Syrups (honey included) are a great way of sweetening and flavouring cake. Their viscous nature and generally rich flavour enhances almost any sponge far more than most sugars. Their use is a fool-proof way to ensure a moist, dense and well-textured crumb, as well as a deep, almost burnished flavour, which is likely to satisfy even the most ardent sponge sniffers in your neighbourhood. Syrup, in my opinion, also does away with the need for overly sweetened layers of icing, which usually have the effect of drowning the natural flavour of your sponge in a little too much decadence. Any syrup you can think of will work well here (except perhaps corn syrup), particularly golden syrup or maple syrup.
You may have noticed that I’m rather keen on golden syrup, though it has been brought to my attention time and time again that many of you don’t really know what it is – I guess it doesn’t really exist on the other side of the pond. Golden syrup is technically pale treacle, produced by refining – inverting – sugar cane juice to produce a sugar. By far the largest producer of golden syrup in Britain, and probably the world, is Tate & Lyle, first founded in 1881 (though it was known simply as Lyle’s until 1921).
By the way, today is World Baking Day, so get baking and sharing – everyone appreciates a slice of cake or two (three). You know, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start – if I can make it, you certainly can!
Syrup Sponge Cake
Makes one 20 x 20cm tray cake
• 125ml of syrup, golden or maple
• 30g caster sugar
• 110g butter
• 50g ground almonds
• 2 eggs
• 200g self-raising flour
1. Grease and line your cake tin, heating the oven to 170C. Melt together the syrup, sugar and butter over a low heat. Beat in the eggs and almonds before folding in the flour and pouring into the prepared tin.
2. Bake the cake for around 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out. Cut into squares and enjoy with a healthy dollop of ice cream.
Cost: Considering everything it offers, syrup is a very reasonably priced ingredient. However, readers in Britain are unlikely to use maple syrup as it can be a little more costly than golden syrup and is probably better saved for pancakes! Still, this cake should set you back around £1.80.