Tag Archives: dessert

Absence and Berry Cakes

31 Jul

(So, where on earth have I been for the past four months? Well, I was a food-related fundraising intern for a wonderful organisation called Action Against Hunger, working with restaurants to join a campaign which the charity runs in September and October. Interning full-time meant that blogging fell down my To Do list, but I hope to make up for that over the coming weeks. If I have any readers left, in the immortal words of Sam Cooke, bring it on home to me! Now, the main event…)

Unlike 99.99% of the world population, I do not believe that fresh raspberries and blueberries are a sign that the God of summer loves us and wants us to be happy. I don’t find them offensive, just squidgy and kind of bland. I do have fond memories of picking fresh blackberries at summer camp and eating them churned into vanilla ice cream, but that’s kind of it.

But it’s summer after all, so I decided to confront my own prejudice and bake with berries. First I made a batch of raspberry-rhubarb muffins from the Flour Bakery cookbook by Joanne Chang as a birthday present for my father. Second was a raspberry-blackberry Bundt cake, based on a recipe from the ever-excellent Smitten Kitchen. Apologies for the lack of photographs – both recipes turned out less-than-photogenic due to some serious pan-sticking issues, and I was on holiday and feeling lazy.

(Also, I find as I get older than I’m becoming more of a cook than a baker. A less generous person would attribute it to my shortening attention span, but I’d like to think that I’m becoming more relaxed and generally willing to go with the flow. But the simplest explanation is that I’m out of practice.)

Despite all the messiness, both recipes turned out delicious. They work on a similar principle: make a vanilla-scented cake batter (the muffins included lots of melted butter, eggs, crème fraiche, and whole milk), then stir through whatever berries tickle your fancy. When baked, the berries (and rhubarb) become jammy pockets of tartness that refresh you in the midst of rich, moist, very sweet cake. It’d make a perfect mid-morning snack with a cup of strong, milky coffee.

A cake so good I couldn’t resist taking a bite before photographing it.

So will you find me locked away scarfing carton after carton of raspberries, eyes gleaming with the fervor of the newly converted? Well, no. But berries and I are now on nodding terms, and that’s an improvement!

Getting Over Cream Cheese

13 Mar

If you ask people about their favourite food, there are always the things that they’ve liked ever since they were kids, and the things that they only came to enjoy when they were older. For example, I’ve always loved lemon cake, mainly because my Bubbie would bake one for my birthday when I was small. Other puddings took a bit longer for me to appreciate; anything coffee-flavoured, for instance. But carrot cake has taken the longest.

I stayed away from carrot cake throughout my childhood largely because of cream cheese frosting. I have always believed that cream cheese is like time with an overenthusiastic, sugared-up small child: a little goes a very long way. Cheesecake is one of the few desserts I actively dislike, and I butter my bagels rather than schmear them (yes, that does make me a half-assed Jew.)

So I sing the praises of this particular carrot cake with the enthusiasm of the recently converted. The thin layer of cream cheese frosting adds a lightness and tanginess to lift the earthy, fruity cake. Five people gobbled down the whole thing this past Saturday, crumbs and all. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is!


Carrot Cake (adapted from Cookery School at Little Portland Street and Nigel Slater’s “A Carrot Cake with a Frosting of Mascarpone and Orange” from Tender Volume 1)

250g/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.25 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice (For American readers, substitute pumpkin pie spice.)
4 eggs
150g/0.75 cup light brown sugar
180ml/0.75 cup sunflower oil
4 rings canned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
2 carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 handful walnuts, finely chopped (I blitzed mine in the food processor.)


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 1lb loaf tin.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and mixed spice in a bowl.

In another boil, whisk the eggs well (30 seconds with a hand whisk will do it). Add the sugar and the oil and continue to whisk until well-combined. Then stir in the pineapple, carrot, and walnuts.

Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and mix well. Make sure to scrape at the bottom to get at every last bit of dry stuff.

Put the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour. Leave to cool fully, then turn out onto a plate and ice with cream cheese frosting.


100g/3.5oz cream cheese, room temperature
125g/4.5oz mascarpone, room temperature
75g/0.5 cup icing (powdered) sugar
zest of half an orange

Beat together cheeses and sugar together with an electric mixer. Stir through the orange zest.

Baking the Blues Away

9 Mar

Since I haven’t been working, the weeks pass in a mixture of good and bad days. Sometimes I end the day optimistic, having sent out good applications and gone out and explored this big city. Other days are just flat-out rubbish, a toxic mixture of grey clouds and loneliness.

I had one of those bad days earlier this week. After far too long on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I needed to accomplish something, anything, otherwise I’d go to bed feeling absolutely worthless. I’d also had my eye on a recipe for maple-yogurt cake on Food52. After a quick trip to the corner shop for yogurt, the cake went from raw ingredients to baking in the oven in ten minutes flat. After 50 minutes of delicious warm maple fragrance, a moist, not-too-sweet pound cake emerged.

One of T’s co-workers described it as a “pancake in cake form.” It really does smell and taste like a lazy Saturday morning. The kind when the day’s flowing out in front of you like an endless ocean, so you may as well start things off with a big stack of pancakes drizzled in hot maple syrup, eaten in your pajamas.

So if you’re having a week so rotten that you’re convinced the weekend will never arrive, put on some happy music (I particularly like Motown and 1950s R&B) and mix up Rivka’s cake.