Easy Date, Ginger and Walnut Cake Recipe

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“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”
~ William Cowper

 

What am I doing this morning? Well, as soon as this blog is done I’ll be making a nice cup of tea, cutting myself a slice of this cake and sitting down with my journal for an hour or so. Today is a powerful time for dreaming, planning, birthing and manifesting our heart’s desires into the world, riding on the back of this incredible new moon and solar eclipse energy. If you can find some time today, I highly encourage you to take a little time too to envision your dream life, and what you most want to be, do and create in the world over the coming years.

But I digress. Back to cake!

This cake is a firm favourite in our household. It’s easy to whip up, using just one saucepan and a wooden spoon. The cake can be made with traditional or gluten-free flour, both with great results. You can enjoy this cake eaten warm as a dessert, or cold as a proper cake. It has great keeping qualities, and most importantly, it is divine with a cup of tea or coffee.

The cake begins as a light, fluffy creation when first made, but over the ensuing days becomes heavier, and it will keep for about a week. I often serve it sliced and buttered for smoko at the farm.

I sometimes ice this cake with a lemon icing too. That was my intention when I made this one, as our niece was coming to visit for a few days and I wanted to surprise her with something a bit special.

But yesterday, with the cake just out of the oven and the whole house smelling of spice and sugar, the local excavator operator and his off-sider called in to say hello and have a cuppa. And then the energex workers who were working down on the river flats clearing trees from under our power lines turned up too. Result? Cake demolished, with no time to turn it into something pretty.

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Ingredients:

1 cup of pitted dried dates, 1/2 cup crystalised ginger, 1/2 cup walnuts, 125 grams (1/2 cup) of butter, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1 cup of cold tea (your favourite black or herbal ginger is fine. I usually use French Earl Grey but it’s fun to experiment), 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger, 1 large egg – beaten, 1 and 1/2 cups self-raising/all purpose flour or your preferred self-raising/all purpose gluten-free flour mix.

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Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit) and prepare a deep 9 inch/22 centimetre round or an 8 inch/20 centimetre square tin by lining it with baking paper.

Chop the dates and walnuts into small pieces, and chop the ginger quite finely. It tastes better and gives the cake a better texture having the ginger in smaller pieces.

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Place the dates, chopped ginger, butter, salt, sugar and tea in a large saucepan. Trust me – use a largish one as this will eventually become the cake mixing bowl. Isn’t it lovely when you save on washing up!

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Place over medium heat and bring to a strong boil, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks. Turn off heat and allow to cool for five minutes. Add in the bi-carb soda. This will make the mixture foam – don’t panic – it’s perfectly normal. Stir well, and then place aside to cool down some more.

When the mixture is cool enough that you can comfortably stick your finger in, toss in the walnuts then sift in the flour and ginger. Stir well with a wooden spoon and then add the beaten egg and stir through gently to combine.

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Spoon into the prepared tin. Eat the rest of the batter stuck to sides of saucepan. Yum! :)

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Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cake is baked when it springs back when lightly pressed in the centre or when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

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Cool in tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

2014-10-23 13.49.50And with messy slatherings of butter for the second offering, after the hungry workers ate the first plate of cake in 2.5 minutes flat! Cake now cool enough that butter didn’t slide off. LOL! (Butter looks very pale here – it was freshly churned a few hours before by a neighbour and was DELICIOUS!!!)

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And if you do want to get fancy and use a lemon icing on it, there’s a good recipe here, with the outstandingly good Lemon Slice recipe.

 

Mandarin, Zucchini and White Chocolate Cupcakes

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“Baking is like washing–the results are equally temporary.”
~ Patricia Briggs, Raven’s Shadow

 

I experimented with a new cake recipe earlier in the week. But it was so good that it was devoured before I thought to take any photos.

So I made it again!

In fact, I tested two versions. A straight-up version using dairy, flour and sugar and a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free version.

