Monday, 16 March 2020

coffee and walnut chiffon cake

It's been such a long time since I posted, I've almost forgotten how, but I'm back with a much requested recipe, my coffee chiffon cake. It's no secret I love a chiffon, it's such an adaptable recipe, you can swap fruit juice for coffee, milk or just plain water and create wonderful flavour combinations. They're as enjoyable naked from the pan as they are blanketed in frosting with a drizzle of something something and a scattering of whatever. If it's your first time, start with the simple cake, enjoy its amazing texture, its subtle coffee flavour, and marvel at how quickly it disappears. If you have time on your hands, and aren't daunted by the extra dishes, go for the frosting with florals, or the coffee caramel and smoky, salty roasted nuts, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Use your favourite coffee, black and cooled, sub plain flour for cake flour if need be, and if you can get your hands on it, applewood smoked salt is a delight.

Coffee Chiffon Cake

6 large eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour
250g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt 
120ml canola oil, or similar
180ml cooled, black coffee
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

• preheat your oven to 170ºC
• combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt, sift into a large bowl (use a stand mixer, if you have one, with the paddle attachment) add the 250g caster sugar, mix to combine
• make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the coffee, egg yolks, oil and vanilla bean seeds, mix until smooth
• in another large bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, mixing until you have soft peaks, then gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisk until the sugar has dissolved and you have firm peaks
• fold the egg whites into the batter a third at a time, taking care to reach the bottom of the bowl
• pour the batter into an ungreased, unlined angel food cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes, the cake is cooked when it springs back if lightly pressed
• remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert to cool, if your tin doesn't have "feet" rest the centre tube of the inverted cake on an upturned cup, and leave to cool
• when completely cold, run a sharp knife around the inside and the centre section of the cake tin, remove the cake, still on the base of the tin, then run the knife between the bottom of the cake and the tin; invert the cake onto your serving plate
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy!

the cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature or up to a week in the fridge, tends to only last a couple of days in my house :)

for something a little more indulgent, frost the cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, drizzle with coffee caramel, and strew with walnuts lightly roasted with smoked salt...

Swiss meringue buttercream

3 large egg whites
180g granulated sugar
230g butter, at room temperature, cubed
pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

• combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, place over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 72ºC 
• return the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixtures cools, has doubled in size and forms stiff peaks (if you don't have a stand mixer, a hand held electric mixer will be fine, I wouldn't attempt by hand)
• change to the paddle attachment and add the butter a piece at a time, mixing to incorporate each piece, the mixture may look alarmingly curdled but keep mixing and it will magically come back together
• once all the butter is incorporated add the salt and vanilla bean seeds, mixing on slow until combined

Coffee caramel

200g caster sugar
80g butter
120 ml thickened cream 
1 shot of coffee, or 2 tsp instant coffee

• add coffee to the cream and mix to combine, if you are using instant, first mix the coffee with 1 tbsp boiling water
• tip the sugar into a small/medium heavy based pan and heat on a medium to high setting, stirring every now and then, until the sugar starts to melt
• continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has melted, turned a lovely caramel colour and has started to smoke; things can be a bit tricky here, you want to cook the caramel enough to develop that deep toasted flavour that offsets the sweetness, but it's a very fine line, leave it too long and it will burn and become inedibly bitter...
• as soon as you are happy with the caramel, whisk in the butter, take care, it will bubble and spit 
• remove from the heat and whisk in the coffee cream, if your caramel has formed clumps, return to the heat and stir until smooth
• pour into a clean jar and leave to cool
• once cool, cover with the lid and store in the fridge, it will keep for 2 weeks

Roasted walnuts with smoked salt

150g walnut halves (pieces are fine)
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt falkes

• preheat oven to 170ºC
• spread the walnuts over a baking tray, sprinkle with salt, roast for 10 minutes
• leave to cool on the tray, store in an airtight container until ready to use

Thursday, 6 June 2019


Scones are on high rotation at our house, they're almost too easy to make. Everyone loves them, we have the usual debate about jam first versus cream, jam obviously, my husband disagrees, and the youngest kids are just weirdos, one cuts them vertically, and both opt for jam only!

