Almond and Semolina Cake

This is another bake which came about because I wanted to use up something lurking in the back of the cupboard. This time it's a packet of semolina, getting very close to it's 'use by' date.
This recipe is a variation on Nigella's semolina cake which I've made a few times.

You need to make a syrup first - 250g granulated sugar. 150ml water and juice of a lemon. put sugar and water in a pan on low heat till sugar's dissolved then add the lemon juice and bring to boil and boil for 5 mins. Cool, then chill in fridge.

The cake - preheat oven 180C/gas 4 and grease a 24cm square tin.

It's an easy to cake to make as you use the all in one method, except for the whole almonds.
So, put 300g semolina, 150g caster sugar, 125g butter, 1 tspn baking powder, 2 eggs, 2 heaped tbspn natural yoghurt, 1/2 tspn cinnamon, 1/2 tspn almond extract in a bowl and beat together. Spoon into the cake tin and level the top.
Put 25 whole blanched almonds in 5 rows of 5 on the top of the batter and bake for 30 mins till golden.
Pour over the cold syrup whilst the cake is hot and cool in the tin.
Cut into 25 squares, with an almond on each piece.

A nice crunchy texture from the almonds and the syrup and a slightly dense sponge. The syrup also makes it moist and you get both the lemon and almond flavours mingling together.
This works well both as a cake and as a dessert with a dollop of crème fraiche or ice cream.


Savoury Forest Cake

When the French use the word 'cake' they usually mean a savoury cake. My friend has quite a repertoire of recipes for them, and passed some on to me.

 I made two of them last weekend as part of a buffet in our local church hall.  They made a change from quiche, and people seemed to like them.

This recipe used mushrooms, shallots and smoked bacon pieces and is made in a 900g loaf tin.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6 and grease and line the loaf tin.

Clean and slice 300g mushrooms [I used chestnut ones but the choice is yours].
Chop 2 shallots finely and add to a non stick pan with 50g smoked lardons and the mushrooms.
Cook gently till all their water has gone. Leave them to cool.

Beat 150g butter and add 3 eggs one at a time. Add 5 cl of milk and 200g plain flour with 2 tspn of baking powder added.

Spoon in the mushroom mixture and add salt and pepper - careful with the salt - taste, as there's salt in the lardons.

Put into the tin and bake for about 40 mins till golden. Check it's cooked. remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

A variation on the cake which we love is a Burgundy version. The savoury mixture is 150g tiny onions, 300g white mushrooms and 50g lardons. Cook in pan for 3-4 mins then add 20cl Burgundy red wine and cook till the liquid has totally evaporated. Make the cake mixture using the same measurements as above.

I love the textures in the Forest cake - soft mushrooms, tasty bites of bacon, little hits of shallots and then the cake holding it all together.


Spicy Nutty Magic Squares

This recipe is one of my grandsons' favourites. They love to help make it as it's so easy.

The magic bit happens in the oven, as the layers meld together. Basically it's a biscuit layer, a nut layer, a chocolate layer and over these is poured a tin of condensed milk - so no calories then! It's not for the dieters, but great in small pieces as a treat. The nuts are healthy!

I've changed the ingredients so many times that I've forgotten what the original ones were. My Dutch friend gave me the recipe and the speculoos biscuits for the base, but any spicy biscuit will do, or plain ones if you prefer.

You need a greased and lined 20cm square cake tin.

Preheat oven 190C/gas5.

Break up 200g of spicy biscuits, but not into crumbs, leave them in small pieces.
Add 80g of melted butter and mix together.

Press this mixture into the bottom of the tin and press down well  - I use the back of a large spoon.

Chop 100g nuts - mixed or one type - your choice, but don't chop them too small.
Sprinkle these over the crumb base.

Chop 125g dark chocolate and sprinkle over the nuts.

Pour a tin of condensed milk over the chocolate, but don't mix anything together.

Put into the oven and bake for 20 - 25 mins till the top is set and lightly golden.

Leave to cool in the tin.

