Fig Cake with Fig Leaf Cream

In Tangier, at the very edge of the casbah overlooking the strait, is a house called Dar Zero. An old property, with white, crenelated walls, this is where Samuel Pepys lived in 1683, during the English occupation of Tangier (1661-1684), when he was employed as a secretary to George Legge, Lord Dartmouth, who had been tasked with abandoning Tangier and destroying its fortifications. In Dar Zero, Pepys wrote sections of his famous diaries, often seated beneath the shade of a huge fig tree that continues to grow in the garden to this day…

Dar Zero, in the Casbah

Dar Zero is very much an inspiration for Dar Portuna, the grand house in An Echo of Scandal. So, in honour of Pepys and his fig tree, here’s a recipe that uses ripe, seasonal figs, alongside fresh fig leaves. It’s a riff on my favourite Smitten Kitchen strawberry cake. Fig leaves have a wonderful aroma, somewhere between floral vanilla, coconut and tobacco. Here, they’re made into a syrup and mixed with whipped cream, to create a gentle, fragrant indulgent pudding that’s perfect to eat as the last golden rays of summer sink into autumn.

Fig Cake with Fig Leaf Cream

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 190g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 190g self-raising flour
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla bean extract
  • 2-3 fresh figs (if you can’t find fresh you can used tinned, or dried figs soaked in a little water to plump them up a bit)
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar

For the syrup and cream:

  • 2-3 fresh fig leaves
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 250ml double or whipping cream

Method
The Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350/gas mark 4. Grease or line a 10in pie dish, or a 9in springform cake tin.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, along with a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture from splitting and beat in.
  4.  Stir in the milk and vanilla extract.
  5. Gently fold in the remaining flour until no streaks remain.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin.
  7. Cut the figs into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing any woody stems, then press gently into the surface of the cake at regular intervals.
  8. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining sugar, so the fruit turns jammy.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes before turning down the heat to 165C/325F/gas mark 3. Bake for another 35-40 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out cleanish.

The syrup and cream:  

  1. Rinse the fig leaves, pat dry, and cut off any remaining stalk. Place them under the grill for a minute or two, keeping a close eye on them and turning when necessary: you want them to be gently toasted/browned but not burned. This releases the scent of the fig leaves.
  2. Place 2 tbsp of caster sugar in a pan along with around 8 tbsp of water and the fig leaves (don’t worry if they crumble).
  3. Press the fig leaves into water and stir about until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil for 3-4 minutes, until the water starts to reduce to a syrup.
  5. Leave to cool, before straining through a tea strainer or muslin into a jug.
  6. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of syrup over the cake while it is still warm, so that it soaks in.
  7. Pour the double cream into a clean bowl.
  8. When the syrup is completely cool, stir 4 tbsp (or more, to taste) into the cream, then whip until soft peaks form.
  9. Serve the cake cut into wedges, with a dollop of fig leaf cream alongside.

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Dandelion Syrup Cake

This is a cake I first made earlier in the year, when spring dandelions smothered my allotment in bursts of bright yellow. They looked so beautiful and healthy (I’m very good at growing weeds) that it seemed a shame to dig them up and chuck them on the compost heap. So, I picked an entire bag full, with vague memories of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine swirling around my head:

“And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine… Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass… change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” (Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury).

As someone who has absolutely zero home-brew experience (apart from sloe gin), actual dandelion wine was a little beyond me. So I was delighted to discover dandelion syrup. The following recipe is a two-parter: how to make a syrup out of dandelion flowers, and then – of course – how to use it in a cake recipe.

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Dandelion Syrup

Ingredients:

  • Large bowl of dandelion flowers (between 50-100, depending on size)
  • 1 large apple, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 500g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Wash the dandelion flower heads and spread them out to dry on kitchen paper or tea towels
  2. Use a pair of scissors to snip the petals away the green stalks (doesn’t matter if a few green bits find their way in)
  3. Place the petals in a large pan with about 700ml of water, the chopped apple and the lemon juice
  4. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 15 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool and steep, with the lid on, for a few hours (at least 2)
  6. Strain the liquid through a muslin or a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing all the liquid from the petals and fruit
  7. Return the clear liquid to the pan
  8. Add the sugar, and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for around 1 hour to 1 hour 30 mins, stirring occasionally, until the syrup thickens
  9. Pour into sterilised, sealable bottles or jars. The syrup should keep in the fridge for a few weeks to a month.

