Another recipe from the Easter vault! A quick cookie/bickie that you can make in a lot less time than it takes to make hot cross buns. But maybe make these as well! This is a good recipe to make with kids too. The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with some tweaks.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray. Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated. Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays. Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays. To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.
These 2023 hot cross buns are an upgraded version of a previous 2021 recipe. I’m always keen to make the perfect hot cross bun, and I’m pretty happy with this version!
These buns are made with a sourdough starter and dry yeast. You could make this recipe without the sourdough starter – just add more dry yeast as suggested in the ingredients list.
They have a lot of fruit which has been soaked in Pedro Ximinez sherry, although any port or muscat would do. They also have puréed orange and candied orange for a real orange hit!
300g mix of sultanas and raisins
40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat
1 whole orange
625g strong flour
7g dried yeast (use 10g if not including starter)
125g sourdough starter
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves
50g brown sugar
30g golden syrup
2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten
60g unsalted butter, in small pieces
200g full fat milk at room temperature
150g apple juice
50g candied orange peel
Extra free-range egg, for brushing
50g caster sugar
50g golden syrup
Soak the raisins and sultanas in the Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat for up to 3 hours to plump up the fruit.
Put the orange into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for up to an hour until the orange is soft.
Let the orange cool, then cut in half and remove the pips. Purée the orange in a food processor. Measure 70g for the dough, and reserve the rest for another batch of dough. It freezes well.
Starting with the flour, add all the other ingredients (except dried fruit and candied orange peel) to a large bowl. Just make sure the yeast is on one side of the bowl and salt on the other.
Mix everything roughly together using a wooden spoon, just to amalgamate the ingredients. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Using the dough hook of an electric mixer, knead on low speed for 10 -15 minutes until the dough is soft, shiny and passes the windowpane test. This dough is initially quite wet, so it will take 10 minutes or more kneading to bring it to that lovely elastic consistency you are looking for.
Add the sultanas, raisins and any residual alcohol that hasn’t soaked into the fruit, and the candied orange peel. Mix for about a minute on low to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.
Remove the bowl from the machine and cover with a plastic bag or tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.
The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a board or bench top which has been lightly floured. Putting a little more flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, flatten the dough to a rough rectangle, and fold in half lengthways. Cut in two and roll each half into a sausage.
You should get 16 large hot cross buns from the mixture. Take one sausage and divide into two, then divide each into 4 pieces.
To shape your buns, take one piece and roll into a ball, and with your cupped hand over the top of the ball, keep rolling on the board or bench top till you feel the dough tightening and developing a nice ball shape.
Repeat with remaining balls. Do the same thing with the other sausage.
Place the 16 balls – now buns – onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper.
Cover with a large plastic bag or a tea towel and leave to prove again. I prove this second time in the fridge overnight. You can also prove at room temperature for an hour or more until the buns have grown a little in size. (They don’t get huge – this happens in the oven.)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced or 190 degrees C non fan for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the crosses. Mix the flour and water together to make a dough. Place the dough on a clean surface dusted with flour and roll into a sausage about 1cm thick. Cut the sausage in half, and cut each half into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece again to make 2 thin strips. You should have 32 strips in total. Brush the risen buns with the beaten egg and lay the dough strips on top in the shape of a cross. Brush the crosses with egg too.
Put the tray into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are a deep golden brown.
While the buns are baking, make the glaze. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water into a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly.
Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven. Brush the warm syrup over the warm buns, making sure you brush the sides as well.
These buns are best eaten on the day, preferably while warm, with lots of good quality butter.
The next day, split and toast and serve with, of course, more butter!
Hot cross buns freeze well too, so make a pile that you can store in the freezer and reheat as necessary.
NB Reheat in the oven, the buns don’t do well in the microwave.
150g milk chocolate 150g dark chocolate 400ml cream 2 free range eggs +1 egg yolk lightly beaten
Strawberries, dark chocolate, fresh figs, or any other fresh fruit of your choosing. Grapes would be nice too.
I make this pastry recipe in the food processor, but you could do it in an electric mixer or by hand. I use the food processor because it’s easy.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.
