December 2, 2018

PUMPKIN, BANANA AND WALNUT BUNDT CAKE

pumpkin and banana cake

A little while ago I popped into our local T K Max discount store to see if they had anything interesting in the kitchen ware section.  They often have real bargains, quality stuff at half price or less.

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It was my lucky day and I swooped on a genuine Nordic Ware Bavaria Bundt tin which was priced at less than £20 – well below half price. 

When I bought my first Nordic Ware tin I christened it by making a pumpkin spice cake. With a tin of Libby’s pumpkin purée lurking in the kitchen cupboard I decided to do the same again but then, as I breezed past the fruit bowl, I spotted the lovely ripe bananas and thought “ I wonder…….”.

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It also occurred to me that it would look rather good on my new cake stand. 

I know, I know, I already have more cake stands than you can shake a stick at, but I have been hankering after a black one for a while.  I have never seen one for sale in the shops and there is always something I don’t like about the ones I’ve seen online, so I decided to make one for myself out of a black plate and a candlestick.   A good dollop of No Nails in the middle and some Gorilla Glue around the edge seemed to do the job of fixing the two securely together.

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If you like banana cakes you will love this one.

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I used the same basic recipe as before which you can see here.  I just reduced the amount of pumpkin purée to allow for the addition of the bananas and added a few chopped walnuts instead of the brazils.  It had a nice, even crumb and one of the good things about Bundt cakes is that they are easy to cut into nice tidy slices that are as thick or thin as you like.  In fact for large gatherings (or cake stalls) you can get a lot of slices from one cake.  However, if you don’t have a Bundt tin you can use a 23cm round tin.

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Definitely a cake I shall be making again.

Ingredients

200g plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

a good pinch of salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

250g light muscovado sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

190ml vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 medium bananas, peeled and mashed

300g pumpkin purée (from a tin or home made)

50g chopped walnuts

Method

Butter and flour the Bundt tin or butter and base line a 23cm round cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 175°C / 155° fan / gas mk 3-4.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, bicarb, bp, salt and spices. 

In a larger bowl, beat the eggs with the pumpkin, oil, vanilla and sugar.  Add the bananas and nuts and stir through.

Fold in the flour mixture and mix well to ensure there are no pockets of dry flour. 

Spoon the mixture into the tin, filling to a maximum of three quarters full.  Tap the tin sharply a couple of times on the worktop to remove any air pockets and bake for 40-50 minutes until done.  There should be no wobble in the middle of the cake and it should be just coming away from the tin at the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Turn out carefully (with fingers and toes crossed) to finish cooling on a wire rack.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.

Cuts into 12-15 slices.

November 29, 2018

APPLE, CARROT AND WALNUT LOAF

Apple and walnut loaf

Nick made this cake for our last cake club.  The recipe comes from a lovely little book called “Cooking with apples and pears” by Laura Washburn.

It’s a lightly spiced loaf cake with, as you would imagine, apples, carrots and walnuts.  Nick followed the recipe to the letter as usual, apart from adding a few extra chopped walnuts scattered on the top before baking and an apricot glaze, for extra glam.  Both the apples and the walnuts were windfalls.  Fresh walnuts are so wonderful, tender and sweet and nothing like the dry and bitter ones often available to buy.

It was delicious in the way that a no nonsense date and walnut loaf is delicious – homely and not too sweet and therefore sometimes preferred spread with a little butter.  I liked it plain. 

Apple and walnut loaf2

There was a good chunk of cake left over after the meeting and as we were heading back to the UK a couple of days later, I put it in the freezer.  Three weeks later we returned to France so out of the freezer it came and then it really came into its own – toasted and buttered.  Absolutely delicious and definitely a cake I will be making myself again – unless I can get Nick to do it for me!

Ingredients

250g plain flour

150g light muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

100ml apple juice

75g unsalted butter, melted

2 lge eggs, beaten

1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated

100g carrots, grated

65g walnuts, coarsely chopped

a few extra chopped walnuts for the topping (optional)

1 tblsp apricot jam to glaze (optional)

Method

Line a 2lb / 900g loaf tin with baking paper or use a paper liner.  Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Put the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix together.

Put the apple juice, melted butter and eggs into another bowl and mix together.  Add this to the dry mixture and mix to combine.

Squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the carrots and apples then add to the mixture with the walnuts and stir until just combined.

Transfer to the tin, level the top and add the extra chopped walnuts if you are using them.  Bake for 1-1¼ hours.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Warm the apricot jam in a small pan and brush over the cake to glaze it if you like.

