Bake by the season with Fiona Cairns

Bake by the season with Fiona Cairns

Posted 12th Sep 2013

Fiona Cairns brand new book, Seasonal Baking, brings to life baking by the colours, mood and ingredients of each season with inspiring recipes for every occasion. Read a delicious taster from her beautiful book here...

Almond-apricot pansy cake

A wonderful cake to serve for tea, or as a dessert. It would be equally good with a blackcurrant or cherry jam. I have decorated it with pansies on top, but primroses, violets or a mixture would be equally pretty.

Serves 8

225g unsalted butter, really soft, plus more for the tins
160g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g ground almonds
225g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp almond extract
finely grated zest of 1 organic orange and juice of ½

200g crème fraîche
5 tbsp best-quality apricot jam
icing sugar, to dust 
freshly picked, dry, unsprayed pansies

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter two 20cm round tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir in the ground almonds and set aside.

Put the softened butter and sugar into the bowl of a food mixer (or use a bowl and a hand-held electric whisk) and cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs, adding 1 tbsp of the flour mixture halfway through to prevent the mixture from curdling. Fold in the remaining flour mixture, almond extract, orange zest and juice.

Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch, or a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tins for a minute or two, then turn the cakes out on to a wire rack. Remove the papers and leave until cold.

When ready to serve, simply place one of the cakes upside down on to a serving plate or cake stand and spread the flat surface with the crème fraîche. Spread the flat surface of the second cake with the apricot jam and sandwich the two together. Sift over a dusting of icing sugar and decorate with the pansies.


Maple and pecan autumn leaves

Wondering how to use my little tin of metal leaf cutters, I created these nutty biscuits filled with maple buttercream. Sit by the fireside with a plate of these while the wind howls around outside.

Makes about 50 leaves

(25 sandwiches)

50g pecan nuts
200g plain flour, plus more
to dust
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g light muscovado sugar
125g unsalted butter, softened, in pieces

100g unsalted butter, softened, in pieces
150g icing sugar, sifted, plus more to dust
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp maple syrup

set of leaf cutters (mine are 3-5cm long)

Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Tip the nuts on to a baking tray and cook for five minutes, or until lightly roasted. Let cool slightly, then chop very, very finely. Set aside.

Sift together the flour and cinnamon, add the sugar and rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles crumbs. Add the nuts and continue to work; it will come together as a dough.

On a very lightly floured work top, roll out the dough to 3-4mm thick. Cut out the biscuits with the leaf cutters, remembering to make an even number of each shape, as you will be sandwiching them together. At this point, you can freeze the cut-out biscuits.

Lay the biscuits on the prepared baking trays and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes, until they are a lovely pale gold. Cool on the trays to firm up for about five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack with a palette knife to cool completely. The unfilled biscuits will keep well for several days in an airtight tin, but once filled need to be served on the day.

Meanwhile, to make the buttercream, place the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and golden syrup in a bowl and, using a hand-held electric whisk, beat for four or five minutes until paler and creamy. Drizzle in the maple syrup and beat thoroughly.

When ready to serve, sandwich the leaves together with the buttercream and dust with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Recipes taken from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, RRP £25

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