Spike has a cavity [insert sobbing emoji here]. He also has a limited snack repertoire which featured cake and biscuits rather too heavily, and he drinks juice. I have gradually and systematically been diluting the juice and switching to more savoury items, but too late it seems. His dentist has muttered about wonky saliva, but the stops must be pulled out. It has prompted me to make things "in-house" where possible, as nothing focuses the mind on sugar content more than the hiss of caster sugar streaming into a mixing bowl.
I cracked open the cake tin yesterday to serve up (badly-stored, as it turns out) pieces of Dan Lepard's* 'Alchemist Chocolate Cake' which is low in sugar and high in loveliness. I was greeted with a brown, shiny half-dome of cake decorated with wispy coronas of silver-grey mould. Dagnabit. Happily, I had just that morning stumbled across Jeremy Lee's not-too-sugar-happy recipe for 'Raisin Buns'. I don't know about you, but this immediately put me in mind of a gaggle of tweens, gathered around Enid Blyton's red, checkered blanket for a splendid picnic**. It also featured ingredients we had in the cupboard and a short cooking time.
About half way through preparing the buns, I realised that I was, in fact, making rock cakes. Now, that cake casts up an entirely different memory. No doubt you baked them at school, probably following a bash at scones. No doubt you bit into your creation and pondered briefly whether the etymology of the name was meant to relate to the eating experience as well as the appearance of the cake. I ploughed on.
I made a few changes to the recipe, primarily reducing the sugar from 100g to 75g and substituting plain for wholemeal self-raising flour. Sugar helps the rise, so to give the buns a boost, I separated the eggs, stirred in the yolks and whisked the whites to soft peaks before folding them in. As the mix is quite dry, I'm not sure it made a great deal of difference and I wouldn't bother next time, but at least I tried. I also soaked the raisins in a few tablespoons of apple juice for 15 minutes, to plumpen up our slightly dried out fruits. I would skip this if I had decent raisins.
The end result is actually quite lovely for a minimal outlay of effort. A crunchy top yielding to a sweet, crumbly interior. They are, of course, best eaten warm and probably with butter and jam à la the scone. A good emergency breakfast, too. As per schools across our nation, it's also a great recipe to get the kids involved in.
* Not actually Dan Lepard's cake. I didn't burgle his house in the search for baked goods. Although that's not the worst idea I've had...
** If, like me, your literary memories are awash with The Bits about Food, you must seek out Jane Brocket's "Cherry Cake & Ginger Beer", a nostalgic look at "...treats from your favourite childhood books". [EDIT: I'm appalled! The book seems to be out of print. You'll have to visit the library or borrow mine.]