What a big month!

I resigned from my job.  Started another.  Prepared for Christmas, our special visitor and all our festive entertaining.  Oh, and somehow managed to squeeze in some Christmas baking in between!

The beginning of the month hailed the end of my job for six years.  I returned to work from maternity leave at the end of August, but quickly started to search out a part-time alternative – as the work-life balance in the Mélanger household lacked the necessary harmony, to say to least!  Fortunately, a few months later, I secured the perfect part-time alternative at a brand new company, and immediately made the switch.

But there was no time to dwell on leaving my old job, as Christmas was fast approaching.  Much to organise and prepare!

I have to say, this year has been one of my best Christmases yet, thanks to my pint-sized minature.

It may technically have been baby Melanger’s second Christmas, but it certainly felt like her first.  With bub only a few months old last year, the day came and went without much fanfare.  This year, however, was bursting with endless shrieks, giggles and laughter at the endless stream of everything ‘new’.

The tree attracted the greatest attention.  There was nonstop pointing and ‘talking’ with lots of fast hand movements.  And there were quite a number of dances in front of the tree, including the odd twirl or two for added effect.  It seems to have made quite an impression!

Our visit from bub’s Ukki, also added much to the festive cheer.  It was such a delight for baby Mélanger to meet her grandfather face-to-face for the first time, and for her Ukki to see her BIG personality first hand.

I also had a lot of fun baking up some new traditions this year.  The Joulutortut and Joulupulla were the firm favourites.  And I have no difficulty visualising baking these goodies up year after year (whilst trialing some new flavours and ideas, too!).  Many thanks again to my friend Celina Laaksonen who was an enthusiastic guide in this month’s menu.

I hope you all enjoyed the selection this month, too?  I may or may not take a little break in January, but I hope to post a new exciting theme again soon.  In the meantime, here is the round up of this month’s recipes.

:: I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday and that 2012 brings much joy and happiness to you all xxx ::

{ Joulutortut :: Finnish Christmas Stars } For some time I have greedily eyed off these tender butter pastries, simply shaped as a festive star, and dotted with a small kiss of sweet prune filling in the centre.  This recipe produces a soft, cream based pastry.  It is incredibly simple to put together, and fairly easy to work with.  These little Finnish Christmas stars got an immediate thumbs up from Mr Mélanger{ Read more here…. }


  { Jouluriisipuuro :: Finnish Rice Pudding & Joulupiparkakut :: Gingerbread } Traditionally, this Christmas rice pudding can be served alongside a dried fruit soup (sekahedelmäkeitto), and there is always a whole blanched almond hidden inside (a bit like hiding a sixpence in a Christmas pudding!).  But I could not resist sharing this combination as a tribute to Celina!  The idea is genius.  The creaminess of the pudding, goes deliciously with the spicy, crunchy gingerbread.  I particularly love the gingerbread.  As soon as you warm up the spices with the syrup, the entire kitchen starts to smell a little of Christmas.  { Read more here …. }

  { Taatelikakku :: Finnish Christmas date cake } Finland has some light, fragrant and curiously bundt shaped Christmas cakes.  Far different from my Christmas cake memories.  I selected to bake up the taatelikakku, as part of this month’s experiment.  This is a wonderfully light yet moist cake.  The addition of coffee to the mixture adds a lovely depth of flavour against the sweetness of the dates.  And in my opinion, this cake should not be reserved just for Christmas.  It is simply too delicious!  { Read more here….}

  { Joulupulla :: Finnish Christmas buns }  This is really just a basic pulla dough shaped into the special festive shape.  I have made pulla more times than I can remember, and I have ultimated adapted this recipe from a few different sources (Beatrice Ojakangas, the Nordic Bakery Cookbook plus my friend Celina Laaksonen).  My father-in-law mentioned his mother’s pulla was less sweet, but he preferred the extra sugar in this recipe.  So feel free to experiment! { Read more here….}

When I think of Christmas cake, I think of a square, fruit ladened dense cake that is best served in thin slices.  So I was excited to find some departures to the cake of my childhood whilst exploring sweet festive traditions from Finland.

Firstly, the hugely popular spice cake, maustekakku and also a date flavoured cake, taatelikakku.  Both seemed to be light, fragrant and curiously bundt shaped.  Far different from my Christmas cake memories.

