At first thought, I was going to share a savoury recipe but then my mind wandered back to the memory of this cake and the incredible amount of happiness that filled every inch of my being (not to mention the relief) when I was told by all of the taste-testers that it really was so very delicious!
I always get a little nervous each time I put forth a new recipe. As the idea develops in my mind, its then going through that process to bring it to life in real time and hoping that the end result turns out to be ok. However, if it doesn't, its just another learning curve and I know that I can go back and play around with it again and again until it is just as I had imagined in my mind.
And, boy oh boy have I had my fair share of learnings along the way and many, many more to come. This is why my love for cooking, baking and creating is so strong, because you never do reach that final destination, there is always something new to learn and that makes me feel very excited.
So, the idea for this creation started with a quince (every time I re-read over this I sing that song "It started with a kiss...") ironic isn't it, that the song was sung by "Hot Chocolate"hrmmm, anyway back on track...It started with a quince, two containers to be exact, swimming in a pool of ruby red vanilla spiked syrup. Every time I opened the fridge there they were staring back at me, willing me on to create some sort of delectable sweet treat.
I had been mulling over a few ideas, knowing that it would be shared with the girls at our next mothers group get together. These girls have now become my little taste testers and I think (I hope) they quite enjoy this role. I can tell by the way their eyes light up when they see the white cake box coming towards them! Eagerly awaiting the reveal.
As I noted down a concoction of flavours on the nearest piece of paper I could find, I found myself jotting down lemon thyme, hazelnut and chocolate. A crumble topping of sorts would give it a rather rustic look and just the thought of crumble makes me feel all cosy and warm. Paired with the ruby red poached quinces, I could almost taste it through my imagination.
As I spooned the mixture into the cake tin, stopping halfway through to place the sliced quince carefully on top, I sneakily swiped my index finger over the spoon and licked the mixture off, which conjured up childhood memories of licking the beaters to which I am sure you too can relate with...Into the oven she went, filling our little home with that wonderful home baked aroma.
And now, as I write this, the memories of that same home baked aroma that filled every corner of my grandmothers' homes comes back to me. I remember the way their hands always seemed so "buttery" and I wonder if in years to come, will my hands seem this way to my children and perhaps, grandchildren? I really hope they do, as its such a lovely memory to have and to hold onto and reminds me so much of these incredible, beautiful women who have made such an impact on my life, to which I am really only just beginning to relaise even more, every day.
Makes a 22cm cake.
160g caster sugar
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 free-range eggs, at room temperature
80 ml quince syrup
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon lemon thyme leaves, chopped finely
260g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 poached quinces (recipe follows underneath)
40g chilled unslated butter
40g dark brown sugar
30g chopped hazelnuts
1/2 the zest of a lemon
40g plain flour
20g dark chocolate callets (I use Callebaut, but you can use any dark chocolate you wish, if its buttons or a block just make sure you chop it up a tad)
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees, or 150 degrees fan-forced. Grease your 22cm spring-form cake tin with butter and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Beat the butter, sugar, thyme and vanilla paste until beautifully creamy then add in the eggs one a time with the mixer on a low-medium speed, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one in.
In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together then fold this through the wet ingredients until it just starts to come together, adding the yoghurt and quince syrup last and folding through until everything is combined.
Spoon in half of the mixture into the tin, then top with some of the sliced quince and arrange it all around the edge working your way into the middle, so it creates a pretty pattern. Top with the remaining mixture and the remaining sliced quince.
In a medium bowl add the butter, sugar, flour and salt and rub the butter in until it resembles an almost breadcrumb consistency. Add in the hazelnuts, lemon zest and chocolate and mix it all together. Scatter it all over the top of the cake and pop it on a baking tray lined with baking paper into the oven. Bake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Just before the cake is ready heat up 1/2 a cup of the quince syrup over a medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, then when you take your cake out of the oven pour this all over the top.
Leave to cool in the tin overnight, or for at least an hour or two.
Remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar if your heart desires it, otherwise simply slice and enjoy.
For the vanilla spiked poached quinces
This recipe comes from one of my most favourite cooks, Belinda Jeffery, she inspires me greatly and has been one of my greatest teachers, her extensive collection of cookbooks, which I turn to time and time again take pride of place on my kitchen shelf.
This recipe makes quite a lot, but they are quite lovely to have sitting in the fridge to add to your morning porridge or enjoyed with a big dollop of greek yoghurt and if that's not your thing then perhaps a scoop of vanilla ice cream may just do the trick. The fig leaf and vanilla ice cream a few posts back may just be the perfect partner for them too......
I am always reminded of our days back in the café, standing at the bench, with these yellow, fuzzy fruits. Peeling their skins off and treating them with the upmost respect as we sliced through their tough flesh, not wanting to lose a finger in the process!! So, they come with a warning, just be extra careful when it comes to cutting them up.
4 medium sized quinces
juice of 1 lemon
440g caster sugar
a long strip of lemon zest
a long strip of orange zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
Give the quinces a good scrub under cold running water to remove their fuzzy bits, then pat them dry with some paper towel. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a large bowl of cold water. Peel each one and then cut into quarters, dropping them into the bowl of water. This helps to prevent them from turning brown.
In a large saucepan pour in 3 cups cold water and then sit the pan over a medium heat. Add in the sugar, zests and vanilla bean and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
Drain and rinse the quinces under cold water and then add them to the pan, bring it up to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Simmer the quinces, covered, for about 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until they have reached that beautiful ruby red colour. Halfway through cooking, just carefully turn them over so that they cook evenly.
When they are lovely and tender, remove the pan from the heat and leave them to cool in the syrup.
Carefully pop them into a container, along with the syrup. Seal it tightly and store them in the fridge. They will sit there quite happily for about 3 weeks. However, I find it hard to believe that they would still be in your fridge after 3 weeks anyway!
(Have you still got that "it started with a kiss" song in your head???) xx