Almond Lemon Easter Cake

Who loves lemon? We’ve been seeing such gorgeous lemons at the market recently, bringing their springy southern sunshine to Paris, that this Almond Lemon Easter Cake is giving us a bit of much needed zest at this time of year. It’s also ideal for pairing with chocolates in all shapes and sizes.

What fun it has been to put this simple, sticky cake together and dress it up with sugared edible flowers, macarons and Easter chocolates – just to be festive and celebrate Spring, following Macaron Day. It goes without saying – take the decorations away and it’s still a luscious lemon cake in its own right at any time of year.

Almond Lemon Easter Cake

Why is there a chocolate hen nesting on the cake?

French traditions of chocolate are surprising at first: as we’re used to mainly chocolate eggs and Easter Bunny sculptures and more in the UK, there are also some added traditional popular forms that appear – from supermarkets to the high-end expert Chocolatiers all around France. These are notably hens, bells and fish.  For a more detailed explanation and a tour of many Parisian chocolate Easter displays, see my post here.

French Easter Chocolate Traditions

HENS: As hens continue to lay their eggs even during the 40-day Christian tradition of Lent when meat or eggs are not allowed to be eaten, Easter’s arrival signalling the end of Lent means that there are a lot of eggs to be used.

BELLS: Tradition has it that church bells fly to the Vatican in Rome on Good Friday (bells therefore don’t ring for 2 days) and return with chocolate to distribute on Easter Sunday after joyfully ringing in the Mass to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

FISH: There are even more chocolate fish than usual this year, as Easter weekend falls on 1st April.  In France, April Fool’s Day is known as Poisson d’avril (April Fish) and any decently duped April Fool in France will probably be sporting a school of colourful paper fish taped to their back.

Chocolate Easter Mendiants

Chocolate Easter Mendiant Decorations

You’ll see all sorts of bags of dark, milk or white chocolate fritures, a mixture of fish, seafood and shell shapes. As I previously made Mendiants of Easter macaron bonnets, I couldn’t resist melting some white chocolate and sticking on some fritures with candied orange peel and toasted almonds.

What’s more, I used my silicone macaron mat (have you seen my review here?) to make them. Gently melt white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (bain marie) until 3/4 melted, quickly take it off the heat and stir to melt the rest of the chocolate, and leave for 5 minutes to cool. Spoon into the macaron circles (or simply onto baking parchment) and as soon as the chocolate appears to set (about 10 minutes later), quickly press in candied fruit, nuts and miniature chocolate eggs or friture. Leave in a cool place for about 20 minutes then peel off the mendiants.

almond lemon easter cake

Almond Lemon Easter Cake with macarons, mendiants and sugared edible flowers

Edible Sugared Flowers

Pick some untreated, clean edible flowers such as primoses, primula, winter pansies or violas, lightly brush with egg white from back to the fronts of the flowers, then sprinkle lightly with caster sugar. Leave to dry in a cool, dry place and use within a month.

For the macarons, use the recipes that are in either of my books, Mad About Macarons or Teatime in Paris!

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Method

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Recipe Method

This recipe uses cornflour instead of flour, making the cake extra light. I used a cake mould of 23cm diameter but any similar-sized cake tin will work well.  Ensure that your lemon is unwaxed before grating the zest.  If not, pour over boiling water and brush off the wax with a clean kitchen brush and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Slice

Almond Lemon Easter Cake – just another slice …

Almond Lemon Easter Cake – Recipe

5 from 3 votes
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Almond Lemon Easter Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

A simple, light lemon cake made with ground almonds and soaked in a tart lemon syrup to make this Easter cake extra moist

Course: Breakfast, Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: British, French
Servings: 12
Calories: 350 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 175 g (6oz) butter, unsalted (softened)
  • 150 g (5.25oz) sugar
  • 5 eggs (medium) (or 4 large eggs)
  • 250 g (9oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • grated rind of an unwaxed lemon
Syrup
  • 50 g (1.75oz) lemon juice (about one lemon)
  • 40 g (1.5oz) sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan/Gas 4.
    Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, either using a balloon whisk or mix together in a mixer until pale, smooth and creamy.

  2. Continue to mix together, gradually adding the eggs, ground almonds, cornflour, baking powder and lemon zest until the batter is smooth.

  3. Transfer to a cake mould (I used a shaped mould, 23cm diameter, although a normal cake tin is good) and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until golden.

  4. Meanwhile, make the syrup: squeeze out the juice in a bowl via a strainer to sift out the pips then weigh the juice and sugar together in a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until it thickens slightly for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

  5. Cool the cake in the mould for about 10 minutes then take out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.  Pour over the syrup all over the cake and decorate as you wish.

