Baking · Cake

Pear and Pecan Cake (or ‘How I Nearly Killed a Wooden Spoon with a Food Processor)

Good afternoon blogging world. Long time no see.

The reason for this lack of contact is one I’m sure that many foodies face at some point – nothing I’ve tried out really worked. Apart from the very boring chocolate vanilla cupcakes I made for my string group, the other cake (a coffee-turkish delight combination which I’ll be posting about later) had some very mixed results. Whilst the school students loved them (and ate them all in about 10 seconds flat!), Max was not so impressed and said that they tasted savoury… not a good comment for a a sweet cupcake! Back to the drawing board with them.

Parsnip cake

Instead I present this cake, which met with very favourable results. I will say now that this recipe is completely someone else’s invention, coming from the wonderful cookbook Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood. Someone else’s it might be, but it is still very good. The secret ingredient in this cake is parsnip, grated and mixed into the batter in a method similar to that of a carrot cake.

parsnip cake 2

Making this cake also gave me the excuse to finally find out how the grating attachment on my Kenwood mixer works. This led to a slightly difficult moment when I tried to push the parsnip down with a wooden spoon – fine until the spoon hit the grating attachment. I’m sure you can imagine the rest. Poor wooden spoon.

Pear and Pecan Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 small pears
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 150g pecans
  • 150g white rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved and the seeds removed
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 200g finely grated parsnip
  • 125ml calvados (or if like me this is beyond your local community, cloudy apple juice also works)
  • Icing sugar (to decorate)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Grease and line a 23cm diameter springform tin and set aside.

Peel, core and thinly slice the pears, before sprinkling with lemon juice and setting aside. Grind the pecans in a food processor until very fine, then add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon and whizz for another minute until completely combined.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and tripled in volume, before adding in the grated parsnip and the dry ingredients. Mix completely before adding in the Calvados/apple juice to loosen the mixture. Pour half the mixture into the tin and top with half the sliced pears. Pour the remaining mixture over the top and top with the remainder of the pears, arranging them into a pretty floral pattern. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 2 hours. You have read this right, 2 hours. Take it out of the oven and serve with vanilla ice cream.89

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Baking · Cake · Pastry

The Hartlepool Townie

You’ve heard of cronuts, the doughnut-croissant hybrid right? Well, over the last few months it has been toppled from its lofty pastry perch by no less than a British contender! Yes, that’s right, BRITISH! We may have been beaten to the front by the cupcake, the doughnut and the elusive cronut itself, but we won this one!

Townie 1

And boy, what a one to win!, Whilst the cronut is like a chinese takeway – something you eat once in a blue moon and which your weight does NOT thank you for later! – the townie is the Italian buffet, the delicious meal that you finish and can’t wait for the next. I can’t promise it will make you feel any less fat, but at least it’s not deep fried.

townie 3

The original townie was made in London by Bea Vo of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, after a request to create as many rival mash-up pastries as possible. However, as with many of these things, the recipe is a closely guarded secret, so I decided to make my own version, by combining my favourite recipes for the various components. The pastry is taken from the queen herself (Delia Smith), whilst the brownies are originally a Jamie Oliver recipe. Whilst made as a large tart, you could also make smaller, muffin-sized versions as per the original – just fill greased muffin tins with a circle of pastry and fill with the brownie mix.

Townie 2

Whilst the basic tart is delicious on its own, I also tried out a version with added toppings – more ideas to follow…

The Hartlepool Townie

Ingredients:

Sweet Pastry:

  • 90g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 3 free range egg yolks
  • 200g plain flour

Brownie:

  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 80g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 60g self raising flour, sifted
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • zest of 1 orange

Instructions:

First make the pastry by creaming together the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until fully combined. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and briefly knead until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Grease and flour a 10in loose-bottomed flan tin. Place the pastry over the top and press into the corners to fill the tin. Fill the tin with baking beans or rice (you may find it easier to place a piece of tinfoil over the pastry first) and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the brownie mix. Melt the butter and chocolate over a bain marie (a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) and stir until smooth. Stir in the nuts. In a separate bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together, before adding to the chocolate mixture, spoonful by spoonful. Finally, mix in the eggs one at the time, beating well until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case (having removed the beans/rice first!) and bake in the oven for 25 minutes (still at gas mark 4) until the brownie mixture is cooked. Remember that brownie mixtures will still by squidgy when completely baked, so don’t worry if it’s still sticky! Remove from the oven and leave to cool before slicing into wedges and serving with whipped cream and berries if desired (or if you are me, eating wedge after wedge from the fridge…)

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes

United States of America: S’Mores Cupcakes

Flag of the United States of America

Yay, S’Mores Cupcakes! Now being from England, s’mores are not traditional – whilst I love toasting marshmallows in front of the fire, we English don’t do the whole biscuit/chocolate/marshmallow thing. However, after seeing many recipes in blogs/magazines and the internet and having a full jar of marshmallow fluff in the cupboard, I decided to give this American classic a try. So if you are in the mood for an American girl-guiding experience, try these!

