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.

Courgette, Lime, & Coconut Cake

The courgette cake hasn’t yet taken off quite like the carrot cake. I’m not sure why. I think it’s a shame, really, because a good courgette cake is just as simple and delicious as a carrot cake. While the natural sweetness of carrots works wonderfully in desserts for obvious reasons, a courgette is a more neutral vegetable. The advantage of that is that it’s a great vehicle for all sorts of exciting flavours. Here, I’ve added lime and coconut to go for a kind of tropical vibe. Even though courgettes are possibly the least tropical vegetable ever.

I am good at looking after children and animals but, for some reason, totally useless at keeping plants alive. We don’t have a garden so I don’t have anywhere to practice. But really, that’s just an excuse: I’ve never been able to grow things anyway. I always get confused (too much water? not enough water? who knows?) and then forget about whatever plant I’m supposed to be tending to.


Luckily, we have plenty of lovely neighbours who are digging their way to victory, and occasionally we will receive donations of tasty home-grown vegetables. I say donations, but the neighbours from whom we got the magnificent courgettes that went into this cake were practically begging us to take them off their hands. They seemed slightly panicked about the sheet volume of courgette they had managed to produce. One of them was the size of my arm.

So anyway, obviously if you have an abundance of courgettes you could put them in a stir-fry, or on a savoury tart, or make courgette fritters. Or, you could add a load of sugar and make a courgette cake. I bet you can guess which direction I went in.



Adapted from this recipe.


I think this recipe would also work brilliantly well with lemon or orange, if you have them lying around. Or if you don’t like lime, I guess? I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like lime though.

If you want a quicker or more simple courgette cake, you can leave all the stuff at the end and have it unadorned. It’s really easy though, and I promise it only takes five minutes.


for the cake

350g courgettes, unpeeled
150g soft brown sugar (or any brown sugar, or coconut sugar if you have it)
50g desiccated coconut
125ml sunflower oil, or other neutral oil such as vegetable or corn
3 large eggs
zest of 2 limes
100g sultanas, or raisins if you prefer
300g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

for icing and finishing

100g icing sugar
juice  and zest of 1 lime
handful of desiccated coconut


  1. Preheat your oven 180C/160C fan/gas 4, and lightly grease a large non-stick loaf tin. Grate your courgette, then pop it in a sieve and try to push and squeeze as much liquid as possible out of it, to stop your cake going soggy.
  2. Pop your courgette in a large bowl, then add your sugar, coconut, oil, eggs, lime zest, and sultanas, then give it all a good mix. Add your flour and baking powder, then quickly stir until just combined. Pour your mixture into your loaf tin, then bake for around 40-50 minutes, or until the cake is firm and well risen, and passes the skewer test.
  3. Mix your icing sugar with enough lime juice to make a thick icing. Let your cake cool, then zigzag it with your lime icing, and finish with a sprinkling of the lime zest and a bit more desiccated coconut.

Cherry & Coconut Chocolate Tiffin

Tiffin is one of those things that seems so simple it barely warrants a recipe. I mean, really, what am I telling you to do here? Crush some biscuit, mix it up with some other bits and pieces, and cover it in chocolate. Hurrah, you have tiffin. You don’t need me to tell you how to do that. You can definitely do it all by yourself.

That said, the reason you are getting a recipe for tiffin today anyway is because I’d forgotten how delicious it is. Sometimes I get wrapped up in things like messing around caramelising white chocolate, or developing an apricot, hazelnut, and cardamon cake. Which is all well and good. But it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures. Tiffin is definitely a simple pleasure. And yet, somehow, I haven’t made it for years.


I actually remember the last time I made it very well: it was when I lived in my old flat and had just gotten together with James. We had friends over, I’d made tiffin, and I went to get a bottle of wine out of the fridge and the the shelf on the fridge door somehow broke. A glass bottle of tonic water fell out and shattered over my arm, and I still have the scar from where they had to pull a bit of glass out at minor injuries. Maybe I have subconsciously been avoiding tiffin since, due to traumatic associations.

Tiffin is, incidentally, one of James‘s favourite things. He nods and smiles politely when I produce some towering, massively over the top cake, but given that his other favourite thing is rocky road, I think he’d  secretly be happiest if I just kept it simple.



Obviously you can make any number of adjustments to this. Dark chocolate on top? White chocolate on top? Swirly marbled chocolate on top? All fine. Prefer hazelnuts to pistachios? Got some raisins but no cherries? Think coconut is the devil’s work? Make your own adventure. This is just a tiffin combination that I happen to like. Rich tea biscuits, digestives, and gingernuts also make excellent bases here, in case you don’t like Hobnobs (you’re wrong though, by the way).

