When sour is perfectly sweet

I was exploring Matthew Evans’ beautiful new food book The Commons when one cake recipe stopped me in my tracks.

And obviously I wasn’t on my own there since the same recipe was featured in The Age’s Good Food section just a few days later. On my birthday, too, which was nice.

The cake is delicious and easy and was hugely popular with everyone who tried it.

More interestingly, I learned how to tell if a cake is cooked by listening. When it seemed to take much longer to cook than I expected, I checked in with my sister, who is a much better baker than I will ever be. She told me to listen to the cake rather than poke it to see if its cooked, as poking it with a skewer to see if it comes out clean will often lead to over-cooked cake.

When it’s cooked, she said, it will sound like a softly crackling fire. I was sceptical, but I tried it – and it did, and it was was perfect.

sour milk and raspberry cake
I pushed a handful of frozen raspberries into the surface of the cake just before I put it in the oven.

Sour Milk and Raspberry Cake

250g softened butter
• 345g caster sugar (I used a mix of white and raw)
• 3 eggs
• I tsp vanilla extract
• 250ml sour milk  (I used home-made kefir, but any kind of soured milk, buttermilk or yoghurt will do)
• 400g self-raising flour
• 100g frozen raspberries (I added an extra  handful and pushed them into the surface of the batter just before I put it in the oven)

Beat the butter and sugar until light and pale. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla.

Add the milk and flour in alternating lots until it’s all just combined. Stir in the raspberries and pour into a cake tin. The recipe called for 26cm cake tin, but I only had a 24cm to hand. I added a handful of raspberries to the top and just pressed them in.

sour milk and raspberry cake
I cooked it for a lot longer than expected.

The recipe said bake 35-45 minutes at 180C. Mine was still basically liquid when I checked it at 40 minutes – the top was undulating as I pulled it out of the oven. I upped the heat to 190C (my oven usually seems a touch under in temperature terms) and ended up letting it cook for another 20 minutes. And then it was perfect. I know the smaller tin I used would require extra time, but it seemed a lot more than I would have expected.

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