A Chocolate Bûche de Nöel with Salted Caramel

Some kind of Chocolate Log is a Christmas tradition in our house, Sometimes I cheat and buy a 'good' one, but this year decided to make it. The cake is a chocolate Genoise sponge and the filling has salted caramel in it - one of my favourite things - and it's covered with a great chocolate icing/ganache.

For the Genoise sponge: 

Preheat oven 200C/gas6                   Grease and line a swiss roll tin with baking paper.

Separate 4 eggs. Beat the yolks with 100g of caster sugar till pale and fluffy.
In another bowl sieve together 120g plain flour, 4 tbspn cocoa powder and 1 tspn baking powder and fold into the batter.
Beat the egg whites till stiff then fold them gently into the cake batter.
Spoon into the tin and level the top.
Bake for 10 mins.
Take out of the oven and roll the sponge up using the baking paper to help you. Leave it on a rack to cool.

For the Caramel Cream:

In a bowl mix together 200g of mascarpone with 6 tbspn of salted caramel [I bought a jar in Waitrose] using a fork.

Unroll the cooled sponge and spread the caramel cream over the top, then re-roll and put in the fridge.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt 100g dark chocolate [or a good cooking chocolate] with 80g butter which has been cut into cubes.

Bring 50ml of double cream to the boil; take it off the heat then add the chocolate mixture and 100g of sieved icing sugar. beat together till you get a smooth icing, then let it cool.

Take the Bûche out of the fridge and cover with the icing, then put back in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. 

My daughter did the fancy lines round it and added the decoration - a few marzipan fruits on the top and so I could take a photo, but we took them off again so I could freeze it till the big day. Hope it freezes ok - will let you know how it tasted!


Spicy Chocolate, Butterscotch and Fruit Cake

A couple of years ago my lovely Dutch friend sent me some goodies, including some of my favourite speculoos [ or speculaas?] biscuits. I used them in a recipe I found in a French magazine, and decided to make the cake again. It doesn't need any cooking.

125g speculoos biscuits [or any spicy biscuit - the ones they sell in Lidl are good]
4 dried figs, finely chopped
4 dates, finely chopped
2 tbspns sultanas
60g melted butter
200g milk or plain chocolate - broken into small pieces
15cl single cream
2 packets of Werther's originals or other butterscotch sweets

22cm cake tin - preferably a silicone mould

Crush the biscuits and mix them with the dried fruit and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the tin/mould and put it in the fridge to harden.
Break the chocolate up into a bowl.
Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate.
Stir well till the mixture is nice and smooth. Cool.
Take the base mixture out of the fridge and pour the chocolate over, then put it back in the fridge again to harden [for about 2 hours].
When the cake's ready, put the Werther's into a polythene bag or tea towel and crush them with a rolling pin. Sprinkle them over the top of the chocolate.

Not a very good photo - this is the top of the cake. Good variety of textures - a crunchy, chewy base -  I liked the dried fruit added to the biscuits - then a smooth chocolate layer and finally the crunchy butterscotch topping. Not good for one's teeth, but delicious, and so easy to make! 
 The cake itself isn't too sweet, but the topping is! As it uses dates and figs, could this count towards your 5 a day?!!


Apple and Caramel Upside Down Cake

Have had a bit of a 'lost my cake-making mojo' time lately, but had some apples in the fruit bowl that needed using, so decided I wanted to make one of my favourite desserts - Tarte Tatin - as a cake. I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to making caramel, so used some from a can!

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                             Grease a 18cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Using a tin of Carnation 'Caramel', spread a layer over the base of the tin [think I used about 120g].
Peel and core 2 apples - Coxes or something similar, then slice them and layer them onto the caramel.
Cream together 125g butter and 125g caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs then fold in 120g of sr flour. Add about 2 tbspn milk to loosen the mixture.
Spoon the batter over the apples and bake for 35-45 mins till the cake is risen and golden.
The caramel will be round the sides of the tin!
Cool in the tin for a bit then turn the cake out, upside down, onto the serving plate.
Serve with some nice vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

This is better as a dessert than as a slice of cake, as it's rather sticky. There's a good contrast between the sweet, sticky caramel and the crunch in the apple. Don't cut the apple too thin, then it will still have some bite to it when it's cooked, and not become mushy. A good way to use up a couple of apples.


