Entries tagged with “Simple and Quick Baking”.

Citrusy. Fruity. Spicy. Zesty. Peppery. Creamy. An entire spectrum of flavours was packed into a just handful of simple and quick cakes this month. Proof that quick and simple does not have to mean boring.

I have reconnected with the fundamental joy of baking this month. Creating something by hand. Something very simple, but enormously satisfying. (And enjoying an ever fragrant kitchen in the process!)

Here is a round up of my recipes this month. I certainly now have started to build a repertoire of simple and quick cakes.

Lemon and sugar bundt cake small{ Lemon and sugar bundt cake } For me, the lemon and sugar bundt cake was hands down my favourite. Simple ingredients packed with flavour. If you are partial to a zesty, syrupy cake, you will not be disappointed with this one bowl wonder.  { Get recipe … }

Moist date loaf small{ Moist date loaf } The recipe was as traditional as date loaf can be. Delicious with a huge slab of butter and washed down with a cup of tea. The crumb is lighter than the more traditional cake, and as a result, the date almost has a marbling effect.  { Get recipe … }

Swedish visiting cake small{ Swedish visiting cake } It does not get any easier than this cake. It was quick and easy, and the hidden gem was the taste. The cake is light and airy, and with additional texture provided by the roasted flaked almonds, you are offered great crunch to each mouthful.  { Get recipe … }

zucchini and marmalade loaf small{ Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake } The cake is very moist thanks to the zucchini. The small addition of cinnamon draws out a warm spicy flavour that combines well with the sweet and bitter orange marmalade.  { Get recipe … }

Fresh ginger cake small{ Fresh ginger cake } This is the perfect cake to lure along some cooler days. The cake has a rich, spicy flavour from not only the large injection of fresh ginger, but the addition of rich spices such as cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.  { Get recipe … }

Chocolate chestnut cake small{ Chocolate chestnut cake } This cake is dense and rich, but not too sweet. More appropriately a dessert cake rather than afternoon tea cake. But in saying that, it certainly it is quick to prepare and bake.  { Get recipe … }

I also have scores of new ideas to test out in the future. Many of you have your own favourite go-to recipe. For my upcoming baking trials, I now have 25 suggestions.

Pound cake, Caraway Seed cake, Banana loaf, Friands, Chocolate and Orange Storecupboard cake, Wacky cake, Lemon bundt, Chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream, Chocolate chip banana bread, Black Magic Cake, Chocolate Applesauce cake, Cinnamon coffee cake, Devil’s food cake, Coffee cakes, Butter cake, Lemon glazed butter cake, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake, Banana Date Tea Cake, Orange cake, Hazelnut cake, Yoghurt cake, Chocolate buttercake, chocolate bourbon bundt cake, Norwegian Pear cake.

Thank you, everyone. Looks like there is definitely room for a few more ‘Simple Cakes’ month in the future!

Chocolate chestnut cake single

My first Passover Seder.  It was all so new – and I was like a child experiencing it for the first time.  I remember the decorative Seder plate including the six symbolic foods.  The four cups of wine drunk during the Seder.  The cup of wine — and door left wide open — for the Prophet Elijah.  The afikomen.  (I could tell you a funny story about the hiding of the afikomen, but I may leave that for another time!)  And last but certainly not least, the Passover songs.  Chad Gadya was firmly my favourite.

So tonight at sunset, there will be Passover Seders in homes all around the world.  It will mark the beginning of Passover.

During the eight days of Passover there are additional Kosher restrictions around grains and cereals.  Never having to really consider food restrictions myself (for religious or allergenic purposes), I watched the planning required to avoid those key food groups during Passover.  With all the recipes now available online for Kosher Passover food, however, I hope it is easy to find something new to try.  Like this cake.

This cake slightly breaks the Simple Cakes mould in that, due to its richness, it is  more appropriately a dessert cake rather than afternoon tea cake.  But in saying that, it certainly it is quick to prepare and bake, so a Simple Cake indeed.

One taste and I immediately I conquered up images of that heavily advertised butter substitute.  You know the one…

I can’t believe it’s (not) Kosher!

Chocolate chestnut cake set

{ Chocolate Chestnut Cake } recipe by Nigella Lawson

* Ingredients *
16 oz / 439g canned unsweetened chestnut puree
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum (I omitted this ingredient)
6 large eggs, separated
9 oz / 250g bittersweet chocolate
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.  Beat the chestnut puree with the butter, then add the vanilla, rum, egg yolks and melted chocolate.  Blending well.  In another large bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until they are foamy.  Add the sugar gradually to form stiffer, glossy peaks, and then sprinkle the brown sugar over and either fold in or whisk in slowly.  Fold the whites, gently into the chestnut mixture, a third at a time.

