Pears are lovely at the moment, a great winter fruit perfect for cakes or pies or puddings.
This simple cake makes the most of pears and is great for morning tea, afternoon tea or even as a dessert. You could substitute apples too.
I added a plum to the fruit for colour because I had one on hand but that’s entirely optional.
1 large plum (optional)
150g almonds flakes
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond essence
50g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.
Peel the pears and cut vertically into thin slices, avoiding the core. Cut the plum into slices if using.
Butter a 20 or 22cm cake tin. The smaller tin will give you a deeper cake, the larger tin will give you a flatter cake.
Line the base with baking paper.
Put the almond flakes into a food processor and blitz for a minute until you have small pieces. Remove from the processor.
Put the butter in the food processor and blitz until it is soft. Add the sugar and cream well. Add the eggs and mix until amalgamated. Add the essences and the buttermilk. Add the flour, baking powder and chopped almonds and blitz briefly.
Spoon the mixture into the prepare tin. Arrange the pear slices and plum slices (if using) in a circle around the mixture, any leftover can be put into the centre. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Serve as is or drizzle with lemon icing. Make this by combining a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make a drizzle icing.
You could also great a little lemon or lime zest over the cake too.
What to do with a couple of over ripe pears? Put them in a loaf of course and add sour cherries for a tangy flavour. And almond extract goes really well with both these ingredients!
A couple of things to say about this loaf. First, it’s an all-in-one loaf, and made in the food processor too. So it’s super simple. Believe me, the all-in-one method produces great results!
Secondly, I have been very interested in the Queen of Baking Mary Berry’s advocacy of baking spread, rather than butter, in cakes. I’ve used baking spread in Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and it produced a lovely textured sponge. So I have used baking spread in this recipe. But by all means, use butter if you prefer, but make sure it’s super soft.
125g caster sugar
125g baking spread (I use Nuttelex here in Australia)
2 free range eggs at room temperature
125g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
100g sour cherries
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter a 21cm x 10cm loaf tin, or similar size.
Put everything except the cherries into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined. Don’t overdo it or the mixture will be tough.
Stir in the sour cherries.
Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.
Cool completely in the tin before turning out as the loaf is quite fragile while warm.
Serve sprinkled with a little caster sugar. A dollop of cream or yoghurt would be nice – I had some passionfruit curd on hand so I smothered the loaf with a few spoonfuls!
Here’s a recipe for a really easy apple tart. True, you do make the sweet shortcrust base. But if you’re pushed for a time just use a good store bought version – here in Australia Careme brand is excellent!
If you do make your own, my recipe is based on the wonderful Michael James’ recipe from “The Tivoli Road Baker”. There’s not much about pastry that Michael doesn’t know.
Apart from the pastry the only work is chopping up apples, so you can put this recipe together in no time at all.
100g unsalted butter, diced and softened
100g caster sugar
1 free-range egg
250g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 large apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Demerara sugar for sprinkling
To make the pastry, in an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together really well. Add the egg then add the flour and salt in two additions. Mix just until the pastry comes together.
Put the pastry onto a floured board and gently knead until it just comes together. It will still be quite soft and even a bit sticky.
Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Meanwhile prepare your filling by chopping the apples into thin slices. Put them into a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a 23cm 9 inch fluted loose based tart tin.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on the floured board. Roll the pastry to a circle that’s bigger than the tin so the pastry will hang over the sides. Gently press the pastry into the base and sides.
Mix the caster sugar through the apple slices. Place the apple slices in circles around the pastry, doubling up the layers to use all the apple.
Turn the oven down to 180 degrees C. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, and if desired, sprinkle with Demerara sugar for extra sweetness.
Serve with cream, sour cream or ice cream or just eat on its own. Simple and delicious.
Easter is upon us! Already thinking that you might end up with too many Easter eggs? Well here is a lovely idea to use up that excess chocolate.
Rocky Road is always great if you want to throw a few delicious ingredients into some melted chocolate – nuts, marshmallows, glacé fruit all work well.
Easter Egg Rocky Road is a perfect recipe to include mini Easter eggs, and as well you could smash up some bigger eggs too!
Easter Rocky Road is simple – you can add pretty much what you feel like at the time.
Here’s what I did.
Easter Egg Rocky Road
Melt a 200g block of dark chocolate and a 200g block + half a block of white chocolate. Pour into a tin lined with foil, dark on one side and white on the other. Leave a little of each chocolate for splattering.
Using a skewer, run some pink food colouring through the white chocolate.
