Cherry, Coconut, and Almond Cake

As you may have noticed, I am all for huge decadent cakes covered in stuff. But sometimes, even I am looking for something a bit more low-key. The sort of thing that you can knock up in a spare half hour. The sort of thing that doesn’t involve stacking layers, or making any buttercream. This cherry, coconut, and almond cake is not at all needy or precious. It’s a very ‘throw it together’ sort of cake. It’s low-maintenance. Robust. And it’s delicious.


Something about the combination of coconut and the almond in this cake results in a beautifully moist and tender crumb. Studding it with fruit just makes it even more delicious. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and it will stay that way for a few days, kept at room temperature in an airtight container. It really does do a lot of heavy lifting, considering how easy it is to put together.


There’s also something comfortingly spring-like about this cake, even though it uses store cupboard ingredients. It’s a gentle hug of a cake, but its nutty fruitiness makes it light and promises of warmer days to come. You could imagine serving a cherry, coconut, and almond cake at Easter. Then again, as I write this it’s snowing heavily outside onto an already thick carpet of the stuff, so perhaps spring will never come anyway.



You can put whatever fruit you like in this, almost. I love it with cherries but it would also work well with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries…

I’ve suggested using canned or frozen cherries here, because they are stoned. I don’t have the patience for stoning cherries. And it’s not cherry season. But you do you.


Adapted from the delicious blueberry cake in the excellent Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.


200g butter, melted
180g ground almonds
70g dessicated coconut
250g caster sugar
80g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g frozen or tinned cherries
30g flaked almonds

  1. Pop the butter on to melt. When it’s melted, set it aside to come to room temperature. Quarter your cherries. Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4.
  2. Put your ground almonds, coconut, caster sugar, flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl and give them a quick stir to make it even. Beat your eggs together lightly in a measuring jug, then whisk in your melted butter and vanilla. Gradually pour this into the dry mix, beating all the while, until evenly combined. Fold in three quarters of the cherries and pour the mixture into your cake tin – you will have a very loose batter.
  3. Sprinkle the reserved cherries on top, followed by the flaked almonds. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until risen, golden, and passing the skewer test. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes before trying to get it out of the tin.

Date and Almond Spelt Bread

Okay, so I know I said I wasn’t going to post the recipes from the final Bake Off Bake Along bread challenge. But I changed my mind. I liked the little date and almond ones so much that I made a proper full-sized one the next day. This date and almond spelt loaf is my new favourite bread. I make a big loaf at the weekend, slice and freeze it, and then work my way through it over the next week. It makes all of life more delicious. It is amazing with cheese, but also with peanut butter. Also just eaten straight out of the oven with barely a pause on the way to my mouth. Maybe some butter if I am feeling patient.


Spelt flour isn’t gluten free but it has less gluten than traditional wheat flour, so might be easier to digest for people who have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. I have neither, but I really like the warm, nutty flavour it brings to bread. It also lends itself very well to complementary additions. I have obviously gone for date and almond here, but you can add whatever fruit and nuts you like. Raisins or apricots would be lovely, as would walnuts or hazelnuts.



This is a very forgiving bread. It doesn’t need a huge amount of kneading, and it just has one slow prove, so it’s very low in terms of hands-on time. I know spelt flour might sound intimidating if you’re not used to making bread (you can buy it at any big supermarket) but it’s really easy to work with and rewardingly delicious.


butter, for greasing
350g strong wholemeal spelt flour
150g strong white bread flour
1 sachet dried yeast
2 tsp salt
100g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
100g dates, chopped
40ml extra virgin olive oil
300ml tepid water


