double ginger cake with oven baked pears

30 Jul 2018

I do like ginger and was looking for an easy to make ginger cake. Whilst trawling the internet I came upon this Nigel Slater recipe for a double ginger cake. It listed stem ginger in syrup amongst the list of ingredients, which is almost impossible to find in Sydney. When I was in London in May, I'd planned to buy a jar but ran out of time. I wanted to make this particular cake recipe so I looked online and found lots of recipes for home made stem ginger and made a batch. It's not hard to make but if you can't be bothered, I'm sure crystallised ginger would work just as well. The ginger syrup on the other hand is so amazing I made a second batch and I have plans to make a ginger syrup cake very soon.

Home made stem ginger on hand I put the cake together and baked it using a cake strip to shield the cake from the heat and watched in horror as the cake sank in the middle. Chastened I remade the cake without the cake strip and it turned out just fine. You live and learn.

When it came time to decorate the cake I made a batch of orange flavoured cream cheese icing then topped the cake with some oven baked pears, an idea I appropriated from the Cook and Baker recipe book.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17cm round cake. If you'd like to make a 23 cm cake just double all the ingredients and bake for the same length of time. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, 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.

Double Ginger Cake with oven baked pears adapted from (Nigel Slater)
1 cup self-raising flour
1½ level tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ level tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
100g golden syrup
1 tbs ginger syrup. If unavailable just add another tbs golden syrup
60g butter
30g stem ginger in syrup (or crystallised ginger if unavailable) finely diced
60g brown sugar
125 ml milk
1 large egg

60g butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp grated orange rind

To decorate
3 firm corella pears
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon quill
A few walnuts, plain or candied

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

Sieve the flour into a large bowl with the ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Put the golden syrup, the ginger syrup and the butter into a small saucepan and warm over a low heat. Add the ginger to the pan with the sugar then let the mixture simmer for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking on the bottom.

Combine the egg and milk in a small bowl. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and egg. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake in its tin to cool. When completely cold remove the cake from the tin still in it's paper then wrap it in foil or plastic wrap and leave to mature for a day or two before eating. You can eat as is or if you like you can ice and decorate the cake.

Oven baked pears
While the cake is baking, core then halve the pears. Divide each half into quarters. Line the base of a baking dish with baking paper. Scatter the pears over the base of the tin and sprinkle over the brown sugar and tuck in the cinnamon quill. Once the cake is cooked, increase the oven temperature to 190ºC then place the baking tin in the oven and roast the pears for about 30 minutes turning over halfway through, until the pears are golden brown and soft. Cool, then store in a sealed container until needed. The pears can be made ahead of time.

For the icing, put the butter, cream cheese and the grated orange zest into a bowl and mix until smooth, then add the sugar and beat until soft and fluffy. Spread a layer of the mixture over the top of the cake then decorate as desired. I used a 1 cm piping tip and piped around the edge and in the centre to form a base for the oven baked pears. I topped the icing with the pears and sprinkled over a few leftover chopped maple walnuts from this spiced apple loaf.

The cake went down like a storm at work. The combination of the ginger cake with the oven baked pears and the orange flavoured cream cheese icing is delicious but I'm planning to tweak the cake recipe just a little to make it a bit more luxe, so watch this space.

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

Bye for now,



salted peanut caramel slice

23 Jul 2018

I saw a recipe for some peanut and miso shortbread bars in last months Gourmet Traveller which piqued my interest. I didn't have any miso in the house so I hunted down a version that didn't require a visit to my local Asian grocery store.

I used the base from the Gourmet Traveller recipe but skipped the miso and found a similar recipe for the peanut topping online.

It's a very simple slice to put together and before long it was cooling on the rack.

Once I cut the slice into pieces I decided to drizzle half the slice with dark chocolate topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. In the end I'm not sure the peanut slice needed any embellishment because it tasted pretty fine just the way it was.

Here's the recipe for you which makes 12 bars. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, 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.

Salted Caramel Peanut Slice – topping adapted from Viva and the base from  Peanut and miso shortbread bars from Gourmet Traveller.