Candy Cane Brownies

I made these for a children's party, having been given the recipe to try. I buy candy canes every Christmas, and then always have some left over, so this is a good use for them.

You need:
125g butter
75g chocolate of your choice, milk or plain
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract
75g chopped nuts
3 candy canes - chopped

Preheat oven 150C/gas2                        Grease a 20x24cm cake tin

Melt the chocolate and butter over simmering heat. Don't let the mixture boil or the chocolate will be grainy.
Take pan off the heat and add the sugar, mixing quickly.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each.
Spoon in the flour, half at a time, beating well, then add the vanilla and nuts. Mix together well.
Spoon the batter into the tin and sprinkle over the chopped candy canes.
Bake for 20 mins.

I love this plate - I found it in a charity shop.
The children loved them, but were only allowed one each. They could be cut smaller, into bite-sized pieces. I like nuts in a brownie - gives a bit more texture - and the topping was sweet, but for an occasional treat they are great.


Spicy Chocolate Puddings

Thought I'd make a pudding instead of a cake, and this French one is a family favourite. It has my favourite spice, cinnamon in it, but you could change the spice to ginger, or maybe cardamon, both of which go well with chocolate,  or even add a bit of chilli powder.

 It's made in individual portions in ramekins.

You need: 200g dark chocolate, 4 tspn cinnamon, 50g plain flour, 100g butter, 50g caster sugar, 40g single cream and 4 eggs.

Preheat oven 200C/gas6                Grease 6 ramekin dishes well.

Break the chocolate into chunks, then add to a pan with the cream and butter over a bowl of simmering water. Beat the eggs with the sugar then add the melted chocolate mixture, cinnamon and flour and mix together well.
Spoon into the ramekins and bake for 9 mins. Leave to cool then turn out onto a plate.

It turns out like the infamous molten chocolate pudding, which has been the bane of contestants lives on Masterchef! The cinnamon gives it a lovely spicy flavour, and I love the smooth, runny chocolate centre. I always serve it with ice cream to give another texture.


Cinnamon Apple Cake

This is a lovely big sharing cake. It's very moist and uses a lot of apples- great for windfalls! I used Gala Apples, but you could use Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or an apple of your choice.
My friend gave me the recipe, and it's really easy to make. You can never have too many apple cake recipes!

You need:
1kg sliced apples, 400g caster sugar, 2-3tspn cinnamon, 190ml vegetable oil - I used sunflower, 3 eggs, 250ml orange juice, 1 tspn vanilla extract, 375g plain flour with 2 tspn baking powder and 1/4 tspn salt.

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4                Grease a 23cm round cake tin well and line base. My dil had my round tin on loan, so I used a 23x30cm cake tin, and it worked out fine.

Toss the apples with 100g of the sugar and the cinnamon.

Blend the rest of the sugar with the oil, then add the eggs, orange juice and vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour mixture and beat to make a batter.

Put half the batter into the cake tin and top with the apples. Spoon the rest of the batter on top and bake for 45-60 mins till golden.

Cool on a wire rack. I added some sliced apples in the photo- added colour!

It's a lovely moist cake; it ends up with a crusty layer on top,soft cinnamon apples in the middle, then a spongy cake layer underneath.


Plum and Polenta Upside Down Cake

I was pleased to find some Victoria plums in my local market. They're my favourite sort after Mirabelles. The polenta makes a change from flour, and gives the cake a bit of crunch.
  • 8 plums
  • 75g light muscovado sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • For the cake:
  • 120g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g fine polenta
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
         Preheat oven 190C/gas5               Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin, not a loose bottomed one as the juice might run out of the plums. if you only have this kind of tin, wrap a double laye of foil round the outside of the bottom of the tin.

