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Category Archives: Dessert

Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake

This is such a well known cake – I guess every cafe in Sydney makes a version and every other home baker makes it too.

Claudia Rosen wrote about it in “A Book of Middle Eastern Food”, first published in 1968. My family have been making it for almost as long, way before it became a cafe staple.

So I thought I’d post the recipe, with Claudia’s pared down instructions as well as my tips. Here’s a little bit of background from Claudia about the cake:

This is a Sephardic Jewish cake, brought to the Middle East by the Sephardic Jews when they migrated from Spain and Portugal in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It’s a cake that is served at Passover, as it’s made with ground almonds instead of flour.

This is a food processor cake, as I mix the whole thing in the food processor. Very easy and it saves on washing up!

Recently I had an online baking session where I made the cake with a friend, with some great results! I’ve included some photos of both of our cakes.

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

Cake

2 large oranges

6 free-range eggs

250g caster sugar

250g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

Glaze

200g icing sugar

Juice of half of an additional orange

Method

Put the 2 whole oranges into a saucepan large enough to hold the oranges. Cover completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cook the oranges for 1 1/2 hours or longer until soft.

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced. Grease a 21cm or 22cm spring form pan. Line the base of the tin with baking paper.

When the oranges are cool, remove from the water. Cut in half and remove any pips. Put into a food processor and blitz to a rough purée. It’s ok if there are a few small lumps in the purée, you just don’t want any big lumps.

Beat the eggs with a fork to break them up. Add the beaten eggs to the food processor, with the sugar. Pulse until the eggs and sugar are really well combined. Add the ground almonds and baking powder and pulse to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for 1 – 1/4 hours or until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. This cake is very moist, so it will take at least 1 hour or longer to bake.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. After 10 minutes carefully run a palette knife round the edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake. When the cake is completely cool, remove from the pan and place on a serving plate.

To make the glaze, mix the icing sugar with enough of the orange juice to make an icing of dripping consistency. Using a palette knife, spread the glaze over the top of the cake. You could decorate with fresh flowers or herbs if you like.

Serve on its own, in large slices, for morning or afternoon tea or as a dessert. Lovely with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt.

Ultimate Victoria Sponge

Victoria sponge is the centrepiece of a traditional tea table. It’s one of my favourite cakes and I’ve been making the recipe on repeat over this winter in Sydney, trying to get exactly the right consistency. It’s a labour of love!

I’ve blogged another version before, see here. That is a great recipe, but I’ve since refined my technique if not the ingredients, to make my current version.

The secret to this recipe is making a sabayon with the eggs and sugar, as you would with a Genoise sponge, before adding the other ingredients. This isn’t a Genoise, but the technique works well. The other secret is cooking the cake at 160 degrees C, a relatively low temperature.

And you need to fill the cake with both strawberry jam and strawberries! As well as lashings of cream of course!

Here’s the recipe. These quantities will make 3x20cm layers or 2x23cm layers. I’ve included the quantities for a smaller cake at the end of the recipe.

Ingredients

Sponge cakes

4 free-range eggs at room temperature

200g caster sugar

200g butter

11/2 tablespoons tepid milk

200g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Filling

200g strawberry jam (homemade is good)

300g fresh strawberries

250ml whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease the baking tins, whether you are using 3 tins or 2. Line the bottom of the tins with baking paper.

In an electric mixer using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar for 5-8 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is tripled in volume.

Meanwhile carefully melt the butter in the microwave.

With the motor running, pour the melted butter into the mixture. Add the tepid milk. Turn the mixer off and fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture using a metal spoon, being careful not to lose too much volume.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins, smoothing the tops if necessary.

Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake cones out clean.

Remove from the oven and cook in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful with step – these sponges can be quite fragile!

While the cakes are cooling, whip the cream and the vanilla to soft peaks.

Once the cakes are quite cold, you can assemble them with the filling. Place one cake on serving plate. Spread half the strawberry jam over the layer. Spread half whipped cream on top of the jam. Top with 1/3 halved strawberries (quartered if they’re big).

Place another layer on top and repeat fillings.

(If you’re only making 2 layers, then adjust the quantities of jam, cream and berries.)

Place the top layer on the cake. Dust with icing sugar and place some whole strawberries on top of the cake.

This cake is best cut and eaten a couple of hours after being made. That way the flavours have developed and soaked into the sponge. And while it’s best to eat the cake on the day, it’s still pretty delicious the next day, that is if there’s any left!

Small Cake Ingredients

Cake

2 free-range eggs at room temperature

125g caster sugar

125g butter

1 tablespoon tepid milk

125g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Filling

100g strawberry jam (homemade is good)

150g strawberries

125mls whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons icing sugar

This cake can be baked in 2x20cm tins for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Lovers’ Chocolate Cake

I don’t often make chocolate cake, and I’m not really sure why. Because really, a chocolate cake is a wonderful thing – a rich, moist, chocolatey cake that can go from morning tea through lunch and on to afternoon tea, and end up as a dessert at dinner time!

