quince and amaretto cake

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It was my mum’s birthday last week. As previously mentioned on the blog, she’s a fan of ‘healthy-ish’ cakes; those with chunks of fruit or shredded vegetables, almond meal or ricotta, less sugar than the average celebratory kind.

I usually bake her some sort of carrot loaf (like these cupcakes) or a dense orange and almond cake (like this one) but as I had leftover poached quince sitting in the fridge, I decided to experiment with a very old fashioned ‘upside down cake’.

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Just so you know: I’d never previously made an upside down cake. Despite trying the ‘classic pineapple‘ version during my childhood, the idea of making my own seemed… well, rather antiquated (perhaps due to mental images of 1920’s housewives!).

However, after spying this stunning creation by Gina De Palma on Fine Cooking, I was hooked on the idea of an upside down quince cake. Ruby wedges of fragrant quince atop a soft, moist almond cake? Definitely mum’s kind of thing.

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As I had already poached my autumn quince with a good amount vanilla and spice, I decided to divert from the spiced brown sugar cake batter in Gina’s original recipe. Instead, worked from this recipe, incorporating a generous amount of fragrant lemon zest whilst swapping the brown sugar and honey for white caster sugar. I also added a generous glug of Amaretto instead of vanilla essence (it’s a birthday, after all).

We shared this ruby red autumn beauty last night after a Moroccan-inspired dinner for mum’s birthday. Each slice was served warm (except dad’s, because dad) with a dollop of thickened cream and toasted almonds for crunch.

Happy birthday mama bear. Love you x

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quince and amaretto cake

Makes one 22cm cake

cake:

  • poached quince (about 2 quince worth, or 1/3 of recipe)
  • 250g salted butter (approx 1 cup) at room temperature
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated (unwaxed) lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup (50g) almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 3/4 cup (185mL) almond milk (substitute other plant based or dairy milk)
  • 2 1/4 cups (300g) self-raising flour, sifted
  • good glug of Amaretto liqueur (substitute vanilla essence or another sweet almond or hazelnut liqueur)

to serve:

  • 1 cup quince poaching liquid, reduced over the stove into a syrup* (optional)
  • 1/4 cup toasted flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease the base and sides of a 22cm springform pan and line well with baking parchment.

Slice the quince wedges into neat slices that are around 1cm thick. Arrange half of the slices in a rough concentric circle around the outer ring of the prepared cake pan (set the rest of the slices aside to create a layer of quince in the centre of the cake). Keep moving inwards until the bottom of the pan is covered (I didn’t bother being too perfectionistic, however you can cut the slices a bit thinner and create overlapping patterns if you desire!). Set aside.

Add the softened butter and sugar into a large bowl. Beat well with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each new addition. Fold in the almond meal and lemon rind, then the milk and Amaretto. Finally, sift over the flour and fold to incorporate.

Carefully spoon half of the batter over the quince slices. Smooth out with the back of a spoon, then layer over the other half of your quince slices. Top with the remaining batter, carefully smoothing the surface to hide any pieces of quince. Tap the tin on a hard surface to ensure the batter fully adheres to the quince at the bottom of the tin.

Place the tin onto an oven tray (to ensure that escaping quince juices don’t end up on the bottom of your oven), then transfer the cake into your preheated oven. Bake, uncovered, for 60-90 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin, releasing the sides of the tin after 5 minutes.

To serve, slice the domed top off the cake (if there is one) and carefully invert it onto a plate. Peel back the baking parchment slowly, ensuring that any broken or dislodged slices of quince are carefully placed back onto the cake with a butter knife.

If desired, pour over a little bit of the reduced quince syrup, smoothing it over the cake with the back of a spoon (I let a bit run down the sides to look pretty). Scatter the toasted almonds around the edges if you fancy. Serve wedges of this cake at room temperature or warm (don’t serve this cake cold or you’ll lose the subtleties of the quince and almond liqueur) with a good spoonful of thickened cream.