Pour into a prepared 8 inch / 20 cm spring form pan (greased and lined with parchment paper).  Baked for 45 minutes, until the cake has risen and is firm on top.  It will look dry and cracked, but don’t panic, it won’t taste dry.  Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then turn out on a rack.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Related recipeschocolate chunk macaroons small

{ Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macaroons } Looking for a more traditional Passover sweet?  Try Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macaroons. These little hay-stacked cookies are a simple little biscuit perfect for a sweet indulgence any time of day.  They are simple and quick to make.   { Get recipe … }

Fresh ginger cake single

It seems I am not the only one who loves this cake.  This light, moist ginger cake is the most requested recipe of pastry chef and blogger, David Lebovitz.  I first stumbled upon this cake on another of my favourite blogs, Passionate about Baking.  Deeba made this ginger cake just before Christmas, and I instantly knew I had to pop it on my list.

As the temperature starts to drop here in Australia, and winter approaches (albeit, very slowly!), this is the perfect cake to lure along some cooler days.  The cake has a rich, spicy flavour from not only the large injection of fresh ginger, but the addition of rich spices such as cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

With new season pears now available in stores, the recommendation to serve this cake with this poached pears would be ideal.  But given my goal to find some quick and simple cakes this month, I kept it fuss-free and simply enjoyed with a small (okay, large!), dollop of cream.

I now have baked this cake with almost the same level of frequency that Mark, from No Special Effects, made Tartine’s  Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake (previous post).   If you love the flavour of ginger in cakes, you will instantly love this cake.  I know this will not be the last time this cake is baked in the Mélanger household.

Fresh ginger cake set

{ Fresh Ginger Cake } recipe by David Lebovitz

I find unsulfured molasses difficult to source here in Australia (if you come across blackstrap molasses do not use for this recipe!).  For any recipe that calls for a mild molasses, I simply substitute a light treacle (ideal) or golden syrup (backup).  Be sure to check your cake after 30 minutes to check how quickly it is browning.

* Ingredients *
120g or 4 ounces fresh ginger
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature

* Directions *
Position the oven rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Line a 22cm / 9 1/2 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.   Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater).  Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.  Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture.  Stir in the ginger.   Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.  Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

zucchini and marmalade loaf single

Around three o’clock in the afternoon I start to think about a little sweet yum-yum to get me through the rest of the day.

Sure, ideally I would reach for some fresh fruit, yogurt or pre-prepared vegetable sticks to curb those afternoon hunger pains.  Well, easier said than done with a sweet tooth like mine.  So admittedly, I regularly enjoy a sneaky sliver of cake, some deliciously rich chocolate, or even a melt-in-the-mouth cookie (or two!), around that time of the day where your will power is surely tested.

The moment I saw this cake on one of my favourite blogs, No Special Effects (taken from the Tartine book), I immediately got up from my laptop, walked to my copy of the book and marked the page immediately.  Mark had made this tea cake four times in two months.  It was that good.

Never having made zucchini bread before, I was eager to try the combination with a bitter orange marmalade (marmalade is a breakfast favourite in the Mélanger household!).

The cake is very moist thanks to the zucchini.  The small addition of cinnamon draws out a warm spicy flavour that combines well with the sweet and bitter orange marmalade.  I had omitted the recommended walnuts from the recipe, but they would bring a lovely crunch to each mouthful, too.

I can see why Mark made this cake so frequently.  It definitely is a perfect slice to sit down in the afternoon and enjoy with a cup of tea.

zucchini and marmalade loaf set

{ Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake } Recipe by Tartine

* Ingredients *
1 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Grease a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 12 cm) loaf tin.  Set aside.  Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, oil, sugar and marmalade until just combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour until just combined.  Add the nuts until incorporated.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 60-70 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minute, then turn out to let cool completely.  It will keep well, in the refrigerator for up to five days.

:: Today is Macaron Day, Jour du Macaron ::

All simple cakes are perfect to enjoy for an afternoon pick-me-up.  Except perhaps today.  If you have a Parisian patisserie close to hand, I dare say you will be enjoying a French macaron, or two! Today is Macaron Day, or Jour du Macaron.

For those with a keen eye, I honour this day by including a feature on French macarons from an issue of Régal magazine as a prop in the above photographs.

Looking for an afternoon macaron pick-me-up?  Try one of over 25 flavours of French macarons on Mélanger.

Swedish visiting cake single

For me, food and travel is inextricably linked.  Travel inspires my food exploration.  Food motivates my travel destination choice.  Some of my fondest memories of traveling revolve around food.  Food tells you so much about a place.  The culture, customs and traditions.  It is so central in defining a location.

I was fascinated by the history and origin of this Swedish Visiting Cake.  This Scandinavian sweet treat comes from Dorie Greenspan.  The recipe was passed on to Dorie by her Swedish friend Ingela Helgesson who said you could start the cake when you saw friends coming down the road and it would be ready by the time they settled in and sat down for coffee.

