Apple Afternoon Tea Cake

We’ve been getting lots of apples and pears in our box of local fruit and vegies from Food Connect, and I used some of the older ones to make this apple cake, which I adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe (yes, my favourite source of cake recipes online). I’ve halved the sugar in the original recipe, as two cups in a cake with fruit in it is just too sweet for me. The apples cook beautifully in the cake, covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture, and this is a lovely moist cake perfect for afternoon tea.

ingredients:
6 apples, or a mixture of apples and pears
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C, and lightly grease a springform pan. Chop the apples into chunks, and stir in a bowl with the cinnamon and sugar.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing together well. Presumably there’s some reason for doing this, but I’m not sure what – it would be simpler to just whisk them into the wet ingredients.

Pour half the mixture into the springform pan, and spread it evenly. Gently spread half the apples over the cake mixture, and spoon the remaining mixture over the apples. Arrange the remaining apples across the top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. The cooked apples do make the inside of the cake a bit smoodgy, so keep that in mind when you’re testing.

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Sour cream and chocolate chip cake

This is a lovely tea cake from Smitten Kitchen – I made it to celebrate our ukulele club’s first birthday. As you’ll see the batter has quite a bit of sugar, and is a nice light cake with a crunchy outing – a lovely cake to serve in squares for afternoon tea.

ingredients:
1/2 cup (113 grams) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (approx 500 grams) sour cream
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking tin, and line the bottom with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 175C.

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until stiff, and set aside. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

If your name is Celia and you’re lazy, you dump in bits of the flour and sour cream alternately and stir the mixture all together until combined and quite stiff. If you’re a proper baker, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl, and then add it alternately to the creamed butter mixture along with the sour cream. And you’ll probably spill far less flour on the counter than I did. After the sour cream and flour is all stirred in, fold the stiff egg whites into the batter. Well, “fold” – it’s more a firm stirring, because the batter is quite stiff.

Mix together the cinnamon and additional sugar in a small bowl. Spread half the batter mixture into the baking pan – it’s easier if you blog it in in spoonfuls and then smooth it out. Sprinkle the batter with half the choc chips and half the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Spoon in the rest of the mixture and gently smooth over with a spatula. Sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon and sugar, and then the last of the chocolate chips. Gently press the chocolate chips a little into the batter to keep them in place.

Bake for about 45 -50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cut into chunks and enjoy – it’s gorgeous while still a little warm, with the melted chocolate layer in the middle.

Strawberry Cake

Strawberries are cheap and plentiful at the moment, and I loved the look of the Strawberry Summer Cake on Smitten Kitchen, with the juicy caramelised strawberries on top dribbling through the cake. I actually used a sugar substitute that my sister-in-law had given me (decanted into a container, so I have no idea what it was), with a couple of spoonfuls of the blue gum honey that Naomi bought us from Mapleton, because I wanted to get some of its beautifully caramel flavour in the cake. The original recipe sprinkles sugar over the strawberries before baking, but I drizzled some of the honey over them instead.

You’ve got to really cram the strawberries on top of the cake, even if it feels like there’s too many. They basically turn into jam – soft and gooey and melting into the cake. It’s delicious eaten while warm, and pretty easy to put together for morning or afternoon tea.

ingredients:
6 tblsp butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 punnets of strawberries, cut in half
2 tbsps of honey or sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease a fairly deep pie dish or cake tin. I used a square pyrex dish.

If you’re not lazy, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. (If you’re me, you’ll dump them separately into the wet mix at the end). In a large bowl, use electric beaters to beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla until just combined, then gradually do the same with the dry mixture (or the flour, baking powder and salt) until it’s just mixed.

Pour the mixture into the pie dish. Arrange the strawberries on the top of the cake, pushing them a little into the mixture and cramming them closely together. Sprinkle them with sugar, or drizzle with honey.

Bake the cake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 160C and bake for about an hour, until a skewer comes out clean (of the cake mixture, not the gooey strawberries).

Pumpkin spelt muffins

Another mostly cleanse approved recipe – the spelt flour works beautifully in these muffins. The amount of oil depends on how long you want to keep them – if they’re going to be eaten straight away, leave it at a quarter of a cup, if you want them to last for a few days, increase it to half a cup.

ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk or cream
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cooked mashed pumpkin

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Grease or line a muffin tin.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, additional sugar, oil, vanilla and mashed pumpkin. Add the pumpkin mix to the flour mixture and stir together until just combined. Spoon the mixture into greased or lined muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Carob brownies

While the six week cleanse has ended, we’re still experimenting with a wheat and sugar free diet – these brownies are made with spelt flour, oil, honey and carob powder, making them wheat, dairy and sugar free. And surprisingly nice, despite all that. The icing does have dairy, but I think the brownies would be lovely without.

I could have used a smaller pan, and cooked them a little less – also, I completely screwed up the icing by adding twice as much liquid. Definitely a recipe to try again!

ingredients:
½ cup honey
3 eggs
½ cup oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup carob powder
1 cup spelt flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of chopped nuts, or sultanas, or whatever floats your brownie boat

Beat together the honey, eggs and oil in a bowl with electric beaters. Add in the salt, vanilla, carob powder, spelt flour and baking powder until combined. Stir in the nuts or sultanas, and pour the mixture into a small-ish greased baking tin. Bake at 175 C/ 350 F degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

and for the icing:
9 tablespoons carob powder
6 tablespoons cream
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup o coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
rapadura or sugar to taste

Beat the icing ingredients together with electric beaters until smooth. When the brownies are cool, spread with the icing and serve. Eat with gusto. Or at least visible enjoyment.

