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

quincecake

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.

in my kitchen + autumn

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I’ve been wanting to participate in the ‘In My Kitchen’ series for… months? Probably years, by now. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, I believe the series was started by the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial back in 2010 as a way to chronicle the seasonal happenings in her own Sydney kitchen.

After roughly twelve months, she sent out a call for other bloggers to join the series and (fast forwarding to February, 2016) there are now dozens of participants each month from all over the world. Maureen at Orgasmic Chef has joined Celia as the present host of each month’s ‘In My Kitchen’ series (not a small feat, at all) and in turn, her blog has become the single ‘hub’ for both readers and participants to click through each month of kitchen features. Good idea, huh? So. Much. Fun.

As for me? Well, I’ve been quietly following the series for at least eighteen months, maybe more. I’ve occasionally commented, but I’ve mostly been reading, learning and admiring the incredible cooking talent that occupies domestic kitchens worldwide. There has been much intention to join the series; in fact, I have a couple of draft posts from six-or-so months ago that remain unfinished. But as per usual, my temperamental, inconsistent blogging qualities won over and my desire to participate never translated to actual engagement.

Until now.

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So, it’s March. The first month of Australian autumn, characterised by gradually decreasing temperatures, russet leaves and hot cross buns (nah, we don’t really do pumpkin spice in this country). As per this writer from the Huffington Post, it’s really not cold yet in Australia so… well, I’m still wearing shorts and t-shirts (evidence here) but cooler nights are providing greater enthusiasm for roasted vegetables and spicy Shiraz.

Despite the continuation of balmy weather, there are a few other things happening in my kitchen this month, mostly dictated by gifts from family and friends. So (following the general template of these posts) here’s a short update of what’s happening in my kitchen:

  1. Recipe Books.

As per my header photograph, I’ve been gifted with a few new volumes recently which are proudly adorning my timber coffee table. They all generously lean towards my obsession with plant based whole foods, sustainability and seasonal eating, so I’m reading a few recipes each night and taking notes on what to cook as the season changes. So far, I’ve made a few deliciously ‘cheezy’ cashew things from The Unbakery by Megan May (a gift from my friend Lucy, thanks lovely) whilst adapting a couple of apple-y autumn salads from Seasons by Donna Hay (a gorgeous hand-me-down from my friend Elissa, who knows me all too well). I’m fuelling my Mexican bent with The Thug Kitchen (whilst attempting not to corrupt my angelic mind, isn’t that right Vicky (thanks lovely) and Graz?) and learning about dehydrating and flat breads from Amy Chaplin (this one was a gift to myself, I am totally enamoured).

I’ve also dug out an older literary gift from my friend Trixie, A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. Mostly as I miss her (Trix, not Diana, obviously) and her tiny dog Clem, who in my opinion is Loki’s long-lost soulmate. See, this is Loki’s face when I mention Clemmie*:

loki

*possibly a bit of creative license. I was actually telling him to get out of the way as I wanted to photograph my cookbooks on the bed (you can spy some binding in the upper right hand corner).

You can look forward to seeing the influence of this reading upon my cooking over the next few months (I might even share a recipe or two, with appropriate credit).

buns

2. Argentine Brioche Buns

Aaron and I have been eating our way through a bag of sweet buns over the past week. They were part of a thank you gift from the beautiful mother of some friends of ours who hail from Argentina; as far as I can tell they’re made from brioche dough with a soft, sweet jammy centre. Lucy (who made the buns) advised that the jam is actually quince paste, or dulce de membrillo, a popular confection in South America.

They’re absolutely delicious, buttery and rich, perfect with strong coffee for afternoon tea (there are a couple left over that I’m thinking of turning into breakfast grilled cheese… would that be a travesty? Sweet quince, melty rich cheese, sweet brioche dough… yum. Watch this space).

sauce

3. Condiments. And lots of hot sauce. 

As I mentioned in this post, I had the privilege of catching up with Graz and his wife Jennee a couple of weeks ago during their recent trip to Western Australia. What I didn’t mention is that after our dinner outing, Graz gifted us (meaning Aaron and I) a bag of homemade condiments including South Carolina mustard sauce, house BBQ sauce and tomato sauce alongside a generous jar of ‘Big Red Rub‘ (smoky barbecue dry rub).

