Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake

It was a rainy evening. Somehow British summers always end up a little disappointing in this respect. A couple of weeks of blazing sunshine, followed by constant, unfailing miserable weather that makes it feel more like October than July (I say this like it’s a bad thing, but I’m already looking forward to autumn). I’d been super ill that week, and felt exhausted. I’d eaten like crap and slept badly, and sometimes you just need to clear your mind, bake, and then sit and eat some damn good cake.

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I proceeded to make the following cake three times in the space of about two weeks. This is no bad thing, although I think the first cake tasted the best and the second looked the neatest (I will add here that I didn’t eat all three by myself – however bad things get I think I’ve yet to eat an entire cake to myself).

This is one of those cakes that makes you feel comforted as soon as you start eating. It’s a cake to be eaten with coffee or after a good meal, or sometimes as breakfast, because it does have fruit in it and that’s definitely okay. The recipe originally comes from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, however I have revised it slightly with each bake. I have yet to be adventurous enough to try it with a different fruit (although the first version I made was blueberry & raspberry), but there’s time for that. I’m pretty sure it’d be great with blackberries, and after all, tis the season etc etc.

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Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake (from Scandilicious by Signe Johansen)

300g blueberries (or other soft fruit)
50ml elderflower cordial
4 eggs
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
125g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
125g Greek yoghurt
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3-4, and grease a 23cm springform tin. Wrap the outside of the tin in a layer of foil to create a seal to stop fruit juice leaking out.
  2. Spread the blueberries evenly over the base of the tin, drizzle with the elderflower and leave to macerate.
  3. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a mixer/hand whisk for 5-8 mins until pale and fluffy. When you remove the whisk, the trail of mixture it leaves on the surface should remain visible for 2-3 seconds.
  4. Combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Mix the melted butter and yoghurt together. Gradually mix the melted butter/yoghurt and dry ingredients into the beaten egg mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients until combined.
  5. Pour the batter over the blueberries and bake until the top looks golden and feels springy and firm to the touch. This seems to be anywhere between 40-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Pierce with a skewer to check it’s cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for as long as humanly possible before releasing the springform and flipping the cake upside down onto a plate (original recipe says leave for 15 minutes – this was not long enough to stop my first cake breaking in half)
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Sugar Free Banana Bread

This is an unusual one for me. I am all about sugar. I mean, I eat a lot of vegetables too, but when it comes to cake, I am a purist – it’s got to be full of butter and sugar. That’s what cake is about, right?

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A few weeks ago one of my colleagues went on a sugar free diet, and a couple of the others were just generally trying to ‘eat better’…I think we’re always striving for this in my office, but there’s a pretty consistent balance between the amount of cake and the amount of fruit consumed – recently there has been a pretty steady stream of Creme Eggs being consumed. But, I digress! To my colleague, sugar free meant no cake, so I decided to look into making sugar free cake (because an office without sugar is no fun).

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And behold! I found a recipe that I like. This is pretty straightforward, and I’ve played around with it a bit – most recently I have added chocolate to it, because that still counts as low sugar, right? But what I’ve found is that in banana cake you don’t really need sugar. Granted, it makes it look a bit more appetising (for whatever reason this cake has come out a slightly grey shade of brown every time I’ve made it), but it tastes just as good because bananas are super sugary, especially if you leave them until they’re really brown. I’m not going to start advocating a sugar-free lifestyle, but, this banana bread is pretty good if you want to try it.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake – recipe

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As promised, the epically long recipe for the Pancaken. Enjoy!

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Crepes:

125g unsalted butter (will also be used for pastry cream)

550ml milk (Deb suggests whole, I used semi-skimmed, I’m sure both are fine)

6 large eggs

190g plain flour

pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

sunflower oil/melted butter for brushing pan.

