Erin’s Chocolate, Fig and Walnut cake

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Having moved southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere a few months ago, I understand the blessing of the ‘fall bounty’ more truly. Our local farmers market and grocery shops have been full of bright harvest for the last few months. Now, as both the birds and leaves migrate southwards, the abundance has begun to fade, now revolving, as it does late in the season, around squash and pumpkins. The fig trees around our new home fruited late too, we have been tripping over the fruit as it came thick and fast in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I feel a little guilty admitting to it, but neither Asher or I love fresh figs terribly. On the other hand, I really do not like fruit going to waste and so I had been gathering it up ‘to cook’ at a later date. Perishable as tender fresh figs are, Asher began to get frustrated finding my bowls of slightly fermented figs which were good only for adding to the compost. Anyhow, with a little (negative!) encouragement from him, I started trying to cook them up. I made chilli fig jam – a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. Erin’s birthday seemed like a good excuse to have a go at incorporating the jam into some baking. I played around with a few recipes to come up with the one below – the almond meal makes the batter it more dense than an average butter cake. I might keep playing with the recipe – I will keep you updated with any break-throughs!

Base
½ cup butter, softened (115g)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
¾ cup milk
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 cup almond meal
½ cup coco powder
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt

Crumblings
75g butter
2/3 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts (roasted)

1 cup fig jam

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175oC.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs, beat till combined.
4. Combine the milk and yoghurt, and all the dry ingredients in two separate containers.
5. Begin adding a little of the milk mixture and a little of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mixing till combined, continue the cycle of adding the liquid and dry ingredients and the mixing till combined till all the ingredients are added.
6. Set aside.
7. Beat the butter and sugar for the ‘crumblings’, add in the flour till the mixture clumps together when you squeeze it with your hands.
8. Grease a bundt tin (or whatever tin you have decided to use!) and begin adding the batter, the crumblings, jam and walnuts to the tin, jam works better in the batter not at the edge near the tin. Spreading all the different components around equally will mean a more uniform result!
9. Bake it for about 50-55 minutes – just keep an eye on the browning – if it looks like its getting toasty round the edges and you want to let it go a little longer for the sake of a cooked centre – I use foil to protect it from over-browning-that-is-really-burning.
10. Serve with ice-cream or a little whipped cream – perhaps dusted with icing sugar.

Streusel cake (gluten and dairy free)

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I thought I would share this rather successful experiment with you. With increasing numbers of friends who avoid/are allergic to gluten and/or dairy, this was my attempt at making a dessert that everyone could enjoy. I began with a blueberry muffin recipe which I joyfully chopped and changed till I had something I thought might work – both in terms of universal-friendliness-of-ingredients and deliciousness. I am sure it could do with a little refining, however, even this ‘first draft’ was a very acceptable dessert contribution. Fingers were licked. I imagine that you could continue to mess around with the different flours used to suit your preferences, I think I was particularly limited by the amount of almond meal I had at home that day! Anyhow, perhaps it will inspire you to do something new with a recipe (I find muffin ones quite forgiving if you don’t change the fat or sugar content too much) – or do some baking for a friend!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light olive oil (or another light flavoured cooking oil of your choice)
1/2 cup brown sugar – loosely packed
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup almond milk
1 2/3 cup self-raising gluten free flour
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
3/4 cup frozen blackberries

Streusel topping:
1/3-1/2 cup quiona flakes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup buckwheat groats

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180oC, line a square cake tin with baking paper.
2. Whisk the oil, sugar, eggs and milk to combine.
3. Stir the dry ingredients through wet mix gently.
4. Pour most of the cake batter into the cake tin, reserving perhaps 1/2 a cup.
5. Stir the frozen berries through the remainder of the batter.
6. Dot the berries over the top of the rest of the cake batter – try to achieve even coverage!
7. Lastly, blend the remaining streusel topping ingredients and sprinkle these over the surface of the cake.
8. Bake for about 40 minutes – check on it to ensure it doesn’t brown too quickly around the edges and protect the top with foil if the centre needs further cooking.
9. Enjoy warm with greek yogurt or a dollop of mascarpone cheese.

Plum Clafoutis

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Reverting back to patterns of childhood, I have been doing the grocery shopping with my mum for the past six months. Moving back into a busy home, we slipped into a rhythm where the shopping became our thing, time together each week. Gradually, as we shopped, weeks passed and the summer stone fruit began to leave the shelves – these Teagan plums were some of the last. I was drawn to their dusty, frosted blue. Beautiful both in themselves and as an ingredient, I felt compelled to cook with them. I had had a general awareness of this very much French dessert but had never eaten or made it. I’ve said before that my recent delight in baked dessert is very much recent, so that probably has something to do with clafouits’ absence from my repertoire! After some Internet research I settled on this one from Honest Fare as a guide to work from. Here follows my suggested variation. Gabi from Honest Fare suggests that you can refrigerate any leftovers, which is helpful to know. However, my suspicion is that there will be no need for concern! The busy, hungry household I mentioned earlier made very swift work of it!

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs vanilla
2-3 tsp lemon zest (to taste!)
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg (to taste!)
6 teagan plums
1 cup raspberries
sprinkle of brown sugar

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 175oC.
2. Combine the milk, sugar, eggs, flour, almond meal, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg in a tall jug. Use a handheld blender (like a Barmix) to blend the ingredients well (this step could also be done in a bench top blender or by whisking really, really thoroughly!).
3. Pour about 1-2cm of batter into the bottom of a greased baking dish (I used a glass pyrex pie dish). Bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes so that the mixture becomes firm enough to hold the fruit up!
4. Rinse, and chop the plums into quarters, removing the stones. Scatter these, and the raspberries, artfully over the just-cooked-base. Pour the remaining batter over the fruit and return to the oven.
5. Bake for about 45 minutes, longer depending on your oven. The batter will puff up around the plums and turn a golden colour round the edges. Check that it is set through before removing from the oven and serving.
6. Whipped cream, ice cream, custard even greek yoghurt would be perfect served alongside this light fruit dessert. Enjoy!