I've adapted Delia Smith's plain scone recipe, it's fabulous, mostly just changing the shape. Scone dough should be mixed and handled as little as possible, the more the dough is kneaded and rolled, the tougher and heavier the baked scone will be. Round scones are so pretty, and definitely the most photogenic, but cutting the scones into triangles allows you to mix the dough until it just holds together, and removes the need to re-roll off cuts, giving you 8 equally light fluffy scones. The sharp edges crisp up beautifully, contrasting wonderfully with the soft interior.

This recipe makes 8, it can be easily doubled, but only make as many as you'll eat that day; they're best eaten just barely warm from the oven, and are so easy to make you can always mix up another batch tomorrow..


300g self raising flour
55g spreadable butter (I use Lurpak)
30g caster sugar
pinch salt
145ml milk
extra flour for dusting

• position a shelf towards the top of your oven, and preheat to 220ºC fan (240ºC conventional), line a baking tray with baking paper
• tip the flour into a large bowl, gently rub the butter into the flour, then stir through the sugar and salt
• make a well in the flour mixture, and using a blunt knife, mix in the milk; knead gently until the dough just comes together
• tip the dough onto your lined tray, use your hands to form a disc 3cm tall; dust with the extra flour and cut the disc into 8 equally sized triangles, carefully separate the triangles moving them apart slightly
• pop the scones in the oven, immediately turn it down to 200ºC fan (220ºC conventional), and bake for 15 minutes
• cool the scones on a rack, serve ever so slightly warm from the oven with jam and cream; any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so, but honestly, we knock over 8 in a heartbeat :)

I don't have a photo of a scone with jam and cream, I totally forgot, but here's a close up, it's a bit dodgy, but you can see the dough is beautifully puffed and light.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake, with blackberry and lemon

Blackcurrant and aniseed; a flavour combination I've loved since I was a kid, dyeing my teeth black with inappropriately named lollies, and later as a teen, drinking questionable mixers with other unfortunate results! These days I generally use aniseed flavours in savoury dishes, star anise and Thai basil are two favourites, but it's Christmas and I'm feeling nostalgic, so blackcurrant and aniseed it is.

Chiffon cakes are so versatile, experimenting with the liquid component and adding spices achieves all sorts of interesting flavours. I reduced the sugar, and added blackcurrant cordial and ground star anise to find the taste I was looking for; a fruity, lightly spiced sponge, amplified with a tangy blackcurrant compote. It's not a flavour combination for everyone, if aniseed is really not your thing, just omit the star anise and add the finely grated zest of a lemon to the dry ingredients, the blackcurrant and lemon work beautifully together. Created for Barker's Pantry.

This cake ain't for everybody, only the quirky people... 🎶

blackcurrant and star anise chiffon cake
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 16

6 eggs, separated
1 extra egg white
225g plain cake flour (if you can't find cake flour substitute with regular plain flour)
220g caster sugar
50g extra caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground star anise
100ml  Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
80ml water
120ml canola oil, or similar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (not essential, but will stabilise the egg whites)

140g lemon curd, store bought is totally fine!
mascarpone filling, recipe below
blackcurrant compote, recipe below 
1 punnet blackberries

