Annie's Maple Cake

My friend went on holiday recently to Canada and brought me back a can of maple syrup. This recipe was on a leaflet attached to the can, so I thought I'd try it. It's a simple cake with a lot of flavour, and I've named it after my friend. 

For the Cake:
125g butter, softened
100g white sugar
125cl maple syrup
1 tspn  vanilla extract
2 eggs
 200g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tspn baking powder
60ml milk

100g toasted chopped walnuts

For the Maple Icing:
125g butter, softened
200g icing sugar
2 tbspn maple syrup

For the Maple drizzle topping:
125cl maple syrup
1 tbspn butter
pinch of salt
Preheat oven 180C/gas4 
Grease and line a 23cm cake tin
Beat together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time then add the maple syrup and the vanilla. Mix the baking powder, salt and flour together and fold into the mixture with the milk.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 25-30 mins till golden. Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing - beat the butter, icing sugar and maple syrup together till light and fluffy.

For the drizzle - put the maple syrup in a pan over a medium heat and cook without stirring till it gets to 98C on a sugar thermometer. Let it cool a bit then add the butter and salt and beat together. Cool in the fridge.

Ice the cooled cake with the maple icing , drizzle over the syrup and top with the walnuts.

The cake has a great flavour, thought it is rather sweet. I thought it might be quite dense, but it has a soft texture and the icing, drizzle and walnuts each add another dimension to it. I found the drizzle a bit of a pain to make, so another time I think I'd just ice the cake and top it with the walnuts, though pecans would be good too.


Fig and Almond Tart

There are a lot of fresh figs around in the shops, so I decided to make a tart. Recently I bought a large bag of grounds almonds from a cash and carry, so decided to use them with the figs -  another gluten free recipe.

I love fresh figs; they're so versatile. You can use them with savoury things like ham as a starter, or just sprinkle them with brown sugar and bake for a tasty dessert. My friend adds them to salads.

The tart uses shortcrust pastry, baked blind. You can use your favourite recipe or buy it ready made. You need enough for a rectangular tart tin [with a loose base if possible] - 250g flour and 125g fat.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease the tart tin and line it with the shortcrust pastry. Either prick the pastry or use baking beans, and bake blind for about 15 mins.
 For the almond cream  - beat 60g soft butter with 60g caster sugar and 60g ground almonds; add 1 egg and beat into the mixture. Add 10cl of whipping cream and mix together well. if you want an even stronger almond flavour add a drop or 2 of almond extract, but no more as it's quite strong.
Pour the mixture into the pastry case.
Cut up 350g of figs into halves, quarters or slices and spread over the top of the almond mixture.
Sprinkle over about 50g of chopped skinned whole almonds or flaked almonds.
Bake for about 35mins. Cool on a wire rack.

 This is a frangipane filling and I love anything with an almond flavour, and this tart ticks all my boxes. The lovely soft textured almost gooey almond filling contrasting with the crispness of the pastry, then the soft figs and their seeds adding another texture with the almonds giving it a bit of crunch. We ate it with some vanilla ice cream, but cream or crème fraîche would be good too.


Reine de Saba Cake

A Reine de Saba [or Queen of Sheba] cake was one of Julia Child's favourites. There are lots of recipes of her version on blogs and websites, but this version is my French neighbour's family recipe. It always appears for birthdays and special occasions, which is how I got to try it. Persuading them to give me their recipe involved some making of English cakes on my part!

I don't know why it's named after the Queen of Sheba; one suggestion I found online said  ' it shares many of the Bible Queen's qualities - exotic, rich, irresistible and the stuff legends are made of'. Hmmm!

If you want to try JC's version here's a link to her Reine de Saba Cake. There's also a clip on You Tube of JC making this cake on her French Chef programme - here's the You Tube Clip. What an annoying voice she has!

It's a chocolate and almond cake, but a lot of the recipes online don't have any almonds!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                Grease and line and 23cm springform tin

  350g dark chocolate [ my neighbour uses the lovely dark patisserie chocolate you can buy so easily in France] 6 eggs, 200g caster sugar, 3 tbspn potato flour or cornflour, 80g ground almonds, 100g salted butter, 80ml single cream and a pinch of salt

Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks and caster sugar together till white and fluffy. Add the potato flour or cornflour then the ground almonds, mixing well after each addition.
Melt 200g of the chocolate and the 100g of butter over simmering water. Pour this into a bowl, then
beat the egg whites into stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and add therm carefully to the chocolate mixture.
Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 30 mins. Don't over bake it. Leave to cool in the tin then put on a wire rack.
Grate the rest of the chocolate; put the cream in a pan and bring to the boil then pour it over the chocolate and mix together. JC's recipe added 2 tbspn of rum to the sauce.
Spread the chocolate icing over the cake.

I added my own twist to the recipe and put toasted almond flakes round the sides of the cake. They stick well to the icing!

The cake is a bit like a brownie, in that it's a bit fudgy in the middle. It's very rich, but it has a lovely delicate crumb which melts in your mouth. I liked the flaked almonds, as they gave another texture and some crunch to the cake. You have the moist almond cake, the smooth chocolate topping and the crunchy flaked almonds.

I'm not sure what Julia would make of my version, but I hope she'd like it!


Sticky Toffee Traybake

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my favourite desserts; I've made it as a cake so thought I'd have a try and make it as a traybake with a toffee sauce on top.
My son was coming for a meal so he was the guinea pig; he loved it and took a large slice home. I miss baking for my children – they were always great critics, good and bad!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 Grease and line a 20cm square tin.

Put 175g dates with 175ml boiling water and ½ tspn bicarbonate of soda in a pan and heat gently for 5 mins till the dates are soft.

In a bowl cream together 85g butter and 140g caster sugar then add a lightly beaten large egg, ½ tspn vanilla extract and the date mixture. Add 175g sr flour and gently mix together.

Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 40 mins. 

Meanwhile make some toffee sauce – put 85g soft brown sugar, 40g butter and 2 tbspn milk or cream into a pan and heat over a low heat till the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Simmer gently for a few mins stirring all the time.

Prick the cake all over using a cocktail stick then pour the toffee sauce over and spread using a spatula. Leave to cool completely, then cut into squares .

A good texture - firm but moist. The flavour is just what you'd expect for a sticky toffee pudding , and the toffee topping works well. A nice cake with a cuppa, or as a dessert with some ice cream or crème fraiche.

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