Recipe Notes

Can keep for up to 5 days if kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  Good for freezing.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

350 Calories per serving; 7g protein; 26g lipids; Gluten Free.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Almond Lemon Easter Cake

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Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

Do you need a quick and easy solution sometimes? Mine is often a batch of almost brownie-like, intense dark Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies – especially after making chocolate macarons.

Why? Surely seeing a batch of finished, sandwiched macarons together, there’s no problem, right?

chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies – BEFORE …

Sit down with a cup of tea and imagine the scene: there’s this large batch of dark chocolate and hazelnut macarons sitting sandwiched together with gooey ganache on a baking tray and their incredible aromas are snake-drifting around the house. Suddenly, a numbed expectant devouring silence hits the air, as my chocolate-loving teenagers and husband remember… they are NOT ready to eat just yet.

They’ve learned over time not to pinch one. Instead, it’s totally worth the wait for macarons to mature to their ultimate, crispy and fondant perfection. So, as the heavy macaron-laden box disappears in the fridge for a couple of days to perform their magic, my favourite nutty cookies come to the rescue.

Why haven’t I posted my favourite cookie recipe yet? Perhaps because, paradoxically, I make them so often. Or perhaps it has been my safely guarded secret, passed to me by our local chocolate factory.  Yes, one of our neighbours a couple of blocks away was the Chocolaterie du Pecq. Alas, I say ‘was’, as they are permanently shut down following a fire that took place a couple of years ago.

Every December, they would open their doors for a few hours to the public. Us locals would queue, unusually for the French – even if it was more sideways than a normal straight British-style queue – on our allotted early morning Saturday slot. As we were tasting their latest magic (another reason for going sideways and becoming high on cacao), we’d complete our order forms for bulk packs of the most exquisite dark chocolate chips, praline, unsweetened cocoa powder and ballotins of our favourite filled chocolates.

chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies – AFTER …

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies – with Toasted Nuts & Salt!

Thankfully, the chocolate factory’s recipes go on – and this is one of them. Over the years, I’ve used their original recipe, cutting down on the sugar (if it’s too sweet, how can you appreciate all the flavours in there?) but if you have a few more minutes (that’s all), take the cookies to the NEXT LEVEL and toast some hazelnuts and add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s all in the recipe below!

Have you put dark chocolate and good quality salt (fleur de sel from Brittany) together? The chocolate becomes even more intense in flavour. If you’ve never tried this before, then I urge you to give it a go.  Added to these cookies, it makes them even more addictive.  And speaking of salty cookies, have you tried these palets bretons, the deliciously salty butter biscuits from Brittany?

chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

Gooey and intense in dark chocolate with toasted hazelnuts and a hint of fleur de sel salt

Next time you make a batch of chocolate macarons, just remember this quick and easy cookie recipe – and, if you have extra whites left over, then make some crunchy Tuiles or delicious buttery Financiers from my book, Teatime in Paris!

I can sense that this will be seen as “just another cookie recipe post”. Am I right? Prove me wrong and try the recipe. If you do, please tell me and rate the recipe below!

5 from 1 vote
chocolate chip hazelnut cookies
Print
Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
17 mins
Total Time
37 mins
 

Perfectly gooey, crumbly and intense in dark chocolate, these toasted hazelnut cookies are addictive with a touch of French fleur de sel salt to add that extra oh-la-la factor while waiting for your chocolate macarons to mature.

Course: Breakfast, Snack, teatime
Cuisine: American, French
Servings: 12 cookies
Calories: 158 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 80 g (3oz) unsalted Butter softened, nearly melted
  • 50 g (1.75oz) cane Sugar or Cassonade French sugar
  • 50 g (1.75oz) ground hazelnuts hazelnut flour
  • 80 g (3oz) plain flour all-purpose
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Van Houten) OPTIONAL
  • 1 egg (organic) at room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt fleur de sel
  • 100 g (3.5oz) dark chocolate chips (good quality)
  • 40 g (1.5oz) hazelnuts OPTIONAL
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas6.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until it looks a moussy mixture

  2. Dry fry the hazelnuts for about 5 minutes over a high heat until toasted.

  3. Add all the other ingredients and mix together using a spatula or spoon. If adding the extra toasted hazelnuts, chop them roughly or break them up in a mortar & pestle or crush them in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin. 

  4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Using a dessert spoon or ice cream scoop, form about 10-12 balls well spaced apart. You may need a second baking sheet, depending on the size of yours. 

  5. Turn down the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/320°F/Gas3 and bake them for 17 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Notes

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION per 40g serving (makes 12 cookies): 158 Calories; 3g protein; lipids 10g; glucides 14g.

