Chefs, restaurateurs and professional pâtissiers will tell you that first you eat with your eyes. Of course, if you aren’t selling your food (either for money, or to promote a book or blog as I do) then I don’t think it’s that important. Growing up, “fladge” as we called it, was a regular meal – a sort of bean or lentil and vegetable stew with some herbs and spices and named after the unappetising noise it made when dolloped into a bowl. It was cheap, nutritious and tasted surprisingly good, but as a reddish-brown slop, it wasn’t going to win any awards for presentation. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the highly styled food on television, in books and online (myself included, I suppose), turns people off everyday cooking, as it is made to look like far too much like hard work instead of simply something for nourishment.
When it comes to desserts though, they’re not about nourishment in the slightest. They are about treating yourself and those around you so I think a little artistic license to entertain or entice can’t be a bad thing. I’ve never been particularly artistic or creative though so icing and cake decoration are generally bottom of my list of priorities with pudding: for me, whether or not it tastes good is key.
I only have one cake tin, a non-stick loaf pan, so all my cakes look quite similar. Rectangular, and a little bit dull. I always try and vary the flavours: lemon, orange, chocolate, coffee and occasionally something with dried or fresh fruit included. As far as decorating is concerned, I’m usually too keen to cut myself a slice to think about it, but sometimes I do. Unfortunately, I’ll make the icing too thin or too thick, the cake will be too hot and the icing will form a sticky pool around the base of the cake.
Experimenting with my quite costly yuzu juice however, I was keen to make something at least edible! Into the cake I added the juice and zest of a couple of limes, and then waited impatiently for it cool to coat with a simple yuzu glacé icing. Determined to get the consistency right, O scoured the web for recipes, eventually going with the consensus of 100g icing sugar to one and a half tablespoons of yuzu juice (most recipes were for a more traditional lemon juice) and a dash of milk.
Much to my amazement, it turned out alright! I had an even layer of icing, with only a small amount dripping down the side. Of course, more importantly it tasted good too. The icing was certainly a good addition to make it more interesting, rather than being a sickly sweet crust that is so often the case with icing. The yuzu flavour complemented the lime in the cake too, though would certainly be welcome on a lemon or orange flavoured one too and was certainly a successful experiment with the unique scent of this Japanese citrus.
Baking with yuzu was a good experiment and is definitely worth trying if you get hold of some of the juice. Once I have some more cake tins to make things a bit more presentable, perhaps I can sell the idea to you a bit more!