  1. Grease a loaf tin thoroughly with butter. If you’re using a mixer with a dough hook, literally just put all of the ingredients into the bowl and mix on a medium speed for five minutes until smooth. If you’re making the bread by hand, mix both flours, yeast, salt, almonds, and dates together in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and the water, stirring with a wooden spoon until it begins to form a dough. Knead by hand for around seven minutes until smooth. Don’t worry if the dough seems a little damp or sticky.
  2. Shape your dough into a rough log and pop it in your prepared tin. Dust it with flour. Slash the top with your sharpest knife. Put your tin into a plastic bag, covering the dough but leaving air and space within. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. It’s a long. slow prove, around 2-2.5 hours.
  3. Preheat oven and bake at 220C/200C fan/gas 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the bread is risen and dark with a good crust and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

The Bake Off Bake Along: Pear, Chocolate, & Almond Cake

The Great British Bake Off is back. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Yes, all things being equal, I would have preferred for the show to remain on the BBC, but at least in part for fussy logistical reasons. I don’t like advert breaks, and I don’t like All 4 as much as iPlayer. But I still think everything’s going to be okay. I love Mel and Sue, and I love Mary, but I can hardly go complaining about Prue Leith as a replacement (having somewhat of a Leiths connection…), and I think Sandi and Noel stepped admirably into large shoes. They kept the music. I’m happy. So, here we are again, for the Bake Off Bake Along. And here’s my pear, chocolate, and almond cake. Really, any excuse to make a chocolate cake.


I’ve got a rather busy couple of months coming up, as I’ll be commuting to London and working full time for a while. Unfortunately, this busy period coincides exactly with the time to Great British Bake Off is airing. so while I’m going to try to have a stab at the Bake Along, I’ll be taking the path of least resistance every time. This week, that means a fruity cake.

Mini rolls are lovely and all, but fiddly and hard to make look pretty. And the showstopper was never going to happen. One of the things I am most terrible at, baking-wise, is making cakes look like other stuff. If it’s tasty and looks like a cake, I’m all for it.

And this pear, chocolate, and almond cake is tasty. And it looks like a cake. A chocolate cake, at that.


If you want to know what this Bake Off Bake Along shindig is all about, check out this post by Amanda over at Rhyme and Ribbons here. It’s just an excuse to watch TV and bake cake, really.



Loosely adapted from this recipe.


This lovely chocolate cake just so happens to be gluten free, but doesn’t use any fancy special flours or ingredients. It’s moist, soft, and keeps well. You could, of course, try it with other fruit. The fruit will sink into the cake quite a bit as it bakes, but don’t worry, you’re going for a rustic look.


100g butter, plus a little extra to grease
100g 70% dark chocolate
2 tbsp rum (you can skip this if you want)
100g caster sugar, plus a little extra for the tin
3 eggs, separated
100g ground almonds
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
100g raspberries
icing sugar to dust and cream or ice cream to serve, if you like


  1. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4. Put your butter and dark chocolate in a glass bowl above a pan of simmering water to melt together. Butter a 23cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin, line the base, butter everything again, and then pop a couple of tbsp caster sugar into the tin and roll it round to coat the base and sides.
  2. Remove your melted butter and chocolate from the heat, stir in the rum if using, and leave to cool. Pop your caster sugar in a bowl with your egg yolks and whisk with an electric whisk until thick and mousse-like. Fold this into the chocolate mixture, then add the ground almonds and fold those in too.
  3. In a separate bowl with clean beaters, whisk your egg whites to stiff peaks. Beat a big spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen, then fold the rest in carefully. Gently pour your mixture into your cake tin, then arrange your pear slices and raspberries on top of the batter. Bake for around half an hour, or until risen and firm. Leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before trying to remove it, as it’s quite delicate. Serve with icing sugar, cream, or ice cream, if you like.

Spanish Almond Cookies

These Spanish almond cookies are my attempt at going abroad this year. In a culinary, if not actual, way.

James and I aren’t very good at going on holiday. We do overnight sojourns to odd corners of England every so often for various events, but we haven’t actually been properly ‘on holiday’ out of the country since a long weekend in Paris in April 2014. Which was incredible and wonderful and lovely and Paris is pretty much my favourite place and if every holiday for the next ten years was going back to Paris ad infinitum then I would be cool with it. But it was only for three days, and it was over three years ago.


