Baking · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

France: Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes

Flag of France

Like many famous desserts the origins of the tarte tatin are heartily disputed, but it is considered (by most versions) to have been a mistake on the part of the chef. Serving the incorrect dish, the chef was so pleased by the reception of the dish that it became a regular dessert, thus becoming the classic dish we see today.

Apple Tart Tatin Cupcake

These cupcakes are based on this famous dessert, but in this case, the pastry is replaced by a brown sugar cupcake, topped with caramel apples and a caramel sauce. Sadly they are not baked upside down, but they do make a good alternative for those less fond of pastry!

Apple Tarte Tatin Cupcakes


  • 8oz butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Caramel apples:

  • 2 large eating apples
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

Caramel sauce:

  • 65g butter
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk


Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a 12-hole cupcake tray with liners. Make the cupcakes by beating together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla essence until well combined. Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes to cool completely.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and place the apples in a single layer in the pan, cooking until golden brown (turning as necessary). Add the sugar to the pan and allow to dissolve, coating the apple slices in a lovely layer of caramel. Remove the apples from the pan, and place the slices on top of the cupcakes.

In the same pan, melt the remaining butter and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the icing sugar, milk and vanilla to the pan, stirring until a thick golden caramel is created. Remove the pan from the heat and brush the tops of the cupcakes with the caramel sauce.

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


  • 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


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)


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


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.

Baking · Desserts · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

England (Derbyshire): Bakewell Tart

Derbyshire flag

The Bakewell tart can be viewed as the epitome of traditional regional English baking, and as such can ignite a lot of controversy over the correct recipe. A very interesting article by Felicity Cloake from the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog (from which the basic recipe for this tart is taken from) expounds on the different variations of this recipe throughout its written history, and is well worth a read.

Bakewell Tart

In the interests of honesty and transparency I should say now that this tart is not technically a Bakewell tart as it does not include frangipane. The reason for this arose due to the fact that I was making this in Scottsdale, Arizona, where ground almonds are non-existent. This lack of ingredients was something that had not even occurred to me, so you can imagine my consternation having agreed to make a bakewell tart, yet now wandering around Walmart summarily failing to find the key ingredient. I also managed to completely confuse a helpful supermarket assistant who obviously had no idea what I was talking about. Finally I decided that I would replace the frangipane layer with an almond-flavoured sponge cake, which whilst not traditional, served the purpose very well.

Decoration for this tart is a subject of much debate – whether to leave it plain or to top with the customary white glace icing and cherry, a la Mr. Kipling. My tart represents a compromise, due to the request for the latter style, however feel free to leave this off if you prefer.

Bakewell Tart


The Pastry:

  • 140g plain flour, plus extra to sprinkle
  • 85g cold butter, plus extra to grease
  • Pinch of salt
  • Ice cold water

The Sponge Topping

  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp almond essence
  • 100g raspberry jam
  • 25g flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5 and grease and flour a 23in flan tin.

First make the pastry by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl, before grating in the cold butter. Stir just enough cold water into the mixture to bring it together into a ball and wrap in cling film before chilling or an hour.

Roll out the chilled pastry until about 5mm thick and use this to line the tin. Place a piece of baking parchment on top and weigh down with either baking beans or rice. Bake the pastry shell for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Whilst the pastry shell is baking, make the sponge topping by creaming together the butter and sugar before mixing in the eggs, flour, baking powder and almond essence until well combined. Remove the blind-baked pastry shell from the oven and remove the beans/rice and baking parchment. Spread the base of the shell with 100g raspberry jam before topping with the sponge mixture, ensuring a smooth top. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and well risen. 5 minutes before the end of the baking time sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and return to the oven for the last five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

If wished, the tart may be decorated with white glace icing and maraschino or glace cherries, however these are not traditional and may be omitted.

Baking · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Pastry

Greece: Baklava

Co-national flag for use on sea and abroad. Fr...

Cakes can be instrumental in making you eat healthily. This is a clear example of a cake that will ensure a perfect healthy eating record for at least a week. Impossible you cry? How can a cake help you eat healthily?

Well my friends I will explain.

Baklava 001

In this cake it comes down to the construction. After spending  upwards of 30 minutes, brushing layers and layers of thin, crisp filo pastry with melted butter and then drowning the resultant baked pastry in enough honey/sugar syrup to drown a beehive, you will only ever want to eat salad. Case in point; after making this cake all I could face eating was vegetable salad – even protein felt like it would not be a good choice!