        Halve the plums then cut into 1/4s. Put the sugar and lemon in a bowl and stir the plums through to coat. Put them in n overlapping layer in the bottom of the cake tin. If there's any syrup left in the bowl, spoon it over the plums.

        Cream the butter and sugar together till nice and fluffy. Add the eggs a bit at a time then fold in the almonds, polenta, baking powder and lemon juice.

        Spoon over the plums and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 mins till golden. Run a knife inside the cake tin then cool for 10 mins before turning out upside down onto a plate.

      Nice contrast between the slightly crunchy cake and the soft juicy fruit topping.  I like the almonds coming through in the background. It just needs a spoonful of cream for a perfect pudd!


Chocolate Mousse Cake

I went to a friend for tea recently and she made this cake. It's more of a dessert than a cake, but had to ask for the recipe as it was delicious. It's a nice change from a normal chocolate cake and it's easy to make, always a plus for me. I used Green and Black's chocolate, as I think you need a good quality for this recipe.

200g  dark chocolate
 200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
 250g granulated sugar
 5 large eggs
 1 tbspn plain flour
Preheat the oven 190C/gas5, and grease and base line a 20cm cake tin
Chop the chocolate and melt it with the butter in the microwave or over simmering water and stir to mix.
Add the sugar and stir in then leave to cool for a couple of mins. The mixture will look rather gritty, but don't worry this is fine.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each one - this time the mixture looks rather slimy so add the flour. Beat until you have a nice smooth, dark batter.
Pour into your tin and bake for about 25mins till the middle of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackled. The centre will be a bit wobbly.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack, turning it upside down so the crackled bit is on the top.
It's nice with some cream, crème fraîche or even ice cream.

It's a lovely smooth texture, with a good chocolate flavour. Very rich!


Lime and Yoghurt Cake

           I like recipes that are quick and easy to make, and this is one of those. I always think 
 of it as'healthy' because it's made with oil and yoghurt! I suppose the amount of            sugar makes it unhealthy nowadays! There always seems to be a lime or lemon or 2 in my fridge and this is a good way to use them up. 
    You need: 250g Greek yoghurt, 80ml sunflower or rapeseed oil, 200g caster sugar ,4 tbspn lime juice and the zest of the lime, 250g plain flour with 11/2 tspn baking powder and a pinch of salt. For the topping – 1 tbspn lime zest and 2 tbspns sugar [so 2 limes altogether]

         Preheat oven 180C/gas4 Grease a 22cm cake tin and line the base.

Mix the yoghurt, oil , sugar, lime juice and zest together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt together then add to the oil mixture and mix well till combined. Don't overmix or your cake will be tough.

Spoon into the cake tin and bake for 45-50 mins till cake is light brown.

Turn out onto a wire rack, and when the cake is cool, sprinkle the mixed sugar and lime zest.

The yoghurt and oil give the cake a nice moist crumb, and the lime gives it a bit of zing. A nice easy cake, just right with a cuppa. It would work equally well with a lemon.


Spicy Chocolate Cookies

I made these to take to a local coffee morning. Chocolate and spice go so well together. These freeze well, so you're never short of something sweet when the mood takes you!

You need - 200g dark chocolate, 210g plain flour, 11/2 tspn ginger, 1/2 tspn mixed spice, 1 tspn cinnamon, 1 tbspn cocoa powder, 110g butter, 120g dark brown sugar, 4 tbspn golden syrup, 1 tspn bicarb, whole almonds to decorate

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Chop the chocolate up, and in a bowl sift the spices and cocoa together with the flour.

In another bowl beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, then add the golden syrup and beat again.

Dissolve the bicarb in 11/2 tspn boiling water.

Beat half o f the flour mixture into the butter one, beat in the bicarb then the rest of the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chunks and mix well.

Roll into a sausage shape and cover in clingfilm. Chill for about 2 hours till firm.

Cut slices off the roll and place on the baking sheets leaving about 2 cm spaces between each cookie. Push an almond in the centre of each cookie then put in fridge for 20 mins.

