Strawberry yoghurt cake baked in a Bundt tin, with smashed strawberry icing, is not just a pretty pink thing. It’s a velvety, fragrant sponge cake, like the lightest strawberry pound cake with those lovely Bundt ridges dripping with fresh strawberry icing.
I grew up in a baking household; with my masterly Grandmother, the producer of brioches for breakfast, apple tarts in autumn and the lightest sponges that ever existed; and my mother, who sometimes tried. In the days before KitchenAids or even handheld devices (and you know I mean the hand mixer here, he he) butter used to be creamed with sugar by hand, using a wooden spoon and a special bowl with rough sides. Granny must have had mighty toned upper arms.
From those days I’d always known the bane of cake baking: curdling. Oh, no, the mix has curdled! wailed my mum (Granny not so often) and I understood that meant a write-off and no pudding. Indeed, the way the curdled batter looked did not inspire confidence in cake at the end of the tunnel.
Curdling is a great phenomenon when you’re making cheese; it’s not so desirable in cake batters. You beat the butter with sugar and it’s fluffy as anything, in goes the first egg and the beautiful smooth mixture turns into failed scrammies. The fat separates from the liquid, forms horrid lumps and the next egg doubles the trouble.
Smarty baker pants claim it’s because of the difference in the temperature of the individual ingredients that causes the curdling – that’s a load of bull. I always use eggs, butter and everything at room temperature and my mixes still curdle away if they want to. Once you’ve added flour, things improve but apparently that is treating symptoms not the cause as a GBBO winner I’d never heard of snootily instructs.
I’d been living in terror of the c-word in the beginning of my baking career but gradually realised that – guess what – curdling doesn’t matter. It can curdle all it likes and the cake will come out good, sometimes maybe better. So I pay no mind to the lumpy split of my batter and wait for the addition of the flour to smooth things out.
This cake is Curdle Central. It’s Split of Splits. It looks so bad for a time you might want to avert your gaze from the bowl. But since even Yossy Arefi warns that the mix may curdle, in her recipe posted in NY Times Cooking which I used, it clearly isn’t the bogeyman I was raised to fear. At least in the cake mix: sauces, frostings and custards are an entirely different story.