Autumn Hedgerow Celebration Cake (Apple, Blackberry & Salted Caramel)

Cakes

As someone who is perpetually cold I favour the summer months weather-wise, but when it comes to food seasons, Autumn is the winner for me. Root vegetables, roasts, comforting one-pot dinners and baked fruits, sugared and spiced; you can’t beat them. With this in mind and as an ode to the season and the produce that comes with it, I’ve created a hedgerow-themed celebration cake. Made up of spiced sponges studded with Bramley apple pieces, a tart blackberry compote and smooth salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream- it’s a bit of a project bake, but so worth the effort.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 250g golden syrup
  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • large pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 260ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 very large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1tsp corn flour

For the blackberry compote

  • 450g fresh blackberries
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 5-6tbsp caster sugar

For the Swiss meringue buttercream (I’d only attempt this with electric whisk/beaters!)

  • 150g caster sugar, 50g butter, 100ml double cream, salt (this is for the caramel which is added to a Swiss meringue buttercream base)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g unsalted butter, very soft (but not greasy)

To decorate

  • fresh blackberries, hazelnuts, apple crisps, rosemary sprigs

Method

  1. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 170c.
  2. Start off by making the cakes. To do this place the syrup, butter and light brown soft sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, spices, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into a jug and add the milk, then stir together with a fork and add into the well, along with the melted butter mixture. Whisk everything together with a hand whisk until just combined.
  4. Toss the apple pieces in corn flour and fold in, then distribute the batter between the two cake tins. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked let the cakes cool completely in the tins.
  5. Meanwhile, make the blackberry compote by placing the blackberries, lemon juice and zest and sugar in a saucepan set over a medium heat. Cook, stirring often until thickened and jammy. Set aside to cool.
  6. For the buttercream, start off by making a salted caramel sauce.To do this put the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan and set it over a low heat. Wait until the sugar has all melted (swirl the pan to encourage it to do so but don’t stir!) then up the heat and allow it to reach a deep golden brown. When it gets to this stage, add the butter and stir (it will spit a little), then add the cream and stir again for a couple more minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and once cool enough to taste add salt to your liking. Set aside to cool completely.
  7. While the caramel is cooling, place the egg whites and caster sugar in a saucepan and whisk together (just a hand whisk will do here). Keep stirring over a medium heat until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved, then transfer to a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until it’s completely cool and will hold a stiff peak.
  8. Now continue to whisk, adding a heaped tablespoon of the butter every few seconds. Whisk until it’s all come together and is thick and glossy, then add 3-4 heaped tablespoons of your cooled caramel (add a little more or less to taste). Don’t worry if the mix looks curdled at any point, whisking will bring it back together with time. Once it’s ready you can start assembling the cake.
  9. Remove the cakes from the tins. If they’re domed at all, even off the tops, then slice each sponge in half, leaving you with 4 even layers. Place the first layer on your serving plate. Pile half the buttercream into a piping bag and pipe around the edge of the first layer twice (leaving a roughly 1.5 inch wall of buttercream). Fill this with a third of the blackberry compote then repeat the process until all the sponges are used up.
  10. Use the remaining buttercream to cover the whole cake, semi-naked style. Decorate as desired- I like rustic/natural decorations but the world is your oyster!

Spiced Fig Cake with Brown Butter Caramel Sauce

Cakes

Jammy baked figs, warming spices and a slightly nutty, salty-sweet sauce; it’s seasonal bakes like this which make the transition from Summer to Autumn that bit easier (even when the rain is unrelenting, my holiday a distant memory and the sky an ominous shade of purple-grey).

Ingredients

Brown butter caramel

  • 75g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • good pinch salt

Spiced fig cake (makes one 8 inch cake)

  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 3tbsp milk
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 6-8 figs
  • 1tbsp demerara sugar

Method

  1. Start by making the caramel. Place the butter in a pan and melt down over a low heat. Once melted, increase the heat and foam until browned. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Tip the caster sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently, swirling occasionally (but not stirring) until it melts. Increase the heat until the caramel reaches a deep golden brown, then add the browned butter and stir (take care, it will spit a little). Once the butter is well incorporated add the cream and stir. Cook for a further couple of minutes until slightly thickened, then add the salt to taste.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line an 8 inch baking tin. Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour here if the mix looks like it might curdle). Mix in the lemon zest and milk.
  4. Add the flour, spices and salt to the bowl and fold in with a large metal spoon. Dice 2/3 of the figs and fold those into the mixture too, then scrape it all into the prepared tin. Slice the remaining figs into 6ths and arrange on top of the cake, then sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  6. Once baked, leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack. You can serve this cold or warm (I prefer the latter), but either way, warm up the caramel just before serving and drizzle all over the cake slices.

