Archives for posts with tag: cake

When we arrived in our new home in Cheltenham last December, the garden was hibernating: the trees were bare and the borders were straggly and uninteresting. I didn’t spend much time out there because it looked cold and muddy and our son, who had only just started to walk, was still spending more of his time on his hands and knees than on his feet.

Even though we had viewed the house over the summer, I couldn’t remember at all what it had been like. I’m the first to admit that I’m no gardener and what had been important to me was that a) it was big enough to kick a football around in and b) (after having lived in a house for eight years with a gloomy north-east facing garden) it faced south.

So it has been a complete joy since the start of the spring to watch our new garden slowly re-awakening because we really have had no idea what to expect: one morning I pulled the curtains in my son’s bedroom to find the tree at the bottom covered in a billowing snowy duvet of blossom; on other days, I’ve been greeted with slashes of orange, hot pink and pale blue or the delicate aroma wafting from the rose tree.

We were aware that we had inherited three fruit trees, neatly espaliered against the fence, but we didn’t know what they were, until I discovered miniature pears and apples shortly after the blossom dropped. I’ve been carefully monitoring them ever since.

This cake has been made from the first pears that I harvested from our tree yesterday. The variations are endless though: chopped stem ginger or crushed walnuts would be a delicious addition to the pears; I also made one a couple of weeks ago using a medium cooking apple and 150g blackberries. The recipe is based upon one that my mum copied down from Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 show about 30 years ago. Originally it was made with apples and oats but I unfortunately can’t even eat gluten-free oats these days. I have used a rice and buckwheat porridge mix instead that I found at Sainsbury’s. If you can eat gluten-free oats, feel free to make it with them instead: the original recipe didn’t use milk but I found that I had to add it to the rice and buckwheat otherwise it was too dry and made a very crumbly cake.

Gluten-free pear cake

A beautifully moist cake with a crunchy crust. Perfect for afternoon tea with a cuppa or for dessert with cream.

100g gluten-free self-raising flour
100g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
200g gluten-free rice and buckwheat porridge flakes
200g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200ml milk
2 medium firm pears, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 5mm slices

You will also need a 24cm x 20cm x 4cm rectangular cake tin, lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180C (my oven is fan-assisted, so adjust accordingly).

Sift the flours into a bowl and mix in the rice and buckwheat porridge flakes. Place the cubed butter and caster sugar in a solid-bottomed saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted. When it has reached a consistency and colour akin to lemon curd, take the pan off the heat. Quickly stir the flour and porridge into the butter and sugar mixture. When the flour is thoroughly combined, stir in the eggs and milk.

Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly over the base. Now place the pear slices in a single layer. Pour the remaining cake batter over the top and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack before taking out of the tin. To remove the baking parchment, place a dinner plate over the top of the cake, so that it is sandwiched between the cooling rack and the plate and carefully invert. Remove the cooling rack and peel off the baking parchment. Replace the cooling rack and carefully invert once more.

Eat cut into slabs, with cream, custard, ice cream or as nature intended.

Gool Peran Lowen! Or, Happy St Piran’s Day (for yesterday)! Everyone is familiar with St George, St David, St Andrew and St Patrick but not so many have heard of whom I consider to be the British Isles’ fifth patron saint – St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall. I’ve been fascinated by my family history since a small girl and feel a stronger tie to my ancestry on my maternal grandmother’s side than to that on the others, probably because she was the grandparent that I knew for the longest. My grandmother was Cornish, born in St Austell (Snozzle) in 1908, where her father was a china clay miner before he went off to fight in the First World War. With the help of censuses, parish records and other family historians far more adept than me, I’ve managed to trace my Cornish ancestry back to the 16th Century, which is as far back as most of the un-landed un-gentry can go. My great-grandmother was born in Mevagissey, to the south of St Austell, which was once the centre of Cornwall’s pilchard fishing industry. Hevva cake, also known as heavy cake, is a traditional cake which is said to have been made by the fishermen’s wives for their husbands returning from the catch. ‘Hevva’ was apparently the cry of the men as they pulled in the nets, jumping with pilchards, and was presumably also a cue for the wives to pull their finger out and get the cake in the oven! My mum making hevva cake is an enduring memory from my childhood and I remember there always being some in the cake tin. I haven’t eaten any for years and thought that there was no better way to celebrate St Piran’s this year than with a gluten-free Cornish taste of my childhood.

Gluten-free Cornish hevva cake

These cakes are very much like flat fruit scones. There are a number of variations for this recipe – some add lemon zest and others, nutmeg. I add allspice (not remotely traditional) but it’s what my mother always puts in and the taste takes me back to my childhood. If you don’t like the taste of allspice (or think it’s anathema to add it!), do leave it out. The criss-cross across the top is, however, non-negotiable: it represents the pilchard fishing nets and would be blasphemous to omit. These are great with a cup of tea or coffee, either adorned with a dollop of cream (Cornish, obviously!) or as nature intended. I tend to eat them plain, however, as I think they are rich enough.

Makes 9 servings

180g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice (optional)
90g salted butter, cut into small cubes
50g caster sugar
50g sultanas
60ml milk
2 tsp Demerara sugar

You will also need a non-stick baking (cookie) sheet

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan-assisted). In a large bowl, sift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and allspice. Rub in the butter, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar and the sultanas until evenly distributed. Pour in the milk and mix to a stiff dough, first using a knife in the bowl and then kneading with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rough square or oval about 2cm in depth. Using a knife, lightly score a criss-cross pattern across the surface and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Place on a non-stick baking (cookie) sheet and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cut into 9 squares whilst still warm.

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