Brendan Bakes » Cakes Great British Bake Off Contestant Wed, 30 Oct 2013 12:44:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gingerbread Sponge with Poached Pears Fri, 11 Oct 2013 13:01:52 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Gingerbread Sponge with Poached PearsGreat to stimulate the tastebuds of all those courageous people who are quitting cigarettes during the ‘Stoptober’ campaign. This is a great cake for a tea party or special occasion. Yet, it is fairly simple to make: just follow the recipe carefully. The poached pears not only look great but add lovely flavour and texture to the cake, complimenting the ginger beautifully. As well as ginger, the recipe also uses cinnamon and cloves. Enjoy!



  • 220g butter
  • 220g light brown caster sugar
  • 1 tbls clear honey
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbls chopped, crystallised ginger.


Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. Grease and base line two 120cm/8” sandwich tins. Cream the honey, butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Sieve spices into flour and whisk together to mix. Fold into creamed mixture. Divide the mixture between tins.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until light to the touch and beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tins. Cool in tins and then turn out onto cooling racks.

Poached Pears


  • 3 Rocha pears or similar sized pears e.g. William, Comice or medium-sized Conference – peeled
  • 30cl red wine + 30cl water
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick


Put wine, water, caster sugar, orange zest, cloves and cinnamon stick in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil. Add peeled pears and simmer, with lid on, for 25-30 minutes until cooked. Remove from liquid and drain. Pat dry with kitchen towels.

Cut the pears into quarters, and remove cores with a teaspoon. Slice the quarters into slim slices (see photo) and set aside.



  • 125g butter
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 50g chopped, crystallised ginger

Cream the butter until soft and light, then gradually beat in icing sugar.

Chop the ginger finely into small pieces and stir in.

Assembly and decoration

1/3rd of jar apricot preserve + 1 tsp water – heated gently and sieved to glaze top of cake and pear slices.

  • Sandwich cake halves together with butter cream.
  • Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze on top of cake so that pears will stick to it.
  • Arrange pear slices in concentric circles starting from outer edge of the cake.
  • Glaze the slices with remaining apricot preserve.
  • There will likely be a 50p size hole at the centre of the pears which you can either fill with some chopped pieces of crystallised ginger or a small piece of chopped pear.
  • Transfer to serving plate.
  • The cake will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
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Chocolate & Orange Marbled Loaf Cake Thu, 26 Sep 2013 15:18:09 +0000 brendan

Here’s a simple but delicious loaf cake that would be ideal with morning coffee but would also make a good dessert with some vanilla ice cream, crème frâiche or Greek yoghurt. Chocolate and orange are a classic combination. I’ve added an orange glaze and pieces of candied orange peel  (see my recipe on this site) for appearance and extra tang. But you could leave these out if you prefer. This cake keeps well. Enjoy!

Brendan's Chocolate & Orange Marbled Loaf CakeIngredients

  • 285g/10ozs plain flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 170g/6oz unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 220g/8ozs caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g whole milk
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 100g/4ozs chocolate (60%-70% solids) melted and cooled
  • 1/3 jar of marmalade for glaze (optional)
  • candied orange peel or additional zest for decoration (optional)

Preheat oven to 165C/4.5Gas/325F

Grease a loaf tin with butter and flour lightly. Tap out surplus flour. Tin = 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½”.

Put on a baking sheet and set aside.

Brendan's Chocolate & Orange Marbled Loaf CakeMethod

First break the chocolate into pieces into a small, clean bowl. Place over simmering water to melt. Do not let the bowl touch the water. This will only take a few minutes. Leave the bowl aside to cool while you make the batter.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside

Beat the softened butter in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment for 3-4 minutes till light and fluffy. Or use a hand-held mixer. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Now add the lightly beaten eggs in about four additions and beat after each addition. Don’t worry if the mixture appears to curdle at this point. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add three tablespoons of the flour, then half the milk, then another three tablespoons of flour, and the remainder of the milk finishing with the last of the flour. Do not over-mix – just enough to incorporate the flour mixture.

