Masala chai cake

Masala chai cakeWell, it’s been rather longer since my last post than I originally anticipated! But I have been baking, so fear not. My first bake of 2017 was this rather delicious masala chai cake.

The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail, the book by one of my all-time favourite GBBO contestants, Chetna Makan. It’s a lot simpler than the recipe I came up for my own sort-of successful tea masala cake five years (!) ago – and a lot more successful at replicating the flavours of traditional Indian chai, too.

Masala chai cake
I’m a huge fan of Chetna’s recipes – they’re usually not too complicated, but they still deliver on both the flavour and texture fronts every time. This masala chai cake recipe is no exception; the sponge is beautifully soft and light, while the gorgeous combination of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger really comes through.

I chose not to make the frosting because, like many other people, I’ve been trying to eat a little less fat and sugar in the aftermath of the excesses of Christmas. I think the cake is beautiful without the frosting, but I can also see how it would add a bit more oomph if you were making the cake for a less diet-conscious crowd. Without the frosting, the cake comes in at around 150 calories per piece if you cut it into 20 pieces, which I think is very reasonable for such a delicious cake!

Masala chai cake
The recipe isn’t online, but I would strongly recommend that anyone who’s a fan of using spices in baking buy The Cardamom Trail – it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to make something else from it!

Watalappan (Sri Lankan coconut milk custard)

Sri Lankan watalappan with mango and bananaAnother week, another Sri Lankan feast! This time, my husband cooked lots of rice and curry for our friends, and I made a dessert that we had a fair bit of when we were on honeymoon – watalappan, a set custard made with jaggery, coconut milk and lots of spices.

This is a great dinner party recipe, as it can be made in advance and left in the fridge until required. I used this recipe by Peter Kuruvita, who has also written a brilliant Sri Lankan cookbook that we use and that apparently is considered something of a bible by chefs in Sri Lanka!

I followed the recipe exactly, but I served it with toasted fresh coconut, in-season Indian mango and sliced Keralan bananas, which were the closest thing we could find to the bananas we ate a lot of in Sri Lanka. I also drizzled the plate with golden syrup as recommended by Kuruvita as a substitute for palm syrup.

The only tricky thing was baking the custards – they seemed to take longer than stated, but I reckon that’s just my oven rather than the recipe being at fault. They did eventually cook after I turned the heat up slightly.

The resulting dessert was rather wonderful – the sweet, spiced coconut custard combined with juicy mango and flavoursome bananas offered a perfect balance of flavours. It’s a great recipe to use if you’re planning a Sri Lankan or Indian feast and want an easy dessert that will impress!

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Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon bunsI don’t make anything bun-like very often. I think I’m sometimes put off by the amount of time required to make some really decent buns. However, I gave cinnamon buns a go the other week, and was pleasantly surprised by how straightforward they were (well, sort of – read on…), and how delicious they turned out to be!

I used Felicity Cloake’s recipe for the perfect cinnamon buns, as published in the Guardian. I was amazed at how much cardamom it calls for – I know cardamom is quite common in Scandinavian baking, but I’ve only ever used a tiny amount of it because it has such a big, aromatic flavour. I had to re-read the ’25 pods’ bit until I was certain that’s what she actually meant!

Cinnamon buns
I did resist the urge to use fewer pods and went the whole hog. She doesn’t specify the type of pod to use, but I assumed she meant green cardamom as opposed to the black-podded variety.

Cinnamon buns
The other slight stumbling block was the consistency of the dough. I wish I’d read the comments on the recipe before I started, because a few people said they’d found the dough very wet and difficult to work with. Et voila – I didn’t so much tip the dough on to the work surface as pour it on!

Cinnamon buns
I used the long edge of a large spatula to sort of gather it up on the work surface and gave it my best attempt at a knead where possible. It didn’t seem to come together than much, but it was a little better after the first rise (but still very wet!). Spreading the filling on the wet dough and rolling it up was, er, interesting!

The other thing to note is that the recipe doesn’t mention what to do with the beaten egg and demerara sugar – I brushed the egg onto the tops of the buns and sprinkled the sugar over them before sticking them in the oven.

Cinnamon buns
The final product was rather delicious, and very, very large (yay!). The wet dough made for a really fluffy texture, and the cardamom flavour was very, very strong – to the point where it overpowered the cinnamon, but in a nice way, because I love cardamom! The filling was a bit on the salty side for my taste, so I would omit/reduce the salt called for in the filling next time.

Cinnamon buns
I would recommend this recipe for anyone wanting to give cinnamon buns a go, but definitely bear in mind my comments above before you do…!

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffinsI had a sudden urge one night to bake something reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding. After looking through some of my saved recipes, I decided to adapt a recipe for prune muffins by making a few tweaks to create these orange and date muffins.

I’m going to be upfront here: they went a bit wrong. I managed to completely forget about the sugar until the muffins were in the oven! Luckily, I realised only a few seconds after I put them in, so I quickly whisked them out again and attempted to mix the sugar into each muffin case.

I wasn’t completely successful – it was difficult to make sure the sugar was completely mixed in, so when they came out, they had slightly caramelised tops from the sugar that didn’t dissolve into the mix. It sounds a bit weird, but (much to my relief) the caramelised tops actually meant the muffins were rather nice!

