Carrot cake

An easy, moist, tasty traybake version of carrot cake. It can also be made in muffin cases but watch the temperature and cooking time if you make them as muffins – they cook quicker and may burn if you’re not careful.

  • 250g carrots
  • 150g butter, unsalted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g light soft brown sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 75g roughly chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • For the topping:
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 200g cream cheese – must be full fat!
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Half a teaspoon vanilla extract

You’ll need a 28 x 18cm rectangular tin, or about a dozen muffin cases.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.

Line the base of the tin with baking parchment and brush the sides and base of the tin with a little vegetable oil.  Wash the carrots, cut off the tops and grate them.  Put the butter into a pan and heat it gently until it has just melted, or you can melt it in a suitable container in the microwave – 20 seconds at full power, give it a stir, another 20 seconds, etc. etc. until it’s melted but not boiling hot.  Pour the melted butter into a large bowl.  Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them.  Stir in the carrots and sugar to the large bowl, then add the beaten eggs.  Sieve the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder into the mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until it is smooth.  Add the chopped walnuts, and stir in two tablespoons of milk.  Spoon the mixture into the tin. Smooth the top with a spoon.  Tap the tin gently on your work surface to make the mixture level.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Test by sticking a skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.  Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack.  While the cake is cooling, sift the icing sugar into a clean bowl. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla and beat the mixture well.  You may need more icing sugarif you feel the icing is too sloppy. When the cake is cool, spoon the topping onto it and spread it around. Cut into squares.

TOP TIP: if your tub of baking powder has been open for more than about 6 months, chuck it out and buy some new. It does go off eventually; as it absorbs moisture from the air it loses some of its abililty to make bubbles in your cake mixture.


Sam’s (almost) foolproof cherry cake

cherry almond cakeA super easy and almost foolproof cake. You could add sultanas and a teaspoonful of mixed spice instead of the cherries, or chocolate chips. No need to rinse sultanas or chocolate chips though.

  • 150g glace cherries
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 175g soft margarine (this is one time where you shouldn’t be tempted to use butter – it’ll taste OK but won’t rise very much)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs, medium

1 loaf tin measuring 20 x 12 x 8cm

Heat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.

Cut the cherries into quarters, put them in a sieve and rinse them under warm running water.  Pat them dry on a paper towel.  Don’t cheat on this bit and think you can leave the cherries whole or in halves – if the cherries are any bigger than in quarters, the bits all sink to the bottom of the cake. They may sink anyway, but it’ll still taste great.

Line the loaf tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper. The best way is to cut a big oblong of paper, then put the loaf tin in the centre and mark where each corner is on the paper. Then make a diagonal cut from each outer corner to the mark.  You should then be able to fit the paper into the tin, folding the corners over each other to make sure the whole tin is covered. Or you could use a ready-made paper loaf tin liner…

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the margarine, sugar and ground almonds.  Break the eggs into a cup and pour them in too.  Breaking them into a cup means you can fish out any stray bits of shell more easily.

Beat the mixture firmly with a wooden spoon, or use a handmixer, until it becomes light and fluffy.  Then GENTLY mix in the pieces of cherry. Don’t use the mixer for this bit!

Scrape the mixture out of the bowl into the lined loaf tin.  Smooth the top to make it level.

Bake the loaf for about 1 1/4 hours, until it rises and turns golden.  Turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.  Cut in slices and eat! It doesn’t keep long, but then it never lasts that long when we make one anyway.

Molly Cake

At least one of your five a day,  and vegan too – no eggs, no added sugar, no added fat, just yummy.

  •  250g chopped prunes
  • 300 ml water
  • 85 g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 85 g wholemeal plain flour
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 400 g mixed dried fruits (currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, cranberries, cherries – whatever you feel like)
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 80 ml orange juice

900g loaf tin

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C or gas mark 3.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Chop the prunes (you can do this in a food processor) and put in a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside.

Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl.  Add the wholemeal flour, mixed fruit, walnuts and ground almonds.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the wet prune mixture and the orange juice and mix well, and spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Get it into the oven as quick as you can – the baking powder gets activated by the liquid so you need to act fast to keep all the bubbles in the mixture to make it nice and light.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Turn onto a wire rack and cool before slicing.