Best eaten on the day but store in a cookie jar and eat within 24 hours so they're at their best.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

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Cheesy Red Onion Pepper Cornbread

If you love Cheese Scones, then you’ll love this Cheesy Red Onion Pepper Cornbread. Like Scones and Irish Soda Bread, Cornbread is a fast bread that’s quick and easy to make since it doesn’t rely on yeast to rise over time.  So it’s handy to have up your woolly sleeve when you’re snowed in, or just for a nourishing, homemade snack or supper at little notice.

red onion pepper cornbread

You may remember seeing photos of the snow hitting Paris recently. As Antoine luckily avoided it being abroad on business and the girls and I were magically snowed in with no school, us mice turned to more British-style lunches with hot, nourishing bowls of soup (such as pumpkin & leek, or rocket soup) and something rather special to go with it.

Round cheese scones

I quickly discovered that a walk to our local boulangerie was pretty precarious; with the streets un-gritted and discovering my boots were needing new soles with proper grips, it was preferable to stay in slippers.

So, rather than slip about like some mad woman in the search of a good French baguette, I turned to my roots and made a few batches of my favourite recipe for cheese scones with spring onion & rosemary – even cheating (why does the snow make me lazy?)! I made just one big ball, flattened it slightly and gently criss-crossed it with a knife before putting it in the oven.  It didn’t look perfect but the result was fabulous!

cheesy red onion pepper cornbread

Cheesy Red Onion Pepper Cornbread

After trying a delicious Cheesy Jalapeno Soda Bread from Camilla at FabFood4All (I love how she uses beer instead of buttermilk), and with cornmeal about to reach its sell-by-date in the pantry, I was inspired to turn to a more savoury version of cornbread, adding cheese, onions and red peppers.

For traditional American cornbread lovers, please don’t be offended that I have omitted any sugar or honey from the recipe.  After experimenting and playing around with various versions, the girls have given the thumbs up to this final savoury version – it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s delicious – and colourful too. Moreover, as I don’t have a traditional skillet to cook it in, I just used a cake pan and it slipped out so easily.

cheesy red onion pepper cornbread

The additions of salt (or fleur de sel) and fresh rosemary or thyme (I saved from the garden!) when serving, just add that extra delicious touch. For the cheese, you could use a good, mature cheddar or French Comté – but here I grated in matured Mimoulette cheese, which has much less fat and just as sharp on the taste.

If you love things a little spicy, then sprinkle on some smoked paprika to the vegetables before baking.

5 from 3 votes
Cheesy red onion pepper cornbread
Print
Cheesy Red Onion Pepper Cornbread
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 
If you love Cheese Scones, then you'll love this Cheesy Red Onion Pepper Cornbread. Like Scones and Irish Soda Bread, Cornbread is a fast bread that's quick and easy to make since it doesn't rely on yeast to rise over time.  So it's handy to have up your woolly sleeve when you're snowed in, or just generally feeling like a nourishing, homemade snack or supper at little notice.
Course: Breakfast, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, British
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 262 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 150 g (5.5oz) cornmeal
  • 100 g (3.5oz) plain flour all-purpose
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt fleur de sel
  • 1 tbsp rosemary or thyme finely chopped
  • 100 g (3.5oz) comté, mimoulette or cheddar cheese grated
  • 1 egg organic
  • 340 ml (12oz) buttermilk* (or milk with 2 tbsp lemon juice) SEE NOTES
Topping
  • 1 red onion finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper roughly chopped
  • 1 cob fresh corn kernels (or small tin sweetcorn)
  • 1 tsp salt (fleur de sel) for sprinkling before serving
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika optional
Instructions
  1. First, prepare the topping by frying the red onion and pepper in one tablespoon of the olive oil for about 10 minutes over a medium heat until translucent (not browned). Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6.

  2. Prepare the batter: in a large mixing bowl sift in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, grated cheese and rosemary.  Using a large spoon, mix in the egg and buttermilk until smooth.

  3. Grease a cake tin with the other tablespoon of olive oil and pour in the batter.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

  4. Remove from the oven, top with the onion and pepper mix, sweetcorn and (if using) the smoked paprika and return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

  5. Leave to cool slightly in the tin then remove and enjoy while still warm.

Recipe Notes

* If you don't have buttermilk, use full fat normal milk, add 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice and leave to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes then use as buttermilk.

