Tag Archives: Cakes

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Baking with SpiritI’ve moved house since my last post.  I was only moving three minutes away, but given how much crap I seem to have accumulated on top of the ridiculous amount of stuff I already had, it turned into a feat of epic proportions.  I succeeded though, and have been busy settling in and discovering the quirks of my new kitchen (as well as trying to find the best light for photos – I’m still working on that one).  The first thing that I unpacked was all my baking paraphernalia, so that I could participate in this month’s Baking with Spirit, guest-hosted by Craig over at The Usual Saucepans.  He has challenged us to “Reinvent a Classic.”

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 1

Initially, I wanted to do something G&T-inspired – Craig and I first became friends after discovering a mutual love for gin, so it seemed appropriate.  I had a few ideas, but I wasn’t really feeling excited about any of them.  Then, as I was unpacking some bottles of ginger beer, it hit me.  Gin and ginger beer is a thing (well… I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.  Ok, I just looked it up and apparently it’s gin and ginger ale that’s a thing.  A thing called a Gin Gin).  A couple of years ago, I had spiced mulled gin served with apple juice and it was delicious (made by Craig actually – how fitting).  What if I made an apple and ginger upside-down cake with gin in it?

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 2

So that’s exactly what I did.  There isn’t actually any ginger beer (or ginger ale) in the cake because I didn’t want to open a whole bottle just to use a little bit, but it’s represented by ginger and other spices.  I thought about making this with pears, but I happened to have plenty of apples and no pears, so that was that.  Like many upside-down cakes, this is definitely a make-the-day-before cake.  I tried some of the cake not long after baking and couldn’t taste the gin, but the flavour developed overnight and you could taste it the next day – it was subtle, but added something a little different to the flavour profile of the cake.

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 3

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm apples that keep their shape when baking are key, as you don’t want them to disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of apples required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  I reckon the recipe would be equally delicious with pears rather than apples, or a mix of the two.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in and the gin flavour can develop, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
275g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp gin
3 or 4 apples (I used Granny Smith)

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar
3 tbsp gin

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and gin into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, stir in the gin and pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the apples over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (much easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 4

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Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

As this post publishes, I should be about 10,000m in the air.  On a plane, obviously.  Specifically on a plane somewhere between Sydney and Heathrow.  Which doesn’t really narrow things down much.  And actually, my exact geographical location is largely irrelevant – the point is that I’m off to Edinburgh for a month.  It won’t really be a holiday, but I’m still excited to see my mum and family.  I’m just hoping that the UK’s sudden recent bout of real summer carries on whilst I’m there.  Whatever the weather, posts are likely to be even more sporadic than they currently are.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 1

Going away for a month means having a serious fridge and pantry clear out.  I had done a rather good job of using up all my perishables without having to resort to any bizarre combinations, but still had a few nashi pears (aka Asian pears) kicking around.  Since I had more nashi pears than days left to eat them in and I knew that my housemates wouldn’t eat them, I decided to bake with them (big surprise there…).  I happened across a nashi pear and ginger upside-down cake recipe which, aside from making me salivate, also called for 200g of yoghurt, which is precisely how much I had left in the fridge.  A clear sign from the, uhm, pantry gods (uhm, yeah…), that this recipe just had to be tested.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 2

I adore the combination of pear and ginger, and nashi pears are no exception.  Like any decent upside-down cake, the sides go a little crispy and all caramely and delicious.  The cake itself is basically gingerbread, which to me just smacks of a perfect winter treat.  The slice that was missing by the time the cake got to the lab was obviously an offering of thanks to the pantry gods and nothing at all to do with my breakfast.  I mean really, who would ever eat cake for breakfast?  Definitely not me, nope.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 3

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from Anna Eats Auckland

This would work equally well with normal pears or even apples (choose a variety of pear or apple with pretty firm flesh so that they keep their shape and don’t go all mushy).  The Chelsea golden syrup here in NZ seems to be a little richer in flavour than that in the UK, so if you’re using Lyle’s perhaps think about substituting a little bit of the golden syrup for treacle.  I prefer eating the cake the next day so that the caramel can soak in, but it’s also delicious served warm, perhaps accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
250ml (340g) golden syrup (not the easy-pour stuff)
175g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain Greek-style yoghurt (normal would be fine, too)
75g crystallised ginger

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
3 medium or 2 large nashi pears

Directions

To make the cake:
1.  Line the bottom of a deep 24cm round cake tin (mine is 5cm deep).  Line a baking tray larger than the cake tin with tin foil.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is melted.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a medium mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Add the sugar, golden syrup, eggs and melted butter (you’ll need to melt more butter later so save yourself some washing up by re-using the same saucepan) into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Fold in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon until just combined.  Roughly chop the crystallised ginger, add to the batter with the yoghurt and stir until combined.

