I’m sitting in a cycling cafe. It’s not my usual haunt. There’re ten lycra-clad spinners only metres from me, furiously wiping sweat out of their eyes as they pedal faster than I have a desire to move any part of my body. I’m writing while wearing a jacket, jeans and boots. I don’t fit in all that well. But coffee’s on its way, so I’m sticking it out and hoping the high-octane, ecstasy-induced music ends before my parka-clad friends arrive in a few minutes.
This cafe was my suggestion. I was pretty excited a new cafe had opened in the area and thought that the name Art of Cycling was a cute reference to the classic pedal bikes they had hung on the walls. Apparently not. And I can already feel the sheepish, mildly defensive look that’ll be on my face as my friends trickle in, looking around in amused cynicism.
I don’t have anything against exercise. I like a run as much as any inherently unhealthy person (that is, not at all, but I will run so I can eat more pastry), but I have friends who adore it. They swear by the endorphins that flow after a good muscle torture session and proclaim that it’s the only feel good that delivers as much as it promises.
My mind immediately counters with ‘sleep’, ‘chocolate’, ‘meditation’, laughter’, ‘sex’, ‘night out with friends’. But apparently this is only because I haven’t caught up with the running shoe brigade.
I’ve just started work with a personal trainer so I can’t hit the ‘snort with laughter and go buy a croissant’ button for at least an hour a week, during which time she goads me into all sorts of awful things like planking and bicep curls. I threaten to revolt at least once a session but it’s half hearted as I’m painfully aware that my inability to do a single push-up is probably not something to be proud of. Even after a few weeks I’m recovering faster and beginning to not hate it quite as much.
And, possibly most important of all, I can enjoy cakes like this chai and honey buttercream cake, guilt free.
Over time, I’ve adapted a classic hot milk cake recipe into this rather grown up affair. Lovely on its own, it’s complex and darkly flavoured. The addition of a delicate and sweet honey buttercream lifts the cake’s flavour to a whole new level. Truly delicious.
- 300ml whole milk
- 140g unsalted butter, cubed
- 1½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 large pinch ground cloves
- 1 large pinch ground nutmeg
- 4 black teabags (cheap, strong tea is better – I use Yorkshire Gold)
- 4 eggs
- 300g caster (superfine) sugar
- 280g plain (all purpose) flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180˚C / 350°F
Lightly grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin
In a small saucepan heat the milk, butter, spices and tea on medium-low until the butter is melted and the mixture is just below boiling point
Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside to let the spices and tea infuse the milk
In a large bowl, beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes until they are thick, foamy and a pale yellow
Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy
Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift into the egg mix before folding in with a wooden spoon until smooth
Remove the teabags from the milk (press the teabags through a strainer back into the saucepan to get out all the juices)
Gradually add the milk mixture to the batter, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined
Pour into your prepared springform tin
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the centre comes out clean
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack
- 120g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 tbl sp honey
- 250g icing (powdered) sugar + extra for dusting
- A large pinch of salt
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and honey on a high speed until smooth
Sift in the icing sugar and salt and continue mixing until smooth and fully combined
If the frosting is too runny, add more icing sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, a splash of warm water will thin it out
Cut the cooled cake in half lengthways and spread the honey buttercream on the bottom half before sandwiching the two halves back together
Dust with icing sugar and serve before, after, or instead of a run