Category: Cakes & Muffins

The Marvellous Night Circus cake

circus-detail“You like baking, right? Do you accept cake commissions? She said you’re really good at cookery.”

Flattery may get you everywhere, but it doesn’t make receiving a message like that from your friend’s dad any easier.

“Chocolate. Would you like a challenge?”

Eek. Only a little hesitance. “What are your ideas?”

“Popping candy and jelly pieces. Is that possible?”

“Like the Marvellous Creations?”

“Exactly right.”

Obviously I had to say yes, despite the unshakable feeling that it would all go horribly wrong, based on past experience. Not because I can’t bake, but because I only ever seem to fluff it when it’s important.

But, challenge accepted. Read More

Honey-roasted peach and cinnamon muffins

Sometimes, the things you love most are the things you fear. I adore enormous bookstores but sometimes when I walk into them my heart beats faster, because Oh, excellent, there are so many books! but also Oh no. There are so many books and there’s no way I’ll ever be able to read even a small percentage of them all, why isn’t there more time in the day? 

PeachportI love holding my niece, who is six months old and squishy, with big blue eyes and very little hair, and she is wriggly and I. Must. Not. Drop. The. Squirmy. Baby. I stand her on my lap, one tiny, ticklish foot on each thigh, and I do not know what to say to her. Small talk is hard enough with a fully-grown human.

I will always want crispy bacon on my burgers, but if I grill it, I will watch it, cross-legged and unblinking on the floor like I’m on the Bake Off, just in case the fat catches and bursts into flames like it did that one time when I was a kid.

There’s a big place in my heart for huge, fluffy muffins – the properly craggy-topped ones, not supermarket double chocolates, all sticky on top and dry at the bottom – and I am convinced that I can’t make them. Read More

Raspberry breakfast rolls with cream cheese frosting

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couple of weeks back, on one of those many days when people were questioning if somebody had twisted the planet to place us back in February, with the threat of rain hanging over us, I went to a talk at Borough Market with Stephanie. It was based around what makes good food writing – the styles of recipe writing, how best to introduce a dish, how many ingredients is too many. The best bit of the night was probably the food after the panel, but as I tucked a blanket up around my neck and listened to how food writing should carry emotion and take a reader to another place, I couldn’t help thinking What if it’s just a recipe you like? What if it’s no more complicated than that? 

So. Here’s something that I like. It doesn’t need a personal essay or a link back to childhood. The recipe is all about a sweet, pillowy dough that makes a light floof sound when you turn it out and the joy of painting with jam and studding it with chocolate. Read More

Lemon and poppy seed cake with mascarpone frosting

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ell. This isn’t very festive, is it? There’s no way to make a lemon cake seem of the season, but it’s too good to hide away until the sun comes back.

There’s something inherently terrifying about making a layer cake – for me, knowing that a bake has a purpose and so has to be really good almost always means I mess it up.

There was the salted caramel crumble bars for dessert after a roast at a friend’s which turned out to be appley shortbready mush. The cookies that I tweaked, which resulted in a too-gooey dough. Before that, the chocolate birthday cake that was so loaded down with ganache that it could have been used as a weapon.

So when making this for my best friend’s birthday, working roughly off a loaf recipe and making the rest up as I went along, there were a lot of nervous frowns and shaky hands. I knew what I wanted it to be: a strong lemon flavour but not overridden by too-sweet curd; a creamy frosting that would be rich enough to be satisfying but still light. Read More

Lime & coconut yoghurt cake

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his cake was borne of a feeling that told me, Yes, okay, it’s time to bake now, stop claiming lack of inspiration and just look around you. Eggs that supposedly went out of date days ago (still fine!), tubs of yoghurt, and a couple of limes. I desperately wanted to be back on the baking wagon right away; to be able to say, Whisk, whisk, fold, oven, done – victory! But my first attempt at this cake was honestly poor.

Lime & coconut yoghurt cake // The Dinner BellMy ever-so-polite colleagues ate it even though the glaze was too thin and soaked through to make the cake the texture of gummy bears, so moist that it sat heavy in your stomach. But I knew it needed a lot more work – I knew I’d made mistakes, and I almost decided not to admit that on the internet.

Growing up alongside the invasion of social media makes it amazingly easy to have a skewed view of everyone else’s lives. It brings you to just a few clicks away from being fully mired in grass-is-greener delusions and gives you the tools to compare yourself to every single friend or stranger that pops up your feeds, while you sit there thinking, Oh my god, I know at least three people with book deals and I couldn’t even find a matching pair of socks this morning. (True story. I only have socks in three colours and I still struggle.)

Buuuuut of course that’s ridiculous. We all have different paths, and this small segment of mine means I can tell you guys what changes absolutely should not be made to this recipe (see notes!). It took a couple of tweaks – and a couple of batches of cake forced upon those colleagues – but it’s finally just right. Read More