Holy moly, we could do with some cheering up. What better way to put a smile on your face than with delicious cake? Amy Cooke-Hodgson knows just the thing.
While it’s certainly proving to be a wonderful way to visit parts of the country I never knew existed (Frome is a veritable delight, although I could leave the used nappies and bloodied sheets of a hotel in town I won’t declare), mention regional touring to any jobbing actor or comedian and what follows might as well be a pecha kucha presentation (with iPhone photos for proof, obvs) in an attempt to win the ‘I’ve experienced the worst hospitality’ award.
Imagine, then, our unbridled joy when we arrived in Wells to play at the Literature Festival and were greeted with a hearty picnic lunch in the green room with flapjacks to rival any Blyton wicker basket, the promise of a tour around the Cathedral Palace gardens the following morning and a rare visit to see the chained library boasting an impressive collection of leather- and wood-bound books dating back to the 1500s. And to top it all off, a FRICKIN’ HOME COOKED MEAL after the show.
“‘It’s tromboncino!’ Rosie exclaimed as she disappeared into the kitchen, and returned wielding something that could pass for a vegan sex toy.”
I never thought I’d tire of eating out but when being forced to make the choice between Pizza Express or service station KFC for the fourth night in a row, I find myself craving comforting home favourites.
“Oh for cheese on toast!”
“For tromboncino shepherd’s pie!”
SORRY, for WHAT NOW?
Our Wells hostess, Rosie, dished us up her home-grown and lovingly homemade pie as we relaxed in her living room (secretly wishing we could all be invited back for Christmas). You could almost see the delight on Rosie’s face when asked about what was in her shepherd’s pie.
“It’s tromboncino!” Rosie exclaimed as she disappeared into the kitchen, and returned wielding something that could pass for a vegan sex toy. A tromboncino. She’d grown it herself. Of course she had.
Once you get up all close and personal with one, it’s really not that odd. It’s a member of the squash family, very similar to a courgette, and if left to grow without a frame happens to coil itself with enviable flexibility.
As we left the following morning, after breakfast in the conservatory accompanied by a lazy susan (not a member of the sketch group) laden with homemade preserves and a view of the Mendips that Turner would have melted all over, Rosie thrust a tromboncino in my hand and wished us farewell.
“What the bloody hell am I going to do with this?”
Have you met me? CAKE. I made cakes with it.
Don’t worry if you haven’t a tromboncino (although you should be a bit embarrassed at yourself if you don’t); this recipe works just as well with courgette or carrot.
Thanks Rosie: you win the best hospitality award and we have iPhone pics to prove it. (Please can we at least come for Boxing Day?)
For the cake (makes 12 large cupcakes):
175g soft brown sugar
200g self-raising flour
2 medium eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp mixed spice (optional)
150ml sunflower oil
200g grated tromboncino/courgette/carrot
Handful of sultanas
Handful of chopped walnuts or pecans/shelled sunflower seeds
For the frosting:
50g salted butter – very soft/room temperature
300g icing sugar
120g full fat cream cheese
1 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 160°C (for a fan oven) and prepare a muffin/cupcake tin with cases.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, bicarb of soda and spices.
In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and add the oil. Continue to mix for a few seconds to combine the liquid mixture before adding it to the dry ingredients.
Combine the two mixtures well until it makes an almost cookie dough-like texture.
Add the grated tromboncino (or chosen vegetable), sultanas and nuts and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Divide the mixture between the 12 cases so that each case is three quarters full. You may find you have more mixture than needed for 12 cakes (Bonus! You’ll have a few spare you can snaffle without anyone knowing…)
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean. Keep an eye on them; they can quickly become over-baked.
When ready, leave in the tin for two minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack and allow to completely cool before frosting.
Using a handheld or stand mixer, combine the icing sugar and butter on a slow speed (if your mixture is very dry, you can loosen it slightly with half a teaspoon of milk), then turn up to a high speed and beat for five minutes until light and fluffy.
Spoon in the cream cheese and maple syrup and continue to mix for approximately 30 seconds or until all things are combined. (You could also use a tablespoon of pecan butter or macadamia nut chocolate spread or similar, instead of the maple syrup. Endless options! Do tweet me your ideas!)
Be careful not to over mix; it can become very slack if over beaten.
Place your mixture in a piping bag with your chosen nozzle (I used a plain 1cm nozzle) and pipe a generous maple topping on to your spiced cupcakes.
Gobble up straight away or decorate with seasonal sprinkles and present them proudly at elevenses, twelveses, oneses, twoses… any hour is good.
Hungry for more cupcakes? Check out Amy’s recipe for vegan chocolate ones here.
Amy is a founding member of the hit improv comedy show, Austentatious, which is currently on a UK tour until 26 November and performing regularly at the Leicester Square Theatre.
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Amy is an actor, improviser and singer currently appearing in award-winning improv show Austentatious. You can also visit her Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RowleyandCooke