Thanks to The Nerdy Farm Wife and the Traditional Scandinavian Dandelion Syrup recipe for the inspiration!

Dandelion Syrup Cake

Now, a use for that beautiful syrup! To me, dandelion syrup has a delicate, floral taste, somewhere between dried hay and honey. It’s just what’s needed when the weather is grey and drizzly (which is more often than not, here in the UK) and you need something that tastes of the sun.

Ingredients:

  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or a vanilla bean pod)
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tbsp dandelion syrup

For the drizzle:

  • 2 tbsp dandelion syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of flour with each to stop the mixture from splitting.
  4. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  5. Gently stir in the vanilla, zest, juice and syrup.
  6. Spoon into the tin and bake for around 35-40 minutes, until risen and golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. (If the top starts browning too quickly, cover it with some foil).
  7. While the cake is still warm, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over the dandelion syrup so that it soaks in, followed by the lemon juice and finally the caster sugar, to give it a drizzle-cake style topping.

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Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Cake

On my allotment, there’s a huge plum tree that overhangs the fence. Every year it sags almost to the ground under the weight of all the fruit and since I can’t bear to see them rotting on the branches, I, err, tend to liberate a fair few. (It’s not scrumping if no one else cares, right?!) I came home with a bag full the other day, and of course had to figure out a use for them.

My haul made three jars of blackberry and plum jam and this: a Plum & Hazelnut Frangipane cake.

Since this cake is part frangipane, it’s heavy on ground nuts and light on flour. (You could easily make this gluten free by substituting the flour for a GF alternative). Hazelnut frangipane is far superior to almond in my opinion: hazelnuts have such a comforting, warm, rich flavour, especially when toasted. And combined with ripe plums, vanilla and cinnamon, this cake is pretty damn addictive.

Plum & Hazelnut Frangipane Cake
Ingredients

  • 100g whole hazelnuts (or use pre-ground if you can find them)
  • 140g butter, softened
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 4 or 5 fresh plums, depending on size
  • Half a tbsp of honey
  • Icing sugar and a few more chopped hazelnuts, to decorate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C / 325F / Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.
  2. If you’re using whole hazelnuts, place the nuts in a dry saucepan and set over a medium heat to toast for around 3-4 minutes, shaking frequently to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Tip out onto a clean tea towel and rub vigorously to remove the hazelnut skins. Don’t worry if some don’t come off.
  4. Use a hand-held blender or similar to finely grind the hazelnuts. Set aside.
  5. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of ground hazelnuts with each.
  7. Stir in the rest of the hazelnuts, almonds, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  8. Gently stir in the flour until just combined. 
  9. Spoon the mixture into the tin.
  10. Slice the plums into halves or quarters depending on size and press gently, face-up, into the mixture. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar. 
  11. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
  12. Cool in the tin for a few minutes
  13. Dilute the honey with a splash of hot water and – while the cake is still warm – poke a few holes in the surface and spoon over the surface.
  14. Decorate with icing sugar and chopped hazelnuts.

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Recipe: Blackberry Madeleines

You can find my recipe for blackberry madeleines in today’s edition of Domestic Sluttery!

