Monday, 27 May 2013

Nutty Cinnamon Sultana Crumb Cake

I first made this cake a few years ago in my pre-coeliac days. I have fond memories of it being one of my favourite cakes I’ve ever baked. I have recently been longing to recreate it, but part of me was worried it either wouldn’t live up to my expectations, or else wouldn’t replicate so well in gluten free form.

This weekend I decided to do some therapeutic cake baking, and wanted something tasty and yet not piled high with mountains of frosting (I’ve really gone off buttercream frosting recently). My thoughts drifted back to this cake and I decided to bite the bullet and bake it.

The original cake calls for a much bigger pan, so I started my halving the quantities. I then used a combination of different gluten free flours and added some xanthan gum to held bind it all together. Tapioca starch is a recent discovery of mine and it adds a great chewy moistness to baked products, you only need a little though. It wouldn’t be suitable to use all tapioca starch.

I also substituted the milk with buttermilk, which like yoghurt, I find adds a lovely moistness and tenderness to the crumb. I also increased the quantity of the buttermilk, as gluten free flours are quite starchy and tend to absorb more liquid. The final substitution I made was to swop the raisins for sultanas.

The cake comprises of a thick vanilla cake mix layered with cinnamon sugar, melted butter, sultanas and chopped pecans. A second layer of cake mix is added before the cake is topped off with more of the nutty cinnamon. The cake batter itself turned out quite stiff, almost like a very soft scone mixture, but still light and airy. At first there didn’t look enough to cover the middle layer, but it puffed up and rose nicely in the oven.

Half an hour later I removed the cake from the oven. The top had turned into a crisp sugary cinnamon surface, studded with the sultanas and now-lightly-toasted pecans. It smelt divine and I had to prevent myself from sticking my fork straight in. I managed to resist temptation and left it to cool in the tin while I went and did my weekly shop.

Upon returning, the waft of sweet spicy cinnamon and freshly baked cake hit me as soon as I opened the door and I knew it was time for a taste.

The cake was light and tender in texture but sturdy enough to hold together well on slicing. The top and sides were crisp and slightly chewy while the middle was soft and yielding to the fork. The sultanas gave a wonderful chew and the nuts were…nutty thanks for their toasting in the oven. The cake batter itself is not that sweet, the main sweetness coming from the generous layers of cinnamon sugar both inside and out. I think using buttermilk in the batter was good too, as its natural acidity and tang helped combat some of the sweetness, preventing the finished cake from being overly sweet.

The texture had a slight chew to it, almost like it was a yeasted cake. It took me a while to realise what it reminded me of – a cinnamon roll! This cake is like a cinnamon roll in cake form – that same soft yet sturdy texture to the crumb. Delicious.

This cake was a little different in texture, but just as tempting tasty as I remember. I love how it has two distinct layers of the cinnamon, nuts and fruit, rather than everything being mixed together. I really enjoy having lots of different textures in a cake, and this one didn’t disappoint. A mix of tender cake, chewy raisins, toasted nuts and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar which turns crisp and caramelised during baking. I might just go and have another slice…just to neaten off the edges.

Nutty Cinnamon Sultana Crumb Cake
(Recipe loosely based from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
90g white rice flour
50g brown rice flour
30g tapioca starch/flour
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
165g buttermilk
100g butter, softened
70g caster sugar
1 egg

Nutty Cinnamon Sultana Filling
65g light soft brown sugar
1 tbsp white rice flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
100g sultanas
70g pecans
70g butter, melted

Method – Nutty Cinnamon Sultana Filling
Combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Roughly chop the pecans and mix with the sultanas in another bowl. In a third bowl, melt the butter until liquid and set aside for use later.

Method - Cake
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 8x8inch/20cm square pan.
In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale and evenly mixed. Scrape down the bowl and add the egg and vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth and aerated.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir with a spatula, only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the buttermilk and fold in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and buttermilk have been incorporated. Stir just enough to incorporate the ingredients.
Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter and then drizzle over half the melted butter using a spoon. Scatter half the sultanas and nuts over the top.
Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter carefully over the filling and use a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. (It will look like there isn’t enough, but it puffs up on baking). Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. A skewer can have a few sticky cinnamon crumbs attached, but no raw batter.
Place the tin on a wire rack and leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before cutting into generous squares and devouring.
Store any leftovers on a plate wrapped in clingfilm or an airtight container
Makes 1 x 8inch cake


Julie said...

yum yum yum. Wish I could taste some of this cake. It has all my favourite ingredients in it. Will definitely give it a go.

Caroline said...

I think I remember this cake too, it's one of the few that I actually made when I was a member of the group. I must go back and revisit it - your description of it is making me wonder why I didn't love it more!

Elle said...

You do such a brilliant job of taking gluten flour baked goods and making them gluten free! This would be enjoyed by anyone! Love that middle layer of the nuts and sultanas. Makes me want to have a piece and some hot tea.

Anna Maria said...

Love this cake, but would like to make it with "normal" flour. Do you think I can simply substitute your gluten free flours with plain flour? Many thanks for sharing the recipe.

Chocolate Shavings said...

I love that you re-invented this cake to turn into something new. Looks delicious!

Katie said...

Hi Anna Maria,

If you want to make this cake with normal wheat flour, replace the rice and tapioca with 190g plain flour and use only 110g buttermilk.

Let me know if you like it

Gluten Free Alchemist said...

well done Katie. It's always a real bonus when you get to re-create one of your favourite gluten based recipes gluten free! I love anything with cinnamon in it and this one looks like a great one for my daughters lunch puds too.

Anna Maria said...

Thank you!

Miss C Flash said...

Lovely cake and nice pics x

The Caked Crusader said...

You had me at cinnamon! And sultana! Looks amazing

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness,

Anonymous said...

you are totally a fabulous "expert" teacher,

Anonymous said...

absolutely love this idea!!!