Tag Archives: cake

Today’s cake – plum and vanilla cake

I’ve had some really delicious plums this season, juicy and with varying degrees of sweetness, depending on the variety.  When my friend Francesca over at Almost Italian posted a plum cake recipe, and The Marito started dropping not so subtle “I haven’t had cake for a while” hints, I knew it was time for  plum cake in the Napoli household. I remembered a good Bill Granger recipe I had made a long time ago, and hoped it wasn’t in one of the cookbooks I’d boxed up in the renovation move (one of the reasons for the lack of cake making is the very ordinary oven in our cheap and nasty rental while we renovate, but needs do as needs must).  Lucky day, the book was in the unboxed stash.  It’s a simple cake with plenty of flavour, and I’m sure the homemade vanilla extract helps. You may need 4 or 6 plums, depending on how big they are.  I must make this again before the autumn plums finish, it really is delicious.

Cake
180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature plus a little extra for greasing
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
185g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 plums, cut in half and seed removed

Topping
90g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter
90g caster sugar

Making it
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced and grease a 24cm springform cake tin with butter

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition, then add vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and baking powder until well combined. Spread the mixture evenly into the cake tin then gently press in the plums cut side up.

plumcake (1)

To make the topping, place the flour, butter and sugar in a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly. You can also do this in a food processor (I used my mini whizz for this small quantity).

Sprinkle the topping over the top of the cake and bake for one hour or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean. The top should be nice and golden. Remove from oven and cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing. Yum.

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Torta Pasqualina – Savoury Easter Cake

This savoury Easter cake, which is really more like a pie, hails from the Northern Italian region of Liguria.  It is traditionally served on Easter Monday, and once upon a time it used to be made using 33 sheets of ultra thin pastry, each layer representing a year that Jesus was alive.  These days most recipes make it with four, which is what I did (and if you really don’t want to make pastry, store bought will do).  I needed five bunches of silverbeet to get to one kilo of leaves, it will depend on how big your bunches are; the stalks can be used for stock or soup, they are tasty and often get discarded. A lot of eggs are required here, so it was lucky that the girls had had a prolific laying week. Like lots of old recipes, you’ll see variations on the theme – some combine the spinach and ricotta, as I did, and others do them as separate layers. There are also artichoke versions.

Pastry
600g Tipo 00 flour
350ml water
1 teaspoon salt
35ml olive oil

Place the flour in a bowl, add the salt, water and olive oil and mix gently with a fork until it comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and kneed until smooth. Divide the dough into four balls – two of 300g each and the other two approx. 170-180g each. Place on a tray, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for one hour.

Filling
1kg silverbeet leaves
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 twigs marjoram
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
250g of well drained ricotta
7 eggs
1 egg extra, lightly beaten for brushing pastry

While the pastry is resting, make the filling. Blanch the silverbeet in boiling water for five minutes and drain. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can and chop finely.

Place the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and saute the onion with a pinch of salt until softened, add the chopped silverbeet and combine and cook for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat. Season. Add the marjoram, nutmeg, ricotta and parmesan and combine well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Take one of the seven eggs, lightly beat, then add to the mixture and combine well. Set aside.

Assembly
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 26cm springform tin with butter or olive oil.

Take one of the 300g balls of dough, and roll out thinly on a floured surface so that it is big enough for the cake tin. Gently lift it into the tin and line. Repeat with the second 300g ball, so that you now have two layers in the base. Gently spoon the silverbeet mixture into the cake tin and smooth out. Then take a spoon (I used an icecream scoop) and make seven round impressions in the silverbeet mixture. Into each one crack one of the seven eggs. Season the eggs lightly.

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Now take a 180g ball of dough and roll out big enough to form a lid, and gently place on top of the cake tin. Repeat with the second ball. Trim the excess pastry around the edge of the cake tin, and then curl into a crust to seal (I probably made it a bit too thick, I would do it thinner next time by trimming the pastry a bit more). Take the extra beaten egg and using a pastry brush, brush over the pasty and season the top lightly. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until nice and golden. Remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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Today’s cake – Amor Polenta

Such a romantic sounding cake, one with the word love in the title.  Hailing from Lombardia in Italy’s north, it is not an extravagant cake, but typical of Cucina Povera where polenta or cornmeal was often used to take food a little bit further.   Traditionally Amor Polenta is prepared in a ridged cake tin, but no reason why you couldn’t use a normal loaf pan.  The tin I bought was a little too big for this quantity of mix, as the cake is usually nice and high, so next time I’ll make a double batch of mixture (or buy a smaller tin, but I think I’ll go with the double batch as it’s a gorgeous cake).   You need very very finely ground polenta or cornmeal for this, not the typical polenta used in savoury dishes, or you’ll get a very grainy texture.  The Strega – an Italian liquor and a favourite of Mamma Rosa, added a delightful subtle fragrance to it. The Marito loved it, so did I. This one is going to become a regular for sure.

Ingredients
120g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8g baking powder
100g fine cornmeal (polenta)
80g flour, tipo 00
70g almond meal
Splash of liquor such as Strega or rum
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease the tin with melted butter. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until combined then add the eggs and beat till nice and creamy. Add the vanilla and baking powder and combine. Add the cornmeal and combine, then the tipo 00 and combine, and then finally the almond. Lastly add the Strega. Pour the mixture into the tin and use a knife to smooth the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and dust with icing sugar.