Enjoy!

Cardamom Carrot Cake with Honeyed Rose Cream and Figs

Cakes, Uncategorized

At last we approach fig season- one of my absolute favourite fruits, and so synonymous with Middle Eastern cuisine that it would be wrong to incorporate them into a bake which didn’t boast nuts, heady spices or sweet floral flavours; of course this cake contains all three, making it one of my favourite recipes I’ve posted on here to date. It’s not too sweet, nor is the icing too heavy, just a well balanced, flavoursome bake with flavours which work beautifully together. I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 100g chopped dried figs
  • zest and juice 1 orange
  • 2-3tbsp rose water
  • 250g butter, cubed
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 400g grated carrot
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • large pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cardamom
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped

For the icing

  • 300ml double cream
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 3tbsp honey
  • 2-3tbsp rose water

Optional

  • 50g chopped pistachios
  • 1tbsp dried rose petals
  • 4-5 figs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
  2. Roughly chop the figs and discard the stalks. Tip into a bowl and add the orange juice and rose water. Leave to soak until required.
  3. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and both sugars until pale and thick. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a small amount of the flour with each egg to prevent curdling).
  4. Stir through the grated carrot and soaked figs (along with any juice the figs haven’t absorbed). Mix together the dry ingredients and pistachios and fold through the batter until no streaks of flour remain.
  5. Split the batter between the prepared tins and level off. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  6. Let the cakes sit in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  7. Meanwhile, place the cream, cream cheese, honey and rose water in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until pipe-able. Adjust the levels of sweetness and rose flavour to taste.
  8. Once the cakes have cooled down, slice them in half horizontally, leaving you with 4  equal layers. Pile the rose and honey cream into a piping bag with round nozzle. Place the first layer onto a serving plate and pipe little mounds all over the surface, then top with the next layer. Repeat until all the cream mixture is used up, then sprinkle rose petals and pistachios over the top and arrange the figs in an attractive way, if using.

Classic Chocolate Fudge Cake (Gluten Free)

Cakes, Uncategorized

I can never understand why gluten free options are, not always but so often, dry, dense and disappointing. I’m not a coeliac myself and am not a fan of demonising gluten, however, if you are genuinely unable to enjoy it then I’m a firm believer that there should and can be delicious alternatives! This cake is the first of many gluten free versions of classic baking staples I’m planning, and seriously, it’s so moreish it brings a tear to my eye (deeply melodramatic but you get the message).

Ingredients

For the cakes (makes one 7-8 inch sandwich cake)

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • generous pinch salt
  • 175ml boiling water
  • 2tsp instant coffee
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 225ml vegetable oil

For the ganache 

  • 300ml double cream
  • 200g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100g mik chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 7-8 inch cake tins.
  2. Stir the almonds, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a small bowl. Mix the cocoa, coffee and boiling water together in a jug until smooth and set aside.
  3. Beat the eggs, oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl (or in a stand mixer with paddle attachment) until pale and thick.
  4. Add the cocoa mix and continue whisking until you have a fairly liquid cake batter with no streaks. Add the almond mixture down the side of the bowl and fold in gently.
  5. Split the batter between the two tins and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
  6. While the cake is baking, make the ganache. Finely chop the chocolate and pop it in a heatproof bowl. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a saucepan and set over a medium heat. When it reaches scalding point (just before a simmer), take off the heat and pour directly over the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then stir to create a smooth, glossy ganache. Allow this to cool and thicken to a spreadable consistency (15 minutes in the fridge once cooled to room temperature helps achieve this).
  7. Once the cakes are baked leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  8. To assemble your cake, level off your cakes if necessary, then fill and cover with ganache.

Enjoy!