The key for me was how quick and easy this cake seemed to be.  The hidden gem was the taste.  The cake is light and airy, and with additional texture provided by the roasted flaked almonds, you are offered great crunch to each mouthful.

Mr Mélanger actually selected this cake for Simple Cakes Month.  Flipping through Baking: From my Home to Yours he noticed the photograph, threw his hand down and immediately pointed to the picture exclaiming, “Can you make this?”  We then eyed the recipe title, paused, then laughed.

Being half-Finnish, I figured he has some built in Scandinavian/Nordic food radar.  Or perhaps he recognised the style of cake from his travels through Sweden while living in Finland.  Either way, it was the best selection he could make.

Knowing this was meant to be served with coffee, I had to make one key adaptation of the recipe.  I removed all traces of the vanilla extract and almond extract and replaced with one generous tablespoon of ground cardamom.  Cardamom and coffee is one of the ultimate food combinations around.

Coffee is such a significant part of life in this area of the world.  I can vividly picture friends or family sharing this cake, sipping piping hot coffee and sitting around table tucked away in a cosy Swedish kitchen.

Swedish visiting cake set

{ Swedish Visiting Cake } Recipe by Dorie Greenspan, from Baking: From my Home to Yours

I omitted the vanilla extract and the almond extract.  As a substitute, I added 1 tablespoon of ground cardamom and folded into the batter along with the flour.  Original recipe below.

* Ingredients *
125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for preparing pan
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sliced almonds

* Directions *
Centre a rack in oven and preheat to 350F/180C. Butter a seasoned 9-inch/22cm cast-iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof skillet.  Pour sugar into a medium bowl. Add lemon zest and blend zest into sugar with your fingers until sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in salt and vanilla and almond extracts.  Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in flour. Finally, fold in melted butter. Scrape batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.  Scatter sliced almonds over top and sprinkle with sugar. If using a cake or pie pan, place pan on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and a little crisp on outside; the inside will remain moist.

Moist date loaf single

Can you believe there are people out there with an aversion to fruit cooked into cakes, breads and slices?  Hard for me to believe, given I rarely discriminate against any type of food, or food combination for that matter.

I am an enormous fan of fruit packed cakes.  Sultana cake.  Fig cake.  Apricot cake.  Moist, rich cakes that are full to the brim with chunks of fruit.

Last year I experimented for the first time with date loaf – as part of some testing for some entries into the Queensland Royal Show cooking competition.  The recipe was as traditional as date loaf can be.  Delicious with a huge slab of butter and washed down with a cup of tea.  But I was curious to explore another version perhaps with merits of its own.

Enter Dorie Greenspan’s date-nut loaf recipe.  In fact, this was the recipe I used for my final entry.  (There were a few last minute recipe changes just before curtain call!) I made two loaves at the time.  One to enter, and one to taste later.

I was impressed at how moist this cake was, and how it seemed to keep for days.  The crumb is definitely lighter than the more traditional cake, and as a result, the date almost has a marbling effect.  (I did ‘re-hydrate’ dried dates to substitute for fresh dates, so partially to explain, too!)

Unfortunately, I did not win any ribbons for my date loaf entry – sorry Dorie, maybe next time?  But still worthy of baking up again, and even perhaps becoming a staple in the Mélanger household.

Moist date loaf set

{ Date-Nut Loaf } Recipe by Dorie Greenspan, from Baking: From my Home to Yours

I omitted the nuts and substituted re-hydrated dried dates in place of fresh.

* Ingredients *
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (250g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 oz (90g) cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup soft pitted dried dates, each cut into 8 pieces
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 325F (160C).  Butter a 9 x 5 inch (22 x 12 cm) loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess.  Put the pan on a baking sheet.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, another 3 minutes or so.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the extracts.  The batter may look curdled – don’t worry, it will come together in a minute.  Reduce the speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dates and nuts.  Turn the batter into the pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Cover the top of the cake with foil and bake for another 40 minutes or so until the top is honey brown, bumpy and cracked and a thin knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Transfer the cake to a rack and cool about 10 minutes before unmolding.  Then cool to room temperature.

Lemon and sugar bundt cake single

One eye closed, you could almost be convinced you are savouring a lemon and sugar drenched crêpe.  Sure, the texture may be slightly different, but the flavours are almost the same.  Not surprisingly, as this bundt is simply a mixture of flour, eggs, milk and butter in another form.  Cake form.

This is essentially a lemon syrup cake, yet for me, its similarity in flavour reminiscent to the lemon and sugar crêpe, compelled me to be more descriptive in my title.

The original recipes come by way of an always-busy-mother-of-two-and-full-time-worker.  My colleague, F, has a handful of quick and easy cake recipes that she turns to in a pinch.  She has shared this lip puckering delight at work on a few occasions.  After my very first bite, I was politely begging her for the recipe.  Well, I hope I was polite!