Smores cupcake

The cake is a sponge mix enhanced with Graham crackers and chocolate chips, which is then topped with a marshmallow fluff frosting (which could be torched if you wanted to add a really authentic flavour to the cupcake). This is then decorated with dark chocolate drizzle and more graham crackers. I used honey grahams, which added a lovely depth of flavour, but it would also work well with plain crackers if you are unable to find the flavoured versions.

Marshmallow fluff frosting recipe taken from here

S’Mores Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz graham crackers, ground into powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2oz dark chocolate chips
  • 150g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 200g marshmallow fluff
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin with liners. Make the cupcake batter by creaming together the butter and sugar before beating in the eggs. Mix in the flour, ground graham crackers, baking powder and chocolate chips before spooning into the cupcake tin. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and well risen. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, beat the butter and sugar together using a hand blender until light and fluffy. Add the milk and marshmallow fluff and continue to beat until a good consistency is reached. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a swirl onto the top of each cupcake. Decorate the cupcake with graham crackers and drizzled dark chocolate.

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Malta: Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Flag of Malta

‘Hang on’, I hear many internet-based voices say. ‘This cake isn’t Maltese! It’s Sicilian! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!’ Now, if you are one of these people, you are not wrong (about the first bit at least) – this cake is indeed Sicilian. The flavour combination of this dessert is most commonly found as a cake, but is also the basis of a favourite ice-cream flavour, and by extension a fabulous ice cream cake. However, it is exceedingly popular on the island of Malta as a dessert, particularly at Easter, and as my version is not a strict replica of the original, I feel few qualms about putting it in this category.

Malta Cake 3

As no doubt the pictures show, this is a loose rendition of the flavours of the cake, rather than a complete replica. The actual cake is far more complex and detailed, where as these share the same flavour profiles but can be whipped up very easily. The almond-scented cake is soaked in a rum drizzle, before being topped with green marzipan, and a ricotta frosting including chocolate chips and candied orange peel. The ricotta cheese frosting is almost unsweetened, however this is not to your taste then feel free to add more icing sugar.

Malta Cake 2

Cassata Siciliana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  • 100g white marzipan
  • Green food colouring
  • 200g ricotta cheese
  • 4 tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp candied peel
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in each egg individually. Add the flour and almond essence and mix well. Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Heat the rum, caster sugar and water in a pan until it reaches the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the cupcakes, before leaving them to cool completely.

Tint the marzipan green, before rolling out to a thickness of 1mm. Cut out a piece of marzipan sufficient to cover the top of your cupcake and cover each cupcake, trimming the edges to create a neat finish. Mix the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, candied peel and chocolate chips, reserving a small handful to decorate. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe a small amount on the top of each cupcake, before finishing with the few reserved chocolate chips.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Poland: Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Flag ~ Poland ~ Pologne ~ Polska

What surprised me as I became more involved in the researching of recipes for this blog, is how this blog is not just about cake. Of course, cake is the canvas, but more than that the recipes showcase a culture and its history. Eastern European countries are an excellent example of this, in that their foods are closely linked to their heritage – many recipes are either a result of using what was available during the communist occupations, or conversely a resurgence of traditional cultural dishes.

After gaining independence in 1989, Poland (like many others) started a slow food revival, moving away from the many state-owned restaurants to a reaffirming of their cultural heritage. Fast food declined in popularity and far more interest has been given to reviving traditional meals, this recipe being one of them.

I discovered this recipe whilst doing some research into Polish desserts and cakes, and it immediately caught my attention due to the stripes and layering within the cake. I love cakes that look good though the base cake, not just the decoration put on top, and layers are a particularly good way to achieve this. This cake consists of layers of chocolate and poppyseed sponge, sandwiched with cherry compote, topped with pastry cream and ladyfingers soaked in rum (giving the cake its name). The final layer is a melted chocolate and nut topping which acts as a firm shell, resulting in a fantastic contrast of textures within the cake, from the soft sponge and cream to the final crisp and crunchy chocolate shell.

drunkards cake 1

The layers of cake, custard and jam

Drunkards cake 2

With the rum-soaked ladyfingers

drunkards cake 3

With the chocolate and nut shell.

The original recipe was adapted from here. There are several other recipes available, though many of these are in Polish, which led to some interesting translations from Google, which was why I decided to stick to this one! This cake is a bit of a mission as though it is quite simple to make there are a lot of different components, however it is worth it!