 

Today’s cake – Italian apple cake

The Marito is a big apple dessert fan, and I used to make this cake for him regularly when we first got married.  But somehow I forgot about it, and recently finding myself with excess apples, made it and remembered how good it was.  It’s almost custard like in the centre.  I have used Granny Smith and Golden Delicious for this, but you could also use a mixture of varieties depending what you have in the fridge.   Strega is an Italian liquor (and a favourite of Mamma Rosa) the addition of which is optional.

applecake

Ingredients
5 medium apples
Juice of 1 large lemon
Grated rind of 1 large lemon
4 eggs
150g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt.
20ml Strega liquor
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Icing sugar for dusting

Making it
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 20cm cake tine and line the base with baking paper.

2. Core and peel the apples, halve and slice thinly. Place in a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Add the lemon rind and Strega and combine.

4. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and sale. Carefully drizzle in the melted butter and gently combine, then finally add the apples and gently fold in.

5. Place the mixture in the prepared tin and level it out. Bake four about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the cake is browning too much on the top and not cooked in centre, cover with foil. Remove from oven, rest in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Today’s cake – tomato cake

The Marito was fairly zealous with his tomato planting this year, and we had tomatoes everywhere.  Some months before I had filed away this recipe from Rosa’s Farm, it intrigued me, and finding myself with more summer tomatoes that I knew what to do with, it seemed the perfect time to try it.  The scent of chopping up the peeled tomatoes threw me straight back to childhood  – sitting in a garage with nonna, Mamma Rosa, zia, cousins and siblings, cutting tomatoes bobbing in enormous containers of water, ready to be pureed for passata before being bottled  with some basil, the bottle carefully wrapped in newspaper and boiled in a large vat.

The recipe didn’t specify  whether or not to remove the tomato seeds, so I did.  I also reduced the quantity of sultanas as it is not an ingredient I’m enamoured with.  I’d throw in some walnuts next time, they would work really well.   I almost dropped the darn thing flipping it so you’ll notice it’s a bit cracked at the top.

tomatocake-1

The end result? I quite liked it, texturally soft and similar to eating other vegetable based cakes like a carrot cake or zucchini cake.

Ingredients
450g firm but ripe tomatoes
115g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
165g caster sugar
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
50g sultanas

Making it

  1. Use a sharp knife to score a cross in the bottom of each tomato, place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over some boiling water, enough to cover them, and leave for 1 minute.  Drain and then peel off the skin, remove the seeds and finely chop the remaining flesh.  Set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced and grease a 20cm tin, lining the base with baking paper.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.  Gently fold in the flour, mixed spice and sultanas.  Strain the tomatoes gently then fold in to the batter.  Spoon into a prepared tin and cook for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

tomatocake-2

Today’s cake – fig jam and ricotta torta

There are lots of nice figs around, so when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was keen to give it a try.  The recipe called for a 26cm cake tin, but once I’d made the batter I made a judgement call and went for a 23cm as I wanted a thicker, higher cake rather than a thinner, flatter one. I also think you could probably do another fig or two to get a more substantial layer of the jam.

figricottatorta

Ingredients
Fig Jam
500g fresh figs, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 5 large figs)
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon

Batter
300g plain flour
150g almond meal
1/2tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
210g unsalted butter, softened and room temperature
3 eggs

300g ricotta
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. First make the fig jam. Place ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until thick (about 20 minutes). Once ready set aside for an hour or until cool
2. While jam is cooling, place ricotta in a fine meshed sieve over a bowl and allow any excess liquid to drain. Then beat with a whisk until smooth.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, and line springform cake tin with baking paper. Place flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and process. Add eggs and process till batter comes together.
4. Place half the batter into the tin and press up the sides, about half way up. Top with ricotta, then fig jam, then cover with remaining batter.
5. Bake for about an hour – an hour and a quarter, should be a deep golden; if it becomes too dark and not cooked cover with foil. Remove from oven and leave in tin for 5 minutes before putting on a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Today’s cake – Francesca’s frangipane cake with blueberries

My “cyber friend” Francesca writes a really lovely blog called Almost Italian which I stumbled across one day some time ago and love to read.  One of her most popular posts has been her apricot frangipane cake, which she then tried with raspberries. Since I’m somewhat neutral on apricots, and raspberries and I don’t get along, I thought I’d try a blueberry version; as advertised it is ridiculously easy to make.  It was a hit with the crowd.  Thanks Francesca!

blueberryalmond

Ingredients
125 g softened unsalted butter
150 g of castor sugar
4 eggs
50 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
375 g almond meal
2 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur (I buy Disaronno)
250g fresh blueberries
25 g flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 180c or 160c fan forced. Grease a 25 cm loose bottom tin. Line base with baking paper
2.Place butter and sugar and eggs in a mixer bowl and beat for 5 minutes until thick and pale.
3.Stir in the flour mixed with the baking powder, then fold in the almond meal, followed by the Amaretto. Pour into the prepared tin.
4.Arrange blueberries over the top and lightly press down so they are submerged. Scatter the top with the flaked almonds.
5.Bake for 45- 50 mins. Cool in tin, remove and dust with icing sugar.

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