Homemade as well as store-bought baked cookies and cakes in Israel are a bit different than what we were used to in the states. You can get everything from the Austrian-inspired sachertorte to Middle Eastern baklava and everything in between without even looking too hard.
But one thing has always puzzled me, and I’m afraid that what Israelis call “English cake” is definitely a misnomer. Israeli “English cake” is a white, light fruitcake baked in a loaf pan. Indeed, such loaf pans are specifically called “English cake pans.”
How this name came about remains a mystery: Traditional English fruitcakes are definitely darker, heavier and include at least a shot of alcohol.
Real English cake is actually a tasty, easy treat — and so are many other such cakes that really do stem from England. Here are a few to try.
Some measurements and instructions have been Americanized.
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup canola oil
2⁄3 cup flour
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
3⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1⁄3 cup golden raisins
1⁄3 cup chopped walnuts
1 green apple, peeled, cored and cubed
1 and 2⁄3 cup mixed dried fruit, small cubes
Preheat oven to 325˚.
Beat sugar and egg until foamy. Gradually add oil; continue beating. Stir in flour, baking soda and baking powder, cinnamon and salt only until combined. Fold in fruit and nuts. Pour mixture into a lightly greased, parchment-lined, 11x4-inch loaf pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until cake tests done. Cool on a rack.
I believe currants are a uniquely British ingredient. Substitute dates or any other dried fruit.
2 oz. butter, melted
4 oz. raisins
4 oz. currants
2 oz. mixed dried fruit peel
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. frozen puff pastry, partially defrosted
egg white and powdered sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 425.˚
Mix melted butter, dried fruit, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, combining well. Set aside.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut out about 16 circles. Re-roll and cut out circles from the trimmings.
Spoon fruit mixture evenly in circle middles.
Bring up the edges of the pastry to enclose the filling and crimp the edges together to look like little purses. Turn them over, with the folds underneath. Gently press down to an oval shape, taking care not to expose the filling.
Place the cakes on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Make 3 diagonal cuts across the top of each cake. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Bake 15-20 minutes until crispy. Best served slightly warm.
Victoria Sponge Cake
1 and 1⁄4 cups self-rising flour
3⁄4 cup caster sugar (substitute granulated sugar)
12 Tbsps. butter
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
Butter Cream Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsps. butter
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 325˚.
Line two 7-inch pie tins with lightly greased parchment paper.
Sift flour into a large bowl. Add sugar, butter and vanilla. Add beaten eggs in one at a time and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture is light and well-combined. Pour into the two prepared tins.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cakes test done. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare butter cream: Sift sugar into a small bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla; beat well.
To put sandwich cakes together: Add a layer of jam to top of one of the cakes, followed by a layer of butter cream atop the jam. Top with second cake. Dust with sifted powdered sugar if desired.
Traditional Devon Scones
I can still taste the Devonshire scones my sister and I enjoyed years ago at a Devon “cream tea.” Serve with jam and clotted cream (if you can find it!)
2 and 3⁄4 cups self-raising flour,
plus more for dusting
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsps. butter, cut into cubes
3 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
a squeeze of lemon juice
3⁄4 cup milk
1 egg, to glaze
Preheat oven to 350˚.
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the butter, then mix in with your fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Heat the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Add in vanilla and lemon juice, then set aside.
Put a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven to heat.
Make a well in the dry mix, then add milk, stirring quickly. Scatter some flour onto the work surface and pour out the dough.
Dredge the dough and your hands with a little more flour, then fold the dough over 2 or 3 times until it becomes smoother. Pat into a round about 13⁄4-inch deep.
Take a 2-inch round cookie and dip it into flour. Cut out 8 rounds.
Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes until risen and golden on the top. Serve warm, topped with jam and clotted cream.
Makes 8 scones.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected] .