Time and money, money and time. It’s so boring. They’re the same problems everyone else has too. But for some reason we haven’t managed to get round them, probably because I am an itinerant cookery teacher/freelance chef/food blogger. When you don’t have a proper salary and have full on anxiety about paying for things like the electricity and food, it’s kind of hard to justify spending money on flights and accommodation. And, er, more food in a different country.

We had a lovely little mini-honeymoon after we got married last year – a three day weekend in London. But we never went on the kind of honeymoon where you have to get vaccinations before you travel and end up take selfies at the top of mountains at sunset. And we’re never going to have that sort of honeymoon because no way am I climbing up a mountain voluntarily. But we have finally, tentatively, pencilled a week in Spain in October into the calendar. Flights to Spain are really cheap. We can worry about accommodation at a later date. Related: do I know anyone who lives in Spain?


Also, most importantly, the food in Spain is amazing. Or so I hear. I am trying to get into the spirit four months early with these little almondy morsels of delight. They are a liberally adapted version of what is apparently a Spanish almond cookie, so we’re not aiming for absolute authenticity here, but they are properly tasty: a crisp shell around a chewy, delicate interior, lightly lemon-scented and incredibly moreish. They’re also dairy and gluten free, and I was halfway to convincing myself they were healthy before I remembered the sugar.

I love a classic, American style cookie as much (and more) than the next person, but these Spanish almond cookies have won me over in their own delicious, subtle way.



Based on and adapted from this recipe for Spanish almond cookies.


This recipe is stunningly easy. Only a few ingredients, five minutes to make the dough, five minutes to shape it into cookies, fifteen minutes in the oven, and you’re away. No dairy, no gluten, they keep well. Clearly the Spanish are onto something.

I doubled the recipe for these photos because I wanted to give the cookies to a friend, but the quantity below makes around 12-15 cookies, depending on how big you make them.

I made the dough in a food processor because I’m lazy, but you could just as easily do it in a large bowl.


150g ground almonds
80g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
handful of whole, skin-on almonds to top the cookies


  1. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Line a baking sheet. Pop your ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a food processor, and blitz for a few seconds to combine. Add your egg, and blitz again, stopping to scrape down the sides. You should end up with an even, sticky dough.
  2. Dampen your hands slightly with cold water so that the dough doesn’t just stick to your fingers, and roll it into balls, each around 1 tbsp worth of mixture. Arrange them on your baking sheet, press a whole almond into each one, and bake for around 15 minutes until golden. If your oven bakes unevenly you might want to turn the tray halfway through cooking.


August 2017 – I made about 200 of these as part of a wedding dessert table I was handling a couple of weeks back, and I can report that they freeze really excellently well.


Almond Citrus Drizzle Cake

A couple of months ago, Felicity Cloake reminded me of the existence of the humble choc ice, the prize and delight of children at my primary school: I daresay that these days they have been replaced by something actually resembling a legitimate foodstuff, but when I was eight that slightly soggy cardboard box of reassuringly rectangular ice cream bars covered in something roughly approximating chocolate was pretty much the best thing going.

My favourite (read: only significant) choc ice memory is of the day at primary school when I fell in the playground and sprained my wrist. For some reason there were no ice packs available – perhaps they had been dispatched to other clumsy children – and so the school receptionist sent me back to my classroom with two choc ices secured around my injured wrist with rubberbands.

Of course, like any reasonable child, I promptly ate them.


It was around this age that I started baking. I began with the basics, as I guess most kids do: my family’s chocolate fudge cake; cookies; and the much-loved standby that is lemon drizzle cake. I don’t quite know what it is about the humble lemon drizzle, but it seems to have almost magical properties. When I am going to visit someone and I ask what cake they would like me to bring, lemon drizzle is the most common answer. People request it even more than they request chocolate cake (which would be my choice, every time, if someone offered to bring me a cake. Just, you know, FYI).

