A Resourceful Life, Uncategorized

You Call it Cake, I Call it Kuchen | A Most Resourceful Fruity Traybake

So it’s my dad’s birthday this week (sadly no longer with) and it is at this time of year that my mind always turns to my childhood memories. My dad was 100% bonafide German, and he loved his food…German food, English food…his life was food! And I am pretty sure this stemmed from the exceptional introduction he had to it as a child. Because my grandmother lived the most resourceful life imaginable bringing up three small boys in a tiny village in wartime Germany.  

Along with Liesel the cow as her provider of dairy items, she grew everything she could herself.  She had an exceptional vegetable patch providing exotic delights such as white asparagus, lambs lettuce, krauts and brassicas of every variety, and gorgeous waxy potatoes which tasted like gold!  Her two cherry trees gave forth juicy fruits in almost vulgar abundance, her little garden also providing plums, apples, and apricots too – her Sauerkirschen (cherries in syrup) were the stuff of legends and an unforgettable treat when we visited. She had a cellar full of preserved treasures that Aladdin would be proud of – I can still smell the musty dankness that always meant something yummy was about to emerge!

And as for her baking – well, that was just other worldly! Upon the hour of Kaffee und Kuchen traditionally enjoyed in the afternoon in Germany, she would offer up her legendary Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry flan), Kaesekuchen (cheesecake) and on rare and joyous occasions, my absolute favourite, Zwetchkenkuchen (damson cake). How she created such things in a Kueche the size of most people’s downstairs loo I shall never know!

This probably explains why for me the perfect ‘cake’ consists of some sort of orchard fruit, a plain vanillary or even spicy base and a nice helping of crunchy Streusel or crumble on top.  This combination of sharp, sweet moist fruit and stodgy base is just the perfect accompaniment to the obligatory cup of strong hot coffee! (They don’t drink tea! And if they do, it’s got lemon in it!)

These days I seldom get back to the ‘Fatherland’, but my love of German baked goods has never diminished. Sadly my talents in the baking department were not inherited from my Oma. My attempts to recreate these favourites have usually ended with disappointment, especially as the traditional recipes are often made with a yeast base – one too many processes for me!

So it was with utter delight that I discovered this particular recipe which I am sharing with you today – my super flexible fruity traybake – far from traditional, but creating the closest experience I can manage to my idea of cake heaven.

Best of all it is super simple recipe, involving just one pan, and can be adapted to use up just about any combination of left over or luscious soft or orchard fruits! Obviously I favour a plum or a damson, but it’s wonderful with peaches, raspberries, apples, apricots and even rhubarb! And throw in some blueberries if you want a modern twist!  My secret is to always keep a whole 250g pack of butter in the fridge, because that’s where this starts! Here’s how you can do it too!


  • 250g pack of butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • approx 200g of any soft fruit
  • a pinch of salt
  • crunchy topping – either flaked almonds, a dusting of icing sugar or ‘traditional Streusel’ or crumble!

For the Streusel:

  • 25g flour
  • 85g demerara sugar, plus 1 tbsp
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g cold butter
  • 3 tbsp toasted, chopped hazelnuts


  • Line and grease a tray bake tin approx 20 x 30 cm.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  • Melt the butter in a pan. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and eggs stirring constantly.
  • Add the vanilla essence.
  • Add the flour and almonds, stirring constantly.
  • Throw in a pinch of salt.
  • Pour into the tin.
  • Chop your fruit into 1cm size pieces or larger if you prefer and scatter over the top.
  • Make the Streusel by rubbing together all of the ingredients either by hand or in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Scatter over the fruit.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, and then cover with foil. Bake for a further 30 minutes, checking along the way.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into squares and serve!




So as the nation stands poised in anticipation of yet another Bake Off Final this week, I can’t help but wonder how this has happened.  As a builder, a graphic designer and a Nancy hold our undivided attention I again ask myself how cake has become such a prominent part of our lives..how it has transcended so many dietary and nutritional taboos to become hip, cool and socially acceptable.  And I’m pretty sure it’s not just Mary Berry’s skinny jeans and bomber jackets!

