chocolate praline layer cake

5 Jun 2023

I've been wanting to make
this Ottolenghi Devil's food cake with hazelnut praline for ages and with a birthday on the horizon (mine) the time had come. However, as my work mates have already declared the Clare Scrine chocolate zucchini cake as the best chocolate cake ever, I used that as my base and adapted the Ottolenghi filling and topping.

The cake recipe is pretty much foolproof but I was tired and used the wrong version. If you're wondering why the cake is so tall and handsome it's because I made the batter for a 20 cm cake but baked it in a 17 cm tin. I only realised my mistake after it was in the oven. 

I had all kinds of trouble with the praline filling though. The recipe didn't yield enough praline to both layer and swirl as per the original recipe so I didn't. Maybe it had something to do with my praline but I would have needed double the quantity but I'd run out of hazelnuts. The praline took way longer to process than the 5 minutes stated in the recipe - a good 10 minutes in my mini food processor and perhaps the end product wasn't loose enough. With insufficient praline I simplified the filling and the assembly process and thankfully, it all worked out in the end.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm layer cake. If you'd like to make a 23cm cake, refer to the link for quantities. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate praline layer cake - makes a 17 cm layer cake
2 eggs
75g sour cream
125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
60ml black coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract 
135g finely grated zucchini (from 1-2 zucchini) 
165g brown sugar
pinch salt
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda 
45g (⅓ cup) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
135g caster sugar 
pinch salt

Mascarpone cream
225 mls cream
75g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
25g icing sugar
Tiny pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C, conventional. Grease and line the base of a deep 17cm tin baking paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, the cooled coffee and the vanilla until well combined and a little frothy. Add the zucchini and stir well to combine. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined, ensuring you scrape right to the bottom of the bowl to mix well. Pour the batter into the tin and then bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out mostly clean. It’s important not to overcook the cake, so keep a close eye on it. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then snap off the sides of the tin and leave to cool completely. 

With the still on oven, spread the hazelnuts onto a baking paper-lined medium baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until deeply golden, shaking the pan halfway through baking. Set aside, keeping the tray and baking paper. You’ll use them again later.

Place a large saucepan over a medium high heat and, once quite hot, sprinkle in 1/3 of the caster sugar to cover the base. It should immediately start to melt at the sides but not brown too quickly. Swirl the sugar in the pan a little, then add another 1/3 of the sugar, allowing it to melt a little before adding the remaining 1/3. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the sugar is an amber caramel, stirring with a spatula just a couple times (but not much more). Add the hazelnuts and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat, then quickly transfer the mixture to your baking paper-lined tray and leave to cool completely.

Once cool, roughly break apart the praline then measure out 55g of the mixture. Place the remaining praline into a food processor. Blitz the remaining mixture in the food processor for about 5 minutes or until it turns into the consistency of a smooth nut butter, stopping to scrape the inside of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Transfer this to a separate bowl.

Mascarpone Cream
Add all the ingredients to a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 1 and 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until you have medium peaks. Refrigerate if not assembling right away (you want it nice and cold). 

Halve the cake horizontally, then place one of the layers on a serving stand or plate. Top the cake with 2 tbs of the praline then half the cream mixture. Top with another 2 tbs of the praline and gently swirl it through the cream with your spatula. Carefully invert the other cake on top now. Top with 2 tbs of smooth praline, the remaining cream and repeat the same process with the smooth praline then decorate with the praline shards. 

Serve right away or refrigerate overnight to firm up the cream, but top with the praline just before serving. 

Despite all the trials and tribulations, the cake was absolutely delicious but a little extra praline would have made it even better.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



alison roman's blackberry ricotta cake

29 May 2023

It's been pretty wintery here in Sydney and berries abound in the fruit shop, but they're still pretty pricey. I had frozen blackberries and raspberries in the freezer and ricotta in the fridge, so I decided to make Alison Roman's raspberry ricotta cake.

