Warming Winter Cumquat and Almond Cake

A delicious cumquat and almond cake - perfect for winter nights
A delicious cumquat and almond cake – perfect for winter nights

As anyone who grows their own food knows, it’s incredibly satisfying creating dishes from ingredients from your own garden. So we got double pleasure making this cake using home-grown cumquats and almonds.

The first step was picking the cumquats.

The almonds were picked at the end of summer, and have been sitting in their shells waiting for attention since then, so the next job was taking off the outside husks, then using the nutcracker to crush the shell and get the almonds out. A quick whiz in the blender turns almonds into almond meal, and we’re ready to make the cake.

Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake
Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake

Gluten Free Almond and Cumquat Cake
(This is our adaptation of a recipe by Helen Goh that appeared in ‘The Age’.)

Fruit prep
500 g cumquats
160 g raw sugar

Cake
250 g cream cheese
250 g raw sugar
4 large free range eggs
2 tsp brandy
140 g almond meal
120 g rice flour
1 tspn baking powder

  1. Slice and de-seed the cumquats (roughly into quarters if they’re small, eighths if the fruit is larger). Toss in a bowl with the sugar and leave.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar together in the blender, then add the eggs and brandy.
  3. Mix the almond meal, flour and baking powder together and add the dry mixture to the egg mixture.
  4. Use a 23 cm round cake tin, and be warned, the cumquat mixture is syrupy so if you’re using a split-rim two-piece cake tin, definitely line it with baking paper or foil. 
  5. Spread the cumquat and sugar mixture in the base of the tin, then cover gently with the cake batter.
  6. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and then invert the cake onto a plate.

As always, serve with lashings of excellent cream, and preferably eat next to a roaring open fire.  For some of our other favourite ways of using your home-grown fruit you might want to check out our comprehensive Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course.

Preserving the autumn harvest

Before the days of refrigeration and a supermarket on every corner, preserving fruit (and other food) was a matter of necessity. Knowing a number of different methods of storing those essential nutrients to see us through winter was second nature, particularly for country families.

Hugh and Katie cutting peaches for preserving
Hugh and Katie cutting fruit for preserving

In the modern era, when we expect to be able to buy any type of food at any time of year (which is very weird, when you think about it…) these life skills have largely disappeared.

It’s such a pity, and makes us much more vulnerable to factors outside our control for our food supply. Cities in particular can run short of food very quickly after disasters.

So it just makes good sense to preserve as much food as we can to keep our pantries full, but turning our harvest into preserves is also heaps of FUN, and brings out your inner pioneer spirit!

A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen
A bounty of apricots destined for the kitchen

Our “go to” method is bottling (also called canning in some parts of the world), because once the fruit is preserved it doesn’t take any more energy to store it (unlike freezing, for example), and it lasts for years.

Here’s the technique we use:

  1. Prepare the fruit by washing if needed, remove any bad bits and chop into the right sized pieces to fit the jars you’re planning to use;
  2. Pre-cook the fruit if desired (it can also be bottled raw);
  3. Wash jars, rings, lids – and have your clips handy;
  4. Place rings around the neck of the jars;
  5. Fill the jars with fruit, and top up with either water or syrup (get as much air out of the jars as possible and fill right to the top with liquid);
  6. Put the lid and clip on;
  7. Cook in the Fowler’s pan or preserving pan for the right period of time (this differs slightly for different types of fruit, depending on whether the fruit is pre-cooked, and the temperature of the contents when you start the preserving process);
  8. Allow to cool before removing from the preserving pan;
  9. Label and store in a cool, dark place.
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar
Make sure the ring is fitted properly around the neck of the jar

You can find more detail about this in our Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course, along with detailed instructions for other techniques including:

  • freezing
  • making jams, chutneys etc.
  • drying (including how to build your own dehydrator)
  • pickling
Preserving plums for winter
Preserving plums for winter

Any type of fruit can be preserved using this technique. In this time of year hopefully you’ll still have access to plenty of fresh pears and apples – and maybe even plums, if you’re lucky!

Cherry pie

A rainy day in summer means a day in the kitchen preserving fruit, and if you’re lucky enough to grow (or have access to) cherries, then cherry pie is a wonderful place to start.

But there’s plenty of other ways of preserving cherries as well. One of our regular customers Christine got us inspired with this photo of the fruits of her labour in the kitchen.

From left to right, – Rainier (white cherry) conserve, Lambert (dark cherry) conserve, Rainiers in cognac and Lambert in cognac

Aren’t they gorgeous?  It’s so satisfying to see home-grown produce prepared so beautifully—thanks for sharing Christine, they look amazing.

Feeling inspired at a time when we had a team of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) staying with us one rainy summer, we got to work on the cherries that had been set aside for home use.  We started with modest ambitions of drying some cherries, and did two batches – one in the electric dehydrator and one in the oven.

Kirsten (aka Rosie the Riveter) about to put a batch of pitted cherries in the oven to dry
We had to use the oven on this occasion, as we couldn’t use our trusty home-made solar dehydrator in the rainy weather. (Click here for instructions on how to make your own solar dehydrator.)

Next was a batch of cherries stewed with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, which we bottled (though the Americans insisted on calling it ‘canning’).

Then the baking started. Oh, my goodness – dried cherry and oatmeal cookies (so named by our American guests), two types of muffin (cherry and chocolate, and cherry, peach & coconut) and cherry and peach scones. Hmmm, so that was morning tea taken care of.

Then thoughts turned to dessert. Chef Laura got excited about making a cherry tarte tatin, which started with sugar, dotted butter and some fantastic Sam cherries in a frying pan. They simmered away until the liquid reduced to a delicious syrupy consistency.

cherry_pie

The pie dough then goes on top of the cherries…

and into the oven, and once cooked, the tarte is upturned on a plate, and eaten with creme anglaise. Oh yeah…..

For most people, that would have been enough, but we still had to have (as promised at the beginning of this blog) cherry pie. Two cherry pies, in fact. Melissa braved the elements to pick some rhubarb to make a rhubarb and cherry sauce to serve with the pies, and Kirsten and Laura got creative with some divine lattice work – note the cherry on top of one pie, and the goat on top of the other, in honour of our friends at Holy Goat cheese.

January is diet month!

Find out more about how to save money with home grown and hand made with our Fabulous Fruit Preserving online short course.