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Category Archives: Cakes

Frangipane Fig Tart



So it’s fig season, as I talked about in my last post. While the weather in February is not to my taste – hot and very humid – the month is a ripper for bountiful, beautiful fresh fruit. Apricots, yellow and white peaches, nectarines, blood plums, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, passionfruit and wonderful figs are ripe and plentiful.

Before I talk all things fruit, I need to acknowledge the awful weather conditions we are experiencing in NSW this summer, quite unprecedented. We have endured horrific bush fires and now floods. Absolutely devastating for the communities directly affected, but even here in Sydney we have had weeks of heat, sometimes extreme, and constant smoke haze. The recent floods last weekend (8 and 9 February) affected Sydney too. Torrential rain inundated Sydney. Living just 5 kms from the city, I narrowly avoided a flood in my house as the waters rose, filling my courtyard garden. All was well in the end.

So it is a credit to all those farmers who have managed to keep on producing our lovely summer fruit and veg through such times of trial, ensuring that we have been able to enjoy summer’s bounty. Thank you, we appreciate what you do to bring us your produce.

Here’s a big shout out to some places where I source my fruit:

Harris Farm Markets, which focuses on seasonality and has the best no waste approach to produce. They espouse the principle of “ugly fruit” – selling at a reduced price misshapen fruit and veg which is perfectly good to eat.

Of course there’s the wonderful Orange Grove Organic Markets, my local farmer’s market where everything is fresh and so delicious!

Having sung the praises of these two produce outlets, I should also mention that my local supermarket, Woolworths, has a pretty good range of seasonal fruit too.

Now to the recipe! This is SO easy! You can knock this together in under an hour. I call it a tart as it’s not quite a cake. You could bake it in a tart tin, but I prefer a small springform pan.

You could make this tart with figs, or stone fruit such as apricots or plums. Or bake it just with a swirl of chocolate hazelnut paste.

A note on chocolate hazelnut paste: this is a great addition to the tart, but it works perfectly well without it too.

I used an amazing product, acquired on my recent trip to Wellington, New Zealand – Fix and Fogg’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. Utterly delicious and addictive!

Ferrero’s Nutella works really well too, and is pretty much available worldwide.

Ingredients

110g unsalted butter, softened 

110g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

130g ground almonds

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons or to taste chocolate hazelnut paste

3-4 fresh figs

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease an 18cm (7 inch) spring form pan, and line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, ground almonds and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor, or you could use an electric mixer.

Blitz or mix the ingredients until you have a smooth paste with no lumps. Don’t over mix. Stir in the plain flour and baking powder.

Swirl a tablespoon of the chocolate hazelnut paste through the frangipane mixture. Halve the figs and place on top. Use as many or few of the available halves as you like – for some reason I liked 7!

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dollop small teaspoonfuls of chocolate hazelnut paste into the cavities of the figs once the tart is completely cool.

Serve with cream or yoghurt and a little more chocolate hazelnut paste spooned over the top. 

Fig and Walnut Cake



It’s fig season and I have just picked up a lovely box of figs at a good price. Up until now they’ve been a little pricey, but February seems to be the start of fig bounty which will last till the end of March.

I made this cake at almost the same time in February last year. I’m posting again as I think the recipe is pretty good, and in preparation for the new fig creation that is to come from the aforementioned box of figs!

This recipe for walnut cake is based on my almond cake recipe that I usually make with stone fruit. I have a couple of versions on this blog. This time, I used walnuts, as I was looking for a robust flavour to go with some caramelised figs. In the almond cake recipe, I use bought ground almonds, whereas in this recipe I take whole walnuts and whizz them in the food processor to make ground walnuts with some little nutty bits still remaining. This gives the cake a nice texture. 

The cake is drizzled with a coffee caramel syrup, and figs which have been poached in this syrup are placed on top. I also put some fresh figs on top which worked well too. But the caramelised figs are nicer.


