Persimmon and Maple Spice Cake

PersimmonSpiceCake  Persimmon3

There is a lot to be said for whimsy. Of whimsy, I am a rather large fan.

I have just looked up the definition of the word whimsy in the dictionary and, oh dear, I fear poor whimsy may be very misunderstood! Ye olde dictionary wants to paint it in a conceited light, like it is a good for nothing, flippant little urge which will, quite frankly, get you into trouble.

But hark! What about those serendipitous ideas that strike you, and you follow them just because? Are they not a precious moment of whim? Is this, in fact, not exactly what life should be about, living in the moment and all such things?

I believe whimsy and inspiration are very good friends, maybe even cousins, and they should be grabbed by the hand and danced around with whenever they turn up at your door.

Here I go, speaking in a grand and whimsical fashion, I hope you won’t all mind.

So what on earth does all of this have to do with persimmon cake? Well, it is because I like to get swept up in the idea of things that a cake like this was born. I had started to spy some persimmons around and having grown up with a large persimmon tree in the backyard, the whimsy of my memory took me by the hand and loaded up my basket to the brim. We grew the astringent variety, which must get very soft before you eat it, unless you like having your mouth turned inside out and dusted with chalk. But, in my new home town, you can buy both the soft and the firm varieties, even more fun.

Hoping to pass on some of my fond childhood memories to the littlies, I have planted a tree of each variety in our yard, but I’m getting in early and trying to introduce the love of persimmon by slipping some crunchy slices into a lunch box here, making a yummy persimmon, avocado and sesame salad there, and baking some into a cake. By the time our trees are producing their own, I hope to have two fellow persimmon (and whimsy) advocates standing at my hip.

My husband says this cake reminds him of Pfeffernusse – those delicious German spice biscuits with the crunchy white tops… I guess it has that same gentle spicing but with the aroma of persimmon. Total afternoon tea material, just add a nice cup of tea.

Persimmon and Maple Spice Cake

adapted from Desserts for Breakfast, who adapted from Tartine

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  • Pulp from 3 very soft persimmons (around 300g)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 150g sugar
  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 250ml grapeseed oil
  • 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt tin and set aside.

Puree the pulp from your persimmons (discarding any skin or seeds) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, salt and spices and give a little whisk.

In another bowl, whisk the persimmon puree, oil, sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until they are homogenous. Add in your eggs one at a time, whisking each one in well before adding the next. Now gently mix through the flour mixture until just combined.

Pour the cake mixture into your prepared bundt tin and bake for 50 or so minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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I served my cake for afternoon tea with dollops of greek yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, and just for a bit more persimmon love, some wedges of the firm variety.

Big thank you my super talented friend Sarah who took these lovely photos xx

Autumn arrives, and brings cake…

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The harshness of Summer has started to fade, and the gentle breeze of Autumn is making itself felt.

After a long, hot and sometimes oppressive Summer this year, I am welcoming the ease of a more forgiving season. With change in the air comes a change of palate; the desperate need for refreshment is making way for more homely comforts and glimpses of sweet spices and buttery aromas.

This cake seems to match the natural progression of the new season, with the overlap of plums and pomegranates, and the warm sweet fix taken care of with an oozing butterscotch sauce balanced by the tartness of pomegranate syrup. Rosy red and full of a gentle sense of decadence; a simple yet grand way to welcome the clear air and crisper nights. Devour it whilst still warm and sticky or at room temperature with some thick cream or creme fraiche.

Thanks Autumn for arriving, and for bringing cake 🙂

Plum and Pomegranate Syrup Cake

170g butter, softened and divided into two equal parts
160g brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
8 or so plums, quartered
180g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
pinch of salt
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste, or seed from 1 vanilla bean
125ml milk

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Preheat your oven to 180°C. Place a tray in the bottom of the oven to catch any sneaky drips that may ooze from the delicious cake you are about to create.

Grease and line a 21cm springform cake tin.

In a frying pan over a medium heat, melt one half of your butter (85g) along with the brown sugar and honey. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or whisk until you have a luscious thick butterscotch sauce. It will be tempting, but don’t dip your finger in – it’s hot! Set aside.

Place flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, cream the other half of the butter (85g) and the caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until homogenous – you can add a tablespoon or two of the flour if the mixture is curdling and being stubborn. Once it is looking smooth and creamy, gently fold in the remaining flour mixture and milk, until smooth and luscious once again.

Pour your delicious thick butterscotch sauce into the base of the prepared tin. Scatter with the quartered plums until the base is completely and generously covered. Drizzle the plums with the pomegranate syrup.

Now pour the cake batter into the tin, and smooth the top with a palette knife.

