Courting Cake: a Northern tradition
Sometimes of an evening I trip down to the local corner shop for wine and cake. Paul’s in Stubbins contains a veritable smorgasbord of home-made goodies. I’m familiar with a lot of them – you don’t grow up in the North West ignorant of Eccles Cake. But there are more than a few regional delicacies which are new to me.
Take the Courting Cake, for example. This was originally baked by young ladies for their betrothed and served as proof of their skills in the kitchen. It’s quite a heavy sponge and praps not for people brought up on the lighter Victoria sandwich mixes. But me mum assures me it’s very easy to make and, apart from the strawberries and cream, all other ingredients will most likely be in your store cupboard.
There also seem to be two versions of the Courting Cake. According to Lancashire Life magazine, ‘the Lancashire Courting Cake is somewhere between a firm sponge – with a greater proportion of flour to fat and eggs than a Victoria sponge cake – and a shortbread base’. I’ve had Courting Cakes which are very definitely made of sponge and t’others that are very definitely made of shortbread.
Here, courtesy of Mrs Nugent (the editor’s mum) is the definitive Courting Cake (the finished version is the one in the picture).
225g (8oz) butter (I used unsalted)
225g (8oz) caster sugar (unrefined tastes better)
4 eggs – beaten
350g (12oz) self-raising flour
2-3 tbsp milk (I used more than this – add gradually until you get a soft dropping consistency)
300ml (half a pint) double cream
225g (8oz) strawberries – sliced
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 and grease and line three 18cm (7in) round sandwich cake tins.
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (if you use unrefined sugar the mix will not be as pale as when you use white refined sugar). Gradually add eggs, beating well after each addition. Fold in flour and add enough milk to give a dropping consistency.
Divide mixture between three cake tins and bake for 25-30 mins (25 mins was enough on my fan oven) until well risen and firm. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Whip cream until it holds soft peaks. Sandwich cakes together with the cream and strawberries, reserving a few for decoration. Dust top of cake with icing sugar and decorate with strawberries.
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