Ingredients

Cake
150g butter
100g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
150g walnuts
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Coffee Caramel 
3 tablespoons caster sugar
75mls good coffee liqueur- I used Mr Black from Botanica Distillery in NSW, a cold brew coffee liquor. Any liqueur is fine!
A few splashes of water up to 50mls to thin syrup to pouring consistency
3 figs, cut in half for poaching, or 2 or 3 fresh figs.

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse, stopping every so often to make sure you don’t over process. You want some chunky bits as well as some fine ground walnuts. Set aside, but don’t bother washing the processor!

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse well.
Fold in ground walnuts, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put the mixture into the springform and bake for about 45 minutes  or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

While the cake is baking, make the caramel.

For the coffee caramel, put the caster sugar in a small frying pan or saucepan and dissolve the sugar gently over a low heat. Don’t stir the sugar or it will crystallise! Once the sugar is dissolved, cook until it turns light brown, sort of tea coloured. Take it off the heat and add the coffee liqueur carefully, as the caramel is hot. You can add some water if the syrup is too thick. If the caramel has already turned to toffee, don’t worry. Just gently heat the caramel with the liqueur over low heat and the toffee will dissolve. 

Put 6 of the fig halves into the coffee syrup and poach for a couple of minutes over a low heat until the figs are slightly softened.

Once the cake is out of the oven, and while it is still hot, pierce the top a few times with a skewer and pour a few teaspoonfuls of the syrup over the cake.

Serve the cake with the poached figs on top, with a little more syrup drizzled over the figs, and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or decorate the cake with the plain figs, or a combination of poached and fresh, and a little of the syrup and yoghurt or cream. Either way it’s delicious.

Christmas Pudding Leftovers Strudel

It’s 6 January, Twelfth Night, and I’ve just taken down the Christmas decorations and returned my little living Christmas tree back to the fresh air in the garden.

I love Christmas pudding, but invariably always have some left over. So when I discovered Jamie Oliver’s fabulous recipe for Christmas Pudding Strudel, I was excited to find another way of serving up the remains of our delicious pudding.

It’s a lovely way to reinvent Christmas pudding leftovers and make something really yummy and quite special. I blogged this way back in 2015, but I thought it was worth reblogging in 2020! It’s basically layers of filo pastry, filled with grated apple, pear or quince, crumbled Christmas pudding and a surprise chocolate centre.

Ingredients

12 sheets filo pastry – if frozen, thaw.  I mention in my original post that perhaps you could use less filo, as 12 layers is a little too much

125 g butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

100 g demerara sugar + more for dusting when serving

4 ginger nut biscuits

400 g leftover Christmas pudding

3 apples or pears or 2 quinces or a mixture of the three

50 g good-quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced.  Lay out 6 sheets of filo pastry on a clean tea towel, overlapping each by an inch or so, so they cover the tea towel.
The filo should cover the tea towel completely, with just a little overhang at one of the shorter ends.

Work quickly so your pastry doesn’t dry out and brush some melted butter all over it. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and 50 g of the sugar, then crumble over your ginger nut biscuits to add crunch. Carefully layer the rest of the pastry sheets on top and brush again with butter.

Use your hands to crumble the Christmas pudding into a bowl then grate in the fruit, everything except the cores. (Jamie says to use the cores  – I don’t think you need them.) You want to have about the same amount of grated fruit as you’ve got pudding. Add about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and mix it all together to break up the pudding a bit more. Sprinkle this all over the pastry so it’s roughly covered, leaving the overhang clear. Place the chocolate in a row on top of the Christmas pudding, down the short side nearest the overhang. 

Fold the overhang over the chocolate and pinch it up, then lift up your tea towel, and use it to help you carefully roll up your strudel. Tuck the ends under to seal it and transfer to a large nonstick baking tray. Brush it all over with butter then sprinkle over a little more sugar. If it looks a bit rough, you could wrap an extra layer of filo round it before cooking to make it neater. Bake in the hot oven for about 40 minutes until crisp and golden. You may get a split once cooked – I agree with Jamie that that would add to the rustic effect!

Leave to cool, then use a serrated knife to cut the strudel into 5 cm slices.

Note: This recipe makes quite a large strudel –the photos here are of half the strudel.

