Posts

Almond Cake with Plum and Sweet Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I only recently discovered scented rose geranium as a baking ingredient, having bought some at our local farmer’s market. While not the pretties of leaves, it releases a wonderfully delicate rose scented flavour simply by rubbing  to release the oils. It can be used in sweet dishes in a variety of ways, for example by infusing sugar to use in baking and desserts in place of normal sugar, or in scented syrups or jams. It pairs well with citrus flavours, fruits and spices.  I choose to use my geranium in a jam with plums, which happened to be in season at the time of late Autumn. It is quite possibly the best jam I have ever made! While we have been using it on toast and scones for several weeks, I finally satisfied my original intention of using it as a cake filling by creating this delicious recipe for Almond Cake with Plum and Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

I chose to make this as a tray or sheet cake. I will tell no lies, I was in a bit of a rush and didn’t have the time to consider layering and icing in my usual way. And actually I quite like the informality of a tray cake; it is easy to cut and serve for a casual teatime treat! The large surface is a perfect canvas for decorative prettiness too!

The almond cake is particularly dense and moist, and is a classic pairing with the plum jam. The sweet geranium in the jam adds just the right amount of floral fragrance.  I used quite a few geranium leaves but feel free to adjust this flavour to your preference.  You could also try making the jam with geranium-infused sugar, rather than the chopped leaves I have used here, although this would take a little more forward-planning. I chose a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream for a simple, light and complimentary flavour.

The quantities for the jam makes much more than you need, but store in sealed sterilised jars and use it in other bakes, or simply enjoy on your favourite toast, croissant or scone! If you can’t find geranium or seasonal plums, this cake and buttercream recipe works well with other similar fruity floral combinations, try shop bought raspberry jam with a little rosewater added for an even quicker but equally delicious cake.

Similarly the Swiss meringue buttercream makes more than required. However as this is a more labour-intensive buttercream than the straightforward recipe of mixing icing sugar and butter, I always go for the larger quantity and freeze leftover icing for my next bake. You can of course halve the quantities if you don’t envisage using it again in the foreseeable future.

I was delighted to donate this bake to my local community Crosscare cafe, which offers hot meals and a warm and friendly environment for those in need. Spread love with cake!

Happy baking!

Suzanne x

Almond Cake with Plum and Sweet Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 400g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 250g ground almonds
  • Pinch salt
  • Few drops almond essence (optional)
  • 4-6tbsp milk

Ingredients for Plum Jam:

  • 900g plums (washed, dried, stoned and sliced)
  • 700g caster sugar
  • 5-6 large sweet geranium leaves, finely chopped
  • Juice one lemon

Ingredients for the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  • 300g fresh egg whites (about 10 eggs)
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 680g unsalted butter, cool but not cold
  • seeds 1 vanilla pod
  • pinch salt
  • pink paste food colouring (optional)

For decoration (optional):

  • Sliced plums
  • Dried edible flower petals (rose and cornflower)
  • Toasted flaked almonds

Method:

  1. To make the jam, place the plums in a large pan with 250ml water. Cover, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20mins until the plums are soft.
  2. Remove the lid and add the sugar, sweet geranium and lemon juice. Simmer on a medium heat until the jam is reduced down and has reached setting point (you can test this by placing a spoonful on a cold plate in the fridge for a few minutes. It should form a skin when you push it with your finger).
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into clean sterilised jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 9″x 12″ baking tray that is approximately 1.5″ deep (or similar size) with baking parchment.
  5. Cream together the butter, sugar and almond essence in a mixer until pale.
  6. Sift together the flour and salt into another bowl.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  8. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  9. Add the ground almonds and mix again.
  10. Finally add milk and mix to achieve a dropping consistency.
  11. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-45 mins until the top of the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  12. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. To make the icing: Clean the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with a squeeze of lemon juice and dry with paper towel to remove any traces of grease.
  14. Place the egg white and sugar into the bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the temperature reaches 160°F on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  15. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and using the whisk attachment whisk until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch.
  16. Switch to paddle attachment and with mixer on low speed add the butter a cube at a time, mixing until incorporated after each addition. If the mixture curdles continue to mix until it comes back together. Add the vanilla seeds and salt and food paste colouring as desired.
  17. If the buttercream is too runny, refrigerate until firmer and mix again before using.
  18. To assemble the cake, when cool cover the cake generously with plum jam followed by a thick layer of delicious buttercream. Scatter with plum slices, flaked almonds and dried flower petals. Serve with a cup of tea!

 

Lime Basil and Blackberry Bundt Cake Recipe

Bundt cakes are so easy to make, require little decoration and serve a crowd…hence I always love making a bundt cake for weekend treats or family celebrations!

Lemon Curd and Violet Loaf Cake Recipe

Loaf cakes are a weekend favourite, partly because they are so quick and easy to make. Without the need for layering and filling, a quick glaze or icing and some edible decorations results in something delicious and pretty with minimal effort.

This recipe evolved from a half jar of homemade lemon curd lurking in my fridge that I had left over from a wedding cake order. I am always loathe to throw away food and try to use everything up, so decided to add the curd itself to this loaf cake to add an extra tang and moistness.