Oh my golly. These condiments are good. I’ve had them on the table twice this week, accompanying crisp barbecued chicken, smoky baked potatoes and homemade apple coleslaw. I also made a soft boiled egg, beet and lettuce salad (old school styles) dressed with homemade dill, caper and lemon ‘proper mayonnaise’ and for some reason the mustard sauce suited that too.

I can’t wait to try the rub with some free-range pork ribs on the weekend (hopefully from Plantagenet) braised for a few hours under foil. I’ll serve the juicy pork with some soft white rolls, salted butter, corn and hot sauce, perhaps some fat dill pickles for good measure. It will be ridiculously good. I’m calling it. Oh, and there will be beer.

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4. Tea cups by Patricia Fernandes

Some time ago, my friend Lucy gave me four pastel-coloured embossed tea cups made by a local Western Australian ceramic artist, Patricia Fernandes. They’re from FOUND at the Fremantle Arts Centre (the most amazing store, ever) and I loved them instantly, so much that they went straight onto my ‘special objects’ shelf.

Ha. Do any of you have one of those? A place for beautiful objects that really should be used, but aren’t… in my case, because I’m afraid I might ruin them. Other key items from that shelf include a stunning salad bowl from Gorman Home Time by Connie Lichti, a handmade salt dish from Gewürzhaus, some ceramics that I found in a tiny store in Italy and a Hofbräuhaus beer stein from in Munich, all of which have never been used (except on the odd occasion for food styling, go figure).

Anyway, yesterday I decided that enough is enough. Squirrelling objects away for the winter (or the dust bunnies) doesn’t benefit anyone. So this afternoon, I gave the cups a gentle rinse, dried them and removed the labels. I’m in the process of brewing a nice big pot of steamed green tea with lemon and I intend to drink each sip quite thoughtfully from the cup in periwinkle blue. Next time Lucy comes around, I’ll make a batch of these and rinse the cups again, refreshing them with a pot of steaming spiced soy Chai (or maybe these homemade mallows and hot chocolate).

pana

5. Pana chocolate

This raw, organic chocolate is an absolute favourite of mine. Partly as it feels virtuous (despite being decidedly chocolatey) but mostly because, in all honesty, it’s just so darn delicious. Think of the deepest, richest bitter cacao combined with smooth, creamy cacao butter and hints of sweet coconut nectar. That is Pana, with whatever mix-ins you fancy.

Talking mix-ins: I have a particular love for the mint bar, seconded by the fig and wild orange bar with chunks of moist dried fig (bar pictured above). I’m also desperate to try the hemp and nib version, because… well, ‘body scrub’ (follow the link and explanation regarding Australian laws. Yep, I like living life on the edge).

Despite my infatuation, Pana doesn’t regularly feature in my kitchen as it’s a teensy bit pricy (as most organic small-batch products justifiably are). Instead, I ‘make do’ with slightly cheaper homemade treats such as these sticky salted tahini date caramel bars (which are wonderful to keep in the refrigerator for mid-afternoon energy lapses), energy balls and Medjool dates. Until the recurrent impulse strikes and I squirrel a bar of Pana home from the health food store, like this one. They’re sooo good (and no, I have no affiliation with Pana chocolate, I just like their products).

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6. Apples, apples, apples

I got another text from my mama today. She’s harvested the last of the apples from her tree (excluding the extra-high ones that she can’t reach) and they’re currently sitting in a basket on her kitchen table. The remaining apple count in my refrigerator sits at three (the extra teeny tiny ones that were too cute to eat) so I’m keen to collect a few to make this gorgeous apple caramel cake (Jen, you goddess you) and Amy’s kale, apple and wild rice salad (with crunchy pecans and sweet cranberries).