Now divide the batter evenly. (I weigh mine in a container on the weighing scales to get it right, but you can use alternating spoonfuls into two bowls). Add the grated orange zest to one half: the cooled melted chocolate to the other.

Put large tablespoonfuls of the two batters in alternating heaps along the bottom of the prepared tin e.g. yellow batter – chocolate batter – yellow batter and so on. Continue with this pattern on top of the lower spoonfuls until all the batter is used up. Now using a table knife, and starting at one end of the tin, swirl it through the batter with the knife maintaining contact with the bottom of the tin, in a ziz-zag fashion. Make the swirling motion confidently in one direction only and stop!

Bake in pre-heated oven for 1 hour 20 – 25 minutes until a small skewer comes out clean when inserted. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn out of tin and put right side up. The cake can be served as is. Or, as in the photograph, I heated 1/3 of a jar of orange marmalade with a tablespoon of water. When liquid, strain through a sieve to remove fruit pieces. Brush top of cake with the hot jam. And for a final flourish, you can add pieces of orange zest or, as in the picture, candied orange peel (see my recipe on this site). This could also be served as a dessert with crème frâiche, Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream. The flavours are stronger the next day and the cake will keep for up to 7 days in an airtight container.

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Mini Dundee Cakes Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:31:30 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Mini Dundee CakesPreheat oven to 175C/350F/Gas 4. Butter and flour the individual tins. I used mini, straight-sided, sponge tins available from Lakeland. But a muffin 12-hole tray will also work.


Makes 12

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • I tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g currants or raisins
  • 60g glacé cherries, roughly chopped
  • 60g mixed peel
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons – use fine grater or microplane
  • Juice from above lemons
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tbls whiskey
  • 150g whole blanched or unblanched almonds – for decoration (see photo). You can use 1 – 4 to decorate top.
  • ½ jar of apricot jam, warmed and sieved for glazing top of cakes.


Using a stand-mixer, cream the butter and sugar until trebled in volume e.g. 4 minutes on medium speed. Whisk the eggs lightly to break them up, and add about ½ egg at each addition until fully incorporated. Mix thoroughly the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and mixed spice together with a whisk. Fold in on slow speed, and then add the dried fruit, the lemon zest. Finally add the lemon juice and the whiskey.

Spoon or pipe into the prepared tins to 2/3rds full. Smooth out surface with a teaspoon.

Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, but not longer than 30 minutes.

Glaze with sieved apricot jam while still hot, and cool on wire rack. The glaze will set as the cakes cool.

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 days.

Excellent for afternoon tea, or could also be served as a dessert with crème anglaise

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Hazelnut & Chocolate Bundt Cake Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:13:32 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Hazelnut & Chocolate Bundt Cake Ingredients

  • 250g/8ozs spelt flour
  • 125g/4ozs spelt wholemeal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • *¾ tsp hazelnut extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250 ml sunflower oil
  • 250g/8ozs caster sugar
  • 2 tbls good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tbls plain yoghurt

Preheat oven to 180ᵒc/375ᵒF. *can be bought on line at ‘Bakery Bits’. Gives an excellent flavour.

Melt 1 oz butter and using a pastry brush, butter and flour a 9” diameter, 2 litre Bundt pan. (Do not use oil spray if the Bundt pattern is elaborate and intricate e.g. rose shape, crennellations etc, as it isn’t effective in the crevices and will cause sticking and spoil the finished look – I know this from experience!)


Beat eggs, vanilla and hazelnut extract and sugar in electric mixer until tripled in volume – 4-5 minutes. Add oil slowly in a steady stream with a few pauses  until it is all incorporated. The batter will be fairly thick.

Sift flours, baking powder into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with a hand whisk. Fold into batter with a large whisk or wooden spoon.

Divide the mixture in half into another bowl. To this bowl, add the cocoa powder and the yoghurt, and fold together.

