dessert

Sticky Fig Cake with Pistachio Praline

Ripe, pink fleshed figs are one of my very favourite fruits and pair brilliantly with so many other ingredients, from goats cheese and honey to cured hams and walnuts. In this cake I have used dried figs soaked in tea ( a method commonly used with dates to make sticky toffee pudding) to flavour the spiced sponge, then added a salty sweetness with the caramel drizzle and finished it off with a tangy mascarpone cheese icing, earthy pistachio praline and slices of fresh fig. Though the finished cake makes for a really beautiful centre piece, you could also enjoy it as a warm pudding with the salted caramel and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 300g dried figs, chopped
  • 325ml hot black tea
  • 185g soft butter
  • 275g light brown soft sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch black pepper
  • pinch salt

For the salted caramel (this is a sort of cheats caramel- a bit like butterscotch sauce):

  • 50g butter
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g light brown soft sugar
  • 50ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt

For the pistachio praline:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g shelled pistachios

For the mascarpone icing:

  • 200g mascarpone
  • 300ml double cream
  • 3-4tbsp icing sugar

Toppings (optional)

  • fresh figs and herbs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c fan (325F/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep square tin (around 22x22cm).
  2. Place the chopped dry figs in a bowl or jug and pour over the hot tea. Leave to infuse while you start making the cake batter.
  3. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar along with the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Once the eggs are incorporated, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. Fold until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined then tip in your soaked figs (along with the tea) and fold once more.
  5. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
  6. While your cake is baking, make the salted caramel. To do this simply pop the butter, syrup, sugar and cream in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat, add the salt to taste and leave to cool.
  7. Next, make the pistachio praline topping. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar starts melting. Swirl the pan occasionally to coat the pistachios and prevent burning. Once the sugar has completely melted increase the heat and turn the pistachios with a wooden spoon until the caramel reaches a deep golden colour, then tip onto the prepared tray and leave to set hard.
  8. Lastly, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until you have a spreadable (but not overly whipped) consistency.
  9. Once your cake is baked, prick lots of holes all over the surface and pour on about 2/3 of the salted caramel, allowing it to sink into the sponge. Leave to cool in the tin.
  10. When your cake is completely cool you’re ready to decorate. Spread the mascarpone icing in an even layer all over the top and sides (or just the top if you like, it’s up to you!) and smooth with a palette knife. Use the remaining cooled caramel to drizzle down the sides then crush up the praline and sprinkle around the edges. Arrange the fresh fig slices on top and add some woody herbs (such as rosemary) for colour.

Enjoy!

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Pistachio Meringues with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote

Shake up the classic British pavlova by combining seasonal strawberries with black pepper, tangy creme fraiche and pistachio meringues; the combination of sweet, spicy and savoury balances beautifully and is a great dessert option for casual summer evenings.

Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 125g chopped pistachios
  • 400g strawberries
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • splash water
  • cracked black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 2 trays with greaseproof paper (you can secure this down with a little meringue once it’s made).
  2. Put the sugar on a baking tray and heat for 10 minutes in the oven until hot to the touch (not melting), then set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
  3. Place the egg whites in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until you reach medium peak. Add one third of the hot sugar and increase the whisking speed until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar in 2 additions, whisking well between each. You should eventually have a thick glossy meringue with no grains of sugar. Tip the chopped pistachios onto the meringue and fold in gently. Spoon the meringue into piles on the prepared trays and smooth into your desired shapes.
  4. Bake for 1-1/2 hours until the meringues can be peeled from the paper with ease. Once baked, turn the oven off and leave to cool with the door closed (to prevent cracking).
  5. Now make the strawberry compote; place the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the strawberries release some juices. Now just cook until your desired consistency is achieved (I like to keep the fruit whole where possible but you can break down the strawberries by cooking for longer if a smoother result is what you’re after).
  6. Cool the compote and serve up with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche (or lightly whipped chantilly cream) and a crisp but chewy pistachio meringue.

Enjoy!