Christmas Cake 2019

I know it’s a little late, well let’s face it, it’s very late, to be posting about Christmas cake on Christmas Eve! But I really wanted to show some lovely photos of the cake I made for John, and his charming decorations with a definite Australian touch!

Readers of this blog will have seen a few posts in the past of the recipe for the Christmas cake. It’s a family recipe, handed down through the generations. It’s a dark fruit cake, full of dried fruit and glacé fruit and spices. The full recipe is big: 12 eggs, half a kilo of butter and of sugar, one and half kilos of dried fruit and a kilo of glacé fruit! As well as flour, spices, essences and alcohol etc.

This year I made the big mixture. I was able to bake 2 large cakes from this, and even managed a baby one with some leftover mixture.

One of the big cakes went to John, long time friend and a connoisseur of good food. I ice my cakes with a covering of home made marzipan, then top with royal icing. The cakes are a blank canvas on which you can create whatever decoration you fancy. John had a few ideas, but the lead photos are my favourites, as they feature a beautiful banksia cone as decoration. Banksias are an interesting Australian species, and the startling looking cones were the inspiration for Mae Gibbs’ Big Bad Banksia Men from her wonderful “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie”.

So here is the link to the Christmas cake recipe. This post has the recipes for the big cake, and what I call the medium cake, that is, a cake that is made with half of the ingredients of the mother cake.

And the photos are of John’s cake – well done, your decorations look great!

Festive Christmas Desserts

It’s 14 December. Just 11 more sleeps till Christmas! My Christmas baking is well under way, that is, I have made an awful lot of gingerbread and shortbread this last week, to give as small gifts to friends and colleagues.

I haven’t completely settled on a menu for the day itself. In Australia it’s usually hot, but we have sometimes had a chilly spell taking everyone by surprise. I usually cover both weather situations by having the festive meats hot accompanied by lots of cold salads.

Hmmm. Dessert. What to do this year? I have 4 main Chrissie desserts. Trifle – everyone’s favourite. Ice cream bombe, great for those hot days. A tiramisu style dessert for something a little different. Or the Great Australian Dessert, pavlova! Always a winner in my experience.

I know which way I’m going this year, but you’ll have to wait a bit before the big reveal.

I thought it would be good to recap some desserts that I’ve made at Christmas over the years. Maybe you might even get some inspiration if you’re looking for the perfect end to the meal!

Here are the links to some sweet treats, in no particular order, that I have made for Christmas in the past, or that would be perfect on the big day.

Peach, Passionfruit and BlackBerry Meringue Trifle – my own concoction and full of all the flavours I love at Christmas!

Christmas Pudding Cake, a Nigella Lawson recipe that celebrates tiramisu and trifle.

Christmas Festive Trifle, based on a very bright and colourful Queen Vanilla recipe.

Pavlova with Blackberries, Raspberries and Toasted Macadamias, a fabulous dessert whipped up by a wonderful friend who has a deft touch with pavlovas!

Christmas Cherry Cheesecake Semifreddo, a lovely ice cream bombe from Jamie Oliver.

Victoria Sponge

I love having morning and afternoon teas. It’s a great way to catch up with friends and I like the fact that I can prepare everything in advance, from cakes to scones to sandwiches.

A big favourite is my Victoria Sponge. It’s a delicious cake, and filled with jam or cream, it’s so more-ish. The recipe is based on one from James and Tom Morton’s “Shetland, Cooking on the Edge of the World”.

James describes in vivid detail his grandmother’s recipe. It really is a tribute to her baking skills and to recipes handed down through the family.

Now Queen Victoria would not be at all amused, as I fill my sponge with cream. Sacrilege I know, but I love the ooze of softly whipped cream on top of jam in between those delicious sponge layers!

Ingredients 

150g salted butter

150g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 medium free-range eggs

150g self raising flour 

1/2 tsp baking powder

Full fat milk, to loosen mixture

To fill and decorate

Strawberry or raspberry or mixed berry jam, homemade or store bought, 

200 mls cream, whipped 

Icing sugar or caster sugar, for the top of the cake

Fresh and crystallised rose petals 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease 2 18cm (7 inch) cake tins with butter, really really well.