Using a tablespoon, spoon 3 tablespoons of the cocoa batter to form a triangle in the Bundt tin. Between these spoon in the plain batter. Using a knife of dessertspoon, swirl the two batters together. Repeat the process on top of this using all of both batters, and swirl again. Put in pre-heated oven on middle shelf and cook for 35 – 40 minutes.  Check with a wooden skewer and if still moist, bake an extra 5 minutes maximum, but no longer to avoid drying out.

Wait 10 minutes before turning cake out onto cooling rack. Let it cool thoroughly.

When cold, dust with icing sugar to accentuate the markings of the Bundt tin.

Optional finish for special occasion: make some hazelnut brittle – recipe follows.

When set, chop some fairly finely. Brush top of cake with some sieved apricot jam to create a sticky surface. Sprinkle the chopped nut brittle on top.

Brendan's Hazelnut & Chocolate Bundt CakeHazelnut Brittle


1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup golden syrup, or light Agave syrup
2 tablespoons butter
21/2 cups roasted unsalted hazelnuts, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Few drops vanilla


Put a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add sugar, water, and corn or agave syrup and bring to a boil. When mixture comes to a boil, add butter. Cook to 260 degrees F on a candy thermometer without stirring and add the sliced hazelnuts. Bring mixture to 300 F and stir in salt, baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture onto a greased baking sheet and spread out and allow to cool. Break up into pieces. Can also be ground and added to ice cream.

Or just make your own favourite nut brittle.

Servings: 10 – 12.

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Rhubarb & Ginger Cake Tue, 28 May 2013 06:32:13 +0000 brendan


Brendan's Rhubarb & Ginger CakeA couple of years ago we met a lovely couple – Neville and Janet – while out walking Monty-the-Labradoodle. Turned out that they are great dog lovers and sometimes look after Monty for us which makes us all happy! Neville is also a keen gardener and has an allotment where he grows a lot of fruit. About two weeks ago he came round with the first of this year’s crop of beautiful rhubarb. I couldn’t wait to try out a few baking ideas. The first experiment was this cake. Combining the rhubarb with ginger was a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ as they say.


  • 150g (5½oz) butter
  • 150g (5½oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 65ml (2fl oz) full-fat milk
  • 100g crystallised ginger – finely chopped
  • ½ jar of apricot preserve to glaze top of cake that rhubarb will adhere to
  • 3 tbls of runny honey
  • Preheat oven to 180ᵒc/350F/Gas4, and place rack in middle.

Equipment needed:

  • 1 square baking tin x 23cm/9” – greased.
  • 1 rectangular baking tray or equivalent, say 40m x 30m/16” x 12” for cooking rhubarb in syrup.

Method for cake

Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a medium-sized bowl– 4 mins on medium-speed -, then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition (add a couple of tablespoons of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. This shouldn’t happen if the eggs are at room temperature, but the flour will restore the mixture).

Add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, until everything is incorporated. Stir in the chopped ginger with a wooden spoon or spatula. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 – 40 minutes – check it is done at 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.


1 kilo rhubarb cooked in :

Sugar syrup = 250g caster sugar mixed with 250ml water + *1 cupful of Ribena. Bring to boil in the rectangular metal dish that can be put on medium high heat.

*(Ribena will give some pinkness to the rhubarb as it can be colourless once spring has passed. For special occasions and for a lesser quantity of rhubarb, you could use ½ wineglass of Cassis liqueur instead of Ribena to achieve same effect).

Cut off ends and cut each stalk in half. With a long, sharp knife, slice each half into 3 long lengths – or two if the stalk is slim. Simmer for 5 minutes until just cooked but still firm and holding its shape. Turn off heat and leave to rest in syrup for 3-4 minutes. Remove carefully e.g. using a fish slice, without breaking up the lengths and place them on to drain on a wire cooling rack resting on a tray to catch drips.