At the last minute I swapped blackberries for the raspberries. My ricotta was very dry so I used a stand mixer to make the cake batter and swapped the order in which the ingredients were added. The batter was a little dry, so I also added a a tablespoon of milk to the batter before I folded in the berries. Despite the changes, the cake took no time at all to put together.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a 17 cm cake, which was adapted from here. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Alison Roman Blackberry Ricotta Cake – makes a 17cm cake
110g plain flour 
1½ tsp baking powder 
pinch salt 
2 tsp grated lemon rind
125g caster sugar 
180g well drained ricotta cheese 
60g unsalted butter melted, then cooled a little
2 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
200g blackberries, fresh or frozen

30g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, conventional. Grease, flour and line the base of a 17 cm round cake tin with baking paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer 
rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers. Attach the paddle then add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Drizzle in the melted butter and when incorporated add the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour to the ricotta mix in thirds and stir until just blended. 

If the batter is a little stiff mix in 1-2 tbs milk by hand to loosen the mixture then fold in 100g of the berries, crushing them ever so slightly as you fold – you don’t want them to disappear into the batter, just to be distributed evenly to create a nice, streaky look, almost like tie-dye. Transfer the batter to the cake tin and scatter with the remaining berries then sprinkle the extra caster sugar over the top of the cake. 

Bake at 180°C conventional, on the centre rack of the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes or until the cake is golden brown, and a tester or toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake then cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before unmoulding.

The cake can be baked 3 days ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic and stored at room temperature.

I had a piece of cake for my dessert and it's very good. It's lightly sweetened with a slight hint of lemon; you can definitely taste the ricotta and it's filled with berries. Now I can't wait to make the raspberry version.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



apple filled cinnamon cookies

22 May 2023

You can thank instagram for these cookies. I had 3 Granny Smith apples in my fruit bowl and wasn't sure how I was going to use them until I saw a photo of some apple filled cinnamon sandwich cookies on Beatrix Bake's instagram page. I then tracked down the recipe, set to work and here they are.

The recipe calls for a 7cm cutter, which I have, but whilst hunting for it I found this cute apple shaped cutter and how could I resist her? I divided the dough into two equal pieces and made seven 7cm cookies from one half and and 8 apple shaped cookies from the second half. As the apple shaped cookies are a little smaller, I had a little filling and icing left over.

If you'd like to make the cookies, here's the recipe for you, adapted from
here. The recipe 
makes at least twelve 7 cm filled cookies or many more cute apple shaped ones. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Apple filled cinnamon cookies - 
Cookie Dough 
100g room temperature unsalted butter
70g soft icing sugar
1 egg
180g plain flour
10g cornflour (cornstarch)
40g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon (freshly ground is best)
pinch nutmeg
pinch fine sea salt 

Apple Gems Filling
1 granny smith apple (200g)
20g unsalted butter
40g real maple syrup

Cream Cheese Icing
150g soft icing sugar
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste 
teeny pinch sea salt flakes 

Cookie dough
Beat the butter and sugar in a roomy bowl with a stiff plastic spatula to make a smooth paste. Add the egg and mix together to make a lumpy paste – it doesn’t need to be fully incorporated. Stir the dry ingredients together and tip in. Take care not to overwork the dough but make sure there aren’t any visible butter streaks that will cause buttery fissures (not pretty but still delicious) when baked. You can also prepare the dough in a food processor. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Give it a light knead then wrap and chill in the fridge for a minimum 1 hour before rolling out. 

Apple Filling
While the dough rests, prep the apple gems. Peel and coring the apple. Cut into neat 4 mm cubes and set aside. Heat the butter and maple syrup in a pan until foamy and caramelly brown. Fry the apple gems, tossing/stirring often until the cubes are translucent, tanned golden, about 5 minutes. Scrape onto a heatproof tray lined with absorbent paper to let the gems drain and cool. 

Heat the oven to 150°C, conventional. Lightly spray two flat baking trays with cooking oil spray and line with baking paper or you can use silicone mats. 

