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!

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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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Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cakeAs promised, I’ve had a go at making one of the desserts we had in Sri Lanka. My husband cooked a wonderful Sri Lankan rice and curry feast for his family the other week, so I decided to make banana and cumin cake to serve as the dessert.

Banana and cumin cake
I couldn’t find any recipes for this online, so I adapted a banana and walnut loaf recipe from my Delia book, swapping out the walnuts for cashews and adding more in the way of spices.

The main sticking point was the question of how much cumin to use. The cake we had in Sri Lanka offered up a burst of cumin with the occasional bite, so it wasn’t packed with the stuff, but I didn’t want to under-spice it, either.

Banana and cumin cake
I decided to use a teaspoon of cumin seeds, but as it turned out, I should have followed my husband’s advice and used more! I only got a hint of cumin when I tasted the cake, which was slightly disappointing, but the cake was delicious anyway and at least I know for next time!

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cake recipe

Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 55g dark muscovado sugar
  • 55g jaggery, crumbled (you can buy this from Asian grocers)
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • seeds of 3 green cardamom pods, ground
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (I used 1 tsp and got a very very subtle flavour)
  • 50g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk in the butter, egg, sugar and jaggery until you get a sandy texture, almost like large crumbs.
  4. Mash the bananas in another bowl and whisk them into the flour mixture, along with the ground cloves, ginger and cardamom.
  5. Fold in the lemon zest, cumin seeds and cashews.
  6. Transfer the mix to the loaf tin, level the top and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve on its own or warm with ice cream.

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!

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
As mentioned in my last post, I had to spend a good deal of time breaking into a hefty pumpkin for the sake of 250g of flesh. I had much, much more left over, so I poked around the internet looking for a recipe ideal for using it up until I came across this pumpkin and coconut loaf cake recipe.

You can guess why I seized upon it – yep, it was the coconut that did it. Most of the other recipes I’d looked at were variations on pumpkin pie/bread/pasta in predictable flavour combinations, so this stood out to me for being a little different. And for containing coconut.

One thing I should stress straight away is just how MASSIVE this loaf cake ended up being. There’s no indication of the sheer size of it in the method, but the ingredients list should have tipped me off – 600g of pumpkin? 500g of self-raising flour? Yep, massive. Luckily, it all fit in my standard sized loaf tin (900g/2lb), although there was a fair bit of ‘puffing’ over the sides. I scoff at the recipe’s statement that the loaf serves six people. Six very very hungry people, maybe!

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

LOOK AT HOW BIG IT IS

During the prep, I did find that the chopped pumpkin wasn’t cooked through within the time specified in the recipe, so I whacked the heat all the way up to gas mark 3 and left it in for a bit longer, which did the trick. Ditto when it came to baking the cake – there was SO MUCH MIX that it took far longer than 50 minutes to cook. I would say it was close to 1.5 hours when it was done (and I had to cover the top with foil to stop it burning at around the 1 hour mark).

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

I thought it was a little odd that the recipe calls for relatively little coconut compared with all the pumpkin and flour, but I actually stuck to the recipe for once in my coconut-obsessed life and didn’t chuck in loads more. I should have gone with my instincts, as the coconut flavour ended up being rather subtle for my tastes.

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Still, it was a delicious cake, especially with all the spices. I love baking with cloves and truly appreciated the delicious smells wafting through the house while the cake was in the oven!

I would make this again if I ended up with a ridiculous amount of pumpkin to use up again, but I would probably put in at least 75g of coconut, just to make sure…

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pumpkin_and_coconut_loaf_07996