I’m not good at art. I can’t draw and I don’t reliably colour inside the lines because I’m just a bit too slapdash: I’m not careful and (this is the main problem) I find it hard to care enough about it. I’m really just a 95% person. Maybe even 85%. My favourite type of creative thing is something that looks really good but is really easy to achieve, or at least doesn’t require 100% perfect input. For example, the hat I made a couple of years ago as a birthday treat.
I know it was my birthday more than a week ago, so that is practically ancient history, but in the spirit of one of my friends, who doesn’t just have a birthDAY, she has a birthday WEEK, with celebrations designed to drag the event out for as long as possible, I think I can still talk about birthday events. Some years I end up not doing that much for my birthday and I feel like it goes by with barely a flicker. But this year, I managed to extend the celebrations for a bit longer and went out for a lovely dinner with my family and to a special surprise treat evening out with Jon this week too. And a couple of years ago I extended my birthday events even longer, as Jon bought me a day of hat-making which I did nearly 6 months later.
I love hats! Maybe not as much as Dannii, but I love them nonetheless. I particularly love cloche hats because they make me feel like I’m in the House of Eliot (WHY don’t they bring that programme back?) and are just generally cool and beautiful. Anyway, I had a lovely day in an atelier in Soho with a milliner and one other student, and I made a cloche hat from beginning to end – cutting the fabric, blocking it (I found out that I have a smaller than average head, so I had to make it smaller after blocking it too, which is extra skilled), steaming it, and then decorating it. The finished article actually looks really good and I don’t think you would think I made it. This is largely because the milliner “helped” with all the hard parts, but I did do quite a lot of it, and, crucially, I chose to keep the design as simple as possible so that there was less to ruin.
With food (oh yes, that’s what this blog is about) I always want to present things nicely, but it never quite happens because once I’ve made it I can’t be bothered anymore, I just want to eat it and I hope that it will taste good enough that no one will care what it looks like. But I also know that even I think that something that looks amazing tastes better.
With all that in mind, when I saw this cake in a magazine I thought “I’ll never be able to make it look like that” but the instructions did sound quite simple so I decided to give it a try, in case it turned out to be one of those things that makes people go “wow!” but was actually really easy to do. And it was – what a find! This is the cake to make if you have people coming for tea, or you want to take a cake into work and you want people to think you’re really talented and creative (but of course NOT the cake to take to work if you are worried that people might not think you’re busy enough) and you don’t have an electric mixer, because you really don’t need one. I will add though, that the process of putting the cake into the tin took me about 20 minutes, so bear that in mind as you prepare. While it is not baby-friendly, I think that children would really enjoy making this.
Zebra Cake (looks like, not made of) from Lorraine Pascale
- 250ml sunflower (or other flavourless) oil, plus extra for greasing
- 250g caster sugar
- 100ml water or milk
- 4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
- A few drops of vanilla extract
- 300g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 25g cocoa powder
- 1 orange
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease the bottom of a 24cm sandwich tin with a little oil, line with baking parchment and oil again. Set to one side on a large baking sheet.
- Take two mixing bowls. Put half of the oil, sugar, milk/water, eggs and vanilla extract into each bowl and beat everything together well. It is best not to use an electric whisk as it will introduce too many bubbles.
- Sift 175g self-raising flour into one bowl, along with ½ tsp baking powder. Mix well and set aside. This is your vanilla mix.
- Sift the remaining 125g self-raising flour and ½ tsp baking powder into another bowl, along with the cocoa powder. Finely grate the orange zest in, mix everything together well and set to one side. This is your chocolate mix.
- Now, put 1 tbsp of the vanilla mix in the middle of the tin. Then, using a clean tablespoon, put a blob of the chocolate mix in the middle of the vanilla one. Keep doing this, alternating between vanilla and chocolate, so you form a type of “bull’s eye” or “target board” look. Each time you dollop a blob in, the whole mix will spread out on the base. By the time you have used up both the cake mixes, they should have just reached the edge of the tin.
- Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes. Check the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre – it should come out clean. If not, return the cake to the oven for another 5 minutes or so, until cooked. Once the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin. Then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack (but it is also fine to eat it warm).
There’s no baby friendly version as there’s really no alternative for the amount of sugar this contains. I will do a more baby appropriate recipe next time, I promise!
*Approximate nutritional values (1 medium slice)*
- Calories: 282kcal
- Carbs: 29g
- Fat: 16.2g
- Protein: 3.8g
- Sugar: 15.9g
- Sodium: 28.4mg