Curiously pastel

Normally, when your bakes develop a green hue then it’s probably best destined for the bin as it is certainly no longer safe for consumption (believe it or not but this has happened once or twice in our house). Recently however, we have seen a trend in pretty pastel coloured foods popping up on our news feeds & in bakeries. I thought it only fitting to bring you a pop of colour from my own kitchen experiments.

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I’m not normally one for trends, unless of course it pertains to a new foodie revolution, in which case I must immediately seek it out & try it for myself. Generally however these have related to new types of food, new fusions, new flavours.. not new colours. Fad as it might be, I can’t deny that I’m not a little curious. After all, there’s always room for a little colour & whimsy in life.

What interests me most though is not the artificially coloured bakes, the kinds reminiscent of colourful buttercream covered cupcakes of my childhood (if you grew up during the 90’s then I’m willing to bet that these were also covered in many silver dragees, smarties & rice paper princesses), but those coloured naturally.

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My red velvet cake already relies on beetroot to provide that intense red pigment (much to the surprise of many) but not only does the beetroot add colour, it also affects the flavour. In this instance it imparts a slightly savoury edge, making for a well-rounded, pleasing flavour. It’s actually rather remarkable just how many natural sources of colour are readily available… turmeric, beetroot powder, cochineal powder, pandan juice, matcha tea. I was lucky enough to sample some of these on a recent work trip to London, where I happily devoured many well scoured treats throughout the city, including pandan cake from the eclectic bakeries of Chinatown & soft serve matcha ice cream from the Instagram worthy Milk Train Cafe.

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Being quite the tea enthusiast there’s no surprises as to which of these natural colourants sparks my interest. Matcha is a high-grade, powdered form of green tea, rich in antioxidants. It is used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies as it is said to be the ultimate mental & medical remedy, possessing the ability to make one’s life full & complete. To prepare Matcha, specialist equipment is used in the form of a small bowl & a fine bamboo tea whisk (I admire this tea’s pomposity). The tea is often sieved before small amounts are scooped into the bowl where hot water is added & it is whisked until no lumps remain or to a fine froth.

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The flavour of Matcha can be bitter but when used as an ingredient as opposed to a beverage its flavour becomes subtle with a slightly earthy hint, this works particularly well in sweet dishes. As a loaf cake devotee (the thought alone of a kitchen without my little silverwood 1lb makes me uneasy), most of my cake experiments begin life in loaf form. It takes quite a lot of matcha for the flavour to truly shine but this simple, vibrant, earthy little cake is definitely worth the investment if, like me, you’re curious.

 

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MATCHA LOAF CAKE
(makes one 2lb loaf cake)

Ingredients:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp matcha tea
  • 60ml whole milk

Method:

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter & sugar
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, ground almonds & matcha into the mixture & beat until thoroughly combined
  • Add the vanilla extract &  milk then beat again until smooth & the mixture has loosened
  • Pour the mixture into a 2lb loaf tine, greased & lined with baking parchment
  • Bake the cake at 180°C for 50 minutes – 1 hour, until the centre springs back when pressed lightly
  • Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack
  • Optional: finish with a flourish of icing sugar, but this cake is beautiful in its own green simplicity

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