autumn

Pecan Pie Cheesecake with Brown Butter Pastry and a Caramel Core

I’m under no illusion that this bake is a bit of a project and should probably come with a health warning, but I can honestly say that the the result it delivers is well worth the effort and extra 4539 calories (joking about the calories… although probably not far off). I’ve gone for a brown butter rye pastry in place of a biscuit base here, which might sound controversial (maverick), but it matches up to the nutty pecan topping really well and acts as a great textural contrast to the smooth, caramel-cored cheesecake filling. Give it a go, but be warned, it’s been described as ‘like crack’ by my eloquent taste-testers (who aren’t and never have been ‘on crack’, for the record).

Ingredients

For the base

  • 150g butter
  • 175g plain flour
  • 75g rye flour
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp milk

For the caramel core

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25ml water
  • 50ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)

For the filling

  • 600g full fat cream cheese
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2tbsp corn flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 180ml soured cream
  • pinch salt

For the topping

  • 1 egg
  • 50g dark brown soft sugar
  • 3tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 1tbsp butter, melted
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 100g pecan halves, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Start off by browning the butter for the pastry. To do this simply melt it in a pan until it’s gently foaming, smells nutty and is a light golden brown colour. At this stage pour the butter in a heatproof bowl and pop in the fridge or freezer to set hard.
  2. While the butter is firming up, make the caramel core. Place the sugar and water in a pan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and you are left with a clear syrup, then increase the heat and boil until it reaches a deep golden brown. Add in the cream (be careful as it will spit!) and stir for a further two minutes on the heat, then remove from the heat and add the salt and rum to taste. Set aside until needed.
  3. Back to the pastry; once your butter has firmed up, chop into cubes and tip into a food processor along with the flours, cinnamon and sugar. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add in the milk and egg yolks. Pulse again a few times until the mix comes together in large lumps, then tip out onto your work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease a 2.5inch tall/ 8inch wide spring form cake tin with butter and place a disc of greaseproof paper in the base.
  4. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick on a floured work surface then line the prepared tin, pushing the pastry into the corners as you go (I actually find it easier to cut out a circle of pastry for the base and 2 long rectangles for the walls when I’m using a cake tin for pies and tarts- just make sure you blend the joins between the pieces together and don’t leave any gaps). Trim away any excess from the top of the tin, prick a fork all over the base (not all the way through) to prevent air bubbles, then chill for 10 minutes, or until very firm. If you like you can cut out some leaves for decoration at this stage.
  5. Once firm, line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans (ensuring that they come all the way to the top of the walls), then blind bake for about 15 minutes, or until the walls are supporting themselves. At this stage, remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and golden. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  6. For the cheesecake filling simply whisk together the cream cheese, sugar and corn flour until smooth, then add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Lastly, whisk in the soured cream and salt. Tip half of this mixture into the pastry case then drizzle over the caramel. Top with the remaining cheesecake mix (this should come to about an inch below the rim of the pastry case). Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the middle retains a little wobble. Set aside and allow to settle and cool down slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 170c.
  7. While the cheesecake is baking, mix together all the topping ingredients, except the pecans,until smooth. Once your cheesecake has cooled to a point where it’s no longer hot to the touch, arrange the pecan halves across the surface, then pour over the syrupy mixture. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the topping has thickened slightly. Set aside to cool then chill to set up for at least 4 hours (ideally overnight). When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the tin and gently release the cheesecake, then slice up and enjoy!

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Pumpkin and Pecan Brown Butter Cake with Bourbon Caramel Icing

Make the most of squash season with an ode to the Autumn months; made up of heavily spiced pumpkin and brown butter layers, smooth bourbon-laced caramel cream cheese icing and a slightly salty crunch of pecan brittle, this cake is absolutely delicious and marries together some of my favourite flavours.

Ingredients (serves 10-12)

For the bourbon caramel

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1-2tbsp bourbon ( spiced rum would also work, or feel free to omit the alcohol)
  • pinch sea salt

For the cake

  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • large pinch salt
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 450g grated pumpkin (alternatively, you could use carrot or squash)
  • 75g sultanas
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 100g pecans, roughly chopped

For the icing

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 250g full fat cream cheese
  • the bourbon caramel

For decoration (optional)

  • pecan praline (to make this melt 100g caster sugar in a pan until golden, then add 75g pecans, stir to coat and set on a piece of baking paper- once set, crush up)
  • thyme sprigs

Method

  1. Start off by making the caramel. To do this place the water and sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat; do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a clear syrup, increase the heat and boil until it turns golden brown. At this stage add the double cream and stir, then pour in the bourbon and stir again. Continue to stir on the heat for another couple of minutes, then set aside and add the salt to taste. Leave to cool completely.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper. Place the butter in a saucepan and leave to melt and bubble until it starts to brown and smell nutty. Set aside to cool.
  3. Once the butter has cooled put it in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) along with the sugars and egg and mix until pale and thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, baking powder and spices and stir until just combined. Stir through the pumpkin, sultanas, lemon zest and pecans. Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  4. Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins. Meanwhile, make the icing by simply whisking together the mascarpone, cream cheese and caramel until smooth. Pile into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
  5. Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the tins and slice in half horizontally (leaving you with 4 layers). Pipe the icing in little mounds over the whole surface area of the first layer, then stack up the remaining layers, repeating the piping as you go. Decorate the top with pecan praline and thyme.