Ciasto Pijak (Drunkards Cake)

Ingredients:

Chocolate Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt

Poppyseed Sponge Cake:

  • 3 large room-temperature eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup poppyseeds
  • 1/2 cup dried, sweetened flaked coconut

Crème Patisserie

  • 425ml milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 level tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level tbsp cornflower
  • 10g butter

Other ingredients:

  • 2 cups cherry preserves
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 pack ladyfingers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F and greasing a 13″ by 9″ tin. Set aside. To make the chocolate sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a heat proof bowl and beat over a pan of simmering water for 1 minute, until the sugar has dissolved. Using a handheld whisk, beat on a high setting for about three minutes until the mixture has tripled in volume. Sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt into the bowl, folding gently to just incorporate – you don’t want to stir too much at this point. Spread the batter in the tin and bake for about 12 minutes until cooked. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.

Next prepare the poppyseed sponge in the same method as the chocolate sponge, beating the eggs and sugar together before sifting in the dry ingredients. Bake for 12 minutes (or until done – do check as all ovens are different!) before cooling and removing from the tin.

Next on the long list of components (it’s worth it I promise you!) is the vanilla pastry cream. Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and pour it into a bowl, allowing the vanilla pod to infuse the milk. Mix together the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture is pale and thick. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and discard. Slowly add the milk to the mixture, whisking constantly. Add the flour and cornflower, continuing to whisk the mixture. Return to the pan and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for three minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the mixture from the heat immediately and place into a bowl, covering with a sheet of greased baking parchment to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool completely.

Now we are ready to assemble! (Finally, you say.) Start with the chocolate sponge, place it on the serving dish and spread with the cherry compote/preserves. Top with the poppyseed cake before spreading with the pastry cream and placing the cake in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.

Dip each ladyfinger in rum before placing them neatly in a single layer on top of the cake. Return to the fridge and chill for another hour. Melt the chocolate and oil together and spread over the top of the cooled cake before sprinkling with the chopped walnuts. Put back in the fridge overnight, and serve cold, cut into small squares.

Cake · Central America · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge

Puerto Rico: Pina Colada Cupcakes

The Pina Colada cocktail was invented by a Puerto Rican bartender in 1952, a drink to showcase the new coconut cream. His position of bartender at the the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico gave him an unprecidented opportunity for his new drink – as the first luxury hotel to open in the San Juan area, he had many rich and famous clients who duly spread the work of this new cocktail throughout the world.

pina colada cupcakes

This delicious cocktail is full of tropical flavours which work especially well as a cupcake. The cake is a pineapple coconut cake, which is then drenched in a rum drizzle, before being topped with a coconut buttercream, and toasted coconut. The cupcakes could also be decorated with a dried pineapple flower if wished. The recipe for the flowers can be found here, and is extremely simple to complete, thus being well worth the effort.

pina colada cupcakes 2

Pina Colada Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Baked Perfection

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice
Pina Colada Frosting
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • Dried pineapple flowers (see here) and dessicated coconut
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar, before adding the eggs, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the batter, alternating with spoonfuls of coconut milk and pineapple until all ingredients have been combined. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy, adding the coconut milk in gradually to create a thick frosting. Spoon onto the cupcakes, before topping with toasted coconut and a dried pineapple flower.
Baking · Cake · Nation Cake Challenge

Israel: Honey Apple Cake

Flag of Israel. Shows a Magen David (“Sh...

Last Wednesday, as many of you may know was the festival of Rosh Hashanah, otherwise known as the Jewish New Year.Now as with many religious celebrations, food plays a major role, and many edible delicacies have traditional symbolic meanings. One of the most well-known traditions is that of eating honey cake in order to symbolize a sweet new year (a tradition intitially founded by the medieval Ashkenazi Jewish people, but now universally accepted through most of the population).

Honey cake

Honey cake is a bit of a love it/hate it type of dish – the sometimes cloying sweetness can often put it into the same category of Christmas Pudding – I eat it because it’s Christmas, but can’t honestly say I would eat much of it otherwise! Therefore, I decided that I wanted to make a new honey cake, one that still envoked the traditional symbolic flavours, but one that cut through the honey’s sugary-ness. I am please to say that I think I have created a good one here. The honey cake itself is full of grated apple (also a traditional ingredient to represent a sweet new year), topped with a rosewater flavoured glace icing, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds (representative of fruitfullness and new life). 

Honey Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 4 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, and shredded
  • 1 cup + 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Beat the eggs until foamy before whisking in the honey, caster sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients together before mixing into the eggs. Add the apples to the mixture and mix well.

 
Grease your cake tin and pour the batter into the pan, ensuring that it comes no more than 3/4 of the way up the side of the pan. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes (75-90 minutes for a full size Bundt tin), until the cake is brown and coming away from the sides of the tin, testing with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out on a plate, leaving to cool completely.
 
When the cake is cool, sift over the 3 tablespoons of icing sugar. Make the white icing by mixing together the remaining icing sugar, vanilla essence and water together, before drizzling over the cake. Decorate with scattered pomegranate seeds.