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Category Archives: Dessert

Vanilla and White Chocolate Fun Cake

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Here’s one from the vault – a simple vanilla and white chocolate cake pimped with some hundreds and thousands or sprinkles.

Usually these are just used as decoration on the icing on top of the cake, but I folded a few through the cake batter too – for a bit more fun!

This is a beautiful moist butter cake with a rich vanilla and white chocolate flavour. It is a colourful cake with hundreds and thousands baked into the mixture and sprinkled on top.

Lots of butter cream icing flavoured with vanilla paste makes it really yummy!

Butter Cake

Ingredients

250 gms butter softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup milk

100 gms white chocolate, melted

A handful to taste of hundreds and thousands

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease and line a 22 cm round cake tin.

Beat butter, extract and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in flour and milk in 2 batches.  Stir in melted white chocolate. Gently mix in hundreds and thousands.

Spread mixture into the tin. Bake about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of  cake comes out clean. Stand in cake tin until cake is cool. Turn out onto wire rack.

Butter Icing

3 tbls softened butter

Enough icing sugar to make a butter cream

1 tbs milk

1 tsp vanilla paste

2 tsps hundreds and thousands

Method

Cream butter with icing sugar, adding more icing sugar and the milk to make a smooth paste. Add vanilla paste.

The main thing is to add as much icing sugar sugar as is necessary to reach the required icing consistency that will be thick enough to stay on the cake but not too stiff.

Ice the cake, top and sides, and scatter hundreds and thousands on top of the cake.

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Poached Quince Tart



May 2020. Two months into isolation in the era of Covid 19. Things are looking a little brighter – Australia has some great statistics in dealing with the virus, and some restrictions are being lifted. I was very excited to be able to visit the wonderful Orange Grove Market the Saturday before last, the market opened again for fresh food. I’ll be there this Saturday, eager to pick up some lovely local  produce.

Autumn in Sydney means the start of the quince season, and I bought some beautiful quince the other day. With no particular recipe in mind, I just needed their heady perfume in the kitchen.
Of course I had to cook with them – I poached them to a deep, deep red ruby colour, in a sugar syrup and vanilla. I put half the poached quince into a short crust pastry tart, and I’ll be making a fabulous quince crumble/betty recipe with the rest this weekend.
Here’s the tart recipe. There’s no other filling apart from the quince – you could fill it first with a frangipane or creme patissiere, but I think pastry, quince and a good spoonful of cream or Greek yoghurt is sufficient.
Ingredients

Poached quince
2 quince

300g caster sugar

500ml water

Thinly peeled rind and juice of an orange

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 tablespoon butter

Short Crust Pastry
250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g unsalted butter (cold)

Zest of half a lemon

1 free-range egg

Splash of milk

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. You will need a large casserole that you can put on the stove top and then transfer to the oven. A cast iron casserole is ideal.
Peel and core the quinces, reserving the peel and cores. Cut each quince into eighths, but don’t worry if you can’t cut neat slices – quinces are notoriously hard to manage!
Put the sugar, water, orange rind and vanilla bean into a large casserole on the stove top over a medium heat, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add the quince pieces. Cover the quinces with a cartouche, a circle of baking paper. Lay the peel and cores on top of the baking paper. Place the lid on the casserole and put in the pre-heated oven.
Bake until the quince is ruby red. This should take about 4-6 hours. You should check the quince after 3 hours to see if it is turning red. Remove the quince and strain and reserve the quince liquid. You can discard the peel and cores. Keep the vanilla bean, dry it and pop it in a jar of sugar to create vanilla flavoured sugar.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar together, and put into the bowl of a food processor.   Add the cubed butter. Carefully pulse the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the lemon zest.
Mix the egg and a splash of milk, and add this to the mixture, and pulse a few times until the dough comes together into a ball. If you’re having trouble, you can add some iced water, literally a drop or two at a time, to help form the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as it will end up being tough.
Place a large piece of baking paper or cling film on your work surface. Tip the dough from the food processor onto the baking paper/cling film, and pat into a round. Cover the round with more paper/cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, or 170 degrees C fan forced. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Grease an 18cm (7inch) tart tin. A 20cm tin would work too, you would simply roll the pastry a little thinner.
The easiest way to roll out the pastry is between 2 sheets of baking paper. Put the pastry onto one sheet, cover with the other sheet, and using a rolling pin, roll into a round big enough to fit into your tart tin. Ease the rolled pastry into the tin.  Put the tin into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, to make sure the pastry is really cold.
Remove the tin from the freezer. Line the tin with baking paper, and fill with pie weights. Dried beans or rice will work just as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

To assemble the tart, carefully take the tart shell from the tin and place on a plate. Choose the nicest pieces of quince and arrange in the tart shell.
Put about 50mls of the reserved quince liquid into a saucepan with the tablespoon of butter, and cook until the butter is incorporated.
Spoon a little of this quince buttery liquid over the tart, which will give it a nice glaze. I scattered a few sprigs of my favourite herb, lemon thyme, over the tart. Serve with spoonfuls of the aforementioned cream or Greek yoghurt!

