Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Aussie-Canadian: Macadamia Maple Cake

Macadamia Maple Bundt Cakes - Photo by Em

Saying goodbye to loved ones seems to be a regular part of my life since I’ve lived in different parts of the world in pursuit of knowledge and work. Last month, I said goodbye to one of my best friends, Em, who returned to her hometown Québec City, Canada. She was (still is) not just my confidant; she was also my culinary and running buddy. We initially met due to our love for running. We’ve also had lots of wonderful adventures trying and discussing foods, as well as checking out new or interesting restaurants. She’s one of the few friends who has seen my grumpy and angry side and still loves me ;-)

When Em celebrated her last birthday in Australia in December last year, she gave me the challenge of using a “mystery” ingredient (a la Iron Chef) in her birthday cake. This mystery ingredient was soon revealed to be maple sugar:

The texture and colour of maple sugar is similar to brown sugar, but tastes distinctively like maple syrup. Maple sugar is almost impossible to find it in Sydney and it’s very costly, so I had to think very carefully about how I would utilise this precious ingredient.

Knowing that this might be the last birthday cake that I will bake for Em in Australia, I also wanted to use an Australian ingredient. Essentially making an Aussie-Canadian cake. Hence the birth of the Macadamia Maple Cake. Apparently, macadamia is the only Australian native plant crop that has been developed commercially as a food. I always thought macadamias were originally from Hawaii. More about the history of macadamia and its nutritional value after the cake recipe.

To add more Ausssie-ness to this cake, of course I had to turn to an Australian cookbook for inspiration. This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found in Jane Lawson’s Grub: Favourite Food Memories, which is filled with delectable photos and very straight forward recipes. The original recipe is for a macadamia cake with lime syrup. Since I was given the challenge to make a cake with maple sugar, I replaced the sugar with the maple sugar and made a maple glaze instead. As I didn't have enough macadamia nuts for the full recipe, I made half the quantity and used 3 mini bundt pans that Eva (Sweet Sins) gave me last Christmas. The cakes turned out moist and had a lovely crumb which was surprisingly light. A rich and decadent cake, perfect as a special birthday treat for a very special friend.

Macadamia Maple Bundt Cakes - Photo by Em

Macadamia Maple Cake
Adapted from Jane Lawson’s Grub
Makes 6 mini bundt cakes

200g organic macadamia nuts
185g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
200g reduced-salt butter, softened
230g maple sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
80ml (1/3 cup) milk

Warm Maple Glaze, to finish

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease a 25 cm wide non-stick bundt mould or 6 mini non-stick bundt moulds.

Grind the macadamia nuts very finely using a food processor (or in a few batches in a blender) and place into a mixing bowl. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda over the nuts and mix well.

Beat the butter and sugar til pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix in half the flour mixture, then half the milk. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk, until all the ingredients are well combined.

Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth over. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is dark golden and comes away slightly from the side of the tin. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Allow the cake to rest in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, before inverting onto the rack to cool completely. Drizzle with warm maple glaze and devour.

The unglazed cake can be stored in a airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, refrigerated for a week, or frozen for a few months.

Maple Glaze
A dollop of butter (about 50g, or less than ¼ cup)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons cream
6 tablespoons maple sugar

Melt butter with maple syrup and cream in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add maple and whisk until smooth. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Drizzle glaze over the cakes.

This will be my contribution to WHB #122, a weekly event created by Kalyn, and this week hosted by Lia from Swirling Notions. Last month, I introduced the King of Fruits (Durian). This week it’s all about the King of Nuts - Macadamia.

The Macadamia Story
(From Australian Macadamia Society Ltd)

It is believed that long before Australia was mapped by European explorers, Aboriginal people would congregate on the eastern slopes of Australia's Great Dividing Range to feed on the seed of two evergreen trees, one of which they called 'Kindal Kindal'.