To make the caramel:
4.  Add the sugar and butter to the small saucepan from earlier and melt together over a low heat until smooth.  Meanwhile, peel and core the nashi pears.  Slice medium-sized pears into eights or large pears into twelfths.

5.  Pour the melted caramel into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pear slices over the caramel and then carefully pour and spread the cake batter over the top.  Place on the prepared baking tray (this will catch any caramel that might bubble over) and bake for 55-65 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy!

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 4

 

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Bring in some pears, I’ll bring back a cake

Ten days ago it was suddenly so cold that I got my winter sheepskin slippers out and was considering changing over to my thicker duvet.  Today it’s so warm that I’m back to rocking shorts and jandals… but with my Barbour thrown on because of the rain-in-every-possible-direction that we’re currently being treated to.  This topsy-turvy weather is difficult to deal with.  We’ve had some rather full-on stormy weather the last few days – rainy, blustery gales that make me feel like I’m in Scotland in November… if I ignore that it’s 22°C at the moment, April and we have palm trees in our garden.

It's a wee bit wavy out in Matheson's Bay…

I do love watching the sea when it’s all ferocious like that.  Aside from dramatic sea views, there are a couple of good things about this weather.  Firstly, the rain has filled up our water tank (yay, showers and clean hair all round!*) and secondly, somebody brought in a glut of pears to the lab yesterday that had all been blown off their tree in the wind.  I’ve had an upside-down pear cake recipe bookmarked for ages, just waiting for pear season to start, so as soon as I saw the small mountain of pears, I knew some of them would be reappearing in the lab today in the form of cake.  Well, assuming the recipe worked of course…

And this is what I'll turn a small mountain of pears into…

I had a moment of panic when, having popped the cake in the oven, I decided to have a little munch on a sliver of leftover pear and discovered that it was sour as (let’s not dwell on why I didn’t think to try the pears before I baked with them).  Oh no, I thought, what have I done?  I can’t possibly bring a horridly sour cake into the lab.  I needn’t have worried though; the caramel completely mellowed out the pears.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that firm, slightly sour pears are the best to use in this cake, as they’ll hold their shape when cooking and retain their pear flavour but the sourness will get baked out.  The cake went down an absolute storm at the lab – I even overheard claims from several people that it was the best cake they’d ever tasted.  I’m not sure that I quite believe that, but I’ll still take that as very high praise.  Unfortunately, the cake went so quickly that I didn’t really manage to get any decent photos of it.  A victim of its own success, clearly.  No doubt I’ll be making it again soon, so I’ll update the photos then.

This would have been a good time to test the pears.

Upside-down pear & ginger cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm, slightly sour pears would be the best to use for this recipe – the baking will mellow their sourness but they’ll still keep their shape and won’t disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of pears required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream or a caramel sauce.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
3 or 4 firm pears

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the pears into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pears over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (way easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 5 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

My housemates got to the cake for breakfast before I did…

*Just to clarify, we have actually been showering over the past three months.  Just quickly and not necessarily at home.  And there may have been some scrimping on the hair-washing.  Isn’t that a lovely note to end on?

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Sharky Oven Gloves turns two!

Guess what?  Guess what?  Today is Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday (in case you haven’t read the title of the blog post…).  Exciting stuff!  And what the blog title doesn’t tell you is that this also happens to be my 200th blog post.  I can’t quite wrap my head around both of those facts.  Two years’ of blogging and 200 blog posts.  Goodness.  That’s a fair bit of procrastination…

A fair bit has happened since my first blog birthday , so here’s a little re-cap:

One tamarillo & walnut cake.

  • I managed to make some rather spiffing stollen, which I must admit is my only ever successful foray into baking with yeast, so I’m still pretty chuffed about that.

Drip drip drop, little caramel… uhm… drips.  Uhm, ya…

  • One of our technicians doesn’t eat egg, so I’ve ventured into occasional egg-free baking over the last few months, which is not something I’ve ever actively done before – most of the egg-free baking I’ve done before has been by accident more than an actual decision to make a recipe egg-free, so it’s been interesting.  Learning about the banana substitution trick certainly helped.
  • I won “best-tasting” in a baking competition with some “radioactive” lemon macarons (ok there wasn’t a great deal of competition, but still…), which was totally exciting.