A former work colleague gave me this recipe a while back – thank you Pauline – and I’ve been waiting for a suitable time to make it.

Well that time came today. A friend was having a birthday and I wanted to bake a cake for her. We’re in lockdown in Sydney, and sometimes we need a bit of cheering up. So I made this cake for Margaret.

And just to see what the cake was like, I made a little sample cake just for me!

It’s so easy! Another one bowl, all in one mix. The cake is rich, dark and moist. Smother the cake with lots of beautiful chocolate buttercream, and voila! A lovely looking and tasting cake!

Ingredients

Cake

200g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

65g cocoa

3 free-range eggs

250g sugar

125g very soft butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

250 ml milk

Chocolate Buttercream

100g very soft butter

200g icing sugar

25g cocoa

1 tablespoon boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 20cm 9 inch round cake tin or a 20cm 9 inch square tin. Line the base of the tin with baking paper.

Put all the cake ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer. On low speed, beat all the ingredients until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the mixture into the tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. To check for doneness, insert a skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream, cream the soft butter, icing sugar, cocoa and boiling water until the buttercream is soft and easy to spread on the cake. You can do this by hand or you can use an electric mixer.

Once cool, generously spread the chocolate buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.

You can decorate with anything you like – I used silver almonds, rose petal sweets and fresh flowers.

Serve on its own or with a dollop of cream as a dessert!

Lemon Drizzle Loaf

I know that most people have made a version of a lemon drizzle, but just because it is such a great and easy cake to make, I thought I would write up my version for anyone looking for a simple recipe.

It’s a great lockdown cake! And really easy as it’s an “all in one cake” – you just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

This week I had a Zoom cookalong during lockdown with a friend, and we made this cake, with great success. I have included photos in the post of both our lovely loafs.

While you can bake this in a round cake tin, we baked it into a loaf tin, which cuts into beautiful thick slices! If you haven’t got a loaf tin, bake it in a round cake tin, 18 cm or 20cm.

Tip: it’s important to have the butter really soft and the eggs at room temperature.

Ingredients

Cake

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g very soft butter

3 large free-range eggs, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of a lemon

3 tablespoons milk

Lemon Syrup

100g caster sugar

Juice of a lemon

Lemon Icing

Juice of 1/4 lemon

Enough icing sugar to make a dripping icing (about a cup)

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan or 180 degrees non fan.

Grease a 21 cm loaf tin with butter. Line the base with baking paper.

To make the cake, place all the cake ingredients (minus the milk) into a large bowl. Using electric beaters, mix the ingredients to a smooth batter with no lumps.

Add the milk to loosen the batter.

Transfer the mixture to the loaf pan. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until the cake is brown on top and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes our clean. Remove from the oven.

While the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup. Heat the sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened.

Once the cake is out of the oven, prick all over with a skewer. Pour the warm syrup all over the cake. The cake is still in the pan.

Once cool, turn the cake onto a board or plate. Turn right way up.

Serve as is or with an optional simple lemon icing.

To make icing, put the lemon juice in a small bowl and then add enough icing sugar to make a dripping icing. Using a palette knife, drip a thin layer of lemon icing over the cake.

Lockdown Weekend Waffles

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If you’re in need of making something indulgent this weekend – waffles may be the answer! And particularly if you’re in a part of Australia that’s in lockdown, I hope this might cheer you up.

I found a good recipe by the inimitable Martha Stewart for buttermilk waffles. Very easy and very quick. However, I must fess up and explain that the first waffles were rather flat and a bit disappointing. So I added spoonful or so of extra flour and anothter 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the remaining mixture. This did the trick and the the rest of the waffles were thick and fluffy! However, I hope that if you followed the inimitable Martha’s recipe as is, it will work out fine for you.

I included my recipe troubleshooting as I always like to be as accurate as possible as I describe my cooking experiences.

Martha’s original recipe is here.

I served the waffles with some cookie crumbs – I crushed up a couple of cookies I had left over. Add a good drizzle of golden syrup, some whipped cream and a few raspberries and strawberries and you’re in the waffle breakfast business!

Ingredients

2 cups plain (all-purpose flour)

2 tablespoons sugar 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate soda (baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon salt 

2 cups buttermilk 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 free-range eggs

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, bi-carbonate of soda and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, and eggs, then add the flour mixture, and mix until batter is just combined.

Heat the waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and brush with a little oil. Pour batter onto the grid, spread batter if necessary, but make sure you don’t overfill the grid. Close the waffle maker and cook until the waffles are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

The waffles will be cooked but maybe a little soft. At least mine were. Put them in the preheated oven for a couple of minutes to crisp up and also to keep them warm.

Make the rest of the waffles in the same way. Serve with golden or maple syrup, whipped cream or yoghurt and fresh fruit – berries are great! And cookie crumbs for some extra luxe!

Strawberry and Lemon Pudding

This is so easy! A strawberry and lemon pudding, a lovely hot “saucy” pudding for a cold night. It’s another version of my Peach Pudding I posted last year.

And you can make the pudding with lots of different fruit – apples and pears, with blueberries or raspberries.