To assemble cake

Heat apricot jam with 1 tsp water until liquid – 45 seconds – sieve out the fruit pieces. Brush top of cake with the sieved apricot jam so that rhubarb will adhere. Cut into 9, equal squares but keep squares in their place. (It is much easier to decorate each serving with rhubarb pieces than cover the whole cake and then try to slice it as the fibrous rhubarb will not cut neatly. But, if needed, a sharp scissors does the job).

Place first layer of rhubarb diagonally across each slice and cut off to fit each square with sharp scissors. Then place another 2 pieces in the opposite direction and trim those too with scissors (see photo). No need to add chopped pistachios for colour – seemed a good idea at the time, but they are unnecessary! Place each portion back in its place until all portions are covered. Finally brush rhubarb with some warmed honey to give a shine to the top.

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Barberry & Pecan Scones Fri, 05 Apr 2013 14:16:54 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Barberry & Pecan SconeAbout two years ago I was introduced to Iranian cooking through Margaret Shaida’s classic book The Legendary Cuisine of Persia. The use of fruit in savoury dishes is a particular feature of this magnificent culinary tradition. Dried red barberries are especially common – imparting a tart flavor to various rice and meat dishes. Looking through my cupboards the other day for ingredients for a batch of scones my eyes fell on the stash of barberries amidst all the nuts, raisins and spices. I was curious to see how their sour flavor might work with the jam and chantilly cream with which I like to serve my scones. So, I experimented by mixing in the barberries with pecans for crunch. The result was very pleasing. If you feel inspired to try this for yourself the barberries should be readily available in small bags in Middle Eastern and Asian food stores or on-line.

Makes 18

Before starting, don’t forget to read my Six Top Tips for Perfect Scones

Preheat oven to 210C/450F/Gas5


  • 1 kilo of self-raising flour
  • 4tsps baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 130g Barberries
  • 150g chopped pecans
  • 150g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 430ml full-fat milk
  • 1 beaten egg for glazing scone tops


  • A good fruit preserve.
  • 1 pint of double cream + 1 tsp of vanilla extract + 100g icing sugar. Whip with a whisk to soft peak stage that holds its peaks.


Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. And then sift again into another bowl. (I have been making scones for some 20 years and I sift the flour 5 times, which gives extra lightness and height to the scones). But try to sift at least 3 times to aerate the flour. Next rub in the butter until it is all absorbed into the flour. Beat the eggs together and add enough milk to take it to 570ml – 600ml. The final amount will depend on the flour used.

Gradually add in the liquid and using a wooden spoon bring together to form a soft dough. Knead lightly for 30 seconds, and roll out to ½” – ¾” thickness. Using a 2” cutter, stamp out scone rounds and place on to the prepared trays, leaving 1” between each scone. (Do not twist the cutter backwards and forwards as this will reduce the height of the baked scone). Reknead the leftover pieces, reroll and cut out as before until all the dough is used up.

Brush each scone with the beaten egg, but do not overfill the brush. If egg wash trickles down the side of the scone, it will harden and hold back the rise of the scone during baking. So a light coat is what you are aiming for.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and cover with clean tea towels to keep their softness. When cold, cut in half. Place 3/4 tsp of your favourite jam in centre and pipe a ring of double cream round the jam. Press the upper half onto the cream. If you don’t want to pipe, just spoon some whipped cream over the jam and press upper scone half to spread cream out to the edge.

Will keep for 2 days. NB: Just halve the recipe for a smaller quantity.

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Lemon, Honey & Ginger Upside-Down Cake Fri, 05 Apr 2013 13:58:30 +0000 brendan

Brendon's Lemon Honey & Ginger Upside Down CakeCould this be the first recipe inspired by a heavy cold?! I’ve always loved lemon cakes and was recently playing around with an upside-down version inspired by Hannah Miles’ recipe in The Gluten-Free Baker. At the time I was making regular hot lemon, honey and ginger for my partner to ease his cold and sore throat. This is such a warm and soothing combination in a drink but I wondered if it might also work well in a cake.  Friends who tasted the result all agreed that it is a knockout: the tartness of the lemons balanced beautifully by the sweet honey and caramel and then the warm notes of ginger coming through from the sponge. I’ve added a ring of whole almonds around the edge, partly for appearance and partly to add some crunch alongside the unctuous caramelized lemon slices. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream this would make a terrific dessert.