The irony of a French person bringing in nuclear-themed baked goods to a baking competition in New Zealand is not lost on me.

  • Something I decided to try for my Kir macarons ended up sparking a minor obsession with swirly-shelled macarons, and I’ve since tried the effect out in my Mojito macarons, the non-radioactive version of my lemon macarons and my Leiter Fluid macarons.  So basically all of the macarons I’ve made since arriving in NZ.  Perhaps I should calm down on the swirly shells a little.  (But they’re so pretty…)

When you've run out of wine… fill the glass with macarons.  Sorted.

  • A few months ago I started my weekly Sunday Smiles feature, a weekly recap of things that have made me smile or laugh through the week.  It’s something a little different and all about focussing on the positive things in life.

Drinking gin out of an Edinburgh Gin glass is as close as I can get to real Edinburgh Gin here.  Sad times.

Now, today is also St Andrew’s Day, which I feel is largely eclipsed by Burns’ Night by Scots actually in Scotland, but celebrated by many Scots abroad (at least that’s the case based on my experience – it’s funny how as an expat you suddenly latch on to any excuse to celebrate your home country).  So to celebrate Sharky Oven Gloves‘ second birthday and 200th post and St Andrew’s Day, I decided that I’d post a Scottish recipe but with a Kiwi twist as a nod to my current home.  Hokey pokey is a crunchy butterscotch honeycomb type thing and very popular here apparently (especially in ice-cream it seems), so I thought it would be a fabulous idea to make hokey pokey shortbread.  Now, if I’d thought about it, I’d have realised that putting hokey pokey, which mostly consists of sugar and air, in the oven was not a good idea at all, but I went full steam ahead (I hope I get points for enthusiasm).  Result: the hokey pokey melted in the oven leaving unattractive cavities of caramelised sugar all over the shortbread.  Bugger.

Oh…  101 Dalmatians-themed shortbread anyone?  Ahem.

Of course, I could have just glossed over this particular experiment and pretended that it never happened, but you know, I figured I might as well give you a laugh.  And hey, sometimes I have kitchen failures.  Well ok, the shortbread wasn’t a total failure because it still tasted good, but it certainly wasn’t presentable…  Anyway, I even made a shark fin-shaped shortbread biscuit especially for the occasion, which sort of morphed out of shape a little – perhaps failed shark fins could be a theme for blog birthdays.

So I fed the failed shark fin shortbread to Toothy.  Obviously.

Anyway, giggle away at my recipe mishap, and here’s to another year of blogging, of both successes and failures (but mostly successes).

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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The rhubarb cake that’ll be right

Here’s a tip-top baking secret: don’t overfill a cake tin – if it looks too full, it probably is.  I know, I know, I’m just too generous giving you such ground-breaking advice for free.  What can I say?  I’m really nice like that (please, don’t kill yourself laughing).  Unfortunately, this advice is based on first-hand experience.  An experience which comes courtesy of my (non-existent) entry for last month’s Simple and in Season event.  As I poured the batter into my prepared cake tin, I watched the batter level creep further and further up the side of the tin.  The batter level stopped about 5mm below the rim of the tin and I thought to myself well that looks a bit full.  Should I transfer some of it to a different tin?  Nah, she’ll be right.  “She’ll be right” is the Kiwi version of “it’ll be fine” – I’m clearly doing a fabulous job of adapting to my current host country.  So I popped the cake into the oven, expecting some sort of magic to take place.

It didn’t.  The cake proceeded to slowly rise and – you guessed it – spill down over the sides of the cake tin in what looked rather like lava flows.  I’d had a moment of clarity and put the cake tin on a baking tray which thankfully caught all the cake lava, so I didn’t have to deal with a cake-covered oven.  Too bad that moment of clarity didn’t extend to not overfilling the cake tin in the first place…  Needless to say that, whilst totally delicious, the resulting rhubarb cake was not particularly presentable, so I didn’t get my entry in (obviously this didn’t happen the evening before the deadline… ahem).  Luckily my labmates don’t discriminate against misshapen cakes as long as they taste good.

I made the cake again last night, but with reduced quantities to avoid another overfilled-cake-tin situation.  It was all going well… until I realised that I’d used up all the eggs in the omelette I’d made myself for dinner…  Great planning skills right there.  I could have nipped down to the dairy (corner shop) across the road, but it was raining and cold outside and I had a bunch of bananas, so I decided to just go for the banana-instead-of-egg approach – she’ll be right.  Because that attitude worked so well for me the first time I made the cake…  Thankfully this time I was rather more successful and out of the oven came a presentable, moist, spiced, rhubarb-y cake with a slightly crunchy cinnamon sugar topping.  Phew!  Since rhubarb is still in season here, I’m submitting it to this month’s Simple and in Season event which is back over at Fabulicious Food! where Ren is also celebrating her second blog birthday.  So here’s a rhubarb cake to wish you a happy blog birthday, Ren!

