Category: Desserts

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake

This courgette cake was a long time coming. Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellThe cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.

She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.

Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.

This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.

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The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Rhubarb, strawberry & almond crumble

There are two topics when it comes to desserts that I’ve found will split people: the ideal dessert menu (up to two chocolate options, at least one lemon option, and a soft choice for brace/denture wearers – anything after that is inconsequential) and the perfect crumble.

Rhubarb, strawberry & almond crumble // The Dinner BellIt’s a surprisingly divisive dessert, when you get down to it: you can’t deviate much when it comes to a pie, but when it comes to this particularly British pudding, “crumble” can be both its name and what happens to your relationship with your best friend when you realise they’re devoted to some white sugar based sandy monstrosity. Don’t even get me started on a mushy apple filling.

Why yes, I do have strong feelings on this. How could you tell?

Any crumble is a marriage of flavours. The fruit layer, the one that diminishes any (badly placed) feeling of guilt over the butter, will inform the nuances of the crumble itself: the sugars; the spices; the nuts. 

That layer of virtuousness, for me, is a vehicle – an excuse – for a thick layer of lightly spiced topping, made up equally of crumbs, oats, and little balls of what is essentially shortbread. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Cardamom and date wreaths

T

he pub was where I realised it: with just over 100 days to go, I am on a crash course for relearning patience. CardamomDatePerhaps not relearning; perhaps stretching through deep breaths and pressing outwards, like yoga. 100 days until the referendum, I mean, of course. Referendum debate is unavoidable now, whether it’s through facebook — oh god, facebook — or thrust into your actual face by a man waving The Sun, in a strangely accusatory manner, in a south London boozer.

Because that’s how the conversations start. Not through a natural topic change, but as a result of one person brandishing their opinion, treating their anecdotes like knuckledusters, as if when they hit you enough, they’ll win.

It won’t relent over the next three months; the same old arguments will continue to be trotted out by the same people, often unprompted, and unnecessary when we both know neither will change their mind. And  I will be there thinking, “We could be talking about books right now, or food, or anything, honestly anything, else.” So we breathe, and we press at the barriers of our tolerance, feeling them expand, and we let these next few months run their course.

This bread, too, requires patience, and the ability to know when it’s time to walk away and let things play out. All the grinding and rising and warming and soaking and blitzing that has to be done before you can enjoy the waft of butter and spice from the oven.

But it’s worth it.
Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Lemon, lime, and gin loaf

L

-l-l. Lemon and lime loaf would have been a much more pleasing name for this easy-peasy cake, but we can’t miss out the gin drizzle. Really, even lemon, lime, and gin loaf isn’t its proper name – since I dreamt it up on a rogue afternoon off work, what I’ve called it in my head is Victorian malady cake, with scurvy and mother’s ruin in mind. And it’ll certainly have you saying, “Please, I want some more.”

maladyIt’s possible I’ve binge-watched too much Dickensian.

In a distinctly non-austerity move, this cake calls for real butter. Almost a whole block of it! I was pro-margarine before, mostly due to its significantly lower price, but you really can’t beat butter* for the flavour it gives, not to mention that oh-so-tempting yellow colour.

The gin, meanwhile, isn’t a boff-you-in-the-face taste, but more of a back-of-the-mouth hint. Just enough to subtly evoke summer days. If you want the gin flavour to feature more? Increase it in the drizzle by a tablespoon or two.

This cake is an easy flash-forward to sunny afternoons, a creation you can whip up without any real elbow grease at all. A beat, a mix, a fold, and a drizzle, and you’re done.

Let’s go. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

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

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.