So I’ve made many lemon drizzle cakes over the years, and for a while I stuck to a very standard loaf cake. Which was great, but not particularly special. Then I stumbled across a recipe from the wonderful Jane Hornby – my idol, the person I want to be when I grow up – and saw the potential for something much more exciting. I had a play around with it and this is the result. Now, if anyone asks me for a lemon drizzle cake, they are getting this.

Apologies for the awful photos. I had a five minute window in a morning of baking an excessive amount of cake for a tea party and had to abandon any aesthetic principles I may sometimes pretend to have.


Source: Adapted from this absolutely and completely excellent book: What to Bake & How to Bake It, by the wonderful Jane Hornby.

Notes: I have kept the base of the cake much the same, substituting ground almonds for polenta and specifying full fat Greek yoghurt, which I use all the time in baking and generally in life because it’s glorious. It’s the finishing that I’ve messed with here, adding the step of a soaking syrup to veer us into the traditional lemon drizzle territory and finishing with the much-beloved glaze.

I like to do this with a mixture of citrus fruits, partly to add interest and vary flavour but mostly, I must admit, because I think the sprinkling of orange, yellow, and green zest looks pretty. However, if you have a particular preference or are limited by what’s knocking about in the fridge, do feel free to go for all lemon or all lime.


2 lemons
2 limes
1 orange
225g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
125g plain flour
125g ground almonds
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
125g full fat Greek yoghurt

for the syrup

50g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange

for the drizzle

100g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon


  1. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4, and grease and line a 22cm square tin. Zest the lemons, limes, and orange, then juice them. It’s fine to mix all the zests together, but keep the juices separate. Beat the butter and sugar with 2 teaspoons of the mixed zest, reserving the rest. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then gradually add them to the butter and sugar, beating all the while.
  2. Mix the flour, ground almonds, salt, and baking powder together, then sift half of it over the butter, sugar, and egg mixture and fold it all together, tossing in any ground almonds left in the sieve. Fold in the yoghurt, then sift and fold in the remaining flour mixture. Scrape batter into tin, level surface, then bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and risen. Turn the oven down to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and bake for 15 minutes more.
  3. While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Mix the citrus juice (feel free to adjust to take) and the sugar in a pan, then heat gently for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved. When the cake comes out of the oven, leave it in the tin and poke around 20 holes in it with a skewer, then pour over the syrup and let it sink in.
  4. Leave the cake to cool completely. Make the drizzle by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually, a teaspoon at a time, whisking in the lemon juice. You want a thick icing that holds its shape, and it’s very easy to add too much liquid, so go slowly. When the cake is cool, chuck the drizzle on in an artistic manner and then sprinkle over your leftover zest.



Trio of Chocolate Cheesecakes – Bake Off Bake Along Week 4

Confession: before this week, I had never made a baked cheesecake. It was one of my page-turners. Everyone must have page-turners, right? You know when you’re flicking through a recipe book (or, in this day and age, more likely a blog or online magazine), and you see a certain ingredient or instruction and automatically think ‘No, thank you!’, turn to the next page, and move swiftly along? Well, every time I see instructions to wrap a springform tin in cling film, then in foil, then fill it with cheesecake mix, then sit it in a water bath, then bake the cheesecake, then leave it to cool with the oven door oven, then let it sit overnight… well, I tend to think ‘Sod that’, and go and make a fridge-set cheesecake instead. It’s a combination of fear and laziness, really.


So, I thought this week would be a good opportunity to finally get over my baked cheesecake prejudice and make one. Well, make three. I don’t have enough ramekins for crème brûlée, and I’m certainly not going out to buy them. And although I do like meringue, I don’t think anyone could really like meringue enough to get through a whole Spanische Windtorte. Also, it would leave me with a dozen egg yolks that I wouldn’t know what to do with. Somehow, making three cheesecakes started to seem like the most sensible option.

Spoiler alert: it was definitely not the most sensible option. It was actually a huge hassle, and all of our friends will be eating cheesecake for days.


