Jólakaka – Icelandic Yule cake

This traditional Icelandic Christmas cake is super simple to make, and a thick slice (or two) is just perfect smeared with butter or jam and served with a steaming hot cup of tea.

Jólakaka - Icelandic Yule cake

Makes 1 medium loaf cake
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 1 hour


115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
125ml (1/2 cup + 2 tsp) milk
1 tsp lemon juice
250g (2 cups, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
100g (2/3 cup) raisins


Preheat oven to 175°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4, and grease a medium loaf pan.

Using a hand-held electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each one, then add the milk and lemon juice and beat well to combine.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, add to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.

Add the raisins and stir in gently.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan, smooth the top and bake in centre of oven for one hour.

Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store wrapped in foil or plastic, or in an airtight container, for up to one week.

Posted in breakfast, cake, dessert, icelandic, snack, sweet | 4 Comments

Christmas macaroons

Light and fluffy coconut macaroons, studded with candied fruit and enrobed in white chocolate.

christmas macaroons

French-style coconut macaroons (congolais) are made with just coconut, sugar and egg whites and flavoured with a touch of lemon zest, and are much lighter than their condensed milk counterparts. With candied fruit added to them, they are an extra delicious treat. Covered in white chocolate, they are an indulgent holiday favour!

Makes about 36
Preparation time: about 4 hours, most of which is inactive


150g (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
200g (2 cups) desiccated coconut
100g (3/4 cup) finely diced candied fruit (reserve enough pieces for decorating)
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
100g (3 large or 4 small) egg whites

You need to use desiccated, finely grated coconut for the macaroons, because the long strands of shredded coconut won’t shape as well. If you can only get shredded coconut, try pulsing it a couple of times in the food processor, but be careful not to overdo it or you’ll end up with flour.


In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the sugar, coconut, lemon zest and candied fruit. I use my hands, so that I can be sure the lemon zest and candied fruit don’t clump.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to firm peaks.

Gently fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients with a spatula until just incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2 (bottom-only heat, if possible, to prevent them browning on top) with the shelf in the middle position, and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Gently press the mixture into walnut-sized balls. This part is messy and can be frustrating if they don’t hold together, but persevere gently or you’ll crush all the air from the mix.

Place on the sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely on the sheet – they will be too delicate to handle while hot.

White chocolate coating

300g (10 ounces) white couverture chocolate (or candy melts)

* If you’re using candy melts, there’s no need to seed, so you can melt it all at once.
* If you’re melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water, or the chocolate may scorch.
* Do not get any water in the chocolate – just a drop with make it seize beyond repair. The bottom of the bowl or double boiler will be wet with condensation, so I recommend laying out a kitchen towel on the work bench to put it on, so you don’t end up with a puddle.


Using a double boiler, or a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or a microwave on medium power in 20 second increments, melt about 2/3 of the couverture. Remove from heat and add the remaining couverture by handfuls, stirring gently until completely melted by the residual heat of the melted couverture, and it reaches body temperature.

Using two forks to hold and manipulate them (without stabbing them), gently roll the macaroons one at a time in the melted couverture to coat completely, shake off the excess, then put them on a sheet of wax paper, top with a piece of candied fruit, then allow to set completely. If you live in a very hot or humid climate, you might need to pop them in the fridge for a few minutes to set.

If the couverture cools and thickens too much while you’re working, reheat it gently back to body temperature.

If they have large feet, you can trim them with a paring knife.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, separated by layers of parchment if not wrapped.

Posted in biscuit, candy, cookie, dessert, french, snack, sweet | Leave a comment

Pumpkin spice macarons

Pumpkin coloured shells with a delicious spiced buttercream filling.
Perfect for your Hallowe’en celebrations!

Pumpkin spice macarons

Makes 30 filled macarons
Preparation: 20 minutes
Resting: 20 minutes
Baking: 2 x 18 minutes
Cooling: 30 minutes +
Filling: 10 minutes
Maturing: up to 24 hours


The shells

140g ground almonds
140g powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g granulated (white) sugar
40g water
orange gel or powder food colouring (optional)

The filling

125g (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) butter, room temperature
250g (2 cups unsifted) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves


The shells

Prepare 2 parchment lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each.

Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.

Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring, if desired – the quantity will depend on the brand and shade you want, but bear in mind that it will become significantly paler when you mix in the meringue. Set aside.

In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.

While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.

Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and you should get a beak when you lift the whisk.

Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula until you have a homogeneous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 – #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2”, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.

Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you gently touch it, it should be only just tacky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2.

Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.

Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.

If not filling straight away, store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

The filling

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add spices and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then beat on high until smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add a bit more powdered sugar or a few drops of milk to adjust consistency if necessary, but you want it quite thick for piping.

Pipe or spoon a generous blob of filling onto the flat side of half the shells, top with the remaining shells and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for 24 hours before eating, or at least overnight. Remove from fridge an hour before eating to allow the filling to soften.

Posted in biscuit, cookie, dessert, macaron, sweet | 5 Comments

Caramelised apple and pear cake

Beautifully fluffy cake with a crisp sugar crust on top and a soft, moist fruit filling.

Caramelized apple and pear cake

Caramelising the apples and pears before adding them to the batter gives this cake a huge hit of flavour, plus the rich taste of wholemeal flour, muscovado sugar and a hint of nutmeg bring it all together for perfect autumn fare.

Caramelized apple and pear cake

Makes 1 x 23cm / 9″ cake
Preparation: 30 minutes
Baking: about 60 minutes


For the fruit

30g (2 Tbsp) muscovado sugar
30g (2 Tbsp) butter
2 medium (approx 300g / 10oz) apples (I used firm Golden Delicious)
2 medium (approx 300g / 10oz) firm pears

For the batter

200g (1 cup, lightly packed) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
150g (1 1/3 sticks or 2/3 cup) butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
240g (2 cups, spooned and scraped) wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg, to taste
30g (2 Tbsp) raw sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 160°C / 325°F / Gas Mark 3, and butter a 23cm / 9″ cake tin.

Peel, core and dice the apples and pears into pieces about 1.5cm or about half an inch. Heat 2 Tbsp muscovado sugar and 2 Tbsp butter in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Add apples and pears, then toss frequently as they cook for 5 minutes. Set the pan aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat in well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture and stir together until well combined – the batter will be thick.

Stir in the apples and pears and caramel sauce from the pan, then scrape into the cake tin. Smooth the top with a spatula and then sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake in centre of oven for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes put clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted in cake, dessert, sweet | 6 Comments

Greek chickpeas with spinach

This is Greek comfort food at its rustic best. And, for those with dietary restrictions, it’s naturally gluten free, vegan and low fat! A tasty meal in itself, or a delicious side dish.

greek chickpeas and spinach

Serves 4
Preparation: 40 minutes


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g (14oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
300g (about 10oz) baby spinach, washed and dried
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil and lemon wedges for serving


Heat the oil on medium-low in a large, heavy casserole and sauté the onions until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, stir through the paprika and cumin, and cook for 3 minutes to lightly toast the beans.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to break down.

Add the spinach by handfuls and, once it’s all added, cook about 5 minutes longer, until wilted. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, simmer for a further 5 – 10 minutes to allow it to reduce.

Stir through the lemon juice and parsley, and season generously with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with additional olive oil and lemon wedges.

Posted in greek, lunch, side, starter, vegan | 5 Comments

Autumn pudding

Autumn pudding (or Fall pudding, for my North American friends) is full of fruit which has been lightly stewed with warm spices, and layered with thick slices of rich, buttery brioche.

It’s an easy, no-bake, make-ahead dessert that will delight your family and wow your guests!

Autumn (Fall) pudding

Serves: 8
Preparation: about 40 minutes
Resting: at least 8 hours, up to a day


~ 1.5kg or 3 1/3 lb mixed autumn fruits (see below)
500ml (2 cups) unsweetened apple juice
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
about 12 thick (about 1.5cm or 2/3″ thick) slices brioche, not too fresh, crusts trimmed

Notes: I used 400g / 14 oz (2 large) Golden Delicious apples, 600g / 21 oz (6 small) Conference pears, and a 550g (1 1/4 lb) potimarron (a.k.a. Red kuri squash, Japanese or Hokkaido squash), as well as 60g (1/2 cup) raisins. Brioche comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but you’ll need enough to make three layers in your pan.


Peel and core the apples, pears and squash, and cut everything into 1cm (about 2/5″) slices.

Combine apple juice, sugar and spices in wide, heavy-based saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add dried fruit if using, then the squash and cook for 5 – 10 minutes until starting to soften, then add the apples and cook for 5 minutes, and finish with the pears, stir together gently, cover and cook for a further 5 – 10 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the type, variety and ripeness of the fruit used – it should be tender but not mushy.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

Drain fruit in a colander set over a bowl, reserving the juice.

