Light, fruity, drizzle cakes and sponges laden with berries are what I adore at this time of the year.
When the sun is shining and the days are long, I put the rich chocolate cakes and fudgy brownies on the back burner, so to speak, and bake zesty, fresh and fruity treats instead.
The summer berry drizzle cake, right, is a perfectly summery treat to enjoy with a cup of tea. Use fresh or frozen berries, and feel free to add some orange or lemon zest into the cake if you fancy.
The delightfullly moist polenta, orange and pistachio cake, far right - which is a great recipe from Simone, my sister - keeps really well and happily for many, is gluten-free. It's great as a dessert served with creme fraiche, and is ideal for entertaining as it can be whipped up in advance.
And for a summery twist on a classic, the apricot crumble cake, also far right, is just what I love in summer. Switch up the fruit if you like, or replace it with some raspberry jam for an old-fashioned favourite.
If you can get fresh apricots, they'll be delicious in the apricot crumble cake. Use five, and cut them into quarters, discarding the stones. There's no need to cook them in water first.
You will need:
100g butter, melted, plus a little extra butter to grease the tin
150g dried apricots
150ml approximately water (to cover the apricots)
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
50g caster sugar
Icing sugar, to serve
Lightly whipped cream, to serve
For the crumble topping, you will need:
25g plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
25g caster sugar
25g butter, cubed
25g almonds, skin on, roughly chopped
Icing sugar for dusting
1 You will also need a 20cm-diameter springform or loose-bottomed tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Butter the base and sides of the cake tin (see Rachel Recommends), but there is no need to line the tin.
2 Put the dried apricots in a saucepan. Add the water - it should cover the apricots. Bring to the boil, then simmer for two minutes. The apricots will now be plump. Drain the water from the apricots, then place them on kitchen paper to absorb any excess water. Set them aside to cool. Once the apricots are cool, cut each one into four pieces.
3 Sift the plain flour and the baking powder into a large bowl, add the ground cinnamon and the caster sugar, mix together and make a well in the centre.
4 In another bowl, whisk the egg with the milk and the 100g of melted butter, then pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon or whisk. Beat well to make a thick, smooth mixture. Spoon it into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly. Scatter the apricot pieces you set aside earlier over the mixture and gently press them in with the back of a fork.
5 To make the crumble topping, put the flour, the ground cinnamon and the caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in the cubed butter, making a crumb-like mixture. Add the roughly chopped almonds and mix. Scatter the crumble topping over the apricots.
6 Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes until it is cool enough to handle. Run a knife around the edge and remove the cake from the tin. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Dust the cake with icing sugar and serve with lightly whipped cream.
When making a cake with a crumble top, I prefer not to line the tin. Instead, I place the springform base upside down in the tin so that it's flat, and I butter it well. This will ensure the cake slides off.
You will need:
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
175g mixed berries (you can use either fresh or frozen)
75g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Line a regular (900g) loaf tin with parchment paper.
2 Put the softened butter in a bowl and cream it until it is soft. Add the caster sugar and continue to beat the mixture until it is soft and light.
3 Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
4 Sift in the self-raising flour and mix it in gently to incorporate it.
5 Put half of the mixture in the lined loaf tin and use the back of a spoon to level it out. Scatter 75g of the mixed berries over the top, then cover them with the remaining cake mixture, using the spoon to level out the top.
6 Place the cake in the centre of the preheated oven and bake it for 55 minutes to one hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7 Now mix the remaining 100g of mixed berries with the granulated sugar and the lemon juice, mashing the fruit ever so slightly, and pour the berry mixture over the hot cake to cover the surface. Allow the cake to cool, then remove it from the tin and peel away the parchment paper.
8 Cut the cake into slices to serve.
For the cake, you will need:
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the tin
125g fine polenta (maize meal), plus extra for dusting the tin
225g caster sugar
3 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of half an orange
50g unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
200g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder (make sure to use gluten-free baking powder if you want this cake to be gluten-free)
For the orange syrup, you will need:
75g caster sugar
Juice of 1 orange
To decorate, you will need:
25g unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped and lightly toasted - see my Top Tip, below left
1 You will also need a 20cm-diameter high-sided springform or loose-bottomed tin. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 325°F, Gas 3.
2 Butter the sides of the tin and place a disc of baking parchment in the bottom. Dust the sides of the tin with a little fine polenta (approximately half a tablespoon).
3 Cream the softened butter in a bowl, add the caster sugar and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition, then add the finely grated orange zest and the orange juice.
4 Fold in the chopped unsalted pistachios, the ground almonds, the fine polenta and the baking powder. Mix to combine.
5 Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake it in the lower part of the preheated oven for 55-70 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Sometimes, depending on the oven, I quickly put a piece of baking parchment or tin foil on top of the cake after 45 minutes, to prevent it from getting too brown. Take the cake out of the oven when it is cooked.
6 To make the syrup, put the caster sugar and the orange juice into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir together until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the syrup off the heat and while the cake is still hot, prick the top at regular intervals with a small skewer or cocktail stick, and pour over the hot syrup to let it soak in completely.
7 Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then carefully lift it out and remove the baking parchment. Place it on to a serving plate or cake stand. Decorate the cake by scattering some roughly chopped lightly toasted unsalted pistachio nuts over the top.
8 Scatter the lightly toasted pistachios on top and serve.
To lightly toast the pistachio nuts, cook them for a few minutes in a dry pan over a medium-to-high heat, tossing them regularly, until they turn a couple of shades darker.
Photography by Tony Gavin
Sunday Indo Life Magazine