Nonetheless, I made three baked cheesecakes and managed to stack them into a tower that didn’t collapse, so I am definitely calling this a win, despite the fact I had to literally buy a kilogram of cream cheese to make this and nobody should ever really be doing that.

I’ll be really interested to see what everyone else tries to make this week, because I imagine lots of you will have the same problems and reservations that I did regarding crème brûlée and Spanische Windtorte, but making three tiers of cheesecake doesn’t exactly feel like the easy way out. Oh, how I miss cake week. Next week is free-from baking – you know, sugar free and gluten free and such – and I can’t imagine that will be any easier.


Can we also just take a moment to mourn the departure of Sandy from the tent? She was never one of my picks for the final, but she was definitely one of my favourite bakers. Some of the things she said literally made me laugh out loud.

Also, Ian winning star baker is now getting boring. Three weeks in a row?!


So, on to the cheesecakes. I will admit that these are not going to be winning any beauty contests. By the time it got to the decorating stage, I was short on time and very stressed, so it was all a bit of a rush job and I am terrible at tempering and piping chocolate, so I basically threw things on top of them and hoped for the best. I also had to move the delicate cheesecakes around so much – first to stack them and then to separate them – that they started to crack a bit. Nonetheless, they were really delicious. Once I have gotten over the trauma of this, I might actually make a baked cheesecake again.

On the show, Paul and Mary kept complaining about fruit bleeding into cheesecake, but what’s wrong with that!? I actually like that, and purposefully mashed up my fruit a bit in the cheesecake batter to encourage the pretty colours rippling into the smooth, pale cheesecake.


Source: I started with a plain baked cheesecake recipe from Leiths How To Cook and then adapted it. A lot.

Notes: I very much doubt that anyone wants to be as insane as me and make this whole recipe start to finish, so I am not going to give any instructions for stacking or decorating, which is all common sense in any case. The method is exactly the same for all three cakes, only with different quantities and some variations on ingredients, so I am going to provide the ingredients for each cake and only write out the method once.

One of the reasons I went for this particular base recipe was that it didn’t ask you to mess around with a water bath or wrapping the tin, and I am inherently lazy. It seemed to work out fine just bunged in the oven like a regular cake.

This would have looked far better if I’d had a smaller top tin, but I didn’t, and didn’t want to buy a new one just for this, so such is life.


for the little white chocolate, blackberry, almond, and ginger cheesecake (16cm)

for the base
50g butter
65g ginger biscuits
20g ground almonds

for the cheesecake mixture
3 tbsp caster
10g cornflour
240g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 medium eggs
90ml cream
100g white chocolate
100g blackberries

for the medium milk chocolate, hazelnut, and raspberry cheesecake (20cm)

for the base
85 butter
125g oat biscuits
25g chopped skinned hazelnuts

for the cheesecake mixture
5 tbsp caster
15g cornflour
415g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
100ml cream
200g milk chocolate
150g raspberries

for the massive dark chocolate, apricot, and pistachio cheesecake (23cm)

for the base
100g butter
150g digestives
30g roughly chopped pistachios

for the cheesecake mixture
6 tbsp caster
20g cornflour
500g cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
200ml cream
150g dark chocolate
4 apricots, stoned and chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6, and grease and line your tin. Melt the butter for the base. Crush the biscuits, either by beating them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or whizzing them in the food processor. Put them in a bowl and mix in your nuts. Add the butter, mix, and then press the mixture evenly into the base of your tin. Bake the base in the oven for ten minutes, then remove and leave it to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 150C/ 130C fan/ gas 2.
  2. For the topping, set aside 2 tbsp of the sugar. Put the rest in a large bowl with the cornflour and beat with the cream cheese and vanilla to combine. Separate the eggs, and then beat the yolks into the cream cheese along with the cream.
  3. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to medium peaks, and then whisk in the saved 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently fold it into the cheesecake mixture, along with the fruit.
  5. Pour the mixture over the biscuit base and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until just set with a slight wobble. Leave it to cool in the tin. Chill in the fridge.

