Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge · Uncategorized

Albania: Kabuni-Inspired Cake

Flag of Albania 1944 Nederlands: Vlag van Alba...

According to the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Places to Visit (2011), the number 1 destination in Europe is Albania. Not, to be completely honest, the first time I read this it was a bit of a surprise – out of all the places in Europe, I can’t see why that would be number 1!. Even for us, aiming to visit every European country, Albania is not top of our list (Though Max has a rather cunning trip planned which involves travelling around Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo). However, when we do go, this is one of the places that I want to go to – Lake Ohrid, one of the deepest and most beautiful lakes in the Balkan states.

Lake_Ohrid on the Albanian side

Fact of the day: Albania has the (slightly dubious) accolade as being the first atheist state in the world, when organised religion was outlawed and heavily suppressed in 1967. Religion has started to be reinstated since the regime change in 1992, but it still enters on a list of the least religious countries in the world.


This cake is inspired by the dessert Kabuni (a dish similar to rice pudding), though with a few notable exceptions – though I’m sure that not many of you will complain about the fact that I am not cooking the rice initially in mutton broth. It is a rice cake, flavoured with raisins, cinnamon and ground cloves. If I’m being totally honest, the cake recipe is not Albanian, instead I have adapted an Italian recipe to mimic the Albanian dessert. The recipe is taken from Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (Internet Link here), though there have been quite a few adaptations, for a start taking out the title ingredient… The result is a delicious, slightly chewy cake, which is great cut into squares for easy access.


Kabuni-Inspired Cake


  • 1.7 litre/3 pints milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 200g/7oz sugar
  • 300g/10½oz arborio rice
  • 5 large free-range eggs, separated
  • 40g/1½oz raisins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • zest of 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease and line a 10in tin. Set aside for later.

Heat the milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the rice, cooking for about 25 minutes until the rice is al dente (with a slight bite). Add more milk if necessary to achieve this texture, and stir regularly to ensure that it does’t stick to theYou are looking for the liquid to have reduced, but for the rice to still be creamy – think rice pudding. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.

Whisk the egg yolks until they are thick and creamy. In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks – this will take a long time so be patient! Stir the egg yolks into the rice mixture before gently folding in the egg whites. Stir in the raisins and orange zest and bake for 1 hour. Remove and serve either hot or cold.

Baking · Cupcakes · Nation Cake Challenge · Natural Decorations · North America

Mexico: Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes with Horchata Frosting

Flag of Mexico See also: List of Mexican flags

Mexican food is a prime example of a fusion cuisine – the original cuisine of the Aztec people combined with the European cuisines of those who came over during the Spanish Conquest of 1519-21. Whilst the Spanish conquistadors made a failed attempt to superimpose the Spanish style on the conquered Aztec peoples, elements of the cuisine did enter the Mexican recipe books and are recognisable today. Due to the strong links between the cultural traditions and the cuisine, Mexican cuisine has been denoted an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO – the only cuisine to make the list!


At the moment, my entire knowledge of real Mexican food has come from the delightful restaurant Wahaca, and the books of it’s founder Thomasina Miers. I love Wahaca, and it is always near the top of my list of things to do when I’m near London. These cupcakes are a homage to some of my favourite things on the menu – churros, horchata and mole. It features a chilli chocolate cupcake, filled with a chilli-chocolate ganache and topped with an almond-cinnamon buttercream frosting.I then decorated these with a red chilli and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Enjoy!


Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes with Horchata Frosting

[Note on the spicing: I like my chilli and so enjoyed the quantities shown here. The cakes were not burn-your-mouth-off hot, but there was a definite after-heat from the dried chilli. If you are not a chilli fiend, feel free to decrease the quantities, they will still work well]

Ingredients: (Makes 12)

Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 4oz plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes

Chilli Chocolate Ganache:

  • 100g good-quality chilli chocolate
  • 100ml double cream

Horchata Frosting:

  • 40g butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 10ml almond milk (plain milk will do)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Line a 12 hole baking tin with paper cases and set aside.

To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, before adding in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and almonds and mix thoroughly. Add the chilli flakes and stir through. Pour the mixture into the bun cases and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until firm and well risen.Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate chilli ganache by melting the chocolate in a bain-marie, before adding the cream to the mixture. Leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes before using.