 preheat your oven to 170ºC

• combine the cake flour, baking powder, ground star anise and salt, sift into a the bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one, and with the paddle attachment mix through the 220g caster sugar 
• make a well in the centre of your flour mixture, add the blackcurrant cordial, water, egg yolks, and oil, mix until smooth
• in another, really large bowl whisk the 7 egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar then mix until you have soft peaks, gradually add the additional 50g caster sugar, whisking until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved
• fold the egg whites into the batter in three stages
• divide the batter equally between 3 ungreasedunlined 20cm springform cake tins and bake for 30 minutes
• remove the cakes from the oven, and leaving them in the tins, immediately invert onto racks to cool; expect the cakes to sink slightly in the centre as they cool, they'll form prefect shallow bowls to load with the filling :)
• when completely cool, to release the cakes, run a sharp knife around the inside of the cake tin, remove the outer ring leaving the cake sitting on the base of the tin. This next stage is a little tricky, slide a strong thread, I use dental floss, between the base of the cake and the tin, slide all the way through, pressing the thread against the base as you go, invert the cakes onto a flat surface and you're ready to assemble
• keep the neatest, most even cake for the top layer, place another layer, flat side down on your serving plate/cake stand. Gently spread with half the lemon curd, top with half the mascarpone cream, dot with dessert spoons of blackcurrant compote, swirl together, finally scatter with half the blackberries. Repeat with the next layer, finishing with the final cake layer, flat side facing up
• you could simply dust the cake with icing sugar, or decorate as you like; I love using fresh fruit and flowers, but went a little festive with this one, it is almost Christmas
• slice giant slabs of cake with a serrated knife and enjoy
• the cake will keep covered in the fridge for 4 days

mascarpone filling
preparation time 5 minutes

500g mascarpone
300ml cream

• tip the mascarpone into a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment beat for 10 seconds or so, until smooth, add the cream, mix until smooth, thick and creamy
• store in the fridge until ready to use

blackcurrant compote
preparation time 10 minutes

350g blackcurrants, fresh or frozen

60ml Barker's New Zealand blackcurrant cordial
75g caster sugar

• tip all the ingredients into a small pan, bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved

• simmer over a medium heat until the blackcurrants have softened and the juices are thick and syrupy
• leave to cool, store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use

Monday, 10 December 2018

walnut dacquoise with chocolate and cherries

Two weeks, it's Christmas in two weeks! I'm at odds with Christmas. Growing up in the UK, I find Christmas in short days and long nights, overcast skies or pale winter sun, gloves and scarves, roasted chestnuts, the Wizard of Oz, walnuts and satsumas rattling around in the bottom of a Santa sack. Not in a vast blue sky towering over bleached sandy beaches, that high contrast Aussie summer light; stifling nights, sundresses, salt crusted hair and cricket. But it's all those things, and more, for my kids, and Christmas is essentially about family. So let's say I'm happily at odds with Christmas.

This desserts pairs the festive walnuts of my youth, with the beautiful cherries of an Australian summer, and it's equally delicious whatever the hemisphere. A wonderful dessert for Christmas day, beautifully nutty, with a crisp meringue shell and soft chewy centre, layered with chocolate, cherries and cream. Make the components in advance, then put it together about an hour before you serve, give those flavours and layers a little time to meld, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! 

walnut dacquoise
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 12*

190g walnuts
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
40g icing sugar
9 egg whites
525g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

500ml thickened cream, whipped
Chocolate ganache
Cherry compote
Icing sugar, for decoration
Cherries, for decoration
Candied walnuts, optional for decoration

• pre-heat oven to 170ºC
• grease and line 3, 20 cm cake tins
• spread walnuts evenly over a baking tray, toast in the oven for 10 minutes, leave to cool completely
• tip walnuts and icing sugar into a food processor, and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground, the same consistency as the ground almonds, set aside
• whisk egg whites until stiff, continue whisking adding caster sugar 2 tbsp at a time until glossy and stiff, and the sugar has dissolved
• carefully fold through ground walnuts, almonds, and vinegar
• divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins, bake for 35 minutes
• cool in the tins
• when completely cool, remove the dacquoise discs from the tins, keep the prettiest disc for the top layer
  place a dacquoise layer on your serving plate, gently spread with half the ganache, top with half the cherry compote, finishing with half of the whipped cream; your dacquoise may crack and sink slightly, this is part of the charm, the dip perfectly housing the delicious filling
• repeat with your second dacquoise layer, finishing with the pretty top
• dust icing sugar, and decorate with fresh cherries and caramelised walnuts

chocolate ganache
preparation time 10 minutes

200g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream

• finely chop chocolate, tip into heat proof bowl
• heat cream to simmering point, pour over chocolate, leave for 5 mins then stir until smooth
• cool completely

cherry compote
preparation time 25 minutes

500g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
60ml cherry brandy
60ml orange juice (can use all juice if don’t want alcohol, although its’s cooked off)
50g granulated sugar