Bake for about 10-12 mins, then cool on a wire rack.

Lovely spicy flavour, good crunch. Think I'd like a bit more chocolate flavour, so will use more cocoa next time, 11/2 tbspn.


Cinnamon and Crème Fraîche Apple Cake

As Autumn is nearly upon us, I thought I'd make an apple cake. I seem to have collected a file full of cakes using apples in various ways, but I haven't made this cake before. It's from a leaflet that came with a French magazine a few years ago. I love cinnamon, and cinnamon and apple are made for each other.

You need:
4-5 apples , 180g butter, 1 heaped tspn cinnamon, 150g golden caster sugar, 50g flaked almonds, 3 eggs, 160g sr flour and 90g crème fraîche

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 Grease a 20cm cake tin

Peel the apples and cut up into dice. Melt 120g of the butter in a pan and add the diced apple. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and leave on a low heat for a few minutes.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the bottom of the cake tin. Spoon the apples on top.

Beat together the eggs and the sugar then fold in the flour and add the cream. Spoon this onto the apples.

Bake for about 25 mins. Leave in tin to cool then turn out upside down.

Serve with more crème fraîche or ice cream or just on its own.

A nice soft crumb, good apple taste, good hit of cinnamon and a crunch from the almonds. 


A Good Family Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake 'fashions' have come and gone over the last 30 odd years. There was the Black Forest gateau, the Sachertorte, truffle torte, lots of poor imitations of the River Cafe's gorgeous Nemesis cake to name but a few. I've tried most of these, but the recipe I come back to when the family want a chocolate cake is this one. I've been making it for a long time, but think it was originally a Delia recipe.
I like using oil in cakes, and this one is really moist and keeps well. It's a good sized cake too, and it can be dressed up for an occasion with ganache or whatever you fancy. Today's version is unadorned except for a filling of Nutella and a smattering of icing sugar on the top.

275g plain flour
3 tbspn cocoa powder
11/2 tspn baking powder
11/2 tspn bicarb. of soda
215g caster sugar
3 tbspn golden syrup
3 eggs [large]
225ml sunflower oil [I use rapeseed]
225ml milk
icing sugar

2x 20cm sandwich tins [about 4cm deep], greased and lined

Preheat oven 160C/gas3

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb into a bowl and mix in the sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the rest of the ingredients.
Beat together well with a wooden spoon till nice and smooth.
Pour into the tins and bake for about 35 mins [ mine took 45 mins]. till well risen.
Remove from tins and take off lining paper. Cool on a wire rack.

You can then do what you like with them. As I've already said, I spread Nutella over one of them, put the other on top and sifted over some icing sugar. They'd risen quite a lot, so I cut the dome off one of the cakes to make it level so I could put the Nutella on it. Cook's perk to eat the slice cut off!

It's a nice moist cake, not too sweet, with a good chocolate flavour and a soft texture.


Lumberjack Cake

"The Lumberjack Cake is so-called by Canadian lumberjacks because it helps keep the hunger pangs at bay till lunch."
This is one of the reasons I found on the internet for the name of this cake. It's also claimed as an Australian and New Zealand recipe - so who knows?

I wanted something to fill some hungry men who'd helped me by putting up my new side gate. They all love sweet cakes and pudds, so this recipe seemed just the thing. It's more of a dessert than a cake to have with with a cuppa - too sticky.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and finely chopped - about 400g
200g chopped dates
1 tspn bicarb
250ml boiling water
125g butter
1 tspn vanilla extract
210g caster sugar
1 large egg
180g plain flour

60g Butter
8 tbspn milk
110g soft brown sugar
60g dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C /gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm spring form cake tin.

Mix together the apple, dates, bicarb and boiling water. Cover with cling film and leave till just warm.

Beat butter, vanilla and sugar till white and creamy; beat in the egg and fold in the flour . Add the apple mixture and mix together.
Spoon into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 mins.

For the topping;

Put the butter, milk, brown sugar and coconut in a pan and stir over a low heat till butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Take the cake out of the oven, pour over the coconut topping and bake for another 30 mins. Let the cake cool in the tin.

