The art of baking has until recently, always been a bit daunting and not something I've spent much time on. When I was a kid my mum spent every Sunday afternoon in the kitchen with flour dusted glasses that she could barely see through, producing cakes, pies, cookies and treats that I always enjoyed eating but never really got the baking habit, until now. Part of the reason for this you can read about here and part of it I think I picked up from watching the 'Great British Bake-Off' on the Bbc.
I try to use a lot less sugar than is often called for in the cakes I bake, I find them just too sweet otherwise, but feel free to add as much or as little as you like.
PEAR & BLACKBERRY CAKE
1 ½ Cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 handful of fresh blackberries
4 large or 6 small pears
Heat oven to 350F, grease a 9” springform cake tin and line it with parchment paper. In a bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix it all up.
In another bowl whisk together the granulated sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and yoghurt and then slowly add the dry ingredients until its thoroughly mixed.
Chop up ¾ of the pears into ½” pieces and pour into a hot skillet with a knob of butter and the brown sugar. Cook for about 5 mins until it’s all softened and rich and yummy. Gently fold the pears and the blackberries into the mixture and pour into the cake tin making sure to fill in the edges and any air pockets.
Slice the remaining pear(s) and place on top in a ‘pleasant decorative fashion’ and place in the hot oven for 45mins.
Put the telly on, make a pot of tea and put your feet up for a bit. When the timer goes off, check the cake with a skewer, if it comes out clean it’s good to go. Take it out of the oven and let it cool for ten minutes before popping it out of the tin.
Serve with a large dollop of cream and a very dry martini.
Lemon & Thyme Cake
200g/7oz caster sugar
100g/4oz plain flour
100g/4oz ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
4 free-range eggs
1 lemon, zest only
1 tsp thyme leaves
For the syrup;
4 tbsp sugar
2 lemons juice only
½ tsp thyme leaves
Pre-heat oven to 325F/160C and grease a 2lb loaf tin with oil or butter and line it with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl. In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar together with a whisk or food mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat the eggs and fold into the butter mixture and beat it all together. If it starts to curdle add a little more of the flour.
Zest the lemon and mix with the thyme leaves and pound them together and stir into the cake mixture.
Mix in the flour, spoon into the cake tin and bake for about 45 mins.
While the cake is cooking dissolve the sugar in the juice of two lemons and stir in the thyme. When the cake is done spike the surface with a skewer and pour over the syrup.
Leave to cool on a plate and serve with cream or yoghurt and definitely a nice cup of good strong tea, PG Tips or something similar. I like my tea with a little milk and 1 tsp of sugar, and as every Englishman knows, a proper cup of tea should be the colour of a Portuguese fisherman’s forearm.