Sticky Ginger Cake with Labneh Icing and Blood Orange Syrup

Cakes

As much as I love a stacked sponge showstopper, sandwiched with buttercream and impeccably preened, there’s something deeply comforting about a single layered wedge of cake, rustically finished with dollops of tangy icing and a bit of fruit. This cake undoubtedly falls into the comfort category, and it’s now one of my favourites; ginger cake itself feels nostalgic to me*, but the slightly tangy labneh icing and citrus syrup topping make this one feel a little more modern.

*I don’t know why, I have no emotive family story to share about a recipe passed down through a long line of bakers- my Granny used to feed me M&S sandwich cakes straight from the freezer. I’ll bank that as character building.

Ingredients

For the labneh icing

  • 500ml Greek yoghurt
  • 3tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the cake

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 3tbsp ginger syrup (from a stem ginger jar)
  • 125g butter
  • 4 balls stem ginger, diced
  • 125g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk

For the blood orange compote

  • 90ml blood-orange juice
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2tbsp water
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 additional blood oranges

Method

  1. Line a sieve with a muslin cloth and sit over a large bowl. Scrape the yoghurt into the sieve and loosely tie the muslin around it. Leave this in the fridge overnight for the liquid in the yoghurt to drain (this will leave you with a thickened mixture- labneh).
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a high sided 9inch cake tin.
  3. Stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. In a saucepan melt together the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger and sugar. Bring to the boil for a minute then make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture. Stir together to eliminate any lumps then whisk the eggs and milk in a jug and add those in too and beat once more.
  4. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Meanwhile, make the blood orange syrup. To do this simply place the juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. At this stage split the vanilla pod and add in, then simmer for 3-4 minutes or until syrupy. Set aside to cool a little, then slice the 2 blood oranges into rounds, discarding the pith and skin. Add the slices into the syrup and stir. Leave to cool completely.
  7. Tip the strained yoghurt into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Sift in the icing sugar and stir everything together until smooth.
  8. To assemble the cake, turn it out of the tin and roughly cover with the sweet labneh. Just before serving, arrange the blood orange slices on top and drizzle the syrup over.

Enjoy!

Salted Chocolate Cake with Coffee Mascarpone & Hazelnut Praline Caramel

Cakes

I made this cake last weekend for my Dad’s birthday and it went down a storm. Granted, the flavours aren’t subtle and it’s not for the faint hearted (which neatly mirrors my Dad’s personality actually), but the punchy combination of bitter coffee, nutty hazelnut, rich but surprisingly light chocolate sponge and salted milk chocolate ganache just work (duh- that amount of cream, sugar, salt and chocolate is always going to be delicious).

Ingredients (serves 12-14)

For the hazelnut praline caramel

  • 100g blanched hazelnuts, toasted
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the sponges

  • 375g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 325ml milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 325ml just boiled water
  • 2tsp instant coffee

For the salted milk chocolate ganache

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 275ml double cream
  • Generous pinch sea salt

For the coffee mascarpone filling

  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 100ml double cream

  1. Start off by making the hazelnut praline caramel.To do this simply place the caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan over a medium heat and swirl the pan until it melts. Once melted, up the heat until the sugar reaches a deep golden brown. At this stage add the toasted hazelnuts, stir to coat then tip onto a baking paper lined baking tray. Leave to set hard, then blitz into a paste. Set aside. Pour the cream into a saucepan and gently heat. Once the cream is gently simmering add in the praline paste and stir to create a caramel. Cook down for a few minutes until thickened, then set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch baking tins. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave in short stints, stirring often). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
  4. Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
  5. Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 45-55 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. While the cakes are cooling make the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it meets scalding point then pour over the chocolate. Allow the cream to melt the chocolate for a few minutes then stir until smooth and glossy. Add salt to taste then set aside to cool.
  7. For the coffee mascarpone crush the coffee into a fine powder then just whisk together all the ingredients until smooth.
  8. When all the elements are cool you’re ready to assemble the cake. Your cakes will probably have a domed top, so trim these off then divide each one into two even layers (leaving you with 4 layers overall).
  9. Scrape the hazelnut praline caramel into a piping bag. Split the mascarpone into thirds. Spread one third of the mascarpone over the first sponge layer then pipe over a third of the caramel in a zigzag (so that each slice will have some caramel inside!). Repeat this step until you’ve used up the sponges, then rustically cover the whole cake in the thickened ganache.
  10. Garnish with edible dried flower petals.