Take a large piece baking or parchment paper, fold in half, and draw a circle around one of the tins. With the drawing as a guide, cut out 2 circles.  Line the base of each cake tin with the paper circles. 

Heat the butter in a microwave or in a saucepan on the stove top, to the point where half the butter is just melted, and the rest is soft. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs into a mixing bowl, or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and whisk on medium speed until the mixture is very pale and thick, almost mousse like.

Sieve the flour and baking powder, and fold these in gently using a metal spoon, being careful not to overmix. When the mixture is nearly smooth, add a little milk, a dash at a time, to loosen the mixture “until it falls from the spoon in a swift wave”.

Spoon the mixture into the tins, gently smoothing flat. Put the cakes into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and the cakes bounce back when gently pressed.

Take out of the oven, and cool in the tins for 10 minutes. Run a butter or palette knife around the edge of the tins to free the sides. Carefully turn the cakes onto a wire cooling rack. Peel off the baking/parchment paper. Leave to completely cool.

Place one cake, upside down on the plate or cake stand you intend to serve the cake on. Spread with the jam, and then spoon or pipe on the whipped cream. Place the other cake on top. 

Dust with icing or caster sugar, sieved over the cake. I like to serve the cake with fresh and crystallised rose petals.

For the crystallised rose petals:

Take one lovely rose, hopefully growing in your garden, and gently wash and dry each petal. Lightly beat an egg white, with a few drops of rosewater, in a small shallow bowl. Dip each petal in the beaten egg white, shaking off any excess. Put 75g caster sugar on a large plate. Dip each petal in the caster sugar, again shaking off the excess. Place the petals on baking paper on a tray, to dry, in a warm place. 

The petals are quite fragile, but will last a couple of days. They are very useful for decorating cakes, biscuits and tarts. And adding the rosewater intensifies the rose flavour!


Ruby Sunrise Marmalade

My last two posts have incorporated marmalade because once I’ve made a batch I just have to use it in my cooking! My Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding and Blueberry and Marmalade Tea Cakes are more delicious because of the addition of Ruby Sunrise Marmalade.

I’m a huge fan of marmalade, and I’m always willing to try different citrus fruits in search of something a little different. I have to admit though, that my traditional marmalade using seville oranges, is not as good as some of my other marmalades and jams. Seville orange marmalade is clearly a work in progress..

Ruby Sunrise Marmalade is so named because of its rich orange-red hue, a little like a beautiful Sydney sunrise. It’s surprisingly simple – just three different kinds of fruit – blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. I only make small quantities at a time, so this batch was made with one each of the blood orange and grapefruit and two mandarins.

Great with toast, or adds a touch of tangy citrus to desserts.

Ingredients

1 blood orange 

1 ruby grapefruit 

3 mandarins (thin skinned preferable)

Water to cover fruit

Sugar

Method

Cut the fruit in half. Chop into segments, peel and pith included. Remove as many pips as you can. You want strips of citrus so that your marmalade is chunky. Put the fruit into a heavy bottomed saucepan.

Cover the fruit generously with water, making sure you have enough in the pan so that the fruit does not boil dry. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit is tender. This should take from between 30-45 minutes.

Measure the pulp and the remaining liquid. Return to the pan adding 1.5 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of pulp. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Cook until setting point is reached  – 20 to 30 minutes. I use the saucer test* to check for setting point. Leave for 10 minutes before stirring gently. Pour carefully into sterilised jars and leave to cool.

* Testing for setting point
Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside. Take out a small saucer previously placed in the freezer, and spoon a little liquid onto the saucer, then return to the freezer for 1 minute. Push the marmalade along the plate with your finger. If setting point has been reached then the marmalade surface will wrinkle slightly and the marmalade won’t run back straight away. If it’s not at setting point, return to the heat and boil again for  a few more minutes (maximum 5 minutes) before re-testing. Repeat until setting point is reached.

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