Cherry and Apricot Upside Down Cakes


Today I’m posting easy and delicious recipes for upside down cakes.  And they can be made with store cupboard ingredients!

I thought it would be good to give bakers, and particularly novice bakers, a simple recipe for a cake that uses basic ingredients, can be whipped up in a flash, with or without specialist equipment.

And don’t be put off by all the instructions – both cakes really are super easy!

I made two, a cherry almond upside down cake, and an apricot upside down cake. I made the cherry one first, then realised that not everyone has bottled cherries and ground almonds lying around in the pantry. But I figured that everyone has tinned or canned fruit like apricots – peaches or plums or pineapple are just as good – and ordinary flour, in the cupboard.

I make this cake in various forms all the time. The flour version is a basic cake mix that is good for cupcakes and bigger, iced or layered cakes. The almond version makes a frangipane cake, very moist and a perfect receptacle for fruit.

And putting the fruit on the bottom is genius – making a lovely, sticky, fruity topping.

I make the cakes in the food processor. It’s really simple and fast.  You could use a stand mixer, or hand held electric beaters. Or beat the old fashioned way with a spoon. So anyone can make these cakes, regardless of what kitchen equipment you have!

You will need an 18cm (7inch) cake tin. Bigger is fine, the cake will just be a little flatter.

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients
400g pitted cherries from a jar or tin/can*
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
125g ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

*A jar is about 670g, a tin/can is about 415g

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced. Butter a 18cm/7 inch cake tin thoroughly, and place a circle of baking paper on the base of the tin.

Combine butter and sugar using a food processor/ electric mixer/spoon, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add eggs one at a time and mix well well. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy or curdled, it will come together once the almonds and flour are added.

Fold in the ground almonds, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Drain the cherries from their juices, reserving the syrup. Place the cherries onto the baking paper in the tin. You can be artful and make a pattern, or just place them any old how.

Carefully spoon the mixture on top of the cherries into the tin. Smooth out the dollops, but don’t worry too much, the mixture will even out in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake. This cakes takes a while to cook. Start checking at 45 minutes and take out of the oven once cooked. Cool in the tin 10 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the reserved syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and is thick and syrupy.

Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate, and peel off the baking paper. The cake will now have a lovely cherry top! Spoon some of the reduced syrup over the cake, as much or little as you wish. Personally, I like it with lots of syrup and really gooey!

Apricot Upside Down Cake 

The recipe is pretty much the same, but I have written it again just to highlight the different ingredients and slightly different method.

Ingredients
400g apricot halves from a tin/can *
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

*Peach slices, plum halves or pineapple rings will work well too, all from a tin/can

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced. Butter a 18cm/7 inch cake tin thoroughly, and place a circle of baking paper on the base of the tin.

Combine butter and sugar using a food processor/ electric mixer/spoon, with vanilla extract or paste. Add eggs one at a time and mix well well. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy or curdled, it will come together once the flour is added.

Fold in the plain flour, baking powder and salt. Using only flour can mean a drier mixture, if the mixture is too stiff, loosen it with a tablespoon of milk.

Drain the apricots from their juices, reserving any syrup. Place the apricots onto the baking paper in the tin. You can be artful and make a pattern, or just place them any old how.

Carefully spoon the mixture on top of the apricots into the tin. Smooth out the dollops, but don’t worry too much, the mixture will even out in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake. This cakes takes a while to cook. Start checking at 45 minutes and take out of the oven once cooked. Cool in the tin 10 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the reserved syrup in a small saucepan. If there is not enough syrup, add a tablespoon of apricot jam if you’ve got it, or honey or maple syrup. You really just want a sweet glaze to go over the cake! Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced.

Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate, and peel off the baking paper. The cake will now have a lovely apricot top! Spoon some of the reduced syrup over the cake, as much or little as you wish, to give a delicious sticky glaze.

 

 

 

Apple and Almond Orchard Cake

 


I made a cake last week for a communal dinner – First Friday Feast – where the theme was “from the ground up”. Lots of ideas sprang to mind, and I eventually settled on the orchard theme, apples and almonds that grow in the orchard, and are obviously above the ground. The orchard theme is particularly appropriate as Sydney finally heads into autumn after a sweltering summer.

