Almond cake

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The privilege of being able to ask Lois about her recipes or for suggestions of what to make is one that I don’t take for granted. It’s pretty rare to have such access to your food hero and I count myself lucky to know Lois.

My dear friend Kate recently got married in Auckland and I decided to make a cake for her bridal shower. Successful cake baking relies upon good equipment and a knowledge of the oven you’re using, so I knew better than to try and attempt the bake in someone else’s kitchen.

I emailed Lois late last year to ask for her recommendation for a cake that could be made a couple of days before the big day in my Wellington kitchen, would keep well, and be robust enough to withstand being carted to Auckland as hand luggage. Lois immediately suggested her almond cake from Good Food.

Lois was right. The almond cake kept perfectly and appeared unphased by air travel. On the morning of the bridal shower I sandwiched together the three layers of cake using Lois’ buttercream icing and adorned the top with edible flowers. It looked like a dream and tasted like one too.

Almond cake (Lois Daish, Good Food, p. 96)

I tripled this mixture to make three cakes.

200g butter, at room temperature

200g caster sugar

4 free-range eggs

150g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

100g ground almonds

zest and juice of an orange or 1/4 cup of milk 

Preheat oven to 175° and grease and line a 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Mix together the flour, baking powder and ground almonds and stir gently into the batter alternating with the orange juice or milk. Stir through the zest. Scrape into prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Buttercream icing (Lois Daish, Listener, October 25 2003, p. 43)

I doubled this recipe to make enough icing for sandwiching three cakes.

125g butter, preferably unsalted

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons milk, room temperatue

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add half of the icing sugar and while beating add the milk. Beat in the remaining icing sugar and vanilla.

Macaroon syrup cake

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I’ll leave it to Lois to convince you that you need to make this cake:

‘In this luscious sryup-soaked cake, a high proportion of coconut ensures a rich, moist, chewy texture. On first tasting it, my daughter [Mary Daish] described it as “Bounty bar cake”.’

Sold.

Macaroon syrup cake (adapted slightly from Lois Daish, Listener, February 17, 2001 p. 43)

150g butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

4 free-range eggs

1 cup flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups desicated coconut

1/2 cup ground almonds

Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

zest of 1 lemon or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

Preheat oven to 160˚C and butter a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the creamed mixture followed by the coconut. Scrape into the prepared cake tin, smooth off the top, and bake for 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes away clean.

While the cake is baking prepare the syrup by gently heating all three ingredients together in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the hot syrup over the warm cake and leave for a few hours before serving.

Apple & almond cake

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This recipe contains only a small amount of flour, so you can easily sub in some gluten-free flour to make a gluten-free cake if that’s what you’re into; it’s already dairy-free just the way it is. Lois suggests baking the cake in two tins and then sandwiching the thin layers with some whipped cream, which sounds like a bloody excellent idea to me.

Apple & almond cake (Lois Daish, Good Food, p. 114)

3 free-range eggs

150g caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar; I keep a vanilla pod in a jar of caster sugar to gently infuse it)

50g flour (can use a gluten-free flour here)

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

170g ground almonds

2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla paste)

1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling on top 

Preheat oven to 160˚C and line a 22cm loose-bottom cake tin with baking paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture turns light in colour and thickens. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds and then fold this mixture into the eggs. Stir in the chopped apples and vanilla. Scrape mixture into tin, smooth the top, sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar and bake for 35 minutes until browned on top and firm to touch.

Note: I baked this cake using a conventional oven and when I checked it after 30 minutes the cake was still pale on top, so I turned the oven to fan bake and left the cake for another 5-7 minutes.

Chocolate & marmalade cake

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This is chocolate cake perfection. Two layers of darkly moist chocolate cake sandwiched together with a slather of bitter marmalade. This cake isn’t iced, but is so moist and rich that it doesn’t need it, and the absence of icing makes the marmalade layer really shine.

This cake can be thrown together very quickly, making it a perfect midweek evening bake for taking to work for a birthday shout, or for an impromptu whim of ‘let’s have chocolate cake on a Thursday night’.

Chocolate & marmalade cake (Lois Daish, Listener, July 14, 2001, p.42-3)

85g cocoa

1 1/2 cups boiling water

3 free-range eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

300g plain flour, sifted

435g brown sugar

2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

230g butter, softened until almost melting

For finishing:

bitter marmalade (Seville, if you have it)

icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the base of two 23cm loose-bottomed cake tins with baking paper and lightly grease the sides.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature. In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, a quarter of the cocoa mixture and the vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and mix on a low speed for 30 seconds. Add the very soft butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on a low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the beaten egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins and smooth the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the tins on a rack for 10 minutes, then loose the sides with a butter knife and invert onto a greased wire rack (the cakes are quite sticky and greasing the rack will help to ensure the cake doesn’t adhere to the rack).

When cold, place one cake upside down on a serving plate and spread with a good slather of marmalade. Place the second cake on top, right side up. Just before serving, sift icing sugar over the top.

Rich Madeira cake

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Now is the perfect time to make a Madeira cake, with New Zealand navel oranges being at their best and cheapest. Here’s Lois’ preface to her Madeira cake recipe:

‘But beware. The great British baker Maria Floris had this to say about Madeira cake. Unless well made, it is the dullest cake you could possibly eat’. The butter, sugar, and eggs all need to be warm room temperature before you start, and it is best to use an electric beater. This type of cake is too buttery to eat warm, and is at its best when cut into thin slices a day or two after baking.’

Rich Madeira cake (Lois Daish, Listener, September 11, 2004)

250g butter, softened (add 1/4 teaspoon salt if you are using unsalted butter)

250g caster sugar

finely grated zest one large navel orange or lemon

4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature

250g standard flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Line the base and sides of a deep, round 18cm cake tin with paper, making sure that the paper extends a little above the top of the tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C (not fan-bake). Using an electric beater, cream butter and sugar until very pale and soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Beat into the mixture with the milk, stirring just long enough to thoroughly amalgamate the ingredients. Scoop into the cake tin, flatten the top and sprinkle with caster sugar. Place in the oven (Lois suggests using a shelf closer to the bottom of the oven). Bake for about an hour until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes away clean. Cool in the tin for ten minutes below turning out onto a rack.

Classic chocolate cake

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This is an old-school style of chocolate cake; descriptors such as mousse-like and fudgey have no place here. Lois’ classic chocolate cake has a lovely chocolate flavour and is moist but not dense. It’s not overly decadent or indulgent and you won’t need a lie down after eating a slice. Made with simple ingredients that you are likely to have already have on hand, this cake is a perfect cake to have for morning or afternoon tea with a cuppa.

Classic chocolate cake (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.160)

150g butter, softened or at room temperature

150g brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup

2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature (placing whole eggs into a bowl of warm water quickly brings them to room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use vanilla paste)

150g plain flour

1/3 cup cocoa (I use Blooker Cacao brand)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

125ml milk

Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the golden syrup, eggs and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and add to the creamed ingredients alternately with the milk, and mix until smooth and lump-free. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes (use the skewer test to decide if the cake is done; a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should have a few crumbs stuck to it when pulled back out of the cake).

Chocolate glaze (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.161)

2 tablespoons caster sugar

25g butter

2 tablespoons water

50g icing sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

Put the caster sugar, butter and water into a small pot and heat gently until it boils. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the boiling syrup on top. Stir until smooth and pour over the cake while the mixture is still warm but the cake has cooled.