*quince syrup: just simmer the reserved poaching liquid in a small pan over medium heat (I add a little splash of white wine vinegar but that’s not even necessary,  I just like a little extra tang) until it becomes thickened and glossy. Watch the pan as you don’t want it to darken too much. When the syrup reaches your desired consistency, allow it to cool slightly, then drizzle some over the cake as above. Serve the remainder with the cake, for people to pour over as desired.

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in my kitchen + april

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I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last ‘In My Kitchen’ post (my very first contribution to this beautiful online kitchen community hosted by Maureen at Orgasmic Chef). It’s seemed like a very short few weeks, mostly due to the Easter break, family events and our quiet holiday down south.

It’s still autumn, slightly colder than last month but still warm enough for a t-shirt on sunny days. We’re spending evenings in blankets but daylight hours still regularly involve iced coffee (and shorts, as you can see!).

Anyway, back to this month in my tiny apartment kitchen. It’s been an enjoyable one, thanks to visiting friends and an armload of produce from the south west last week. Here are some photographic highlights:

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  1. sweet chestnuts

As I mentioned in this post, Aaron, Loki and I were lucky enough to spend most of last week rambling around the south west countryside. During a long walk in the forest (including Balingup’s spectacular Golden Valley Tree Park), we came across a rather stunning sweet chestnut tree full of clusters of spiky burrs. Not being a seasoned ‘chestnut forager’, I was unaware that the most of the mature nuts were actually on the ground rather than on the tree (darn it) but I did pick a couple of split pods (cupolas) that have since matured. I’ve removed the fruit (wearing a pair of rather inadequate oven gloves) and the skins have darkened to a familiar shiny brown. I’m looking forward to roasting them for a salad.

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2. beechworth ‘bee cause’ honey

I’ve been a loyal supporter of 100% Australian Beechworth Honey (a family owned honey business based in Corowa, Victoria) for many years now, alongside various other smaller Western Australian honey producers (such as Dean’s Bees honey, which I’ve posted about here). Although you’re probably aware that I’ve switched to maple syrup, coconut nectar and rice malt syrup for my weekly baking, we still use honey on occasion (usually atop porridge or Weetbix) and issues of colony collapse are constantly on my mind.

If you haven’t heard about colony collapse, it’s a loose term referring to the impact of ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD) and a consequential worldwide decline in bee colonies. The reasons are complex and multifaceted, in part related to the global spread of bee diseases, reduced availability of nectar and pollen resources and use of agricultural chemicals that are harmful to bees (read more here). Australian honeybees currently remain unaffected, but there are concerns for global food security and ecosystems in general.

As a larger Australian honey producer, Beechworth established their ‘Bee Cause’ project a couple of years ago to fundraise for farming, education and research projects related to colony collapse. Though the tag was initially attached to their honey mead, it’s now expanded to include a range of premium Australian regional honeys such as the ‘coastal honey’ above, all of which are available via local grocers and supermarkets. Not only is the honey delicious (I drizzled it over my porridge below!) but Beechworth have committed money from every jar to the future of honeybees. See more here:

 

I am not in any way affiliated with Beechworth honey, nor have I been compensated for this post. I enjoy Beechworth products at my own expense and all of the above opinions are my own. 

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3. porridge, porridge, porridge

Porridge (or oatmeal) has been in high breakfast rotation over the past couple of weeks. During our holiday down south, the morning air was crisp and cold; perfect conditions for warm bowls of steaming oats. We’ve enjoyed our porridge in quite a few different ways, mostly as I’ve been trying to ‘mix things up’ for blog posts. Our favourites so far have been coconut cream oats (pictured above), traditional creamy porridge with poached quince (recipe here) and the creamiest banana cinnamon oats with fresh banana and coastal honey.