I also intend to revisit my spiced apple and buttermilk cake as there’s leftover buttermilk in the freezer… or maybe I’ll just turn it into pancakes with caramelised apples. Ain’t no harm in that.

So that’s it. This month’s kitchen round up, thanks to inspiration from Celia, Maureen, Jen, Anne and other friends I’m yet to meet.  Here’s hoping it’ll become a beautiful monthly ritual!

summer to autumn

silhouette

It’s late on Thursday evening. Six past eleven, to be exact. The world seems quiet; inky black except for the occasional headlight beam from the highway. The skyline, once illuminated by clouds of rich crimson, has become embedded in a dense cloud of onyx. The air is heavy, thick with the scent of grass and scorched eucalyptus.

Despite being thirteen days into autumn, it was hot today. Yesterday was even hotter, a humid 37 degrees Celsius, or 98 degrees Fahrenheit (if you’re from the northern hemisphere). Even now, I can hear garden cicadas droning a final ode to the sweet heat of Australian summer. They’re working in well with the ice-cube percussion from my depleting water glass.

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Despite our recent uncharacteristically warm autumn weather, I’ve dedicated this particular post to the ‘official’ last days of summer that occurred two weeks ago. We spent four days at the seaside village of Gracetown (above) enjoying warm sunsets, cooked breakfasts, wine tasting and dips in the pristine blue sea.

If you’re a regular reader of The Mess, you might remember some previous posts about Gracetown, Margaret River and the south west region over the past twelve months. You could say that I’m a little bit in love with the rolling fields, artisan produce, deep red wines and friendly country folk. The rest of this post simply contains photographs and notes from our end-of-summer trip; however, if you’d like a bit more background to the region itself, click on the three links below:

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Any south west adventure always starts with a visit to Yallingup Woodfired Bread, a traditional wood-fired bakery that creates certified biodynamic sourdough, rye and fruit loaves. Owner Gotthard Baue is a truly passionate man who takes pride in his work (take a look at this video for an introduction to Gotthard and the bread process itself).

During this trip, we bought two loaves of sourdough and a dense and sticky rye ‘rock’ loaf that was divine with cheese. Some of the best bread on the planet, I’m certain.

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Upon arriving at our house in Gracetown, we happened upon this little guy:

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He’s an Australian wolf spider. After relocating him from the bathroom wall to the garden, we took some photographs like the one above. I think he’s cute.

Overseas friends: wolf spider bites are non-lethal despite often resulting in a mild case of nausea, headaches and localised pain. Don’t let stories of spiders scare you off visiting Australia and/or the south west region. morries

The restaurant above is Morries Anytime, where we stopped twice for coffee, cake and morning eats.

Manager-cum-barista Alex Brooks makes arguably the best flat white in the Margaret River region whilst head chef Rosie Griffiths serves up nourishing, creative cuisine that showcases the best of the south west’s fresh produce. Love this place.

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Right near Morries is the Margaret River Fudge Factory with its spinning wheel of chocolate goodness. Beware the taste test boxes. You may never leave.

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beef

Pictured above is the Margaret River Farmers’ Market, a beautiful one-stop location for fresh, organic local produce, artisan cheeses, biodynamic meats and a range of other wares in the heart of the town centre. Open every Saturday from 8am – 12pm, this market has fast become a fresh produce hub for locals and tourists alike.

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*For some reason I just had to take a picture of this ink-scrawled face.

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One of my favourite stalls was that of the Margaret River Bakery. I’m in love with their danish pastries, baguettes and cakes. They also have a fixed location at 89 Bussell Highway where you can sample their wonderful cooked breakfasts, snacks and coffee. Go there. Your stomach will thank you.

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It’s tempting to end with a cliché by saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’. But instead, I’ll just finish with a photograph of Gracetown as the sun dipped below the horizon.

We returned to Perth late on Monday evening after a stop-off for dinner with Elissa in Bunbury. A great end to a beautiful weekend.

harborGoodbye, Australian summer. Until we meet again.

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