For the purposes of my experimentation this month, I selected to bake up the taatelikakku, as in my mind, it was a slightly more unusual option.  I hunted down a recipe at Martat and with Google Translate at the ready, was able to pull together a set of ingredients and directions.  (Phew!)

This is a wonderfully light yet moist cake.  The addition of coffee to the mixture adds a lovely depth of flavour against the sweetness of the dates.  And in my opinion, this cake should not be reserved just for Christmas.  It is simply too delicious!

{ Taatelikakku :: Finnish Christmas date cake } Recipe adapted from The Martha Organisation

* Ingredients *
90ml water
130g dates (1 cup)
110g caster sugar
85g butter
½  teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cold coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 170C.  Prepare a 4-cup bundt tin and set aside.  Mix the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.  Set aside.  Melt the butter and set aside.  In a small saucepan, heat the water, dates and sugar until the dates start to soften and the sugar dissolve.  Add the baking soda towards the end and set aside. Add the coffee and the vanilla to the mixture to cool slightly.  Then add the egg and stir to combine.  Finally, add in the flour until incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, and bake for 30-35 minutes.


Picturing it in my head, the cake had multiple layers.  Standing tall on an elegant cake stand, it would attract interest, surprise and curiosity from the little baby girl who had just turned one.  I imagined it would be frosted with a glossy Italian meringue or a gloriously silky chocolate glaze.  And, most certainly, sandwiched together with oodles of rich Swiss buttercream.

But it was none of those things.

When it came down to actually plan out the cake for baby Melanger’s 1st birthday, I realised this cake was not simply to celebrate a birthday.  But more importantly, to mark the our first year together as a newly expanded family.

The year has been bittersweet.  Full to the brim of many happy and joyous moments, but for me, personally, a time where I faced the darkest point of my life.

So it was not a time for elaborate flourishes, baking fanfare, or sweet decadence.  It was a time to reflect with something understated, simple, and comforting.

This cake is symbolic of our first year as a family.  Dark and light.  Sweet and bitter.  Intimate and personal.  With a celebration limited to the three of us.

This cake is a slight departure to the pink, girly, fun sweet goodies showcased so far in this month’s theme.  Originally I was not going to include this cake in the line up, but as my blog is such a personal journal of my baking, how could it not?  And besides, I selfishly wanted to share an image of baby Melanger enjoying her hit of sugar!

{ Mini marble bundt cake }

This four cup cake is very small, and would be perfect for a small afternoon tea, or other intimate celebration.  The sour cream adds a lovely tang to the cake (particularly when combined with the chocolate), and overall it is a very light and fluffy cake.  Very easy to eat!

* Ingredients *
85g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
2 eggs
130g sour cream
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
50g melted dark chocolate (I used 70%)

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 160C, and butter a 4 cup bundt tin and set aside.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl either in the microwave (about 30 seconds) or over a double boiler.  Once melted, set aside to slightly cool.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Then add in the flour mixture little by litte.  Remove around 2/3 cup of the mixture and add the melted chocolate to the mixture left in the stand mixer bowl.  Mix to just blend.  Spoon mixtures alternatively into bundt tin.  Bake for around 30-40 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before turning out.

Serves 4-6


It has been a month of new flavours in the Mélanger kitchen.

Enjoying the fruit of an avocado in a sweet ice cream dessert.  Experimenting with glutinous rice flour and homemade red bean paste in a mochi cake.  Combining a water roux bread making method and the flavour of pandan in a popular ‘Rotiboy’ inspired bun.  And ditching the typical heavy “British influenced” pudding (a common craving for me!) for a light and refreshing Asian inspired tapioca pudding.

I hope you enjoyed my Asian inspired assortment.  But next month will take us in a completely new direction.  All I will say now is, I hope you will be tickled pink with the idea.  I know I am.

In the meantime, here is a round up of this month’s recipes!

  { Avocado ‘milkshake’ ice cream & sesame brittle } For quite some time I have wanted to incorporate avocado into a sweet dessert.   I was inspired by the avocado milkshake, apparently one of the most popular drinks in Southeast Asia, in Pichet Ong’s, The Sweet Spot.  This ice cream is sinfully sweet, yet surprisingly, pairs well with the sweet nuttiness of a crisp sesame brittle.


