CAP 1: Apple and almond cake from Quick and Easy Cakes

Date pancakes with caramel sauce

Give a traditional South African favourite a sweet boost with dates and this easy yummy sauce, and then add vanilla ice-cream for an ultimate flavour treat. While you can use semi-dried compact dates, plump, fresh ones are best. This recipe, which comes from The Essential Dessert Cookbook, published by Murdoch, makes 10-12 pancakes. Both the puréed dates and the caramel sauce can be made ahead of time, but the pancakes are best cooked close to serving time.

185g pitted dates, chopped

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 cups self-raising flour, sifted

½ cup soft brown sugar

1 cup sour cream

3 eggs, separated

Melted butter for cooking


Caramel sauce:

1 cup soft brown sugar

1 cup cream

200g butter

Combine dates with 1 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, stir in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Purée until smooth.

For the pancakes, mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the date purée and make a well in the centre. Whisk the sour cream and egg yolks together and pour into the well, stirring until the batter is just smooth. Set aside for 15 minutes. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir a heaped tablespoon of egg white into the batter to loosen it, then fold in the remainder until just combined.

Heat a frying pan and brush with melted butter. Pour a quarter cup of batter into the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.

Turn over and cook the other side. Transfer to a plate and cover with a teacloth while cooking the remaining pancakes, adding a little melted butter when necessary.

Stack the pancakes, separating them with greaseproof paper.

Make the caramel sauce by combining the ingredients and stirring over medium heat, without boiling, until sugar and butter have dissolved. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Pour a little sauce over each pancake to serve, and add a scoop of ice-cream on the side.


Apple and almond cake

This is a simple and speedy cake, provided you have a processor or, at least, a powerful hand-held mixer. Lemon glacé icing adds a third flavour dimension and, if you are serving this as a dessert, pass around whipped cream to accompany. This is one of many culinary gems to be found in Quick and Easy Cakes which was published by Woolworths in 2001.

185g unsalted butter, diced

¾ cup castor sugar

3 eggs

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

30g (one-third cup) coarsely chopped dried apples

40g (quarter cup) whole blanched almonds

2 cups self-raising flour

80ml (one-third cup) milk

Lemon glacé icing:

1 cup icing sugar

1 tsp grated lemon rind

10g butter, softened

1-2 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm diameter round tin. Place the butter, sugar and eggs in a food processor and pulse until mixture is light and creamy.

Add the fresh and dried apple and the almonds and process for 15 seconds.

Add the flour and milk and process for a further 20 seconds or until apple and nuts are finely chopped and the mixture is thick and almost smooth.

Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool.

Icing: Combine the sifted icing sugar, lemon rind, butter and enough of the juice to form a firm paste in a small heatproof bowl. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until icing is smooth and glossy.

Remove from heat and spread icing over cake with a wide-bladed knife.


Ruby red poached pears in pastry shells

There are several varieties of pear available at present, from the pretty Forelle to the bumpy, but delicious Packham’s Triumph. Any firm pear can be used for this eye-catching finale which can be served lukewarm or at room temperature. The little pastry shells can be made a day ahead, and the pastry cream can be replaced with mascarpone or vanilla ice-cream or even cream cheese, whipped with a little cream. Find the recipe in Cakebread, Pudding & Pie by Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy, published by Struik Lifestyle.

6 firm medium-sized pears

1 bottle dry red wine

1½cups white sugar

3 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

6 pre-baked sweet 8cm diameter pastry shells

Pastry cream:

1 vanilla pod, split and scraped, seeds retained

2 cups milk

6 egg yolks

½ cup white sugar

¼ cup cake flour

Peel the pears, leaving stems attached. In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, water and cinnamon stick. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil. Add pears, ensuring they stay submerged by weighing them down with a lid from a small pot. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Remove pears with a slotted spoon. Boil the remaining liquid over high heat until reduced and syrupy, about 30-40 minutes. Pour some syrup over the pears. Chill until needed.

Meanwhile, make the pastry cream: combine the vanilla seeds and milk, bring to the boil then remove from heat. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and flour. Pour the hot milk over the egg mixture and mix. Strain through a sieve into a clean saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously and vigorously until the mixture thickens. Cook a further 2 minutes, then pour into a bowl placed over ice to cool quickly.

When ready to serve, divide the pastry cream among the pastry shells. Add a pear to each shell. Serve remaining pear syrup separately. Serves 6.


Carrot and pineapple ring cake

This is one of those versatile treats that makes a great do-ahead finale and an equally delectable addition to morning coffee. If it’s playing a dessert role, you could offer a jug of custard on the side. This takes about 15 minutes to prepare and an hour to cook, and will keep well in an airtight container. Find the recipe in Quick and Easy Cakes published by Woolworths several years ago.

2 eggs

¾ cup soft brown sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup self-raising flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp grated nutmeg

450g can crushed pineapple, well drained

1½ cups grated carrot (about 150g)

Orange glacé icing:

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

10g butter, softened

1 tsp finely grated orange rind

2 Tbs orange juice

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease a 20cm diameter ring tin and line base with baking paper. Combine eggs and sugar in a processor and blend until combined. With motor running, slowly pour in the oil.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and nutmeg into a bowl. Add the pineapple and carrot and roughly mix. Pour the egg mixture in all at once and mix until well combined. Spoon into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Combine the icing sugar, butter, grated rind and enough juice to make a soft pouring consistency. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the icing is smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and drizzle over the cake. - Cape Argus


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