The Borough Belles, Borough Market’s neighbourhood branch of the Women’s Institute, is packed with keen cooks, happy to share their ideas and insights. This month: Emily McGeevor
I had long toyed with the idea of joining the WI. The more I read about different branches and various members on a local, national and historical level, the more I learnt just how powerful a group the WI really is. In the century since it was formed it has been involved in shaping huge social and political change. The WI has often been described as a campaigning force to be reckoned with. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
When I found out about the Borough Belles I was amazed at how modern a group it seemed when compared to the picture of the WI I had. They had a really varied age range, they didn’t mention Jerusalem and in my first ‘taster’ meeting (as a guest) they talked us through the last 100 years of this ‘tour de force’. I learnt that in 1913 Emily Rigby burnt down Lord Leverhulme’s house as part of her fight for female suffrage before going on be the first president of the Hutton and Howick branch of the WI. I joined immediately!
I have a fail-safe cake for all friends’ birthdays, celebrations and special occasions. My mother used to make a version that had long stuck in my mind (perhaps because I was always allowed to sip at the left-over stout!) so I tracked down a fantastic version by Katie Quinn Davies via a post she wrote for DesignSponge that proved to be absolutely perfect. It is not for the faint-hearted (particularly when you see the butter content) but for a rare treat it is just sublime.
I have tweaked the original icing recipe to make a much less sweet version, but in the past have also topped it with just a simple whipped cream, or a butter cream for those with a sweeter tooth. In the cake itself I recommend a mix of both caster and muscovado sugar (although the original simply calls for only the former) because the slight taste of molasses that comes through adds a certain something. I also prefer to use salted butter as it gives this cake an even more savoury depth but can easily be changed to unsalted if you prefer.
Emily’s chocolate and stout cake
Preheat your oven to 180C. Butter and line a deep 20cm cake tin.
Pour 250ml stout into a saucepan, add 250g butter and heat until melted. Add the 75g cocoa powder, 300g caster sugar and 100g dark muscovado sugar and whisk until combined. Set aside to cool for 10-15 mins.
Meanwhile sift 275g plain flour and 2 tsp baking soda into a bowl and mix well.
Beat 2 large eggs, 3 tsp vanilla extract and 150ml soured cream until well incorporated, then add to the stout mixture. Whisk this batter into the flour and baking soda.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 35-45 mins or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. This cake is very moist inside, so use your judgment—cook long enough so there is no uncooked cake on the skewer but there may be a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
While the cake cools in the pan, combine 200g cream cheese and 150g icing sugar. Whip 250g double cream until stiff, then fold into your sweetened cream cheese. When combined this should form a silky icing that will hold its shape once spread. When the cake is completely cooled, dollop your icing all over the top and spread until evenly distributed on the top. There you have it.