This could be used as a vegan version of a celebration or Christmas cake – it’s quite dense, and will take marzipan and icing quite well as it doesn’t rise much.  However it won’t keep as long as a traditional fruit cake.

Morgan’s clementine sponge pudding

clementineIn a search for a decent and quick stodgy pudding BUT containing at least *some* fruit, Morgan came up with this last night.  Serves 6, or 4 greedy people.

  • 115g butter
  • 115g sugar
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 eggs
  • 115gm plain flour
  • 3 clementines, peeled and segmented so no pith remains

Lightly oil a microwave-friendly pudding basin. Put the clementine segments and the golden syrup in the bottom of the basin.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, the orange zest and juice, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix quickly to combine all the ingredients to a smooth batter.  Pour the batter carefully on top of the clementines and syrup in the pudding basin.  Microwave on full power for 5 minutes and leave to stand for a further 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a plate so that the syrupy clementine sauce runs down the sides of the pudding.

Serve with custard, ice cream or single cream.

the Cullimore “Family Heirloom” chocolate cake

The one and only birthday cake, stolen from the Be-Ro cookery book and still available on their website (but they recommend – horrors! margarine…). Make it with drinking chocolate if you must – but cocoa makes it actually taste of CHOCOLATE.

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Half level teaspoon salt
  • Half level teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) cocoa
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • Half teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180°C, gas mark 3-4.  Grease two 8 inch (20cm) tins and put baking parchment at the bottom. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and cocoa together. Rub in the butter.  Beat the eggs, add in the evap and water and vanilla extract. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture and beat well. Split the mixture between the two tins and bake for about 30 – 35 minutes. If it’s slightly undercooked, so much the better (it really shouldn’t be crispy around the edges!).  Turn out onto a rack.  When cold, sandwich and top with the icing.

For the icing:

  • 60g butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 250g sieved icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 180°C, gas mark 3-4.  Grease two 8 inch (20cm) tins and put baking parchment at the bottom.

Melt the butter, blend in the cocoa, then stir in the hot milk and vanilla and the icing sugar.  Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thick.  If it looks like it’s separating, don’t worry, just beat it a bit more and add a bit more hot milk, and if it looks really thin then add some more icing sugar.  Let it cool a bit before spreading it on the two cakes and sandwiching them together.  If the icing’s thick it’s like chocolate fudge, if it’s thinner it goes nice and shiny but you might have to catch the drips down the side of the cake. No hardship there.

Appelgebak (Dutch apple cake)

We lived in Amsterdam for 8 years, and discovered this gorgeous creation at the Marktcafe Noordermarkt, where they churn out hundreds a day.  It’s taken Chris a while to get the recipe absolutely spot-on, but this is about as close as you can get. Nice sharp eating apples like Braeburn are best, as they keep their shape and are tart enough to counteract all the brown sugar. The texture of the pastry is almost like cake.

  • 300g self raising flour
  • 180g butter
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • ¾ of a beaten egg
  • 1 tablespoon semolina or polenta
  • 1 kg tart eating apples
  • 75g sultanas
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 4tsp cinnamon

Soften the  butter, add flour, egg, the 150g brown sugar and vanilla.  Mix until it comes together in a ball.  Line a 20 cm (8inch) springform baking tin with the pastry (you can either roll it out or just squidge it into the base).  Save some to cut into strips to put on the top. Scatter the semolina or polenta over the pastry bottom (this helps to absorb some of the juices from the apple and prevents a soggy bottom). Peel, core and chop the apples roughly (big chunks are best), mix with the sultanas, demerara sugar and cinnamon, and pile into the case.  Arrange strips of pastry over the top in a lattice and brush with the remaining ¼ beaten egg.  Bake at 190°C for about an hour.  Leave to cool in the tin for a while, for the pastry to set and crisp up a bit. Take it out of the tin (you can do this while it’s still warm) and scoff with a squirt of whipped cream and a cup of strong coffee.  Imagine you are at the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam.  Eet smakelijk!