I’m going to post a few more porridge recipes before the cold season is out, so watch this space. I’m thinking roasted pears with rosemary, honey and cinnamon, maybe some chocolatey cacao oats… oh, and do you want the recipe for these coconut cream oats? I didn’t really write it down but, you know, I’m sure another breakfast trial can be arranged…

starter

 4. sourdough starter

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there are plenty of wonderful sourdough bakers among our friends in the blogosphere. One of these is Sandra (aka ‘Lady Redspecs’) from Please Pass the Recipe. I’ve drooled over all of Sandra’s sourdough posts, from her traditional spelt sourdough to this gorgeous Turkish pide, so after confessing my absolutely terrible history with sourdough in this post, Sandra offered to send me some of her own dried starter.

Another confession: I haven’t activated the starter yet, partly as we left for a holiday after I received it and… mostly as I’m scared of killing it. But as Sandra has said, many baking failures are due to lack of confidence (fear!) so next week, I’m going to rehydrate this little wonder. I’m pretty darn excited (and scared, but mostly excited!). Thanks Sandra x

podcast

5. love, food podcast

I’m one of those people who always listens to something as I cook, either via Netflix (like Michael Pollan’s new documentary) or more recently, via internet podcasts. The most recent of these (thanks to the gorgeous Amy at Thoroughly Nourished Life) is a series called Love, Food by an American dietitian (RDN) named Julie Duffy Dillon. This series is wonderful – affirming, encouraging, balanced and real. It covers everything from internet dieting trends to negative self-perceptions (self loathing) and their impact upon our mental health and life choices.

I’ve also been listening to this series as I work out, which is a new thing for me (I normally listen to my workout playlist or comedy series, such as the Wilosophy iPhone podcast by Wil Anderson). I definitely recommend it, it puts any emphasis on weight (loss) and poor self image into a more healthy perspective.

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6. quince

I’m still eating my way through the last half of this batch of oven-poached quince (which I blogged about here). It’s absolutely stunning, ruby red and mellow, though I’m starting to think that I want to bake/create/cook with the remainder of the jar. My first thought is to make this quince crumble cake with crème fraîche from Australian Gourmet Traveller, however if you have any favourite recipes, send them my way! I love cooking tried and tested favourites from friends.

So, that pretty much sums up the last month in my kitchen as we transition further into Australian autumn. Thanks again to Maureen for hosting this monthly link-up – if you’d like to read about other contributing kitchens (or write a post yourself), head over to her post at Orgasmic Chef for details!

autumn + poached quinces

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Last night, Aaron and I returned from five days in the south west countryside; namely Balingup and Margaret River. It was the most beautiful of weeks.

Despite having loose plans to do a bit of drawing, writing and design work, we spent the rest of our days doing… well, very little. We slept in, took Loki for walks, picked fresh herbs from the garden, cooked and drank wine in the dappled shade. Frosty nights were met with hand-knitted blankets, hot bread and long, steaming baths by candlelight (in a claw foot beauty, no less).

Can’t get much better than that.

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Anyway, as I was saying, we’re now back home. Despite booking a five night stay, the almost-week disappeared in a snap.

As I write, I’m back in my familiar position on our lounge room couch, fingers curled around a mug of steaming green tea. Loki reclines beside me, determinedly gnawing at a plastic bone. My computer touchpad clicks incrementally, interspersed by the sound of Aaron in the kitchen. He’s cooking noodles on our gas stovetop as I edit photographs of heaving chestnut trees and frosted windows. Not a bad deal, methinks.

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As I work, I dream. Mostly of fresh figs, plump and fragrant, sap dripping from split stalks onto my eager skin. Bush walks on cold mornings, the crunch of dry gum leaves, red dirt caking the soles of my shoes.

The week that was, and suddenly wasn’t; it’s a memory now. Halcyon days amongst the trees. Luckily, thanks to generous countryfolk, we haven’t returned from our travels empty handed.