Happily, both of them tasted delicious. The cakes are sweet and moist and rich-tasting, but not too heavy.

I did contemplate using a cream cheese icing with a hint of mandarin to finish these little cakes off, but honestly, unless the Queen was coming for afternoon tea it would have been complete overkill. That, and the fact that again, at least half the batch was eaten before I could get to the making icing part, after which any kind of frosting seemed redundant.

This recipe is inspired by the monster zucchini glut currently underway at our farm. Enjoy!

Ingredients – Standard:

2 medium mandarins (about 350 grams), 1 cup grated zucchini, 1 cup white chocolate chunks, 1 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups self-raising flour  (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup almond meal, 125g (1/2 cup) of melted butter, 3 large eggs – lightly beaten

Ingredients – Gluten-free, Dairy-free, sugar-free

2 medium mandarins (about 350 grams), 1 cup grated zucchini, 1 cup gluten-free white chocolate chunks (list of gluten-free chocolate here) OR omit chocolate OR substitute for your favourite nut OR dried apricots cut into fine dice, 1/2 cup of natvia or a sugar alternative, 1 and 1/2 cups of your favourite gluten-free self-raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup almond meal, 125g (1/2 cup) of melted dairy substitute, 3 large eggs – lightly beaten

Note: Keep a half cup of flour handy in case your mixture is too wet. Gluten-free flours all differ slightly so it’s a good idea to be prepared. :)

Method:

To prepare the mandarins, place in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and then simmer one hour. Cool in pan.

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Slice open lengthways and remove seeds. You could use a spoon for this but I prefer clean fingers. That way you can feel any seeds that are hiding. Seeds make things bitter, so do your best to get them all. It’s an easy job. Pulse mandarins in a blender until smooth.

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Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Grate your zucchini to give a generous cup full. Squeeze it lightly to press a little moisture out of it.

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Then add the zucchini and mandarin pulp to a large bowl and stir well.

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Fold through the other ingredients. The chocolate on top was added by my husband who thought that the recipe could use another handful. This is not including the additional handful that went straight in his mouth…

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Spoon into cupcake liners in prepared tins.

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Bake for twenty minutes or until a toothpick, when inserted, comes out clean. Cakes will rise nicely, but will settle again once cooled.

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Leave in tins to cool completely. Cake will store well for one week. It also freezes well.

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Serve to friends, with cups of tea. Or eat while snuggled up on the couch watching old movies. I trialled both methods, and both were satisfactory!

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2014-10-16 15.33.32Note Bert’s hopeful face, as he lies beneath the table waiting for a cupcake to fall on his head…

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Easy Lemon Yoghurt Syrup Cake

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“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’

That is true,’ said Mma Potokwane sadly. ‘There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.”
~ Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

 

This is a cake that eats well on the first day it’s baked, and keeps eating well up to a week later. It’s a dense cake, like a lemony mud cake, but it isn’t heavy or overly rich. The lemon syrup gives the cake a zesty tang, and it’s the perfect cake for travelling. I baked this early on the morning I was going to my writers retreat, whipped it out of the oven, poured the syrup over it, wrapped the whole tin in foil and carried the fragrant and still hot cake up into the mountains.

It is delicious served warm, but for our four-day retreat I stored the cake in the fridge, and served it cold. There were no complaints!

This cake can easily be made gluten-free, by substituting your favourite gluten-free flour mix. Do use fresh lemons – they make all the difference.

Cake Ingredients:

250g soft butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 3 eggs, finely grated rind of two large lemons (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons), 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 and 1/4 cups plain greek-style yoghurt, 1/2 cup almond meal, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together)

Syrup Ingredients:

1 and 1/3 cups caster sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, finely shredded zest of one large lemon

 

Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper. (You can use a round or fluted tin if you prefer – just shorten the cooking time a little.)

 

Cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind together until creamy and light.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Then add the remaining wet and dry ingredients and fold through gently with a spoon.