Lemon and violet are a perfect summery combination. I had crystallised violet petals from Sous Chef UK in my cupboard so used them to add a subtle violet flavour to the cake as well as flavour and decoration on the icing. You could also use other violet products such as a violet sugar (try substituting some of the regular sugar for violet sugar) or violet food essence. Another nice addition would be some seasonal blueberries.  Feel free to experiment!

Lemon Curd and Violet Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 190g unsalted Irish butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 medium free range Irish eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon curd (homemade or shop bought)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4tsp crystallised violets, ground

Ingredients for the icing and decoration:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • Crystalised violets, coarsely ground
  • Edible flowers

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Cream together the butter, caster sugar, lemon zest and ground crystallised violets in an electric mixer or by hand until light.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  6. Finally add the lemon curd and mix again.
  7. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice to make an icing with a thick pouring consistency. Add more lemon juice/icing sugar as required to achieve this.
  10. Pour the icing over the cooled cake, using a spatula to spread over the top and allowing a little to drizzle down the sides. Decorate with crushed crystallised violet petals and edible flowers if desired.
  11. The cake keeps well in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

 

Orange Fennel and Honey Loaf Cake Recipe

I do love a loaf cake…easy to make and requiring little decoration, they are a perfect weekend teatime treat. I devised this recipe for a feature in the November 2018 edition of Irish Country Magazine and hence had the pleasure of having talented photographer Ramona Farrelly follow me in its making in my kitchen…thank you for these lovely photos Ramon!

This is a classic loaf cake recipe, kept moist by the addition of yogurt and given a refreshing zing with orange zest and syrup. Fennel seeds add a subtle liquorice flavour and heighten the sweetness of the orange. Decorated here with dried edible flowers and chopped pistachios feel free to experiment with presentation…an orange icing would also work well, as would candied orange slices or other nuts.

Orange Fennel and Honey Loaf Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 190g unsalted Irish butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 medium free range Irish eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 25g natural greek yogurt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 3tsp fennel seed

Ingredients for the syrup and decoration:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1tbsp Irish honey
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Handful chopped pistachios (optional)
  • Handful dried flower petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Lightly toast the fennel seed in a hot pan until fragrant. Pour into a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and orange zest in an electric mixer or by hand until light.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, ground fennel and salt.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  7. Finally add the yogurt and mix again.
  8. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Meanwhile make the syrup. Add the orange juice, honey and sugar to a pan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer until reduced slightly. Pour over the loaf cake when it comes out of the oven.
  10. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Decorate with chopped pistachios and dried flower petals if desired.

Lemon Balm Shortbread

I love to bake with herbs either in savoury recipes themselves or to add a savoury twist to sweet recipes. My herb garden is currently abundant with beautiful leaves, from flowering thyme and sage to chives and rosemary. A new addition to my herbs this year was lemon balm. Being a member of the mint family, lemon balm is also known as balm mint, and indeed has similar leaves and vigorous growing properties to mint. The leaves have a mild lemony scent and I have been using it on fish and in salads for an alternative citrus flavour. Last weekend I used it to add a herby twist to a traditional lemon shortbread. (If you don’t have lemon balm however just add a little extra lemon zest to this recipe). Decorated with some dried edible flowers these would make a pretty edible gift, or a lovely summery teatime treat!

Lemon Balm Shortbread

Ingredients for the Shortbread (makes 12):

  • 170g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 110g room temperature butter
  • 1tbsp finely chopped lemon balm leaves
  • Finely grated zest 1/2 lemon
  • Dried flower petals (optional, to decorate)
  • Icing sugar (optional, to decorate)

Method

  • To make the shortbread, preheat the oven to 180°C/356F.
  • Place the flour, caster sugar, butter and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse until the mixture has almost come together.
  • Add the chopped lemon balm and pulse a few more times until mixed in.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to between 0.5-1cm thick. If you are using edible flowers, sprinkle over the rolled dough at this point and give a further roll to press the petals lightly into the dough.
  • Cut out biscuit rounds using a 6cm round cutter (or any size or shape you prefer!).
  • Place the biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 8-10mins (turning half-way through if required) until lightly golden.
  • Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before gently transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  • Once cool, dust with a little icing sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Raspberry and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes

February is synonymous with Valentine’s Day which calls for some romantic baking! Dark chocolate and raspberry are a match made in heaven…here I have spiced up the combination in a cupcake recipe with the addition of some pink peppercorns. The spice adds an interesting little kick we well as being a pretty decorative flourish!