Cherry and Almond Cupcakes

For me, the best part of a new school year was always just before it actually started. As a child, I loved buying new matching sets of multi-coloured stationery, writing my name carefully in block capitals on the spines of folders, and going on excursions to choose a new backpack. As a teenager, I’d always vow that this was the year I would keep all of my work in neat, chronological order, always start my homework the night I was assigned it rather than the night before it was due in, and somehow start having good hair. As a young adult, during the summer before I started university, I dutifully purchased all of the books on our sickeningly long reading list, with real and honest intentions of reading them before term started. Everything was always so full of promise.

To be honest, the best part was usually shopping for new things. It tended to go downhill after that.

The problem was that I always assumed that I could fundamentally change somehow. I knew that this year things would be different, and better, because I would be different, and better. The purchasing of new studying aids – be they pretty stationery or stacks of crisp new books – always represented a new beginning. It was a chance to wipe the slate clean. The gift of infinite possibility. The opportunity to be perfect. After all, I had the perfect pack of rainbow Sharpies – surely there couldn’t be much more to it than that?


Of course, I was never actually perfect, so always fell short of my own expectations. After a few days, weeks, or even months, my carefully structured timetables would always start to crumble, my reading plans would get neglected in favour of dossing about in the kitchen, and my notes would slide from neat cursive into a slapdash scrawl. It was always so much harder in reality than it had been in my imagination. And somehow, I never learned my lesson, and began each new term and each new year with boundless optimism, only to be crushed again by my own mediocrity. Or perhaps ‘mediocrity’ isn’t fair: I was normal, imperfect, and human. After I finished my undergraduate degree, I swore to anyone who would listen that I had finished, that I was done with studying, and that I would never change my mind, forever and ever, amen.

And now here I am, looking to buy a new backpack.


Yes, I know, I did a cupcake post mere days ago. I’m afraid there are many more where that came from too. What can I say? Cupcakes are quick to bake, easy to transport, customisable, and pretty. I make them a lot.

They have absolutely no connection to the ramble at the beginning of this post, except in that they are also ‘new beginnings’ cupcakes. I made them at the request of a lovely friend of mine who has just had a beautiful baby daughter.

Notes: I didn’t want to make a cherry and almond cupcake with weak flavours: I think cherry and almond are a great combination and so I have done my best to make each flavour bold and distinct.

You can’t really tell from the pictures, but the frosting here is actually two different colours swirled together. Part of the reason you can’t see this is because of the light when I was taking the photos, but part of it is that the colours weren’t massively distinctive because I wanted to create them naturally. If you want something bolder, add some red food colouring to your cherry buttercream.


for the cakes

150g butter
150g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
60g ground almonds
1 tbsp milk
jar of cherry jam

for the frosting

100g butter, softened
200g icing sugar
4 tbsp cherry jam
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp almond extract

12 cherries
toasted flaked almonds


  1. Heat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4 and put paper cases in a twelve hole muffin tin. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the flour, eggs, baking powder, ground almonds, and milk, and blitz until smooth. Scoop the mixture into your cases and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden and risen. Leave to cool.
  2. When your cupcakes are cold, core them and pop about a teaspoon of cherry jam into the centre of each cake. Eat the cores. This is compulsory.
  3. For the frosting, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Sift the icing sugar and mix it in roughly with a spatula, then beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Divide the mixture in half. Flavour half with the cherry jam (add food colouring for a brighter colour), and half with the vanilla bean paste and almond extract. Fit a piping bag with a star nozzle. Push the cherry buttercream against one side of the bag and the almond against the opposite side, and then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.
  4. Top with a cherry and flaked almonds.

Perfect for taking in to school as a bribe.



Peach, Raspberry, and Almond Loaf Cake with Cream Cheese Topping

I am not musical at all. I love music, but I can’t read it or produce it in any way. I can’t sing, or play an instrument, or keep time very well. I can’t even dance.