It's a sticky, moist cake - somebody describes it as 'squidgy' and that's a perfect description. You have this moist, sticky layer at the bottom and the lovely chewy caramelised, coconut layer on top. I have to admit that it's very sweet. My male helpers loved it, and it soon disappeared!


Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate and Caramel Sauce

Time for another dessert, and this time it's a cheesecake. I love coffee flavoured cakes or desserts, so decided to make a coffee cheesecake. To make it more special I made a chocolate sauce and a caramel one as toppings.It has the usual biscuit base which is flavoured with coffee, but this is baked.

You need:
200g digestive biscuits
40g soft butter
20g cocoa

700g cream cheese
6g strong instant coffee dissolved in 3 tbspn warm water
4 eggs
175g caster sugar

For the sauces:

The chocolate one I used this recipe

and for the caramel sauce:
85g butter
175ml double cream
175g soft brown sugar

Preheat oven 150C/gas2                 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin

Put the ingredients in a pan over a medium heat and stir till butter has melted. Turn up heat and boil for 3-4 mins stirring occasionally - it looks like runny custard. Pour into a bowl and leave for 30 mins.


Blitz the biscuits and mix with the butter and cocoa. Press into the base of the tin and put in the fridge.
Put the cheese and sugar in a bowl; add the eggs and sugar and beat together till smooth.
Pour over the base and bake for 40 mins.
Cool, then put in fridge for 12 hrs.
Take out of tin and keep in fridge till needed.

Serve the cheesecake drizzled with the chocolate and caramel sauces.

It was very popular with the family. Nice crunchy base, smooth cheesecake with a soft texture, a good coffee flavour, then the mixture of chocolate and caramel topping- mmmmmm!


Chocolate, Mascarpone and Coffee Tart

I needed a dessert to take to a family lunch, so decided on a tart. This is one of my stand by recipes, so I know it tastes good; everyone likes chocolate!

It's  lovely mixture of chocolate, mascarpone with a hint of coffee, all in a pastry case. Doesn't need much cooking - just the pastry case.

You need:

a pack of shortcrust pastry [or of course make your own]
200g dark chocolate
250g mascarpone
1 dspn instant Espresso coffee
3 egg whites
pinch salt
80g caster sugar
chocolate shavings to decorate [opt]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                     Grease a 21cm tart tin

Roll pastry out to fit the tin, prick with a fork and bake blind for 10 mins.

Break chocolate up and put into a pan; sprinkle a little water over and melt on a low heat.

Once it's melted, take off the heat and add half the mascarpone and 1 dspn of instant Espresso coffee powder and mix well.

Take the pastry out of the oven, cool then add the chocolate mixture. Put in fridge for an hour.

Whisk the egg whites to peaks with the salt then add the rest of the mascarpone and the sugar. Mix together.

Take the tart out of the fridge, put onto a plate then spoon over the cream mixture. Sprinkle over some chocolate shavings if you want.

 As you can see, I decided to pipe a little of the cream mixture on the top before adding the shavings. Think my new piping bag and nozzles have gone to my head, but it was for a family occasion!
You get a good thick layer of chocolate with a good hint of coffee, which contrasts nicely with the pastry texture, then the soft creamy topping and the crunchy bits of chocolate shavings. If you don't want such a deep chocolate layer, you could use a larger tart tin.


Pecan, Maple and Lemon Loaf Cake

Another recipe for a loaf cake, my favourite type of cake. This time it has maple syrup, pecans and lemon zest in it. Easy to make using the rubbing in method.

Preheat oven 170C/gas3   Grease and line the bottom of a 900g loaf tin.

Sift 350g plain flour and 1 tspn baking powder together, then rub in 175g butter or margarine.
Stir in 75g caster sugar and 125g chopped pecan nuts.

In another bowl, beat 3 eggs with 1 tbspn milk and add zest of a lemon. Stir in 5 tbspn maple syrup and mix well.