As the mother of a nearly 5 year old, cake in so many ways represents every single dietary contradiction in the book.  And yet as a mother, you find cake becoming a very important part of your life.  Any mum in today’s society will tell you of the constant dilemmas you face on a daily basis in deciding what to let your little one consume.  Peer and social pressure to only to feed your children ‘the good stuff’ and that means no salt, no sugar and only reasonable amounts of fat, means you have to be vigilant, read the labels and try to become knowledgable about what is in particular products…because if you don’t, you can be sure some well meaning other mother is going to put you right!  As an amalgamation of at least 2 of those forbidden substances, it always seems strange to me that the blind eye is cast when the flour, eggs and butter cream comes out at the weekly coffee dates, and that a large part of the charitable sector is funded purely by feeding cakes and biscuits to children.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s great.  It’s all about balance, family values and fun and I think that cake and baking represent all of those things. It just fascinates me to see so many contradictions!

Perhaps it is because I have never been a cakey or a bakey person and yet, like the rest of the nation, am gripped by the weekly goings on in the tent.  It is the highlight of my televisual week and I can’t wait to see what delights are produced.   As a working woman cake seldom if ever graced my life.  Now that is not because I lived a healthy and wholesome existence.  It is purely because my diet consisted of skipping breakfast, a Sainsbury’s sarnie for lunch and cheese and toast and a bottle of Sav Blanc for tea.  I neither craved nor desired cake.  But from the moment those hormones start racing around your body in anticipation of motherhood, all of that changes.  Your life is crazy busy with little time to eat, and playdates and coffee mornings become the new reality.  Lovely as that sounds, for about the first 5 years these are extremely stressful.  Chasing small children around cafes and other people’s houses on a damage limitation operation does not make for a relaxing experience.  And the only thing that seems to reduce that stress at times is a big mouthful of something chocolatey and butter creamy.  Unfortunately what inevitably happens in these situations is that that pile of chocolate and butter cream usually also ends up in small child, making for more stress, chaos and tantrums!  So wouldn’t it be better to avoid the combination of the two in the first place I often wonder.

Personally, coming from German extraction, where Kaffee und Kuchen is still enjoyed as a deliciously guilt free daily experience, the combination of a nice doughy base, with plums, apples or cherries, topped in a nutty streusel is my idea of heaven.  And surely a little more healthy too.  As a child that really was my only experience of cake bar the Sunday swiss roll accompanying The Antiques Roadshow.  My mother was never a baker, and nor am I.  Despite the yearly attempt to produce a suitable 3-D construction to grace my daughter’s birthday party table, the supporting cake is often bordering on inedible, as the aforementioned mother has often pointed out to me.  Cannon balls was the word she once used to describe my home made hot crossed buns.

So caking and baking is something that has definitely come to me through motherhood.  During those long and sometimes tedious pre-school years, the foolish and the brave inevitably often find themselves embarking on various baking projects with their small person.  I think Ella was only about 2 the first time I decided in desperation to give it a go.  Anyone who does this will know that the amount of time spent on the baking is directly proportional to the amount of time you will spend clearing up the mess.  I think by my calculations, the clearing up takes at least 4 times as long as the actual baking itself, and that includes sweeping up the ocean of sprinkles on the kitchen floor.   The sound of sprinkles hitting the deck still evokes in me the same feeling as when somebody runs their fingers down a blackboard – it is like breaking glass.  Slightly sinister and patience eroding!   But delighted faces licking pink icing off their little fingers is all worthwhile, and since my baking efforts are pretty much all inedible, we then don’t face the dilemma of having to eat the fruits of our labour in any case.

So as I plan birthday cake number 5, hoping to be inspired by television’s new ‘cocaine’ this week, I will be doing so with a smile. That smile will represent the knowledge that every other mother of a child of similar age will be going through the same process at some point in the year.  Because we all feel that we must produce some sort of birthday creation to delight and surprise.  And let’s face it even those of us that are rubbish bakers can’t deny the array of products in the supermarkets these days offering us absolutely  no excuses at all not to give it a go!  It’s easy.  It’s child’s play and it still puzzles the hell out of me!