How to fake an oil painting

This is possibly the most genius thing ever. Yes, ok, they put a man on the moon but did they create a masterpiece with the push of a button? No? Exactly.

I, on the other hand, did. Purely by accident. Or rather, by my warped sense of curiosity which popped up when I was photocopying a document and about to eat a pear. A little voice told me to photocopy the pear. I obeyed and look what I made! Doesn’t it look just like a little antique oil painting? If you squint?

I can’t even give a tutorial for this because it’s too easy. Seriously, the hardest part was trying to photograph it without a reflection of me in the glass.

Choose fruit. Photocopy it. Frame it. Tell a friend.

Here is a slightly dustier version (ooops!):

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Let them eat pear & almond cake

When it comes to family gatherings on my Mum’s side, it seems the responsibility of cake-baker/dessert bringer has become solely mine.  This is great in some ways – it satisfies my baking urges and lets me put all those recipes I’ve been gathering into practice but it means my Grandma no longer does the baking. And boy can she bake! I’ve never seen her produce anything that wasn’t absolutely lovely (sometimes several different cakes and slices for the one occasion) and it all just has that Grandma style that I love. She likes to try different recipes too and if she thinks it is a recipe worth keeping she will say “put a big tick next to that one!”

I am happy to announce this pear and almond cake with almond crunch topping I made for Mother’s day got the Grandma Tick of Approval.  With juicy slices of sweet pear and a delicious butterscotch almond topping this is a cake that will satisfy everyone.

I also learned something. Whenever I decide to bake, I take the butter from the fridge and realise I need softened butter and mine is rock hard. When I’m really desperate to cream cold butter and sugar I put both in a stainless steel mixing bowl and into the hot oven for 10 seconds. The bowl heats up as well as the butter so while it works, there is a bit of melting and finger burning going on and it’s not ideal at all. After poking around the internet at a few different options (like pounding the butter between 2 sheets of baking paper…sounds messy right?) I found one handy hint that I like: place butter in a snaplock bag and put in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes. It works. It’s not as even as leaving it to soften at room temperature but if you’re like me and never remember to do that, this will save you time and burnt fingers.

Here is the recipe for pear and almond cake with almond crunch topping as found on www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk

Cake Ingredients

175g softened butter

150g Golden Caster Sugar (I used regular caster sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 medium eggs

220g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp grated nutmeg

140ml sour cream

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

50g ground almonds

2 firm pears, such as Comice (I used brown Bosc)

A little lemon juice

Topping Ingredients

50g butter

50g Light Muscovado Sugar (I used dark brown sugar)

2 tbsp double cream

75g flaked or slivered almonds

Method

Line a 20cm springform tin with non-stick baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with the second egg. Sift the remaining flour, a pinch of salt, bicarbonate of soda and the nutmeg together in a seperate bowl. Fold half the flour into the creamed mixture. Fold in the sour cream, zest and almonds, then the remaining flour.

Peel, core and slice the pears into eighths. Toss with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Spread half of the cake mixture over the base of the tin (it will be quite thick ) cover with the pears (I laid mine in a pin-wheel shape), then spread the  remaining cake mixture over the top (I had some left over pear slices that I placed on the top for an extra layer). Bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the almond topping. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the sugar and cream, then stir in the almonds and remove from heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and pour the almond mixture evenly over the top (be careful as the top of the cake will be fragile). Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is toffee-coloured and a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. Try to aim right for the centre when skewering as it’s hard to tell if the cake is cooked when you’re skewering right through juicy pear slices! Remove and serve warm or cold. I served mine with vanilla ice-cream and the leftover double cream – delicious!

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