Sunday, 27 April 2008

Learning is sweet

One of the big parts of my job over the last few months has been working towards having a new undergraduate course validated. We’ve consulted, planned, aligned our learning pedagogy with our learning outcomes, created courses, and written reams of paper to support it all. Last Friday, we faced a University panel plus external advisers, to see whether we had convinced them of our case.

Luckily: we had! We were asked to make some relatively small changes, but on the whole they were pleased with what we’d done, and we can now start advertising and recruiting. What a relief.

I hadn’t wanted to jump the gun on what the outcome would be, but I did make a cake (I know, any excuse) as a sort of good luck motif. I chose a honey cake called a Lekach from my book of Jewish cooking as it was traditionally made for children on their first day at school to make their learning sweet. What better way to send our new course off into the world? Besides, in the year before he died, Israel Grandpa wrote up his memoirs, and asked me to help him edit them. I was very touched, and spent quite a bit of time with him talking about his memories. He grew up in Frankfurt, and one of the things he’d written was that he was sent off to school on his first day with a cone of sweets. When I asked him more about it, he said that it was a tradition to wish that your learning would be a sweet experience!

The cake was very easy, but make sure you stock up on honey before you start – a cup is really quite a lot! It was nicely moist and gingery, especially in the middle, and everyone who ate it really liked it. I should really have offered it to the panel to make them sweet, but hadn’t liked to risk being accused of bribery before we knew their feelings on the course!

Lekach (honey cake), from Jewish Traditions Cookbook, by Marlena Spieler

Serves about 8 (I cut it into about 16 quite chunky squares)

175g/ 1 ½ cups plain flour
75g/ 1/3 cup caster sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
½ - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g/ 1 cup clear honey
60ml/ 4 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 eggs
75ml/5 tbsps orange juice
2 tsp chopped fresh root ginger, or to taste [I used stem ginger in syrup from a jar]

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a rectangular baking tin measuring 25 x 20 x 5 cm with baking parchment [I used a square brownie pan which was a bit less than this. It cooked in about the same time]. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the clear honey, oil, orange rind and eggs. Using a wooden spoon or electric whisk, beat until smooth, then add the orange juice. Stir in the chopped ginger.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, then bake for about 50 mins or until firm to the touch [I covered it for the last 15 mins or so so it wouldn’t get too dark on top] or until firm to the touch

Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out and wrap tightly in foil. Store at room temperature for 2-3 days before serving to allow the flavours of the cake to mature.


Johanna said...

congratulations on getting your course approved! and what a great cake - did you have the patience to wait for it to sit for a few days?

Lysy said...

Thank you! It did get to sit for one day but only from expediency - I knew I wouldn't have time to make it the night before, so did it on the Wednesday. The good thing about cutting it into squares though is that you always get to taste the little bits that hmmm, 'fall off'!

Tracy said...

Congratulations! I'm so happy to hear that your hard work paid off. And I love the idea of sweets (or cake!) to start a new academic year. Or a new term. Or a new lecture. Sweets before sending an article to a journal? This concept is very promising!

Tempered Woman said...

First off~ Congrats!
Cake specifically~ I can't believe all the great honey recipes that have been posted recently. I've got some treasured finds and I've been trying to figure out what to do with them.
I love this recipe and am wondering if there is a reason for the specifying clear honey? Or do you think it would be ok to experiment?

Lysy said...

Tracy - thank you, and I love the idea of cake to celebrate as many events as possible!

Tempered woman: I think that flavoured honeys would be lovely in this - do let me know if you try it. I think the recipe just specified clear honey rather than the thick gooey sort which I suppose would be harder to mix - or perhaps it has a different proportion of sweetness in it?