Fig and Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream

Fig cake 4

I have recently moved into a new house. A desire to do a bit of nesting, coupled with just having bought yet another cookbook, the baking book Honey and Jam, led me to make a cake.

Fig cake title

Whilst trying to orientate myself in the surrounding streets of very similar grand Georgian terraces, I popped into the local corner shop. I went in with pretty low expectations, banking on just getting milk and eggs. However, I was confronted with quails eggs, cashew nuts and several different types of brie. So I bought some duck eggs, my favourite brand of local butter and some cashew nuts for good measure.

Fig cake 3

The flavours in this cake were inspired by some ice cream I had recently at Swoon Gelato: caramelised fig and mascarpone. The duck eggs gave it a richness, and the butter tinged it yellow, and I added some ground almonds to the sponge. I topped the cake with sliced figs, fig jam and mascarpone cream.

Fig cake 1

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Lemon Polenta Cake with Honey Ricotta and Blueberries

LP ricotta top

I have recently decided to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Going ‘gf’ seems to be all the rage at the moment. I feel sorry for people who genuinely are coeliac, as there seems to be a surge in people suddenly and miraculously developing a gluten ‘intolerance’ overnight. Consequently, I’ve found that telling people you don’t eat gluten is often met with an eye roll and an accusatory ‘yes but you’re not actually allergic, are you’.


Anyway, I thought I’d give it a go, as I’ve heard so many positive accounts of what avoiding gluten can do. The first hurdle was baking. I made some relatively successful gluten free (and dairy free, just to give myself a challenge) cookies, using rice flour and coconut oil. So next I thought I’d try a cake. Lemon polenta cake is one of the easiest things to make gluten free, as the polenta acts as a good substitute for the flour, and gives the cake a pleasant grainy texture. I topped the cake with some ricotta whisked with honey, and scattered over some blueberries.

LP and ricotta


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Date and Ginger Cake

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I recently heard of the concept of a ‘house-cooling’ (from the infinite wisdom that is Kinfolk magazine). This is pretty self-explanatory, being the opposite of housewarming: it involves saying a fond farewell to a dwelling that has provided so many memories, and welcoming in the transition and all its exciting new developments. My friends Alex and Heather have lived on a houseboat for the past 3 years. The time has come to say goodbye to the converted Dutch barge, and they are moving out of the boat onto dry land.

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I made this dark and sticky ginger and date cake to take to the ‘boat–cooling’ gathering. I felt that feeling something stodgy and spicy might be in order, not least to fuel the impending sorting and moving of an entire boat-worth of stuff. We ate the cake huddled in the warmth of the boat, feeling the calm sway of the water and remembering all the many previous days and evenings spent there. This time felt poignant given the shift in seasons too – saying farewell to the boat and farewell to summer. There was a definite fizz of excitement around the anticipation of the next exciting phase, of things to come.

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Gooseberry, Blackberry and Almond Cake

Gooseberry 2

Gooseberries are tart little devils. I remember summers spent at the pick-your-own farm, enduring the torturous wait until they had been carted home and stewed with copious amounts of sugar to eat them. The ones used for this cake came from my friend Nicola’s garden –actually more accurately from her freezer, where they have been stored for the winter months ahead. As did the blackberries, and given the choice several freezer-dwelling fruits, we chose these two as a match.


Fruit and cake is a winner in my book. And you can kid yourself that it is somehow healthy, and can therefore be justifiably eaten for breakfast. The sourness of the gooseberries is offset by more forgivingly mellow blackberries, and the sweet, almondy sponge. Upside down cakes like this one, where the fruit is placed at the bottom of the cake tin, and the batter on top, always provide a satisfying moment when turned over to reveal the fruit underneath. For some reason, I’m always slightly surprised to find it still there, thinking that it might have been consumed by the cake batter.

Gooseberries 2

Having a cake around is dangerous: I get to the stage that I struggle to have a cup of tea without a slice of cake, or more accurately I have a cup of tea as an excuse to eat cake. This cake disappeared in about two hours – and not only (although almost only) due to me. And I had a large slice for breakfast the next day, covered in natural yoghurt – because if something has yoghurt on it, then it’s breakfast, right?!

Gooseberries 3


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Blood Orange, Almond and Honey Cake


Blood Orange Cake

Blood oranges, for some reason, are so much more exciting than regular oranges. I always find the vermilion flesh a surprise – somehow I’m never really expecting it to be so bright. Blood oranges live up to their name by spurting out copious amounts of red liquid when squeezed. They have a pleasant grapefruit-like tartness, and seem to deserve much more of a fanfare than the common orange.


