eat the seasons

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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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!

Cherry, Chocolate and Orange Blossom Tart with Cardamom Cream

Make the most of the fleeting cherry season with this deliciously indulgent ode to my favourite things (chocolate and cherries). Great for a summer dinner party dessert or post-BBQ chocolate fix, this tart layers up cherry compote, orange blossom infused chocolate filling and cardamom cream, all encased in crisp, zesty pastry; you’d be hard pushed to find someone who’d turn down a slice.

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 150g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • pinch salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

For the cherry layer

  • 400g cherries (de-stoned)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • zest and juice 1 orange
  • 2tbsp cherry molasses (optional)

For the chocolate filling

  • 125ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2tsp orange blossom extract
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar

For the cardamom cream (optional)

  • 200ml double cream
  • 1tsp ground cardamom
  • 2tbsp icing sugar

To decorate (optional)

  • whole cherries
  • edible flowers, petals only

Method

  1. Grease a 20cm deep tart tin lightly with butter.
  2. Before you make the pastry, flavour the cream for the chocolate filling. To do this just pop the double cream, butter, orange zest and orange blossom extract in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted and starts to gently simmer. Set aside until required.
  3. Place the plain flour, butter and salt in a food processor and whizz on a pulse setting until they resemble breadcrumbs. Tip this mix into a large bowl and stir through the caster sugar and orange zest. Briefly whisk together the egg and egg yolk and add to the bowl then stir with a cutlery knife to form pastry. Once it all comes together in big lumps, shape it into one large disc (handling as little as possible) and wrap in cling film. Chill for about an hour or until the pastry is a little firmer. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  4. While the pastry is chilling, make the cherry filling. To do this just place the de-stoned cherries, caster sugar, orange zest and juice, and the cherry molasses (if using- this is optional but it really helps intensify the cherry flavour) in a saucepan. Heat gently until the cherries release their juices, then up the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are sticky and resemble a compote.
  5. Once the pastry has firmed up, roll out to about 3mm thick on a well floured surface. Line the tart tin with the pastry, ensuring that you push it into the corners and flutes. Trim any overhanging pastry and chill for 20 minutes.
  6. When your pastry is sufficiently chilled, line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 minutes until the walls of the tart case can support themselves. At this stage remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is completely cooked through with no grey, raw areas of pastry remaining. Set aside.
  7. Now make the chocolate filling. Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, remove the orange zest from the cream mixture and heat up. Once the chocolate has melted pour the cream into the bowl and briefly stir to combine, then set aside to cool a little. Put the egg, yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until very thick, pale and voluminous (5-6 minutes). Add a large spoonful of this to the chocolate and mix in, then add the rest and carefully fold.
  8. To assemble the tart, tip the cherry compote into the pastry case and spread out in an even layer, then scrape the chocolate filling on top. Bake for 15 minutes then leave to cool completely in the tin (it should have a little wobble).
  9. While the tart is cooling, make the cardamom cream. To do this simply whisk together the icing sugar, cream and ground cardamom until soft peaks form.
  10. You can enjoy the tart at this stage- it will have a very fudgy, mousse like texture. If you chill the tart it will have a slightly different, but still delicious, texture (the cold will set it a little firmer, like a conventional chocolate tart). However you serve your tart, top it with a spoonful of cardamom cream and fresh cherries.

 

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake with Cardamom Creme Fraiche

It’s hardly surprising that a combination of some of my very favourite ingredients (brilliant pink forced rhubarb, fiery stem ginger and warming cardamom) have married together to form my perfect cake (aside from fudgy, rich chocolate cake- that space in my heart will never be replaced). The recipe is super easy and the result is a moist, fruity bake packed full of flavour. Serve up with pistachio praline and additional poached rhubarb to brighten up the miserable grey that is January…

Ingredients (serves 8-12)

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 dark soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 200g forced rhubarb

For the cardamom creme fraiche

  • 300ml creme fraiche
  • 10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground to a fine powder
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

Optional extras

  • poached rhubarb pieces (just pop 125ml water and 125g caster sugar in a saucepan and heat to melt the sugar- once it’s dissolved, bring to the boil and add 200g sliced rhubarb. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy, then drain and use as desired)
  • pistachio praline (put 100g caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan and leave it to melt, swirling occasionally. Once completely melted add in 100g pistachios and swirl until the syrup has reached a deep golden colour. Scrape onto some greaseproof paper to set hard then break into a mixer, blitz and use as desired)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. 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.
  3. Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch lengths and stir through, then tip the batter into the prepared tin (the mix is quite loose but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully and the rhubarb levels out within the cake during baking and doesn’t end up sinking to the bottom!)
  4. Bake for 1 hour- 1 hour 10 minutes or until the cake has reached a deep golden colour and a skewer comes out clean when inserted (it’s quite a long cooking time but this is necessary as there is a fair amount of liquid in the fruit- if the cake starts colouring a little too much before it’s cooked through, just cover it in foil for the remaining cooking time).
  5. While the cake is baking make the cardamom creme fraiche topping. To do this simply whisk together the creme fraiche, ground cardamom and icing sugar.
  6. Once your cake is baked, allow it to cool completely in the tin before removing it and presenting it on your chosen plate. Dollop on the creme fraiche just before serving and decorate with rhubarb and pistachios. I like to be quite free with this presentation but you can make yours more refined if you like.

Enjoy!