{ Green tea and red bean mochi slice } This slice is ridiciously simple.  But even better than that, it is delicious.  One taste, and I practically slapped myself for taking so long in whipping up this mochi slice.  It has a delightful hint of sweetness offset by the earthly flavour of the green tea.  And the sprinkling of red bean paste added a surprise texture with each mouthful.


  { Pandan ‘Rotiboy’ Mexican Buns } It was quite shameful to admit I had never tasted the flavour of pandan.  So enter these soft and fluffy on the inside, and crunchy and sweet on the outside buns.  The best bit it uses a gelatinised dough method (water roux starter).  There really is nothing to it, and it truly does produce an unrivalled softness.  If you have never used this method of bread making before, I urge you to try.  Soon!

  { Coconut lime tapioca pudding with chilli salt green mango fritters } I paired a zesty green mango with this pudding.  I stuck with the tradition of serving the green mango with salt and chilli by sprinking a healthy dose on the fritters once cooked.  The inherent sweetness of the pudding (from the coconut milk as well as the lime syrup), is the perfect balance to counter the spicy, salty flavour of the fritter.

Time is a funny thing.  Life for me never seems to slow down, and in fact my goals, dreams and aspirations only seem to proliferate at a frightening speed.  My ‘to-do’ lists are plentiful, grow daily, and always seem uncontrollably long!

So for the next installment in my Asian Inspiration month, let us rewind 2 years.

Back in July 2009, I was inspired by a quick and easy, one bowl wonder using glutious rice flour at one of my favourite blogs, Lemonpi.  When reading this recipe for a Mochi Cake creation, I was intrigued by the chewy texture this flour produced.  I had seen this ingredient at my local asian grocer, but never had used it myself.

As enthusiast as the uber talented Lemonpi is about all the creations she shares on her blog, there was something particularly appealing about the versatility and adaptability of this recipe.  So I marked it down on one of my many lists. 

2 years later, here we are!

After a quick round up of supplies, and a few turns of a wooden spoon, this slice was in the oven.  One taste, and I practically slapped myself for taking so long in whipping up this mochi slice.  It has a delightful hint of sweetness offset by the earthly flavour of the green tea.  And the sprinkling of red bean paste added a surprise texture with each mouthful.

Knowing this slice was going to be a breeze to put together, I thought the very least I could do is make my own red bean paste.  Sure, you can buy in in a tin, but where is the fun in that?  That turned out to be pretty simple, too.  All in all, a wonderfully simple, Asian inspired sweet treat.

{ Green tea and red bean mochi slice } Mochi recipe adapted from Lemonpi

* Ingredients *
115g glutinous rice flour
5g green tea powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
40g unsalted butter, melted
95g caster sugar
100g evaporated milk (about 1/4 can)
1 egg
125g red bean paste (see below)

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 175?C. Grease and line 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) square cake tin.  Sift the flour, green tea and baking powder together. In an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the melted butter, then the evaporated milk.  Fold in the dry ingredients and red bean paste.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake on a rack, then remove from tin and cut into slices.

{ Red Bean Paste / Tsubushi-An } recipe by Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté

* Ingredients *
180 grams (about 1 cup) red azuki beans
150 (about ¾ cup) sugar
Pinch of salt

* Directions *
Wash the azuki beans and place in a large pot filled with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, drain, and discard the water. Add about 3 cups of water to a pot containing the par-boiled azuki beans. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and simmer the azuki beans until soft, approximately 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours. The water should be almost completely absorbed by the time the beans are done. Add water as needed while simmering to prevent the beans from scorching.  Add the sugar, stirring gently until the azuki bean paste is heated through and glossy. Season with a pinch of salt and mix well. The paste should be thick with some whole and half-crushed azuki beans.

I entered this month’s theme with a little trepidation.

I set myself the challenge to investigate homemade alternatives for four (4) popular, and standard packaged good items.  The plan was to create my own recipes for each, and bake them from scratch.  But I truly had no idea how it would all turn out.

As I started this challenge, I was wondering would it require an enormous amount of time to prepare and bake some of these goods?  Would the cost of the ingredients significantly exceed the store bought item, and blow the case for homemade out of the water?  Would some of these items be a little tricky to make, and not necessarily practical for most people?

But fortunately, after creating the four (4) recipes, the case for homemade has been made (well, I think anyway!).  Most items only required 5-10 minutes preparation time, the raw ingredients were a fraction of the cost of buying prepackaged (as low as 1/4 of the cost of store bought!), and all the recipes were pretty simple to put together.

