“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
Is there a more tempting smell than the waft of a hot, fresh cinnamon and sugar sprinkled doughnut on a crisp, clear morning? Years ago I used to walk past a small doughnut stand called ‘Lil Orbits’ every morning as I made my way up Queen Street in Central Auckland on my way to school – even now just thinking of that smell makes my mouth water – they were little morsels of perfection.
I’m extremely liberal with cinnamon in my kitchen – it finds its way into dishes both sweet and savoury. I love Greek food of all kinds where it seems to be used in virtually everything, but I especially love cinnamon in cakes and sweets.
Cinnamon is such an ancient and evocative spice, although usually so underrated – of course, everyone has a jar of cinnamon somewhere in the kitchen, it’s so ever-present as to be virtually forgotten and that is what makes it so perfect for this recipe, where it really shines.
I love any dish that I can knock together from things I already have in the house – this cake is perfect for those times when you have friends coming for afternoon tea and you want to fill the house with the smell of baking. Cinnamon, vanilla, freshly baked cake. It has a beautifully light, soft crumb and a much more interesting flavour than the simple ingredients would suggest.
CINNAMON TEA CAKE
180g unsalted butter, cubed, softened
185g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
225g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice*
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper and grease and flour the sides. Beat the butter, vanilla and caster sugar in a mixer until pale and creamy (about 6-8 minutes). Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and mixed spice together. Gently beat or fold in about half of the flour mixture, followed by half the milk. When milk is incorporated repeat with the rest of the flour and the remaining milk. Spoon into prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for approximately 50 minutes checking with a skewer inserted in the middle that the cake is done.
Cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Mix the cinnamon and the caster sugar for the topping together. Turn the cake out and brush the top with the melted butter before generously sprinkling with cinnamon sugar.
*If you can’t find mixed spice (here in Germany it doesn’t seem to exist – I managed to find something similar at a small shop in the Turkish Quarter) try a little bit of allspice instead.