Rhubarb cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from Bubby’s Brunch Cookbook

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 315 ml of normal milk and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for about 10 mins.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  You can use two eggs instead of the mashed ½ banana – when the recipe specifies to whisk in the banana, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  A lot of the rhubarb seems to sink to the bottom of the cake, so you may wish to try dusting the rhubarb with flour before folding it in (I haven’t tried this though, so no guarantees that it will prevent the rhubarb from sinking!).  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
400g rhubarb
Caster sugar, to sprinkle
335g all-purpose flour
1⅓ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Good pinch of salt
400g dark brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, softened
½ banana
315 ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
65g light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Wash the rhubarb stalks and slice into 1 to 1.5 cm pieces.  Place in a sieve or colander over a bowl, lightly sprinkle with some caster sugar, mix together and allow to stand until whilst preparing the rest of the cake.

2.  Preheat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.  Line a 24 cm round cake tin (at least 5cm deep) with baking paper (the baking paper makes it easier to lift the cake out.  If you have a deep enough springform tin, this would be a great time to make use of it).

3.  Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom, cinnamon and salt to a medium mixing bowl and stir together.  Set aside.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until creamy.  Mash the banana in with a fork in a small bowl, and whisk into the sugar and butter mixture.  Then add the buttermilk and vanilla extract and whisk well until smooth (at this point, the mixture may curdle a little and it might not look terribly appetising, but adding the flour will sort that out, I promise).

5.  Add the flour mixture a third at a time, whisking until just combined between each addition.  Fold in the rhubarb and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top with a spatula.

6.  Make the topping by stirring together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over the cake and bake for 1h10 to 1h20 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices or squares and serve.

Enjoy!

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Sunday Smiles: A truthful calendar & discovering an island

Uhm, somehow we’ve ended up in October.  Can time slow down a little please?  September seems to have whizzed by, and this week seems to have whizzed by, too.  Possibly because we seem to have spent most it eating cake.

My Sunday Smiles for this week are:

  • A new month means a new calendar page, and once again, my desk calendar speaks words of great wisdom: “Remember that everything looks better in the morning*  * except for your hair which, quite frankly, looks like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards”  The dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look seems to be one of my particular specialities – how does it know?

  • All that cake that I mentioned?  It might be a little self-indulgent of me, but one of my highlights this week was the egg-free spiced date cake that thankfully worked wonderfully when I really though it had all the odds stacked against it.  Phew!
  • Ok, so, if you’re a regular reader, you may have figured out that I have a rather cheesy sense of humour…  No surprises then that this made me chuckle (cartoon source):

  • It was James Bond Day on Friday, marking 50 years since the release of Dr. No.  The theme song for Skyfall was released, and I don’t know what reviews it has had, but I really like it.  It reminds me of the old school Bond songs.  Have you listened to it?  What did you think?
  • Feeling a little down and want something to make you smile?  These photos of “happy” stingrays will sort you out – I stumbled across them this week and I couldn’t help but crack a smile at them.  (PS – Happy stingrays are a total anthropomorphism, but we’ll just ignore that for now.)
  • We took a day trip to Waiheke Island yesterday which was marvellous fun – discovering a beautiful island 40 mins from central Auckland by ferry is a fabulous way to spend the day.  Particularly when it’s full of vineyards…  Ahem.  The weather was rather blustery (didn’t help the messy hair situation) and couldn’t make up its mind between sunny and overcast, but it didn’t rain so it’s all good.  And the weather doesn’t particularly matter when you’re indoors for wine-tastings…  I can’t wait to go back and explore more wineries of the island – I’m not remotely surprised that people go visit it and then just end up setting up there.

  • And finally, on our way back from Waiheke we were treated to this dramatic view of Harbour Bridge.  I really like it (not so much the associated weather though…).

What made you smile this week?

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An (utterly delicious) egg-free birthday cake!