Enjoy!

Apple Gingerbread with Rum Caramel

This Autumnal bundt cake, inspired by the humble toffee apple, is perfect for feeding a bonfire night crowd; it’s easy to make, packed with flavour and can be enjoyed hot with ice cream or cold alongside your post-fireworks drink.

Ingredients

For the gingerbread:

  • 150g butter
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 4 balls stem ginger, chopped
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped (about 1-2cm cubes)

For the rum caramel:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml water
  • 100ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2tbsp rum (or brandy)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 22cm bundt tin (or 20cm square tin) with butter then dust with plain flour and tap off the excess. Set aside.
  2. For the gingerbread place the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, stem ginger and spices in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth liquid. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the milk and eggs.
  3. In a large bowl briefly stir the bicarbonate of soda and flour to combine. Add in the warm liquid and beat until you have a smooth batter (this should only take a minute or so- I do it by hand).
  4. Finally, add the chopped apples and briefly stir, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached.
  5. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes to cool a little while you make the caramel. For the caramel just pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves (do not let it boil and do not stir it at this stage). Once the sugar has dissolved up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep golden colour, then add in the cream, salt and rum and stir (it will spit a little but don’t worry, just watch your hands!). Set aside once your caramel is smooth and lump free.
  6. Now turn out your bundt cake (it will still be warm) and prick it all over with a skewer. Pour over most of the caramel, allowing it to sink into the holes. Serve with ice cream and any leftover caramel.

Enjoy!

Hazelnut, Blackberry, Bay and Pear Pavlova

This pavlova screams Autumn; each element contains a seasonal hero and I definitely (big statement) prefer the combination of hazelnut meringue, blackberry cream and bay poached pears over the classic summer berry meringue we all know and love here in England. Make it for an Autumn gathering (or dare I say it- Christmas) and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients

For the pavlova:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1tsp corn flour
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • 200g chopped hazelnuts

For the poached pears:

  • 4 pears, peeled
  • 200ml blackberry rum (or sloe gin)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 75g caster sugar

For the blackberry cream:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 2-3tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g lightly crushed defrosted frozen blackberries (these work really well for rippling as they are usually soft and juicy)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 130c and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. To start, make the pavlova. To do this place the egg whites in a large clean bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Once you reach this stage add the caster sugar 1tbsp at a time and keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy, grain free meringue. Now tip in the cornflour and white wine vinegar and briefly whisk once more to thoroughly combine. Finally, pour 150g of the chopped hazelnuts into the bowl and fold gently with a large metal spoon.
  2. Spoon the meringue onto your prepared tray and shape into a rough circle with a dip in the middle. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours until the pavlova is crisp to the touch and peels away from the paper with ease, then switch off the oven and allow it to cool with the door ajar to avoid any major cracks.
  3. While the meringue is cooking and cooling, poach the pears. Pop the peeled pears in a saucepan along with the blackberry rum, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and caster sugar then top up with water so that the pears are just covered. Simmer for around 25-30 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy. Once ready, pick out the pears and leave to cool, then return the liquid to the hob, turn up the heat and boil until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Set aside to use later.
  4. For the blackberry cream, whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla to soft peaks then fold through the defrosted blackberries with a little juice (reserve a few whole ones for decoration).
  5. Now you are ready to assemble your pavlova. Put the meringue on a plate or serving platter and fill the dip with the blackberry cream. Pile up the pears on top, sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over your syrup. Decorate with bay leaves or gold leaf, if  you like.

Enjoy!

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Over the past couple of weeks the weather here in UK has regressed to it’s favourite state; dark, cold and foggy. While this sadly means we must mourn the loss of that unseasonably mild Autumn, it also means we have legit excuses to eat some pretty amazing food; think pies, tarts, puddings and roasts. Yes, that miserable UK weather is sounding a lot better now isn’t it?