Raisin and Banana Bread

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread, with the addition of some rum-soaked raisins. I had a heap of bananas that were going nice and speckledly (perfect for banana bread), and I wanted to try something different to my usual Nigella Lawson recipe. But I love the addition of dried fruit cooked with rum to my usual recipe, so decided to include it here. It’s such an easy recipe to whip up, and makes a beautifully moist banana bread. It’s a little intense with the rum soaked raisins – I think the amount of sugar and the rum as well is a bit much, and I will probably reduce the sugar next time.

ingredients:
4 ripe bananas, mashed
90 grams melted butter
3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup raisins
Slosh of rum or bourbon

Preheat the oven to 175C. Put the raisins in a small saucepan, and slosh in a bit of rum. Heat up until the rum is bubbling and mostly absorbed by the raisins. Set aside.

Mix together the melted butter and mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, egg and vanilla, and then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt and stir into the mixture. Finally, stir in the flour, and then the raisin and rum mixture, until well blended.

Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin, and bake for about 50 – 60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool and serve in generous slices.

Chockablock Cookies

This recipe is originally by Dorie Greenspan, from Baking From My Home to Yours. I found it on Popsicles and Sandy Feet and made some slight variations due to the ingredients I could get hold of (and to leave out the dried coconut, because I’m not a fan). It’s a lovely chunky biscuit that’s so variable – the recipe calls for a cup of dried fruit and a cup of nuts, and there are so many different flavour combinations you could try. Over at Popsicles and Sandy Feet, Mary has detailed six different combinations she tried.

I ended up using dried cranberries, pecans and 70% dark chocolate. The original recipe calls for two cups of chocolate chips, but I think (astonishingly, given my love of chocolate) that it’s too much, with all the other additions to the mixture. I cut it down to one, and I think the results are marvellous. Chewy, oaty, fabulous cookies.

ingredients:
1 ½ cups plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
90 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup treacle (the original recipe calls for molasses, I thought this was probably the closest substitute)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit
1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 165 C. Line your baking trays with baking paper (or, if you’re me, roughly tear off two sheets of baking paper and lie them on top of your trays, not bothering to stick them down with anything).

If you’re a more focussed cook than me, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer if you’re fancy), cream the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes. Pour in the treacle and beat for another minute. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mixing on low, pour in the oats, and then add the dry ingredients you’ve whisked together (or, if you’re me, pour them all separately into the mix at this stage), mixing only until combined. Toss in the nuts, fruit, and chocolate and stir together with a spoon until they’re mixed through.

Apparently you can wrap the dough and chill it for up to two days at this stage, however I baked it right away. Spoon the mixture onto baking trays – the original recipe calls for an icecream scoop with a two tablespoon capacity – I used a heaped dessert spoon. Plonk your spoonfuls of mixture onto the trays (apparently about 1.5 inches apart – I never pay any attention to strictures like that and generally place things where it looks right. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t) and bake for about 15 – 18 minutes, until the cookies are golden and just set. Leave them to cool on a baking rack.

I’m looking forward to trying another variation on this – with raisins and salted peanuts, which sounds intriguing.

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

Choc-chip cookies

These chocolate chip cookies are lovely – crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and lots of chocolate chips. Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, home of so many awesome baked goods, and only slightly altered.

ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Sift together, if you’re into sifting, or simply stir together the flour, baking soda and salt into a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream together the melted butter and sugar, then beat in the vanilla and eggs. Fold in the flour mixture, until just combined, then gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Cover baking trays with baking paper, and spoon out the mixture a tablespoon at a time with a little room for the biscuits to spread. Bake for around 10 minutes, until they’re lightly browned, and let cool on the tray for a minute or so before you transfer them to a wire rack.

On an island

A few weeks ago, we went boating for my sister in law’s birthday – putting down the Pumicestone Passage and anchoring (ie. beaching the boats, and hurling the anchors onto the sand – does that count as anchoring?) on a little beach on Bribie Island.

There was fishing:

And a grand total catch of one flathead, which was promptly barbecued and eaten. I also made a birthday cake – a Chai Cake with Honey & Ginger Cream. A three layer cake, as ever since making the wedding cake I can’t seem to move away from triple layer cakes for celebrations. It was a nice cake, but it didn’t blow my mind – I thought the honey flavour in the icing was a little strong, and the cake itself was the teensiest bit dry. The chai spices are gorgeous though, and it held up well, despite being transported on a boat and cut on a beach.

The excitement of boating and birthday cake was topped off by the discovery of a horse skeleton.

Isn’t that the most picturesque horse skeleton you ever saw? I presume that there are some wild horses roaming over Bribie Island. It seems more likely than someone galloping romantically down to the shore, having their horse expire under them, and shrugging to themselves, “Oh well – guess I’ll have to walk home.” But I suppose anything’s possible.

Cherry & Almond Muffins

These are gorgeous muffins – sweet and light. I almost wish the cherries were a bit sour, so you’re surprised by them. They’re lovely nevertheless, and be generous with the topping – the crunch of the almonds and sugar contrasts beautifully with the soft cherries in the middle.

ingredients:
2 cups + 2 tblsps plain flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 butter, melted
1 tsp almond or vanilla essence
2 cups of fresh or frozen and defrosted pitted cherries

topping:
2 tblsps sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tblsp slivers almond

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk up the eggs and milk in a bowl, add in the melted butter and essence. I’m not a big fan of almond flavoured cakes, so I changed the almond essence in the original receipe to vanilla.

Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, and add the cherries. Stir together gently, until all combined. As with all muffins, the less you stir them, the lighter and softer they will be. However, with this amount of flour the mixture does require a little stirring before it will all come together.

Spoon the mixture into a lined muffin tin, and sprinkle a little bit of the topping on each muffin. Bake at 190C for about 25 minutes.