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Transfer the batter to a baking-paper lined loaf tin, and smooth the top.

Bake for around 60 minutes. Test for doneness by insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If mixture still clings to the skewer bake a little longer.

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Check your cake after 40 minutes. If it is browning too fast place some foil on top of the cake to prevent it taking on any more colour. Don’t be too fussy with the foil, just place it gently over the top.

I was away from our farm and cooked this cake in a gas oven that is temperamental and doesn’t hold a consistent temperature, often getting too hot, or not quite getting up to temperature. Sigh. So I used foil (I usually don’t need it) and my cake also split slightly on top. Was that a drama? NO! It’s cake, people. It still looked lovely and tasted absolutely delicious. :)

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You can leave the cake in the pan if you are not serving it immediately. If you wish to serve while warm, wait ten minutes for cake to cool slightly and then remove from pan and place on serving plate.

Once the cake is out of the oven, make your syrup. Place the lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. (Note: Don’t boil the syrup or it will end up tasting like marmalade and will loose its lovely zestiness!)

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Use a fine skewer and pierce holes all over the cake.

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Then pour at least half of the hot syrup over your still hot cake. I generally use all of it because I love syrupy cakes, but some of my friends prefer to keep some syrup aside in a little jug so that it can be poured onto the individual slices at serving time.

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Serve the cake in small slices, with a little cream, ice-cream or yoghurt on the side.

At the writers retreat we ate our cake with vanilla yoghurt, good coffee and lots of words.

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Here’s a piece of cake that I carried out under the wisteria in order to get a photo with natural light. I couldn’t help myself and ate some before I could even get a good shot!

The wind blew a couple of little flowers down onto my plate. I’d love to take credit for being so artful, but actually, it was nature, just doing its thing.

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Persian Love Cake Recipe #glutenfree

persian love cake

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!”
~ C. JoyBell C.

 

I wanted to make a special cake to mark my 30 Year Anniversary of having Lyme disease. I’m celebrating all that I have learned, all that I have survived, and all that is now unfolding in front of me. Plus… cake! Do you ever really need a reason?

This is a simple cake to make, but it looks and tastes fancy. Perfect for a celebration! It has those beautiful Persian spices – including cardamom and orange blossom – which give a distinctive exotic flavour, and it is gluten-free. The base is sugary crisp, and the filling is light and not too rich. With a few easy substitutions this cake can also be made dairy-free if needed.

If you don’t have orange blossom water, you can omit or substitute for rose-water. It will still taste delicious. You can buy orange blossom water at many supermarkets, delicatessens, Asian or Indian grocers and even health food stores.

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Ingredients:

3 cups of almond meal, 1 cup of raw (demerara) sugar, 1 cup of soft brown sugar – lightly packed, 1/2 cup (125g) soft unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 1 cup of natural yoghurt, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, 1/2 cup pistachio nuts

1 x baking-paper lined 26cm springform (10 inch) pan.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Prepare your cake tin.

Place the almond meal, sugars and butter in a large bowl.

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Rub the butter through the dry ingredients until it resembles soft crumbs.

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Press half of the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the springform pan. You could use the back of a spoon but I think that clean hands work just as well!

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Lightly beat the two eggs. Add the beaten eggs, spices, orange blossom water and yoghurt to the remaining crumb mix. Stir together well.

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Pour onto the crumb base. Sprinkle roughly chopped pistachios around the outside of the cake.

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Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake will not be quite firm. That’s okay – it will firm up as it cools. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.

To serve, accompany the Persian Love Cake with some more yoghurt or a good ice-cream.

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Variations: If you are following a dairy-free diet, this can also be made with a vegetable spread substitute for the butter. You could use a soy or coconut yoghurt too. I’ve made these variations before and they were still delicious, although the coconut yoghurt adds an additional flavour which changes the taste of the cake (but not in a bad way!)