Bake for around 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan before inverting directly onto your serving plate. Choose a plate that has a bit of a lip, as there will be an abundance of delicious butterscotch goodness, and you wouldn’t want to waste any.

This cake has it all – buttery cake base, soft baked fruit and sticky sweetness. If you like things a little more tart, add an extra drizzle of pomegranate syrup to the top once it is on your serving plate (I did). And if you have a lush pomegranate at hand’s reach, then sprinkle some of it’s beautiful jewels on top.

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Jewelled Orange Blossom Florentines

Inspiration. It comes from all around. A word here, a picture there, even perhaps a smell snatched whilst en route.

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Florentines. Why did you pop into my head and consume my thoughts? Perhaps it’s the Christmas decorations that have started to adorn the streets; an invitation to dinner; a flick through some cookbooks?  I’m sure it’s a combination of all these things and probably more.

Traditionally florentines are flavoured with either orange peel (of which I am not particularly fond) or orange zest. Neither of these did I have. But what I did have was inspiration! Hurrah. So I took a more middle eastern route and flavoured mine with sour cherries, cranberries (okay, maybe that’s just Christmas inspiration) and orange blossom. Dark chocolate drizzled on top, of course.

Crunchy, tangy, sweet and delicately fragrant. And festive, oh yes, definitely festive.

Cranberry

Jewelled Orange Blossom Florentines

Makes 30 – 40 biscuits
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom honey, or 1 tablespoon honey plus 3/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1/4 cup dried sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 20g flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 70g dark chocolate, melted

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Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Line two baking trays with aluminium foil, matte side up.

In a small saucepan, place your butter, sugar, milk, honey and orange blossom water over a low heat until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up just a little and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the saucepan, until the mixture reaches 115 degrees celcius on a sugar thermometer, or soft-ball stage.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, then stir in the flour, salt, almonds and dried fruit.

Place scant teaspoons of the mixture on the lined trays. Allow lots of room between the drops of mixture, as the mixture spreads tremendously while it bakes! See before, and after baking…

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You may need more than two trays, in which case you can bake in two batches.

Bake in the oven for 6 – 8 minutes, or until the florentines are deep golden brown and smell like sweet buttery heaven. If they are not baked enough they will stay sticky, so check on them and give them an extra minute if needs be.

Transfer the florentines still on the foil to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

While they are cooling, melt your chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Drizzled the melted chocolate over your florentines.

Allow to cool completely before gently peeling the florentines from the foil. They are quite fragile, but this is part of what makes them so delicate and delicious. They will keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

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a little romance with some Persian Love Cake

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Life’s big experiences always feel a little easier when you have someone to share them with. Having your first baby changes you immensely, and I was lucky enough to make two dear, dear friends just after we all had our first babies. We’ve shared hard times and happy times, day to day hum-drum and excitement, and now our children have the most special kind of friendship that hopefully they will take with them through their entire lives, friends you have had since birth.

These ladies are my kin, and our families feel interwoven.

Times may come when we don’t get to see each other as much as we have in these formative years, but I know that we will always hold a special place in each other’s hearts. My life has been so much richer for having grown alongside them.

Congratulations to beautiful H + D, we love you and all you are. Another of life’s big moments, what a treat to share it with you.

And whilst I made this as a wedding cake, it really is perfect to share for morning or afternoon tea with some close friends or loved ones.

Persian Love Cake for H + D…

honest and exotic just like you, to help celebrate your declaration of love xx

adapted from Nutmeg Love Cake by Amber Rose, from Love Bake Nourish.

  • 80g mix of toasted pecans, almonds and pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 260g spelt flour
  • 200g rapadura sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 280ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large free-range egg

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a 20cm springform cake tin.

Measure the flour, salt, sugar and nutmeg into a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and maple syrup together, until liquid.

Pour the butter and syrup into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the butter has been incorporated. Press half of this mixture into the base of your cake tin.

With the remaining half of the butter/flour mixture, stir in the natural yoghurt, egg and bicarbonate soda. Mix well until there are no lumps, it will be quite runny. Pour this mixture into the cake tin over the buttery base.

Sprinkle your chopped nuts on top and place in the middle of the oven (pop an oven tray on the bottom of your oven to catch any buttery drips) and bake for around 40 minutes, or until the centre of the cake springs back when you touch it. I baked mine a little longer at H + D’s request, turning the oven down to 160 degrees C after 40 minutes to avoid burning the nuts. If you bake it until the centre just springs back, the middle layer will have the consistency of a thick, set custard… if you bake it a little longer it will be chewier and a bit more spongey.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin before removing the springform.