Add the flour mixture to the egg one and mix well, but don't over mix. Should be a nice dropping consistency.

Spoon into the tin and bake for about 50 mins. till golden and risen. Leave to cool in tin for about 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.

Make some lemon icing by beating 1 tbspn lemon juice into 75g icing sugar.

Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake.

The texture was quite dense, but I suppose the rubbing in method doesn't make for a fine crumb. The maple taste was good, and there was a hint of lemon from the zest. The pecans gave another texture and the icing gave the cake an extra zing. I did find the cake a bit dry, so maybe should add a bit more milk? A nice cake to have with a cuppa.


Lime and Yoghurt Cake

    Another easy to make, no icing cake. I had to make a quick cake for unexpected  guests, so found a lime in the fridge and remembered this recipe. There is no creaming of butter and sugar -  just mix dry ingredients with wet, bake and sprinkle with sugar. Quick and easy.
    It uses oil and yoghurt, so must be healthy!

    250g whole full fat Greek yoghurt
    80ml olive oil
    200g caster sugar
    zest of one lime
    4 tbspn lime juice
    2 eggs
    210g plain flour
    1 1/2 tspn baking powder
    1/2 tspn salt
    1 tbspn lime zest
    2 tblspn sugar
Pre-heat oven to 180C/gas4 and grease a 22cm baking tin.

Mix yoghurt, oil, lime juice, zest and eggs in a bowl till well combined. 

In another bowl, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon till just combined [don't over mix] 

Pour into the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes,till the cake is lightly browned on top 

Sprinkle top with a mixture of lime zest and caster sugar.

The crumb is nice and moist from the oil and yoghurt, and the lime adds zing to the cake. A lovely summery treat. If you wanted you could ice it using lime juice and icing sugar, but I like it simple, with just the zest and sugar mixture.


Nectarine and Coconut Cake

Another simple cake - not keen on cakes with buttercream or any kind of frosting when it's hot.
I've nearly finished using up odd packets and jars in my cupboard, but found some dessicated coconut. I also had some nectarines to use up [they seem to ripen very quickly ] so decided to use both in a cake. My daughter makes this recipe often with whatever fruit she has - raspberries, peaches, apples - sometimes she uses coconut and sometimes just makes a plain cake; it's such an easy recipe. The only extra addition is some vanilla yoghurt.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4. Grease and base line a 24cm springform cake tin.

It's the all-in-one method - put 180g butter, 215 g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 225g sr flour, 55g dessicated coconut and 175g vanilla yoghurt in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Pour into the cake tin.
Arrange 4 halved and stoned nectarines on top and bake for about an hour. Take the cake our of the oven and sprinkle about 25g dessicated coconut on top then return to the oven for another 5 mins till the coconut is golden.

A lovely moist cake with a soft texture. The coconut flavour isn't strong - just there in the background and is reinforced by the topping. The nectarines are soft and melt in the mouth. A good, tasty way of using up excess fruit.


Lemon Bundt Cake

  • I love using my bundt tin, but don't do so very often. I had several lemons to use up so decided to make a lemon cake in this tin. It's easy to do and doesn't need any icing or decoration - not too much work!
  • You need 170g plain flour, 2 tspn baking powder, 170g butter, 120g light brown sugar, 3 eggs, the juice of 1 lemon and the zest of 2 lemons, icing sugar if you want to sprinkle it over the top.
  • Preheat oven 180C/gas4
  • Spray a bundt tin with Cake Release or something similar
Beat the butter with the sugar to get a nice creamy mixture.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each one.

Add the flour plus baking powder and the lemon juice and zest and beat together.

Spoon into the tin and bake for about 45 mins.

Cool in the tin for 10 mins then finish cooling on a wire rack.

If you want, sprinkle some icing sugar over the top.

  • A nice lemony cake with a good soft texture. You could ice it with lemon glacé icing, but I think it's such a pretty shape that it doesn't need any icing. You certainly get a good sized piece of cake in a slice!


