I had a pretty good weekend. I had friends over for a BBQ where we put on a ridiculous spread of food, I finally won the battle against my recent bout of the flu and I managed to squeeze in family time. After all of that it didn't leave me with a huge amount of time for baking. That's why this cake recipe was perfect; it was quick to throw together, it was a perfect afternoon tea snack and it used up some of the leftover grapes from the BBQ. Nothing too crazy or over the top, just a bit of comfort baking.
I was curious to see how this recipe would turn out. I've never tried baking with grapes before, but they worked surprisingly well. Sure they do add a fair bit of moisture to the cake but it works well in this particular cake, which is wonderfully soft and buttery. I also got to use up some of the last bottle of dessert wine that I brought back from my last Hunter Valley trip. It gives the cake a great depth of flavour without actually making it taste boozy.
Since the cake itself isn't very sweet (made even less sweet since I substituted unsalted butter for my regular slightly salted butter as always), I decided to top it with a simple vanilla bean glaze. I really think this adds something special to the cake. The original French recipe uses a butter & sugar topping but I love this thin, crisp layer of icing with little pops of vanilla bean. I was actually a little bit stingy with the icing for the photos; I was worried I would be drowning the cake in it if I added much more, but to be honest after tasting it I added all the leftover glaze to the top of the cake because it was so amazing together. Anyway, it would be a shame to waste any vanilla bean!
It may not be much to look at, but these kind of cakes rarely are. It's something that you want to throw together in an hour so that you can enjoy it on the same day (still slightly warm) a with a cup of tea of coffee. This cake disappeared so fast yesterday afternoon, especially since it was a particular chilly day.
My only regrets about the cake; I did wrap a damp tea towel around my cake tin again to achieve that super flat cake surface, but to be honest this kind of cake doesn't need to look that neat on top and it means I missed out on having a lovely golden brown crust around the edge of the cake. I definitely won't be using the tea towel next time. I also pushed some of my grapes a little too far into the batter and they sunk to the bottom, which wasn't as nice as the grapes that stayed up the top. Learn from my mistakes people!
Grape Tea Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze
(adapted from this Bon Apppétit recipe, serves 8-10)
1 1/2 cups (about 190g) plain/all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
3/4 cup (170g) caster (superfine) sugar
85g (6 tbsp) butter, room temperature
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup Muscat wine
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) (180°C (350°F) fan-forced) and grease and line the base of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and bicarb soda into a bowl and set aside. Place butter, sugar and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until smooth. Beat in eggs, zest, and vanilla extract until combined. Add flour mixture alternately with wine in 3 additions each, whisking just until smooth after each addition. Spread mixture evenly in prepared tin and sprinkle grapes on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.Cool cake in tin for 15 minutes, then carefully remove from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
For the vanilla bean glaze:
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste)
2-3 tbsp milk
Optional: extra fresh red grapes to serve
Place icing sugar in a bowl and add vanilla beans. Gradually mix in enough milk to form a smooth, thick paste.Once cake has cooled, drizzle glaze over the top of mixture. (Feel free to use more glaze than what is shown in the photographs, I actually poured on double the amount of glaze after the photos were done!) You can also sprinkle a few leftover fresh grapes on top of the cake before you glaze it, but it doesn't really need it.