I have to say that I honestly never thought that I'd be snowed in whilst living in London.
Ok. Well, perhaps I'm exaggerating just a wee bit. But there was a huge pile of snow blocking the front door when I ventured out today. And with no buses running, the two hour journey to work was a non-starter. I'm told that London hasn't seen snow like this for 18 years and I can well believe it. This is the snow of my childhood. Proper snow. Snow you can build proper snowmen out of.
Sometimes I think I've had enough of living in London. But today, it was magical. I took a brief walk out onto the Common this afternoon and it was great to see so many people enjoying the simple fact that it was snowing. I must have counted at least 150 snowmen. Well. Ok. Maybe I wasn't actually counting. But there were a lot of snowmen there. A lot.
I know it is pathetic that the country grinds to a halt when there is a bit of snow. But we're not used to it. Our cars aren't designed for ploughing through snow. Our clothes aren't thick enough to keep us warm. Our footwear is totally inappropriate. We just don't get to see proper snow all that often. Forgive us if we all regress to the age of five and come over all a little silly.
(Sadly), I can do my job almost as easily from home so I didn't have much of a chance to get out and be silly (...probably for the best). But I did have a couple of hours to kill this morning before I was able to log on to the work system. I'd got up at the usual time of six and for some reason felt wide-awake (never happens on the days I actually have to set off at that time). So rather than head back to bed for a bit and wait for my new password to be phoned through from the office at nine, I decided to bake a cake. You know, as you do, at six in the morning!
I had some lovely pink early forced rhubarb begging to be used. I searched in the cupboards for other store cupboard ingredients to add to my cake and became rather fixated on a packet of marzipan left over from Christmas. For some reason I couldn't get it out of my mind. I had this burning desire to make a rhubarb and marzipan cake (...this is what happens when you decide to bake at 6am).
googled. Clearly I was in the minority. Not many 'rhubarb marizpan cakes' out there. But one was all I needed. I had no idea if it would be any good, but I decided to give it a whirl.
I had to tweak the ingredients ever-so-slightly but I have to tell you that the results were pretty delicious! A few things to tell you before you embark on this cake (and clearly, you should do just that. Unless you hate marzipan. Or rhubarb for that matter. But then, maybe it is time to push the boundaries). Firstly, the recipe suggests putting the rhubarb in vertically, creating lovely round patterns. Good idea. Only you couldn't see the pattern once it had been cooked. Maybe that's because I burnt the top... Or maybe my bits of rhubarb should have been longer!
Next thing. As you will see, I kind of slightly burnt the top of my cake. And it sunk a little in the middle as it hadn't quite cooked in the centre. Perhaps the oven was too hot? Still, no problem. A quick dredge of icing sugar and it was instantly disguised. Alternatively, there is the cunning 'turn it over' trick. Again, no one is any the wiser. Apart from you, that is.
As for decoration, this is a plain, un-iced cake. I suddenly thought that it might make a nice Valentine cake. I cut a stencil out of a sheet of white paper and then dusted icing sugar through the hole. Quite pretty I thought.
However you choose to decorate, let me tell you that this is a good cake. Densely almondy with a good balance of sweetness from the marzipan and sugar and bite from the tart rhubarb. It would make a perfect dessert with a little cream too.
Rhubarb and marzipan cake
Original recipe here
4oz softened butter
3 1/2 oz marzipan
4-5 thin sticks of pink forced rhubarb (approx 8oz)
4oz golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs (free-range, preferably organic please)
8oz plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Grease and flour and 8 inch spring form cake tin.
2. In a food processor, cream together the butter, marzipan and sugar. You may have to do a fair bit of scraping and separating as it sticks together rather badly. Add the vanilla and lemon and blitz together.
3. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour with the baking powder and add this, mixing together gently (on slowest setting), until fully combined.
4. Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and arrange the chopped rhubarb in circles (see note above).
5. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for five minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate in any way you see fit (see earlier suggestions).