It is no secret the side of the fence I sit on, but if homemade is not your thing, I hope this month has encouraged you to give it a try?

Mrs E.P. – I am very proud of your homemade banana bread effort. :)

  { Buckwheat & nutmeg banana bread } Banana bread is very popular. Not only in children’s lunchboxes, but as a staple in coffee shops and cafes around town. It will certainly make a regular appearance in baby Mélanger’s daycare lunch box – as well serve as breakfast-on-the-run for the busy working mum I know I will soon be!  { Read more here … }


  { Homemade milk arrowroot biscuits } Even though these biscuits are not an exact replicator of the biscuit you will find in store, it still imparts a characteristic softness from the arrowroot flour, is only slightly sweet from the small dose of sugar, has a slight crunch but still melts in your mouth like a good arrowroot should. { Read more here … }


  { Homemade nut-free muesli bars } After three muesli bar trials, this recipe version was my favourite.  Lightly crunchy, these muesli bars are a snap to make, and stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.  Feel free to adapt the combination of seeds and fruit to your own preferences, and include nuts if nut-free is not an issue. { Read more here … }

  { Homemade olive oil wholemeal crackers } Hardtack crackers (made from a simple combination of flour, water and salt) are quite popular and easy to make, but I wanted to mimic the depth of flavour and crunchy texture of a soda cracker.  So enter here some leavening agents, a hint of shortening, and a few rounds of experimentation, et voilà!  { Read more here … }

I can already picture her little, eager hands grabbing a slice of this homemade banana bread from her lunchbox. Firstly, inspecting it briefly by slowly turning it over in her hands a couple of times – her typical modus operandi – then, when deciding it looks appetising, raising it to her face without delay.

The thought brings a smile to my face.

Banana bread is very popular. Not only in children’s lunchboxes, but as a staple in coffee shops and cafes around town. It will certainly make a regular appearance in baby Mélanger’s daycare lunch box – as well serve as breakfast-on-the-run for the busy working mum I know I will soon be!

Fortunately, as time will be a premium, it is great to know this banana bread will only take me 10 minutes to prepare.  And compared with the cost of a packet mix (even with bananas at their current uncharacteristically high prices), it is also surprisingly good value (see results below at end of recipe).

Being able to make lunchbox treats from scratch for my daughter is important to me, but I know not everyone has the time (or patience!). But here is how I will be trying to save on time and cost so I can continue to prepare homemade over opting for pre-packaged.

1. ‘HOMEMADE’ PACKET MIX :: When measuring out the dry ingredients for this banana bread, I will measure out a couple of extra batches and store in empty glass jars. (Like having your own packet mix already prepared in the pantry!)

2. FROZEN BANANAS :: I will keep a ready stock of frozen bananas on hand.  When I see some ‘seconds’ priced well (which are perfectly overripe for banana bread) I will stock up – particularly at current prices here in Queensland (is it like that all over Australia right now?). Simply let the frozen bananas defrost in a bowl, mash up a little and use exactly as fresh banana.

3. PRESLICED TO GO :: Like most quick breads, muffins and cakes, this little number freezes very well. Ahead of time I will be preparing half slices of this bread for baby Mélanger – and full slices for mum and dad – freezing individually for the weeks ahead to quickly grab at a moment’s notice.

This seemed like a very obvious inclusion to for my little ‘packaged’ versus ‘homemade’ experiment in the Mélanger kitchen this month.  If you know a packet mix junkie, give them a nudge to try banana bread at home!

Hint, hint, Mrs E.P! ;)

{ Buckwheat & nutmeg banana bread }

This is a versatile little bread, and I am looking forward to playing around with some flavours to keep it tasting fresh – e.g. using different flours, sugars and spices.  If you prefer, you can also substitute oil for melted butter – which is more traditional in a quick bread – but I prefer the flavour of butter.

* Ingredients *
225g / 1 ½ cups of plain flour
75g / ½ cup buckwheat flour
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
110g / ½ cup caster sugar
65g / ¼ cup melted butter
320g / 1 cup very ripe, mashed bananas (about 2-3)
80g / 1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and sugar. In a separate bowl, add the melted butter, mashed bananas, sour cream and egg, and stir together.  Add the banana mix to the flour and mix only until combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out mostly clean.