Cream the butter and icing sugar together in a food processor. Add the eggs and yolk and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour and cocoa. Have 25ml of cold water ready. Add a little of the water and all of the flour/cocoa mix and pulse using the processor, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add as much of the water as you need so that the pastry comes together into a ball. Remove from the processor, wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry on a surface dusted with flour until about 5mm thick. This pastry is quite soft and delicate, be gentle, and you may need a little extra flour for rolling out. Line a 18cm or 20cm loose-bottomed tin with a circle of baking paper. The smaller tin gives you a slightly higher filling, the bigger a flatter tart.
Carefully line the tin with the pastry. Have a bit of overhang of pastry at the top – you can trim this after baking. Chill for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with more baking paper and baking beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans and return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin, then trim any pastry edges.
To make the filling, place both kinds of chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a saucepan on the stovetop and gently bring to a simmer. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir to make sure the chocolate and cream is combined. Stir through the lightly beaten eggs, then pour the mixture into the tart shell.
Put into the oven, turn the temperature down to 140 degrees C fan forced. Bake for 1 hour or until the filling is just set and wobbles in the middle if you gently move the tin. You may need to cook a little less or more to get that set with a “wobble”.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin. Place in the fridge and chill for at least an hour, overnight is good. Bring the tart to room temperature before serving.
Simnel cake is traditionally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent.
I’ve been very interested in the Simnel cake, what it’s made of and its history. It’s a light fruitcake with two layers of marzipan, one layer baked in the centre of the cake, and one layer placed on top of the cake. The cake is adorned with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ Apostles, minus Judas Iscariot. This last reference reminds us that this is an Easter cake, and can also be eaten during the Easter period and on Easter Day.
My version is baked in a slightly bigger tin than most recipes specify. I wanted a cake with a bigger diameter to serve more people. I went with blow torching the marzipan on the cake rather then putting it under a grill, as this was so much easier and you can control the heat source.
This year I made my usual recipe. It’s rich with marzipan, a good layer in the centre and plenty to decorate the cake. Instead of the traditional yellow ribbon to decorate, I went with red. And I added some green glacé cherries for the middle of the cake – eleven of course!
335 icing sugar
260g caster sugar
525g ground almonds
3 large free-range eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons apricot jam (to stick the marzipan onto the cake)
Juice and zest of an orange
Juice and zest of a lemon
500g sultanas, raisins and currants, in any mix you prefer
150g glacé cherries
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, allspice – any or all of these are fine, use what you prefer
3 large free-range eggs
175g soft butter
175g brown sugar
Make the marzipan first, as this needs to rest for an hour or so before it goes into the cake.
Sift the icing sugar and caster sugar into a large bowl, and then mix through the ground almonds.
Beat the eggs with the almond extract and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Stir into the dry ingredients with a large spoon or spatula to make a rough dough. Use your hands to continue to turn the mixture into a dough that is able to be rolled out.
Put some icing sugar onto a work surface – bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Knead the marzipan for a couple of minutes until it’s a smooth dough.
Put the marzipan dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least an hour, preferably two, to allow the ground almonds to swell and absorb some of the moisture from the eggs.
For the cake, put the orange and the lemon juice in a small saucepan and add the dried fruit and cherries. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and heat for two minutes, stirring until the liquid disappears. Be careful not to burn the fruit by cooking it dry. Remove from the heat and leave to completely cool. Putting the fruit into a bowl and sticking it in the fridge can speed things up if you’re short on time.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C non fan forced, or 140 degrees fan forced.
Grease a 22cm spring form pan and line the base with two layers of baking paper.
Put the flour and spices in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a smaller bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer such as a KitchenAid until light and fluffy and well mixed. Make sure all the mixture, even at the bottom of the bowl, is well incorporated.
Add the whisked eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. To stop the mixture curdling – this can easily happen when adding eggs to butter and sugar – mix in a tablespoon of flour after each egg addition.
Gently fold in the flour to the rest of the mixture by hand. Stir in the dried fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon half of the mixture into the springform tin, trying to get a smooth surface.
Working with marzipan. Divide the marzipan into three equal balls. Weighing them is probably the best way to do this. Wrap two of the balls in plastic wrap to prevent them drying out.