If you are partial to a zesty, syrupy cake, you will not be disappointed with this one bowl wonder.

Lemon and sugar bundt cake set

{ Lemon and sugar bundt cake }

I doubled the original recipe to suit the larger volume of my 25cm (10 inch) bundt tin.  The original recipe can be baked in a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin or 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin, at  180C (350F) for 25-30 minutes.  Recipe also works well substituting orange or lime for the lemon.

* Ingredients  *
250g / 2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons lemon zest, about four lemons
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
¾ cup of lemon juice
¾ cup of sugar

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Beat the milk and eggs together in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large saucepan, combine the butter and sugar on a low heat until melted.  Whisk in half of the milk/egg mixture until loosely blended.  Whisk in half of the flour mixture.  Repeat in the same order with the remaining mixtures, finishing with the flour.  Gently stir in the lemon zest.   Pour the batter into a prepared cake tin / bundt.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire cooler, and immediately prepare the syrup.  Bring the lemon juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Using the skewer, poke a few holes around the cake.  Drench the cake with the hot syrup.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then gently remove.  Keeps well for 3-5 days stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Simple cakes_blog

Sometimes, the reward of baking, is purely the baking, plain and simple.  The act of creating something made by hand.  The special thought, and the effort of mixing sugar, butter, flour and eggs to share with friends or family.  And the pleasure of the fragrant smell of fresh baked goods in your kitchen!

My recent hectic schedule reminded me of the fundamental joy of baking – and how rewarding something so simple can be.

I would be hard pressed to identify one simple cake I would make in a pinch, so this month, my challenge is to build a repertoire of simple and quick cakes.

To be classified as quick and simple, the recipe needs to:

  1. Only take ideally 5 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes, to put together
  2. Only need one bowl to prepare, excluding ingredient organisation
  3. Only take 60 minutes to bake (75 minutes maximum)

I already have a number of recipes that I am eager to try.  Some from my favourite baking books, and some I have recently seen on my favourite blogs.  What is your favourite, quick and simple cake recipe?

At the end of the month, no matter how time poor I am again in the future, I hope to have a handful of baking solutions that will adapt around my life.

Simple Chocolate Loaf

I only ever knew one grandparent.  That was my father’s mother.  She was 75 when I was born.  She was a very bright woman.  She won academic awards, received scholarships for her schooling, she spoke multiple languages, and played the piano as well as any concern pianist (I thought anyway!).  But neither a cook nor a baker be.

I do not have one single memory of my grandmother ever cooking.  Ever standing over her stove.  Ever putting something in the oven.  Ever really being in the kitchen.  Strange.  I never met my mother’s mother (she passed away before I was born) but I fancy her to be a bit of a baker and cook.  Either way, I would like to think that this chocolate loaf would be something one of my grandmother’s would have baked.

This recipe came from the wonderfully old treasure of a cookbook my mother gave to me.  The recipe is from the 1950s and the cake certainly does taste different from modern day versions.

I had a bit of an informal ‘afternoon tea’ with my lovely friend Rosie recently.  I took along a chocolate loaf to accompany the endless parade of coffee she made.  Admittedly, I did slightly over cook the cake – I was trying to substitute a single round tin into two loaf tins and slightly misjudged the baking time by about 5 minutes.

One of Rosie’s friends also dropped by and sampled the cake.  She cautiously said it reminded her of Shingle Inn cake.  She did not want me to be offended.  Given the old-fashioned approach of Shingle Inn, I was happy with the comment.  I did not push it, but secretly hoped she also meant it tasted like original-Shingle-Inn-in-Edward-Street-near-the-old-David-Jones-not-the-more-commerialised-chain-variety-of-Shingle-Inn-now.  I guess whichever way, I will take the compliment.

I actually selected this recipe as chocolate loaf is one of my entries into the Royal Show this year.  I think there could be some solid classics entered, so I am attempting to match them.  It is a lovely cake, and if you have the memory, it will reminded you (hopefully!) of something your grandmother used to bake.

I will include the original recipe below – not my sizing adaptation (do not want anyone else over baking it).

{ Chocolate Cake }
Good Housekeeping, circa 1950

* Ingredients *

180g or 6 oz butter
180g or 6 oz castor sugar
3 eggs
Vanilla essence
240g or 8 oz flour
45g or 1 ½ oz cocoa
45g or 1 ½ oz baking powder
A pinch of salt

* Directions *

Cream together the fat and sugar and beat in the eggs and a few drops of vanilla essence.  Sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and add to the mixture, together with enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.  Put into a prepared 20 cm or 8-inch tin and bake for 1-1 ¼ hours in a moderate oven (180C or 250F).  When the cake is cool, it may be either dredged with icing sugar or coated with white glace icing and decorated with chocolate butter cream, piped in an attractive design.