Cakery Bakery: Cinnamon roll cake

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I finished work on Friday. Not forever, but for long enough. Oh, it was like being let out of school before the long summer holiday, only with several hundred added Braxton Hicks. I bought a newborn car seat, in celebration (by heck do I know how to live). And then I made a cake.

It felt like a conquered mountain in itself, this cake. Baking is rather difficult at present, with a) Henry trying to get his tongue into the egg whites and b) all of this foetus to carry around. And I am generally obsessed with cinnamon rolls, but without a breadmaker can never be bothered to go through with them. Well, have a look at this: cinnamon roll cake, from The Girl Who Ate Everything (still working my way through her website. Still in love). It’s like a giant cinnamon roll, but without any dough palaver. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

It didn’t go entirely smoothly, I admit. It started well: the cake mix is one of those wonderful throw-everything-in-a-bowl-and-press-go types, which always makes me happy. I used my free-standing mixer, but a handheld electric one would work just as well. That part is over and in a baking tin before you can say LITTLE BOY, PLEASE MOVE YOUR FACE AWAY FROM THAT EGG.

Then you prepare what the recipe calls topping, but is more like filling: cinnamon, soft butter, brown sugar and pecans all mixed together. My butter wasn’t quite soft enough, so I prepared the pecans separately, thinking it might be easier to whisk without them (it was). The instructions said to put tablespoonfuls of the filling on top of the cake mix, then use a knife to ‘marble’ it in. Well. My filling spoonfuls sat on top of the cake mix like daubs of cold peanut butter, and clearly weren’t going to marble anywhere at all. I ended up mashing them in any old how. It was messy, and left my cake looking like it had a bad case of acne (especially once I put the pecans on top), but we forged on.

Marbling [mashing]. Before and after.

Marbling [mashing]. Before and after.

Then came the real trouble. In the oven for 25-30 minutes, said the recipe. Which I did. I took the cake out, poked in a knife, and was utterly horrified when a lava-flow of grease came flooding out. I realised it was the butter/sugar solution, partying away on the inside. Who on earth would want to eat a grease cake?! I put it back in for another ten minutes. No grease this time, but lots of raw cake mix. Another ten minutes. And another ten. Thirty-five minutes after the recipe said it would be done, it was done. I wasn’t at all sure it would be edible, by this point.

Thank goodness for cream cheese frosting. The recipe gives instructions for a glaze that looks like a thin form of icing. But cinnamon rolls need cream cheese frosting, yes? It just feels right. I used this recipe, halved. It’s the sort of thing I can happily eat from the bowl, with a spatula. I would eat it on toast. I would probably lick it off a wall, to be honest, but for the time being it was jolly lovely on the cake.

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The verdict, then:

Deliciousness: Do you know, after all that, it was wonderful. Extremely fluffy, gloriously messy and crumbly. I don’t know why it took half an hour longer in the oven than it should’ve done, but it didn’t suffer for it. The filling makes sandy little cinnamon blobs in the middle of every slice, and the frosting and pecans together are lovely.

Complexity: If I can work out the correct oven time, it’s a cinch: measure, mix, dump in a tin. So much easier than proper cinnamon rolls. Now I have an ominous feeling.

Washing-up pile: Two bowls and some cutlery. Nice and easy (not – um – that I actually did the clearing up. Thanks, kitchen wonders!).

Casualties: Here is a life lesson – you don’t want to wipe a ladleful of sugar/butter/cinnamon out of a toddler’s face and hair. Ever. That stuff clings.

Oh gosh, it's not going to come off. Is it?

This was the moment I realised it wasn’t going to come off.

The recipe for cinnamon roll cake is here, and the frosting I used is at the bottom of the page here. Go go go!

Cakery Bakery: the celebratory Swedish tea-ring

Hey, you: want to make a giant cinnamon pastry? It doesn’t have to be your birthday.

Actually, the Swedish tea-ring isn’t exactly a pastry – it’s too bready for that. Otherwise, though, it really is an oversized circular cinnamon roll that will bring you joy, especially when you bury your face in it (recommended). Shall we?

A note to begin: this is a LOT easier if you have a breadmaker. If you do, skip ahead to the bit in red, and feel good about your life. I don’t, so I made this by hand.

Here’s the ingredients list.

150g strong white flour
1 tsp sugar (any type)
8g dried yeast
250ml warm milk
300g plain flour
1tsp salt
45g melted butter
1 egg
50g soft brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Start with a bowl. Don’t all baking efforts start with a bowl? And in it go your strong white flour, sugar, dried yeast and warm milk. Mix together and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes, until the yeast has reacted and the mixture’s gone bubbly. It’ll smell a bit like the bottom of your laundry bin. Press on: it’ll be ok.

Then put in the plain flour, salt, 50g of the melted butter and egg. Mix together into a wet dough and turn out onto a floured board.

I knew absolutely nothing about kneading bread dough: for my first attempt I did this hilarious flinging and folding thing that did not work in the slightest, and got hideous gobs of stickiness all over my hands and everything else. Timothy cleared it up, looking like he wished he’d asked for a Betty Crocker mix instead. For the second go, I found this, and copied it exactly. It worked a lot better. In the end I kneaded the dough for about 20 mins. The indicator, says the internet, is when you pinch it and it feels as firm as an earlobe. I had to pinch my earlobe and then the dough several times for comparison, but got there in the end.

Come in here if you have a breadmaker. You lucky, lucky duck. 

Cover the dough with a plastic freezer bag and a tea towel, and let rise in a warmed oven for 3o minutes, or at room temperature for 2 hours. It should end up being twice its original size. Then roll out on a floured surface until it’s about 9 x 12 inches, and rectangular.

Brush 15g melted butter over the dough, then sprinkle over 50g soft brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Roll it up along the long edge to make something like a long, thin swiss roll. Arrange it in a circle on a greased baking tray, with the seam underneath, and pinch the edges together. Then – artistic! – using scissors, snip along the top of the roll at an angle, all the way round. It looks a bit like this.

All rise.

Let it rise again under a plastic freezer bag and a tea towel, for another 30 minutes in a warmed oven or 2 hours at room temperature. It needs to rise a lot, bread dough, doesn’t it? I ended up singing that Blue song to it through the oven door. If I’d had a harmonica, you know I would’ve used it.

Finally, bake at 190°C or 370°F for 20-25 minutes.

You’re supposed to decorate with glace icing and cherries. This is Timothy we’re talking about, so I used chocolate beads. The glace icing made a puddle in the hole in the middle, which he greatly enjoyed clearing out afterwards. Bet it’d be amazing with cream cheese frosting. Most things are.

The verdict, then:

Deliciousness: absolutely lovely when fresh from the oven. It doesn’t keep terribly well – the breadiness of it tends to harden overnight – so plan to eat a lot.

Complexity: The most complicated bit was kneading the dough, so if you’re comfortable with that, or have a breadmaker to be comfortable for you, then it’s really not hard.

Washing-up pile: Honestly, goodness knows. Many mixing bowls, that’s for sure.

Casualties: My kitchen counter. It may seem obvious to you that it’s not a good idea to fling very wet dough around with gay abandon, but just in case it’s not: don’t.