In the 1850's these trees were noticed by a British botanist Ferdinand Von Meuller and Walter Hill, the Director of the Botanical Gardens of Brisbane, Australia. The two men were struck with the majestic beauty of the specimens found growing in the rain forests of Queensland. A distinction was made between Macadamia integrifolia (smooth shelled) and Macadamia tetraphylla (rough shelled) which also produces a nut that is edible, although not as good for roasting as Macadamia integrifolia. The genus Macadamia was named after a prominent scientist of that time, Dr John McAdam.

In the early 1900s, a group of American horticulturists took some seeds to Hawaii and began growing and eventually selecting the best varieties. It wasn't until the 1960s that Australians planted trees in north-eastern New South Wales using the improved Hawaiian stocks. Today Australia is the world's largest producer of macadamia nuts with the Northern Rivers area of NSW accounting for about 60 per cent of national production.

The Healthy Nut- Nutritional Information:

When eaten in moderation (since these nuts contain 74% natural oils), raw Macadamias are a healthy snack choice. They contain a high percentage of good monounsaturated fats, which are also found in olive oil, avocados and almonds. The percentage of the good monounsaturated fats in Macadamias is nearly double that of almonds. The oil in macadamias is largely monounsaturated which is often described as the “good oil”. Macadamias contain a higher percentage of monounsaturated oils than any other natural product. Macadamia oil is similar to olive oil in its composition and use.

Roasting macadamia nuts:
One of the easiest ways to roast macadamia nuts is to scatter them over an oven tray. Cook in an oven, about 160°C, for about seven to eight minutes or as soon as they start to tan as the browning process continues after removal from the oven. As there are variations in nuts, oven temperature regulators etc, it is best to watch closely and adjust time and temperature to meet your own conditions and tastes. By roasting these nuts in the oven, they will be of an even colour. If you try roasting them in a dry pan, they can scorch more easily because of their high oil content. The following flavourings may be sprinkled on the nuts: salt, curry powder, garlic powder, paprika, lemon-pepper seasoning, cayenne or chilli powder. Serve hot or cool.

Storing Macadamias:
Roasted macadamias can be stored in an airtight container for a few days before using. If you intend to keep it for a longer period, macadamia producers recommend that the nuts are stored in a tightly sealed jar in refrigerator or freezer. In Australia, especially in warmer seasons, macadamias are stored in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and 'crunchy'. It will not make you sick to eat macadamias that have not been stored in the refrigerator. You will be able to tell if a macadamia has gone rancid as soon as you taste it.

Other Macadamia Recipes - Savoury & Sweet:

Macadamia Pesto

Tomato & Macadamia Mozzarella Linguine

Macadamia Nut Chicken

Macadamia-crusted Salmon

Macadamia Maple Granola

Mini Mocha Macadamia Muffins

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

White Chocolate & Macadamia Cookies


Em said...

It was an amazing birthday treat indeed! I have left Australia with that sweet (Maple) and rich (Macadamia) taste in my mouth... I think it will stay with me for a very long time. Exquisite! I knew Nora would use the Maple sugar for the cake, but not the nuts. I love nutty flavor (and slight crunchiness) in cakes... I was overjoyed! Thank you, Nora, for not mentioning on your blog how long it took me to eat the two cakes! At 27, I now worry. How will anyone make lovely cakes like this for my birthdays to come... Don't be surprised if you see me rocking at your door in December!

P.S. Nora, congratulations on posting... I know it's a very busy time of the year for you.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a lovely cross-cultural birthday treat! It would be fun to try a variation on that every year.

tigerfish said...

I like macadamia nuts! there some relation btw this nut and academia? What a pretty maple cake too! Sweet.

Toni said...

What a sweet tribute to a dear friend! You created a life-long memory, for sure.

Big Boys Oven said...

looks so sweet and lovely! Maple sugar sounds so interesting, yet to have seen them here. Gosh what a great ingredient given!

valentina said...

Lovely! I've no wonder this macadamia maple cake taste so good.
And nice photo of the author!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That looks like an awesome cake! Must have been a happy birthday girl! I'll have to give this a try...

I'd never heard of maple sugar before--I'll be on the lookout for that now as it sounds like it could be a great thing. I also always thought macadamias were a Hawaiian thing...

winedeb said...