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Because this cake was for a celebration, I decorated mine with crystallized rose petals, nut praline, edible glitter and a touch of edible gold leaf. But really, the nuts look beautiful on top just as they are. Honest, comforting and delicious.

Cherry, rocket and walnut salad

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Believe it or not, it is almost summer down here in Melbourne. How do I know? Certainly not from the weather, but a few days ago and for the first time this season, my organic grocer had cherries! Oh, rejoice! Nothing declares summer to me more than cherries, and as is the tradition in our family I always make a wish when eating the first one of the season.

Cherries often feature on an Australian Christmas table, sometimes atop pavlova or often just piled high in a bowl to be popped one by one as the fancy takes you.

We ate the first of these juicy jewels on their own, with pleasure, but then a whim took me and told me to make a salad. Salads are actually one of my favourite things to eat… and with the addition of cherries even the kids were diving right in.

Light and peppery, crunchy and sweet, this salad is fresh, simple and ticks so many boxes, it’s a world of right.

Cherry, Rocket and Walnut Salad with Goat’s Cheese

serves 2 as a side or 1 for a light meal, perhaps with some bread

rocket

  • 50g walnuts, toasted
  • 100g rocket, rinsed
  • 80g cherries, halved and pitted
  • 50g goats fetta
  • a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar

Toast your walnuts in an 180 degree C oven for 5 mins, or until golden and fragrant. Allow to cool.

Rinse your rocket and cherries; cut the cherries in half and remove their stones.

Grab your favourite salad bowl. Heap in the rocket, and sprinkle with the walnuts and cherries. Using your fingers, tear up the goats fetta. Give it all a good drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. I like my salad dressings on the tangy side so I give two slurps of vinegar for each of olive oil, but you follow your tastebuds.

Using your hands give everything a good toss and tumble, scooping up a few of the walnuts and cherries to adorn the top…

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yum.

Strawberry and Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

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My kids have pretty strong opinions about cake.

This should come as no surprise really, given the amount of cake that is often being whipped up and going out of our kitchen. Always eager ‘helpers’, they often come up with their own combinations and drawings to articulate exactly what they mean. There were some pretty fancy numbers being dreamt up this year, let me tell you.

Speculation was rife as to what kind of cake everyone was going to have for their birthday. Some prefer tradition, whilst others have constantly evolving ideas throughout the year; the anticipation was huge.

Finally, after the usual intense brainstorming of ideas, it was decided that strawberry cupcakes with raspberry icing would suffice. But only if they were in the style of a fairy garden. Vision AND flavour, you see what I mean.

No worries, strawberry and raspberry, a berry-licious combination, as Strawberry Shortcake would say. The only challenge now, to make one that all our kinder friends can eat. Nut free, dairy free, egg free.

I got my substituting brain on, and remembered a birthday cake from my own childhood. A strawberry and coconut cake, which we baked in a heart shaped tin. Inspiration drawn, I got a-baking.

Strawberry and Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

(nut free, dairy free, egg free)
  • 120g spelt flour
  • 140g raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 40g coconut butter (not coconut oil), the more fragrant the better
  • 120ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • egg replacer to the equivalent of 1 egg
  • 100g chopped strawberries

Put out all of your ingredients, and allow them to come to room temperature. Cross fingers for a day that is not too cold so your coconut butter will be soft and pliable (please use coconut butter versus coconut oil. The butter is made with the whole coconut flesh, not just the pressed out oil, this gives it a much more voluptuous consistency as well as maximum tropical flavour! My favourite by far is Niugini Organics; they work with local communities in PNG to produce their coconut butter, so not only is it totally delicious, it’s good for karma points too.)

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with some pretty cases.

Measure out your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and coconut butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on slow until the mixture looks uniformly sandy, without any large lumps and bumps.

Pour in the coconut milk and the splash of vanilla, and mix until well combined. Add your constituted egg replacer and give it a spin on medium speed until everything is nice and smooth.

Stir in your chopped strawberries, or if they are a bit on the cold side, drop them directly into the cupcake cases (so you don’t give that coconut butter a cold shock!)

Divide the mixture amongst the cupcake cases, it will be runny but don’t worry! These cupcakes turn out sweet, delicious and fragrant and not at all dry (if someone knows a better word than ‘moist’, then please, let me know).

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. My cupcakes didn’t go very brown, I think this is to do with using coconut butter rather than normal butter, so don’t rely on ‘golden brown’ being your indicator for the cupcakes being done!