You can see the magic - it's all come together.
As I said earlier, the recipe is very adaptable and you can change the biscuits, the nuts, the type of chocolate you use, so really you can use what you've got in your cupboards.

It's sweet of course because of the condensed milk, but there's a good contrast of textures between the nuts, melted chocolate and biscuits. It's important not to crush the biscuits and nuts too fine or you wouldn't get any texture.


Lumberjack Cake

My lovely Mum left a folder full of recipes she'd cut out from newspapers, magazines etc, and I was browsing through these and found this cake. It came from a series of recipes of cakes that were 'Old Fashioned'. It didn't say where the lumberjack comes into the picture!
  I had some dates that needed using, so instead of the usual sticky toffee cake or pudding I thought I'd give this recipe a try. It's not a great heavy cake for beefy men chopping down trees, although I'm sure they'd love it, it's an old fashioned apple and date cake with a yummy caramelised coconut topping.
Preheat oven 180C/gas4 and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.
Peel and finely chop 2 eating apples  - about 400g [ I used Granny Smiths] and put them in a bowl with 200g chopped dates, 1 tspn bicarb. and 250ml boiling water. Stir, then cover with clingfilm and leave till cooled.
Beat together 125g butter, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 210g caster sugar till thick, then beat in 1 large egg. Stir in 180g plain flour and the apple mixture [not including the water] and gently mix together. Spoon into the tin and bake for 45-50 mins.
While the cake's in the oven make the topping - put 60g butter, 125ml milk, 110g soft brown sugar and 60g dessicated coconut in a pan over a low heat and stir till the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
When the cake comes out of the oven after 45 mins, pour this mixture over the top, then put back in the oven and bake for a further 30 mins. Cool the cake in the tin.

This is a squishy, sticky, moist cake, none of your typical Victoria sandwich crumb here. It's probably better as a dessert, as it is almost like an apple and date pudding. Mum's recipe said to add the water that the apple and dates had been soaking in, but I didn't, and I'm glad or it would have been too moist.
I love the topping - a chewy layer which is a complete contrast to the moist texture of the cake. It's a sweet cake, and as I've already said, it would make a good pudd, or have a piece with your afternoon cuppa. The topping could be a useful standby for a tart topping. I'll certainly make this again.


Lemon Tiramisu

Having got back from our Lake District break on Saturday, my friend J asked if I'd make something a bit special for her sister's birthday. I know her sister loves anything with lemon in it, and I'd recently seen this recipe in an old French magazine. Also I had just enough Limoncello in the bottle. and it needed using.

I seemed to have used an awful lot of bowls!

I've never been a great fan of tiramisu, but I like the idea of a lemon one.  I used a small square loose-bottomed tin with deep sides to put the dessert together.

Juice and zest a lemon and in a bowl mix the juice with 50g of caster sugar and 4 tbspns of Limoncello. Keep the zest for later.

Separate 3 eggs and beat the whites into stiff peaks.

In another bowl whip 20cl of whipping  cream till thick - the cream needs to be very cold to do this.

In yet another bowl mix together 50g caster sugar, 250g mascarpone cheese, the 3 egg yolks, and most of the lemon zest. Add the whipped cream and the egg whites and mix carefully.

Dip 250g boudoir biscuits or sponge fingers in the Limoncello mixture.

Put a layer of the biscuits into the bottom of the tin then spread over half the mascarpone mix.

Put on a second layer of biscuits, then top with the other half of the mascarpone mixture. 

Sprinkle over the rest of the lemon zest.

Cover the top of the tin with cling film, and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Turn out onto a serving plate, and decorate the plate with lemon slices.

To be honest, I didn't get to try any of this, but my friend said it was delicious. Apparently lots of people at her sister's birthday tea asked for the recipe. 

She took this photo for me and it's just one piece - I think half of this would have been sufficient as it's very rich. 

I asked J about the textures so I could write about it here, and she said it was very lemony, and there was a good contrast of textures between the cake layers and the creamy ones. She also said you could taste the Limoncello - one of her sister's favourite tipples!

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