This recipe makes approx 16-20 cupcakes. Feel free to half the recipe if you don’t wish to devour this many between you and your loved one!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry and Pink Peppercorn

Ingredients for the Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 100g unsalted butter,
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 180g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½  tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 8g cocoa powder
  • 120g good quality 70% dark chocolate
  • 160ml whole milk

Ingredients for the Raspberry Buttercream

  • 100g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 300g unsalted butter
  • Handful of pink peppercorns

Method

  • To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 160°C/315F and line two 12-hole muffin tins with 16-20 paper cases.
  • Place the chocolate, milk and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until all the chocolate and sugar have dissolved.
  • Meanwhile beat the butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape down the mixture from the sides if necessary.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the butter and sugar mixture and mix gently until just combined.
  • Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix again, scraping any mixture down from the sides if necessary.
  • Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the cupcakes are springy to the touch.
  • Leave to rest in the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely (note: tops of the cupcakes sink slighltly on cooling which is normal)
  • To make the buttercream, place the raspberries in a small saucepan with a small splash of water and heat gently until soft. Remove from the heat and mash. Strain through a sieve into a clean bowl, scraping the sieve to get as much of the juice as possible. Return the raspberry puree to the saucepan and simmer gently until the juice has thickened and reduced by about half. Leave to cool and thicken further.
  • Meanwhile, beat the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for approximately 10mins until light and fluffy. A little at a time, add the concentrated raspberry puree to the buttercream, mixing between each addition, until the desired strength of flavour is achieved. Take care not to add too much such that icing is too runny.
  • To finish the cupcakes, pipe the raspberry buttercream on each cupcake and sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorns!

January Baking – Mincemeat Scones

I always make a batch of homemade mincemeat in December, ready to make mince pies or other festive goods throughout the month. My version is vegetarian and sweetened only with the dried fruit itself so I feel it is a tiny bit healthier (!). This year I made these scones for Christmas morning but with a spare jar of two of mincemeat in the fridge come January I thought they are also a great bake to use up leftover mincemeat after the festive season. With a hint of spice and the sweetness of the fruit they are deliciously comforting straight from the oven with a cup of tea on a dark and cold January day!

Mincemeat Scones

Ingredients for the Mincemeat Scones:

  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 100g unsalted butter, cool but not cold
  • Good pinch baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • Grated zest 1 small orange
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 jar mincemeat (homemade or shop bought), approx 200g
  • 1 egg mixed with a little milk to glaze
  • Handful flaked almond (optional)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.

Step 2: Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine

Step 3: Add the butter and rub into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Step 4: Add the caster sugar and stir to combine.

Step 5: Add the mincemeat and orange zest and stir again until just combined.

Step 6: Mix together the egg and milk before adding to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined. If a little dry add some more milk to make a moist dough.

Step 7: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll lightly with a rolling pin until approx 3cm thick.

Step 8: Cut out scones using a round cutter. Place scone on a lightly greased or lined baking tray and brush with the  egg/milk wash. Sprinkle with flaked almonds if using.

Step 9: Bake for 15-20mins until golden.

Step 10: Remove from the oven and place on a warm rack to cool.

Step 11: Enjoy as soon as possible with a little melted butter or some jam!

Storage: Scones are best enjoyed on the same day but can be stored in an airtight container. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Mother’s Day Recipe-Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

I always love to have some cookie recipes up my sleeve, something that can be made quickly for an edible gift, or when expecting guests for an afternoon cuppa. For this recipe I adapted a simple shortbread base to incorporate the delicate flavour of orange blossom combined with pistachio, pomegranate and a sprinkling of rose petals..a favourite flavour combination! Delicate and pretty these would be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

Ingredients for the Orange Blossom Shortbread:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cornflour
  • 300g soft unsalted butter
  • 1tsp orange blossom water (or use finely grated zest 1 orange if you don\’t have this)
  • 100g shelled pistachios
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for the Pomegranate Glaze:

  • Juice from one pomegranate
  • Approx 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • Rose petals to decorate (optional)

Step 1: To make the shortbread, Place the pistachios on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15 mins until lightly toasted, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Place in a processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Scatter the ground pistachios over a baking tray or sheet of greaseproof paper. Set aside.

Step 2: Sieve the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together and transfer into a food processor. Add the butter and orange blossom water and process until the mixture forms a ball of dough.

Step 3: Remove the dough from the processor and divide into 3. Roll each piece into a log shape approx 4cm in diameter.

Step 4: Brush each of the shortbread dough logs with beaten egg and roll in the ground pistachio to coat.  Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to chill. (Note: the dough can be stored in the fridge at this stage for up to 24 hours before proceeding with the next step if you wish to prepare in advance)

Step 5: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325F.

Step 6: Remove the shortbread from the fridge and unwrap the cling film. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for approx 15 mins until lightly golden. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool for approx 5 mins before gently removing with a palette knife to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 7: To make the pomegranate glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a medium size bowl. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and pour any juice into a separate bowl. If the pomegranate is not particularly juicy simple pulse the pomegranate seeds in a small food processor and pass the pulp through a sieve, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds.

Step 8: Slowly add enough pomegranate juice to the sieved icing sugar to make a smooth icing that is spreadable but not too runny. Add the orange blossom water and mix.

Step 9: To finish the cookies, spread the pomegranate glaze over each of the cookies using a palette knife. Sprinkle with rose petals and any leftover ground pistachio. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Best consumed within 2 days.

Storage: The cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.