Cooking for others is never more pleasurable for me than in winter. It is indeed during winter that I seem almost permanently to be thinking of food – well, even more than I do anyway! Plotting dinners, planning menus, leafing through food magazines as if I haven’t seen just about every recipe countless times already. My favourite dishes to cook have always been sweet things (to the periodic detriment of my smaller jeans) – and there are three lovely cakes I seem, this season, to be somewhat stuck on, so I thought they should be shared.
The first is season-appropriate: a tangelo syrup cake our abundant tangelo tree keeps impelling me to bake. The second is one of those cakes or desserts which are madly easy to make yet which appear to be clever and fancy. The third is my totally indulgent way of combining two loves, cheesecake and Rocky Road, into one springform tin, to the joy of everyone.
TANGELO SEMOLINA SYRUP CAKE
Preheat oven to 175°C. Depending on the size of your tangelos you may need up to 10. Squeeze two lots, one measuring 125ml. and the other 300ml, and set aside. Using an electric mixer beat together 175g softened butter, 175g caster sugar and 4 teaspoons finely grated tangelo rind. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift 220g fine semolina and 150g SR flour then fold into the wet mixture alternately with 125ml. tangelo juice. Spoon into a greased springform pan and bake about 40 mins (check with a skewer). Meanwhile for the syrup dissolve 1 cup caster sugar in 300ml tangelo juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Pierce hot cooked cake all over with skewer and pour 2/3 syrup slowly over the top, adding more as it absorbs. Cool cake and serve with thick cream and remaining syrup. This cake lasts about a week and is best eaten slightly warmed.
CHERRY HAZELNUT MERINGUE CAKE
In a moderately hot oven roast 100g hazelnuts, chop roughly and set aside. Lower heat to 150°C. Drain one tin of pitted black cherries and place on paper towels, pressing gently to remove excess liquid. Divide in half. Beat together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 tspn vanilla essence until tripled in volume – an electric beater is best. Separately, combine 1 cup plain flour, 1 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon and the hazelnuts. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold this through the eggs together with half the cherries, then tip into greased springform pan. Dot remaining cherries over the top of the batter without pushing them in, then bake about an hour or until the top is pale gold and crisp. Leave to cool completely in tin before turning out, dusting with icing sugar and serving with whipped cream.
ROCKY ROAD CHEESECAKE
Preheat oven to 150°C. Crush 1pkt Granita biscuits in food processor, add 3 tablespoons caster sugar and 90g melted butter and press into base of springform pan. In a bowl work 2/3 cup caster sugar into 600g Philadelphia cream cheese. Splash in a little vanilla essence then beat in 3 eggs, separately, and combine well. Coarsely chop 75g dark chocolate and 1/2 cup walnut halves and stir through. Roughly chop 1/2 pkt glacé cherries and using scissors snip in half 1 cup marshmallows. Gently combined all ingredients, pour into biscuit base and bake about an hour or until firm. When cool, scatter walnut pieces over the top and drizzle over melted dark chocolate. Allow to set before serving and seducing.