Blackberry Madeleines Tray

It’s a brilliant newsletter, adding a dose of cheer to your inbox, featuring stories of incredible women throughout history, recipes, gift ideas, sales spy feature and more. So if you’re not already signed up… what are you waiting for? https://www.domesticsluttery.com/

L x

 

 

Wild Cherry Cake

Wild Cherry Cake 1

When it came to creating a cake to accompany Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I knew I wanted it to contain three things. Cherries – as might be found on Emeline and Aaro’s secret tree – were a must. Almonds too; the medieval Catalan recipe collection The Book of Sent Sovi is full of recipes featuring fragrant almonds, in broths, sauces, creams and puddings…

Last of all, I wanted it to contain a hint of sweet, heady wine, the kind I drank during my visit to French Catalonia. Banyuls is vin doux naturel, a strong dessert wine made in only four places along the Côte Vermeille: Banyuls-sur-Mer, Port-Vendres, Collioure and Cerbère. It’s almost a metaphor for the spirit of the place; the vines have to be hardy to grow in the rocky, arid soil, but they’re helped along by the bright sunlight that ripens the grapes and la Tramontana, the wind from the mountains, that sweeps any pests out to sea. In my memory, Banyuls tastes honeyed and deep, like peaches and apricots baked slowly in a clay pot over embers.

Sadly, Banyuls is notoriously tricky to find outside of France, so I’d suggest using whatever good quality, rich dessert wine you can lay your hands on. Of course, if you do happen to find a bottle, you know who to call if you want to share…

Wild Cherry Cake 2

Wild Cherry Cake

For the cherries in syrup:

  • 150g morello cherries, fresh or frozen (and defrosted)
  • 3 tbsp good quality sweet dessert wine
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

For the cake:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • Large handful dried cherries
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Handful flaked almonds
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Allons-y!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Place the cherries, wine, cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl and toss gently until combined. Set aside to infuse.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg to the butter mix, along with a tablespoon of the flour (to stop the mixture from splitting) and beat well. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, beating well in between.
  5. Add the rest of the flour in thirds, folding in gently until it is just combined and no streaks are showing.
  6. Gently stir in the ground almonds, vanilla and dried cherries.
  7. Spoon two-thirds of the infusing cherries onto a plate and toss in the remaining 1 tbsp of flour. (This’ll stop them all sinking to the bottom) Put the syrup and remaining cherries to one side.
  8. Carefully stir the flour-coated cherries into the mixture, making sure they’re evenly distributed. Add a splash of milk if the mixture needs loosening.
  9. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in its tin on a wire rack.

To decorate:

  1. While the cake is still warm, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer.
  2. Spoon the cherry-wine-cinnamon syrup over the top so that it soaks in.
  3. Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on them, because they’ll catch quickly.
  4. Decorate the cake with the remaining infused cherries, almonds, and a dusting of icing sugar. Eat with a glass of brandy or sweet wine and dream yourself away to a warm summer’s night, outside a seafront café, at the very end of France…

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Domestic Sluttery Back in Town

So I’m very excited to announce that the brilliant team behind Domestic Sluttery are BACK with DS 2.0, this time in the form of a daily newsletter.

If you like stories about remarkable women, stylish homeware, ridiculous objects, fancy jewellery, sales bargains, gift ideas, easy, tasty recipes and swishy skirts then Domestic Sluttery is the newsletter for you.

© Laura Madeleine 2016
St Clement’s Polenta Cake

I’m back on occasional cake duty for them, too! So far, recipes have included St Clement’s Polenta Cake and Caramapple Pudding. Future ones? You’ll just have to sign up… https://www.domesticsluttery.com/

P.s. they’re also looking for brilliant food writers for paid, month-long residencies. Sound like your thing? Get on board!

 

The Confectioner’s Tale: US Edition

So today marks publication day for the US edition of The Confectioner’s Tale! I’m thrilled that this little book – which I feel like I started so many years ago – will now be available across the pond; not only in paperback, but in gorgeous, petite-sized hardback as well!

I’m beyond delighted to be published by St Martin’s Press; the team there have been fantastic and supportive, and I can’t wait to work with them on future books.

To celebrate the launch, I’m running a giveaway of TWO signed (and personalized, if you like) hardback copies of The Confectioner’s Tale. If you’d like to enter, just leave me a comment below before 1st October 2016 at 23:59 (GMT), and I’ll pick the winners at random.

image1image2

In case you missed it the first time (and because, of course, a celebration means cake) here’s a link to the St Germain Cake I created to mark the book’s original release.

