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!

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

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

1 cup fig jam

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.


Mulberry Jam




We were invited to a friend’s house to pick some of their mulberries. Mulberry trees are an important part of growing up in Australia. They are where you go to find food for your silk worms. They provide sweet purple snacks that require you to strip down to undies to pick and eat them. The fruit has also been utilised as war paint (remember, mum made you take your t-shirt off so she did not have to try and get the fruit stains out later – so your chest is ready for purple adornment).  My grandma had one in her yard we used to visit after swimming in the pool (already in our swimmers, not much damage possible when we were about to jump back in again!), my house had one, my husband’s house had one – they really were part of the childhood landscape.

Anyhow, we were invited to a friend’s house to pick some of their mulberries and so we did. We also had yummy mulberry smoothies and delicious home-made flat bread (that you can cook in an a sandwich press! Amazing!) and fruit and ice cream slice. The food was lovely and the catching up was too but we were left with mulberries that needed cooking … so it was Sonya to the rescue.

She has made jam before. Lots. I have too, but only one batch and it was almost toffee not really jam. Here is what I learned about jam making.

Ingredients :
875g mulberries
800g sugar
1/3 frozen lemon grated

1. Ideally freeze the mulberries first so you can snap the stalks off easily. Pick through the mulberries and make sure they are all good and any insects excited about the fruit have been removed!
2. Add the berries, sugar and lemon to a big saucepan. Simmer gently and mash the fruit with a potato masher.
3. Bring the boil till the jam begins to thicken, keep taking a small amount out and testing to see how thick it is. We were going for thick and syrupy, not gel-ed.
4. When the mixture is less runny and slightly darker, but is still liquid … that is about ready.
5. We sterilised our jars by dipping them in boiling water – just for home use, we did not aim for commercial sanitisation!
6. Using a homemade baking paper funnel (a revolution according to Sonya!), fill the jars with jam. Seal.
7. Alternatively, make bread and eat it hot out of the oven with the new jam and butter … that’s what we did! Either way, find some way to show off your productive and domestic labours and share it with those you love!

I know that it is clichéd but making something like jam can provide such a huge sense of achievement, the glossy bottles all in a row, something beautiful you made and can share. I really would recommend finding a friend and having a go!