A year or so ago, months of dreaming, planning, talking and tinkering all came together and a bunch of us set out to make our mark in the big wide world with the help of the interwebs.
It’s been an amazing romp so far, so what better reason to throw a party and celebrate The Scandinavian Baker’s first birthday (hooray) and the anniversary of the local hand-made homewares venture Maker & Merchant. Happy birthday team! It’s The Baker & Merchant mash-up. (Sheer brilliance)
It’s also the 50th anniversary of the iconic and instantly recognisable Finnish design classic, Marimekko’s Unikko – the poppy flower.
In 1964, the story goes that Marimekko designer Maija Isola defied founder Armi Ratia’s decree that never again would Marimekko produce a floral pattern. (That went well) On the back of that red- rag-to-a-bull moment Isola gave life to the design that would forever define the style of the company by painting the famous Unikko pattern in bold pink, red and black on white. The pattern has been in production ever since. What a way to arrive!
So it’s been a month of celebrations with even more to come. With a few milestones reached and in honour of the poppy it’s the perfect time to bake a celebration cake that’s close to my heart and pair it with a drink that tastes like it’s your birthday!
So make yourself comfy on your Maker and Merchant cushion and give three cheers to captains of industry!
Poppy Seed Celebration Cake
When I was a child there were no Women’s Weekly birthday cakes in the shape of a glistening pool or furry yellow bear for me. My Mum was never the willing baker; driven more by necessity than desire. And while at times I longed for the brightly-coloured butter-cream-whipped delights that graced my friends’ birthday parties, nothing ever beat the Poppy Seed Cake sitting pride of place at the centre of the table – wide-eyed children waiting patiently for a slice twice the size of anyone’s hand.
I cut my bakers teeth on this cake and it’s been there for every celebration throughout my life. It’s travelled with me and been baked in kitchens far and wide. It’s comfort, fond memory and tradition rolled into one extraordinary looking cake. Now the blackened tin from my childhood (strictly reserved for this cake only) and the recipe committed to memory lives with me and I couldn’t be happier.
2 cups of raw sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups of canola oil
3 cups plain flour
1½ teaspoons of bi-carbonate of soda
1 can of evaporated milk (375 mls)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
Poppy seeds (approx ¾ cups)
One Angel Food cake tin with the narrow spout in the centre. (This part is essential. The cake won’t work in a regular round cake tin.)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Into your mixer place the sugar and eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes until well combined, lighter and doubled in size. Gradually add the oil in a steady stream and beat until well blended.
Sift the flour and bi-carb soda together. Add to the mixture, alternating with the evaporated milk, (at least four intervals). Folding together gently with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the vanilla essence and mix in gently.
Add the poppy seeds, and mix well into the mixture until well dispersed.
Pour into a well greased Angel Food tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45- 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. The cake may burn a little on the top, but this is characteristic of the style of cake.
Allow to cool for about 15- 20 minutes in the tin and then remove.
This cake is spectacular to look at, and best made the day before. Something magical happens when it rests overnight, transforming the texture and flavour from ordinary cake into a rich and surprising delight. It will keep for up to one week, but that’s unlikely. It’s hard to stop at a single piece, so be warned.
While you’re patiently waiting for the cake to bake, why not start the party early with this delightful treat; dedicated to the lovely ladies celebrating over at Maker and Merchant.
Pomegranate and Basil Fizz (makes 1 – although that seems mean, so make enough for at least 2)
Half a fresh pomegranate
2 nips of gin or vodka
1 tablespoon of simple syrup (or a teaspoon golden syrup if you’re too lazy to make the simple syrup yourself)
5 purple basil leaves (although green will also work splendidly)
Dash of soda water
Squeeze of lemon
Cut the pomegranate in half and over a bowl using the end of a wooden spoon beat the skin to remove the seeds. With any luck the ruby jewels will fall into the bowl and not all over the floor.
If you’re making the simple syrup, place equal amounts of sugar and water into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Voila! Keep it on hand in the fridge for instant cheer.
Place the seeds, ice, basil, gin, lemon juice and syrup into a cocktail shaker (Put on the soundtrack to 80s film classic Cocktail) Shake it like a Polaroid picture and you’re ready. Pour in to a glass of your choice and top with a dash of soda water, a slice of lemon and a couple of extra basil leaves.
Raise a glass and toast your achievements. Because everyone has something to celebrate.