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Baked Apple Maple Custard #dairyfree #sugarfree

apple custard

“I hope there’s pudding!”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

This is a comforting, warm, easy-to-digest pudding that tastes delicious. It only takes a few minutes to throw together, which is also a nice bonus. I’ve long been a fan of baked custard, and I’ve modified my grandmother’s original recipe so that it is dairy free and refined sugar-free too. You are welcome to experiment with different kinds of non-dairy milk for this recipe. I’ve tried most, and they are all good.

Being a high-protein dessert, there’s no reason why you couldn’t have this on its own as a meal. When I’m feeling tired or poorly I often do.

 

Ingredients:

2 medium apples – peeled and cut into small chunks or slices, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup coconut cream and 2 cups of your choice of soy/almond/rice milk, 3 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste, 1 teaspoon vanilla, a little coconut oil to grease dish, grated nutmeg, cinnamon.

* Note – I have also made this with 2 1/2 cups of coconut milk instead of the coconut cream and milk of your choice. If you need this recipe to be completely sugar-free it works just fine with an equivalent amount of natural sugar substitute. I use Natvia- a form of stevia – and it tastes brilliant! 

apples

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius or 300 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a four cup capacity dish, and find a baking tray large enough for it to sit within.
  3. Beat eggs, coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla and milk together with a whisk or fork.
  4. Place apple in bottom of dish and sprinkle with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour egg mixture into the greased dish. Don’t panic when the apple rises from the bottom. It’s meant to!
  5. Grate or sprinkle nutmeg over the top of the custard. (I am a firm lover of fresh nutmeg – once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to the packaged stuff!) maple custard
  6. Fill baking tray with cold water so that it comes halfway up the side of the custard dish.
  7. Place carefully into oven and bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until set.  Custard will be firm under your touch, although it may still be a bit wobbly in the middle.  It will firm more as it cools.

*Note: Oven temperatures vary widely. You need to cook this slowly to be rewarded with a thick, well set dish. If it is cooked at too high a temperature you will have lots of bubbles in your custard. Unless you have used low temperatures in your oven before, you need to check your custard after thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, if the custard has not picked up some colour and begun to set, your oven is too slow and you will need to adjust the temperature up a little. When I cook this at my farm in my Falcon Oven which is fan-forced electric, it takes 40 minutes to bake my custard. When I cook this dish in the city, my old gas oven takes 60 minutes.

Serve hot or cold. The apple will now be soft and moist with a little caramelisation on the top of your dessert. Beneath a light fluffy layer will be a dense rich egg custard that is velvety smooth. Scrumptious!

eating custard

Easy Nutella Cheesecake Recipe

nutella cheesecake

“….I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night.”Mary Antin, ‘The Promised Land’ (1912)

 

This is probably the easiest cheesecake I have ever made. It only requires a few ingredients, and it is seriously yum. Not too sweet, not overpoweringly Nutella flavoured, and it makes the perfect end to a meal. It’s also the kind of cheesecake you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

I first ate this cheesecake at a friend’s place. My friend is a chef and when I asked about the recipe they were embarrassed. “You don’t want that. It’s so easy,” she said. “It’s barely even a recipe!” Turns out, her eleven-year-old son had made it all by himself from a recipe given to him from a friend’s mother after he’d eaten this cheesecake at their house.

All the better. If a child who doesn’t cook can manage this, anyone can!

I made this for Saturday night dinner, when our friends from the city came to stay. It took just a few minutes to whip up, and not much longer to devour.

Why don’t you try it, and you’ll see what I mean…

nutella

Ingredients:

250 grams sweet plain biscuits (I used a packet of caramel pecan cookies and the caramel and pecans gave a lovely texture and flavour!), 75 grams (5 tablespoons) of butter, 1 x 400 gram jar of Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut spread in case you don’t know!), 500 grams of cream cheese, 75 grams (1/2 cup) of icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered sugar)

I also used a punnet of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of icing sugar for decoration.