St Germain Cake

A bientot!

L x

Cake Time: Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

It’s officially September! Although I’m always sad to see the evenings get darker and cooler, to see the high, summer grass start to wilt and the leaves to brown, there’s so much I love about autumn. I love the scent of woodsmoke that starts to creep through the chill air in the evenings. I love the high, blue skies and brisk clouds. I love the old-gold colour of the sun, the saffron-yellow leaves, jumpers and boots and long walks that end in pubs with open fires…

And of course, then there’s the food. After weeks of salads and tarts and “light” summer dishes (in my book “light” still means immoral quantities of cheese), it’s exciting to be able to indulge in some heartier, cosier meals. And for me, autumn means one unmissable thing.

BLACKBERRIES.

I love blackberries. In crumbles, in cakes, eaten straight from the hedgerows… Not the flavourless, seedless plump shop-bought ones. You can keep them. I love tramping through meadows and straddling ditches, half-falling into hedgerows to pick small, deep, purple-black berries, so ripe they burst on your hands until you’re covered in juice. Wild blackberries have a flavour that’s impossible to replicate: sweet but mellow, perfumed and somehow darker than other berries. I like to think it’s because blackberries ripen as the nights grow shorter: they come along hand-in-hand with these plummeting late-summer twilights.

So without further ado, here’s one of my favourite recipes for them, which I hope captures the flavours of coming autumn. I’ll be posting more blackberry recipes over the next few weeks, so get out there and get berrying!

Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 175g butter, very soft
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • Handful of hazelnuts, chopped
For the glaze
  • 100g fresh blackberries
  • 7 tbsp sloe gin
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean extract or 1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped out (if you can afford it, this stuff is so much better than standard vanilla extract)

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin.
  2. Place the chopped hazelnuts in a dry pan and toast over a low heat for around 2 minutes. (Watch out, they catch and burn very easily). Tip onto a plate to cool.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir together the flour and almonds in a bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs, then add a third of them to the butter mixture, along with a third of the flour and almonds and stir gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining thirds, being careful not to over-mix.
  6. Stir in the cooled hazelnuts.
  7. Tip into your prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  8. Bake for around 40-45 minutes or until risen and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. (A few crumbs are fine).
The glaze:
  1. Place 100g blackberries into a saucepan, along with 4 tbsp sloe gin, the sugar and the vanilla extract. (Save a few whole berries for decoration and surreptitious eating).
  2. Stir together and cook over a low heat until the blackberries can be crushed with the back of a spoon and the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the liquid, smooshing the berry-pulp with a spoon to get all the gorgeous, purple juice out.
  4. Return the liquid to the pan and reduce over a low heat again until thickened, another 4-5 minutes or so.
  5. Set aside and stir regularly: you’ll need to use this quite quickly before it sets, so have that cake ready.
  6. Prick holes in the top of the cake whilst still warm and drizzle over the remaining 2 tbsps of sloe gin.
  7. Remove from the paper and place on a wire rack. (You might want something underneath – this bit gets messy).
  8. Spoon the glaze over the cake whilst still warm, pushing to the edges with the back of a spoon. Decorate with the remaining blackberries and bask in the ruby, sticky deliciousness that has now stained your entire kitchen.

This recipe first appeared on Domestic Sluttery.

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Friday Cake Time: Tiramisu Cake

tiramisu cake
 
I LOVE tiramisu. Love, love love it. What’s not to love? Booze, coffee, mascarpone… But, it’s hard to stick birthday candles in tiramisu. So, a few years ago I came up with this hybrid: tiramisu cake! All the flavours of tiramisu, masquerading as a cake. I made it again recently for a very important birthday, so thought I’d share it with everyone here.
 

