Mint and toffee go very, very well together. There’s so many different kinds of sweeties that combine the creaminess of toffee and the warmly tingly tones of mint: Murray mints, Toffos, Humbugs, Mint Special Toffee... the list goes on! And very few people don’t like mint toffee; I haven’t come across one yet, anyway.
But when it comes to mint and cake, the relationship is very precarious: mint on its own doesn’t work in a cake. Mint works well as the only flavour in sweeties because it’s just sugar and mint, but our associations with mint and our associations with cake don’t marry well. Whenever I’ve eaten mint flavoured cake, I’ve just thought ‘toothpaste cake’, and that is not an image that I want people eating my cakes to imagine.
To make mint work in a cake, it needs to be a secondary, or accent, flavour: it needs to the second half of a classic something-and-mint combination, so when the person is eating the cake they imagine that nice combination of something-and-mint, and remember how nice it is. For example, mint and chocolate, mint and toffee, mint and coffee, mint and strawberry are all combinations found in the dessert world that contain mint. This works very nicely as the mint is just in the icing, not in the cake. This means it’s a caramel cake, which people are used to, and mint toffee icing, which people are also used to.
This rule applies to any kind of unusual cake flavouring. I’ve made cakes with really unusual flavourings, but because the icing and the cake can be considered separately, it works. For example, who’d have thought chocolate and cinnamon cake with mint chocolate glaze would be so popular? I made it, and it was.
Enough of my rambling theories! You’re here for a recipe.
For the cake
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) white spelt flour
- 2 ounce (55 grammes) cornflour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ounces (55 grammes) golden syrup
- 2½ (70 grammes) brown sugar
- 3 medium eggs, at room temperature
- 1½ ounces (40 grammes) butter, or margarine, melted
- 1½ ounces (40 grammes) sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence
- If you have it: a few drops of butter-vanilla flavouring
For the icing
- 7 ounces (230 grammes) caster sugar
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) golden syrup
- 2 fluid ounces (60 millilitres) milk
- 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter, or margarine
- 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) peppermint essence
- Optional: different kinds of green sprinkles
First, bake the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F, Gas Mark 5). Grease and flour a 9x7 inch (23x18 centimetre) tin, or line with non-stick baking paper.
- Follow the instructions for making sponge cake here, but when it comes to the sugar and egg mixture, beat the sugar, syrup and eggs with the bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Without the assistance of heat, any clumps in the brown sugar would take too long to break down, and also the syrup would just stay stuck to the bowl.
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake as instructed. Allow to cool to a touchable temperature in the tin then transfer to cool on a wire rack. The golden syrup makes it too fragile to handle while it’s warm. If you cooked it with non-stick paper, leave the paper stuck to the cake: this will be very useful when it comes to icing it later.
Next, the icing:
- Take the same tin as you baked the cake in. If you didn’t use non-stick paper, wash it and line it with non-stick paper. If you did, just put the cooled cake back in with the paper attached.
- Run the cold tap into your sink to fill the basin about 4 inches (10 centimetres) full of water. This is used to cool the pan later.
- Put all the ingredients, except for the peppermint essence, into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until all the ingredients have melted together.
- Bring to the boil, and then cook until soft-ball stage is reached. Remove from the heat and dip the bottom of the pan in the cold water in the sink. Allow the pan to sit and cool for about 5 or 10 minutes.
- Add the peppermint essence and then beat until opaque but still a pouring consistency. Pour over the cake and smooth out with a palette knife.
My homemade sprinkles got their first appearance with this delight! I thought they were very cute.