Just a note – you don’t need to use lemon juice. Any fruit juice will do for the liquid.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

125g strawberries
100g self raising flour
50g butter cut into small pieces
100g caster sugar
200-250ml* lemon juice, 3-4 lemon slices

* The lemon juice quantity doesn’t have to be too accurate – more juice and the pudding might take a bit longer to cook.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Cut the strawberries in halves. Lay them into a cast iron pan or baking dish.

Tip the self raising flour, butter pieces and caster sugar into a bowl and rub together into a breadcrumb consistency, a bit like making pastry.

Add the lemon juice and roughly mix together.

The mixture should look curdled, but that’s fine as you’re not looking for a cake mixture consistency. Pour the mixture over the strawberries.

If using, place a few thin lemon slices on top. Put into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the pudding is brown on top.

Serve with thick cream or ice cream.

Apple and Ricotta Ciambella

A ciambella is an Italian ring-shaped cake with lots of regional variations, so my research tells me. It’s a breakfast or afternoon tea cake, but it will double nicely as a dessert cake too. I’d never made one before – it looks wonderful so inviting – so I thought I’d give it a go.

If you’re looking for a simple cake that looks fancy and tastes delicious this is for you! The recipe is adapted from a couple of great recipes from Silvia Colloca and SBS Food .

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

2 large apples

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon + extra juice for sprinkling

3 eggs

180g raw sugar

50g extra virgin olive oil

170g ricotta

200 g self-raising flour

75g almond meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

1 tablespoon orange liqueur

1 tablespoon golden syrup, warmed,for glazing

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Non fan forced seems to work better for this cake.

Butter and flour any Bundt tin – a plain ring tin or something more fancy!

Peel the apples. Chop one of the apples into small chunks, and the other into thin slices. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent from browning.

Place the eggs and caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and using the whisk attachment, whisk on low speed increasing to medium until the mixture is pale and creamy.

Add the olive oil and ricotta and whisk on a low speed just until the mixture is smooth and free from lumps.

Sift the flour, almond meal and baking powder and fold into the batter.

Stir in the lemon zest and juice, vanilla, orange liqueur and the chopped apple.

Pour the batter into the Bundt tin. Place the apple slices around the ring, overlapping each other.

Put the cake into the oven and bake for about 35–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin, then loosen the cake around the edges with a palette knife.

Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate and then even more carefully turn the cake the right way up.

Brush the top of the cake and apple slices with the warmed golden syrup.

Serve on its own or pretty much with whatever you fancy – I served it as a dessert with a strawberry compote and plenty of lemon curd!

Middle Eastern Sherbet Berry Balls

These are super easy sweet bites that need no cooking! Make them small as I did for an after dinner treat or bigger and they could double as a light dessert.

I used frozen blackberries, but raspberries or strawberries would be great too.

The “sherbet” part comes from sprinkling them with freeze dried raspberry powder. If you can’t get hold of any, they are equally delicious just rolled in coconut or chopped nuts. Or you could even roll in more chocolate, grated!

Ingredients

40g dark chocolate

100g frozen berries slightly thawed

80g rolled oats

1 tablespoon golden syrup

40g coconut oil

60g shredded coconut

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Freeze dried raspberry powder

Ground pistachios (optional)

Method

Take the chocolate and chop into squares or small pieces. Place in a ziplock bag and bash using a mallet or similar into chocolate rubble.

Place the berries, oats, golden syrup, coconut oil, 40g of the coconut, sesame seeds and chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with cling wrap. Place in the fridge for several hours or until mixture is stiff enough to roll into balls.

Roll large teaspoon portions of mixture into balls. Roll in remaining coconut to lightly coat.

Sprinkle with freeze dried raspberry powder for the sherbet effect.

If using, sprinkle some ground pistachios over as well. It’s nice to do a few this way.

You will need to store these in the fridge. They should keep in an airtight container for a week or more.

Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

Cakes where orange or lemon are predominant flavours are an important part of a baker’s repertoire. They make wonderful afternoon tea cakes and can be dressed up for dessert.

This is a lovely cake from Middle Eastern inspired cook Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m revisiting it in autumn in Sydney, as we are enjoying long warm days, perfect for cake and coffee in the sunshine!

The cake itself is flavoured with rosemary, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake.

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

Here is Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Ingredients

Cake
30g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240g plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130g sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Crystallised Rosemary
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size
1 free range egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Orange Icing
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150g sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary. Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Generously grease a 23cm bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, caster sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for one minute.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

To make the icing, in a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

Persian Love Cake – Lemon and Rose

I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.

And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.

This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.

This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.

Ingredients

150g butter

330g caster sugar

zest of 1 1/2 lemon

6 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour

165g ground almonds *

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

300g Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons rosewater

*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.

Syrup

125g caster sugar

125g water

Juice of a lemon

1-2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – any of these are great!

1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios

Cardamom pistachio sugar**

Edible dried rose petals

Crystallised rose petals

Glacé fruit as decoration

** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.

Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.

Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.

Place on a serving plate.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.

Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.

Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.

Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

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