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.
Yesterday, Saturday, I made my annual batch of ANZAC biscuits, that delicious treat associated with Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the First World War, in preparation for ANZAC Day 2022 on 25 April.
The wonderful blog “The Cook and the Curator”, from the team at Sydney Living Museums, has done some research into the origin of ANZAC biscuits.
“There has been much debate as to the origins of the iconic Anzac biscuit, and whether they were sent in care packages to soldiers at war, or if they were made by soldiers at ‘the front’. They were certainly enjoyed by Australians long before the First World War, but under different names.”
The Cook and the Curator also note that coconut is an optional ingredient and it wasn’t added till the 1930s. By all means add some to to your biscuits, but personally I’m not a fan.
My recipe is based on this authentic recipe, with a small tweak or two.
I add golden syrup, as I love the toffee flavour it imparts. Most recipes do include golden syrup.
Somewhere I read in a recipe that browning the butter after melting it gives a greater depth of flavour. It really does! To compensate for the fact that you lose a little bit of the butter by browning it, I have added another 15g of butter to the recipe.
It really is a straightforward ANZAC biscuit recipe – very easy to put together and quick to bake.
Eat the biscuits on the day they are baked but they will keep well too, if there are any left!
165g salted butter
180g rolled oats
120g plain flour
125g brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.
Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl.
Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.
Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.
Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!
Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.
I whipped up a batch of meringues yesterday to serve at an Easter brunch. Very easy, and the recipe doesn’t require too many ingredients.
Serve the meringues on their own or sandwich together with whipped cream and serve with fresh raspberries.
2 free range egg whites at room temperature
A pinch of salt
115g caster sugar
Red food colouring
Whipped cream to fill, raspberries and icing sugar to serve.
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C.
Whisk the egg whites and salt on low speed until frothy and they form peaks which hold their shape.
On medium speed, add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy, about 3 minutes.
For plain meringues, spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle, whatever size you want your meringues to be. Or just pipe straight from the bag!
For pink striped meringues, fit a nozzle, if using, into a piping bag, then paint vertical stripes of food colour with a pastry brush.
Fill the piping bag with the meringue mixture.
For plain or pink meringues, pipe meringues onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Place tray into the oven and bake for 1 hour, then turn oven off and leave to cool for several hours.
Lovely on their own, or sandwich together with whipped cream and serve with raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar.
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!
Although we’ve had a tough summer in Sydney with so much rain, stone fruit is just starting to come into its own. Not the best stone fruit that we’ve ever had, but in late January it’s lovely to have some beautiful peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots. And of course berries are beautiful and plentiful and cheap at the moment!
I’ve been playing around with recipes involving stone fruit and ground almonds and hazelnuts. I’ve made a few upside down cakes which I’ve been very pleased with. This one is an “upright” cake with the fruit placed in the cake batter, some of it just showing through.
As usual, this is a food processor cake so it’s pretty quick and easy! You can serve it plain or drizzle some icing over the top, although it doesn’t really need it. It’s great served with cream, Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream.
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 free range eggs
50g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
8 peaches and blood plums cut into quarters or eighths slices
A handful of raspberries (about 10-12)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice or rosewater
Method Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Grease a 23cm springform tin.
Put the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat until just brown. Blitz half in a food processor until fine crumbs. 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 paste.
Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour at the same time with each egg. Mix in the food processor until each egg is incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients 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 tin, smoothing the top with a spatula.
Arrange the peach and plum pieces in a circular pattern in the batter, pushing the pieces right into the mixture. Place the whole raspberries in between the stone fruit, just on top of the cake.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil to prevent burning. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove from the base of the springform tin, removing the baking paper.
You can serve as is, or with a dusting of icing sugar, or a lemon or rosewater drizzle icing.
To make a drizzle icing, mix a tablespoon of lemon juice or a tablespoon of rosewater with enough icing sugar to make a drippable drizzle! Drizzle over the cake using a fork.
I love this cake as it’s so easy to make. It’s yet another cake based on stone fruit and a kind of frangipane mix, this time using ground hazelnuts.
You can make it with apricots, peaches and plums. And as it’s an upside down cake you get to see the lovely fruit on top of the cake!
Oh, and it’s all done in the food processor. Labour non intensive!
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 free range eggs
100g plain flour
100g hazelnut meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 white nectarines, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon of stem ginger pieces, sliced thinly (5-6 pieces)
3 teaspoons demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, 180 degrees C non fan forced. Grease a 22 cm springform tin.
Beat butter and sugar in a food processor until pale and well creamed. Add vanilla paste.
Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and ground ginger mix at the same time with each egg. Mix in the food processor until each egg is incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients by pulsing carefully.
Arrange the nectarine slices in the springform tin in a circular pattern, slightly overlapping. Place the ginger slices in between the nectarine slices. Spread over the cake batter, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the mixture with the demerara sugar.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil to prevent burning. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
I’m a big fan of Claire Ptak and her bakery in London. It was a delight to visit last time I was able to travel to the UK, pre Covid! I love her book “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”, and some of the recipes in it have inspired this one.
These tasty morsels are a cross between scones and biscuits. They are quite dense, with ground rolled oats and blueberries.
The mixture is very crumbly and will be difficult to bring together into a dough, particularly with the frozen blueberries. But don’t worry, just pat the mixture into shape and by resting it, you can cut the rounds from the mixture.
Here’s my recipe. This makes 12 smallish scones. You could double the quantities for larger, more substantial scones.
Ingredients 100g rolled oats 150g plain flour 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1/2 baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 50g raw sugar or brown sugar Zest of half an orange 125g cold unsalted butter cut into 1 cm chunks 150g creme fraiche 125g frozen blueberries
Method Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Blitz the rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the orange zest in a bowl or in a food processor. Cut in the cold butter by hand until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, or you can continue to use a food processor on pulse, but be careful not to overwork the dough.
Quickly stir in the creme fraiche until just mixed in. Stir in the frozen blueberries.
Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and pat into a square about 3 or 4cms thick. Rest for 5 minutes at least, even 10 minutes.
Using a 6cm cutter, cut out rounds and place onto the baking sheet. You will probably get 8 or 9 from the dough, then you will need to gather up the remains of the dough and pat together (don’t re-roll) before cutting out the last few rounds.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rounds are brown on top. You could check after 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Take out of the oven and wait until the oat scones are cool before serving.
Serve on their own – they are sweet enough – or with homemade berry jam and Greek yoghurt.