I have used an 18cm round cake tin here, purely because I felt like cutting the tiffin into wedges. You could also use a 20cm square tin if you’d prefer tiffin squares or bars. Finally, you could double the recipe very easily and use a large traybake tin or well-lined roasting tin to feed a bigger group.


120g butter
60g golden syrup
25g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
225g Hobnobs/oat biscuits
70g dried cherries
50g pistachios, roughly chopped
50g dessicated coconut
200g milk chocolate


  1. Line a non-stick 18cm (or thereabouts) cake tin with baking parchment. Melt the butter, golden syrup, caster sugar, and cocoa powder together in a large saucepan over a gentle heat.
  2. While they’re melting, roughly crush your biscuits (either by putting them in a sandwich bag and bashing them, or blitzing them in the food processor) until you have a mixture of fine crumbs and some fairly big chunks.
  3. When your syrup mixture has melted to a glossy dark liquid and the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat. Mix in the crushed biscuits, then the cherries, pistachios, and coconut. Make sure everything is well combined.
  4. Spoon your mixture into your prepared cake tin and press it down in an even layer. Pop the tin in the fridge to chill while you melt the chocolate. Melt your chocolate either in the microwave on low heat or in a glass bowl over gently simmering water. Pour melted chocolate over the cooling base and give it all a shake so the chocolate is even, then put the whole thing back in the fridge to set for around 1 hour, or until the chocolate is firm.
  5. Cut, serve, try to resist eating whole thing at once by yourself.

Nanaimo Bars

There’s some properly iconic architecture in Oxford, so they feel like they have to throw in some ugly buildings to make sure we all appreciate the good stuff. One such building is the Manor Road Building, a blocky, 60s-style concrete and glass box on the edge of the centre of town. It’s not the worst modern building in Oxford, not even that close, but it’s not the sort of place that soothes your aesthetic principles every time you visit. Nevertheless, I have a slight soft spot for it, because it’s where James and I met. And that’s all worked out pretty well.

One thing the MRB does have, besides thousands of right angles, is a cafeteria, for which a woman called Steph makes baked goods of which James is rather fond. This weekend, he asked me if I knew how to make something he particularly liked: ‘these Canadian chocolate things, sort of like tiffin… but nicer… I don’t know what they’re called.’

I did not.


Thankfully, Google is omniscient, and once James had figured out the name of the baked good in question, we were in business. Not only did I not know how to make them, I had never ever heard of them. I’m still not sure how to pronounce their name. Nah-nay-mo bars? Who knows. Since they’re Canadian and I am, technically, a Canadian citizen (with the passport to prove it), I feel almost no guilt for hideously mispronouncing the name and being pretty liberal in my interpretation of the recipe.

These chocolatey bars of goodness are more like tiffin than anything else I know of, but with the addition of a custard icing layer between the biscuit and the chocolate, and a lack of dried fruit within the base. They’re easy, no-bake, and low on prep time – although you do have to wait for them to set as you make each layer, but that just involves bunging them in the fridge. I know fridge cake isn’t quite the thing for nearly-November – I should be baking something warming and scented with apple and cinnamon – but I am time-poor these days and anything you can throw together with odds and ends from the cupboard sounds pretty good to me.


Source: A random recipe from the internet. I’ve adapted it quite a bit.

Notes: Obviously, this recipe is joyfully adaptable, so go forth and bake with whatever is lying around in your cupboards.


Bottom layer
120g butter, room temperature
50g caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g crushed digestive biscuits, hob nobs, or whatever other fairly plain biscuits you have
50g shredded coconut
50g chopped pistachios (I put pistachios in everything because I love them, but go for your favourite nut)

Middle layer
60g butter, room temperature
4 tbsp whole milk
20g custard powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g icing sugar

Top layer
150g milk chocolate


  1. Line a square tin with baking parchment and make sure there’s actually space to put it in your fridge (there’s never any space in my fridge).
  2. Bottom layer first. Put a large saucepan over a low heat and melt the butter, then take it off the hob and quickly stir in the sugar and cocoa. Let it cool a little, then gradually whisk in the beaten egg and pop the pan back onto a low heat and keep stirring the contents for two minutes. It will initially look all split and weird and like a really bad idea, but then it will come together and look like a smooth, glossy, chocolate sauce. Take it back off the heat and stir in your vanilla, crushed biscuits, coconut, and nuts. Smush it evenly into your tin, cover, and chill for an hour.
  3. Then the middle layer. Beat the butter until it’s very smooth and soft in a bowl with an electric whisk, then beat in the milk, custard powder, vanilla, and icing sugar. You should end up with a smooth, relatively thick, buttercream-style icing. You want it thin enough to spread but not so thin that it runs everywhere. Spread it on top of the chocolate base and chill for half an hour.
  4. Finally, unsurprisingly, the top layer. Melt your chocolate however you think best, then quickly spread it over the chilled custard icing and put the whole tin back in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up the chocolate. Then get it out and cut the thing into squares before it becomes rock solid. My kitchen was pretty warm, so I put the bars back into the fridge.

