Maple Pecan Bundt Cake

maple pecan bundt cake

Today’s recipe comes to you from Edinburgh.

I’m up here visiting my friend Lucy and I think I might just stay if thats ok? She lives at the top of one of the beautifully proportioned stone houses, all high ceilings, wonky wooden floors and enormous windows steaming light across the rooms.

I’m sat in bed, cosy under blankets looking out of the shuttered window down onto the cobbled street below. The skies are blue with a few wispy clouds floating across and soon it will be time to head down to the little cafe across the street for eggs and coffee.

Yesterday I wandered around the city, taking myself for a beautiful lunch, eating ice cream outside of the castle, wandering down side streets and climbing twisting stair cases. Happily bobbing into little shops, dusty old book shops piled high with history books and faded maps, cheese mongers with enormous wheels of cheese, little boutiques perfect for wandering and browsing.

Yes, I think I might just stay here.

maple pecan bundt cake

This cake took a couple of tries to get right. Not the recipe itself, that was delicious from the first time, just getting it out of the tin. The first time just wouldn’t come out! I spent a ridiculously long time teasing the edges with a silicon spatula, tapping it, easing it. The cake started to ease out and I thought i’d got it, but no, half the cake flopped out onto the wire rack leaving the other half well and truly stuck to the curves and ridges of the bundt tin. I’d almost given up on the world of bundt cakes, decided they weren’t for me.

Then I discovered cake release spray.

Oh this stuff is magic.

The cake slid straight out of the tin beautifully, all the tins detail preserved, not a crumb left behind. If you haven’t used this stuff yet do, its life changing! Well, life changing to the portion of your life that deals with bundt tins at least!

maple pecan bundt cake

I was so glad that I managed to get the cake out of the tin because really this cake is rather delicious.

Image

A dense, sponge wraps around a centre of pecans and maple syrup, like a pecan danish in cake form. The centre is just the right level of sweet stickiness. It looks so pretty cut into, the white sponge and the centre of sticky, bumpy pecans.

It slices into satisfying wedges, a homey, tea time treat of a cake.

maple pecan bundt cake

I’ve topped the cake with a cream cheese and maple syrup glaze, which adds an extra maple sweetness to the cake. If you prefer you could just dust with a little icing sugar.

Maple Pecan Bundt Cake

(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen)

Ingredients 

for the pecan filling

75g plain flour

30g soft, unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

150g pecans, roughly chopped (if you can’t find pecans you can substitute walnuts)

125ml maple syrup

for the cake 

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

125g soft, unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

2 eggs

250ml sour cream

for the maple cream cheese glaze 

85g cream cheese

100g icing sugar

15ml maple syrup

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 23cm bundt tin. I would strongly suggest using a cake release, especially if you haven’t baked with a bundt tin before.

Begin by making the maple and pecan filling. Mix together the flour and butter using a fork. You are looking for a breadcrumy, crumbly type texture. Add in the cinnamon, pecans and maple syrup and mix together until you have a  rough, bumpy mixture. Set to one side.

Next make the cake.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar.

Add one tablespoon of the flour mixture and one egg. Beat into the mixture. Add another tablespoon of the flour mixture and the second egg. Beat in. Now add the rest of the flour and mix until combined.

Stir through the sour cream. You will have  a reasonably thick batter.

Spoon about half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Push some of the mixture up the sides of the tin and up around the centre funnel. This will create the walls of the cake to keep the pecan filling contained. Spoon the filling into the well you have created, then add the rest of the cake mixture on top. Smooth down.

Bake for about 40 minutes, tested with a cake skewer after about 30 minutes. Remember that the filling will continue to be sticky.

Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Once cool, make your glaze.

Beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar. Add the maple syrup and mix until you have a  smooth, runny icing.

Drizzle over the top of your cake and leave to set.

The cake can be frozen for up to three months without the glaze.

 

 

Giant Chocolate Cornflake Nest

Giant Chocolate Cornflake Nest

Chocolate Cornflake nests will always be one of my favourite Easter recipes. Sometimes the simple things really are the best.

