Apricot, Rosemary and Almond Mini Cakes with Pine Nut Praline

Sometimes ingredients just belong together, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sticky baked apricots and almonds. With these upside down almond cakes I’ve taken this tried and tested flavour combination and made it that little bit more delicious with the addition of fragrant, slightly woody rosemary, and salty-sweet pine nut praline (which, by the way, is extremely moreish). Serve up with a generous dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of good quality honey and take a basic, fairly retro little cake to a great seasonal dessert.

Ingredients (makes 12)

For the rosemary honey

  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 6tbsp runny honey

For the cakes

  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp chopped rosemary
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 175ml milk
  • 6 ripe apricots

For the pine nut praline

  • 100g pine nuts, toasted
  • 125g caster sugar
  • generous pinch sea salt

To serve

  • creme fraiche or mascarpone

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a mini cake tray (I have a tray with 6 holes, each slightly larger in size than a muffin- I just used it twice as the recipe yields 12 mini cakes) with butter then dust with flour and shake out any excess (greasing and flouring should prevent any sticking). To be extra safe, place a little circle of greaseproof paper in the base of each hole. If you don’t have a mini cake tray, you could make these in large muffin cases, yielding about 15-18.
  2. Before you make the cake batter, place the honey in a saucepan along with the rosemary sprigs. Heat gently until the honey starts bubbling slightly then set aside to infuse. You’ll use this later.
  3. For the cake batter, place the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. To prevent curdling, add a little bit of the flour with each egg. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir together the rest of the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt, and chopped rosemary in a bowl. Add half of these fry ingredients along with half of the milk and fold in, then add the rest and fold again until you have a smooth mixture.
  4. Drizzle about half a teaspoon of your infused honey into the base of each hole in your prepared tray. Half the apricots and place one half, cut side down, on top of the honey. Top with your cake mix (about 2/3 full) and level off the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. While the cakes are baking, make the pine nut praline. To do this simply place the sugar in a pan and heat gently until it starts melting at the edges. Give it a swirl (do not stir) and once it’s all dissolved add the pine nuts. Stir to coat the pine nuts and once the caramel has reached a deep golden colour, scrape onto a piece of greaseproof paper and level out. Leave it to set hard (about 10-15 minutes) then blitz it up in a food processor with a very generous pinch of sea salt (don’t over blitz, it’s nice to have a bit of crunch).
  6. When your cakes are ready, leave to cool in the tins for a while then carefully turn out. Heat the remaining infused honey, just to loosen, then brush all over the surfaces. Serve each cake with a spoonful of mascarpone and some of the pine nut praline.

Enjoy!

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Salted Hazelnut Praline and Black Forest Fruit Brownies

It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.

Ingredients

For the hazelnut praline

  • 150g blanched hazelnuts
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the black forest fruit filling

  • 400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 4tbsp kirsch (optional)

For the brownie batter

  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 100g dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
  2. To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
  3. The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
  4. Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
  5. While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size).
  6. Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
  7. Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  9. When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Blackberry, Hazelnut and Lavender Honey Celebration Cake

This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild, is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.

Ingredients

For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)

  • 100ml runny honey
  • 75ml water
  • 4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender

For the blackberry compote

  • 400g fresh blackberries
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • Zest and juice 1 lemon

For the hazelnut sponges

  • 350g soft unsalted butter
  • 325g light brown soft sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt

For the lavender mascarpone cream

  • 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
  • 350ml double cream
  • 300ml mascarpone

To garnish (optional)

  • The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Crushed and toasted hazelnuts

Method

  1. Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
  2. Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  4. Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
  5. Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
  7. To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.

Enjoy!

Caramelised Pineapple, Coconut and Rum Caramel Celebration Cake

This recipe is the first in a two part collaboration with Bloom and Wild, the letterbox flower delivery service. They’ve recently launched a collection of bouquets inspired by three well recognised destinations we all associate with summer; the tropics, the meadow and the desert. This week I’m going all club tropicana with the Ines, a bouquet inspired by the flora and fauna of, you guessed it, the tropics. The cake I’ve created to reflect this theme boasts four coconut sponge layers, a filling of caramelised pineapple and rum caramel, and a lime cream cheese frosting. It really delivers on flavour and if you’re throwing a birthday party any time soon would be a great centre piece… Also, the UK feels like the tropics at the moment anyway so you might as well go the whole hog and theme your baking accordingly (nearly went a whole post without mentioning the weather there… NEARLY).

Ingredients

For the coconut sponges

  • 350g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • zest and juice 2 limes
  • 5 eggs
  • 350g self raising flour
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 100g coconut yoghurt

For the caramelised pineapple filling

  • 1 ripe pineapple
  • 75g soft dark brown sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, cubed

For the rum caramel (this will leave you with a little left over- keep in the fridge for a few days and use on ice cream!)

