Food writer and farmer Sophie Hansen, of food blog Local is Lovely, shares four simple bakes that everyone can whip up for Mother's Day, or when unexpected guests drop by.
Orange and honey melt-and-mix cake
This delicately flavoured honey cake is one of those wonderful recipes that you really can get into the oven within 10 minutes of deciding to make it. I also love that it smells and tastes a little bit like gingerbread, but is still fluffy and light. These quantities make one large slab cake, but you could halve them to make a 20cm cake.
- 150g butter
- 1¾ cups (260g) self-raising flour
- ½ cup (100g) dark brown sugar
- ⅔ cup (235g) honey
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup (200g) natural yoghurt
- 3 blood (or regular) oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup (125g) icing sugar
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Grease a deep 30cm x 20cm roasting tin and line with baking paper.
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.
- Combine the flour, brown sugar, honey, spices, eggs, yoghurt and cooled butter in a food processor. Whiz for 1 minute or until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into the lined tin, smooth the top and dot with the orange pieces. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes before lifting it out of the tin and transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the icing, whisk together the icing sugar, lemon zest and juice until thick and smooth. Pour the icing over the cake and serve it in lovely big wedges.
Serves: 6-8 (with leftovers)
Quantities are easy to remember and the method is tres simple. Photo: Sophie Hansen
The 'original' visitor cake
This is one of the most useful "basic" recipes I can think of. Pretty much bomb-proof, it's based on the traditional French butter cake quartre-quart recipe so the quantities are easy to remember and the method is tres simple. Plus it's delicious and you can take this one in lots of different, seasonal directions so it's a great basic cake recipe to have up your sleeve. If you need a chocolate birthday cake, just add some cocoa, or if you'd like a fruit slice, spoon the batter into a high-sided roasting tin and dot the top with fresh fruit. And so on.
- 1 cup (250g) butter, softened
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 4 eggs
- 1⅔ cups (250g) self-raising flour
- Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Grease a 20cm spring-form tin.
- Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour.
- Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for about 35 minutes. The cake is ready when the side is just beginning to pull away from the tin and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool.
Fruit: Fold through about a cup of raspberries, chopped apple, poached quince or any other seasonal fruit after you've added the flour.
Aromatic spice: Add grated orange zest, ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to the creamed butter and sugar.
Chocolate: Fold in 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder with the flour.
Streusel: Combine ½ cup (75g) plain flour, ½ cup (110g) demerara sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 cup (150g) roughly chopped almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts with 100g chilled, cubed butter. Work the mixture with your fingertips until it resembles coarse sand. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter before baking.
Easy to make and lasts well for a few days. Photo: Sophie Hansen
Hummingbird loaf cake
There's a lot going on here: toasted nuts, spices, pineapple and carrot, but it works beautifully together. This cake is so easy to make, lasts well for a few days (tightly wrapped in foil) and is lovely topped with a cream cheese icing. I also love it toasted in a sandwich press and spread with a little butter.
- 2 cups (300g) wholemeal plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
- ¾ cup (185ml) vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1½ cups (235g) grated carrot
- 1 cup (115g) walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 1¼ cups (200g) chopped fresh or tinned pineapple
- Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Grease a 30cm x 12cm loaf tin and line with baking paper.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, spices and brown sugar in a bowl and whisk to remove any lumps. Whisk the oil, eggs and vanilla in a large jug, then fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the carrot, walnuts and pineapple and fold until combined.
- Spoon the batter into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is just pulling away from the sides of the tin. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool.
Serve it on a bed of warm quince syrup with a slice of poached quince and a little cream or ice-cream. Photo: Sophie Hansen
Gran's almond cake
I included this recipe in my first book, Local is Lovely, but it's too good not to share here as well – this recipe is my family's gift to you, or rather my grandmother's gift. It's the perfect "pudding cake" in the sense that it's delicate and pretty enough to serve with berries and cream as a dessert, but also gorgeous on its own, with a cup of tea for afternoon tea. In autumn, I love to serve it on a bed of warm quince syrup with a slice of poached quince and a little cream or ice-cream. Or I swap the almond meal with hazelnut meal and add a little ground cinnamon. It's lovely with a little ground cardamom, too. It's definitely one to copy out, stick on the fridge and memorise for the repertoire. Because this cake seems to improve after a few hours (or even days if it's tightly wrapped), you can cook it a day ahead or early on the day you're serving it and then turn off the oven well before the kitchen starts to heat up.
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
- 1⅔ cups (170g) almond meal*
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- icing sugar, for dusting
- fresh seasonal berries, to serve
- ¼ cup (90g) honey
- 1 cup (250ml) thick cream
- Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Grease a 20cm square tin, a 20cm spring-form tin or a 22cm ring tin. Line the tin with baking paper.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale. Fold in the almond meal and orange zest.
- Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold the beaten egg white into the almond mixture. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Just before serving, make the honey cream by stirring the honey through the cream.
- Dust the cake with icing sugar and enjoy it with the honey cream and berries.
*Note: I like to make my own almond meal by toasting whole natural almonds in a 160C fan-forced (180C conventional) oven for about 10 minutes, then blitzing the cooled nuts in a food processor to make a fine meal. This gives the cake a beautiful depth of flavour and flecked brown colour, but if you prefer the pure white of the almond meal from the shops, it's fine to use that.