Sunday 20 May 2007

Cake for the absent bride and groom

My sister Chris married Fergal yesterday in Dublin. I had decided it would be nice to mark the occasion back in Melbourne by baking a cake in their honour (any excuse to bake a cake!), so when Nicki G invited me to dinner I offered to do dessert.

A celebration cake to me should always include chocolate. However, Nicki isn’t a chocolate person so when I saw a Pear and Spice Cake posted recently by Lucy it seemed suitably impressive. But I had also seen a recipe on The Well Seasoned Cook for Gingerbread Muffins which I wanted to try but am not in muffin making mode at the moment. What really interested me was her addition of black pepper like in pfeffernüsse. So I did a little tinkering with Lucy’s recipe to make it even spicier. I figured this would make it richer but that was ok for a celebration cake.

Then I remembered Scottish Vegan’s Notella which I had been curious to try out. This is a vegan and much improved version of the chocolate hazelnut spread we know as Nutella. Scottish Vegan had served it as a sauce so I realised Nicki could have her cake and I could have my chocolate.

The cake has sliced pears on top which looks spectacular. Another friend at dinner, Will, declared it was the most attractive cake I had ever made. I have to agree. How could such an easy cake look so good! And it tasted great too. Very dense and intense. The texture is moist and grainy but this seems to complement the pears well. With the warmed glossy dark notella sauce and cream it was fantastically rich.

By the end of the meal I was full as a state school! Nicki made a great family fondu recipe of gruyere, emmanthal, wine, kirsch, nutmeg and other wonderful flavours. We had fun dipping bread, mushrooms, cauliflower and okra in it. I had never had okra before and found it more pleasant than I expected – green and cooked so slightly it retained a crispness but seemed to go a little bruised, hairy and slimy as it sat after we had finished. (No photos unfortunately but Nicki did prompt me to find the close-up button on my camera so hopefully this will improve my photography.)

And a bottle of Australian sparkling wine to toast the absent bride and groom. Congratulations Chris and Fergal!

Here are my recipes with my variations (some of which are due to me not reading the recipes – oops).

Pear and spice cake
Adapted from Nourish Me

¾ cup of almond meal
½ cup of polenta
½ cup of plain flour
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 heaped teaspoon of ground ginger
1 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice
¼ tsp black pepper, ground
125g of unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup of raw sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of plain, thick yoghurt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 dessertspoons molasses
2-3 pears, cored and thinly sliced
Icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Grease and line a 25cm spring form round cake tin. (Lucy suggests you can do a smaller pan but I liked the cake being quite thin).

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yoghurt, vanilla and molasses and mix well.

Fold in the dry ingredients until well mixed. Spoon into the prepared spring form tin and smooth the mixture with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices on top as artfully as you like. (Lucy sprinkled sugar on top before baking but I missed this bit - might try it another time.) Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes away clean. (I found 160ºC was too low – perhaps it was intended for a fan forced oven, so after 30 minutes I turned it up to 180ºC and left it in the oven for another 30 minutes).

When the cake is cooked, I sprinkled with icing sugar and served it from the base of the spring form tin.

Adapted from Scottish Vegan

¾ cup hazelnuts, ground
1 cup soymilk
½ tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup raw sugar
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix cornflour with 1 tbsp of the soy milk and set aside. Put the remaining soy milk and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium high heat and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once sugar has melted add cornflour mixture and continue to stir until it thickens slightly. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Remove from heat and add ground hazelnuts. Can be served warm or refridgerated as a paste/spread.

On the Stereo:
Boy Child: Scott Walker


  1. Wow, Johanna, look at this! Thanks so much for taking bits of my muffin recipe and putting them to good use. Thanks also for a photo of the finished cake. I remember that Lucy's was gone before she could snatch up the camera!

  2. thanks Susan. Glad you liked the photo - I had to be patient about eating the cake as we had the fondu to enjoy before starting on the cake - I love a piece of cake hot out of the oven but a complete cake always looks better when it is for an occasion.

  3. Hey, now that's a good looking cooked version. Love the additons you made, Johanna. You guys ate well by the sound of things.

    The Notella is a great idea - I've always been suspicious of the 'real' thing. Anything that addictive can only be bad...

  4. thanks Lucy - I haven't done many cakes with that sort of topping but now I am tempted to do more because it looked so good. I agree about processed foods - it always feels so much better if you can make your own (time permitting of course)

  5. Jo, your blog rocks! I am enjoying the dinner all over again reading your resume of events and eats. And the cake was indeed delectable. Great photo of the exotic purple broc, too. Purple and green - gorgeous. Looking forward to reading more. xx

  6. thanks nicki - and thank you for the awesome fondu - I will have to get the recipe and next time a pic for the blog :-)

  7. Oh, that cake looks amazing! Late congrats to your sister and husband! Thanks for linking to my blog! I’m happy to see you tried out the Notella, I think it would go so well with your delicious cake!

  8. thanks Scottish Vegan - great recipe - I still have some notella in the fridge. I have been eating it on plain biscuits and plan to use it to jazz up cupcakes. The possibilities seem endless.


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