Sugar & Spice Loaf Cake - The Island Oven

by Elizabeth Atia -

Peat Bog Brownies have taken Shetland by storm! The Island Oven's dense, fudgy, chewy chocolatey awesome brownies have quickly become a very popular bake here in Shetland. When Siân moved to Shetland from London a year ago she had no idea she would end up making a whole range of delicious home bakes for the Mareel cafe in Lerwick, nor that her home bakes would be sold in shops up and down the islands!

I first met Siân at the Shetland Food Fair last November and I knew, when I started writing for A Taste of Shetland, that I wanted to interview her and find out more about her story. So, last week I put down my mountain of Viking cloak sewing and paid her a visit.

Siân started making brownies when she was studying drama at university in Manchester. She had no previous baking experience except for baking with her mother and grandmother while growing up in Poole, England. She's always loved home baking, she says.

In the Spring of last year, Siân followed her partner up to Shetland, settling in the picturesque village of Reawick, on the west side of Shetland. Siân runs the theatre company Stomping Ground and while she was waiting for her drama work to establish here in Shetland she needed to do something to occupy her time, so she baked.

Siân approached Jay Hawkins of Shetland Cheese Ltd. in Skeld, who runs a small cafe in his Creamery, to see if he might be interested in selling her brownies. He agreed and the Peat Bog Brownie legacy was born! Jay began selling Siân's loaf cakes and brownies and planted the seed in Siân's head that this could become a viable business.

The Island Oven was established soon afterwards.

"Setting up a business like this in Shetland was really easy", Siân says."Shetland has been really supportive of my low-scale small business. Opportunities for being an entrepreneur up here in Shetland are vast, and it helps that people really seem to enjoy cake!"

The Island Oven began supplying the Mareel Cafe, in Lerwick, in July 2013. This was a key moment in establishing her business, Siân says. She's now known as the cake-lady (but secretly wishes she could also be known as the theatre-lady!). The Island Oven now supplies the Shetland Cheese cafe, Sizzle Sisters mobile catering, Robinson & Morrison in Weisdale, Scoop Wholefoods in Lerwick and the Bigton Community Shop on the south mainland. She also welcomes bespoke orders for individual cakes.

All the recipes made by The Island Oven are her own, developed from years of tinkering and baking experience. Her range of Peat Bog Brownies are ever expanding including original, fiery chilli (my personal favourite), Jaffa and salted caramel, as well as a gluten free variety. Local ingredients are always used, when possible. Her loaf cakes are also very popular, from her honey nut, apple crumble and espresso chocolate, and this sugar and spice loaf cake, the recipe for which she is kindly sharing with you all so you can make your own at home!

Sugar & Spice Loaf Cake

Course: Main

Servings: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 63 minutes

  • Shetland butter - 190 grams (room temperature)
  • Caster sugar - 190 grams
  • Free range eggs - 3
  • Plain flour - 190 grams
  • Ground cinnamon - 2 tsp
  • Ground ginger - 2 tsp
  • Baking powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1/4 tsp
  • Shetland Dairies buttermilk - 1 tbsp
  • Honey - 1.5 tbsp
  • Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
  • Sultanas - 80 grams (optional)
  • Icing sugar - (to sieve, optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C (Fan oven) and grease or line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Cream butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Make sure it is really nice and soft.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one. If the mixture curdles keep going, Siân says it will be fine!
  4. Sift in flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Stir until well combined.
  5. Add buttermilk, honey and vanilla and mix well.
  6. Fold in sultanas, if using, and spoon into prepared loaf tin, smoothing over the top with a spatula.
  7. Bake for 23 minutes, loosely cover with tin foil and bake for a further 40 minutes (this is in Siân's oven - my conventional oven took a further 10 minutes to bake). The top will be golden and a skewer, when inserted, will come out clean.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and sieve with icing sugar if desired. Eat warm, but leftovers will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container.

Add chopped nuts if you like, or nutmeg and orange zest for a Christmas taste, replacing the honey with black treacle.

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