I have clear memories of making them when we were small and now, as a teacher, I love to make them with children.  When I was teaching English at a Hong Kong language centre, we must have made hundreds of these at Easter. Every class, from the tiny ones right through to the older children loved getting involved. Even really small children will some how sit quietly as soon as the cornflakes and chocolate come out, patiently waiting for their turn to pour or stir or scoop. The chance to lick out the chocolatey bowl, with its few stray chocolate coated cornflakes, was always a very popular part of class too!

Giant Chocolate Cornflake Nest

This giant nest makes a great Easter centre piece. If you don’t yet have your Easter dessert sorted, this is a fantastic last minute option. Taking only minute to prepare, plus a little chilling time, its quick and incredibly easy. If you have children at home its a great way to get the involved with making the Easter Sunday lunch. The giant nest can easily serve an entire family, with some left over for an Easter Monday treat.

Load it up with whatever little eggs you fancy, or line the well of the nest with tin foil and fill with spring flowers or fluffy Easter chicks.

Easter eggs

I really enjoyed taking this out into the garden to photograph, although it was a challenge to walk and balance the eggs in the nest at the same time! Seeing the shiny foiled eggs in the grass and poking out amongst the flowers took me back to the egg hunts we used to have when we were small, and I wish I wasn’t too old to have now. Running around the garden, wicker baskets in hand, searching out chocolate eggs, and hard boiled eggs dyed blue, yellow, pink, green. Looking out the window before we were allowed to go and seeing the colours peeking out from underneath flowers, or hiding behind the edge of a flower pot.

There’s just something magical about an egg hunt.

Giant Chocolate Cornflake Nest

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Giant Chocolate Cornflake Nest

(inspired by Good Housekeeping)

Ingredients 

200g milk chocolate

200g dark chocolate

75g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

Method

Take a large piece of grease proof paper. Draw around a 7inch baking tin, or a dinner plate. This circle will be the template to help you form the nest.

In a large pan, melt together the butter, chocolate and golden syrup over a low heat, stirring regularly.

Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the cornflakes. Keep stiring until all the cornflakes are covered in chocolate, and there are no pools of chocolate mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t worry if some of the cornflakes break up while you stir.

Spoon the chocolate mixture onto the grease proof paper. Begin by filling in the circle with a layer about an inch thick. Next, build up the sides, shaping with your hands, to make the nest. You should be left with a well in the centre.

Chill for about 2 hours until set.

Fill with chocolate Easter eggs.

 

Easter Simnel Tea Loaf

Easter Simnel Tea Loaf

At Easter, I love the sight of a Simnel sitting on the Sunday table. Golden marzipan top, circled with a ring of yellow marzipan balls, toasted and crackled on top. 11 apostles standing proud.

Having only just finished the fruit cake from Christmas, however, it seemed a little unnecessary to bake another big fruit cake. This tea loaf is inspired by the flavours of the Simnel Cake but its lighter, more suitable for a teatime nibble. Its delicately spiced, and speckled with juicy dried raisins and sultanas. Run right through the middle of the cake is a layer of marzipan, my favourite part of a Simnel Cake.

Easter Simnel Tea Loaf

For this recipe I tried out making my own marzipan for the first time with my Mum. It was surprisingly easy to make, and made a smooth, delicious paste. Although there are several ways to make it, we used the Delia Smith method. Egg, caster sugar and icing sugar are mixed together and heated over a pan of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Once the mixture had cooled, we kneaded in ground almonds and almond extract. At first the mixture seemed quite dry and crumbly, but as it was kneaded the oils from the almonds were released into the paste, binding the marzipan together and smelling delicious.

If you get the chance to make your own marzipan give it a go, its very satisfying!

Easter Simnel Tea Loaf Easter Simnel Tealoaf

This would be the perfect cake to keep in the kitchen, and slice into over the Easter weekend for an afternoon treat with a cup of tea.

