'Would you like a snack?' Clara offered. 'Bernarda makes the most breathtaking cinnamon sponge cakes.'
We took our afternoon snack like royalty, wolfing down everything the maid put before us. I had no idea about the protocol for this unfamiliar occasion and was not sure how to behave.
The Shadow of the Wind, Carlós Ruiz Zafon, Chapter Six
This book is one that makes an impression on everyone who reads it – generally people have either never heard of it, or can’t speak enough about it once they know you've read it too. If you fall into the former camp, put some time aside for it this summer; it’s just gorgeous. As well as painting an evocative picture of Barcelona, Carlos Ruiz Zafónintroduces his readers to an extraordinary fictional world. Most thrillingly, we are taken into the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a place for tomes that have fallen out of general consciousness. The search for a novel within a novel that follows is epic in scope.
I spent a long weekend in Spain last summer, and enjoyed a brilliant array of oysters, ham, cheeses, churros and steak, but didn't find the cinnamon sponge cake described in the book. It turns out that it’s a light, fat-less sponge, very different in texture from an English sponge, soaked until damp with rich, boozy syrup and then sprinkled with cinnamon. Sitting with a slice of this, and a strong coffee, I have to say that Clara is correct in her description – it’s a truly breathtaking snack.
112g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
70g granulated sugar
Grated peel from 1/2 lemon
Square cake tin
Two mixing bowls
Electric hand whisk
1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm square cake tin (ideally loose-bottomed) with a generous amount of butter and a little flour.
2. Separate your eggs. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is creamy. In the second bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a very light touch, fold in the yolk mixture with the spatula. Fold in the baking powder and flour a little at a time.
3. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 20 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
4. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. Place the water, sugar, cinnamon, honey and lemon peel into the saucepan. Allow the mixture to come to the boil for one minute. Remove from the heat, add the brandy and leave the syrup to cool.
5. Once the cake has cooled, slice it into twelve pieces and arrange them on a serving plate. Pour the brandy syrup onto each piece of cake and dust the top with cinnamon. The cakes are very thirsty and will soak up all the liquid, without it leaking all over the plate, so be generous with it! Serve with coffee.