Em sounds like a wonderful friend and what a thoughtful treat for her birthday! I have never heard of maple sugar but I bet it was delicious in those cakes. I know how good maple syrup tastes on pancakes, so I can just imagine it in a bundt cake. Also I love the idea of little bundt cakes. Since they are your own, you are completely justified having the whole cake to yourself!
Wonderful post Nora! I enjoyed the section of the history of the macadamia nut! They are soooo good!
Hope all is going well with your thesis!

Bellini Valli said...

Maple sugar is expensive even here in Canada, as is maple syrup...they are culinary gold and add their distinct flavour to your dishes. I love a maple glaze :D ..Quebec City and Victoria are my two favourite Canadian cities :D

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora, you are so, so sweet! What a nice gesture. I'm sure your friend was moved and glad with all you've done.

The cakes look delish and I love the idea of using the ingredients from the 2 countries!

Nora B. said...

Bonjour dear Em - I am glad that the cake left such an impression. It's always tricky trying a new recipe. I hope to rock up your door in the near future, maybe next year? (or whenever I can save up enough!).

I actually wrote this post in three stages, whenever I wanted a break, so that's why I was still able to post something :-)


Lydia, that's a good idea!


Tigerfish, thanks. Well, maybe academia makes people nuts? I know I am going nuts at the moment ;-)


Toni, it was nice that I was able to do things like that for Em while she was around. It gets harder now that we are not in the same country.


Sunny, I never saw them before in Singapore and Malaysia, but who knows these days. I was lucky to be given the ingredient.


Valentina, it did taste good, rich, but good.


Hi Mike, it was a simple yet decadent cake. I knew Em likes nuts, so the idea of using macadamia nuts came quite quickly.


Hi Deb, yes Em is a wonderful friend & I am still getting used to not having her around.

My thesis is going well, considering that my supervisor is enjoying himself in the Marlborough region in NZ while I am slogging away. He'll be back soon though, so I am hoping to finish writing up an paper (study) by then. Thanks for asking :-)


Val, I do treat maple syrup like liquid gold. I love that stuff so much. I've not been to Quebec City but have heard so much about it. They are celebrating their 400th year anniversary soon, so maybe it's a good excuse for you to make a trip there in the coming months. :-)


Patricia, I like baking for friends, so it was such a pleasure for me to be able to do that for her.

Anh said...

What a great friend you are! Like you. I treasure malple syrup (especially the Grade A stuff which I only use with my crepe :P).

The cakes are lovely, nora. I like al the ingredients u have here... Your friend was surely lucky!

Half Baked said...

What a beautiful birthday cake. Looks so good:)Lucky friend to receive such a nice gift!

East Meets West Kitchen said...

I love macadamia nuts, and this recipe is a keeper for me. Thanks! :)

Kevin said...

Those cakes look great and sound amazingly good. I really like the sound of the maple-macadamia combo. Macadamia nuts are my favorite nut. I remember seeing some maple sugar at the market. I will have to pick some up.

Eva said...

What a wonderful combination, looks like you hit the nail on the head!

BTW, can maple syrup go off? I just discovered a white substance swimming on top of mine that looks similar to mould! And then I saw that it should have been in the fridge after opening. But I thought it's just like honey? Maybe it's crystallization? But I can't check on it anyway because the screwtop is stuck due to the sugary stuff...

KJ said...

Your cake looks delicious. Maple is a gorgeous flavour. What a great birthday treat.

Em said...

Eva, it definitely needs to be kept in the fridge. We even put our unopened cans in the fridge (or freezer) here - they can be kept for a very long time that way. You should also avoid 'glass' bottles (when you can) because Maple products can be affected by light... A good idea to keep them away from sunlight.

Ah, there you go, I found this:
Scroll down and you will see a section on 'storing Maple products'.

Gloria said...

These looks so beauty and lovely Nora, how ever dear, xxxxGloria(Im in a Cyber cafe)

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Beautiful cakes Nora. I'm sure your friend was very happy with your surprise! Your surprises are always very nice, hehe... and contain macadamia nuts ;)

The wedding I was telling you about is next Wednesday, so I will be looking for some dress tomorrow and on weekend....