Baklava 2 001

Having said all that, when you sit down to eat one of the tiny, sticky chewy delicious morsels, the laborious, butter-filled work becomes worth it. That small piece is not only sweet pastry perfection, but also lasts for a long time – one tray makes a staggering amount of pastries which unless you have a stupendously high sugar tolerance will last you for many days to come.

Baklava 3 001

Health-giving and long-lasting – what more do you want?


For the Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip orange peel

For the Pastry:

1 pound walnuts, toasted
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 (16-ounce) package phyllo dough, thawed
1½ cups unsalted butter


To make the syrup, combine the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, before reducing the heat and simmering for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Process the walnuts, cinnamon and cloves in a food processor until finely chopped.

Over a very low heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan, keeping the pan on the heat to ensure that the melted butter does not solidify.

Brush a 9×13-inch pan with melted butter and place one layer of filo at the bottom. Brush the filo with the melted butter, before adding a second layer, brushing with more butter. Continue this process until 7 sheets have been layered.

Cover the layers of filo with a quarter of the chopped nut mixture. Continue the layering of filo dough, but this time you only need to stack 5 sheets. Spread the next quarter of the mixture over the dough, and repeat the dough layering process twice more. The last layer of filo should have 7 layers of filo, in order to create a thicker top. Finish by brushing the top layer with melted butter. Before cooking cut the baklava into either squares or triangles before baking in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and drench in the syrup. Leave the baklava to soak for at least 4-5 hours and preferably overnight before serving – this allows the syrup to soak into all the crevasses effectively.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Cyprus: Aubergine,Walnut and Mint Cake

Flag of Cyprus

This cake is proof that sometimes not reading something properly can actually work in your favour. When researching this cake, I read a passage that talked about sweets made from small aubergines and walnuts. I combined this with fresh mint, one of the iconic flavours of Cyprus and used in almost everything to create this very delectable cake. Going back to my research I noticed a comma – the sweets were in fact made of aubergines OR walnuts, not both.

Having said that, the flavour combination is undoubtedly relevant, and so it earns its place in the blog. Chocolate, as some of you may be shouting at your screens, is not particularly traditional but it results in a wonderfully moist and rich cake, which unlike most desserts actually improves over time, both in taste and texture. The recipe is adapted from Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache.


Please do not disregard this cake merely because of the added aubergine. If you do, you will have missed out on one of the most delicious, moist cakes ever created. Maybe just don’t tell veggie-haters the surprise ingredient – they will never guess!


  • 2 small aubergines
  • 300g best dark chocolate
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 60g ground walnuts
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g clear honey
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 small handful of mint, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Grease and line a 9 inch springform tin.
Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until soft and limp. Discard any water at the bottom and leave to stand until they are cool enough to handle. When cool, skin and puree the aubergines in the blender. Add the warm aubergine to the broken up chocolate, and stir gently to allow the chocolate to melt.
In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well mixed and gently foaming. Add the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl and fold in until completely combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and place on the serving plate. Finish by dusting with cocoa powder and decorating with a sprig of fresh mint.
Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

England: Victoria Sponge Cake

Greetings! It’s all been rather quiet here recently, due to the fact that I have been in America and most hotels do not have baking facilities for their guests… However, now that I am back in range of a kitchen, normal service will (try to) resume!

Today’s post concerns the mainstay of English baking, and a cake that is seemingly not present in America (though the upcoming posts on my baking adventures here will show you some of the great bakes I did sample!). I speak of the Victoria Sponge Cake. Ridiculously simple, but if made well, this cake can be elevated from tea time treat to dinner party dessert.

The basic cake is a vanilla sponge cake, which is then filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Traditionally jam is the chosen filling, but the addition of fruit makes this cake moister and gives a stronger fruit flavour. I have stipulated strawberries and raspberries here, but the choice is really up to you – any berries will work well.

The lack of pictures on this post is a testament to the quality of this cake – the family gathering demolished this cake within 10 minutes of the cake being completed…

Victoria Sponge Cake




  • 8oz softened butter
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 punnet of strawberries (or other soft fruit of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar


Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/375 degrees farenheit, and flour and grease  two 8in round sandwich tins. Cream together the butter and sugar, before beating in the eggs one by one. Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat until well combined. Mix in the vanilla essence before pouring the mixture into the tin. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from the tin and cooling completely on a wire rack.

To construct, whip the cream and icing sugar until thick and fluffy. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread with the cream. Top with the fresh fruit and then place the second cake on top. Smooth the edges and dust the top of the cake with icing sugar. Serve in large slices with tea.