The recipe is a version of Diana Henry’s Swedish Apple, Almond and Cardamom Cake from her column in the UK Telegraph, see here for the original recipe.

I substituted cinnamon and a little ginger for the cardamom as I’m not a huge cardamom fan. I currently have some lovely fragrant cinnamon from Vietnam, which I love using in bakes.

Here’s the recipe. I served the cake with some lovely glacé fruit, orange slices and apricots and fresh herbs. I also made my own version of muscatels by slow roasting some black grapes in a very low oven. Possibly not worth the time, when muscatels are so readily available, but they certainly had a lovely caramelised flavour.

Ingredients

150g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

175g light brown sugar

50g marzipan, broken into little chunks

3 large free range eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon almond extract

4 Granny Smith apples

175g plain flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

75g ground almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons milk, if needed

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons apricot jam, to glaze

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Butter and line the base of 
a 23cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the pieces of marzipan – the marzipan will break down and become amalgamated. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the almond extract.

Peel, core and chop two of the apples Into small pieces and stir them into the mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and add the ground almonds, cinnamon  and ginger. Gently fold this mixture into the batter, adding it in three lots. If the mixture is really stiff,  add the milk.

Peel the other apples, halve, core and cut them into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with the sugar.

Spoon the batter into the springform tin and arrange the apple wedges on top in concentric circles. Be neat, but no need to be too fussy!

Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cover the top with aluminium foil if it looks like it’s browning too quickly.

Cool the cake for about 
15 minutes, then remove the outer ring. By sliding a knife between the cake and the base, carefully move the cake from the base. Quickly invert the cake and peel off the baking paper, and invert again. Carefully put the cake right side up on to a plate and leave to cool completely.

To glaze cake, put the apricot jam in a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water and heat until the jam is liquid. You will need to sieve the jam to make sure it’s smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the jam over the top of the cake.

Serve with glacé fruit or fresh fruit or even some bunches of green herbs. Cake is always good with whipped cream or ice cream!

Sweet Grape Focaccia



Recently I held another bread making workshop for friends. I really enjoy passing on the knowledge I have gained about creating beautiful bread from scratch, all from my own hands on experience and trial and error baking.

We talked a lot about sourdough, as I am a self confessed sourdough nut! My friends who are scientists, were really impressed when I showed them the wonderful growth that happens when you feed a sourdough starter!

However, I was keen to show my friends how easy it is to make bread using commercial dried yeast. So we made two breads, a simple free form shaped loaf and a sweet grape focaccia, both made with the same dough.

Here is the recipe for the grape focaccia. It’s a really easy, quick bread. It’s not traditional, but a simple adaptation of a bread recipe that you can knock out in a short time, if you’re looking for a sweet bread fix!

Ingredients 

425g strong white flour

10g table salt

7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

325ml tepid water

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar

Enough black grapes to cover the focaccia

Optional – a few sprigs of lemon thyme

Olive oil

Method

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side. This is because the salt can stop the yeast from working.

Add the tepid water and mix together to form a dough, using your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl. Now knead the dough for a minimum of 5 minutes up to 10 minutes. You can knead the dough in the bowl, stretching and folding the dough. An easy way to do this is to gently grab a section of the dough, stretch it and fold back over the remainder of the dough in the bowl.

Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Keep this up until the dough is noticeably smooth. A good way to see if the dough is well kneaded is to do the window pane test. Gently pull a little section of the dough with both hands and the dough should stretch without breaking and be translucent.

Cover the dough and rest for 45 minutes to one hour until the dough has doubled in size. My favourite way to cover the dough is with a plastic shower cap, but a tea towel will do as well.

Take the dough out of the bowl and move on to a floured surface. Now for the shaping of the focaccia. Flour your hands and shape the dough into a rough rectangle, pulling it into shape.

Lightly oil a baking tray. Place the shaped rectangular dough onto the oiled tray. Loosely cover, this time with a large tea towel, and leave to prove for an hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed.

During this hour prove, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before baking.

Remove the tea towel from the proved dough. To make the recognisable focaccia dimples, gently press your fingers all over the dough.

Scatter the brown sugar over the dough. How much you scatter is up to you, but you need at least 2 tablespoons. Remember there is no sugar in the bread dough. Put the grapes over the dough, again using as many as you like. At this point, you can scatter a few sprigs of lemon thyme over the focaccia. The lemon thyme adds a lovely piquant flavour. Dribble a little olive over the focaccia dough.

Place the focaccia into the oven on a low or middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. The focaccia should be a deep brown and the grapes dark and oozing juice.

Serve warm on its own, or with cream or ice cream. I like to serve slices of the focaccia smeared with sour cream.

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.

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