Sticky Date Pudding with Masala Chai Inspired Toffee Sauce

Cakes, Uncategorized

This striking but deeply comforting dessert is perfect for Christmas if you’re after something a little bit different to your bog standard figgy pudding; it’s essentially a twist on the nostalgic sticky toffee pud, but is lifted with ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and orange then drenched in a sauce which I’ve infused with classic chai spices (black peppercorn, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, cloves and fennel seeds). I’m going to be serving this up on Christmas day with vanilla ice cream (though it would be amazing with a rose or pistachio variety!).

Ingredients

  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft dark brown sugar
  • 70g black treacle
  • 135g golden syrup
  • 200g pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 100ml milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2 eggs

For the sauce

  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 75g butter
  • 50ml maple syrup
  • 125ml double cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • pinch fennel seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • pinch sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease your bundt tin generously with butter then coat with plain flour, tipping out any excess.
  2. Before starting on the pudding mix, infuse the cream for the toffee sauce. To do this pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, mixed spice, peppercorns, fennel seeds and cardamom pods. Heat gently until just boiling then set aside until required.
  3. Place the dates in a small bowl then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once the contents of the pan have melted add the milk, orange zest, soaked dates and water. Stir together until well combined. Set aside to cool a little.
  4. Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break them up then gradually add the contents of the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin (ensuring that you leave a 1.5 inch gap at the top of the tin for rising) and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
  6. While the pudding is cooking, finish the sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and maple in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and strain in the flavoured cream and salt.
  7. Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Merry Christmas!

Spiced Christmas Buns with Cranberry and White Chocolate

Bread, Uncategorized

In the words of Jez (Peep Show reference, sorry if you don’t watch it), ‘I am a Christmassist’. I love everything associated this time of year; heady spices, mulled anything, twinkling lights, the smell of fir, infinite chocolate, roll necks and nostalgic films. With that in mind, I’ve got lots of festive recipes lined up for December, kicking off with these spiced buns, packed full of orange-soaked fruit and white chocolate- delicious warm from the oven with a strong coffee.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 75g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 220ml milk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 sachets fast action dried yeast (14g)
  • 2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for glazing)

For the filling

  • 75g dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 50g sultanas, roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice 2 oranges
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped

For the topping

  • The reserved orange juice, plus 3tbsp caster sugar
  • A few extra cranberries, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 75g white chocolate, melted (optional)

Method

  1. Start off by making the dough. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan and very gently heat until the butter melts, then set aside until lukewarm. Stir together the sugar, salt, yeast and flour in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached) then make a well and add in the lukewarm milk/butter and one of the eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, first using a wooden spoon to bring everything together, then using your hands to form a soft dough (alternatively, do this by setting your dough hook to a low speed).
  2. Once you have a soft dough, turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes (or just keep the dough in your stand mixer bowl and increase the speed of your dough hook for 6-8 minutes) or until your dough is smooth, stretchy and elastic.
  3. Now tip the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for about an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
  4. For the bun filling, place the cranberries, sultanas, orange zest and orange juice in a bowl and leave to soak for half an hour. Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice until smooth. Grease a high sided 20x30cm rectangular tin or 25x25cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.
  5. Once the dough has proved, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 5mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter mixture across the surface of the rectangle in an even layer, ensuring that you go all the way to the edges. Now strain the orange juice away from the dried fruits into a saucepan (save this for later). Sprinkle the fruits over the cinnamon butter then lastly distribute the chopped white chocolate.
  6. Now, with the long side facing you, roll the rectangle up like a roulade. Slice into 12 even slices if you’re using a rectangular tin (about 2cm wide) or 9 even slices if you’re using a square (about 2.5cm wide). Arrange the pieces, swirl side up, in the prepared tin and cover with a piece of lightly oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and springy (before this prove there will be little gaps between the buns, but they should be just touching when ready to bake). Preheat the oven to 180c.
  7. Once risen, whisk the remaining egg and brush all over the tops of the buns. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, place the reserved orange juice and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy. When the buns are baked, brush the syrup all over the tops, then drizzle on the white chocolate and finish with chopped cranberries, if you like.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake with Brown Butter Pastry and a Caramel Core

Uncategorized

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!

Pumpkin and Pecan Brown Butter Cake with Bourbon Caramel Icing

Cakes

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!