It’s birthdays galore in the lab this week with both the technicians celebrating their birthdays – one yesterday, and one tomorrow, but she’s taking the day off so we celebrated today.  We’ve named it Technician Week.  Birthdays mean cake, and we don’t do things by halves in the lab so it’s been cake galore over the past two days.  Brownies and cake yesterday, and then two more cakes and biscuits today (plus all of yesterday’s leftovers).  We’re set for the week.  I was in charge of Monday’s birthday cake, which was for the technician who doesn’t eat egg.  The girl who was organising the present and card doesn’t like chocolate, so I needed to find a (reliable) cake recipe without egg and without chocolate.  Quite a challenge, particularly since I didn’t want to go down the vegan route – my limited experience with vegan baking so far hasn’t been particularly spectacular and a birthday is not the occasion to attempt to rectify that.

I searched for some tips on egg-free baking, and found several credible-seeming sites that suggested that you can often substitute half a mashed banana in cake recipes calling for just one or two eggs as apparently it has similar binding properties and still keeps the cake moist.  Obviously this won’t work if you need to separate the eggs or anything, but it’s a good to know.  The next step was to find a cake recipe that only called for one or two eggs (and didn’t have any chocolate), which was a little more elusive than I expected – most seem to ask for at least three.  A Treasury of New Zealand Baking came up trumps with a spiced date cake recipe requiring only one egg.  The original recipe was for a 20 cm cake, and that seemed a little small for a birthday cake so I doubled it.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t 100% convinced that the banana trick was going to work, so I spent quite a while crossing my fingers whilst it was baking away.  The original recipe is supposed to be made in the food processor, adding ingredients as you go along.  Apparently my food processor had other plans, however, and instead of putting together a cake, it decided to make a strange noise, die and then emit a heck of a lot of smoke.  Marvellous timing.

So I reverted back to my trusty electric whisk to rescue the situation, which thankfully it did with flying colours (and no flying batter).  Luckily the taste of the cake wasn’t affected by the food processor mishap.  In fact, the cake was utterly delicious with the spices and the date flavours coming through wonderfully.  And it wasn’t at all dry, which is what I was most worried about (and had to wait until it was cut to find out whether it had really worked or not).  I covered it in cream cheese icing, piped some little fish on top and boom, a marine-themed birthday cake!  By the way, all the photos were taken on my phone and in the foyer or in our printer room (the only part of the lab we’re allowed to have food), so I apologise for the quality and slightly odd set-ups.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go claim the warranty on my food processor and then have a little lie-down after two days of cake…

Spiced date cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The un-iced cake will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight box, so it can be prepared in advance.  The iced cake will keep for about 2 days in an airtight box.  Any leftover icing will keep for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.  If you need the icing to be smooth for piping, I’d recommend using lemons extract instead of lemon zest.  The cake can also be decorated with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and a handful of toasted walnuts.

Ingredients

For the cake:
500g pitted dates, roughly chopped
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250 ml boiling water
220g caster sugar
220g unsalted butter, softened
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
¾ mashed banana
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg

For the icing:
200g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
100g unsalted butter, softened
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or ¼ tsp lemon extract

Directions

To make the cake:
1.  Roughly chop the dates and place them in a heat-proof bowl along with the bicarbonate of soda.  Pour the boiling water over them, stir and leave to soak for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

2.  Butter the base and sides of a deep (mine is about 5 cm) 24 cm round cake tin.  Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper (even if your tin is non-stick).  Pre-heat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C.

3.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.  Add the mashed banana and mix well.

4.  Add the flour, baking powder, spices, dates and the soaking liquid to the butter mixture and whisk until just combined.  Transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin and smooth the top with a spatula (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

5.  Bake for about 1h10 (start checking after 1h) until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:
6.  Once the cake is fully cooled, transfer it to a serving plate and prepare the icing.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and add the cream cheese, cubed butter and the lemon zest or extract.  Whisk together with an electric whisk until white and fluffy (I kept aside about 2 tbsp for the orange piped icing), then spread over the top of the cake with a palette knife.  Decorate as you wish.

Enjoy!

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Blueberries, polenta and wine. In a cake.