Method:

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until they are crushed. Then add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Whizz again until it begins to form clumps.

making the crust

 

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*Note – if you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Tip into a bowl and add the butter and Nutella and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Tip the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin, pressing down firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the tin. Place into the fridge to chill.

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Now cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the bowl of the food processor with the icing sugar. Whizz until it softens and combines. (Can you spy a few biscuit crumbs on my cream cheese? Yes, that’s right. I didn’t bother to wash out the food processor bowl before I used it again. I promise it won’t matter.)

cream cheese and sugar

Spoon the rest of the jar of Nutella into the bowl, and process again until smooth and completely mixed together. (Can’t see those crumbs now, can you?)

nutella mix

Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mix over the base, smoothing the top. Place back into the refrigerator to set. This will take four to six hours, but it will be even better if you can leave it overnight.

smooth cheesecake into tinIn emergencies, the freezer will help chill things down quickly too. I understand – sometimes you need to make and eat that cheesecake FAST!

Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform tin, removing the sides first and then easing the cake from the bottom tray using a knife and a spatula or egg slide. Removing the cheesecake from the springform base stops you cutting through the non-stick coating with a knife when you slice pieces of cake and helps your pan last much longer.

nutella cheesecake 2

To Serve:

It’s perfectly good served plain. But I like to garnish my cheesecake with sweet fresh strawberries and a little dusting of icing sugar. It’s also super yummy with the following variations:

  • whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel
  • whipped cream and fresh berries
  • whipped cream and mandarin or orange segments
  • lashings of shaved or grated chocolate
  • tiny chocolate truffles and chocolate sauce

You might also like to make individual cheesecakes, or even put your mixture into teacups or cocktail glasses for something a little fancier.

However, in the end, what matters is the eating. Our visiting campers, Hannah and Mitchell, gave this dish their stamp of approval.

Enjoy!

happy faces

Easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

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“I’ve never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn’t fix.” 
~ Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet

 

Don’t you love Bert’s sweet little face sneakily captured in the cupcake photo above? He was seriously hoping that I would turn my back for just one moment…

That’s how much everyone wants one of these cupcakes!

This is a standard, moist vanilla cupcake that will decorate well. The icing(frosting) I made for these cupcakes has a sweet caramel-maple flavour which is rich without being overpowering. Best eaten within 24 hours of making, and they do freeze well too, but honestly, they won’t last that long.

Ingredients to make 12:

125g softened butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or make with these ratios: for every 1 cup of all purpose flour add 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup milk

Method:

*Preheat oven. For a smooth top cook at 190 degrees celcius (375 degrees fahrenheit) and for a peaked top cook at 210 degrees celcius (410 degrees fahrenheit)

Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake papers.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until the mixture is pale, light and creamy in texture. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Make sure your butter is soft, or this step will take all day.

Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Lastly, fold in (that means add to the mixture and gently mix with a spoon, rather than beating madly) half the flour and milk, and the repeat with the other half of the flour and milk. Folding the flour and milk in gently will keep the mixture light and fluffy.

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Spoon the mixture into the cupcake papers.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Lick spoon and bowl clean while you wait. (The best bit!)

Remove from heat and cool cupcakes on a wire rack.

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Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup Buttercream Icing Recipe

Ingredients:

125 grams softened butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1/3 cup of soft brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of boiling water.

Note: For a plain vanilla icing, omit brown sugar and maple syrup and add one teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops of colour of your choice.

Method:

Beat butter until whipped and then gradually add icing sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. If mixture becomes too thick, add up to a tablespoon of boiling water, beat well and then continue adding sugar. You may not need all of the boiling water. When the icing is very thick and creamy add the brown sugar and maple syrup and continue to beat until icing is very thick and smooth. Spoon or pipe onto top of cupcakes.

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You can also decorate these cupcakes with small candy decorations, sprinkles, nuts or choc-chips. We used pirate decorations today, because… well… PIRATES! :)

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