Let the cupcakes cool down a touch before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Now, I wish I could give you a super awesome dairy-free and delicious frosting recipe. Unfortunately I can’t. I did experiment using coconut butter, icing sugar and fresh raspberries to create a super yummy and good for you frosting, and…. it was an epic fail. It went straight to the chickens. So instead I had to default and use a standard frosting recipe, just substituting dairy-free spread (I used Nuttelex) and coconut milk instead of cow’s. A dash of raspberry oil (from some macaron-ing days) added the required raspberry element. I would have way rather used fresh raspberries, but after one botched attempt, I just needed to get these babies done. I’ll put conquering that frosting recipe on the to-do list, and if you have an awesome dairy-free frosting that doesn’t use vegetable oils, then please let me know!!

Oh, and decorate to your heart’s content xx

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salted caramel, the best I know…

Things may have seemed quiet… virtually quiet; does this mean things are actually quiet? No. In fact things are busy, crazy, noisy and for the most part fun.

It has been birthday season, wedding season, merry-making season. And here I have a moment to pause as I await a couple to pickup some cakes for their wedding tomorrow.

Cakes, cakes, cakes. Boy have there been some cakes! There have been jars of crumbs, custards, caramels all around the kitchen, our fridge has been taken over by sweetness. And there is more to come. But with each cake comes refinement of methods, perfecting of recipes and mastering of box folding skills. And each time is gets a little bit quicker and a smidgen bit easier. Swirls are now whipped up, rather than agonised over; layering to a level is now more of a given rather than something to be strived for! Thank heavens it still feels creative and fun, and as always I have a happy and willing gang to lick clean those spatulas for me.

It was Nana Bear’s birthday last week, so the kids got their rainbow on and decorated her cake…

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Holy sugar, I hear you call! Well I have been doing my best to maintain a balance in our day to day lives and lunch boxes whilst the dust of icing sugar settles, but my daughter last week described a drawing of a dress she had done as ‘acai’ coloured – so I think we’re doing okay!

And amongst all this I went to a ‘Science of Styling’ class run by the fabulous Megan Morton, to help gain some inspiration in how I communicate what I do so not all of my photos are just of a round cake on my floorboards! At the end of the day I realised it’s all just fundamentals of art anyway, with a splash believing in yourself and your own style, so yippee, let’s just live life as beautifully as we can and that’s got to shine through. And beautiful things make people happy, and that’s okay!

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So with all of this and more going on, there haven’t been too many moments for experimentation. But there is some definite sub conscious stirrings going on, and hopefully sometime soon I will have a moment to break free from the busy-ness (business) and still have enough energy to feel creative. And one day bring you a new recipe!

But for now, to my ‘favourite, so far’ salted caramel recipe. Sticky, sweet, salty and still pliable enough to work with straight from the fridge. There was some definite trial and error with some caramels setting rock hard, not the best for layering in a cake! But this one is a keeper, and as is so often the case, we have Christina Tosi to thank for it.

Salty Caramel from Momofuku Milk Barphoto 1

Makes about 320g (1 & 1/2 cups)

105g heavy cream

25g butter

4g vanilla extract

2g salt (Christina recommends 4g, which I find a little salty, so I cut it down to 2, then sprinkle some Fleur De Sal flakes when I am using the caramel for a little more pop of salt)

130g sugar

100g glucose

1 gelatine sheet

105g heavy cream (yes, you need two lots of 105g)

Put 105g cream, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Make a caramel: Heat the sugar and glucose in a medium heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt. Once the sugar is starting to melt stir, stir, stir until you have a beautiful deep golden colour, 3 to 5 minutes.

While you are attending to the caramel, practice your multi-tasking skills and bloom the gelatine sheet, in a cup of cool water.

When you are happy with the colour of your caramel, take it off the heat and pour in the other 105g of cream. Stand back as it may spit and steam! Once it has all calmed down, whisk that pot of caramel until it is smooth and glossy. If there are any hard spots of caramel, put the pot back on a gentle heat and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in the bloomed gelatine, which you have squeezed all excess water from, until is has completely dissolved. At this point you are going to pour your caramel into the bowl with the butter, cream, vanilla and salt in it. Christina recommends pouring the mixture through a sieve, I don’t as I find it makes a sticky mess and my caramel has always been pretty smooth anyway, but by all means go for it if you are that way inclined.

Let the mixture sit without touching it for a couple of minutes, until you can see the butter starting to melt. Then, give it a good old whisk (slowly at first so you don’t splash it all over yourself) until it is shiny, sticky and beautiful.

You can use it right now, or keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks! How’s that for getting ahead? You can give it a blast in the microwave when you’re ready to use it (apparently, we don’t have a microwave so I never bother) until it is the right liquidity for you to use. Or just spoon it in big ol’ dollops from the jar as I do, to make a gorgeous, unctuous, golden mess…photo 2-1