Nutritional Information: Per 170g serving (serves 6): 262 Calories, 11g protein, 8g lipids, 37g glucides.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Cheesy red onion pepper cornbread

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Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

The upside of last week’s rain showing off in Paris is that it has been ideal baking weather. At this time of year I’m always looking for ways to bring a smile to my teenagers’ faces in the mornings. Let’s face it, it’s easy to get on that downward spiral of fatigue with a general lack of winter sunlight, the girls’ mock lycée exams and crescendo-ing snatched snooze alarms before reluctantly pushing aside the duvet (sound familiar?). We’ve needed to cheer up by starting the day with quick and easy comfort food that’s a bit nostalgic. Baking up a batch of these warmed healthy breakfast bran muffins with dates and apple has added a wee smile on my face too, thinking of Granny.

First let me show you some bright and cheery Scottish heather, snapped in Princes Street Gardens over the weekend in Edinburgh, with my French heather back in the garden, just after I got home. There, that’s a sunshine fix for us – now for the muffins!

scottish heather Edinburgh

Looking for some cheery nostalgia, I brought out Granny’s Black Book of Scottish recipes again. I took it as a sign as the book opened directly at page 43, with Miss Adams’ recipe for Bran Muffins.

Breakfast bran muffins

Granny’s handwritten recipe for Bran Muffins and Hamlyn’s Porridge Oats & Bran

Only Granny would have known who Miss Adams was, as I can’t find any family members who had heard of her.  In any case, it was the perfect time to make these healthy breakfast bran muffins, as I’ve just discovered Hamlyn’s of Scotland’s new Oats and Bran. It took me right back to the time my Mum used to make bran muffins using a well-known breakfast cereal but when I checked the company’s website, it wasn’t up there – but who knew that Granny had a recipe?

So bring on these deliciously moist Breakfast Bran muffins, adapted from Granny’s Black Recipe Book with added healthy oats, dates and apple – and using weights (grams/ounces) to volume (cups).

Incidentally, if you’re curious why I always use weights rather than volume, see my post on measuring your baking here. And if you’re not curious and use cups, then I thoroughly recommend you read it now, as it will change the way you bake.  It’s not as important for making easy muffin recipes like this one, but boy – you can’t make macarons, fancy cakes consistently well, or French patisserie without digital scales!

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

As you can see from Miss Adams’ recipe, granny suggested using dates. I love that squidgy concoction.  She often mixed dates with apple in her recipes, so I added the apple in these too for old times’ sake. This makes the bran muffins extra moist and with the dates’ natural sweetness, there’s no need to add anything to them (Mum, if you’re reading this, no extra butter – there’s plenty in there already). If you make them the night before, just warm them slightly to serve for breakfast.

****

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post but was thrilled to receive Scottish Porridge Oats & Bran from Hamlyns of Scotland in return for this recipe in their ‘Oat Cuisine’ collection (I wish I’d thought of that one!)

Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins

 

5 from 3 votes
Breakfast Bran Muffins
Print
Healthy Breakfast Bran Muffins with Oats, Dates & Apple
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

Irresistibly moist bran muffins with oats, dates and apple for a delicious healthy start to the day

Course: Breakfast, Snack, teatime
Cuisine: American, British, Scottish
Servings: 9
Calories: 153 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 100 g / 3.5oz plain flour all-purpose
  • 50 g / 1.75oz porridge oats with bran (Hamlyn's) or oats with 1 tbsp wheat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt fleur de sel
  • 1 organic egg
  • 100 ml / 3.5fl oz milk
  • 70 g /2.5oz butter (unsalted) melted
  • 50 g /1.75oz soft dark brown sugar (Muscovado)
  • 100 g /3.5oz soft dates (Medjool) roughly chopped
  • 50 g /1.75oz apple finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp mixed/apple spice optional
  • 1 tbsp porridge oats for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan); Gas 6.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats with bran, baking powder and salt. Add the dates and apple (and apple spice if using) and coat in the flour mix.
  3. In another smaller bowl, beat the egg with the milk, melted butter and sugar. Mix together then add to the dry flour ingredients, stirring well until the batter is smooth.
    healthy breakfast bran muffins
  4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases inserted in buttered muffin tins (or directly into silicone muffin moulds). Fill ¾ of the way up.
  5. Sprinkle with a few porridge oats and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Leave to cool completely for about 10 minutes before taking out of the tin.
Recipe Notes

Best served fresh on the day but for busy bakers, make the night before and store in an airtight container once cool.

Variations: Instead of 100g dates, mix 50/50 of dates and sultanas. Another variation is to replace the dates with soft dried apricots – particularly the organic dark ones.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

 

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Christmas Oat Granola – A Healthy Festive Breakfast

Go nuts! Make your mornings ‘oat-ra’ special with festive warming spices, orange & maple – and no added sugar!

Moist Banana Chestnut Loaf

When banana loaf could be a French cake. Ramblings on chestnut flour and cakes – and a recipe!