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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Mangosteens

Mum was kind enough to send down a box of mangosteens for my brother and I (with a few rambutans thrown in) – she has a much lovelier photo of the fruit here. I have never seen mangosteens for sale down here, and very few of the people in Brisbane I’ve offered one to have heard of them.

They are an exotic treat, something I never appreciated enough when I lived in Daintree – someone described it as a mix between a lychee and a custard fruit, but I think they have a distinctive flavour all of their own. Sweet and smooth.

The last Christmas we were up in Daintree, in 2008, we had cocktails with mangosteen juice – terribly decadent and very delicious.

Fruit Salad

Now the weather is becoming rather warm, fruit salad seems the perfect way to end an alfresco lunch or light dinner. Despite the lack of bananas in the shops, there’s lots of other gorgeous fruits which will combine into a delicious salad.

I peeled some oranges and chopped them into small segments. Peeling kiwifruit is a little difficult, I find – I use a potato peeler, and do it over the bin so the excess juice has somewhere to run. (I’m now wondering if you can juice kiwifruit, and what it tastes like.)

Strawberries are easy – hull and chop into nice large chunks. They’re beautiful against the acidic tastes of the oranges and kiwifruit.

I ate this with a beautiful Jalna yoghurt – their biodynamic Bush Honey flavour, which is a delicately scented, thick, honey yoghurt. I was a little confused about the meaning of biodynamic – from their website, I gather that they mean organic principles, and so I wonder why it isn’t marketed as organic yoghurt. I guess it doesn’t meet the criteria? It sounds like it does from their website, though. Puzzling.

Wallflower Loaf

When looking around the internet for some low-fat baking recipes, I was struck by this delicious sounding loaf from A Finger in Every Pie. Constructed almost entirely from fruit and nuts, this very healthy loaf is delicious warm from the oven, the sticky dates melting in your mouth.

I won’t repeat the recipe, as I followed A Finger in Every Pie’s exactly – go and check it out. Excellent for morning tea, afternoon tea, parties, and every other occasion you can think of. Delicious.

Honey & Raspberry Muffins

These pleasantly light muffins were made for a brunch, and were an excellent morning muffin – not too sweet, not too rich. I used Manuka honey in these, which is very strong, but you need a nice strong tasting honey for the taste to come out in the finished product. An incredibly simple recipe, this is very easy to whip up the night before.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup strong honey
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup yoghurt
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 200C, and grease or otherwise prepare one muffin tray.

Beat the butter and honey together, then beat in the eggs, vanilla and yoghurt.

Gently fold in the flour, spices and raspberries. Spoon into the muffin tray, and bake for 20 minutes.

Lime Sugar Cookies

This lovely recipe is from SDD – The Food Blog, and a very lovely buttery limey concoction it is – a very summery cookie, and perfect for this time of year. My cookies were even more buttery than the recipe intends, as I accidently used 250 grams instead of 210. I used bottled lime juice, and I imagine these cookies would be even more delicious using fresh limes, and perhaps a bit of fresh lime zest sprinkled over the top.

1 cup butter
1 cup raw sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup lime juice
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 180C, and line or grease a baking tray.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and lime juice – the mixture will now look a little curdled, which is fine.

Add the flour, baking soda, salt and pecans, and beat well.

Flatten heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the baking tray, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Cool on a rack.

Banana and Pecan Bread

This is adapted from a Doris Brett recipe. Everyone who bakes has their perfect banana bread recipe, but I’m not quite sure that this is mine. It’s delicious, moist and uses plenty of bananas (which is an important element in making banana bread – usually it’s done to use up overripe bananas that have been sitting in the fruit bowl for days). The subtle lemon flavour goes with the bananas nicely. This loaf turned out a little heavy, but I think that’s my fault – I used baking powder, rather than baking soda, and didn’t increase the amount used accordingly. I shall just think of it as an extra-moist banana bread, rather than an overly heavy one.

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups mashed banana
1/4 cup natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons lemon rind
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups white flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, banana, yoghurt, baking soda, mixed spice and vanilla essence, and stir well. Lightly stir in the flour and pecans, until reasonably well combined. Too much stirring here, however, makes the bread go a little rubbery.

Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for an hour, and serve while warm.

Pear and Honey Muffins

These are very sweet and sticky muffins, and are quite dense and moist as well. The fresh and almost tart taste of the pear goes beautifully with the warmth of the honey and ginger. They’re adapated from a Diana Linfoot recipe in More Muffin Magic. There’s more than enough mixture for 12 normal muffins – I made 12, and then dropped the leftover mixture into a mini-muffin tray to make the little pile in the picture above. Next time I take a photo, I’m going to wipe the countertop beforehand.

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 pears, peeled and diced
3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons mixed spice
4 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the muffin pan if necessary.

Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, then thoroughly mix in the honey. Beat in the eggs, add the milk, and mix well. Stir in the pears.

Pour the flour, baking powder and spices on top of the bowl of pear mixture. Gently stir them in, delicately, until the mixture is just combined. Muffins do not like to be beaten.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin trays. Mini muffins took 15 minutes in my oven, and the larger muffins took 30 minutes. In a fan-forced or gas oven, take at least 5 minutes off these times.

Prune and Chocolate Cake

This is a delicious, richly spiced and dense cake. It’s a recipe from Doris Brett’s Australian Bread Book, which I think is now out of print, but is a wonderful book full of unusual cakes and breads. This particular cake is not only very easy and quick to make, but also versatile – it can be an afternoon tea cake, or a dessert if served with cream.

one and a half cups sugar
two and a half cups white flour
one teaspoon salt
one teaspoon each of cinnamon, all spice, and nutmeg
one teaspoon baking soda
one cup vegetable oil
three eggs, lightly beaten
two teaspoons vanilla essence
one cup buttermilk (or milk with one tsp vinegar added)
twenty-four large pitted prunes, chopped
one cup chocolate bits

Firstly, heat the oven to 180C. Then the method couldn’t be simpler – simply mix all the ingredients into a bowl. I put the flour, sugar, spices and baking soda in first, make a well, and pour in all the wet ingredients. After mixing well, I stir in the prune pieces and the chocolate. Done!

Grease a loaf tin well, and pour the cake mixture in. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, and then check on it fairly regularly. The top of the cake should bounce back a little. My oven isn’t fan-forced, so in a fan-forced oven, it will cook much faster.

Variations – replacing the chocolate bits with sultanas, dried cranberries or dates.