A bit of a disclaimer — these are the results from my experiment only. Costs will obviously differ depending on your local grocery prices and the brands you select.  Time will depend on how quickly you work in the kitchen!

Cakes.  Cookies.  Pastries.  Breads.  Puddings.

The latest round up on Mélanger explores sweet recipes that exemplify comfort food.  Home baked goodies that provide a little nostalgia and feed your emotions.  Foods that lift your spirits and soothe the soul.   Old fashioned favourites that bring back fond memories.

I chose the theme of ‘comfort food’ as I was saddened by the extensive damage around me here in Brisbane and throughout Queensland with the recent floods.

But now I finish this theme faced with truly heart breaking images of the earthquake devasted city of Christchurch, New Zealand.  My heart goes out to everyone there.  My thoughts are with everyone and their family.

{ Cinnamon apple Danish braid }  This 5 minute Danish pastry is nothing short of spectacular! Perfect for a quick sweet breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.  Filled dough with diced Granny Smiths and a hint of cinnamon, this braid is simple and comforting.  { Read more here … }


{ Fleur de sel chocolate sablés }  Sweet and salty and melt-in-your-mouth.  Baked exactly per original instruction.  When a recipe is inspired by a Pierre Hermé creation, and developed by Dorie Greenspan, really, who needs to make changes?  { Read more here … }


{ Plum and white rose tea cake }  There is something comforting about a simple teacake topped with fruit.  With blood plums in season, inspiration for a flavour partner came from the floral scent of rose to add a subtle perfume to the entire cake.  A delicious combination with the sweet plums.   { Read more here … }


{ Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding }  Slices of lightly toasted chocolate babka are soaked overnight in a simple custard then baked until golden.  The resulting pudding is soft, creamy and chocolately!  Very comforting (and filling!), indeed.  { Read more here … }


{ Omenapiirakka :: Finnish Apple Pie } You need to try this pie.  The best part for me was how easy the pastry was to make.  And even better than that, how delicious it was.  I actually made the pastry a day ahead and was able to quickly roll out, top with apple and then bake in less than 45 minutes.  To keep it simple, I served with a light dusting of icing sugar and some rich vanilla ice cream to complement the gooey caramelised apple centre of the pie.  { Read more here … }

{ Rhubarb, strawberry & ginger crumble tarts } Rhubarb is synonymous with English desserts.  Growing up, I recall my mother creating a number of desserts that incorporated rhubarb.  Not to the extent that I eventually had to throw a hand to cover my eyes, and gesture any oncoming fruit ladened dish away, but to know that this humble fruit was versatile, practical and a hint towards winter.  { Read more here … }


{ Sticky toffee bread & butter pudding } Combining the essence of two favourite British desserts, the essence of the bread and butter pudding was sustained  using a homemade spice ladened bread, and the rich, buttery butterscotch sauce, made for a slightly more self-indulgent pudding.  A perfect treat for the cooler Brisbane winter evenings.  { Read more here … }


{ Marmalade & golden syrup steamed puddings } The sweet, steamed pudding descends from the traditional boiled pudding – a favourite at Christmas time.  The basic steamed pudding recipe is easy to play around with. It is one of the most simple and comforting desserts to make.  { Read more here … }

{ Mustikkapiirakka :: Blueberry Tart } This simple, rustic style tart is a snap to make and a treat to share.  The blueberries piled high look as inviting as they are delicious.  The simplicity of the tart is the winning secret.  Fresh berries sweetened ever so slightly with a sprinkling of sugar, and topped on an easy to prepare, flaky pastry.  Perfect for any time of year.  { Read more here … }


{ Banana pudding ice cream } A creamy and rich ice cream base injected with custard powder and cinnamon, along with a healthy dose of tropical bananas, produces a refreshing dessert reminiscent of banana pudding.  A winter pudding, with a summer twist. { Read more here … }


{ Chocolate pecan & maple scrolls } Soft, rich and sweet bread is layered with chocolate, pecans and drizzled with maple syrup.  Straight out of the oven it is hard to resist not pulling them apart and enjoying straight away.  Fill with your own flavour combination to personalise your own scrolls.  { Read more here … }


{ Mini doughnuts with homemade dulce de leche } Mini balls of fried yeasty goodness.  The distinct aroma of the cinnamon s ugar on the warm doughnut.  The unbeatable taste of that just cooked doughnut.  These fluffy yeast style doughnuts are a lovely reminder of old fashioned doughnut shop confections.  { Read more here … }




The older I get, the less surprised I am at how things turn out.