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Over the past few days, we’ve come across a glut of fruit trees (pomegranate, quince, fig and the tiniest golden pears) and plenty of rambling woody herbs. As the house we rented had a beautifully equipped country kitchen, I had a field day with the local produce, grilling plenty of figs and cracking my own needle-spiked chestnuts to reveal their shiny brown interiors. I fried potatoes with rosemary, picked a walnut (unfortunately the feathered locals ate the rest) and roasted sweet pears with a drizzle of local honey.

But best of all, I found quince. A reclining, heaving tree of them, golden fruit draped from long, gnarled branches. With permission from our kindly host, I picked six knobbly globes (much to the curiosity of Loki, who sniffed each and every one), piling them into a wicker basket before returning to the kitchen.

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That afternoon, I made a light sugar syrup, heady with sweet citrus and star anise (inspired by the dreamy words of Heidi).

After a dinner of pesto chicken with feta and local pomegranate, Aaron and I snuggled on the couch to watch reruns of Scrubs, enveloped in a warm cloud of poaching quince.

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The following morning, we ate quince for breakfast, glistening atop old fashioned porridge. We covered the ruby gems with a blanket of cold, frothy cream and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts – autumn in a bowl.

Over the next few days, I ate a few more wedges with yoghurt, usually sitting on the timber deck amongst the trees. When it was finally time to pack for home, I tucked the rest of the ruby-hued fruit into the chiller bag against the milk, cheese and salted butter. It’s now sitting comfortably in our refrigerator, ready for warm country breakfasts over the next week.

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Although I tell myself that we’re going to savour the rest of the poached quince quite slowly and thoughtfully, to ‘keep it special’ and all that, I’m kind of kidding myself. In fact, as I finish this post, I’m craving another keen wedge covered in thick Greek yoghurt with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds…

All in all, I’m not ready for my country life to end (anyone else got a quince tree I can raid?).

Happy Autumn, folks x

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Poached Quinces

Adapted from this recipe by Heidi (which was adapted from the wonderful Stephanie Alexander’s book, The Cook’s Companion) and this recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller

You will need a wide, lidded ovenproof pan (that actually fits into your oven; check it first!) for this recipe. 

  • 6 raw quince (~1.4kg, weighed whole and unpeeled)
  • 1.5 cups caster sugar
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick (quill)
  • 2 pieces of thinly peeled orange rind

Preheat your oven to 130 degrees C (266 degrees f).

Prepare the syrup: place the water and sugar into a wide ovenproof pan and bring to the boil over high heat. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean, orange rind, star anise and cinnamon quill. Set aside.

Prepare the quince: peel the quince. With a sharp knife, cut the peeled fruit into quarters or sixths. Carefully cut out the cores, then gently place the fruit into the prepared sugar syrup. Cover with a cartouche (see image below) then return the pan to the heat. Bring to a simmer and then cover with the lid.

syrupcartoucheTransfer the pan into your preheated oven and cook until the quince are your desired tenderness and colour (long and slow is the game. I’d suggest 5-6 hours for a medium ruby colour, 7-9 hours for soft, fragrant, deep burgundy quince). To achieve the same result as me, cook for 9 hours and then leave the pan in the oven to cool completely overnight.

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For an autumnal breakfast, we served the poached quince with some toasted hazelnuts and cream atop old fashioned porridge. However, the ruby red poached fruit lends itself beautifully to an upside down cake, crumble or tarte tartin, particularly with a dollop of cream, custard or mascarpone.

The easiest way to eat poached quince is simply in a bowl with a big spoonful of Greek yoghurt (like I did this afternoon) accompanied by crushed roasted almonds, hazelnuts or toasted sunflower seeds. So, so good.

basketStorage: this quince will keep in the sugar syrup for up to one week in the refrigerator (stored in a canning jar or airtight container). If you desire to keep your quince for up to one month, I’d suggest going with a more concentrated sugar syrup (2 parts water to one part sugar; that would be 2.3 cups sugar for this recipe). Keep the syrup once all your quince are gone, reduce it down over heat and drizzle over vanilla ice-cream. Absolutely delicious.

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