Last week I went to my Nan’s house for a cup of tea. My mum often goes down and as it happened, I had the afternoon off work, so I went with my mum too.
I was, therefore, a bit of a surprise guest. (Not in a, ‘how lovely to see you again!’ surprise-guest sort of way. More in a- guess what! I’m here too.)
On the kitchen counter was the teapot, the kettle, and two cups and saucers. Outside in the sunshine were two garden chairs with a small, rickety table between them. A very civilised affair for just two select attendees.
“I think I’ll need another tea bag,” Nan says, when she opens to door to me. We carry out a kitchen chair and I retrieve the milk from the fridge, whilst Nan finds another cup.
“Do you want a mug or a beaker?” She asks, and I tell her I’d like a beaker, because she’s been asking me that same question for years and I still don’t know exactly what a beaker is, or how it differs from a mug.
She finds a plate in her cupboard- which looks suspiciously like one of my plates that I sent to her with a slice of cake on, but I don’t mention that- and empties out the biscuit tin. It’s the same biscuit tin she’s had since I was little and I suspect some of the biscuits have been in there that long, but I don’t mention that, either. The crumbled biscuits look like ration castoffs, a box of broken biscuits like the ones my dad lovingly reminisces about. The only whole biscuit is a malted milk and she lets me have it.
It occurs to me that in my twenty two years, I’d never really thought about the fact they’re malted milk flavoured, or that malted milk was, in fact, a flavour.
Malt is a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated milk. Aside from malted milk biscuits, it’s also used in malted milkshakes (‘malt shops’), Malteasers, and malt drinks like Horlicks and Ovaltine. As a high-calorie, non-perishable food supplement it became popular with explorers in the early 1900s. Malt tablets produced by Horlicks were eaten by soldiers during World War Two as an energy booster. Over the decades, it’s waned in popularity, perhaps in part due to the increase of beverages like hot chocolate or fizzy drinks, and there are now far different health supplements or drinks designed to give you that energy boost.
It has that distinct, almost unpleasant aroma of bitter, roasting grains. It’s the smell that pumps out of the brewery near my house on Wednesdays- brewing day. It doesn’t taste like that at all. In this malted milk cake, it’s barely noticeable, but it adds a really nice milky, smooth taste which offsets the too-sweet flavours of Victoria Sponge style cakes. It needs a suitably delicate frosting to go with it, as the traditional powdered sugar variety just overpowers the cake. This milk buttercream is from The Tough Cookie and is such a perfect match, so light and fluffy and just sweet enough to add a subtle sugary taste to the cake. This malted milk cake is a really simple twist on a traditional recipe, and perfect combined with the added malted milk biscuit topper.
Naturally, I sent Nan the first mini malted milk cake. (In a plastic tray this time, not on a plate, because I’ve learnt that lesson now).
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This malted milk cake has the subtle taste of malted milk powder and the delicate milk frosting, perfect combined with an added malted milk biscuit topper.
- FOR THE CAKES
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 60ml semi-skimmed milk
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 60g malted milk powder
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 125g butter, softened
- FOR THE FROSTING
- 15g self-raising flour
- 75g golden caster sugar
- 90ml semi-skimmed milk
- 90g butter, softened
- 6 malted milk biscuits
- Prepare a twelve hole mini cake tin by greasing the tin and lining with greaseproof paper. (Alternatively, you could use one 20cm cake tin lined with greaseproof paper). Pre-heat the oven to 180°c/350°f/gas mark 4.
- Whisk together the eggs and milk with a fork. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, and malted milk powder and stir in the caster sugar.
- Cut the butter into cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Use an electric hand whisk to beat together for about 2-3 minutes, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Whilst still mixing, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Once all added, whisk on a medium speed for about two minutes or until the mixture is combined and smooth.
- Use a large metal spoon or an ice cream scoop to spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, filling the mini cake tin about half full. Smooth over the tops with a knife or a spatula, then bake in the oven for about twenty minutes or until the cakes are golden brown, risen, and spring back when touched in the centre. Leave to cool in the tins, then transfer onto a wire rack.
- For the frosting, whisk together the flour, sugar, and milk in a saucepan. Place the saucepan over a low heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking continuously. Let boil for about two minutes to thicken, then remove from the heat. Keep whisking for another minute or so to get rid of some of the heat in the mix.
- Pour it into a cold bowl and place a piece of clingfilm directly onto the surface on the mix (it will look like a thick, gluey paste). Allow to cool completely. (You may want to do this step in advance).
- Using an electric whisk, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the cooled paste-like mixture to the butter, a spoonful at a time, and whisking between each addition. Once all added, whisk for a couple of minutes or until really smooth.
- Add the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, then pipe large swirls on top of each of the cakes. Snap a malted milk biscuit in half and press into the icing swirls. ▪