Yet, every Monday, you’ll find me at band practice.


When James and I first got together, I knew he had an unruly folk band. I’m still not totally sure how many people are in it – twelve? thirteen? – because people come and go, and it’s never really clear what everyone’s status is at a given moment. There are people on maternity and paternity leave. People get jobs that take them away from the band for a while, like being in other bands, or taking acting jobs, or working abroad. And that’s part of the joy of the band. You don’t quite know who is going to turn up to a rehearsal, but it’s always enough people to make some sort of music.

I fluttered around the periphery of the group for a little while, and then I starting going to the rehearsals. I initially thought my being there would be a bit pointless. What was the use in showing up when I couldn’t play a thing? But I just sort of… kept going. I sing along in the loud bits where hopefully no one can really hear me, and I mess around with the simplest percussion instruments, and I force huge amounts of food on everyone. I take photographs and videos at gigs and have people round for dinner and go to band parties. Mostly, I chat to people.


The band is a mongrel mash-up of members from completely different backgrounds. The age range spans about thirty years. Some people are trained classical musicians who have jumped from those hallowed heights into folk’s cushioning, beery embrace. Some people are self taught musicians who can’t read music but can play along with anything from Bellowhead to Beethoven to Björk by ear on five different instruments. Some people are scientists, some are actors. We have a counsellor and a software QA engineer, a publishing professional and a policeman.

Even though I’m not really ‘in’ the band, I am at least with the band. I’ll see and talk to people socially, outside of rehearsals. I’ve helped some of them move. They’re all invited to our wedding.

Less than two weeks ago, a band member gave birth to an absolutely beautiful baby girl. I am one of those incredibly annoying people who will coo over babies for hours until their parents gently prise them from my arms so that they can, you know, go home and get some sleep, so I have been ridiculously excited about this pregnancy and the imminent arrival of the baby for months. Tomorrow, I get to go and meet her for the first time.

Of course, I’m not going empty-handed. I asked if I could bake a cake, and the request came in for something summery, with peaches. I couldn’t quite find a recipe that I liked the look of enough to fit the bill, so I made up my own.


Notes: The core of this cake is similar to a Madeira cake, but with a higher proportion of almonds than you would normally find, and no lemon or other citrus because I wanted the peaches and raspberries to shine through. It’s essentially a cake for summer fruits, fairly light and very moist, and content to be the background for whatever delicacies you fancy – apricots, nectarines, plums, blueberries, strawberries…

If you fancy making this, please don’t skip the almond extract in the topping, because it’s really important to the flavour of this cake. I buy it at the local Sainsburys, so it shouldn’t be hard to get hold of.


for the cake

175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
100g ground almonds
150g self-raising flour
2 large or 3 small/flat peaches, fairly ripe
100g raspberries – either fresh or frozen is fine

for the topping

50g butter
150g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
handful of toasted almond flakes
handful of freeze dried raspberries (not essential, but pretty)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4. Find your largest loaf tin (mine is 30cm x 15cm), and grease and line it with parchment paper. Beat your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in your eggs, followed by the vanilla extract. Fold your almonds into the mixture, then sift your flour and salt together and fold that in too.
  2. Cut your peaches into fairly chunky slices, and pop them in another small bowl with your raspberries and around 1 tbsp of flour. Shake it all about a bit so the flour lightly coats the fruit (it will help to stop all the fruit sinking to the bottom of the cake). Fold the fruit into your cake mixture, then dollop the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth over the top. Pop it in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden and passes the skewer test. Let it cool for ten minutes, and then get it out the tin and let it cool completely.
  3. Make your topping. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it’s soft, and then beat in the cream cheese. Sift the icing sugar into the mixture, fold it in roughly, and then beat it properly until the mixture is smooth. Add the almond extract and beat once more. When your cake is completely cool (absolutely and completely – I have learned this the hard way many times), spread the topping onto it, and sprinkle it the cake with your toasted almond flakes and freeze dried raspberries.