This week I missed out on an opportunity I had been very excited about.  A project that encapsulated all the things I enjoy creating and sharing on my blog.  But, unfortunately, it was not to be.  I am a very conservative person by nature, so if I were prepared to take a longer term gamble, things may have played out differently.  Maybe.  Who knows?

But as I reflected on the loss, I was reminded of what I have.  For what I am thoroughly grateful.  My family.  My health.  My home.   I was prompted to remember what is important in life, my priorities, and what defines me.  And although baking is a blissful, sweet part of my life, it is by no means my entire life (even though at times it feels like that when I am up to my elbows in batter, bowls and beaters!).

It was nice to be reminded of that.

Now I think it is time for a lovely cup of tea, and a slice of this cake, no?

{ Plum and white rose tea cake } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

I think there is something comforting about a simple teacake topped with fruit.  With blood plums in season, I looked for inspiration in my pantry for happy flavour partner.  I bypassed the popular cardamom (preferring to save that for my Scandinavian adventures), and landed on the floral scent of rose.  In particular, from some white rose tea.  I simply infused the milk for 10 minutes with this fragrant tea, to add a subtle perfume to the entire cake.  A delicious combination with the sweet plums.

* Ingredients *
175g butter
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon white rose tea
4 blood plums, halved and stone removed

* Directions *
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and white rose tea until bubbles appear around the edge.  Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.  Then strain and set aside.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180C.  In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl down between additions if necessary.  Sift together the flour and baking powder, and add half of the flour to the batter.  Then add the cooled milk.  Then add the remaining flour to just incorporate it into the batter.  Pour the batter into a greased 23cm springform tin.  Arrange the prepared plums on top, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake.

Serves 10

It feels like autumn here in Brisbane even though it is technically spring.  It is cold and wet, and to be perfectly honest, downright miserable really.  But what is the silver lining to this unseasonably rainy and cool weather?  It creates the perfect conditions for the oven to be popped on, the house to be warmed up, and to enjoy the aroma of a freshly baked cake wafting from the kitchen.

I must confess I baked this little fruit speckled cake prior to Nina being born.  In fact, back when figs were in season and I knew they would a perfect hue for my ‘Pink’ month.

I enjoy being guided by seasonal produce with my baking, so after seeing these figs in my local fruit store earlier in the year, I returned home and scoured my baking books for inspiration.  I stumbled on an idea when flicking through Dorie Greenspan’s well thumbed Baking: From my home to yours.  She features a Fig cake for fall. It looked simple and rustic and just the ticket to showcase the beautiful fresh figs.

Some interesting ingredients in Dorie’s recipe included port, honey and cornmeal alongside the standard butter, flour, sugar and eggs.  I opted to play around with the recipe a little and included a few omissions, substitutions and additions of my own.  The port and honey was omitted, the cornmeal was substituted for ground hazelnuts, and the figs were matched with a handful of raspberries.

The overall result was a very easy to make, moist and flavoursome cake that is perfect not only for autumn, but any day of the year really.

P.S.  Thank you to everyone for all your lovely well wishes for baby Nina.  Life as three in the Mélanger household is a bit of a roller coaster at times, but the always turbulent journey is magnificent.  (And I say that functioning on minimal sleep, too!)  I slowly manage to sneak a few minutes here and there for myself, for some very quick baking adventures in the kitchen, and for quickly catching up on some of my favourite blogs.  Well, big emphasis on slowly….

{ Fig and raspberry hazelnut cake } Inspired by “A fig cake for fall” by Dorie Greenspan

* Ingredients *
125g / 1 stick unsalted butter
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk
½ cup ground hazelnuts
8 figs, halved
½ cup raspberries

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.  Grease a 20cm/8 inch cake tin.   Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs separately beating well after each addition.  Sift the flour and baking powder.  Add half the flour to the mixture, then the milk, then the remaining flour.  Finally, fold in the ground hazelnuts.  Spoon the mixture into the tin, and arrange the figs, cut side up on top of the cake.  Sprinkle the raspberries between the fig halves.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to rest for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

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