These will live in my freezer and be brought out in sugar-emergencies (i.e. every night).




Blackberry and Coconut Cupcakes

If you go to a restaurant these days, you will be served by an assortment of waiters and waitresses. Perhaps I am choosing to go to the wrong places or getting unlucky, but every time I have been out to eat in the past year, at least, I’ve been served by multiple people. I am sure it used to be different; I am sure it used to be customary for a table to have one waiter or waitress who said ‘Hi, I’m Lucy’ (or whatever their name actually is) at the beginning of the evening and stuck with you for a whole meal. In a helpful way, not a creepy way. That used to be a thing, didn’t it?

Now, you go out to eat and one person takes your order, another brings you drinks, a third puts your food on the table, and so on. This seems to me to be an infinitely worse system. Firstly, you don’t have one person responsible for your table – if you need service, you don’t know whose eye to catch, and if you want to praise or complain about the treatment you’ve received, there is no one person that’s accountable. Secondly, it is hugely inefficient. Stupidly often, someone will come to take a drinks order when you already a placed it with another person five minutes ago, or three different people will check if your food is okay, or no one thinks to look in on you for twenty minutes while you’re desperately trying to find someone to ask for the bill. Thirdly, you don’t build up a rapport with anyone. If you have the time and are feeling social, it’s nice to chat to your waiter or waitress throughout the meal as they come and go, and you end the evening knowing them by name and feeling rather fond of them and more willing to leave a large tip. This doesn’t happen if you’re visited by five different people in passing.


For all these reasons and more, it seems like it would make far more sense to simply assign each table in a restaurant to one dedicated server and have everyone look after their own patch. I literally can’t think of a single reason why the haphazard approach of having multiple people serving one table has become the norm. But I suppose there must be a reason, or all these restaurants wouldn’t be doing it. What is the reason? Why don’t tables just have one server any more? This isn’t rhetorical – I really would like to know, so if you have the answers then please enlighten me.

I am writing this because we have just been out to lunch in London at a moderately fancy restaurant where the food was lovely and the service was poor. I mean, I’d much rather that than having service that was lovely and food that was poor, but still. When you go out to a restaurant your main focus is obviously (probably) the food, but you’re paying for a whole package of food and service and atmosphere, surely?


Rant over. Time for cupcakes.

I was asked to bake a couple of things for a charity event last weekend, and the idea of a blackberry and coconut cupcake popped into my head, doubtless because blackberries are everywhere at the moment. I’ve never really noticed it in previous years for some reason, but this August I can barely walk past a hedgerow near where we live without stopping to marvel at the abundance of the soft, bounteous berries, blushing through shades of deep crimson to dusky purple and black.

Notes: These cupcakes are soft and moist from the coconut cream and oil, dense and lightly scented. They will keep reasonably well and stay moist for a couple of days, especially with the jam in the middle and buttercream on top.


for the cakes

3 eggs
175g caster sugar
120ml coconut oil
70ml coconut cream
175g self raising flour, sifted
50g dessicated coconut

for the frosting

100g softened butter
200g icing sugar
3 tbsp blackberry jam

to decorate

blackberry jam
12 blackberries
handful of dessicated coconut


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and line a cupcake tray with twelve cases. Pop your eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk for two minutes. In a measuring jug, combine the coconut oil and coconut cream (it will separate and look weird, but don’t worry, it will all be fine), and add this to the eggs and sugar. Mix until just combined. Keep your mixer on a low speed, and gently add your flour and desiccated coconut to the batter.
  2. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one (or any old spoon if you don’t), divide the mixture evenly between the cases: they should be about 2/3 full. Bake for fifteen minutes, or until well risen and golden (it could be more like twenty minutes in a different oven). Put the cupcakes on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
  3. Once the cupcakes are cool, core them. I have a set of cookie cutters, and I use the smallest one to core cupcakes, which works perfectly. You might have a proper cupcake corer, or you can just cut out the centres with a knife. Spoon blackberry jam into the holes.
  4. Make the buttercream. Beat the butter until soft, and then sift the icing sugar over it. Mix the icing sugar in roughly with a spatula, and then use the electric whisk to beat the buttercream until completely smooth and fluffy. Beat in the blackberry jam – if you want a completely smooth frosting, sieve the jam first. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using a piping nozzle with a star tip, or simply dollop it on to each cake if you’d rather.
  5. Top each cupcake with a blackberry and sprinkle with coconut.