Chocolate and Pear Tart

Wanted a quick and easy dessert, so used 3 ripe pears from the fruit bowl and made an easy tart. Chocolate and pears are a marriage made in heaven for me, but if you haven't got a bar of chocolate, you could use Nutella spread over the pastry. You don't have to make the pastry - use a ready made butter puff.

Preheat oven 220C/gas7                23cm tart tin

In a bowl, mix together 100g soft butter, 100g ground almonds and 125g caster sugar. Mix together then add 2 beaten eggs and beat together.
Roll out the puff pastry and line the tart tin. Prick with a fork.
Peel, de-pip [is there such a word?] and cut 3 ripe Conference pears each into 4 pieces.
Melt 100g chocolate [you can use cooking chocolate if you want] in the microwave or over simmering water, then pour over the pastry in the tin. Spoon in the batter then spread the pears on top.
Bake for about 30 mins - keep an eye on the tart at the end so it doesn't burn!

Nice combination of flavours and textures - crunchy pastry, soft chocolate, almond filling and soft fruit. You could use dessicated coconut instead of ground almonds - my friend does this and it's very successful. 


Banana Cake with Caramel Topping

 Needed to use up two very ripe looking bananas in the fruit bowl, so it would be a banana cake. I think banana goes well with caramel, so made a caramel icing for the top. The recipe uses sunflower oil and yoghurt, so definitely healthy [if you ignore the caramel!].

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                   Grease and base line a 23cm springform cake tin.

In a bowl mix together 250g plain flour with 2 tspn baking powder and 1/2 tspn bicarb. Mix in 250g caster sugar.

In another bowl beat together 150ml sunflower oil, 250g ripe bananas [ I used 2 large ones], 2 eggs, 50ml natural yoghurt and 1 tspn vanilla extract.

Pour the oil mixture into the flour and stir together till mixed.

Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 40 mins. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn onto a wire rack.

For the caramel topping:

Put 85g butter, 175ml double cream and 175g soft brown sugar in a pan over a medium heat and stir till the butter has melted. Turn up the heat and boil for 3-4 mins stirring occasionally - mixture looks like runny custard. Pour into a bowl and leave for 30 mins, then beat with an electric hand beater till thick.

When the cake is cool, spread the icing over the top. 

My son came over and took a large piece back with him, as you can see! The caramel topping was delicious but very sweet, as I expected, but it was a good contrast to the soft, moist textured cake.
I had some topping left over so put it in the fridge and used it with vanilla ice cream. It had firmed up, but was still delicious.


Rhubarb Meringue Tartlets

    I love rhubarb, and decided to make something different with it for my friends when they came for tea. I've recently bought a new 12 hole fluted tartlet tin, so decided to use this and to top the tartlets with meringue. I have a recipe with fruit, which has a creamy almond filling, so this would make them a bit different.

    250g shortcrust pastry [your own recipe or bought]
    400g rhubarb
    80g caster sugar
    125g ground almonds
    80g soft butter
    125g caster sugar
    2 eggs beaten
    For the meringue
    3 egg whites
    75g caster sugar
Preheat oven 180C
Peel the rhubarb and cut into pieces. Put it into a bowl covered with the 80g caster sugar and leave for an hour.
Roll the pastry out thinly and line the tartlet tin. Using baking beans, bake blind for 10 mins. Take the beans out and cook for a further 5 min.

Remove the pastry cases from the tin and put on a wire rack to cool.

Beat the butter with the caster sugar; add the eggs then the ground almonds and beat well to mix.

Share the almond cream between the pastry cases then put some rhubarb on each.

Bake for 20 mins then cool on a wire rack.

Lower the oven temperature to 120C

Using an electric beater, whisk half the egg whites and the caster sugar till stiff then add the rest of the sugar.

Pipe rosettes of the meringue onto the tartlets, or just spoon it on.

Bake for 15 mins till golden on top.

I'm very pleased with these; have been practising with my new piping bag and nozzles given to me by my daughter. I think she was ashamed of my old tatty cloth piping bag!
Nice crunchy pastry, creamy filling, soft rhubarb and sweet meringue - what's not to like?

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