• tip all ingredients into a pan, bring to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
• simmer for 10 mins or so, until cherries soften
• strain cherries over a bowl, return juices to pan, simmer until thick and syrupy
• pour over cherries, cool, store in airtight container

candied walnuts
preparation time 15 minutes

200g granulated sugar
125g walnut halves

• line a baking try with non- stick baking paper, or lightly greased foil
• tip the sugar into a heavy based frying pan/skillet
• cook the sugar over a medium heat until it is melted and golden, do not stir the sugar, but gently swirl the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly
• add the walnuts to the pan, stir until they are coated with caramel, then tip them onto the lined baking tray, separate the walnut halves, don’t worry if a few stick together, you can try to break them apart when they have cooled
• when they have cooled completely store in an airtight container

* the recipe can be easily adapted to a 2 layer dessert, 8 generous slices, by reducing the quantities by 2/3

Monday, 3 December 2018

christmas sandwich cookies

I love baking, I love Christmas, I really love Christmas baking. There's something special about a homemade gift, the thought behind it, time spent, using your hands. A box of cookies, a bottle of vanilla extract, a Christmas decoration; cue Frank and Bing, I'm starting early.

These festive cookies are based on the European Linzer Cookie, a mini version of the Linzer Torte, popular at Christmas. The traditional cookies are lightly spiced with cinnamon, sometimes lemon zest, and sandwiched with blackcurrant jam; I've left out the citrus and spice, instead opting for a buttery, vanilla flavour paired with sweet strawberry jam. They're one of my favourites, easy to make, delicious and really pretty; perfect as a gift, and a great "bring a plate" for the party season. Created for Barker's Pantry

christmas sandwich cookies

100g ground almonds
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
225g butter
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
Barker's New Zealand strawberry jam
icing sugar for dusting

makes approximately 15 sandwich cookies
preparation time 30 minutes, not including chilling and baking

• in the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand held mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the vanilla and egg yolks, and mix to combine
• add the ground almonds, and with the mixer on slow, beat to combine
• sift the flour and salt together, then add to the dough, mix slowly until just combined
• divide the dough in half, roll each half between two sheets of baking paper to 5mm thick, leaving the dough between the sheets of baking paper, transfer to baking trays and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
• preheat your oven to 175ºC fan, 195ºC conventional
• use a 6cm cookie cutter to cut rounds from the sheets of dough, transfer to lined baking trays, leaving 2cm clearance around each cookie
• collect the off cuts together and re-roll, popping it back into the fridge for 10 minutes or so if it becomes too soft to handle
• use a smaller, approximately 2.5cm cutter to cut a circle from the centre of half the cookies, save these little rounds, bake them separately to make mini sandwiches cookies
• bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges, then transfer to racks to cool
• when the cookies are completely cool, turn the solid round cookies upside down and top with a teaspoon of jam; dust the cookie rings with icing sugar then gently press onto the bases
• using a couple of teaspoons, very carefully top the centres of the cookies with a little extra jam
• cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, you can make the cookies in advance, but fill them just before serving as they will soften quickly once filled

vanilla extract

300ml mini bottle of vodka
5 vanilla beans

• split the vanilla beans in half length ways, drop into the bottle of vodka, tightly replace the lid
• store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight for 8 weeks
• remove the vanilla beans and your vanilla extract is good to go!
• it would be more economical to buy a large bottle of vodka and decant into several smaller bottles, but I just loved the shape of this one!