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Plum and brown butter tray bake (and happy 5th birthday to Pudding Lane!)

29 September 2019

Pudding Lane Blog is FIVE YEARS OLD! Ok, technically it turned five in January, but as so often seems to be the way I never quite managed to mark that anniversary at the time. So I hope you'll indulge the nine month delay and permit a little reflection on the past half decade.

Firstly - How. Time, Flies. In one sense, the way I create recipes hasn't changed - I still amble along without much method or planning. These days, that is probably symptomatic of the fact that I  run a wedding cake business as well as working full time in PR, so I relish the chance to freestyle and ad lib a little bit over here. 

I still don't follow any of the well-researched guide lines on how to run a successful blog: I don't schedule posts, I don't have a regular content calendar (or any kind of content calendar for that matter), and I never give too much thought to which posts will do well and which won't. I just post recipes I've made and loved and, while I fully accept this is probably not the smartest way to work, in a funny way I think that's become a part of Pudding Lane's character. I always hope that I'll get to the point where I can dedicate the time to doing all of these things in the proper way, but five years in I'm learning to accept that I'm doing the best I can, and that that seems to be good enough for you lovely lot who continue to tune in. 

It struck me recently that most of the baking blogs that I loved reading so much in 2014 (and inspired me to start my own) are sadly no longer going. I miss those voices who used to form a part of my weekly online reading, and inspired me to try my hand at writing my own recipes. I can totally understand it - blogging can become incredibly time consuming - and as life moves on sometimes things have to give. 

Perhaps this is why a lot of recipe writers have moved to posting everything directly on social media. I read recently that blogs are losing their relevance, and all I can say is that if that's true, that's a real shame. For me, long form posts have always been a more powerful way of getting to know a writer, and feeling invested in their work and the parts of their life they chose to share. 

I recently posted some questions on my Instagram stories about Pudding Lane and where you'd like to see it go. So far, you've said a big fat NO to a rebrand (this makes me very happy - you're creates of habit like me), and said you'd like to see my face a bit more - this makes me less happy (I'm not big on having my photo taken) but I will try my best. You've asked for more recipes that are low maintenance / simple to do, which I'm 100% on board with - and hopefully this quick tray bake cake is a good place to start.

Tray bakes always make me think of my mum, who used to make lemon traybakes to send us into school with on our birthdays. It was a simple sponge topped with lemon water icing, and then she'd let us choose the sweets or sprinkles to go on top. It was a total winner as everyone got a square and it was easy to transport. So here's my autumnal version! The brown butter sponge is nutty and caramelly and the perfect canvas for roasted fruit. You can swap the plums for whatever you have to use up - I like to roast a big batch and keep what's left over in the fridge to eat with yoghurt or porridge for breakfast. 

400g plums
1 earl grey teabag
200g boiling water
1 tbsp honey
240g butter
240g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
240g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
50g salted caramel sauce, optional (recipe HERE or use shop bought)
50g chopped toasted hazelnuts, optional
100g icing sugar

Heat the oven to 150°C / 130°C fan. Place the teabag in the boiling water to infuse. Cut the plums into quarters and remove the stones. Arrange them in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with the honey and pour over the hot tea, discarding the teabag.

Roast in the centre of the oven for 25-35 minutes, covering with foil halfway through if the plums begin to catch. The plums are ready when they are softened and have intensified in colour. Set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 170°C / 150°C fan. Line an ovenproof 20x30cm baking tray with baking parchment.

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Continue cooking it until the white solids floating on the top have turned dark brown, and it smells nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool sightly.

Place the sugar and the eggs in a bowl, and whisk on a high speed for 4-5 minutes, until pale, very fluffy and volumes. Add the butter and whisk to combine, then add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to mix through. Pour into the prepared tray. Spoon the roasted plums onto the surface (reserving the cooking liquid) of the cake, and dot with spoonfuls of salted caramel (if using). Use a toothpick to marble the plum and caramel through. Sprinkle over the hazelnuts. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with a couple teaspoons of the plum cooking liquor. Drizzle over the top and cut into squares. 

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