Cake, because …

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I believe in cake.

As someone who cares about food I do try to eat healthily, to make wise choices. I know that cake is rich in sugar and fats. I know that it is a treat, a ‘special occasion’ only food.

But it is for these reasons that I believe in it. It is rich, it is a treat and a moment marked with cake becomes a special occasion. If sharing bread makes us companions, then sharing cake allows companions to celebrate!

My lovely sister-in-law recently announced her engagement. I made her a cake. A sweet, rich, special cake because we wanted to recognise the sweetness of love and new beginnings, as well as the richness of love and commitment.

Last year I wrote an essay on cake*. After examining its British-European history I reflected on the nature of contemporary cake culture in Australia. I found the whole enterprise completely fascinating. As I reflected on the way cake is bought, baked and shared – I began to reflect on the deeper meanings of this unique social phenomenon.

We share cake at special occasions, employ it to make a little moment in our everyday sweeter, offer it to extend friendship and hospitality. The type of cake and the context within which it is served can invoke both cultural and gender identities. There is just so much that some sugar, butter, egg and flour can say, can invoke, can express.

This link will connect you to the recipe that I reinterpreted for this sweet little morsel. I used a smaller tin; three 9cm tins worked instead of two 15cm ones, I changed the chocolate cake to an almond and rosewater Torte and completely muffed the swiss meringue buttercream recipe! In the end this was reinterpreted into a more regular buttercream icing instead. My embellishment was much more understated (I didn’t have the time or the patience for the original!) – the cake was topped with almonds and rose petals. I think I’ll keep tweaking the recipe for now, maybe one day I’ll share my better-documented-and-repeat-trialed version.

Despite the changes, it was an absolute hit and my thanks goes to Linda Lomelino at Call me Cupcake for sharing. My mum is not a ‘cake person’, my husband and his father prefer savoury treats to sweet … and they all liked this cake!!! The actual recipient now wants it for her wedding cake, I think my family will be returning to this recipe for many future celebrations, big and small!

*Here is a pdf version, if you are interested! CakeResearchProjectMorrisona1641657

Italian inspired Lemon Biscuits

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Well, because we made Lemon Meringue Pie and had some left over lemon rind I decided to get creative so we could use it up! I love almond meal in cooking, baking with almond meal is always so dense and delicious. I knew that there were some Italian biscuits that used almond meal and egg and icing sugar (my friend Julia had made me some one year for Christmas) and I googled till I came up with this recipe from Best Recipes.

Ingredients:
5 egg whites
500g almond meal
300g caster sugar
the rind of 1 1/2 lemons (you could probably do this to taste, 2 would be fine I think)
150g icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Separate eggs and keep yolks for another recipe.
2. Zest the lemon (grate the rind off the skin).
3. Combine egg whites, almond meal, caster sugar and rind in a large mixing bowl, stir with a spoon till combined.
4. Roll tablespoons of mixture in your hand to make a ball and then roll these balls in icing sugar.
5. Place on tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or till golden.
6. Enjoy now or freeze for later.

A spring celebration cake

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This gorgeous photo comes from Kristy who blogs at You and Me Naturally – thanks so much for sharing!

Unusually, not only did my lovely photographer ALG-M not take this photo, but I have to admit that I did not cook this cake. I did design it though, and a lovely friend of mum’s offered to do the baking and assembling so I could be doing something else at the time. It was based on an idea I had and part of another recipe (from the Australian Women’s Weekly Wicked cookbook; the base from the Raspberry Mousse Cake) and Ruth made magic happen bringing it all together!

It was lovely to have such a pretty cake as a focal point of our lovely wedding feast. Celebrating with community and in thankfulness is something I want to grow into more and more, I was so pleased this day was a good beginning!

Ingredients*:
4 egg whites
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (240g) almond meal
1/4 cup (35g) plain flour

Filling:
a ratio of half cream and half mascarpone
flavouring to taste (eg. icing sugar, vanilla …)
lots and lots of strawberries!

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
2. Grease and line with baking paper two (or more!) springform cake tins (about 22cm in diametre is good).
3. Separate eggs and set yolks aside for another recipe.
4. Place egg whites in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the foam has soft peaks.
5. Add the sugar gradually, a little bit at a time so that the foam does not lose its air! Beat till the sugar is dissolved before adding the next amount of sugar.
6. Sift the flour over the egg whites, and gently shake the almond meal in over the flour (again, gently so as not to lose the air you have carefully beaten in).
7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the meringue (egg and sugar foam) with a spatula.
8. Spread the mixture evenly between the two tins, smoothing the surface the spatula.
9. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or till golden brown.
10. Allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes in the tin before removing it and allowing it to cool at room temperature on a cake rack.
11. Whip the cream till soft peaks form and gently combine with mascarpone and desired flavouring.
12. Cut strawberries up – thicker is good as these allow the cakes to sit on top of each other without squeezing out the filling.
13. Assemble the cake carefully layer by layer. Dust with icing sugar and top with more strawberries!
14. Wow everyone and enjoy!

*(the original cake-base recipe … Ruth made a much larger quantity for our 7 layers of cake! This will make you two circle cakes 22cm in diametre)