A friend of mine has recently enjoyed a surfeit of fresh fruit. Apparently, the birds in his suburb aren’t quite as fat as those in my suburb (hello, denuded plum and pear trees) and he spent a weekend preserving fruit. The upshot of this was that I received a jar of fig jam as well as a big container full of figs.
I duly ate a ton of fresh figs, tried to share them with Master 4 (he refused, although I suspect that his curiosity would eventually have got the better of him) and then needed to think up a way to use up some more in a rather more bulk fashion. I also had some sour cream kicking around in the fridge that needed using up (we had planned to make some avocado cream to go with some quesadillas but lost interest) so I figured that a fig and sour cream cake would use up both figs and sour cream.
A quick recce of the internet didn’t turn up the ideal recipe but I figured I have enough cake baking experience to borrow a few ideas here and there and then wing it.
The result was excellent – not massively figgy (I was being a bit cautious as the extra moisture in fresh fruit can cause problems) but the cake had good flavour and has kept exceptionally well. Straight out of the oven it was very fragile and crumbly but by day 2 it had firmed up. It is beautifully moist and the mix of vanilla and fig flavours is just delicious.
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 175g caster sugar
- 200g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (I used Heilala - that stuff is pretty good!)
- 2 eggs
- 150g sour cream
- 4-6 figs, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 160°C fan (180°C conventional). Grease and base line a 20cm springform tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla paste. Combine the flour and baking powder and then add to the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time then beat through the sour cream.
- Finally, lightly beat through the chopped figs.
- It is a relatively loose mixture.
- Tip into the prepared cake tin nad bake for 40-45 minutes (45 minutes in my oven) - until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool a little in the pan before cooling on a rack. The cake will sink but will sink EVENLY (if it collapses in the middle, it's underdone!).
- This cake doesn't need icing but you could serve with yoghurt or cream.
Christmas is tricky. Andy and I always struggle to buy each other Christmas presents. While Master 4 has a never ending list of Lego that “we need to buy” we are far trickier customers. Obviously, anything food and wine oriented goes down a treat with me … so in the past I have received things like black lentils, szechuan peppercorns or molecular gastronomy chemicals. And wine. And maybe some more wine.
The Christmas just gone we were faced with the usual dilemma. Andy decided he wanted a PVR but that we should wait for the post Christmas sales (no present bought as yet … this is going to go the same way as the ladder a few years ago – which was bought in April). After some thinking I announced that I wanted either a madeleine pan or a friand pan. I showed Andy pictures of what I meant (he’s not quite as well versed in cake as I am) and on Christmas morning I scored both. They were both Bakers Secret – a brand which I’ve used a couple of times before and been impressed with. I bought my dad a pile of their pie tins and they’re excellent. They’re non stick but they’re very sturdy and robust, with a good weight to them. The non stick surface seems to be of a good quality too – which is what you’d expect if you’re going to the bother of making a good pan/tray in the first place.
A quick survey of recipes showed that I could make use of my madeleine pan immediately, so once present opening was done and Andy and Master 4 were busy building the Lego-robot-monster, I nipped out to the kitchen to check my supply of almond meal and try out this easy madeleine recipe.
This is a super fast, easy, and apparently foolproof recipe. I’ve made it a couple of times (madeleines are going to be my new “I-need-cake-in-a-hurry” thing) and messed around with flavourings. On one occasion I subbed honey for the almond essence but the flavour didn’t really come through and the edges of the madeleines caught with the extra sugar so that’s going to need a bit of tweaking.
What I love about these little cake-biscuit hybrids is, not only are they quick, but they are small. I complain a great deal about the ridiculous size of cakes and biscuits in cafés. These are the perfect size for an afternoon tea snack without spoiling your appetite for dinner.
Note that putting the madeleines in the freezer before cooking is (supposedly) what gives rise to the bump.
Also, I found that my oven comes up to temperature in the 10 minutes of freezer time so you may not need to turn yours on right at the start!
- vegetable oil spray for greasing your madeleine pan
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 40g ground almond
- scant ½ tsp vanilla paste
- scant ½ tsp almond essence
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
- Grease madeleine tin lightly using spray oil (a quick spray in each hole and then use your finger to ensure the spot is well greased).
- Preheat oven to 190°C (fan).
- Whisk eggs, salt and sugar together until frothy (easiest if you have a stand mixer). Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Spoon mixture into madeleine pan. Place (flat!) in freezer for 10 minutes and then transfer to oven and cook for 10 minutes. Allow madeleines to cool on rack.
- Serve dusted with icing sugar, if so inclined. Cup of tea or coffee essential and dunking recommended.
Every now and then I have a good trawl through all the recipes I have tagged in delicious but have not yet cooked. In some ways it’s a depressing exercise as I tag faster than I’ll ever cook and I have a feeling that in 20 years time I’ll still be finding recipes I tagged in 2006 and haven’t made yet …
The ‘cake’ and ‘baking’ tags offer a particularly happy hunting ground and so I came across the basis for the following recipe. The blog is now defunct (or, as it describes itself, “in a coma”) but thanks to blogger it’s still a resource for all and hungry.
Of course, the first thing I had to get my head around was the fact that the recipe was all in American measurements. ¼ cup of butter – really? Am I supposed to melt the butter and measure it that way? What is wrong with saying 2 oz or 200 grams or whatever it is that you actually mean? In desperation, I whinged to my American friends on Facebook. The responses were generally along the lines that no, they had no idea why sticks and cups are considered sane units of measurement. One said that in America sticks of butter have the cup markings on the package (in much the same way that our packaging has marks at 50g intervals) but that didn’t, to my mind, resolve the issue of accuracy. I know that when I cut the butter at the 50g mark it is invariably anywhere between 45g and 55g once I get it on the scales. And in the age of cheap, digital scales why not use a unit of measurement that makes sense for non-liquid ingredients?
Goodness – I feel quite stressed now!
So I printed the recipe out, sat down with the internet and worked out conversions as best I could. Keeping in mind that I personally often find American recipes a little sweet, I did some massaging and came up with MY vanilla jam cake recipe. It looks like the original, but the recipe is for those of you who don’t have access to sticks of butter readily marked out into cup measurements!
A couple of pro tips. Grease your pan well – if any jam escapes it will be sticky, sticky, sticky! Ensure you have at least a third of the batter in the tin before you add the jam. The jam runs the risk of sinking and escaping and causing more sticky, sticky, sticky. And finally – if jam does escape and your cake comes out looking a little butchered (er, yes, that would be me!) don’t start shovelling warm cake into your mouth. The jam will be fearsomely hot and you’ll end up regretting it.
You don’t need to ice the cake and it keeps quite well for a day or two (that’s as long as it lasted …). The jam acts as internal icing and helps to keep the cake moist. It has a lovely vanilla flavour and gets plenty of plus points for being so easy to cook.
- ~ ⅓ cup of jam (your choice, I used strawberry as that's what we had open in the fridge)
- 200g self raising flour
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 egg
- 180mL sour cream
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and grease well a 1lb loaf tin (8" x 4").
- In the food processor, cream the butter and sugar and then add the flour, vanilla and egg. Finish with the sour cream.
- This makes a very thick batter.
- Spoon approximately ⅓ - ½ the batter into the loaf tin. Spoon the jam over the batter, but avoid the edges. If the jam is quite lumpy (or cold) it is a good idea to spoon it into a bowl and give it a bit of a beating before adding to the batter.
- Top with the remaining batter and place in the preheated oven.
- Cook for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked.
- Allow to cool in the tin briefly and then tip out onto a rack and allow to cool (remember, the jam will be very hot).
- Ice if desired.