Hazelnut Pastry Cream:

190g hazelnuts (for decorative purposes as well)

120g icing sugar

2 tsp hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico (I used Amaretto…)

pinch of salt

785ml whole milk

90g caster sugar

5 large egg yolks

5 tbsp cornflour

Butter reserved from crepes

Candied Hazelnuts:

130g caster sugar

2 tbsp water

pinch of flaky or fine sea salt

hazelnuts reserved from pastry cream

Chocolate Draping:

170g dark chocolate chips, or finely chopped chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

90ml double cream

1tbsp Frangelico or similar (or Amaretto!)

1. CREPES: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, reduce heat. The butter will melt, then foam (I may have not noticed this when I panicked about my butter going foamy), then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir the butter frequently – don’t take your eyes off it, the time between when the butter begins to brown and when it burns is less than a minute. Once brown, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool to a lukewarm temperature.

2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, salt, sugar and 6tbsp of your cooled brown butter. Cover the finished mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days.

3. HAZELNUTS: Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet, and toast them for 10 mins, rolling them around once or twice so that they toast evenly. Let them cool, then with dry hands, roll a few together between your palms until the skins come off – there might still be bits of skin left on, but that’s fine.

4. PASTRY CREAM: In a food processor, grind 150g of the toasted hazelnuts (set the other 40g aside for decorating/being complicit in thumb burning later), icing sugar, liqueur and salt together. Keep running the mixer until the powder begins to come together in damp-looking crumbs that combine in small clumps, then stop (otherwise you get hazelnut butter).

5. In a saucepan, combine the hazelnut paste, milk and sugar over a medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring a bit so it doesn’t scorch. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and cornflour until smooth. Stream a small spoonful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk bowl while whisking. Repeat this a few times, and by the time you’ve done 5 or 6 additions you’ll find that the egg yolk bowl is hot – this is how you know you’ve added enough. Now go in reverse, slowly pouring the warm egg yolk mixture back into the hot milk in the saucepan, whisking the whole time, until the two are combined. Return the saucepan to the stove and, continuing to whisk, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 mins. The mixture should thicken upon boiling, to a loose pudding consistency. Remove from the heat, and stir in the reserved 3 tbsp of browned butter from the crepe batter. Transfer it to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the custard (to prevent skin formation), and chill the pastry cream until fully cold, which could take a couple of hours. If you’re pressed for time, set the bowl of custard in a half-full bowl of ice water, and it will chill faster.

6. CREPES: Preheat a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, brush the pan lightly with melted butter or oil. Pour about 3 tbsp of batter into the pan (I used a medium-sized serving spoon, and it seemed about the right amount), swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom, and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden, and the top is set – about 2 mins. Carefully flip, and cook on the other side for about 5-10 seconds. The first couple are likely to turn out badly, but after the second you should be fine (my first one was rubbish, so I ate it for breakfast). Transfer the crepes to a paper-towel covered plate to cool (it’s okay to stack them, promise). There should be enough batter to make about 19 23cm crepes, and you only need 16 to stack, so you’ve got room for errors.

7. CREPES ASSEMBLE: Lay the first crepe on your cake stand/plate. Spread with 50ml pastry cream. Lay the next crepe on top, and repeat until you get to the last one, which will act as the cake’s lid, and is for chocolate, not pastry cream.  Chill cake until ready for chocolate draping

8. CANDY HAZELNUTS: (**burn warning**) Spread out a piece of baking parchment on your counter, and have ready a small set of tongs or large tweezers. In a small, heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and water together over a high heat until the sugar melts and begins to turn a pale-beige colour, about 3-5 mins. Add a pinch of salt and the hazelnuts, rolling around to coat them. The caramel will cook a shade darker whilst you do this, to a light copper colour. Once it has, remove from heat, and then remove the hazelnuts one by one with the tongs, spreading them out on the parchment so they don’t touch. Whilst doing this, do NOT spill boiling caramel on to your thumb. At your own peril. Leave them to cool, either on the side or in the fridge.

9. CHOCOLATE: Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and liqueur to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then stir until smooth. Remove cake from fridge, pour chocolate mixture over the top. Decorate the top with candied hazelnuts. Set the cake in the fridge until needed.

Well, I told you it was long. But if you dare attempt it, good luck! And don’t burn yourself.

Later this week: Apricot Crunchies!