Cuts into 8-10 slices and will keep well in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

November 14, 2018

POACHED PEAR AND GINGER CAKE

poached pear and ginger cake

I made this cake for the cake club meeting in October.  The theme was “autumn” and for me that always means ginger - and lots of it.  My mum had a very small repertoire of cakes and her ginger cake was my favourite.  The recipe probably came from her ancient, battered copy of the Be-Ro book and I remember the joy of coming home from school to the smell of a ginger cake in the oven.

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For this cake club meeting I was hoping to do much better than the last two where my offerings were, sadly, disappointing to say the least.  This is the risk you take when you use a recipe for the first time – you have no idea how it’s going to turn out until it’s done.  This time I was keen to prove (if only to myself) that I can make a good cake and I chose a recipe that I had had my eye on for a long time, just waiting for the right occasion to make it.  It comes from a book called “tea with Bea”.

P1020563We like pears poached in red wine, cooking them for hours so that they become ruby red all the way through.  For this recipe you poach them just until they are tender which means the wine has coloured just the outer part of the pears, making them look very pretty when they’re sliced.

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The cake was not difficult to make but had more steps than I can usually be bothered with.  The recipe suggests baking one 23cm cake and cutting it into three layers.  I’m not fond of cutting a cake into layers once it’s done – it’s far too nerve wracking for my liking.  And all the three layer cakes I have made have ended up a bit wonky, unwieldly and hard to slice.  So I decided to make two 23cm cakes and sandwich them together.  Consequently I amended the original recipe to allow for the reduced amount of filling required, also for the ingredients I had available.

I have to say it looked fabulous and was well worth the effort.  You can read about the rest of the bakes at the meeting here.

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Ingredients

For the ginger cake

250ml Guinness

250g black treacle

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

280g plain flour

1½ tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp ground cloves

3 eggs

100g caster sugar

100g soft dark brown sugar

3 balls of preserved ginger

200ml sunflower oil

For the poached pears

4 firm pears, peeled

½ bottle Merlot or other red wine

350ml water (approx)

350g caster sugar

zest of 1 orange

1 star anise

1 vanilla pod, split

1 clove

1 cinnamon stick

2 crushed cardamom pods

For the cream cheese icing

70g unsalted butter

95g icing sugar

1 tblsp golden syrup

300g cream cheese (full fat)

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 tblsp apricot or ginger preserve to glaze

chopped crystallised ginger to decorate.

Method

The first task is to poach the pears and this can be done the day before if that helps.

Put all the ingredients except for the pears into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and when the sugar has dissolved add the pears.  Put a circle of baking parchment on top, weighted down with a plate or saucer, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the pears are tender.

Remove the pears and allow to cool.

To make the cake, first put the Guinness and treacle into a tall saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat.  Remove from the heat and add the bicarb – which will make the liquid fizz and bubble up, hence the need for a tall pan.  Set aside to cool completely – which takes quite some time.

Preheat the oven to 170° C / 150° fan / gas mk 5.  Butter two 23cm round springform tins and line the bases with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and spices.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, sugars and chopped ginger, beat in the oil, add the Guinness liquid and combine thoroughly.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Divide between the two prepared tins and bake for about 40 minutes or until done.  After a few minutes remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the cream cheese icing, using an electric whisk beat the butter, icing sugar and golden syrup together until light and fluffy.  Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat well.

To assemble the cake, cut the pears in half, remove the cores and cut each half into four wedges.

Put one cake on a plate or cake stand and spread thickly with the cream cheese icing.  Arrange half of the pear wedges on top and add the second cake. 

Brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot or ginger preserve and arrange the remaining pear wedges over it.  Decorate with the chunks of crystallised ginger.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.  Keep in the fridge.

October 13, 2018

CHERRY PIE

cherry pie3

Our cherry trees did really well this year, producing a lot of fruit, so I looked through my cook books for a recipe for cherry pie and chose one from “Say it with cake” by Ed Kimber, a former GBBO winner. 

The end result was reminiscent of the pies and crumbles I used to make years ago using those tins of cherry pie filling – only much, much better. 

cherry pie2

The only faffy part of making this pie is stoning all the cherries, a process that is made only slightly easier by the use of my not very efficient cherry stoner.  After half an hour and when beginning to lose the will to live, I wondered whether I should just leave the stones in but remembered that a mouthful of stones takes away the joy of most fruit puddings so soldiered on.

cherry pie

I did find a recipe for cherry pie by Ed on the internet here, but it’s not quite the same as the one in the book, using arrowroot, almond essence and with other differences.  It’s not in his first book either, which has the same title as the web page, and is dated later than both of the books were published.  So he seems to have tinkered with his earlier recipe but in any case, this one was delicious and I would definitely make it again.