This month’s Random Recipes challenge has been combined with Tea Time Treats, a blog challenge hosted by Kate at What Cake Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and the theme is (you guessed it!) “tea time random recipes” – a recipe either from a book or the section of a book that covers tea time treats.  I decided to use randomly pick a recipe from my A Treasury of New Zealand Baking book, which is full of baking recipes (shocking, I know) that are definitely tea time appropriate.  The random number generator on my calculator directed me to page 216, a recipe for blueberry polenta upside-down cake, which also calls for white wine and olive oil in the ingredients list.  Polenta, white wine, olive oil and blueberries?  In a cake?  Intriguing.  And an excellent excuse to clear out some of the frozen blueberry reserves currently taking up space in my freezer.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too convinced and wasn’t sure what to expect.  As curious as I was, if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes, I might not have tried it at all and gone for a “safer” cake option.  By “safer” I mean a recipe that I was fairly sure what the results would be.  You see, I’ve never cooked with polenta before (never mind baked), so I really wasn’t too sure.  But rules are rules.  So off I went on a mission to find some instant polenta.  I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly difficult since after all the recipe book was written in NZ by Kiwi chefs, so all the ingredients must be available here…  But it turned out that my mission required a trip to the big slightly-out-of-the-way supermarket, which (thankfully) did have instant polenta squirrelled away in the international food section.

So, with all the ingredients assembled, time to try out the actual recipe…  I really wasn’t too sure about the whole cake until I was able to try some.  But thankfully my doubts were misplaced.  The top of the cake has a little crunch from the sugar that started off underneath the blueberries (it’s an upside-down cake remember), the blueberries come out slightly mushy and all juicy since they’ve been cooked, and as for the actual cake part, I’d describe it as slightly denser than a sponge cake in texture, which I guess probably comes from the polenta, but not particularly heavy.  The citrus zest, white wine and the olive oil add a distinct fruity flavour which goes wonderfully with the blueberries, although one might not necessarily be able to fully pin down the flavour combination if you didn’t know that wine is one of the ingredients.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess.  So if you’re looking for something a little different (and there aren’t any kids involved) I’d definitely suggest giving this a whirl.

Blueberry polenta upside-down cake

Makes 16 slices
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Since blueberries are out of season at the moment I used frozen ones, which worked wonderfully, but fresh will also work (just be sure to pat them dry after rinsing).  If using frozen blueberries, there’s no need to thaw them first.  I used a very fruity NZ Sauvignon Blanc.  The cake will keep for up to three days if stored in the fridge, but make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

75g light brown sugar
300g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
185g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
85g instant polenta
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
165 ml fruity dry white wine
165 ml olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1.  Line a 28 x 18 cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.

2.  Sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly across the lined baking tin.  Evenly cover with the blueberries.

3.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl.  Add the polenta, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zests using an electric whisk until pale and very thick.  Gently whisk in the wine, oil and vanilla.  Fold in the flour and polenta mixture and then gently pour over the blueberries in the prepared cake tin (trying to avoid dislodging the blueberries).  Carefully smooth the top if necessary.

5.  Bake in the oven for 60-70 mins until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 mins before inverting onto a serving plate.  Carefully peel off the baking paper, taking care to leave the blueberry topping undisturbed.  Allow to cool fully before slicing into 16 pieces and serving.

Enjoy!

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The cake that’s even tastier than it sounds…

I ended up with a bit of a banana surplus this weekend.  I’d bought a bunch of bananas with the intention of making banana mousse again, but then that didn’t end up happening and suddenly I had banana overload.  I could, of course, have just eaten them, but I seem to get bored of bananas on their own after just one, so that tactic didn’t really get me very far.  Mushing them up and freezing them was an other option, but I already seem to have more than enough frozen bananas and limited space in my freezer.  Clearly the solution was to bake with them, and I had the perfect recipe for using up a bunch of bananas plus some of the mashed up ones in my freezer…  I even managed to tie it in with my continuing hazelnut obsession.

That, my dear readers, is a banana, hazelnut and spiced rum upside-down cake and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s even more delicious than it sounds.  One of my labmates declared that it might well be the tastiest baked goods that I’ve ever taken in.  Needless to say, my labmates were terribly enthusiastic when the cake appeared on the table during our afternoon coffee break (it’s also a magic cake, clearly), and even more enthusiastic about demolishing it.  We got some rather jealous looks from people passing through the foyer when they spied the rapidly disappearing cake.

I don’t even know where to start with the praises of this cake.  It’s full of banana flavour (hardly surprising since there are seven in there), it’s wonderfully moist and isn’t nearly as heavy as it looks (thank you cornflour).  The toasted hazelnuts add a lovely crunch and go wonderfully with the banana and spices.  The rum adds to the flavours as well (although – confession – I couldn’t actually taste the alcohol in the rum, just the spiced flavour.  My labmates could though, which probably says more about me than the cake).  The caramelised topping is delicious, but by far the best bit is the topping near the edges of the cake which is all gooey and caramely and sticky and just plain scrumptious.  Sadly my photos just don’t do justice to this cake because I was in a bit of a rush when I took them (tut tut tut).