Place a large length of baking paper on your work surface and dust with icing sugar. Put the remaining ball ono the baking paper and cover with another length. Roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.
Now peel the top layer of baking paper off the marzipan and put the marzipan circle carefully on top of the cake mixture in the tin, then peel off the remaining baking paper.
Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the marzipan and smooth the surface.
Place the springform tin into the preheated oven and bake for about approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden-brown, and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning quickly but is obviously not cooked, cover the top with some aluminium foil.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin, peel off the lining paper, put the cake on a wire rack and leave to completely cool.
Marzipan topping. This cake is best decorated using the bottom of the cake as its flatter. Turn the cake upside down and put onto a plate or board to allow you to decorate.
Place a length of baking paper onto the work surface with more icing sugar. Put one of the marzipan balls onto the paper and cover with another piece of baking paper. As before, roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.
Heat the apricot jam in a microwave on low, or in a small saucepan on low heat for a couple of minutes.
Brush the surface of the cake with the warm jam and cover with the marzipan circle. The circle should just hang over the edge of the cake. Press the marzipan gently onto the cake, easing out any lumps. You can neaten up any overhang that’s too long with a sharp knife.
Now take the remaining marzipan and roll it into eleven balls to represent the Apostles. Weigh the balls to make them uniform – 20g for small balls or 25g for bigger ones. In either case you will have marzipan left over – always welcome as a sweet treat.
Dip each ball into the warmed apricot jam. Position them round the outside of the cake.
Now for the fun part – get out your cook’s blowtorch and lightly scorch the marzipan topping and balls! Be careful not to overdo it. If you haven’t got a blowtorch, put the cake under the grill for a couple of minutes until scorched but not burnt.
Place the cake onto a serving plate or board. Put a yellow ribbon – traditional – around the cake. I went for a green ribbon, with its associations of the renewal of life, appropriate for the Easter season.
Here’s a recipe from the past that I really like. Passionfruit are plentiful at the moment, so it’s a great seasonal summer cake.
Claudia Roden is famous for her Middle Eastern orange cake, and it’s a staple in my cake baking repertoire.
This cake incorporates the Claudia Roden idea of cooking the whole fruit, this time with a lemon instead of an orange. It’s a yoghurt cake, too, and has oil instead of butter. All of which make for a very moist cake! Lemon drizzle syrup and a passionfruit icing give a tangy sweetness.
1 lemon 1 cup caster sugar 3 free-range eggs 1 cup vegetable oil 1 cup Greek yoghurt 2 cups self raising flour
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C, 170 degrees C fan. Grease a 24 cm spring form tin and line the base with baking paper.
Place the lemon in a saucepan with water and boil gently till soft- about 1 hour. When cooked, leave to cool, cut in half and remove the pips. Then blitz in a food processor until pureed.
Place the caster sugar in the food processor, and process until well combined. Add the eggs and oil, mix well. Stir in the yoghurt, followed by the flour.
Pour the mixture into the tin. It will be quite loose. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tin, and then turn out onto a wire rack.
Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup caster sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.
Pierce the cake all over with a skewer. While the cake is still warm, drizzle the lemon sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in.
Place 1 cup icing sugar in a bowl with 2 passionfruit. Mix carefully to make a smooth, flowing icing. Ice the cake, allowing the icing to flow over the sides of the cake.
2 tablespoons shop bought caramel –Nestlé Top ‘n Fill Caramel is a good option
3 free-range eggs
175g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Caramel Buttercream Icing
300g icing sugar
2 tablespoons shop bought caramel
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan. Grease a 20cm cake tin, and line the base with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together, add the caramel and mix until well combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, accompanying each one with a tablespoon of the flour. Add the rest of the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Once the cake is cool, turn out onto a cake rack.
To make the icing, cream the butter, icing sugar, caramel and salt together until you have a soft icing consistency. You may need a little extra icing sugar if the icing isn’t firm enough. And add an extra pinch of salt to taste.
Ice liberally with the caramel buttercream icing. I decorated with some fresh figs as they’re in season.
