Monday 20 February 2023

Saffron, orange and yoghurt cake

I got some saffron for Christmas. I love grocery items as gifts - the sort of things that are useful but a little luxurious, that you might not include in your regular weekly shop. Saffron, which costs a lot for a little, falls squarely into this category. So when a friend had a birthday recently, I was ready with a cake. Saffron is a subtle flavour so know this recipe will still work really well without it. But what it does offer is an enhancement of colour - a warm glow that suffuses the cake. Its fine filaments are flecked through it too, little quivers of colour. Without saffron, what you get is a great everyday orange cake, easily made with ingredients you're likely to already have on hand. But saffron makes it just a little bit special, which is what birthdays - and Christmases - are all about after all. 

Friday 14 October 2022

Double citrus syrup cake


I've got a real affection for cakes flavoured with citrus. The acidity of the fruit spectacularly offsets the sweetness of sugar. The flavour feels bright and fresh in the colder months when it's in season. But perhaps it's just because the colours put me in mind of nasturtiums, a flower I love, that grows wild in Brisbane backyards. And some more southern ones too. I'm lucky enough to have them permanently on display thanks to this beautiful linocut by my dad, which has pride of place in my living room. 

But this cake! The recipe is by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura, who's responsible for some of my favourite bakes of recent years - this raspberry coconut and lime cake, this ginger cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting... It uses both lemon and orange and best of all, can be made in advance, as it has yoghurt in its list of ingredients, and is drenched after baking in a syrup, both of which keep it beautifully moist. I made a 2/3rds quantity here and used a small loaf tin, but the the three egg version (the original recipe, as below) would be lovely in the round. It looks good just as is but if you've got any nasturtiums about, they do make a very pretty (and edible) topping. It's also excellent with berries and cream.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Sesame cake

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really like simple cakes. This one definitely fits the bill - made in a loaf tin, with ingredients I already had, it had the added advantage of using up some black sesame seeds that had been languishing in my pantry since buying them for some recipe I can now no longer remember. It showcases not just sesame seeds (both black and white) but also tahini. Unsurprisingly - given that ingredient list - it's like halva in cake form - lightly sweet, utterly more-ish and quite magnificent with black coffee.


Wednesday 3 November 2021

Pineapple and ginger upside-down cake


Pineapples are in season at the moment in Australia. I come from Queensland, home to the Big Pineapple, and like many kids who grew up in Brisbane, visited the Golden Circle Cannery on a school excursion. Such is my fondness for this sweet, spiky fruit and the association it has for me with home (somewhere I haven't been able to go for months now because of border closures), my dad made me a book plate in honour of it. 

So obviously this cake had my name on it. There's not much more of a story than that. All I'll say is that this recipe is excellent and well worth the very slight hassle of egg separation, pineapple peeling and multiple bowls to wash up. The flavours (pineapple and ginger are a classic combination) intensify over time which means you can make it ahead, which is always a win. But the sticky caramelised top means it's delicious warm with vanilla ice cream should you choose to eat it immediately.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Cinnamon marble cake

This last lockdown I wasn't baking as much. This is partly because I lost friends to farm out food to by being restricted to a 5km radius, the ones that lived close to me went on health kicks as a result of how much I fed them last time... and there's only so much cake you can give your 85 year old neighbour without concern you might be giving her diabetes. Another reason is that I discovered the pleasure of walking to a particular food destination as a way to mark the weekend and stop everything seeming so same-y. One lovely thing about lockdown in Sydney was that many restaurants pivoted in this period to become bakeries. One of these was Fred's in Paddington, run by chef Danielle Alvarez, previously of Berkeley's famous Chez Panisse. 

Fred's is a pleasant 30 minute walk from my place. On Saturdays for the last few months they've been offering up (for takeaway only) an array of delicious pastries, pies, cakes and breads. So I'd get a walk, get to support a local business and get something incredible to eat I didn't make myself. This cinnamon marble cake wasn't on Fred's menu but when I saw it on Danielle's excellent blog, I felt moved to make it as I love cakes with sour cream, had some to use up and all other ingredients to hand. Marble cakes can often be dry, but the sour cream guards against this and lends a luxury to a cake that comes together very simply and with store cupboard ingredients. 

Thursday 10 June 2021

Tarte tatin

Apple desserts are a favourite of mine. I grew up on crumbles, I can't go past a pie, and then there's this. If you take out of the equation the intimidating French name, there is nothing complicated about this tart. It's made in the same cast-iron skillet you might take camping, or use to make bacon and eggs. Its number of ingredients is few and it's more than likely you already have them on hand. If you don't, you could probably buy them all for about $5. All that stands between you and an impossibly sophisticated French bistro classic is the misguided belief that making it is hard. I am here to tell you it is not. You should make this. Serve it warm and ideally with vanilla ice-cream.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Peach, raspberry and almond cake

A few weeks ago I went to Brisbane. It was my first trip in over a year because of all the border closures that have characterised COVID in Australia. In the whirlwind of catching up with all the people I hadn't seen in so long in a short space of time, I spent a delightful afternoon with my friend's daughters (one a high schooler, one primary) making a cake. It's a tradition now - every time I come up we cook. Once it was these little Ottolenghi teacakes, a total hit. Another time it was this pie. This trip, it was a peach, raspberry and almond cake. 

To be clear, I actually do no cooking, only supervision. My friend sits back with a coffee and watches with amusement as I adjudicate fights over who gets to crack how many eggs, or fold in the flour. I get a swim or a gymnastics/trampoline/diving/clarinet show while whatever it is is in the oven, then - best of all - we eat it afterwards with their parents. This time I didn't take photos, so when I got home I made the cake again myself.

I've been trying to make the most of the stone fruit while it's in season, and this cake is an excellent vehicle for it. The juiciness of the fruit is soaked up by the ground almonds, and its softness contrasts beautifully with the sprinkle of chopped nuts on top. The orange zest rounds it all out and as my story attests, it's absolutely not difficult to make, as long as you fairly distribute the cracking of the eggs among all parties (one each for the girls, and I did the third). The reviews were excellent, from the Queenslanders, to the bush turkey who stole some slices I took on a bush walk on the weekend, to my 85 year old neighbour returning the Tupperware that contained a wedge I left on her doorstep. Couldn't put it better myself: such good cake.