1 cup (300g) plain flour
20g corn flour
⅛ tsp baking powder
pinch salt
125g butter at room temperature
¼ cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla extract

½ cup (90g) brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
90g butter
200g salted roasted peanuts
½ tsp vanilla extract

Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

To make the base, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whiz for a few seconds. Add the butter and whiz until incorporated then add in the egg yolk and vanilla until a dough forms around the blade. Scrape the dough into a lined tin, pat out evenly with your hands and then roll a small glass over to compress the base. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

While the base is baking, put the brown sugar, golden syrup and butter into a heavy based saucepan over a low heat stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted. Add the peanuts and the vanilla and mix well.

When the base is ready remove from the oven and let the base cool slightly. Pour the warm topping onto the base and working quickly, spread the mix to completely cover the base. Return to the oven for about another 15-20 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling. Leave to cool until barely warm then cut into slices

If you like, you can drizzle the bars with 50-75g melted dark chocolate, sprinkle over a few salt flakes then stand back and watch them disappear.

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

Bye for now,


walnut crumble bundt cake

16 Jul 2018

I do like a bundt cake. It's something about the swirls I think and the fact that it's design allows the cake to bake so quickly. 

Somehow I managed to buy 1 kilo of walnut pieces and as I don't particularly like walnuts, I'm not sure how this happened. Anyway I thought I better find a way to use some of the walnuts and decided to make a walnut crumble bundt cake. The crumble idea came directly from Belinda Jeffery's Butter Crunch cake from Mix and Bake, whilst the cake is my own creation.

The cake cooked so quickly, I must admit I over-baked it a little but no-one at work seemed to mind.

The cake went down a treat at work so I snaffled my piece before it all disappeared. 

Here's the recipe for you which make a small bundt cake. If you'd like to make a larger cake, then just double all the ingredients but keep the cooking time the same. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 gm and my oven is a conventional oven, not fan forced. If your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the cooking temperature by 20°C. 

Walnut crumble bundt cake
30g roasted walnut or pecans
30g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Cake Ingredients
125 grams unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
¾ cup self-raising flour
pinch salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond meal
¼ - ⅓ cup milk

Optional – icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F conventional oven. Grease and flour a small bundt tin then place in the fridge while you prepare the batter.

Put the nuts, sugar and the cinnamon into a small food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Pour this mixture into a small bowl and set to one side.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined well. Sift the flour with the salt and the baking powder then mix through the almond meal. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk.

Spoon a 2 cm layer of cake batter into the bottom of the prepared tin and smooth out the surface. Sprinkle about ⅓ of the nut mixture over the top and shake the tin gently to even it out. Cover this with another thin layer of batter. Sprinkle another ⅓ of the nut mixture over this. Even it out again, then spread the remaining cake batter on top before sprinkling with the final ⅓ of the nut mixture.

Bake the cake for 35-45 minutes or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack. If desired, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

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

Bye for now,


spiced apple loaf

9 Jul 2018

When I saw a recipe for a mulled apple and spelt loaf in July's Gourmet Traveller it reminded me that I had an apple cake recipe that I'd written but hadn't ever made. I'd swapped the apples for pear to make a pear and hazelnut crumble cake then made another version which used rhubarb. I decided to rectify the situation as quickly as possible to make this spiced apple loaf.

It's a simple cake and as the cake is made with melted butter it doesn't take long to put together. I bought some apple puree but you could always make then blitz some stewed apple with a stick blender to make your own.  Once the cake is cool its topped with a simple apple flavoured icing which I decorated with some maple candied walnuts. I've included the recipe but that's a step you could easily skip and just use a few whole walnuts instead. This is not a sweet cake so I think it's best topped with the apple icing otherwise you'll need to increase the quantity of sugar in the cake batter. It's also better served the day after baking giving the flavours more time to develop.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a loaf tin or an 8 inch round cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, 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.

Spiced apple loaf
1½ cups coarsely chopped, peeled cooking apple (1 large green apple)
2 tbs lemon juice   
1 cup SR flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon     
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch salt    
¼ cup almond meal 
125g melted unsalted butter   
½ cup brown sugar   
½ cup caster sugar   
1 tsp vanilla   
2 eggs
125g apple puree (1 small tub) 
½ cup toasted walnut pieces   

1 cup sifted icing sugar 
45g softened unsalted butter 
The reserved apple and lemon juice.   
Additional 1-2 tbls apple or lemon juice 
walnuts for decoration 

Grease and line the base and sides of a bar or loaf tin. Combine the coarsely chopped apple and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Set to one side for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Drain the apples, reserving the juice for the icing. Sift the dry ingredients into a small bowl. Stir through the almond meal and set to one side.