Carrot, Apple and Walnut Loaf with Maple Icing

Looking at the photographs of this cake, you could be fooled into thinking it’s mid Autumn and the trees are turning. They’re not, but given the weather here in the UK (it’s pretty miserable; grey skies and that fluffy rain which get’s you far more wet than you’d think) it might as well be. With this in mind I thought I’d bake something spiced, nutty, simple and comforting to combat the bad weather blues: enter this moist carrot and apple loaf cake laced with cinnamon, ginger and walnuts topped with maple cream cheese frosting…

Ingredients:

  • 225ml vegetable oil
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 125g grated carrot
  • 125g grated apple
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • zest 1 lemon

For the icing;

  • 5tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese (full fat)
  • 100ml double cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Place the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and, using electric beaters, beat together until voluminous and well combined. Now add the grated carrot and apple and briefly beat again to evenly distribute.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt over the wet ingredients and beat in until just combined. Lastly, fold in the walnuts and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the maple cream cheese icing. Simply whisk together all the ingredients until thick and spreadable.
  5. Once the cake is completely cool, top with the cream cheese icing and some walnuts, edible flowers or apple crisps, if you’re feeling fancy.

Enjoy!

Lime, Lemon and Basil Tart

This deliciously refreshing tart is simpler to bake than you’d think, and it rounds off a summer lunch perfectly. A classic lemon and lime filling encased in sweet short pastry is always a crowd pleaser, but the basil added to this one balances the sharp citrus with a sweet aromatic flavour; a great twist on a much loved warm weather dessert.

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 185g plain flour
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 90g cold, cubed butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 4 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150ml lime juice
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • zest 3 limes
  • zest 3 lemons
  • 125ml double cream
  • large bunch basil

Decoration (optional):

  • basil leaves
  • edible flowers
  • lemon and lime zest (fresh or candied)

 

Method:

  1. First off, make the pastry (you could buy shortcrust pastry instead of making this special sweet variety yourself- if you do, just follow from step 2). The easiest way to do this is to place the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz together until a breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved (or rub together with your fingertips, handling as little as possible). Once you reach this stage, add in the egg yolks and blitz again, very briefly, until the mix just comes together to form large lumps. Tip the pastry out onto a clean surface and shape (again handling as little as possible) into a thin disc. Now wrap this pastry disc in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c. Very lightly grease a 22-24cm tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a floured surface to a little under 3mm thick. Line your tart case, using a ball of spare pastry to push right down into the corners. Run a knife around the top of the case to neaten the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
  3. Fill your pastry-lined tart case with non-stick baking paper and baking beans then blind bake for 10-15 minutes (until the walls are set). Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is sandy and dry but not overly golden.
  4. Now it’s time to make your filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150c. Place your eggs, sugar, zest, juice, cream and whole bunch of basil in a saucepan and leave off the heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes some scum will have formed on the surface; skim this off with a spoon then place the saucepan on a gentle heat. Warm until hot to the touch (not boiling), then sieve to remove the basil leaves and zest. Pour this filling into the prepared pastry case and bake for 15-25 minutes until the middle has a uniform and slight wobble when gently shaken.
  5. Cool completely in the tin to allow the filling to fully set (this will take an hour or so) then remove carefully, slice up and serve. Decorate as desired and keep refrigerated once cool.

Enjoy!

Spring Lemon and Courgette Cake

This deliciously fresh tasting cake made up of homemade lemon curd, tangy cream cheese frosting and moist courgette sponge makes for the a great Easter treat, and the recipe will serve you well over the coming months when you’re looking for a simple and zesty summer bake too.