Sometimes I get a real hankering for cake. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I need to do something. What I love about syrupy drizzle cakes like this one is that there’s no tedious wait for the cake to cool: you can just tip the syrup over and dig in. There might be people who would suggest waiting until even this cake has cooled before you eat it, but i’m going to choose to ignore them, in favour of the nirvana that is oven-warm cake. Luckily, I had some willing volunteers to help me eat it, so I didn’t end up eating the whole thing myself, which would have been entirely possible.

Whole Cake

I decided to go down the same route as lemon drizzle, but with blood oranges and honey,  simmering down a syrup of blood orange juice and honey to pour over the warm cake. I added an extra sliced orange to the syrup, which goes marmalade-y and sweet when simmered with the honey. Using ground almonds in the cake as well as plain flour helps the cake soak up the flood of syrup that is poured over it.


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Cox and Baloney Vintage Tearoom


I miss many things about working in a cafe. The smell of a freshly-opened tin of coffee beans, that hisses out as you pull back the metal lid. The meringue-like foam spooned carefully onto a cappuccino. The rustle of tea leaves shaken out of a jar. The witty (if I do say so myself) banter with customers.  And not to forget the practically unlimited access to cake.


However, one thing that I don’t miss is working at the weekend. Everyone else is having a great time, and you’re at work. Helping them have a great time, but still. I relish going to a cafe in the weekend now, even if it’s to take pleasure in watching the waiters and waitresses rush around like headless chickens. What’s that long German word for it? Schadenfreude?  Even though I take slight pleasure in their stress, I always make a point of assuring them that there’s no rush, and to get to us when they’re ready.  I know what it’s like to have ten different table-fuls of people eyeing you meaningfully, all thinking they came in first.

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In a bid to make my blog more ‘out and about’, me and my camera went on a jaunt to this lovely cafe just round the corner from my house. The cafe, called Cox and Baloney Vintage Tearoom, also houses a ’boutique’, selling vintage-inspired clothes. You have to book a table just to have tea in this place on a weekend it’s so popular. There’s a wide and impressive selection of loose leaf teas, with the standard English Breakfast (although it’s named ‘Mr Darcy’) rubbing shoulders with eccentric varieties such as strawberries and cream, containing white chocolate and strawberry pieces. We (and by ‘we’ I mean me and my friends, not my camera) were heartily encouraged to go up and smell the teas, which were standing proudly on the counter in glass jars. In the end, after much sniffing and deliberating, we opted for Sir Bountiful’s Bounty – Ceylon tea combined with a slightly bizarre mix of coconut slices, chocolate drops, thistle flowers and cornflowers. It turned out to be lovely – more than a hint of coconut, with a faint whiff of fragrance from the flowers.


The cafe is famous for its afternoon tea, which comprises scones, jam, clotted cream and an assortment of cakes and sandwiches, all piled high on a vintage cake stand. There was an impressive assortment of inventive and delicious looking cakes, including lots of gluten-free options. The coconut and chocolate sponge and an orange polenta cake were serious contenders, but in the end we narrowed it down to three:  a peanut butter and chocolate cake, a cherry bakewell, and something called a ‘jewel cake’, studded with cranberries. The peanut butter cake was the winner for me, it’s one of those cakes that you’re not entirely sure how it’s made, but you instantly want to spend hours in the kitchen attempting to recreate it.

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Our experience of Cox and Baloney was very good: delicious tea and cake, polite and attentive staff all in a lovely atmosphere. The ‘vintage’ theme is so often overdone, but here it really added to the experience. We all loved the mismatched china our tea was served in, some retro to the point of garish, and I am a bit of a cutlery obsessive, so the bone-handled silverware was appreciated. I know it’s a cliche to end with this, but I will definitely be returning. Mostly because of the peanut butter cake.




Banana, Pecan and Caramel Cake

Banana Cake

My job involves being around cake for eight hours a day. Apart from the occasional bit of cheeky ‘tidying up’, I try not to give in to temptation and eat any. If started eating cake at work, it would be an inevitable and terrifying downward slide into obesity.


However, I do get the occasional particularly intense craving to eat some cake myself, rather than just seeing it pass under my nose to a customer. Luckily, this craving was well timed, as it coincided with a tea party. I took the photographs when the cake was at its photogenic best – after having travelled in the back seat of my car for twenty minutes, the icing had started to slide off and the carefully arranged pecans had dislodged, making it look much less appetising. But it still tasted good, if I do say so myself.


This cake is a nod towards a ‘healthy’ cake, if any such thing exists. It started off well, with fruit and nuts, but then I decided to add caramel icing. I was going to be abstemious and leave off the icing, but I’ve got a bit of a thing for homemade caramel. So maybe not that healthy after all.


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