Use either a cupcake corer or an apple corer to remove the middle of each cupcake.Fill with a small amount of chilli-chocolate ganache and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Make the horchata frosting by mixing together the butter and icing sugar until thick and fluffy (about 5 minutes) Add the almonds, cinnamon and milk and beat for another 5 minutes. Spread onto the cupcakes and top with a red chilli and a spinkle of ground cinnamon.

To make the chili flowers shown here, cut the chilli into 8 segments, ensuring you do not cut all the way to the stem (thus leaving the segments attached to the stem and head of the fruit. Place in iced water and leave until curled as shown. This may take quite a while, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen immediately!

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Portugal: Cinnamon Custard Cake

Flag of Portugal

Custard forms a huge part of Portuguese patisserie, and is unarguably a central facet in the Portuguese culture. Desserts used to be made primarily by the members of the religious orders in the country, and the story goes that the nuns used so many egg whites to stiffen their outfits that they had to find numerous ways in which to use up the egg yolks, thus starting the prevalence of custard dishes.


This cake is a combination of a crème caramel and a cinnamon cake, featuring layers of caramel, custard and cake, baked in the oven and turned out. The caramel on the top surprised me; I expected it to be a hard caramel layer, but instead it is a runny caramel (think crème caramel again!). Napkins are therefore essential, but it is still delicious. If made correctly and cooled sufficiently you should have  distinct layers when sliced, so don’t be tempted to rush this cooling stage!


The recipe is adapted from here.

Cinnamon Custard Cake



  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-skimmed milk
  • 1/4 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon rind


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of semi-skimmed milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp of caster sugar (yes, this is needed twice!)


Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a square pyrex dish. Set aside.

Make the caramel by heating the sugar and water in a pan until it comes to the boil. Turn down the heat slightly and continue to boil until the mixture turns the colour of amber. Do not stir at any point during this as the sugar will crystallise – if you need to move the mixture around then swirl the pan. Pour the mixture into a greased tin and leave to set.

Place all the ingredients for the custard in a bowl. Mix gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, though air bubbles still remain. Strain the custard into the baking pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. Beat one portion of the sugar and the egg yolks together until thick and pale. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately, mixing well after each addition until the batter is smooth.

In another bowl mix together the egg whites and remaining sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter until completely incorporated. Pour this mixture over the custard mixture – it should float on top. Use a spatula to smooth the mixture over the top, ensuring there are no gaps which the custard could leak out from. Place the cake pan in a larger tin, half full of hot water and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

Cool the cake down completely before turning out as otherwise the custard will not have set completely and the cake will collapse. When the cake is completely cold, place a plate on top of the pan and invert to turn the cake out. Caramel may leak out at this point so it may be appropriate to do this over the sink.

Baking · Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Finland: Almond Cake with Cardamon-Cinnamon Cream

Flag of Finland

Whilst none of the cakes have been a disaster, some are going to be more popular than others, and this is one of them. All I can say is make this cake. Just do it. Very moist and with a delicious filling, a small slice is enough (making it very long lasting), but will also leave you wanting more.


This Finnish-influenced cake is based on the holiday pastry Laskiaispulla, a sweet bread/cake filled with almond paste and whipped cream. To create this cake, I combined a dense almond cake with whipped cream flavoured with cardamon and cinnamon. The addition of the whipped cream lightens the dense cake base and adds an extra layer of flavour to the cake. The cake recipe was taken from David Leibowitz’s blog, whilst the flavoured cream was the result of many trials and tastings. Enjoy!


Almond Cake with Cardamon-Cinnamon Cream


The Almond Paste:

  • 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 small egg white

The cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
  • 8 ounces (225g) almond paste
  • 3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

The cream:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon


Make the almond paste by pulsing the almonds and icing sugar together in a food processer. Add the egg white and process until the mixture forms a lump. If it seems sticky, add a tablespoon more icing sugar and process again until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (162ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper. (See Note, below.)

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the butter, vanilla and almond extracts and process until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are completely combined.

Mix the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add half of this mixture to the food processor and pulse several times before repeating with the remaining flour. Do not over mix it at this stage – it should be just incorporated. Add the batter to the tin and baker for 65 minutes until golden brown and firm in the centre. Remove from the oven and loosen the edges of the cake before allowing it to cool completely.

To make the cream, whisk together all the ingredients in a large bowl until soft and fluffy. Slice the cake in half and sandwich the cake halves together with the cream. Sift icing sugar over the top, an decorate with cinnamon and cardamon if wished.