Equipment needed

1 round 10”/25cm cake tin

Ingredients – Cake

  • 150g (5½oz) butter
  • 150g (5½oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp of almond extract
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder, sifted
  • Zest of 3 lemons (keep bodies for topping)
  • 150g chopped crystallised ginger (the one with the sugar on it, not the one in syrup)
  • 125ml (4fl oz) full-fat milk

Ingredients – Caramel Topping

  • 125g (4½oz) caster sugar
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 lemons + the zested three from above
  • 150g of whole, unpeeled almonds
  • 30ml (1fl oz) runny honey – for glazing when cake is cold.


Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Line-base the tin with non-stick parchment and allow ½” of paper up the sides. (This will greatly help when you turn the cake out as no bottom parts will stick).

Step 1 – The topping

Dry caramelise the sugar until it turns a mid-amber colour. Pour into base lined tin and move the tin around in your hands to help spread it across the base. The caramel will set but this will liquefy again during the baking.

Now line the outer edge of the tin with the whole almonds to form a border for the cake.

Next cut the top and bottom from the five lemons. Using a chopping board, slice away the peel and pith in vertical slices from top to bottom of all 5 lemons. Cut each lemon into 6-7 slices depending on size. Remove any pips with a small, sharp knife, but try not to break up the slices. Arrange the slices across the set caramel to completely cover the base up to the almonds round the outside, using any small pieces to fill in any gaps.

Step 2 – The cake

Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a medium-sized bowl– 3 minutes on medium-speed -, then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition (add a tablespoon of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. This shouldn’t happen if the eggs are at room temperature, but the flour will restore the mixture).

Add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, until everything is incorporated. Now add the zest and the chopped ginger and fold into the cake batter with a spatula or large whisk. Spoon this on top of the lemon base and spread evenly to edges of tin, being careful not to disturb the arrangement. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 – 45 minutes – check for doneness at 40 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Remove from oven and wait 5 minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack. By this time it will have shrunk from the sides. Very slowly and gently, remove the parchment without disturbing neither the almonds nor the lemon slices – best done after 15 minutes or so when cake has cooled slightly. Finally, gently heat the honey and brush it over the surface of the cake when it is cold. The honey helps to balance out the sharpness of the lemons as does the caramel. This is a delicious cake if you like really like lemon-y cakes. (See photo for finished bake).

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Raspberry & Lemon Mini-Sponges Mon, 29 Oct 2012 12:36:54 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Raspberry & Lemon Mini-SpongesThese little cakes were created for an informal gathering of friends. I wanted something light, full of flavour and quick to make. They also look quite special without suggesting great effort. If raspberries are not available blueberries or blackberries would also work well – just be sure to change the jam accordingly.

This quantity makes 22-24 sponges. (Do not overfill cups as sponges will double in size).

Equipment: I x 12 cup mini sandwich tin with straight sides. Lakeland stocks these and they are identified as ‘mini victoria sandwiches’. They are loose bottomed. Grease each cup with some butter.

Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4



  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 4 large free-range eggs at room temperature
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp of lemon essence or lemon oil
  • 1 tbls milk at room temperature

Crème Chantilly & Topping

  • 1 pint/600ml of double cream – very cold from the fridge
  • 120g of sifted icing sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence – or lemon essence / oil
  • 300g fresh raspberries
  • Jar of raspberry jam – seedless if possible, but with seeds is fine



Put soft butter into a mixing bowl and beat for 1 minute with a hand-held mixer. Gradually add in the caster sugar and continue beating for up to 4 minutes until mixture is very fluffy in texture. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly to break them up. Add 1 egg approx at a time to the creamed mixture and beat in fully. Continue in this way until all eggs are incorporated. Add essences and blend in. (Should mixture show signs of curdling, add in 1 tablespoon of the sifted flour to restore it. This shouldn’t happen if the eggs are at room temperature).