Have a great evening and don't work to hard on your thesis :)


Lucy said...

Nora, what a beautiful combination of flavours. I am so very jealous of that sugar!

Glad to see you've got a small moment or two to stop, take a breath and cook something goriously good. All work and no play, as they say...;-)

Nora B. said...

Anh & Half Baked, thank you. But I am the lucky one to have her as a friend. I miss her heaps.


EMWK, I love mac nuts too, esp when it's caramelised roasted, yumm...


Kevin, you are lucky that you can find maple sugar in the supermarket.


Thanks, Eva. And I think Em has responded to your question below, have a look. I have a can of maple syrup frozen if you ever need some "emergency" supply. Em gave me two cans (the REAl stuff) a couple of months ago, so I saved one for the freezer.


KJ, thanks. I do love maple, it reminds me of Sunday mornings.


Thanks, Em! You are my maple expert :-)


Thanks Gloria. Enjoy the time you have visiting your husband's hometown.


Margot, yes Em was very happy with the cakes. I do like macadamia, huh? ;-)

Too bad I can't be there for us to go dress shopping :-)


Thanks Lucy. I still have some of that sugar left, but have not decided what to do with it. So precious! And thanks for your advice. The problem is that sometimes the kitchen is my way of procrastinating... hmm...

Aimée said...

Beautiful cakes, Nora! Your freind is very lucky to have you baking for her. I must get my hands on some maple sugar-it's almost sugaring off season here!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Why have I never thought to pair macadamias with maple? Splendid. That's what it is, splendid.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What a gift to have a friend with whom you can be real. I'm glad she enjoyed the extravagant birthday treat you made for her.

swirlingnotions said...

These look beautiful! What a sweet treat for your friend . . .

Greg said...

Nothing says Canada more than maple syrup and maple sugar. Those look great!

Oh, I've tagged you for a MeMe. More information on my meme blog post.

Kalyn said...

Delicious! I have never cooked anything with real maple syrup that I can remember. Love the idea of macadamia nuts, they are one of my favorites!

Nora B. said...

Aimée, I hope that you managed to find some maple sugar. It's such a treat!


Susan (Food Blogga), Thanks. I try to find every conceivable way to use maple. Can't get enough of it.


Lynn, it's always nice to bake for someone who appreciates it.


Lia, thanks. You did a great round-up. I like it when the hosts include photos, I am a visual sorta gal. :-)


Thanks, Greg. I'll definitely do the MeMe that you tagged me. Sounds like fun.


Kalyn, nothing is as good as the real stuff. You have to try some. Maple is great in sweets and savoury food (e.g. grilled salmon, salad dressings).

Pixie said...

It's so difficult to say goodbye to good friends! Your cake looks wonderful.

Kelly-Jane said...

It's lovely how much thought you put into your friends cake, and you were rewarded with such little cuties =) I just love maple syrup, yum.

Kate / Kajal said...

Its so nice to have you back in action Nora :)
I have to admit, maple sugar is a stranger to me. but macademia nuts i adore. I'm sure this must taste gr8, as it looks fantastic.

Flanboyant Eats said...

oh and they're so cute! the perfect size! How tasty!
What a nice b-day shout out!

White On Rice Couple said...

This is a beautiful sounding and tasting dessert: macadamia & maple. It's like poetry.

Susan said...

Maple is a *very* special flavor. I'm so glad you were able to enjoy it even though it's dear to come by in your part of the world. Nice work, Nora. I never new macadamia nuts weren't Hawaiian, either.

Tartelette said...

What a nice thing to do and the cakes turned out perfect!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Nora, Found your blog for the first time and love it. Saw your query in another forum regarding cake flour - I'm in Melbourne, and you can now buy cake flour in a box instead of a bag at Woolworths. If it's not sold at your Woolworths, for the record, I always just sub in plain flour and it seems to work just fine.

Sophie said...

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