Archive for January, 2013

Foodie Penpals return!: January 2013



A new year, a new foodie penpal package!

January’s package is from the lovely Alena 🙂 This package has an eastern European twist:

  • Polish fudge and boiled sweets
  • Eastern European bbq powder
  • Chai tea
  • Smoked garlic
  • Vanilla essence
  • Bombay mix
  • tinned lobster (!)

The fudge is rapidly disappearing and I have designs on the spice mix for this weekend 🙂 Thanks Alena!

If you’re interested in joining our little roaming band of food pioneers then I suggest you rock on over to and speak to the lovely Carol Ann Grady, our beloved Euro Foodie Penpals leader. If you are in the USA, then take a gander at – where it all started :-)


And this is going to keep me awake at night for the next couple of weeks…

Cupcake competition: (closing date; 13.02.13)

The Hummingbird Bakery will make your cupcake and sell it for 2 months! Awesome!

Mind is currently wandering from rosemary, to blackberry, and to cardamom, maybe by way of pear…


Back to basics baking: Apple Cake



It’s January. It’s soggy and blooming miserable. And in spite of attempting to get rid of the Festive weight, I am CRAVING stodgy, warm, comforting foods. Finding the balance between having what you know is good for you and what your body is telling you you really *need right now* isn’t easy. I’ve been doing ok – with the notable exception of weekends…

This past weekend I popped home to see the family, which was a good excuse to bake! (Although there was already a bit of a surplus of cake! Mmmmm, variety!) This apple cake went down a treat, and was incredibly moist. It was sufficiently stodgy to satisfy my craving, but I can’t say it was healthy…!

Dorset Apple Cake


  • 225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 450g Bramley apples
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g caster sugar, plus extra for dredging
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease a deep 23-24cm springform cake tin and line with baking paper. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1cm pieces, and toss with the lemon juice.

2. Using an electric hand whisk, cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a little flour with each addition to keep the mixture smooth.

3. Sift the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold in with the ground almonds. Drain the apple pieces well, then stir into the mixture.

4. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, lightly level the top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well-risen, brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to look a little too brown, cover with a sheet of baking paper after about 45 minutes.

5. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Dredge heavily with the extra caster sugar. Cut the cake into generous wedges and serve warm with a spoonful of clotted cream, if you like.

Medieval fruit, modern twist: Spiced Medlar and Toffee Cake


The Medlar is a bit of an oddity as a fruit. It looks like a cross between a big brown rosehip and an apple, and has the rather uncharming nickname of ‘dog’s arse’ (as demonstrated by the picture above). Fortunately the flavour is very different from that of a ‘dog’s arse’; it’s a pleasant cross between spiced apple and dates. Once upon a time it was quite popular, but has fallen out of favour – probably due to a number of factors; 1) the fruit has to be left to blett/rot before it can be used, 2) the fruit is fiddly to prepare and doesn’t yield much flesh, 3) the flavour is very delicate and can easily lost, 4) probably not commercially viable, so it became ‘lost’, 5) and as a result of 1-4, there aren’t all that many trees growing (compared to other fruit).

My parents have a Medlar tree in their garden, and Mum tried making Medlar cheese once, but said it wasn’t terribly successful. I did a bit of research, looking for potential recipes to use up the reasonable quantity of fruit I had gathered. There aren’t a huge range of options; chutneys, jellies, a tart, and that was about it. It seemed rather sad that one of our older fruits seemed to be fading out of sight.

Preparing the fruit; wait until the fruit has gone a dark brown then pick (or pick then leave in a cool dark place until it has bletted). Peel off the skin, and pull the flesh from around the stones. You should be left with a paste which looks like this;


(The recipe is based on the quantities for The Smitten Kitchen’s Spiced Applesauce Cake)

Spiced Medlar and Toffee Cake

For cake
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) plain flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of ground ginger

a pinch of ground cloves

1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces or 195 grams) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 13 ounces or 365 grams) unsweetened Medlar paste

Enough double cream to slacken the medlar paste
1/2 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces or 50 grams) toffee baking drops (e.g. Renshaw’s Simply Melt Tempting Toffee Flavour Buttons)

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 23cm loose-bottom round cake tin. 

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Seperately, blend the medlar paste with several tablespoons of cream – enough to make it quite slack. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the medlar paste. Mix in flour mixture until combined, then stir in the toffee drops. 

Spread batter evenly in the cake tin and bake until golden-brown and a knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then remove from the tin. Cool completely on a rack.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the final product – it got rather lost in amongst the other cakes over Christmas, but I can say it was very tasty! It has quite a subtle, spicy flavour which goes very well with cream, and would be great warm. 



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