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to an even 4 mm thickness. Keep moving the dough and flouring underneath as you roll. If the dough cracks, it doesn’t matter - just collect up and re-knead lightly. If the cookies or dough stick to the work surface, shimmy an offset spatula underneath to loosen them. Use a 7 cm round cutter to stamp out the cookies. Immediately lift the cookie onto the lined baking tray. Collect up the scraps and roll again. Repeat the process with the remaining portion of dough until you have 24 cookies. 

Dock the cookies with the tines of a fork to prevent rising then bake on the centre rack for 30 - 40 minutes until set (when you can easily lift one up) and lightly tanned brown. Remove from the oven and place the trays on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before filling. 

Cream cheese icing
Place all the icing ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat for 10 minutes on low speed until the icing is fluffy and ultra-creamy. It should hold its shape and not be melty or slack. If it slumps, chill and re-beat.

Lay half the cooled cookies, bottom side up, on a clean tea towel and pipe (or spoon) a blob of icing on each one. Press a heaped teaspoon of apple gems deep into the icing. To ensure the icing doesn’t form a crust, quickly sandwich with the top cookie and lightly press (with a little swirly wiggle) to bring the filling just flush with the cookie edge. Swipe a finger around the edge to neaten any stray icing. Chill for 10 minutes to set the cookie before serving. 

Sometimes when baking, the finished product is less than the sum of it's parts but not in this case. The finished product was just divine - a delicate biscuit sandwiched with maple flavoured apple gems encased in a creamy filling. What's not to love? I shared the cookies with the neighbours who also thought they were delicious and enjoyed my cookie with a cup of tea.

Many thanks to Natalie Paull for another stellar recipe.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


pistachio butter cake with lemon icing

15 May 2023

With a trip to Venice on the horizon, I've been devouring Skye's McAlpine's book 'A Table in Venice'. Skye often features a pistachio butter cake on her instagram page and I've been trying to track down a copy of the recipe. After scouring the internet I managed to find the recipe online. 
The recipe calls for Sicilian pistachio paste which I wasn't able to find but instructions to make your own are included in the recipe. If you can find the Sicilian pistachio paste then just add 120g to the creamed butter and sugar. 

Here's the recipe for you which makes a small bundt cake. It's adapted from a recipe which was originally published in the 
The Sunday Times Magazine
For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Pistachio butter cake with lemon icing
Pistachio butter
80g unsalted, roasted pistachios
40g white chocolate
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

125g caster sugar
125g room temperature unsalted butter
2 large eggs 
150g self-raising flour sifted with a pinch salt
100g plain yoghurt

100g icing sugar
5g melted butter
Juice of 1 lemon 
A handful of pistachios, coarsely chopped
Heat the oven to 180°C, conventional. Grease and flour a 5 cup bundt tin. Place in the fridge until needed.

In a small food processor, combine the pistachios with the white chocolate, 1 tbsp of caster sugar and the vanilla extract. Blend for 10 minutes or so until very creamy, occasionally stopping the machine to scrape the sides with a spatula. (Mine never reached this stage - it was more like a pistachio marzipan)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream 125g of caster sugar with the butter, then add the pistachio butter and beat until smooth. Slowly beat in the eggs and mix until well combined. Stir in the flour in batches alternating with the yoghurt  and beat until you have a smooth batter. If the batter seems a little dry, then add an extra tablespoon or 2 of milk or yoghurt.

Spoon the batter into the bundt tin and smooth the top then bake on the centre rack of the preheated 180°C oven for 45 minutes, before covering with a sheet of foil and then bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a baking rack for 10-15 minutes before turning the cake out of the tin. Once cooled, make the glaze. 

Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, whisk in the melted butter and sufficient lemon juice until the icing becomes pourable: it should be the consistency of runny honey. Spoon the glaze over the cake allowing it to drip down the sides, then sprinkle over a few chopped pistachios for decoration. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Pretty easy to make and with a perfect crumb.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



whole orange, almond and polenta cake

8 May 2023

I was invited to a friend's place for dinner and offered to bring dessert. I decided to make
an Amalfi Lemon Cake and it was very well received. 
I had a few oranges left in the fridge and got to thinking that an orange flavoured version might be a nice idea. 