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 85g butter, cubed
  • 125ml double cream
  • spiced rum, to taste (I used 2 shots)
  • generous pinch sea salt

For the cream cheese icing

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 200g cream cheese (full fat)
  • zest 2 limes

For decoration (optional)

  • the Ines bouquet by Bloom and Wild
  • toasted coconut shavings
  • lime zest
  • rum caramel drips

Method

  1. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. Start off by making the sponges. Place the butter, caster sugar and lime zest/juice in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour every now and then if you’re worried about curdling).
  3. Once the eggs are well incorporated, add the flour, salt and desiccated coconut and fold carefully with a large metal spoon. Finally, fold through the coconut yoghurt.
  4. Scrape the batter into the two cake tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, set aside to cool in the tins.
  5. Increase the oven temperature to 180c. Slice the pineapple into even chunks, discarding the skin and central core. Soften the butter slightly and mix together with the sugar. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dot over half the butter mixture then place the pineapple pieces over the top in one layer. Top with the remaining butter mixture then place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and finally, add another baking tray to weight it down. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the pineapple pieces over and cook for another 15 minutes (or until golden and caramelised). Once caramelised, roughly crush the pineapple then set aside and leave to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes and pineapple are cooling, make the rum caramel. To do this simply tip the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat until it melts (do not stir, just swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted, allow it to reach a deep golden colour then add in the butter and stir (it will spit a little so be careful). Now add the cream and stir again. Cook out for a further 2 minutes on the heat, then remove from the hob, add the rum and stir once more. Set aside to cool.
  7. Finally, make the cream cheese icing. Place the butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and smooth. Add half the icing sugar and beat again (cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel to avoid an icing sugar explosion) until well combined, then add the rest along with the lime zest. Once these ingredients are well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
  8. Once all the elements are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. To do this slice both sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers) and place the first down on your serving plate of choice. Mix half the rum caramel in with the pineapple (reserve the rest for drips). Pipe a ring of cream cheese around the edge of this layer and fill the middle with your pineapple mixture. Repeat until you’ve used up all your sponges then spread a light layer of cream cheese icing all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes (to catch all the crumbs) then spread the rest of the icing on neatly. Finish with the flowers, or alternatively use toasted coconut and lime zest.

Enjoy!

Cherry, Chocolate and Tahini Parfait with Sesame Crumble

We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.

Ingredients

For the chocolate ripple

  • 150g bitter dark chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt

For the cherry compote

  • 200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
  • 3tbsp honey or caster sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

For the parfait base

  • 4 eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 150g tahini

For the tahini crumble

  • 25g tahini
  • 25g demerara sugar
  • 25g butter, cubed
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1tbsp black sesame seeds

Method

  1. Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
  2. Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  3. Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
  4. Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
  5. Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
  6. Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  7. While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
  8. Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.

Enjoy!

Roast Peaches with Coconut Crumble, Blackberry Compote and Lime (VG)

This vibrant dish works well if you’re feeling a boujee brunch, but would also make for a delicious, light summer dessert; it’s a real celebration of summer produce and the contrast of flavours, textures and colours mean it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser (plus it’s vegan!).

Ingredients (serves 6)

For the peaches

  • 6 ripe peaches
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • 2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)
  • 100ml dessert wine (optional)

For the blackberry compote

  • 300g fresh blackberries
  • juice 1 lime
  • 2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)

For the coconut crumble

  • 75g rolled oats
  • 3tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g roughly chopped almonds
  • 50g flaked coconut

Other

  • zest 2 limes
  • 500ml coconut yoghurt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 1 baking tray and 1 high sided baking dish with greaseproof paper.
  2. Half the peaches and remove the stones, then place them in the baking dish, cut side up. In a small bowl, mix together the ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and coconut nectar. Drizzle all over the peaches (along with the dessert wine, if using).
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the rolled oats, coconut oil, coconut nectar, ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Tip this mixture onto the baking tray and spread out.
  4. Pop both trays in the oven and roast the peaches for 20-25 minutes (or until very tender and sticky). Check the coconut crumble after 10 minutes and turn to prevent burning. Once the crumble starts crisping up and reaches a golden colour, add in the coconut flakes and cook for a further 5 minutes. When the peaches and crumble are ready, just leave them to cool while you make the blackberry compote.
  5. For the compote, simply place the blackberries, coconut nectar and lime juice in a saucepan and cook gently (stirring occasionally) until it reaches a loose jam-like consistency. Set aside to cool.
  6. To assemble the dish, start with the coconut yoghurt in the base of the bowl and ripple through some compote, then top with two peach halves, a generous helping of coconut crumble and a sprinkle of fresh lime zest.

Enjoy!

Gooseberry and Lemon Cake with Elderflower Mascarpone

Light, buttery sponge flavoured with lemon, tart pockets of soft, juicy gooseberries, and a generous swirl of elderflower mascarpone make up this simple summer cake and ode to the British countryside.

Ingredients

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest 2 lemons
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 250g gooseberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries would also work well)
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 3tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1tbsp honey

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add a little flour if you’re worried about curdling.
  3. Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Trim the tops and stalks of the gooseberries then fold them through the cake batter.
  4. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy and golden (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone, elderflower and honey. When the cake is cool, swirl the mascarpone over the cake and decorate with fresh flowers.

Enjoy!