Stone fruit is in season in late summer here in Sydney. I love cooking with plums, particularly blood plums with their wonderful ruby red colour.
This cake is made in the form of a traybake, great for serving a crowd of people. It’s not too difficult, the only tricky part is roasting the almonds in the oven.
You could serve it on its own, or with a sprinkling of Demerara sugar, or make a simple lemon drizzle icing and haphazardly dress the cake!
100g blanched almonds
50g whole almonds, skin on
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond essence
3 free-range eggs
75g plain flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
8 plums, cut into quarters or eighths
2 teaspoons Demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling
Lemon drizzle icing
150g icing sugar
Enough lemon juice to drizzle over the cake
Method Preheat the oven 150 degrees C, 130 degrees C fan. When the oven reaches temperature, put all the almonds on a baking tray and cook until just brown, about 20 minutes.
Turn the oven up to 180 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan. Grease a 9”x 13” rectangular cake pan.
Blitz half of the almonds in a food processor until fine crumbs. Remove, and blitz the other half so that they are still quite chunky. Remove from the food processor. There’s no need to wash it – just use again for the cake batter.
Beat butter and sugar in the food processor until pale and well creamed. Add vanilla extract and almond essence.
Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour at the same time with each egg. Adding a little flour now helps stop the batter from curdling. Mix in the food processor until each egg is incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients including nuts by pulsing carefully. Some of the nuts will still be quite chunky which will give texture to your cake.
Spread the cake batter in the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Arrange the plum pieces on top of the batter. Some pieces of fruit will stay on top of the batter, some will sink – it doesn’t really matter!
Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the plum pieces on top of the batter.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with aluminium foil to prevent burning. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
When the cake has cooled slightly, carefully remove from the cake pan onto to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can serve as is, or with a sprinkling of Demerara sugar, or with a lemon drizzle icing.
Make the lemon drizzle icing by combining the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and drizzle over the cake with a fork.
I love Victoria sponge and it definitely makes afternoon tea a fabulous affair! Morning tea too! This is the recipe that I’ve tried and tested a number of times. It’s a combination of tips and tricks from a few recipes and bakers.
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. I got this amazing tip from a talented baker at Orange Grove Markets, here in Sydney, who generously shared her advice.
The other secret is cooking the cake at 160 degrees C fan, a relatively low temperature.
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.
Fill with the traditional strawberry or raspberry jam and whipped cream or change it up with something different!
4 free-range eggs at room temperature
200g caster sugar
11/2 tablespoons tepid milk
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g strawberry jam (homemade is good)
300g fresh strawberries
250ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan. 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
2 free-range eggs at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 tablespoon tepid milk
125g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g strawberry jam (homemade is good)
125mls whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons icing sugar
This cake can be baked in 2x20cm tins for 20 minutes.
Well, he’s at it again! My friend John has been busy devising some new recipes.
A few weeks ago, I was treated to a lovely lunch at Palm Beach. It’s certainly a beautiful spot on the northern beaches of Sydney, perfect for a lazy summer lunch.
John’s new creation was Moroccan Chicken, a simple dish full of flavour that’s easy to put together.
You can make the dish super simple by using a good quality store bought Moroccan paste.
Here’s the recipe. It feeds 4 people. You could easily up the quantities if you’re feeding a crowd.
1.2 kilos chicken thighs (about 300g each)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Moroccan Paste (Charmaine Solomon’s Moroccan Spice Blend is available in Australia)
400g Roma tomatoes cut in half (any smallish tomatoes will do)
4 large sprigs rosemary
4 slices prosciutto
4 lemon slices
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the chicken thighs in a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the Moroccan paste. Mix everything together, making sure the chicken is well coated with the paste.
Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
Remove from the fridge and transfer to a baking dish and scatter the tomato halves on top of the chicken.
Pour the remaining tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the dish. Lay the prosciutto slices on top, with the slices of lemon and the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
Cover the dish with aluminium foil bake at 200 degrees C, 180 degrees C fan for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and bake for further 10-15 minutes or until the prosciutto is crisp and the chicken thighs are cooked.
Serve with couscous, crusty bread, a big green salad and a nice glass of something cold!