In a medium size  bowl combine the melted butter, the sugars and vanilla. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Add the flour and apple puree to make a soft batter. If the batter still looks a little dry add a tablespoon of yoghurt or milk. Gently fold in the chopped apple and nuts. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Place the cake tin on the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 50 minutes at 180°C/350°F or until the cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. If the cake is browning too quickly you may have to cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper about halfway through the baking time. 

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool. When completely cold remove the cake from the tin and remove the lining paper. I like to ice the cake still in the tin to get a smooth edge. Once the icing has set I carefully remove the cake from the tin then remove the lining paper before serving.

In a small bowl, cream the butter with the sifted icing sugar. Add the  reserved apple juice and enough juice to make a spreadable icing. Spread the icing over the top of the cake. Let the icing set a little before decorating with the walnut halves.  

If you'd like to make some maple glazed walnuts, they're simple. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a small pan with baking paper. Lay out a few whole walnuts and spoon a small amount of maple flavoured syrup over each walnut. Place in the oven and cook for 5 minutes then using tongs, carefully turn the walnut halves over. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes. Turn one more time to coat the walnuts then transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool transfer the walnuts to a small container lined with baking paper until and seal until ready to use. I've not stored them for longer than 24 hours so I'm unsure what happens thereafter. They taste so good I've ended up eating all the leftovers!

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

Bye for now,



2 Jul 2018

Ah Rome, the eternal city. I've been to Rome on quite a few occasions but never on the cusp of summer. 

I wish I could say I enjoyed my time in Rome but I didn't. It all started badly. I was feeling unwell and asked for an early check-in to my apartment. When I arrived at the designated time, no-one was there to greet me. Once inside, the apartment hadn't been cleaned and it took another 2 hours before that took place. Instead of resting as I'd hoped, I spent 2 hours walking around the San Lorenzo district filling in time.

A few months earlier I'd bookmarked an apartment close to the centre of Rome but by the time I was ready to book, the apartment was no longer available. I chose another apartment but I clearly didn't do my research very well. The apartment wasn't within walking distance of any destination other than the main railway station; the walk to the station was through a dodgy location so I didn't feel safe walking at night time, so I had to rely on buses. Only one in three buses scheduled would arrive then would take such a circuitous route that it took on average 1½ hours to get to any destination, most of which were only 3-4 kms away. Each day I'd have to adjust my schedule as time would run out.

As San Lorenzo isn't near the historic sites, it probably reflects real Rome. Rubbish was piled up on street corners and some of the streets along which I walked were a bit smelly. This wasn't a Rome I remembered.

My sole reason for travelling to Rome, apart from catching my flight home, was to visit the Borghese Gallery. When I tried to book a ticket a week before arriving in Rome, the only tickets available were at 7.00 p.m. the night before I flew out. I knew I'd be busy packing so that idea went by the wayside. So what to do? 

I've been to Rome 4 times before and have visited the usual suspects, so suddenly I was at a loose end. I decided to do some self-guided walking tours and to revisit some of my favourite locations like the Pantheon and Campo de Fiori.

One can never tire of the Pantheon

nor the vibrancy of the markets,

busy with nonnas doing nonna things.

I walked from the markets to the old Jewish quarter passing this church en route.

I also found this quirky little hardware store housed in a centuries old building.

I visited a number of churches whilst in Rome on the hunt for Caravaggios.

I just loved the light in this church,

and the ceilings were fairly impressive as well.

My favourite walking tour was of Trastevere and I snapped away happily.

I visited plenty of old churches and convents,

photographed crumbling facades

and visited the markets.

My favourite find in Trastevere was the Ospedale Nuovo Regina Margherita. Whilst taking a photo of the adjoining church a lady asked if I'd been inside the hospital and when I said 'no' she told me I really should. I'm so glad I took her advice. The hospital is located within the walls of a former monastery with a beautiful central courtyard garden. It was lovely and I found a black cat grooming itself in the sun, orange trees and olives trees tucked away in the garden.

Then suddenly my battery ran out. I'd checked the battery level before setting out that morning and it was full so I'm not sure what happened and I'd not thought to bring along my spare battery.

I managed to capture these last few images before the battery died completely forcing me to head home. A fitting way to end my time in Rome I thought.

That's my last travel post for now until the itchy feet kick in, so I'll be back again next week with some baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

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