A quick internet search revealed I wasn't the only one with this brilliant idea. Apparently what I'd dreamed up is known as a Sicilian Orange Cake. Only a little disappointed that I'd not invented something new, I set to work and came up with this recipe.

I used maize flour so the cake was naturally gluten-free but it can also be made with plain flour. I was bit concerned an orange flavoured syrup would be a bit too much for the cake, so I tamed it with the addition of some lemon juice. Lime juice would also work just as well. I shared this with my neighbours and it was declared a winner.

Here’s the recipe for you which makes a 17cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Whole orange, almond and polenta cake – makes a 17cm cake
1 small orange (150g)
½ cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
125g caster sugar
1 tbs grated orange rind
125g almond meal
50g maize flour or plain flour sifted with ½ tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt
150mls cream, whisked to stiff peaks
1 tbs toasted almond flakes to serve (optional)

Citrus syrup

¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
¼ cup (60 mls) freshly squeezed orange juice
Juice of ½ lemon

Place orange in a deep saucepan, cover with cold water and place a small plate on top to keep the orange submerged. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat. Cook for 2 hours or until the orange is just soft, topping up water if needed, or prick the orange in a few places then microwave with 1 tbs water in a covered bowl for 3-4 minutes and then drain and cool completely. Cut into quarters and remove seeds. Place in a blender with oil and whiz until smooth and emulsified. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 170°C, conventional. Grease and flour a 17cm-round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

Place eggs and sugar and grated rind in a bowl and whisk to combine, then whisk in orange puree, the almond meal and the polenta flour mixture. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 55-65 minutes until the top is just firm and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1 hour, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.

For syrup, combine sugar and the orange juice in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4-6 minutes until thickened and starting to caramelise. Cool syrup, then mix in the juice of ½ lemon and stir until combined. Cool completely to room temperature. 

Top cake with cream and drizzle with syrup to serve. You can also serve this with a few toasted flaked almonds.

I had my own little slice drizzled with syrup and it was intensely orange flavoured and scented and deliciously good.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



apple ricotta and almond cake

29 Apr 2023

Last week I had a few social engagaments and I offered to bring along the dessert. I had so many recipe options whirring through my brain I had trouble sleeping. Should I bring a tart; should I bring a cake; should I make a pavlova? I'd planned on making a completely different cake for work but when the time came, I was short of one ingredient and I wasn't feeling it. I looked through the fridge and I had a little ricotta cheese left over and a few apples in the fruit bowl so I decided to adapt Julia Busuttil Nishimura's
plum ricotta and almond cake recipe to make an apple ricotta and almond cake.

I made a few tiny tweaks to the recipe and as I was meeting friends for lunch that day, I was a bit time poor. I made the cake batter in the food processor and once all the ingredients were measured, it all came together very quickly. Slicing the apples and arranging them over the cake batter was probably the most time consuming part of the process.

I really think nut based cakes taste better the day after they're made. You end up with a lovely cake with a soft texture that's full of flavour. That being said, I had my piece on the day and it tasted mighty fine.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17 cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°CIf you'd like to make a 23cm cake, just double all the ingredients and the baking time should stay the same. 

Apple, ricotta and almond cake

75g unsalted butter, softened
75g fresh full-fat ricotta
80g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp lemon rind
2 eggs
112g ground almonds
50g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

1 small apple
1 tsp melted butter
3 tsp sugar
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tbs flaked almonds
Double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C, conventional. Grease and line the base of a round 17cm cake tin with baking paper.

Place the butter, ricotta, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until pale and fluffy. Alternatively cream in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Gently stir through the ground almonds, flour, salt and baking powder by hand and mix until just combined. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top of the batter.

Peel and core the apple and slice thinly. Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter then drizzle the melted butter over the apple slices. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl then sprinkle over the apple slices, avoiding the very edge of the cake as the sugar tends to burn as the cake cooks. Scatter the almond flakes around the edge of the cake, then place the cake on the centre rack of the preheated oven. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested and the apple slices have softened. Slide a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it then let it cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out. Allow the cake to finish cooling on a wire rack before serving. Serve with double cream.

Another nice simple cake to add to your repertoire.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


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