vanilla quince cake

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This is a dense vanilla sponge cake smothered in poached quince slices and perfect for a winter’s tea.

Oh how I love playing with food I have never cooked before so when my friend Michael Olivier, a well known local food guru gave me these gorgeous quinces the other day my mind immediately started plotting and planning what to do with them. I have never eaten or cooked a quince in my life. Looking like fruit that would have been popular in another century, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them so I turned to the broader foodie community and my friends on Twitter asking a few questions.

A couple of exciting options cropped up including turning them it into jam, and I love making preserves or to make a jelly.

After more research I knew I definitely wanted to poach then, and then a friend of mine from Twitter a talented baker – Olivier (@GREEDYtweets) sent me an interesting sounding recipe for a vanilla cake with almonds and yogurt and quince. I was sold. I consider cake to be its own very special food group.

His recipe involved first making the vanilla syrup and then cooking them in the oven at a low heat for about 4 – 5 hours, which frankly sounded too long and unnecessary. So I changed this part of it and adapted the recipe slightly and this is what I did to make this rather delicious cake.

I used 3 quinces and what the original recipe called for, but 2 large would be adequate. Or you could do the three large ones and have lovely poached quinces in vanilla syrup as I now have to nibble on later.

What you need to make one large cake: (will feed at least 12 people)

Quinces – make this in advance:

  • 3 quinces peeled, quartered and the core removed
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod sliced down the middle with the seeds scraped out

Place all of the above in a large heavy based pot, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes with the lid on until the quinces are tender when pierced.  Allow to cool in the syrup. You can make this the day before and keep in the fridge.

For the cake:

  • 200g butter (room temp)
  • 200 g castor sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs (room temp)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (or self-raising flour)
  • 2 t baking powder (is using flour)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 140ml yoghurt (the recipe was for Greek yoghurt – I added fat-free regular yoghurt)

For the icing glaze: (the original recipe didn’t have this, but I felt given that the quinces are not that sweet, the cake could do with this pretty extra layer dripping down)

  • Mix about 3/4 of a cup of sifted icing sugar with some of the vanilla sugar syrup (about 2 – 3 tablespoons) that the quinces were poached in to make a glaze. Add a teaspoon at a time, being careful not to make this too runny.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time ensuring they are fully mixed in before adding the next one (this is an important method to follow when baking any cake). Sift the flour and baking powder (or just the self-raising flour) into the mix and by hand fold it into the batter with the yoghurt. Add the ground almonds and mix lightly ensuring everything is incorporated.

Grease a 22 – 23 cm round cake tin. Empty half the batter into the bottom. Cut the poached quinces so as to get thinner slices, drain these on paper towel and place a layer on  the batter in the tin. Top with the remaining batter and bake for 60 – 70 minutes until a sharp knife comes out clean after piercing the center. If the top is getting too brown, cover with tin foil from about 40 minutes into the baking time (I generally always do this).

Allow the cake to cool fully in the tin. Spread the icing glaze over the cake allowing it to drip down the sides. Top the cake generously with cooled and drained quince slices.

This cake is delicious served with a dollop whipped fresh cream and makes a perfect dessert.


  • Poached quinces make an excellent dessert served warm over ice cream or with cream are delicious.
  • You could poach them in spicy red wine as I did with these pears as an alternative. They make a perfect winter pud.
  • The would work beautifully in a crumble or baked into a pie.

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  1. Hello – very interesting reading about the quinces! What would you say it tastes like?? I know it is a difficult question! Nadia

  2. Hi Nadia, it tastes a bit like a pear with a slight tropical fruit (guava) taste – its quite subtle. A little bit tart, but not too much. I’m totally in love with it and think it can happily replace apple and pear in various desserts.

  3. What a glorious cake! This is divine, just in time Mother’s Day 🙂 glad I found this!

  4. Hi Claire, thank you and definitely the cake of the year for me thus far.

  5. Why are half the measurements in metric, and the other half not? Can they be provided in one system with the other standard shown in parentheses?

  6. Hi BG, I switch between metric (standard in South Africa and a large part of the world) and cups, because to my knowledge most people attempting any kind of scratch baking would have cup measures and a scale. I find this perfectly acceptable when I bake and some ingredients I don’t like to weigh.I have also added a conversion page on my site for ease of reference and conversion. I am sorry you don’t like my measurement style, and as this recipe, which I consider amongst my top 10 cakes I have ever baked, is freely available to you and anyone else on the internet, it is as it is. Please feel free to click away and find another recipe which is better suited to your needs.
    Best Sam

  7. I love quince, and since it will soon be winter in your part of the world, time for quincing will be there soon! I can recommend a book by the Queen of Quince, Barbara Ghazarian, called “Simply Quince” available on Quinces have a wonderful aroma, and I love to leave them in the fruit bowl, best air freshener ever! Also, quinces really do benefit by long cooking time. Their flavor mellows, and their color deepens to a beautiful rosy red. Add a few slices to apple pie filling or apple sauce for added color and aroma. They make a delicious jam, no added pectin needed! Quince jelly is delicately flavored. And my favorite, membrillo, or quince paste, is sooooooo good with firm salty cheese for appetizer or dessert.

  8. Hi Bobbie, thank you for this lovely comment, I too am in love with quince (only since making this cake). I cant wait for them to come back into season when I intend to make a few other recipes. I did make a fabulous, apple, pear and quince crumble last year too with a good splash of whiskey, and have to say this may well be my favourite crumble to date. I love the texture of a cooked quince. It still has some bit to it.

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