There’s a new blog challenge on the block (the virtual block.  Which totally doesn’t make any sense, does it?).  Janine at Cake of the Week has started Baking with Spirit, which involves cooking or baking with a different alcohol every month.  Now, at risk of sounding like a stereotypical student, I think this is a completely genius idea, mostly because I tend to bake with alcohol fairly often (although perhaps a little less now since some of my labmates seem to be responsible types and they eat most of my baking).  G&T scones feature on this blog.  Enough said (in fact, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t think of a similar blog challenge!).  So anyway, “rum” is the challenge alcohol for this month’s inaugural challenge, which ties in perfectly with today’s recipe since it uses spiced rum.

Since this cake is so utterly fantastic and really does deserve to be shouted about from the rooftops (because obviously there are a lot of rooftops in the blogosphere), I’m also submitting it to Javelin Warrior‘s Made with Love Mondays blog event, which is all about cooking or baking from scratch.  I’d say that a large proportion of my baking and cooking is “from scratch” so I’m not sure why I’ve never participated before.  Obviously this cake doesn’t fit at all with this week’s suggested theme of “fresh aubergine” but luckily the theme is totally optional.

Banana, hazelnut & spiced rum upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from What We’re Eating

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell fragrant (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  The four sliced bananas should be fresh, but for the three mashed up bananas, frozen ones will work perfectly fine (once thawed, obviously).  Tasty both eaten warm or cooled, and is delicious on its own, but also tasty served with crème fraîche and would probably be good with ice-cream if served warm.  The cake will keep for a couple of days, but is best eaten sooner rather than later.

Ingredients

For the caramel sauce:
85g unsalted butter
165g dark brown sugar
60 ml spiced rum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the cake:
70g toasted hazelnuts
7 bananas
175g all-purpose flour
35g cornflour
2½ tsp baking powder
75 ml whole milk
60 ml spiced rum
165g light brown sugar
115g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C/fan oven 155°C.  Set out a 24 cm non-stick round cake tin (a little tip: if you happen to have two tins of a similar diameter, pick the deeper one).  Line a baking tray that the cake tin will fit onto with tin foil, making little lips around the edges of the tray (this is to catch any caramel sauce that bubbles over the side of the cake tin).

Prepare the caramel sauce:
2.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.  Once melted, add the dark brown sugar and stir until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the rum (be warned, it will probably bubble a little violently) and add the spices and salt.  Pour into the prepared cake tin so that the caramel sauce coats the bottom evenly.

Prepare the rest of the cake:
3.  Roughly chop the toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle evenly over the caramel.  Cut four of the bananas in half lengthways and tessellate them in the pan in a single layer, flat side down (don’t worry if some of the bananas break since that makes them a little easier to tessellate).

4.  Mash the remaining three bananas and set aside.  Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.  Mix the milk and rum together in a measuring jug or small bowl, set aside.

5.  Cream the butter and brown sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, making sure that each one is fully incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla extract, spices and mashed bananas.

6.  Add about ⅓ of the flour mixture and beat in until just incorporated.  Scrape down the walls of the bowl using a spatula before adding ½ the milk mixture and beating until just incorporated.  Repeat by adding ⅓ of the flour mixture again, followed by the remaining milk mixture and the remaining flour mixture, beating until barely incorporated each time (be careful about over-beating the batter as it will result in a tougher cake).

7.  Gently pour the cake batter into the cake pan over the top of the bananas, making sure that the batter is evenly distributed.  Bake for 50-55 mins until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and sit the cake tin on a wire rack to cool for 15 mins before placing a serving plate over the top of the tin and inverting the cake out on to it.  The cake should come out easily, but if not, give it a gentle tap on the table whilst still holding it to the plate.  Gently lift the cake tin away and scrape any remaining caramel out of the bottom of the tin and onto the top of the cake with a spatula.

Enjoy!

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Tamarillo time!

I don’t think I’d ever encountered tamarillos, also known as tree tomatoes, until about a month ago.  I certainly don’t remember seeing them in shops in Europe, although I’ve never looked for them, so perhaps I just didn’t notice.  Much like feijoas, another fruit I’ve discovered since moving here, tamarillos are originally from South America but grow well in NZ and are very popular here.  They’re in season from April to November, so I’ll be submitting today’s recipe to the Simple and in Season blog event, which is back home over at Fabulicious Food! this month.  Tamarillos look pretty cool inside with red skin, yellowy-orange flesh and black seeds.  Case in point (you may recognise these if you follow me on Instagram), although these ones have all been skinned:

Pretty funky, right?  I first tried a tamarillo when one of my labmates brought a bag in from her garden several weeks ago.  Which is good because I wouldn’t really have known how to eat them or what to do with them otherwise.  They’re fairly bitter, so apparently they’re often poached in a sugar syrup before eating or very commonly used in chutneys.  That said, they are edible fresh, too, but I think that comes down to a matter of taste.  However you choose to eat them though, make sure to remove the skin because apparently it’s foul (I took everybody’s word for it).  Just cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon if eating fresh (the seeds are fine to eat).

