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Pear and Almond Buttermilk Cake

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.

Ingredients

2 pears

1 large plum (optional)

150g almonds flakes

125g butter

150g sugar

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond essence

125mls buttermilk

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons Demerara sugar

Method

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.

Passionfruit Butter Cake

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!

Ingredients

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

4 passionfruit

100g icing sugar

Method

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!

Shetland Buns

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.

Ingredients

For the sponge

227g strong flour

9g instant yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar

426 mls milk

Mixture

567g strong flour

113g caster sugar

113g butter

2 free range eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

113g sultanas

113g raisins

100g candied orange

100g sour cherries (for the large bun)

Glaze

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon milk

Icing

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.

Method

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!

White Nectarine, Ginger and Hazelnut Upside Down Cake

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!

Ingredients

150g butter

150g sugar

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

Method


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.

Carefully invert the cake onto a plate to serve.

Blueberry Oat Scones

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.

Orange Zest Shortbread

I made this shortbread for New Year’s Day yesterday. I think shortbread is one of the best things to come out of Scotland, not forgetting whisky!

It’s based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for chocolate orange shortbread, original recipe here. I left out the chocolate for simplicity’s sake, but by all means add this in. I think the orange is the star of this recipe!

It’s super simple. I made it in the food processor. After baking just leave in the tin before cutting into fingers.

Great for New Year – but don’t wait till then – a very nice tea time or coffee time treat any time of the year!

Ingredients

150g butter at room temperature

200g plain flour

50g golden caster sugar or raw sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

Zest of an orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with baking paper.

Put the butter, flour, sugar and the finely grated zest of half the orange into the bowl of a food processor.

Gently pulse the ingredients until they just come together- don’t overmix.

Tip the mixture into the lined baking tin. With your hands pat the dough into the tin, being careful not to knead it. You will end up with a layer about 1cm thick. Don’t worry if it’s looks a bit messy, it will look fine after baking.

Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Take out of the oven, and leaving in the tin, mark fingers using a sharp knife. There’s no need to cut through – it’s just to help cut the fingers once the shortbread is cold.

Sprinkle over a little more sugar, and grate over the zest of the other half of the orange.

Leave to cool completely, and then cut the shortbread into fingers along the marked lines.

Remove the fingers from the tin.

The shortbread will keep well in an airtight tin for a few days!

Yoghurt Rosewater Cake

This is my absolute go-to cake when I’m looking for something special and really easy!

I’ve posted versions of it twice before – but I was so pleased with this latest incarnation that I just had to write about it again.

I’ve simplified the cake through many bakes, and this latest version doesn’t t even need icing!

Give it a go if you’re looking for a cake that is fragrant, moist, with a delicate crumb, cuts well, keeps well and eats spectacularly!

Ingredients
250ml canola or vegetable oil
330g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
280g Greek yoghurt
300g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – icing sugar and fresh or dried rose petals, whipped cream and Greek yoghurt

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour a large Bundt mould or a 22cm cake tin.

Place the oil, caster sugar and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in the rosewater.

Pour the mixture into the bundt mould or the regular cake tin.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Just make sure you keep checking with a skewer for “doneness” after 30 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To serve, sieve over some icing sugar, about a couple of tablespoons, and fill the centre with a few tablespoons of whipped cream and Greek yoghurt – or all cream, or all yoghurt. Your choice!

You can ice this cake, as I have done in previous versions, but it’s so elegant and pretty baked in a Bundt mould, it doesn’t really need it!

Yoghurt Rosewater Cake

This is my absolute go-to cake when I’m looking for something special and really easy!

I’ve posted versions of it twice before – but I was so pleased with this latest incarnation that I just had to write about it again.

I’ve simplified the cake through many bakes, and this latest version doesn’t t even need icing!

Give it a go if you’re looking for a cake that is fragrant, moist, with a delicate crumb, cuts well, keeps well and eats spectacularly!

Ingredients
250ml canola or vegetable oil
330g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
280g Greek yoghurt
300g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – icing sugar and fresh or dried rose petals, whipped cream and Greek yoghurt

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour a large Bundt mould or a 22cm cake tin.

Place the oil, caster sugar and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in the rosewater.

Pour the mixture into the bundt mould or the regular cake tin.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Just make sure you keep checking with a skewer for “doneness” after 30 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To serve, sieve over some icing sugar, about a couple of tablespoons, and fill the centre with a few tablespoons of whipped cream and Greek yoghurt – or all cream, or all yoghurt. Your choice!

You can ice this cake, as I have done in previous versions, but it’s so elegant and pretty baked in a Bundt mould, it doesn’t really need it!

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.

Healthy Banana Bread

Everyone loves banana bread! But the banana bread you get in cafes is really banana cake – too sweet and too “cakey” in texture! I picked up this recipe from a television show Hemsley +Hemsley: Healthy and Delicious. The Helmsley sisters cook food that is natural and healthy – grain, gluten and refined sugar free.

This banana bread is made with coconut flour and coconut oil. The sweetness comes from the bananas and some treacle and golden syrup. It does have 3 eggs. The bread cuts into 12 slices easily, so I think that distributes the extra calories quite well!

It’s a much healthier bread than the usual sweet and cake-like cafe offerings.

As usual I made my version with a few tweaks. You could really add anything you like – nuts or seeds would be great, and honey would be a great sweetener too. The treacle in my version gave a lovely, malty flavour and rich dark colour.

And it’s a throw-in-the-food-processor recipe so it takes no time to prepare.

One more thing – it keeps forever! It doesn’t dry out, and keeps really moist.


Ingredients

350g or 3 medium size bananas, mashed

60g  coconut flour

1 /2 tbs cinnamon

1 pinch salt

3 free-range eggs

50g coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

1 tbs apple cider vineagr

1/2 tbs treacle

1/2 tbs golden syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients (except the golden syrup) into a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Spoon into the prepared tin. Drizzle over the golden syrup onto the top of the mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before turning out of the tin.

I served my banana bread with cashew butter and fresh figs. The bread is quite sweet, so the cashew butter works well. Peanut, or any nut butter would be fine.

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