I don’t think there is anything quite like the smell of a baking cake as it wafts through the house. It’s hard to resist and can quite literally make your mouth water. For me it brings back so many happy memories of childhood growing up in the 1980s.
My Mum in her apron with my brother and I fighting over who would get to eat the remnants. Which one would get the mixing bowl and who‘d end up with the wooden spoon instead. There was way more in the bowl than on the spoon so it was always a fight.
My Mum was, and still is, an amazing baker. She used to make her own bread, cakes and pretty much anything you can think of. Often I’d come home from school and could smell her cooking from halfway up the road.
It was absolutely divine.
Now as I’ve mentioned previously I unfortunately didn’t inherit my Mum’s natural baking skills. I’ve had to work hard to try and conquer even the most simple of cakes.
There have been many incidents of failed attempts all well documented by my friends and family. So suffice it to say I’ve not really been encouraged to spend time baking in the kitchen. My track record put pay to that.
The tale of two kitchens
But when I moved to France, and was lucky enough to have not one but two kitchens, I had no more excuses. It was about time I actually made use of them both and learned how to bake properly.
Now I know two kitchens probably seems completely unnecessary. And of course it absolutely is, but to hubby and I it made perfect sense.
You see ‘the old kitchen’, as we call it, is a traditional old French kitchen. When we viewed the house it came complete with a rabbit hutch running the length of one wall. There was very little work surface and the three solitary cupboards had curtains for doors.
Not quite the kitchen I was used to. But there was a charm to it with its big log burner and flagstone tiles. It was a stunning space for entertaining in the winter months.
The ‘new kitchen’ however was a blank canvas. Originally a dilapidated old barn it was crying out to become something. As luck would have it there was already an adjoining door connecting it to the rest of the house. This left us with a single story area to do with as we pleased.
So now we use the ‘new kitchen’ during the summer as it leads out into the garden through big French doors. It’s huge with a dining table that easily seats and more cupboards than I thought possible.
How to bake WI worthy cakes in a French kitchen
Now you know why I have two kitchens you’ll understand I’m always faced with a decision when I’m going to cook or bake. Which kitchen should I use? For this cake I’ve chosen the ‘old kitchen’.
Here on Life in Rural France I want to share simple cake recipes to help become a star baker without the stress.Together fill your kitchen with amazing aromas and help you to produce something that would be worthy of winning a prize at the local WI (Women’s Institute).
I only mention WI because they have a reputation for baking amazing cakes. It’s a longstanding English tradition for women of a certain age, and my mother has been a member for many years. She’s whipped up many a cake for their various coffee mornings, and her Dundee fruit cake is legendary.
Coffee & cake in the 'old kitchen'
So why a lemon and blueberry loaf? Well, first of all it doesn’t take too long. Second the ingredients are readily available all year round. Lemons are always easy to lay your hands on, and even blueberries seem to be available most of the time. But remember, if you’re struggling you can always substitute fresh for frozen ones instead.
For me though, presentation is everything. When you present it on a lovely old fashioned cake plate, with cups sitting in saucers and a milk jar and sugar pot, you really can’t go too far wrong.
This rather lovely tea set was one I picked up from a local Brocante, a bit like an outdoor flea market, in a little village down the road from me called Aunac. The whole thing cost me a grand total of €5.
The cups and saucers came from the same Brocante, but don’t quite match the tea set. This for me all adds to the charm. And I already had the cake plate.
- 225g Castor Sugar (sucre en poudre)
- 175g Unsalted butter (beurre sans sel)
- 4 Eggs (des œufs)
- Zest of 2 Lemons (zeste de citron)
- Juice of 1 Lemon (jus de citron)
- 250g of Plain Flour (farine de blé)
- 2 Tsp of Baking Powder (levure chimique)
- ½ Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (bicarbonate de soude)
- 1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract (extrait de vanille)
- 100ml Semi-skimmed milk (lait demi-écremé)
- 150g of Blueberries (myrtille)
Before you do anything, get all your ingredients out of the cupboard. Let your butter, milk and blueberries come to room temperature. Get all your prep done first so everything is ready and at hand when you start to mix your ingredients.
Grate your two lemons and squeeze the juice of one lemon. Measure out your flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Make sure you have a teaspoon handy for measuring out your baking powder, bicarb and vanilla extract.
Next up get your oven preheated to 160 degrees Celsius and line a 23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin. You can usually find cake liners in the baking aisle of most supermarkets which is definitely easier than using greaseproof paper.
The first step can be done in one of two ways. You can pull out a food mixer if you want, but I prefer to do it the old fashioned way with a bit of elbow grease.
Besides as a true Downton Abbey fan it just wouldn’t feel right not mixing my ingredients by hand. Can you imagine Mrs Padmore if she’d been presented with an electric whisk or food mixer?
Ok, so first things first, pop your sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice into a bowl and beat till its light and fluffy. Then add your eggs, one at a time, along with your vanilla extract until it’s all nicely combined.
Set aside a couple of spoonfuls of your flour and sieve the rest into the mixture, mixing gently, adding in the mild a little at a time. Stir in the bicarb and baking powder. It’s important here not to over mix.
Time to turn your attention to your blueberries. Add the flour you set aside and coat the blueberries before folding them into the mix and stirring in gently. Then pour the mixture into your loaf tin and pop it into the oven for about an hour.
After an hour pull out your cake and put a skewer into the middle to see if it’s cooked through. If the skewer comes out clean your cake is ready. If not, pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.
Lift the loaf out of the tin in its cake liner and stand it on a cooling tray leaving it for a good hour. Then present it on a nice pretty cake plate and serve with some lemon tea.
I’d love to know how you got on and if you’re up to it then take a picture of your creation and tag me on Instagram or Facebook as I’d love to see how it all turned out. I’m a sucker for a pretty plate and tea set so don’t forget to style it up.
À bientôt et merci beaucoup!