There are certain recipes that the first time you make them, you know they’re going to be a reliable friend for a long time. Dan Lepard has provided several of these (roast cocoa cookies, anyone?), and a few weeks ago I finally got round to buying one of his books, Short and Sweet. Settling down with some sticky tabs and a cup of tea, I ended up marking about a third of the recipes as ones to try, and these Rye, Raisin and Chocolate Cookies were the most tempting of the lot.
Sometimes baking can really lift your mood in ways you don’t expect. I made this Floral Carrot Cake with Orange Buttercream on a very rainy day. With lots of baking on the day’s list, and still wearing my PJs, I was in a massive grump. One of those grumbly for no reason moods. And I couldn’t work out how to shake it. My favourite Easter biscuits were delicious but seemed unphotographable. I missed a chilling step in a batch of Lemon bars and they ended up unpleasing greasy. The kitchen was a mess and I felt lazy and useless.
Just when I was about to give over to a day of watching crap TV and wallowing, I remembered that I still needed to bake a carrot cake to test out recipes for my mum’s wedding (I’m making three cakes for the party, and one for the ceremony). I somewhat reluctantly made a cup of tea and trawled through a couple of old reliables – Leith’s, Hugh Fearnly-Whittington – but was seduced by a Lorraine Pascale recipe that looked quite sturdy and no-nonsense. I changed the spicing, added pumpkin seeds in place of walnuts, stuck it in the oven and begrudgingly started on the washing up.After a quick lick of buttercream and a sprinkle of seeds and safflower petals, which I’d bought on a whim weeks previously, my spirit was totally lifted. The cake was so pretty I started taking photos, almost without realising, and just like that my creative block was gone.
So my recommendation is that if you are in a low mood, make this Floral Carrot Cake with Orange Buttercream. It may not make everything better, but it’s so pretty and delicious it will help in a small way.
Recipe: Floral Carrot Cake with Orange Buttercream (Cake adapted from Lorraine Pascale, Buttercream from Cupcake Jemma)
175ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
3 large eggs
175g caster sugar
140g finely grated carrot
zest of one orange, grated
175g self raising flour
pinch fine salt
1ts bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
50g toasted pumpkin seeds
150g butter, really soft
340g icing sugar
zest 1 orange
Coral gel food colouring, optional
To decorate, dried safflower petals and toasted pumpkin seeds
- First make the cake. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two 20cm baking tins. Whisk together the oil and eggs in a bowl, then add the carrot and sugar and mix together. In a separate bowl, add the flour, bicarb, spices and salt and whisk to combine.
- Crush your pumpkin seeds lightly so you have a mix of large and small pieces. Add a spoon of the flour mix to them and mix to coat. This will stop them all dropping to the bottom of the cake.
- Add the dry to the wet and mix together until just combined, then stir in the pumpkin seeds. You don’t need a mixer for it, a spoon or whisk are fine as the mixture is so wet.
- Spit the mixture between the tins, smooth out evenly and bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, add the orange zest to the milk and leave to one side. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until white and fluffy, up to 5 mins. Then add half the icing sugar, best for 3 mins, then add the rest of the icing sugar, scrape down the bowl and beat for another 3 mins or so. Add about half the orange infused milk and best for a few minutes. If it looks too thick, add more milk, and beat for longer. Once you have the consistency you want, add a teeny amount of food colouring with a cocktail stick and mix, adding more until you get the colour you want.
- To assemble, put your buttercream in a piping bag with a round tip. Place your bottom cake on a plate or cake board and pipe thick dots of buttercream around the top edge of the cake. Then cover the whole top of the cake. Place the second cake on top, spread the remaining buttercream and decorate with the dried flower and seeds. Serve with an afternoon cup of tea and enjoy!
Easter is a big deal in my family. Ever since I can remember it’s been marked with celebrations, normally with my cousins, family friends and more. When we were little these celebrations involved rolling eggs we’d painted down hills, welly wanging (not as rude as it sounds!), and culminated in the inevitable chocolate egg hunt. Although I haven’t thrown my welly across a field in over a decade, the Easter Egg Hunt is still a huge feature of every spring.
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. I first had these Easter biscuits at my boyfriend’s family’s house, as one of about 10 amazing bakes made by his mum. She kindly gave me the recipe and I’ve been making them ever since.
Sometimes food stays with you for a really long time. Years ago, my sister and I took our mum to an incredible ‘High Chai’ afternoon tea at Cinnamon Soho in London. The dishes were all spins on English afternoon tea staples: finger sandwiches full of tandori chicken and punchy chutney; scones with a tangy spiced relish; cups of masala chai. But the thing that really stood out for me was an unassuming slice of cake spiced with garam masala. Spicy, sweet and moreish, it was everything I wanted from a cake, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Calling everyone with a nut allergy – nut-free macarons are not just a possibility, they’re also totally delicious! Traditionally made with almond meal, ground pumpkin seeds can be used as a simple replacement, and the outcome is completely delicious.
I have to admit that for me, Valentine’s Day is not a big deal. Neither me or the boyf are particularly fussed about it, and with his birthday a few days before I’m always out of present ideas. Although we don’t celebrate the day itself, baking is the way I show love to him all throughout the year (even if that love is sometimes just a big heap of leftover scraps, or a photo!). I though it would be great to share a recipe you can make for everyone you love, romantically or otherwise.