Place as many as you like of the following in the melted chocolate – pink and white marshmallows, Smarties or M and Ms, mini Easter eggs.
I scattered some freeze-dried raspberry powder over the Rocky Road too.
Splatter or drizzle the left-over dark chocolate on the white side and the white chocolate on the dark side.
This year I’m getting my Easter baking sorted early. And I’m also writing my Easter posts early too! So to get the ball rolling, heres a lovely Easter muffin recipe from a few years back.
It’s a great alternative – or addition – to hot cross buns, super simple muffins with all the flavour of hot cross buns. And the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!
The mixture makes 6 large muffins or 12 normal size ones.
This mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so why not bake double the recipe and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge. That way you can have fresh muffins to bake on demand!
Ingredients 1 cup sultanas and raisins 1/3 cup Pedro Ximinez sherry or any sweet sherry 2 cups plain flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking sofa 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 cup milk 2 large free-range eggs 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup golden syrup
For the topping 20g melted butter 2 tablespoons caster sugar 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Method Soak the sultanas and raisins in the sherry for half an hour or more, if you have the time. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a 6 or 12 cup muffin pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring for about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended. Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”! Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness. When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan. Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature, for morning tea, afternoon tea or anytime Easter snack.
It’s mid March and the last of the figs are still available in the markets. This is a tart I made in another summer, when figs were plentiful, so I thought I would share the recipe again to maximise the last of the fig bounty.
The figs are baked on an almond frangipane base in shortcrust pastry. Figs and frangipane go well together, the lovely almond cream complementing the juicy sweetness of the figs.
The shortcrust pastry is based on Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry but any good shortcrust would do.
For the shortcrust pastry base:
200gm chilled unsalted butter
250gm plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
135gm sour cream
For the Frangipane:
100gm caster sugar
100gm ground almonds
1 free-range egg
10 fresh figs, quartered
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, (180 degrees C non fan forced).
Butter a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin with a removable bottom.
To make the pastry, pulse butter, flour and caster sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll the pastry out and place into the buttered flan tin.
To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or you can use an electric mixer. Add the ground almonds and egg and mix well.
Spoon the frangipane over the tart base. You may not need all the mixture – the idea is to have a base on which to sit the figs. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern over the frangipane. You needn’t be too precise. The figs should be sitting on top of the frangipane. If they sink in, you probably have too much frangipane and may need to take some out.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry looks cooked round the edges. Don’t overcook so that the pastry edge burns.
Remove from the oven, and after 10 minutes, when the tart has cooled slightly, carefully remove the outer ring of the flan tin.
Serve at room temperature on its own, or with cream or yoghurt.
This would have to be one of the easiest cakes to make and it looks pretty nice too!
It’s an all in one cake. I’m a huge fan of these kinds of cakes as Mary Berry the “Queen of Cakes” advocates this method.
So this is a simple butter cake, given a bit of zing by adding passionfruit to the batter and in the icing. But you could just as easily substitute lemon or orange as the flavouring or chocolate or coffee.
I made the cake in a bundt tin, but an ordinary cake tin is fine. A bundt tin makes a cake look special, a tip given to me by another good cook, my sister!
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 free range eggs
3 tablespoons milk
Juice of half an orange
100g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Butter a large bundt tin or a 22cm cake tin. If using a bundt tin make sure you really butter it well to ensure the cake comes out successfully.
Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, orange juice and the juice and seeds of two of the passionfruit in the bowl of a food processor.
Whizz until all the ingredients are well blended.
Spoon the mixture into whatever tin you are using. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes for the bundt tin or 30-35 minutes for the regular tin. The bundt tin takes a bit longer as it’s deeper.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.
For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the juice and seeds of the remaining two passionfruit. Depending on how juicy the passionfruit are, you may need to add more icing sugar.
If you think the icing needs more liquid, add another tablespoon of passionfruit juice or lemon juice. You want the icing to be able to drip down the sides of the cake.
Specialise in liberally over the top of the cake.
I think the cake is lovely just served on its own for morning or afternoon tea. But by all means serve with cream or Greek yoghurt if you think it needs it!
Everyone loves a cupcake, and a fairy cake with its little cake wings is so pretty.
I recently picked up some sugar plums, a late summer fruit. These are delicate little plums, perfect for adding a sugar coating.
So with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, here’s a recipe for little cakes with a sugar plum topping. I made 6 large cupcakes for the recipe, but you could just as easily make 12 small cupcakes.