Back when it was feijoa season, I borrowed several NZ baking books from the library since I didn’t really know what exactly to do with them.  Conveniently, said books also contained tamarillo recipes which, in a moment of foresight, I also noted down.  When I was browsing through them to figure out what to do with my tamarillo impulse buy from the farmers’ market, a recipe for tamarillo and walnut cake jumped out at me.  I freaking love walnuts so I was all over this recipe.  The only problem: it was a fairly brief recipe.  The ingredients listed ‘cooked tamarillos’ which didn’t help me much with my fresh tamarillos, but after consulting the internet and a little successful experimentation, I ended it up with cooked tamarillos, which then turned themselves into a rather scrumptious tamarillo and walnut cake.

The not-overly-informative recipe also failed to specify the size of cake tin to use.  Just a minor detail.  I clearly picked one that was a little too large so the cake ended up a little thinner than I’d have liked, but that’s really just a pernickety presentation issue and luckily doesn’t affect the taste.  Based on their bitterness, I wasn’t too sure how tamarillos would work out in baked goods, but actually the tamarillo flavour wasn’t quite as strong as I was expecting, and there’s no trace of bitterness whatsoever.  I love that the walnutty taste comes through really well, and is well balanced by the lemon icing.  Basically, I really enjoyed this cake (and so did the lab, my trustee taste-testers) and if you happen across some tamarillos and are unsure what to do with them, give this a go!  I’m also submitting this cake to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge which is being hosted by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker.  This month’s random letter is “T” like tamarillo, which is a rather marvellous coincidence since I actually bought the tamarillos before reading the challenge.

Tamarillo & walnut cake

Serves 6-8
Adapted from A fruit cookbook

Once the tamarillos have been cooked, do taste one to check that they aren’t too bitter.  If they are, drain them. sprinkle with a little sugar and sit for ten mins or so before using.  I used a 24cm cake tin but the came out much thinner than I would have liked, so I’d suggest using a 20cm cake tin, or even an 18cm one to get a thicker cake.  If using a 24cm cake tin as I did, do watch that it doesn’t over-bake.  The icing is optional, but adds a delicious touch.  You could also use a simple lemon drizzle icing if you prefer.

Ingredients

For the cooked tamarillos:
4 or 5 tamarillos (about 220g, gives about 200g when cooked)
½ lemon
2 heaped tbsp caster sugar (more if using red tamarillos)

For the cake:
50g shelled walnuts, plus extra handful to decorate
185g all-purpose flour
1¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
100g unsalted butter
180g light brown sugar
40g mixed candied peel

For the icing:
55g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
1-2 tsp cream

Directions

To cook the tamarillos:
1.  Place the tamarillos in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Allow to sit for 2-3 mins, then skin them, starting by lopping off the stalk with a sharp knife and peeling off the rest of the skin (the skin peels away very easily once started).  Slice the skinned tamarillos and place in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.  Add enough water to barely cover the fruit, cover the saucepan and gently simmer until the fruit is soft (this took about 15 mins for me).  Remove the cooked tamarillo slices and drain them well before chopping up (you should have about 190g cooked tamarillos).  Set aside.

To make the cake:
2.  Butter a 20cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C.

3.  Roughly chop all of the walnuts and toast them in a frying pan over low heat until fragrant.  Toss frequently and be careful that they don’t burn.  Set aside to cool.

4.  Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a medium-sized bowl.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs until well incorporated.

5.  Alternate between stirring in some of the flour mixture and some of the chopped tamarillos.  Then stir in the peel and 50g of the chopped toasted walnuts.  Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1-1¼ h, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (if using a 24cm cake tin like I did, start checking after 45 mins).  Leave the cake in the tin for 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:
6.  Once the cake is cool, make the icing.  Beat together the butter and icing sugar.  Once well incorporated, whisk in the zest and juice of the lemon.  Mix in the cream to reach the desired consistency.  Pour icing over the fully cooled cake, smooth if necessary using a palette knife or spatula and top with the remaining toasted chopped walnuts.

Enjoy!

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