Tiramisu Cake

Overall preparation time: 35-40 minutes
Baking time: 30-35 minutes
 

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 175g butter, very soft (but not melted)
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp strong coffee
  • 1 tbsp brandy
For the filling and topping*:
  • 4 tbsp strong, cold coffee
  • 6 tbsp brandy (or amaretto, if you prefer)
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • A couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • A handful coffee beans (to decorate)
Allons-y!
The cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Grease and line the bottoms of two 20cm cake tins.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture from splitting.
  5. Sift in the remaining flour and baking powder, and fold in gently.
  6. Carefully stir in the vanilla, coffee and brandy.
  7. Spoon into the cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and golden and the sponge springs back when pressed.
  8. Leave to cool in the tins for a minute or two, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
The filling:
  1. Whilst the cakes are still just warm, turn them over and drizzle the undersides alternately with the coffee and 4 tbsp of the brandy.
  2. Place the mascarpone in a bowl, along with the icing sugar and remaining 2 tbsp brandy and beat together.
  3. When the cakes are cool, smooth half the mascarpone over the bottom cake.
  4. Finely grate the dark chocolate over the mascarpone, then sandwich the other cake on top.
  5. Smooth mascarpone over the top layer.
  6. When you’re ready to serve the cake, dust the top liberally with cocoa powder, decorate with coffee beans and stand back, to survey your masterpiece.

* If you’re a fan of lots of topping and filling, you can always double up the quantities here; in my experience it results in slightly too much to be feasible for one cake, but hey, you can always eat the rest of it on its own…

This recipe was first featured on Domestic Sluttery.

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Cake Time: Persimmon and Cardamom Cake

CU61DsmWIAA_bO2Up at my local greengrocer the other day, I noticed a tray of strange, orange-red fruits. They were about the size of a small aubergine, and looked so ripe, that they were almost glowing. Now, since I’m an absolute fruit fiend, I get unduly excited when confronted with a fruit I don’t know anything about. The local grocer is usually great at getting in seasonal produce, so whatever this mystery fruit was, it had to be the right time of year for it, too. I was baffled.

“It’s a kaki fruit,” explained the grocer, “a type of persimmon. And they’re not overripe, that’s how they’re supposed to be.”

I was dubious; they looked so ripe they were almost bursting, and even paying for my haul, I managed to stick my thumb through the skin, nearly causing a fruit explosion. But, I discovered after a bit of internet research, that is when they’re at their best. They ripen on the trees well into autumn, after all the leaves have fallen, so that they look like bright orange paper lanterns on the bare branches.

800px-Diospyros_kaki-9

I hardly needed to peel the one I bought; the skin just came away and I scooped out the coral-coloured flesh like jam. It has a subtle taste, gently perfumed and very sweet without being at all sharp. Of course, I started thinking about how I could bake it into a cake.

Another quick internet scan (where, as usual Rachel Eats came to the timely rescue) revealed the people usually bake persimmon cakes in bundt rings. I guess this makes sense, since the fruit with naturally make a cake heavier, so a bundt ring will distribute the heat more evenly and stop any sinking in the middle nonsense.

I have some mini-bundt tins that I’ve never had the opportunity to use, so we were alright there. After a quick raid of the spice rack, I changed my mind from nutmeg to cardamom and presto. Cake time.

If you do see any kaki fruit on your travels, grab them quick! You won’t be disappointed.

L x

(p.s. sorry about the low-fi picture, didn’t have the camera this weekend!)

Persimmon & Cardamom Cake 

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 20-25 minutes 

For the cake:
  • 180g butter, softened
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 1 very ripe persimmon, flesh scooped out
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 5 or 6 cardamon pods
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, to finish

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Grease 4 mini-bundt or mini-loaf tins
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and very fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of the flour to stop the mixture from splitting. Beat well in between.
  4. Sift in the rest of the flour and stir until just combined.
  5. In a pestle and mortar, bash open the cardamom pods to get at the seeds. Fish out any husk and then pound the seeds into as fine a powder as you can manage.
  6. Tip the ground cardamoms seeds, vanilla and persimmon flesh into the batter and stir gently to incorporate.
  7. Spoon into the tins, filling them 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for around 25 minutes (depending on your oven!) until set and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool slightly.
  10. Turn out onto a plate, dust with icing sugar and enjoy!