Autumn is a wonderful time of year, especially in the orchard as many fruiting trees begin to prepare for their winter hibernation but just prior to doing so, many will give up a wonderful bounty of fruit and delicious nuts. Apples and pears are the primary culprits but you will also find nashi (a japanese pear), persimmons and feijoa (to name a few) as well as an assortment of nuts including – walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Possibly one of the least understood fruits of the season is the quince, which also ripens in autumn. It is an ancient fruit belonging to the same plant family as the apple and pear but unlike their cousins, they are very unappetising if eaten raw. The quince is fruit that must be cooked to bring out its divine flavour, aroma and colour.
When cooked for a reasonable period of time, the white astringent flesh turns crimson in colour and develops a lush sugary caramel flavour.
Quinces are commonly used a dessert ingredient across the globe for jams, jellies, tarts and curds but they also have many savoury applications in a number of cultures.
The following simple cake recipe is sure to delight any afternoon tea or dinner party.
Makes 8 to 10 serves
2 to 3 quinces (cored and sliced into eighths) – can be peeled first if you like
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
115 grams butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons of the quince cooking liquid
1 cup plain flour (plus extra for dusting cake tin)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips (coarsely chopped)
a little butter to grease cake tin
1. Place the sliced quince into a baking tray and add sugar and water. Cook in a moderate oven at 180° C for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Although, the quince will soften partially and colour, it will not be fully cooked until it is baked in the cake.
2. Remove tray from oven and allow to cool in the syrup.
3. Place butter into a saucepan and heat over a medium flame until melted. Once melted allow it to continue beating until it foams and turns a medium golden colour. Be careful, the butter will deepen in colour quickly once it is melted. DO NOT let it burn and become a deep brown – it will be bitter and worthless.
4. Once coloured remove melted butter from heat and allow to cool.
5. Place eggs in a bowl and whisk at high speed for 5 minutes until they are pale in colour, then add the sugar, vanilla and quince cooking liquid and continue to whisk for a further 2 minutes. The batter should increase in volume and become very pale in colour.
6. Add the cooled melted butter to the batter and mix through. Then add the sifted flour and baking powder a little at a time until fully combined.
7. Grease a 22 cm spring form cake tin with a little butter and dust with a little flour, so the tin is completely coated.
8. Pour the batter mixture into the tin and then arrange the roasted quince pieces over the surface, before scattering two thirds of the chopped chocolate over the surface. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160° C for 40 to 50 minutes.
- The batter will puff and rise as it cooks enveloping the roasted quince and chocolate.
9. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the cake can be removed cleanly.
10. Remove from oven when cooked and scatter remaining chocolate onto the top of the cake. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
11. The cake should be served at room temperature.
- This cake can also be made with apples or pears as an alternative.
- If using apples or pears, it is not necessary to roast them in the oven prior to using them – but if roasted they have a richer flavour.