May 26, 2016


pineapple upside down cake

My brother has been staying with us in France for a holiday and while he was here he said he would like to do some baking and get more confident with making cakes from scratch instead of using packet mixes.  I was delighted to show him the ropes but surprised that he said he would really like to bake a pineapple upside down cake.

I had never made one before myself!  I know they were popular in the 70’s but would have been far too posh or complicated for my mum to consider baking.  Her ideas naturally rubbed off on me so I never made one either.  Then they went totally out of fashion.

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Lately they have become popular again but somehow I still never got round to baking one, so I was pleased to have an excuse to give it a try.

Curiously, as I started to browse through my collection of recipe books only two recipes for this cake turned up and both had something a bit quirky about them.  I really wanted a dead easy recipe to start my brother off, something simple and uncomplicated that was likely to turn out perfect and boost his confidence, having a few basic techniques.  I then resorted to Google and instantly came up with this recipe on the BBC Good Food website and decided to go with that.

He went shopping for a tin of pineapple rings but couldn’t find any and came back with pineapple chunks instead.  They worked fine and looked great, arranged on the cake in an irregular fashion with a few glacé cherries randomly dotted in between.

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It was a good cake for a baking lesson, principally an all-in-one method but with creaming of the butter and sugar for the topping as well.  I showed him how to grease and line the tin, weigh ingredients accurately – “what, as accurately as that – crumbs!” - check for doneness, release the cake and so on.  I also explained the difference between the creaming and all-in-one methods of cake making as there was a bit of both in this cake.

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The cake was a great success.  I liked the random effect of the pineapple instead of the traditional rings.  The flavour and texture were excellent and we were all very pleased.  In fact my brother was extremely chuffed and is planning to make it again for his daughter this weekend.  I wrote out the recipe for him in my own words so that he could take it home with him.

I will certainly make it again myself. 


For the topping

50g softened butter, Lurpak Spreadable or Flora Buttery

50g light soft brown sugar

1 small can of pineapple chunks in syrup

A few glacé cherries

For the cake

100g softened butter, Lurpak Spreadable or Flora Buttery

100g golden caster sugar

100g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 tbslp of the pineapple syrup from the can


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease the base and sides of a 20cm springform or ordinary round cake tin and line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Using an electric whisk (or by hand), beat together the butter and sugar for the topping until smooth and spread over the base of the cake tin and a quarter of the way up the sides. 

Drain the pineapple chunks using a sieve or colander over a bowl so that you reserve the syrup.  Arrange the pineapple pieces over the butter and sugar topping and dot a few cherries in between.

To make the cake, put all the cake ingredients including 2 tblsp of the pineapple syrup from the can.  Beat with an electric whisk or by hand until well combined.

Spoon the mixture carefully over the pineapple chunks so as not to disturb the arrangement and level the top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until done.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before carefully turning out, upside down, onto a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Cuts into 8 slices.

May 19, 2016


rhubarb cake

This is the cake that features on the front page of the current issue of Delicious Magazine.  It looked delicious and, having some rhubarb in stock, I couldn’t wait to make it.

It’s official title is “rhubarb and amaretti cake with orange and rosemary syrup”.  Whilst I had plenty of rhubarb I had no amaretti biscuits and couldn’t find any very easily in the shops.  I dare say I might have been successful if I had been determined but, here in rural France, all shops are a long way from where we live (apart from the little village store) and they mostly close for lunch, making it difficult to get to more than two of them in a day.  Life is too short for that so I used an alternative that I did have in the cupboard – some boudoir or Savoyard biscuits.

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There wasn’t enough rhubarb in it to make it the dominant flavour and although I used a large sprig of rosemary I couldn’t detect any flavour of that at all.  The flavour was strongly of almonds and orange. 

Having said that, this was a fabulous cake.  I would make it again without the rosemary in the glaze and might try to squeeze a few more bits of rhubarb on the top.  It was easy to make, came out looking just like the picture (always a relief) and went down really well with a spoonful of cream as a dessert. 

Highly recommended!

There is also a story behind the cake stand.  You can read all about it here.

For the cake

225g unsalted butter, softened ( I used Flora Buttery. Lurpak spreadable would work well)

200g golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

Zest of 1 large or two medium oranges

200g ground almonds

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

8 amaretti biscuits, broken into chunks ( I used 4 boudoir/Savoyard biscuits and ½tsp almond extract)

1-2 thin sticks rhubarb

For the glaze

Juice of the orange

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 tblsp granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4. Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin, or loose bottomed fluted tart tin (the cake is quite shallow).

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract (and almond extract if using) and the eggs, one at a time, beating well until incorporated. Ignore any curdling as the mixture will come back together as it bakes.

Fold in the flour, ground almonds, amoretti chunks and orange zest.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.

Wipe the rhubarb and slice each stick into half lengthways. Cut into 12 or so pieces, roughly 6 cm long, and arrange over the surface of the cake. Push lightly into the mixture leaving them 2/3 uncovered.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until done. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup by putting all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes to reduce slightly. Taste and add a little lemon juice if you prefer it to be slightly sharper. Pour over the cooled cake.

To serve, dust the cake with icing sugar or sprinkle with granulated sugar. Serve warm or cold with cream, whipped cream or crème fraîche.

Cuts into 12 slices.