Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 29th, 2019

I first made this cake for Keith’s birthday in 2005 or so, after seeing the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine. I was intrigued by the ingredients. Wasabi mustard? Ginger? Sesame? In a cake??? I had to try it – despite it looking like a hectically complicated recipe.

It was so utterly scrumptious that a friend of mine said to me “If you weren’t married – I’d propose!”

In 2011, another friend (who had also been at the tea party) asked me to make the cake for her wedding.No pressure!

Her wedding was out in the bush under a massive wild olive tree, but luckily – despite the bouncy dirt road – the cakes made it intact.

On Friday I made it for the third time. To celebrate my birthday yesterday after what has been a particularly difficult year.

It is a celebration cake. One of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. And it is worth the effort. But be warned – it might lead to unexpected proposals!!

Here is the recipe, adapted from the Bon Appetit one:

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Black pearl ganache

• 170 g dark chocolate, chopped

• ¾ cup whipping cream

• 1 teaspoon ground ginger

• ½ teaspoon wasabi powder

• 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

• 1 tablespoon golden syrup

• 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Place the chocolate in medium bowl. Bring the cream, ginger, and wasabi to boil in small pot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate; cover with plastic wrap and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth. Mix the sesame seeds and syrup in small bowl until all the seeds are well coated and stir into the chocolate mixture. Cool to lukewarm then stir in the butter. Cover and stand at room temperature overnight to set.

Ginger syrup

• 1 cup water

• ½ cup sugar

• 5 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger

• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Place the water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan, and add the bean pod. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Stand at room temperature for 1 hour for the flavours to blend.

Strain the syrup into a small bowl. Chop the strained ginger and keep it aside to be added to the cake mix. (The syrup can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate the ginger and syrup separately.)


• 2 cups boiling water

• 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 2¾ cups flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• ½ teaspoon salt

• 2¼ cups sugar

• 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 4 large eggs

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter three 20 cm diameter cake pans with 5 cm high sides. Dust with flour and line the bottoms with baking paper.

Whisk the boiling water, cocoa powder and reserved chopped ginger in a medium heat-proof bowl. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Using an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter in another large bowl until fluffy, for about 1 minute. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then add the flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with cocoa mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.

Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto racks to cool completely. (Cakes can be prepared a day ahead. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.)

Whipped cream icing

• 2 cups chilled whipping cream

• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar

• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

• ½ teaspoon ground ginger

• black sesame seeds for decoration

Beat the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and beat until stiff peaks form.

Using a long serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off the cakes to create a flat surface. Place one cake layer, cut side up, onto a plate. Brush the top with ⅓ cup ginger syrup. Spread half of the ganache over the top. Place a second layer, cut side up, on top of the first layer. Brush with ⅓ cup syrup, and spread with the remaining ganache. Top with the third cake layer and brush with the remaining syrup.

Spread the sides and top with whipped cream icing. Sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds. Refrigerate until the ganache is set, about 4 hours. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. (Can be made a day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Delicious served with blueberries and strawberries.

Fresh and Easy

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 20th, 2019

Abundant spring herbs add flavour to any meal. Here a blend herbs, nuts and spices create a delicious feast.

I served this chunky cashew nut pesto with herbed cous cous, tramezzini, hummus and a fresh salad. But also try it on top of roasted eggplant

Chunky Cashew nut and herb pesto.

• roast cashew nuts in cast iron pan til just browned. Remove from pan and sprinkle with pul biber.

• roast cumin seeds in same pan til fragrant and add to cashew nuts.

• blend basil and coriander leaves with olive oil.

• add cashew nut mix and blend briefly so they are chopped but still chunky.

• add salt, lemon juice and Black Gold balsamic to taste

Cous cous with herb sauce

• blend basil and parsley with olive oil.

• add Moroccan spice, lemon juice, pepper and salt to taste

• mix with fluffy cous cous.


• blend one garlic clove and about ½ a teaspoon of salt with a quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice. Leave to sit for 20 minutes. (This tempers the garlic.)

• Add ½ a cup of tahini and a tablespoon of cold water. Blend. Add another tablespoon and blend til smooth. Add more water if the tahini was very thick.

• Add ½ teaspoon of cumin, 1 Tbs olive oil and a can of drained chickpeas. Blend til smooth.

• Add more water and/or olive oil if too thick and blend. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice to taste.

• serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of pul biber.

Basic pest repelling spray

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 9th, 2019

Healthy organic gardens always have a few resident pests to provide fodder for predatory, beneficial insects, which in turn reduce the need for additional pest control. However, when these troublesome pests begin to destroy the garden, you need to take action. To dissuade them, grow strong smelling plants such as citronella pelargonium, artemisia, tansy and feverfew among your flowers and veggies. Use their leaves as pest repelling mulch or to whip up an inexpensive home-made spray.

  • ½ bucket leaves and stems of citronella pelargonium elder, tansy, feverfew or African wormwood
  • just-boiled water
  • 2T dishwashing liquid

1. Add the water to the bucket of leaves and stems, stir and leave to stand overnight.

2. Strain, add dish-washing liquid and mix.

3. Spray onto affected plants every few days as this herbal insecticide breaks down quickly. Make sure you spray underneath the leaves as well as on top.

  • The spray will keep for up to a month.
  • Don’t discard the leaves and stems after they’ve been steeped in water, rather add them to your compost heap.
  • To increase the efficacy of the basic spray, include garlic, onion and chilli. Chop these ingredients up finely and add to the plants with the just-boiled water.
  • To repel wool-eating moths, dry the leaves of elder, tansy, citronella pelargonium, feverfew or African wormwood and place in single socks. Tie the top closed with a ribbon and tuck amongst your woollies.