Probably next year when the cherry tree is groaning under the weight of fruit again!  Speaking of which, I really should have done this post when cherries were in season and easily available fresh in the shops – but you could use frozen ones and make it at any time of year, with the added advantage that you then wouldn’t have to spend hours removing all the stones!

Ingredients

For the filling

200g caster sugar

800g fresh or frozen pitted cherries

zest and juice of 1 lemon

45g cornflour

For the pastry

400g plain flour

1 tsp salt

2 tblsp caster sugar

200g cold unsalted butter

Also, 1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tblsp water for the egg wash.

Method

Put the sugar, 600g of the cherries and the lemon zest into a large pan over medium heat.  Mix the cornflour to a paste with the lemon juice and add to the pan when the cherries start to release their juice.  Bring to the boil gently and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until thickened.  Remove from the heat and add the remaining cherries.  Set aside to cool while you make the pastry.

Make the pastry in the usual way, divide into two portions, one slightly larger than the other and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Grease a 23cm pie dish or plate.

Roll out the larger piece of pastry to a bit bigger than the dish and drape it over, pressing into the base.  Trim so the overhang is about 2.5cm all the way round. 

Roll the other piece of pastry and cut into strips 2.5cm wide. 

*The recipe at this point says to chill the pastry again but I didn’t have time. 

Tip the cherry filling into the pie.  Brush the edges with egg wash and lay the strips of pastry over the top in a lattice pattern.  Brush again and fold the overlap in so that it covers the edges of the strips.  Crimp the edges together with finger and thumb.  Brush the pastry all over with egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is browned and the filling bubbling.

Serves 6-8

October 11, 2018

CARAMELISED APPLE CLAFOUTIS

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This is one of those desserts that might not look much but it tasted divine.  I love a good clafoutis and over the years have tried several different recipes for the batter and various fruits.  In fact I once came close to writing a post called “a tale of two clafoutis” which compared two different recipes, one of them by Raymond Blanc – and he should know how to make a good one - but it got forgotten and the photos remain in my “posts that never quite happened” file.

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This recipe comes from an M&S booking called “Baking” which I think was a Christmas present many years ago.  I have had success with a few of the recipes from it and I have a hunch that it’s from the Australian Woman’s Weekly stable of cookery books.

When it comes to fruit puddings I’m more of a “chuck it in the dish and add a topping” kind of cook so the idea of caramelising the apples in a pan first seemed like a step too far but it was absolutely worth it.

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The quantities made a huge pudding and in fact I kept some of the apples and the batter aside rather than overfill the dish.  I also thought it might not be a good idea to pour all of the caramel in either so I also reserved some of that to pour over a second pudding later.  I’m looking forward to making a small mixed fruit clafoutis with the reserved fruit and batter later today.

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And here it is, clafoutis revisited.  I used the few reserved apple wedges, one nectarine and two apricots, poured over the reserved caramel (about a tablespoonful) and batter and baked for 30 minutes.  Delicious!  It also proves that a dessert doesn’t have to be glamorous to be really yummy!

Ingredients

For the fruit

6 medium dessert apples (900g)

50g unsalted butter

110g light muscovado sugar

For the batter

50g plain flour

50g self raising flour

75g caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten lightly

160ml milk

160ml cream (I used Elmlee light double cream)

80g unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Grease a large, shallowish 2.5 litre baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan.

For the fruit, peel and halve the apples.  Remove the cores with a melon baller or sharp knife and cut each half into four wedges.

Melt the 50g butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the apples and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the brown sugar and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. 

Tip the fruit into the dish and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Make the batter while the fruit is cooling by sifting the flours into a large bowl.  Add the caster sugar and mix together.  Gradually whisk in the remaining batter ingredients with a balloon whisk, until smooth, and pour over the fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Serve warm with pouring or whipped cream.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.

Serves 6.

October 10, 2018

SAVOURY MINI MUFFINS

mini muffins

Whenever I find myself eating a scrumptious mini muffin at a friend’s house I make a mental note to make them more often myself.  The trouble is, I feel I need the right occasion.  With friends coming round for the afternoon I felt that both cake and savoury nibbles were called for and a batch of mini muffins seemed just the right thing.