Meanwhile, line a 24cm (9 or 10″) round springform cake pan with a couple of large sheets of plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top completely.

Cover the base of the pan with slices of brioche. Triangles are generally easiest to fit together, with odd bits cut to fit the gaps.

Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the reserved juice all over the bread, covering it completely.

Spoon in half the drained fruit, packing it tightly without crushing it.

Cover the fruit with a second layer of brioche, press it down then and drizzle more juice over the top.

Spoon in the remaining fruit, packing it in carefully, then top with another layer of brioche. Spoon enough juice over it that the top is quite wet.

Cover the pudding with the overhanging plastic wrap, then put a plate, pie dish or the base of another springform pan on top of it, and weigh it down with a couple of big cans of fruit or similar, so it presses down on the pudding.

Refrigerate any remaining juice for serving, and refrigerate the pudding for at least 8 hours, up to a day. I put mine on a plate in the fridge because I noticed a little leakage of the liquid – my plastic wrap wasn’t quite wide enough to come all the way up the side of my pan so it wasn’t completely watertight.

Note: If desired, any remaining juice can be brought to a rapid boil to thicken to a syrup for serving, before refrigerating along with the pudding.

To serve, remove the weights and plate and the side of the pan, open the plastic wrap on the top of the pudding, invert a serving plate on top and flip the whole thing over onto the plate, remove the base of the pan and the plastic wrap.

Drizzle any remaining juice over/around the pudding.

Cut with a serrated knife and serve with a dollop of double cream, or a scoop of ice cream.

Posted in breakfast, cake, dessert, pudding, sweet, tart&pie | Leave a comment

Hrapoćuša – Croatian almond and walnut cake

This cake is super high in protein, has no added fats or oils, and is naturally gluten free… but I’m afraid there’s just no getting away from the astonishing amount of sugar it has in it! Small slices, please 😉

Hrapoćuša - Croatian almond and walnut cake

This recipe was made for the Daring Kitchen September challenge, hosted by the super cool Jason of Daily Candor. As with all his traditional Croatian recipes, this was a winner!

Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake
Serves up to 16
Preparation: 45 minutes
Baking: 35 minutes and 15 minutes
Cooling: 90 minutes
Note: the original recipe called for a cherry liqueur but I didn’t have any – I’d seen rum in other recipes, so I used that instead


For the base layer

1/2 orange
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp rum (or cherry liqueur)
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites
250g (2 2/3 cups) ground almonds

For the top layer

400g (3 1/2 cups) walnut halves
4 large egg whites
400g (2 cups) granulated sugar
1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


For the base layer

Preheat the oven to 250°C / 480°F / Gas Mark 9 1/2, and line the base and sides of a 20cm (8″) springform cake pan with parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the zest and juice from 1/2 orange, the vanilla extract, rum and sugar.

Add the egg yolks and mix to combine well.

Transfer to a separate bowl and clean out the stand mixer bowl, or use a clean bowl, and beat the egg whites to firm peaks.

Add half of the egg white and half of the ground almonds to the batter, fold in to incorporate then stir gently until smooth. Add the remaining half of the egg white and half of the ground almonds, folding in and stirring gently as before.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and put it in the centre of the oven.

Immediately reduce the oven to 200°C / 390°F / Gas Mark 6 and bake according to this schedule:
• 5 minutes at 200°C / 390°F / Gas Mark 6
• 15 minutes at 175°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4
• 15 minutes at 160°C / 320°F / Gas Mark 3

Begin checking the cake about 5 minutes after lowering the temperature to 160°C / 320°F / Gas Mark 3 (or 25 minutes after beginning to bake). When a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven.

For the top layer

While the bottom cake is baking, place the walnuts, egg whites and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and stir for about 10 minutes, making sure the bottom of the pot doesn’t scorch. Stop when the liquid takes on a beige colour. Don’t cook it too long, or it will pass “pourable” and move to “crumbly”.

Add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and the vanilla extract to the walnut mixture.

Pour the walnut mixture over the warm base layer and smooth the top with the back of a wooden spoon.

Place the cake back in the oven (should still be at 160°C / 320°F / Gas Mark 3) and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the top is golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 90 minutes in the pan. Remove from pan, peel off the parchment paper, and serve.

Keeps well in an airtight container at room temperature for a week, or may be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to three months.

Posted in cake, daring kitchen, dessert, sweet | 3 Comments