Easter Simnel Tea Loaf

(adapted, barely, from Year Round Dairy Cookbook)

Ingredients 

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon mixed spice

125g butter

110g light muscavado sugar

100g sultanas

100g raisins

50g mixed dried peel

150ml milk

150g marzipan

1 tablespoon apricot jam

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Grease and line a 1 kg ( 2 lb 4oz) loaf tin.

Sift the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice together.

Chop the butter into slivers, add to the dry ingredients and rub in with your finger tips. You’re looking for a texture like fine bread crumbs.

Stir through the sugar and the dried fruit.

Finely, add the milk and mix to a soft constancy.

Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared loaf tin.

Pull of small pieces of marzipan and lay them over the cake mixture, taking care not to go right up to the edge, you don’t want the marzipan to come out from the side of the cake.

Cover the marzipan with the rest of the cake mixture.

Bake for about an hour, until risen and firm to the touch. You may need to cover the cake with some tinfoil for about the last 15 minutes of baking if the cake looks like its starting to get too brown.

Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the tin if it is sticking.

Prepare the glaze. Heat the jam with 1 tablespoon of water until the jam is liquid and boiling. Brush over the top of the cake, then leave to cool completely.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Easter Carrot Cupcake

When we were very small, most of our childhood holidays were spent in the Lake District. These holidays mostly  consisted of walking. My brother and I would be dressed in our matching red jumpers and laced into our matching walking boots. Our packed lunch would be packed into our matching little red and blue rucksacks, complete with fabric badges of the places we’d visited, and off we’d go.

Our little legs were taken all over the Lake District, up and down hills, across slate scattered ridges, around lakes and to villages where slabs of kendal mint cake were purchased. We were taken to Lake Windermere, rode the old steamer boats and, excitingly to my very small self, visited the Beatrix Potter Museum.

Carrot Cupcakes

Beatrix Potter penned and illustrated her children’s books in the Lake District. The books are little works of art in themselves, each character alive with personality and charm. Cheeky Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor’s garden, Mrs Tiggy Winkle, the round and prickly washerwoman, the delightfully dressed Jeremy Fisher all natty shoes and balletic legs, and little Hunca Munca causing havoc in a Doll’s House.

The thin little hard back books are such a strong memory from childhood. The stories and their characters are deeply entrenched in my memory. Our pet rabbit, the offspring of the school pet, won by brother and entirely unwanted by my Mother for its entire 10 year life span, was named Mr McGregor after the grumpy gardener with a hatred for Peter, and a fondness for Rabbit Pie.

Peter Rabbit Cupcake Toppers

I couldn’t resist buying this cupcake kit this Easter. Just look at little Peter in his little blue waistcoat, a little hint of naughtiness in his whiskers. Then there’s Jemima Puddle-Duck. So smart in her hat and cape, but still such a loveable air-head.

Jemima Puddle Duck Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcakes

What could be more fitting for the little rabbit who munches on forbidden carrots than carrot cake?

Peter Rabbit Carrot Cupcake

These are light little cakes, delicately spiced and topped with cream cheese icing. Sultanas add moisture and texture. As ever, the rich cream cheese icing perfectly compliments the moist carrot cake. The recipe makes enough icing to spread it on top of the cakes with a palette knife, if you want to pipe it on you’ll need to double the recipe.

The recipe is very easy. Like making a muffin, all thats required is to mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then mix together until just combined. Remember not to over mix the cakes. Too much beating will over work the gluten changing the cupcakes from light and tender to tough and rubbery.

Perfect served with a cup of tea over a the long bank holiday weekend.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

(adapted from Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi)

Ingredients 

Makes 12

for the cupcakes 

300g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

75g sultanas

115 soft brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

200ml milk (I used soya, but full fat or semi skimmed cows milk would also work fine)

150ml sunflower oil

1 large carrot, grated

for the cream cheese icing

150g full fat cream cheese

50g icing sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat to the oven to 200C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, all spice and sultanas.

