This cake was created while we were working on our first book. We would have long afternoon meetings with Elizabeth, our publisher, in her office across the road from our restaurant. Tea was always involved and, inevitably, cakes.
One autumn afternoon she produced a humble-looking loaf cake, delicately flavoured with caraway seeds, which we both went mad for. I had never heard of or tasted seed cake before, and this one was particularly good (it’s a Delia recipe, and it’s perfect). Seeds and spices are right up our alley, so we adopted the idea with gusto and experimented a lot, with varying degrees of success. Not to replace the traditional recipe, just to offer another option. This one proved to be a great triumph.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/ gas mark 5.
Butter eight small loaf tins and line each with a sheet of baking parchment to cover the base and long sides, allowing a little overhang at the sides. Don’t worry about lining the ends
too, just make sure they’re greased.
Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, then allow to cool before crushing.
I use an electric mixer to make the batter, but if you don’t have one, you can make it by hand.
Beat the butter, vanilla seeds, zests, fennel seeds, sugar and salt together until just combined in a ball. Don’t overbeat or cream.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg in well, so that the batter is completely smooth before the next goes in.
Add the mascarpone, flour and baking powder in one go and mix at full speed for a few seconds to make sure everything is well combined.
Slice two ‘cheeks’ off each peach (one from either side of the stone), cutting as close to the stone as possible. Chop the remaining fruit into small dice and mix into the cake batter. Cut the peach ‘cheeks’ into thin long slices. Divide the batter between the lined tins.
Top each cake with four or five peach slices spread out like a small fan and sprinkle with the additional sugar.
Bake for 20–25 minutes or until risen and a lovely golden colour. It is a little tricky to tell when a cake containing fresh fruit is fully baked, but the surface should feel nice and bouncy.
These are great to eat warm. They keep well at room temperature for 24 hours but after that they start to deteriorate, so be sure to gobble them up quickly.
Recipe extracted from Honey & Co: The Baking Book, published by Saltyard Books. Try their recipe for blood orange and pistachio cakes.