Cakes & Books

When I asked my Twitter and Facebook pals about their favourite cakes, I was not prepared for the deluge of replies. Everybody has an opinion on cake, apparently. Who knew? I have a handful of go-to cakes - the classic pound cake, upside-down caramel & pear spiced cake, lemon & raspberry meringue, Danish 'dream cake', and (the latest addition) chocolate and beetroot cake - but am always interested in expanding my repertoire. My good friend Liz makes a stunning, but super-easy, 'medieval' apple tart as well as the best lemon drizzle cake I have ever tasted. I need to try making both of those cakes. I have also sampled a take on Nigella's chocolate/guinness cake which I'd be interested in tweaking a tiny bit.

Here's a recipe for Caramel/apple cakeone of my cakes. It is not vegan, it is not gluten-free, and it is not healthy - I'm not one of those bloggers (and I'm also not a food stylist as you can tell from the photo) - but it is really tasty.

Upside-down caramel & pear cake

60 g butter 100 g brown sugar (you can use either light or dark depending upon how you feel about strong flavours) 4 pears (or apples - you can use either) --- 125 g plain flour ½ tsp baking powder 2 tsp ground ginger pinch of salt pinch of ground cloves pinch of grated nutmeg pinch of ground cinnamon 75 g dark treacle (use honey or syrup if you don't like strong flavours) 1 egg, beaten lightly 125 g brown sugar (you can use either light or dark depending upon how you feel about strong flavours) 60g butter 125 ml milk --- butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

Prep the pears by pealing them, removing the grit and dividing them into quarters. Place them neatly in the greased cake tin. Melt sugar and butter in a saucepan. Watch the mixture closely as it'll turn to sticky, HOT caramel and you don't want to burn it (or yourself). Pour the caramel mixture on top of the pears.

Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl: beaten egg, treacle, sugar, butter, and milk. Combine the wet & dry ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the battern on top of the pears and bake for approx 45 minutes. Test the centre of the cake with a knitting needle or other sharp, pointy implement. The needle should come out of the cake without anything sticking to it.

This cake is extra good the next day. I'd usually serve it with honey-laced Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche, but it is also very good on its own.

-- My baking soundtrack was courtesy of local indie pop band, Belle & Sebastian. If you ever wonder about my neighbourhood, go watch all their videos as they like to film them here in Glasgow's West End. This one, Wrapped Up in Books, was filmed in Caledonia Books just down the road from me. I sometimes worry that my life has become one long Belle & Sebastian video: bookish, arty girl wearing retro clothes around the West End and looking a bit twee in her handknits. Hmmm... worse things could happen.