My perfectly imperfect wholemeal and almond cake.

I’ve said quite a few times on this blog that I can’t bake. That I was more of a cook, and that the science behind baking flat out freaked me out.

Well. I was being silly. The main reason why I “couldn’t” bake was because of my stinking attitude.

I have finally realised that of course I can bake. Now, it’s highly unlikely that I would ever make a living from the things that I bake. But I can still bake. You don’t have to be a science boffin to get a bit of flour together. And putting up a mind block about it certainly doesn’t help.

This revelation came along at the same time as my recent epiphany of You’re Not On Masterchef, Aoife. The point is, cooking and baking should be fun. So what if your cake turns out lopsided? If it’s a complete disaster, it’s certainly annoying when you have to throw it all away but…is it really the end of the world?

I’ve realised that, actually, there is no great mystery to baking. That old saying of you can either bake or you can cook is unhelpful and untrue. Like anything else, you can pretty much get the hang of it with a little bit of practice. Again, you might not be brilliant at it, but you can certainly give it a go.

So, yes. I’m feeling very zen about my baking future for 2012. And in honour of that, I’d like to point you in the direction of a wonderful wholemeal and almond cake from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day cookbook. I made it recently and was wooed by its simplicity and deliciousness. Definitely a good cake for fledgling bakers who aren’t into fuss.

What you need for Hugh’s Wholemeal and Almond Cake 

From River Cottage Every Day

300g unsalted butter, softened

250g golden caster sugar

4 medium free-range eggs

150g wholemeal self-raising flour*

150g of ground almonds

1 teaspoon of baking powder

50g flaked almonds

4 tablespoons of runny honey

*If you can’t find self-raising wholemeal flour (which I couldn’t), use 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of 1.

Grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. Place the tin on a baking sheet, so that it catches any butter that might seep out when it’s baking. 

Pre-heat your oven to 170C/fan 150C/Gas Mark 3.

Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat thoroughly until very light and fluffy. (Actually, I did this first part in a food processor, which probably isn’t ideal as it can make for a tough cake, but it worked fine. Your best bet would be to use a hand-held electric beater and a large bowl.) 

With the beater running, add one egg at a time, adding a spoonful of wholemeal flour with each egg. (After I had finished this part in my food processer, I transferred the mix to a large bowl.) Now fold in the ground almonds with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining wholemeal flour and sift in the baking powder. Fold it all together gently as the more you mix it, the tougher your cake gets. 

Scrape the mixture into your greased tin and and scatter the flaked almonds over the surface. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and, when the cake is still hot, evenly drizzle the honey over the top. Try to evenly distribute the honey all over the surface.

Place the tin on a wire rack and leaving to cool a little before taking it out of the tin. Serve warm or cold, with some nice creme fraiche or even double cream. 

As you can see, my cake got a little burnt around the edges as I’m still getting used to my new oven. Six months ago this would have been deemed as another baking disaster in my brain. This time around, however, I chose to ignore the charred parts and concentrate on the deliciously honeyed centre of the cake, which really was a success.

Hope you have a similarly successful baking experience with this recipe!


Loving this very zen version of Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name, done in the style of Bon Iver by Miracles of Modern Science.