Discover more from Cook Republic
The Plain Cake Appreciation Society - Author Q&A With Tilly Pamment
Plus a recipe for Apricot Cardamom Chocolate Cake
Hello all and welcome to our first Cookbook Author Q&A. Today’s inaugural guest is the wonderful Tilly Pamment, author of the coolest new cake cookbook in town - The Plain Cake Appreciation Society (Booktopia Link To Buy). 52 weeks of gorgeous, easy, everyday cakes for the most delightful afternoon treat. Sharing is not mandatory at all but sharing cake is one of life’s most wholesome sentiments and one on which this beautiful cookbook was conceived.
I met Tilly back in 2015 when she attended my “How To Pitch, Write, Shoot & Publish A Cookbook” Workshop. I remember her as a vivacious and enthusiastic young woman with an impeccable style. She has a degree in fashion and textile design and has worked as a food stylist and home economist for advertising and editorial campaigns.
I started following her creative journey on her social media after meeting her and have watched her launch her unique business Tilly’s Table - gorgeous linens printed with Australian flora and gruits and cakes styled beautifully and photographed by Tilly herself.
The Plain Cake Appreciation Society cookbook was a result of the pandemic and is a must-have on your shelf if you love simple, homestyle baking. Sturdy cakes that are simply adorned by a smattering of icing sugar or seasonal fruit and jams and simple icing. Cakes that sit proudly on your kitchen bench waiting for the family to roll in after work and school to help themselves to a thick slice, cakes that travel on your lap in the car on the way to a friend’s for tea or in a dented tin in the boot for a picnic in the sun. Every single one of Tilly’s 52 creations is more-ish and full of surprises. The beautifully designed and photographed book also has matching teas and florals for each cake.
I have baked the Strawberry Streusel Cake (pg 20), Butter Cake With Sultanas & Sherry (pg 38), Blackberry & Bay Leaf Butter Cake (pg 83), Lumberjack Cake (Pg 89) and finally, the absolutely delicious Apricot, Cardamom & Chocolate Cake (pg 141) that Tilly has generously offered to share with you all because it is her favourite cake from the book (recipe a bit further down!). All recipes were spot on, incredibly easy to bake and polished off in 1-2 says in our home. We loved every single one of the bakes, especially the Apricot Cardamom & Chocolate Cake.
In her own words ..
“This spiced apricot cake is a sturdy, wholesome number - one for the Tastes-better-than-it-looks Club, but one of my favourites. It’s not the most attractive cake to be sure, but golly, does it deliver on flavour. Made with almond meal and cardamom, and filled with tart dried apricots and nuggets of dark chocolate, it is satisfyingly dense : perfect served warm for morning or afternoon tea (or even breakfast with a big cup of tea if you’re anything like me). I will just say that using good-quality chocolate and sun-dried apricots makes all the difference.
And now a little chat with Tilly! Thank you Tilly for taking the time out to answer some questions for us and offering your favourite cake recipe from the book for us to bake.
Cook Republic Author Q&A With Tilly Pamment
“The Plain Cake Appreciation Society” … it sounds like the most perfect club the cool kids would want to join. How did the idea and name come about?
The Plain Cake Appreciation Society was born, as many good things were, during the second year of the pandemic. Finding myself again spending all of my time at home, in a little bubble consisting of my husband and two small children, this project began as a means of comfort and connection – with my own extended family and also my wider social media community.
Each week I would write and test a simple cake recipe using seasonal ingredients and, on Friday afternoons, I would share it with my online community in a virtual meeting of The Plain Cake Appreciation Society. This quickly gained momentum, becoming a real salvation for me during several extended lockdowns.
Conversations were started and friendships formed through the medium of cake – all without even leaving my kitchen. The name came about through my daily phone calls with my mum, who would often ask what I was baking that day, "Oh, just a plain cake" I would say, and thus The Plain Cake Appreciation Society was born.
The most favourite cake recipe from the book and the story behind it?
Oh, this is so hard to choose! There are a couple that are really special for sentimental reasons: my Nanna's Rainbow Cake (an old-fashioned cake, and the only cake I can ever remember her baking, but which she baked for all the birthdays we spent with her as kids); my GG's Sponge Cake (my English grandmother was properly fond of cake and famous for her sponge cakes and trifles that she made them into); and then there is my perhaps my favourite cake of all, a Plain Cake with Passionfruit Buttercream (the first recipe in the book and the one I make first when I have been away from home).
How do you match the florals to the cake?
For the last couple of years, I have worked as a florist on the weekends, and this has really ignited my love of flowers. I love that like seasonal fruit and vegetable, flowers too are signposts of the seasons - and as such they have grown to become an important (and pleasurable) part of my everyday.
At the end of each recipe in my book, you will find a ‘Tea & blooms match’ recommendation. These seasonal floral pairings are meant as an ‘ideal world’ kind of scenario. They are what I like to drink and gaze at whilst I eat cake - and are what, if you could orchestrate the perfect trifecta of cake, tea and blooms, I would combine!
If someone baked you a cake, what would it be to bring you the most joy?
A simple butter cake, maybe with seasonal fruit baked into it, eaten warm from the oven.
Favourite vegetable? Why?
I have been a long-time devotee of the humble potato. I love them. In all shapes and forms - and for their flexibility and versatility!
What do you enjoy cooking for dinner?
At the moment, as things have been really busy lately, I am taking comfort in childhood favourites for dinner - simple, nostalgic food. Things like homemade chicken schnitzel and 'everything mash' (potato, pumpkin, onion and carrot), quiche with flaky pastry, and simple homemade pizzas (which my kids are mad for).
What does an ideal dinner party look like for you?
Good friends and family, a collection of delicious nibbly bits (cheese, olives, salami, etc), followed by roast chicken, potatoes and a big leafy salad. Music, kids racing around and Prosecco on ice. Slight chaos, but with good company and food! And a fudgy-rich sunken chocolate cake to finish - universally loved by little and big people alike.
A cookbook you are loving cooking from and why?
Lately, I've been pouring over Pomegranates and Artichokes by Iranian writer and food photographer Saghar Setareh. Visually it is just stunning, and I love the story and history behind the food too (which I want to eat all of too!).
Apricot, Cardamom & Chocolate Cake
Makes one 22cm (8 1/2 inch) cake
200g (7oz) dried apricots, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
125ml (4 fl oz) boiling water
125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
165g (5 3/4 oz) golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150g (5 1/2 oz) almond meal
75g (2 1/2 oz) self-raising flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
100g (3 1/2 oz) good quality dark ( or milk) chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon demerara (raw) sugar
Place the apricots, lemon juice and boiling water in a small saucepan. Simmer gently, with a lid on, over very low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F) fan-forced. Grease a 22-cm (8 1/2 inch) round springform tin with butter and line the base and side with baking paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, caster sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Place the almond meal, flour, cardamom and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, stirring gently to combine. Add the chocolate and cooled apricots and fold them through.
Spoon the batter into the lined tin, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and cook for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Any leftover cake will store well in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Over To You!
I hope you have enjoyed today’s first Cookbook Author Q&A. If you enjoyed the newsletter, please feel free to share the love.
The Cook Republic Newsletter is a reader-supported dispatch. If you enjoy my weekly cooking newsletters and would like to support my work, please consider a monthly or annual subscription. It makes all this possible and your support is so deeply appreciated! Thank you for being a part of my community. Watch out for more delicious and “bursting with recipes” newsletters later this week!