Orange and date muffins
There were still little pockets in each muffin that were a bit more… savoury than the rest, but the dates really helped to add some sweetness, and the orange zest and cinnamon was a nice distraction.

I took the muffins into work, and no one would have known I’d had a disaster in the kitchen if I hadn’t told them, so I think I got away with it!

I would recommend that you do actually beat the sugar into the muffin mix *before* spooning it into the cases, but if you also want some nice caramelised tops, all you have to do is sprinkle a bit more sugar on top – I think demerara would be perfect for this! See my recipe below for full details…

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffins recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 80g soft dark brown or dark muscovado sugar
  • 285g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 115g pitted dates, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases, or grease thoroughly.
  2. Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a measuring jug, then mix in the sugar. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the orange zest.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and pour the liquid mix into it. Stir until just combined (do not overmix, otherwise you’ll end up with horrible, rubbery muffins).
  5. Fold in the dates.
  6. Spoon the mix into the muffin tin. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the mix in each case, if using.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and browned on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Jamaican ginger cake

Jamaican ginger cake
Like many people, I have fond childhood memories of my mum bringing home a certain brand’s Jamaican ginger cake from the shop as a treat, before we all demolished it rather quickly over a nice cup of tea. I’ve made a few ginger cakes before that recall the unique flavours and/or texture of Jamaican ginger cake, but I thought it was about time that I actually attempted to bake the real thing!

I used a recipe from my Delia’s Cakes book for this – it’s also available online on her website. I stuck to it faithfully, except for substituting dark brown sugar for dark muscovado – I don’t think it made that much of a difference, really.

Jamaican ginger cake
The only other thing I mistakenly did is use a too-large loaf tin. I’m so used to baking with metric measures that I mistook Delia’s instruction to use a 2lb tin for an instruction to use a 2kg tin! As it’s the only loaf tin I own, I pressed ahead and just removed the cake from the oven a little early to prevent over-baking.

The method for making the cake itself is really straightforward. I was most excited by the array of spices that go into the cake – not just ginger, but also cinnamon and nutmeg. Not to mention the inclusion of both golden syrup and black treacle. Oof!

Jamaican ginger cake
The resulting bake really was just like the Jamaican ginger cake from my childhood – but nicer! I seem to remember the shop-bought version as being quite soft in texture with a large crumb, while Delia’s take makes for a more close-textured cake that’s still incredibly moist. The top of the cake is still nicely sticky, as it should be!

Spiced oat thins

Spiced oat thinsI really am on an autumnal baking kick at the moment! I couldn’t quite let go of my spices after the rye apple and cinnamon cake I posted about last time, so I decided to knock up these spiced oat thins from Ruby Tandoh’s book, Crumb, one lazy Sunday afternoon.

This recipe (which I can’t find online, unfortunately, hence the lack of a link) contains an impressive list of spices, but they should be things that are in the cupboard anyway if you bake fairly regularly. The biscuits contain cloves, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper – nothing too exotic, but combined, they make for a rather spectacular flavour.

Spiced oat thins
The biscuits were really easy to make – you just melt unsalted butter, golden syrup and dark brown sugar in a pan, before stirring in the spices and then the plain flour and rolled oats. And that’s it!

The recipe says it makes 18 spiced oat thins, but I got a bit more out of the mixture, which is always nice. They should spread a fair bit in the oven, but I found this wasn’t consistent across all of the thins, which is probably due to my oven having areas that are hotter than others.

Spiced oat thins
These really were delicious – they reminded me a bit of parkin, but in biscuit form! The chewy yet crispy texture is lovely, and goes perfectly with a cup of tea. The spices come through very well – and they also make the house smell rather nice when they’re in the oven. This would be a great bake for (dare I say it) Christmas, or just any time of the year, really. It’s worth getting hold of Ruby’s book for this recipe alone!

Rye apple and cinnamon cake

Rye apple and cinnamon cakeCall me behind the times, but I’ve only recently managed to start investigating flours that aren’t your plain, self-raising, strong or wholemeal variety. I bought a bag of rye flour the other week to bake a particular cake, but I didn’t have all of the other ingredients for it, so I settled on this rye apple and cinnamon cake from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet instead.

The recipe calls for this being made in a small tin, but as I only had a large one, I threw all caution to the wind and used my 20cm round tin instead (I really do know how to party…).

Rye apple and cinnamon cake 2
This cake is definitely my favourite kind – really easy to make. Melt butter, golden syrup and sugar together, mix in the other ingredients and fold in chunks of apple coated in cinnamon before topping with almonds and demerara sugar, and baking. Job done!

I found that I had to leave the cake in for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe said, which was partly due to my dodgy oven and partly because of the different tin I used. I expected to have to bake it for significantly longer than a standard cake anyway because of the rye flour (which is similar to wholemeal flour in terms of density), but that didn’t seem to make too much of a difference – perhaps because it was mixed with ground almonds.

Rye apple and cinnamon cake 3
This cake is very much of the comfort food variety – you wouldn’t wheel this out for a special occasion, but it’s just the thing for teatime on a dreary autumn day. The texture is fairly rough due to the rye flour, but the flavour of the apples and cinnamon really comes through. I think it helped that I used Bramley apples, but you could probably use standard dessert apples too.

Definitely one to make again!