a little longer.  A bottle of Forage Fine Foods Rose Petal Syrup glows alongside a couple of jars of loose-set Raspberry & Rose conserve, made with what may be the last of my allotment raspberries.  A simple sponge is called for to allow the rose perfume to shine through.

This sponge cake uses the Genoise method to obtain the lightness I want. There being no raising agent added, the mixture relies on incorporating air for lift.  I always thought it was necessary to beat the eggs and sugar over simmering water until I tried Sally Clarke's method.  She makes Genoise sponges every day for here brilliant shop in Kensington Church Street ringing the changes through the seasons.  So long as you use an electric whisk, and mix for 5-10 minutes, you can achieve the volume without the risk of curdling the eggs over water.  For the filling, raspberry or strawberry jam will work equally well, I think, but a thin layer is enough.  If your jam is not flavoured with rose, add a little extra syrup to the cream so that your jam doesn't over-power the rose.

Raspberry & rose sponge cake
(makes a 24cm cake - halve the quantities for 18cm)

25g melted butter, plus a little extra to butter the tin
100g soft, plain flour plus a little extra for the tin
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
About 2-3 tbsp raspberry & rose jam (or raspberry or strawberry jam)
300ml double cream
1 tbsp rose petal syrup
1 heaped tsp icing sugar
1 tsp Sweet Rose Dukkah (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.  Brush the cake tin with a little melted butter, line the bottom with baking parchment, brush again with butter and dust the inside of the tin with flour. Beat the eggs with the sugar with an electric mixer for between 5-10 minutes until it's the thickness of shaving foam and the whisk leaves a distinct trail.  Sieve the flour and fold in gently.  Gently mix in the cooled melted butter.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and immediately bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove, cool for a few minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack and remove the baking parchment.

When the cake has cooled completely, slice horizontally with a serrated bread knife.  Spread the jam thinly on the cut sides of both halves of sponge.  Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the rose syrup.  Spread the cream on the bottom half of the sponge. Carefully place the top half, jam side down, on the bottom layer, pressing down gently.  Dust with the sifted icing sugar. Scatter with the Sweet Rose Dukkah (if using).

La Fromagerie
Fortnum & Mason
Forage Fine Foods