With this in mind, I found myself thinking about lot’s of toffee based bakes on my commute the other day (I know, calm down), and decided I would try out transforming the classic pecan pie into a cheesecake. It turned out really well so here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

For the base: 150g digestive biscuits, 150g pecan nuts, 100g melted butter, 1tsp cinnamon, 2tsp caster sugar

For the filling: 700g cream cheese, 100g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla paste, 300ml double cream, 200ml Carnation caramel, large pinch salt

For the topping: 50ml maple syrup, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g butter, 50ml double cream, 100g toasted pecans, pinch sea salt

Method:

  1. Grease and line a spring form cake tin.
  2. For the base of the cheesecake, blitz the biscuits down to a crumb in a food processor. Add the pecans, sugar and cinnamon then blitz again. Once you have a course sandy texture add the melted butter and blitz once more until well combined. Pour into the tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Chill while you make the filling.
  3. For the filling, whisk together the cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl whisk together the double cream and salted caramel sauce until medium peaks form.
  4. Fold the caramel cream into the cream cheese mixture. Once well combined, pile onto the biscuit base and smooth out. Chill for 2 hours (minimum) to set.
  5. While your cheesecake is setting, prepare the topping. Simply place the maple syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil and remove from the heat then add the double cream and mix. Set aside to cool.
  6. Once the cheesecake is set, arrange the pecans all over the surface (as with a traditional pecan pie). Pour the maple sauce all over the top of the pecans then sprinkle with a final flourish of sea salt. Chill for one hour then slice up and serve.

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake

This cake is the ultimate Autumn centre piece- it combines a moist spiced pumpkin sponge with cream cheese frosting, caramel buttercream, pecans and salted toffee sauce; the best flavours of the season! I decorated mine in a really rustic semi-naked style, but you can refine yours to make it a little more formal if you like.

Ingredients

  • 450ml vegetable oil
  • 450g soft light brown sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3tsp ginger
  • 3tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g sultanas
  • 400g grated pumpkin

For the Toffee Sauce: 100g butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 100g golden syrup, 100ml double cream, large pinch sea salt

For the Caramel Buttercream: 200g butter, 75g of the toffee sauce, 500g icing sugar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting: 250g cream cheese, 150g butter, 500g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract

Extras: 200g roughly chopped pecans

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line three 7inch cake tins.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, salt and oil in a large bowl then whisk until light and well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then gently stir with a spatula until non-streaky and smooth.
  3. Now add the sultanas and pumpkin. Mix well and distribute the batter evenly between the three tins. Bake for 30-45 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes, they are done. Once cooked, remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

  1. While the cakes are cooling, make the frostings. Start off with the toffee sauce. Place the dark brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir then set aside to cool.
  2. Now make your cream cheese frosting. Whisk the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until fluffy, then add the cream cheese and whisk again. Once well combined, gradually add the icing sugar and continue whisking until you have a light frosting. Fold in the vanilla.
  3. Once your toffee sauce has cooled you can make the caramel buttercream. Simply beat the butter until really light, then add the icing sugar gradually until you have a simple fluffy buttercream. Finally, add 75g of the toffee sauce and stir through.
  4. To assemble the cakes just place one sponge on a plate and pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting round the edge. Fill the centre with caramel buttercream and sprinkle over some pecans. Now just top with another layer and repeat until all the cakes are used. Thinly coat the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting and pipe a design on the top with the caramel buttercream. Pile on pecans for decoration and drizzle generously with the remaining toffee sauce.
  5. Enjoy!

My Halloween Showstopper

This toffee apple cake, sandwiched together with salted caramel and toffee frosting, makes for the perfect table centre piece, especially when topped with honeycomb, haphazard spun sugar and mini toffee apple decorations… Give it a go this Halloween and you’re guaranteed to be popular with friends and family, old and young!

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For the sponge, you will need: 450g plain flour, pinch salt, 3tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp baking powder, 3tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ginger, 250g caster sugar, 200g light brown soft sugar, 300g melted butter, 5 eggs, 3 apples

Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan).

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate, baking powder, spices and caster sugar. Mix to combine. In a jug, mix the eggs, melted butter and brown sugar. Chop your apples finely into chunks.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Pour in the wet eggy liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon to fully combine and incorporate. Fold through the apple.

Separate the mix between the two tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.

When cooked, leave for 5 minutes to cool in tins then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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For the toffee frosting, you will need: 200g dark brown soft sugar, 100g butter, 100ml milk, 600 icing sugar, and more milk for loosening

Place the sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan and melt. Stir gently and set aside.

When cooled slightly, add the melted mixture to the icing sugar and stir until combined. If too thick, add drops of milk until a spreadable frosting consistency is achieved.

For the salted caramel recipe I use, click here. 

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To assemble the cake:

Trim the tops of the cakes if they’re not even, then spread 1tbsp salted caramel over the tops. Spread a generous swirl of the toffee frosting over the bottom layer and sandwich the other sponge over it. Coat the entire cake in toffee frosting, using a palette knife to achieve a smooth finish. Drizzle some salted caramel over the top.

For the crushed honeycomb recipe (optional) visit my last post and cancel out the chocolate!

Sprinkle the honeycomb in a circle around the top of the cake.

For the ‘toffee apples’, you will need: some roll out red icing, some kebab sticks and some caster sugar (amounts will depend on how many apples you would like!)

Roll the icing into small balls (slightly smaller than golf ball sized) and stick onto the end of a kebab stick. Place in the freezer to harden.

Place some caster sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once dissolved, let the sugar brown then remove from the hob. Take the icing balls from the freezer and dip in the sugar then leave to set. Arrange in a haphazard fashion around the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

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