There’s nothing like the smell of over-toasted hot cross buns in the morning.
It’s not spring until that verging-on-charcoal-y aroma fills the kitchen…
And then the living room…
And the bathroom…
I’ve arrived at college in my new cologne, Eau du Bun grillé, most mornings recently. The boys just can’t get enough.
Although slightly smoky and pervasive, it has a sweet, cinnamon-y warmth that makes it strangely comforting and charming.
Pinterest mums and Airwick will try to tell you that spring smells of daffodils and hyacinths, fresh cut grass and spring rain.
But we don’t need no Airwick. This house is filled with the fragrance of toasted hot cross buns.
All the best air fresheners are edible. I challenge you to find an aroma you’d prefer to wake up to.
Ok, I should’ve guessed, bacon always wins. Try to forget bacon for a minute.
I invented this cake as one tier of my Easter celebration cake for the Cambridge Bake-off final last week. I wanted not only the outside of my cake to be evocative of spring, but the inside too…
Cue, the Hot cross bun cake.
Hot cross bun cake
150ml Grand Marnier
150ml freshly squeezed orange juice
250g mixed dried fruit (I used sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, chopped dried apricots, and dried cranberries)
115g butter, at room temperature
55g light brown muscovado sugar
60g golden syrup
115g self-rising flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar
zest of 1 large orange
splash of milk or cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Start by placing the mixed dried fruit, Grand Marnier, orange juice and water in a saucepan. Put a lid on and simmer gently on a low heat for about 20 minutes until the fruit’s plump and soft. Turn the heat off and leave the fruit in the remaining liquid overnight to soak.
The next day, drain off any liquid in to a bowl, saving it for later. Grease and line two 20cm, round cake tins with grease proof paper. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C.
Cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the flour, salt and spices. Fold in the drained fruit and 1 tablespoon of the liquid you set aside earlier.
Equally divide the cake mixture between the two tins and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes. When cooked the cake will spring back when touched lightly and an inserted skewer will come away clean. Once baked, leave the cakes in the tins for 15 minutes, before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft and pale. On a slow speed, whisk in the icing sugar, followed by the orange zest and vanilla extract. Mix in the milk/cream to loosen the buttercream if it’s too stiff.
To assemble the cake, take a 10cm wide circular cookie cutter and cut a circle out of the centre of each cake. Taking another cookie cutter, this time 8cm wide, cut a smaller circle of cake out of the ‘cake hole’ you’ve just cut (see picture above). Take your first cake ring and spread the buttercream, about 1 cm thick, around the inside of the ring. Push your first ‘cake hole’ into the gap left in the middle. Spread an even layer of buttercream over the top of this first cake, as you would for a normal sandwich cake. Place the second cake ring atop the first and repeat the process, using the second ‘cake hole’. Top the completed cake with the remaining buttercream.