Ingredients:

  • zest 3 lemons
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 375g grated courgette (2-3)
  • 75g sultanas
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4-5tbsp milk

For the lemon curd filling:

  • 4 lemons (juice and zest)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 300g cream cheese
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar

To decorate: edible flowers, courgette ribbons, chocolate eggs

Method:

  1. Make the lemon curd first; put the lemon zest and juice, caster sugar and eggs in a saucepan and briefly whisk. Set over a gentle heat and gradually add the butter cubes, whisking constantly. After a few minutes the curd will start to thicken- keep whisking until you have used up the butter and stop when the lemon curd coats the back of the spoon (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside for later and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a thick skin from forming.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  3. Place the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated courgette then fold into the batter along with the sultanas.
  5. Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Carefully fold in followed by the milk. The batter will be very thick- don’t be alarmed!
  6. Split the batter between the two tins and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and beat together until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble your bake. Take your first cake and level off the top (if necessary) then pipe a circle of cream cheese icing around the edge. Fill the middle with your lemon curd (using the cream cheese line as a barrier) and place the other cake on top. Cover the complete cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate as you wish.

 

Spelt Banana Bread with Walnut Crumble

Banana bread is a staple in many a baking repertoire- it’s simple, tasty and for some reason one of the only cakes deemed acceptable to eat for breakfast (what’s not to like). My version calls for wholemeal spelt flour, making it nutty in flavour and a little courser in texture than a regular banana bread; delicious when paired with the walnut crumble topping!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 75g melted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 200g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp ground ginger

For the crumble topping:

  • 50g spelt flour
  • 25g soft butter
  • 25g soft light brown sugar
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 75g chopped walnuts

 Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar and butter in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until thick, pale and voluminous then fold in the mashed banana.
  3. Add the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt and baking powder) and fold again until well combined. Tip the mix into the prepared loaf tin and level out.
  4. For the crumble topping, rub together the butter, flour, sugar and mixed spice between your fingers until they resemble course crumbs, then stir in the chopped walnuts. Sprinkle this liberally over the top of the banana bread and bake for 45-55 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. Serve warm or cold, on it’s own or with cinnamon butter, creme fraiche or yoghurt.

Enjoy!

Snickers Celebration Cake

Alternating layers of brown sugar cake and chocolate sponge sandwiched with peanut buttercream, chopped peanuts, salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache make up this look-at-me celebration cake (and ode to the Snickers bar)… A bit of a project? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!

snickers1

Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge:

  • 50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
  • 250g soft butter
  • 250g soft light brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 225ml milk

For the brown sugar sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 165g dark brown soft sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 20g melted butter
  • 60ml boiling water

snickers2

For the peanut buttercream:

  • 150g smooth peanut butter
  • 100g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 5tbsp milk

For the ganache:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

For the salted caramel:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • pinch salt (to taste)
  • 75ml double cream

For decoration (optional):

  • chopped peanuts
  • chocolate shards
  • chopped Snickers bars
  • thin ganache to create drips
  • excess caramel

snickers3

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
  2. To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
  5. Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Distribute this batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
  6. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
  8. To make this sponge place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) then whisk until light and voluminous (about 10 minutes). Sift in the flour and fold, then add the melted butter and boiling water to the side of the bowl. Fold very gently to retain the air then distribute between the tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
  9. When the brown sugar sponges are cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. You should now have four cake layers (two chocolate and two brown sugar) and are ready to make the fillings.

snickers-4

  1. Start off by making the caramel. Just place the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar (do not boil or stir, just be patient!). After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and boil for a few minutes; once the syrup reaches a deep amber colour remove from the heat and whisk in the cream (be careful as it will spit a little). Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the salt.
  2. For the ganache simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a jug or bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour all over, allowing the chocolate to slowly melt. After a couple of minutes, stir the mixture to achieve a lovely smooth, glossy consistency. Set aside.
  3. Finally, for the peanut buttercream beat the peanut butter and butter together with electric beaters (or a stand mixer). Once well combined continue whisking while you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar increase the speed and add the milk; whisk until very light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. To assemble the cakes stack a chocolate layer with ganache and salted caramel, followed by a brown sugar layer. Repeat this process then cover the entire cake with peanut butter icing. You can be as neat as you like! Decorate with peanuts, Snickers pieces and chocolate shards (more is more in this case!).

Enjoy!