In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, eggs, milk, oil and carrot until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until just combined. Be careful not to over mix or the cupcakes could end up rubbery.

Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases.

Bake for 20 minutes until firm and golden. An inserted skewer should come out clean.

Cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the icing sugar and lemon juice.

Spread onto each cupcake.

Decorate with Easter characters, fondant carrots, or walnuts.

 

 

Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Two days into my time back in England and the English spring time hasn’t let me down at all. The skies are blue, the sun is warm. Everywhere is just so green. So many shades of green I haven’t seen for a long time. Beautiful bright greens, fresh buds swollen and ready to burst with delicate leaves, translucent in the sunlight like stained glass windows. I’d forgot just how beautiful blossom is, exploding pink and white over trees, petals littering the ground like confetti. A few yellow daffodils still nod their trumpet heads in the breeze.

Today I even saw little baby lambs gambolling around a field, could you get anymore Eastery than that?! Later I filled the kitchen with the wonderful spiced smell of Hot Cross Buns. My perfect dream of springtime is complete!

daffodil and hot cross buns

Easter isn’t Easter without a Hot Cross Bun or two. Much like Mince Pies at Christmas, they’re something I have to get my fill of in the run up to Easter every year, finishing off with one warm, toasted and running with yellow melted butter on Good Friday morning.

Theres something very special about seeing a tray of these, still warm from the oven, criss crossed with their white lines, gleaming and tempting from the apricot glaze.

This recipe produces beautifully light, fluffy Hot Cross Buns. The triple rise takes some time, but it’s worth the wait. The key is that first rise without the fruits and spices as both can impede the rise. They’re far better than ones bought in a shop and, I must admit, better than the ones I made last year. Although I loved them dearly they were rather on the heavy side.

Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Apricot and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

I’ve tweaked the flavours a little for this year’s buns, adding in fragrant cardamom and chunks of dried apricot. I’ve made them with the original spice combination too, they’re delicious both ways.

I do love the cardamom though, it adds a wonderfully aromatic spice to the buns, lifting and freshening them. The taste is subtle, rather than over powering. It’s more of a hint than an in-your-face whack, but its a really delicious hint. Dried apricots make a lovely addition to the dried fruit.

Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Have some ready to toast on Good Friday, spilt open and covered in lashings of butter.

Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

(adapted from Paul Hollywood)

Makes 16

Ingredients 

for the buns 

300ml full fat milk

50g butter

500g strong white bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

75g caster sugar

7g sachet of instant dried yeast

1 egg’

100g dried apricots, chopped

60g sultanas

6 cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

zest 1/2 an orange

for the cross

75g plain flour

for the glaze

3 tablespoons apricot jam

Method

In a small pan, heat the milk until boiling. Take off the heat and add the butter, let it melt in the heat of the milk. Leave the milk to cool until it reaches hand temperature.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the milk and then the egg.

Using a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place in a well oiled boil, cover with oiled cling film and allow to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, chop the dried apricots into small pieces about the same size as the sultanas.

Spilt open the cardamom pods and scrap out the seeds. Discard the pods.

While the dough is still in the bowl, add the apricots, sultanas, cardamom seeds, all spice, cinnamon and orange zest. Knead into the dough until evenly distributed. Cover again and leave to rise for another hour.

Once doubled in size, divide the dough into 16 pieces. I weighed each one to about 75g for evenly sized buns. Roll them into balls on a lightly floured surface.

Arrange on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper, allowing space for the buns to rise.

Lay cling film lightly over the top of the buns and leave to rise for another hour.

Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C.

While the oven heats, make the paste for the crosses.

Mix the flour with about 5 tablespoons of water, adding the water in slowly, until you have a  thick paste.

Put it in a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle, and carefully pipe lines across the rows of cakes. Pipe the other way to make the crosses.

Bake for about 20 minutes in the centre of the oven until golden brown.

Heat up the apricot jam. Spread over the buns while they are still warm.

Leave to cool completely.