I used my pear and goat’s cheese recipe that you can see here and adapted it for what I had in the fridge.  On this occasion I therefore made mushroom, bacon and onion mini muffins and they went down a treat.

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As I was filling the holes in the mini muffin tin I realised I had been more generous with the mixture than usual and it would probably not stretch to a second 24 hole tin.  Then I remembered my 12 hole tin which was a charity shop find from last year.  It was apparently brand new as it had no sign of wear and tear or previous use (so many things in charity shops seem to be on the shelf sporting a few bits of the previous owner’s last meal – yuk) and for 50p it was a real bargain.  I knew it would come in handy eventually.

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This basic recipe is very useful and can be adapted for lots of different fillings.  It makes a light and fluffy little muffin, just right for a one or two-bite mouthful and very moreish.

They are best eaten on the day they are made but will freeze well if you simply put them in a bag.  Defrost thoroughly and warm gently for a few minutes in a low oven (140 C) before serving.

Ingredients

280g plain flour

1 tblsp baking powder

a large pinch of salt

black pepper

2 medium eggs

250 ml milk

6 tblsp sunflower oil

a 100g pack of smoked lardons

4-5 medium sized mushrooms

1 small onion

a handful of grated Emmental cheese (optional)

Method

Chop the onion and mushrooms and add with the lardons to a frying pan.  Cook until the lardons are cooked.  You may or may not want to add a little oil, depending on how fatty the lardons are.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°fan/ gas mk 6.  Grease two 24-hole mini muffin tins.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Stir in the cooked lardons etc.  Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

Lightly beat the eggs and mix with the milk and oil.  Add to the other ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Scatter the grated cheese over the top.

Bake for about 15 minutes until risen, golden and firm to the touch.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 36-48 mini muffins (depending on how well you fill the holes).

October 8, 2018

A TALE OF TWO APPLE CAKES and that thing about the icing again.

scrumpy cake

For our cake club meeting last month I decided to try a recipe that I had had my eye on for quite a while.  It’s called “country apple cake” and you can see it on the BBC Good Food website here. For the meeting I called it “scrumpy apple cake” because the apples in it were scrumped from a friend’s garden.  (Actually she invited me round to pick them but that’s by the by.)

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The recipe had intrigued me because it contains chocolate in the form of cocoa powder as well as spices and of course the apples.  Having found my coffee apple cake a great success I assumed this would be just as good, but what a disappointment.  It had a lovely texture and held together well for a cake containing plenty of chunks of apple but the flavour was extremely bland.

I had my doubts when I licked the spoon after putting it in the oven so I attempted to perk up the finished cake by adding a cream cheese topping and some apple leaves and chocolate raisins for decoration.  Unfortunately even that was not enough to rescue a really average cake.  Another recipe I should revisit and tweak?………maybe, one day when I have run out of recipes to try……..although it did have a lovely texture.

apple and apricot cake

Now enter stage left, this cake to a recipe by Mary Berry.  She calls it “American apple and apricot cake” and it appears on the internet in numerous places as well as in her “Baking Bible” and “100 cakes and bakes”.

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In my quest to find the perfect apple cake recipe, this would have to be the strongest contender so far.  It was dead easy to make, essentially an all-in-one method.  I snipped the dried apricots quite roughly and sliced the apples directly from my hand into the cake mixture. 

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My cake sank a bit in the middle but tasted divine.  The combination of apricots, apples and almonds is one that really works well it seems – and in fact most of the almond flavour comes from a splash of almond essence rather than ground almonds.

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I don’t know what it is about it that makes it “American” but I would just call it “apple, apricot and almond cake”.

Mary suggests it’s best served warm but I served it at room temperature and didn’t fall apart like some apple cakes do.  It kept well in a tin for a couple of days, too.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again and again.

Apple, apricot and almond cake

Ingredients

250g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp almond extract

150g butter, melted

225g apples, peeled*

100g ready to eat dried apricots

25g flaked almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 C / 140 Fan / gas mk 3.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm round loose bottomed tin.

Put all the ingredients except for the fruit into a large bowl and mix well together to combine then beat for one minute.  Snip the apricots and slice the apples into the bowl and gently mix them in.  Spoon into the tin and level the top.  Sprinkle over the almonds and bake for 1-1½ hours until done. 

Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*The recipe says cooking apples but I used some more of my scrumped dessert apples from my friend’s tree and they were fine.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.