Coffee and walnuts, a match made in heaven. This is a simple but very delicious cake, great for the afternoon tea table. There’s not much to do to decorate the cake apart from icing it, so I’m calling it a “rustic” cake. You could go fancy if you wanted to!
You mix most of the ingredients at the same time, so it’s a kind of one bowl cake. You just add the coffee dissolved in milk and walnuts at the end.
Bake the cake in two layers, fill and ice with buttercream. You could easily make this as cupcakes as well!
50g ground almonds
125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons milk
50g chopped walnuts + a few extra for decorating
125g butter, softened
250g icing sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease two 18cm (7″) cake tins.
Put all the ingredients except the milk, coffee and walnuts into an electric mixer and mix until smooth and well incorporated. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk, and add together with the chopped walnuts into the mixture.
Divide the batter equally between the two tins. Place the tins in the oven and bake for 25- 30 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out of the tins to cool on a wire rack.
In a food processor, cream together the butter and icing sugar until light an fluffy. Dissolve the instant coffee into the milk. Add this mixture to the icing, process until light and creamy.
When cakes are completely cool, spread half of the buttercream icing on the bottom layer, and top with the second layer.
Roughly ice the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the buttercream using a palette knife. When you get to the sides, occasionally dip the palette knife into cold water as you ice to remove some of the thicker icing and to create the “naked icing” effect. The idea is that the top of the cake is well iced and that the side sides are stripped back for a more rustic look.
I visited Shetland pre-pandemic when we could travel from home in Australia to the UK. I was so taken with the islands – the breathtaking scenery, the wildlife, the history and culture and of course the food!
This recipe is based on a recipe called Yeast Buns from Margaret B Stout’s “Cookery for Northern Wives” published in 1925. This book documents many Shetland recipes and was an insight into traditional cooking.
I made and blogged the buns a while back, see here. I’ve made a few more tweaks this time. The original recipe makes a lot of buns! So this time I divided the recipe in two, making a batch of 12 buns and I also made a lovely large fruit bun, with lemon icing.
I converted the imperial measurements to metric. doing a little bit of rounding up or down, but as I wanted to keep the integrity of the original measurements, I didn’t change anything too drastically.
I’ve also adapted the recipe to make in a KitchenAid or similar.
I’ve tweaked the ingredients in these ways. I substituted instant yeast for fresh yeast. I added a lot more more dried fruit than in the original, adding extra fruit again for the large fruit bun. I also added some more flavour in the form of vanilla extract and almond essence, as well as cinnamon and allspice.
I made the large fruit bun in a paper panettone case, but you could make it in a large high sided cake tin. You would end up with a slightly wider bun, but with less height.
For the sponge
227g strong flour
9g instant yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
426 mls milk
567g strong flour
113g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
100g candied orange
100g sour cherries (for the large bun)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon milk
200g icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon
The ingredients (except for the cherries) are for both the little buns and the big one. Divide the mixture in half after proving and before shaping.
Here is the method, adapted from the rather scant instructions given by Margaret Stout.
For the sponge, sieve the flour into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar. Gradually add the lukewarm milk, stirring to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel or a disposable plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
Prepare the rest of the mixture. Put the flour, caster sugar and butter into the bowl of a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the sponge mixture, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, almond essence, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well, for for at least 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and passes the window pane test.
Cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel/plastic shower cap and leave to rise again for 1 ½ hours.
Remove the risen dough and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sultanas, raisins and candied orange, a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition. You want to incorporate the fruit as evenly as you can into the dough.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.
Now divide the dough into two.
Take one half of the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a ball and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the tray loosely with a tea towel or large plastic bag and prove for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Take the other half of the dough, and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sour cherries a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition.
Shape the dough into a large ball and place in a panettone case or large cake tin. Cover with a tea towel or plastic bag and prove for an hour in a warm place.
When the small buns have proved, put them into the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are a deep brown colour.
Remove the buns from the oven, and while warm, brush the tops of the buns with a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk.
When the large bun has finished proving, put it in the oven and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a deep brown colour.
Remove the large bun from the oven and leave to cool.
For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make a thick lemon paste. You may need to adjust either ingredient to get the right consistency.
If you think the buns need zhushing, you could drizzle a little of the icing for the big bun over the tops. I made this icing a little more “drippy” by adding in more lemon juice. However I iced some and also left some plain.
Both the small buns and the large bun keep well as they are enriched with milk, butter and eggs. They are quite soft, and they remain soft even after a couple of days.
You could eat either bun as is or butter liberally – I even toasted the small buns the next day and ate with lashings of butter!