Sift flour and add to the creamed mixture. Use a large metal spoon of rubber spatula to mix together. Add the milk to lighten the texture and blend in. Be gentle as over-vigorous mixing will remove a good deal of air from the sponge. Stop folding when there are no streaks of flour showing – and check there are no pockets of flour at the base of the bowl ‘hiding’ under the mixture. Spoon or pipe into the prepared tin. Fill to halfway full. Transfer to middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 20-23 minutes. They will be golden when cooked and springy to the touch and will double in size.

Remove from oven and leave for a few minutes to contract from sides of tin. Using the loose-bottomed base, turn out each one onto a cooling rack.

Regrease tin and proceed as for first batch.

Cut in half when cold. Fill with Chantilly cream as recipe below, alternating with a whole raspberry between pipings and top with a rosette of cream and a raspberry (see photo).


In a large bowl, whisk cream to soft peaks. Stop and add icing sugar and essence. Beat a little longer but slowly to avoid over-beating and graininess.  Tip: it is better to finish beating whipped cream using a hand-held whisk so that you have control – even a couple of extra whisks of the blades can result in over-beating.

To finish

Cut each mini-sponge in half with a sharp knife. Pipe stars of whipped cream round edge, leaving a small space to insert a raspberry between. Put 1 teaspoon of seedless raspberry jam in centre. Place other half on top. Finally, pipe a rosette of Chantilly cream on top and put a whole raspberry in centre. Dust with icing sugar and transfer to serving tray.

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Yellow Plum, Walnut, Almond Upside-Down Cake Tue, 16 Oct 2012 09:45:22 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Yellow Plum, Walnut, Almond Upside-Down CakeIngredients


  • 150g (5½oz) butter
  • 150g (5½oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp of almond extract + 3 drops of bitter almond essence
  • 200g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 125ml (4fl oz) full-fat milk

Caramel Topping

  • 125g (4½oz) caster sugar
  • 75ml (2¾fl oz) liquid – juice of 1 large lemon made up with water
  • 50g (1¾oz) butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 fresh, firm yellow plums halved and stoned + three sliced in segments (the ‘ripen at home’ gives good, firm fruit. Ripe plums collapse too much and spoil the finished look)
  • 16 – dried tart, sour cherries (one to go into each plum half) or stoned dried black cherries
  • 24 walnut halves – not pieces
  • 30ml (1fl oz) runny honey – for glazing while cake is cooling (optional)


Turn oven on to 180ᵒc/350F/Gas4, and place rack in middle.

Next, prepare the tin: grease bottom and sides of a standard, 23cm (9 inch) tin with Trex or Cookeen (butter will be too oily for this recipe). Place same-size circle of non-stick parchment paper in base, and set aside. (Do not use a loose-bottomed cake tin as caramel will escape).

Now, make the caramel. Put the sugar and water into a small, non-stick pan and bring to the boil, stirring gently and briefly to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture turns to a golden/mid-amber caramel, take the pan off the heat and add the butter. Only stir once butter has melted.

Pour the caramel straight away into the prepared tin and set aside. The caramel will set but will melt again during the cooking of the cake. Around the edge of the tin, place a row of pecans or walnuts. Halve and stone plums and push one cherry into the plum cavity and place close together, cut-side down. Place the segmented plum slices into the gaps so that little caramel is showing through. You now have the base completely covered with plums surrounded by a single row of nuts.

Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a medium-sized bowl– 4 mins on medium-speed -, then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition (add a couple of tablespoons of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. This shouldn’t happen if the eggs are at room temperature, but the flour will restore the mixture).

Add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, until everything is incorporated. Spoon this on top of the fruit and spread evenly to edges of tin, being careful not to disturb the arrangement. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 – 45 minutes – check for doness at 40 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Remove from oven and wait 5 minutes before turning it out onto its serving plate. By this time it will have shrunk from the sides. Give the tin a slight shake to loosen it, and expect to see some plums and nuts left stuck to the tin bottom. But they are easily removed with a dessertspoon, so carefully put them back into their place on top of the cake. As the cake cools, the caramel will reset and glue them back together.

