When I worked in an Indian restaurant (as a chef rather than a pastry chef), everyone there thought I was mad. I mean, that’s a given, but their specific complaint was that I would request that the pastry chefs save the ras malai milk for me so I could drink pints of it during service. For those who don’t know what ras malai is, let me enlighten you. It’s an Indian pudding made of light milk dumplings, soaked in sweet, gently spiced milk. The milk contains notes of cardamom, crushed pistachios and sometimes flaked almonds; saffron if you’re lucky, too.
A while back, my friend Mattie bought me a cupcake that was soaked in the stuff and it was sensational, so I thought we should make a whole cake based on it. This cake is baked in a disposable foil container, so it soaks up all that milk. Take it to a barbecue or a picnic, give everyone a spoon and just get stuck in. I guarantee your friends will ask you to make it again and again.
Makes a 31cm x 25cm foil container of cake
For the cake
eggs 4, lightly beaten
caster sugar 175g
baking powderr 1 tsp
fine salt a pinch
plain flour 200g
neutral oil 20ml
whole milk 280ml
double cream 200ml
condensed milk 140g
cardamom pods 3, lightly crushed
saffron threads a small pinch
ground pistachios 1 tbsp
roasted almonds 10
cream 300ml, gently whipped
crushed pistachios a handful
roasted flaked almonds a handful
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4.
Using a stand mixer or electric whisk, whisk the eggs gently on a medium speed with the sugar until thick and luscious. The mixture should be at ribbon stage (thick enough to hold its shape when drizzled back on top of itself).
In a separate bowl, stir together the baking powder, salt and flour.
In three batches, sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it gently. Drizzle the oil in gradually and fold in as you pour, making sure not to over mix.
Pour the mixture into a 31cm x 25cm foil container and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan gently warm the milk, cream and condensed milk with the cardamom, saffron, ground pistachios and crushed almonds until steaming. Take off the heat.
Poke holes with a cocktail stick all over the cake and pour over the slightly warm (but not hot) milk mixture evenly (make sure you remove the cardamom pods).
Leave at room temperature until cool, then place in the fridge, ideally overnight, so the flavors all get used to each other and have time to properly chill out. It will keep in there for up to 3 days.
To finish, top the cake with gently whipped cream, crushed pistachios and flaked almonds. For extra luxury, add saffron to a basic sugar syrup and drizzle generously over the top, before serving chilled.
From Sugar, I Love You by Ravneet Gill (HarperCollins, £20)