Moving on, let's speak about nicer things. Things that lighten up everybody's face, that fill the house with warmth and make the birds appear to be singing overtime.
Like when Lady Maria is visiting. She's not really of royal descent, my Mum, she just happened to marry a normal sort of guy (Lord Rudi) who went on to come into the possession of some land up in Scotland and is therefore, by default, a "Laird" - which, translated to English, means "Lord". So it follows that she is a "Lady". Not they they have been invited to have tea with HRH, nor do they own a lavish mansion in Belgravia or Mayfair (or anywhere else, for that matter) that I could benefit from...
Whenever she graces us with her presence, my sons demand that she bake with them - and really, there's only one cake they will make, which has become my sons' absolute favourite and is about the only thing we ever bake when we bake together. By popular demand. It takes the traditional shape of a Gugelhupf, a plain Bundt, basically. I bring this to playdates and coffee mornings often and everybody is always amazed at how tasty, moist and finger-lickingly good it is. The last time I made it, there were five of us around the table, including two boys who polished off the *entire* cake in a matter of maybe half an hour - and probably only took so long out of politeness.
You know how Austria is known for its patisserie, but most of it, especially the more elaborate creations, is seldom, if ever, made at home. Every (good) Austrian housewife's repertoire (at least in my Mum's generation) would also include the famous Sachertorte, the Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) with home-made fillo-pastry, a variety of tray bakes typically with fruits of the season, Black Forest cake, Malakoff Torte (a tarte with almonds, buttercream and sponge fingers), a nut or poppyseed ring, a plaited yeast bread for Easter and a variety of biscuits (incl. Lebkuchen, our version of ginger bread). Nowadays, not many people bother to make their own, so I know very few women (or men) of my age who can master their own strudel. But the Gugelhupf is something everybody can make, it's easy, quick and therefore the most recognised form of cake in the country. Delicious as all its different variations may be, it is therefore also the one form of cake that you're unlikely to find in one of the many cafés in Vienna - as everybody knows how to make their own, people tend to go for more elaborate patisserie when they go out.
What sets this one apart from your usual chocolate Gugelhupf, which can often turn out to be quite firm in texture and, without artificial additives, incredibly dry, is that it uses real chocolate (rather than cocoa powder) and almost as much ground almonds as flour - giving it that extra moisture. Incredibly easy to make (with a little adult help, this is quite literally child's play), this is one of the best recipes to have up your sleeve and sure to become a favourite in your household, too!
Lady Maria's Schokogugelhupf
70 g chocolate*
140 g butter (room temperature)
140 g golden icing sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (or add a tsp vanilla essence)
100 g self-raising flour (or add half a tsp baking powder)
70 g ground almonds
4 egg whites (stiff)
2 - 3 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 200C.
Melt the butter in a bain marie or a glass bowl set in a pot boiling water reaching about half-way up to the bowls rim. Leave to cool slightly.
Beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks on by one. Weigh in the flour, vanilla sugar and almonds, then pour in the melted chocolate and the milk. Beat until smooth, then quickly fold in the stiff egg whites.
Transfer to a Bundt tin (I use a silicone Gugelhupf mould, if you only have a traditional tin, butter, then dust with caster sugar or flour before filling with the dough), spread evenly and place on a middle shelf in the oven.
Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool, then dust with icing sugar before serving or decorate with chocolate glaze and almond slivers.
* I tend to use a dark chocolate (ca. 70%), but this is a very forgiving recipe, so I often use up left-over Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs or Santas... in which case I reduce the amount of icing sugar used to about 100g.