If you decide to use the honey, just heat it gently for 30 seconds to make it easier to apply with a pastry brush. Leave cake to cool and serve. I only use the honey to restore the glaze if there is still some left after 2 days.


The tartness of the cherries and plums are a good contrast to the sweetness of the caramel. The ring of walnuts adds considerably to the look of the cake and gives a neat edge, and caramelised walnuts are delicious. Pecans make a good alternative, as do whole, unskinned almonds. Plums can be replaced with apricots when in season.


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Coffee and Walnut Cake Sat, 01 Sep 2012 09:04:30 +0000 brendan

Brendan's Coffee and Walnut cakeI recently read the findings of a survey about Britain’s favourite cakes and noticed that coffee and walnut cake was up there with lemon drizzle, victoria sponge and the other ‘usual suspects’.  In my experience, however, coffee and walnut can often be a bit bland and disappointing. After experimenting with various recipes I’ve plumped for this version which uses a fair bit of coffee. The photo suggests one way of decorating the top but there are limitless possibilities for arranging your walnuts. Enjoy!

This recipe takes an hour from start to finish and the cake will keep for several days in a sealed box at room temperature. Serves 8-10.


  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 65g walnut pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsps instant coffee granules (I use Nescafé ‘Azera’ brand which is micro ground, but a good quality instant coffee is fine too).

For the filling

  • 200g butter (soft)
  • 100g cream cheese e.g Philadelphia full fat
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 3 tsps instant coffee granules
  • 60g walnut halves for decoration (may be toasted and sprinkled with icing sugar – see  end of recipe)


You will also need 2 x 23cm loose-bottomed sponge tins. Grease and bottom line with non-stick parchment.

Preheat the oven at 180°C/gas mark 4.


Using an electric beater, whisk the butter and sugar till light, pale and fluffy. Chop the walnuts for the cake fairly finely. Crack the eggs into a bowl, break them up with a whisk or fork and add them a little at a time to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition.

Mix the flour and baking powder together and mix into the butter and sugar gently, with the mixer on a slow speed. Dissolve the coffee granules in 1 tbsp boiling water, and add to the cake at low speed. Turn off the beater.

Chop the walnuts and fold gently into the cake mixture with a metal spoon.

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins. For accuracy it is best to weigh each tin to ensure same amount of batter. Smooth the top lightly with a small palette knife. Bake for 18 – 22 minutes on the middle shelf.

The cakes are cooked when a skewer gently inserted comes out clean. I have noticed mine are pretty much consistently done after 20 minutes, but it will depend on your oven.

Remove from oven. Leave in tins for 5 minutes, and then turn our onto a cooling rack (to stop sponges sticking to your cooling rack, lightly spray with an oil-spray, or just dip your fingers into a little flavorless oil and rub the wires of the rack with your oiled fingers).

To make the frosting, beat the soft butter and cream cheese till soft and pale with an electric beater for 4 minutes at high speed. Then add the sugar and beat until mixed, say one minute.  Stir 1 tbsp boiling water into the coffee granules then mix it into the buttercream for 30 seconds.

As soon as it is cool, turn one half of the cake upside down on a plate or board, spread it with a good third of the buttercream, then place the second half on top.

Spread the remaining buttercream on top and decorate to suit. For a professional-looking finish, use a cake scraper to mark the top, and a piping bag and a plain and star nozzle (see photos).

Decorate with finely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, using a pastry-cutter to give a central circle. Pipe buttercream as per photo and place a walnut half at edge, say one half per slice. (I toast the walnut halves in the oven for 6-7 minutes at 180ºC.

When cool, dust with some icing sugar. But both steps are optional depending on time.) For speed, just spread the filling on top with a palette knife and there will also be enough to cover the sides as well).

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