Let’s start 2021 and the second half of this trip around the world with an easy, cheerful bake from the Czech Republic. Like every country in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech has a strong coffee-and-cake culture, and the bake that you see everywhere is a light cake made with fresh fruit called Bublanina – a close relative of the French clafoutis.
The idea of a Bublanina is that the cake batter bubbles up around the fresh fruit. The trick is to use enough fruit that’s fresh enough that the cake is moist and fruity, but not so much that it’s damp and soggy. There’s no prescription about what fruit to use: it’s really a case of whatever’s in season. In the middle of a London winter, I went for blueberries (which are presumably in season somewhere across the globe), but strawberries, cherries, peaches and plums are all possible.
You have various options on the batter. At one of the end, you can just shove everything into a bowl and mix it; at the other, you can separate the eggs and pack air into the whites as a raising agent, soufflé-style. You can make the batter more traditional by using some semolina flour, can emulate the clafoutis by adding ground almonds, you can use various flavourings (vanilla, orange or lemon zest, Grand Marnier, etc). I’ve kept it simple and gone with a recipe from czechcookbook.com by Kristýna Koutná, a native of Brno, one of my favourite places in Czech; I’ve added lemon zest and changed the amount of flour slightly (my batter was definitely coming out runnier than Kristýna’s video).
A couple of notes on the photos: (1) I used 250g of blueberries, which was all I had. 400-500g would have been better. (2) The ingredients shot is missing the vanilla and lemon.
- Butter for greasing cake tin
- 320g plain flour (plus 20g or so for sprinkling)
- 200g sugar (plus 30g or so for sprinkling)
- 8g baking powder
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 240 ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 40 ml oil
- Vanilla extract to taste
- 400g fresh fruit in season
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 180℃ fan
- Grease a cake tin or baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish or around 30cm x 20cm, but you can use any shape you like). Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
- If you’re using fruit like peaches or large strawberries that need to be cut up, do so now: make sure the fruit isn’t too wet.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, sugar and baking powder and blend.
- Add lemon zest, eggs, milk and oil
- With the standard beater, mix until smooth – do not overbeat.
- Pour the batter into your cake tin or dish
- Lay out the fruit on the batter. If it sinks, it doesn’t matter.
- Sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top.
- Bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown on top
- Leave to cool
- Dust with icing sugar before serving
You can eat bublanina warm or cool it to room temperature. If you find it a bit dry on its own (particularly if, like me, you were a bit short of fruit), add a fruit coulis.