Saturday, 31 May 2008

Men and Cinnamon

Ever wanted to have powers akin to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and have the power to lure any man? Or maybe you were thinking of a way to spice up your relationship?

[Don't worry, I'm not giving relationship advice as part of the "new direction" for my blog. I've given up trying to do a makeover for my blog. I think I'll just blog about whatever I fancy! ;-) Of course food-related topics will always be the focus.]

I read somewhere that the scent of cinnamon is a sure way to attract men. Apparently, it’s an aphrodisiac. It’s supposed to be more potent than vanilla or chocolate. I am always skeptical about such claims, so I decided to test this out in an experiment in February:

(Scene: Quikong walks into the house:)

Q: “Hmmm… I smell cinnamon buns!”
N: :Nope”
Q: “Chelsea buns?”
N: “Nope”
Q: “Walnut scrolls?”
N: “Nope. I made something easy. Go have a look, it’s still in the oven.”
Q: “Yumm…. When will it be ready?”

It worked! But his attraction was to the cake. Never come between a man and his stomach (or his beer, as Quikong would say). :-)

We are well and truly into autumn in Sydney and tomorrow it will "officially" be winter. No stone fruits to be found at my grocer... sob! sob! It’s very much “new season” apples, pears and mandarins everywhere. I even spotted persimmons. But I am still grieving the end of the season for stone fruits – I love nectarines, peaches, apricots, and especially cherries.

These fruits were always very expensive when I was growing up in Singapore. So when I can get a tray (25 pcs) of juicy, sweet nectarines for only $8.99 at the local farmer’s market in summer, I do not hesitate to grab one or two if Quikong lets me. (“Are you sure that you will be able to eat all those fruits? You’re like a kid in a candy store…”).

This post has been sitting as a "daft" since late February while I was suffering a blog block. I figured that I may as well post it since somewhere in the world it must be stone fruit season. :-)

Easy Cinnamon Nectarine Cake
adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2005

This can also be made with fresh stone fruits like white nectarines, peaches and plums. It’s possible to use canned fruits, but of course the results will be different. Drain the fruits well and adjust the amount of sugar-cinnamon topping.

The wonderful smell of cinnamon permeates through the house while the cake is baking and when it's cooling out of the oven. Even our neighbours could smell it - it's a sure way to get knocks on the door. And I was more than happy to give some cake away because it was hard to eat just one slice. So very moreish!

This cake is “easy” because it is really is fool-proof, yet looks impressive. No careful folding required, just use a hand-held electric mixer throughout the recipe.

Makes 8 servings (or 4 in our case)

1/2 cup (113g) butter, slightly softened (or room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour

5 medium nectarines (about 1 3/4 pounds), halved, each half cut into 4 slices
2-3 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Butter & line a 9-inch-diameter springform pan.

Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until creamy and fluffy. Add 3/4 cup sugar and beat until sugar is well-blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then lemon juice and vanilla essence. Beat in flour (be careful here, I got some on my clothes) until incorporated (smooth) but do not over mix it. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. The mixture will be thick.

Arrange enough nectarine slices atop batter in concentric circles to cover completely; press lightly to adhere. Mix cinnamon and 2-3 tablespoons of caster sugar (depending on how sweet/tart your fruits are) in small bowl. Sprinkle over cake (I used a mini-sieve to get an even spread).

Bake until cake is golden brown and, about 1 hour (50 minutes for plums or smaller fruits). Cut around cake to loosen; remove pan sides. Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature. Plain, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, 12 May 2008

I Love Birthday Cake for Breakfast.

Hello dear friends and readers,

“Is this Nora’s resurrection post?” you may wonder. I am not quite sure yet as I am still pondering over the “new direction” for this blog. Since submitting my dissertation in March, I’ve had a terrible bout of blog block. Cooking, baking and eating are still integral parts of our home life, but not photography or writing. Even my blog's 1st birthday on April 26th failed to inspire me.

I do miss blogging (and I miss all my blogger friends!). I hope that by starting small with this short post, I will be able to shake off this blog block.

This delicious Black Forest Cake was not baked by me, but it was Quikong’s handy work. I think that he may have had some advice from our friend and baker extraordinaire, Eva of Sweet Sins. He baked it for me for my birthday last Saturday. It's lovely to be at the receiving end of a homemade cake for a change.

I love birthday cake for breakfast. How about you?

Take care,
xx Nora