Pistachio, Blackberry, and Lemon Loaf Cake

Working from home is a funny old way of life. I’ve gone from school to university to 9-5 jobs to getting my culinary diploma. Now I’ve washed up teaching and running the administration for a cookery school, alongside freelance catering work and making the odd birthday or wedding cake. This means that my hours are mostly my own to organise, for the first time, really, in my life. Apart from actually showing up to teach classes and attending the odd meeting, I don’t generally have to be anywhere in particular for work, and can get stuff done as and when I like.

Mostly, it suits me. I never liked having to be in an office at fixed times, regardless of how much work I had on, and I’m a terrible employee in that I hate being told what to do (yes, this was often a problem). I am bossy, obsessive, and controlling (but quite a nice person generally, honest), so sorting out my own time instead of adhering to someone else’s schedule is usually advantageous.


It’s tricky, too, though. This morning, for instance, I answered three emails, raised two invoices, dealt with some website maintenance, updated a voucher spreadsheet, and researched a recipe before 9am. However, I did all this on the sofa, in my pyjamas, whilst eating toast and cuddling the cat. So it’s easy for me to feel like I am being lazy, especially as my husband is dressed and out the door to go to the office by 8.15am.

I do as much work now as I did when I had a ‘proper job’, but not all of it feels like work (recipe testing and ingredients shopping, I’m looking at you), and lots of it is done at funny times. I work best early in the morning, so I will get a lot done first thing, but then I will often be out doing something at some point during the day when everyone else is stuck in the office. Then again, I am usually doing work late into the night and always on weekends – I once received a surprised and delighted reply from a customer when I answered her email at midnight on Christmas Eve. Plus on most Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights, you can usually find me teaching and not getting home until 11pm.

I don’t know. I am sure (read: I hope) most people who have an unconventional job and/or work from home suffer from this slight guilt and nervousness. I always feel like I am somehow getting away with something when I have a long lunch with a friend on a weekday, or spend an hour bobbing up and down the Cowley Road to find obscure Asian ingredients on a Wednesday afternoon.


Anyway, as I said, one of the pre-9am things I did this morning was researching a recipe, and that recipe is for this Pistachio, Blackberry, and Lemon Loaf Cake.

I love pistachios. Love love love them to a disturbing degree. They’re so versatile, playing excellent roles in both sweet and savoury dishes, and completely beautiful in their enticing shades of soft purple and vivid green. I have been wanting to make a pistachio cake for a while, and then I thought of the juicy purple of blackberries against a soft nutty green, with the kick of brightening lemon, and this cake was born.


Source: The base loaf cake recipe is adapted from this one at Smitten Kitchen.

Notes: I love blackberries here but I am sure this would work well with blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. You could also leave out the lemon if you don’t fancy it, and skip all the decoration on the top.


150g roasted pistachio kernels
200 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
145g butter, cut into rough cubes (from the fridge is fine)
3 eggs
60ml cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant tsp baking powder
120g plain flour
1oog blackberries

for the icing and finishing

100g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon (roughly)
handful of pistachios
handful of blackberries


  1. Preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan/ gas 3. Roast your pistachios in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they are slightly darkened and smelling lovely. While that’s happening, grease and line your loaf tin (you can maybe get away without doing this if you have a non-stick tin, but I am always too scared to risk it).
  2. Pop your pistachios in a food processor with the sugar and salt blitz it all until it’s a rough powder – you want it as well blended as possible but you don’t want to go too far and make the pistachios release their oil and become wet. Chuck in your lemon zest and cubed butter and blitz again – it will look weird and clumpy for a while but eventually smooth out, so just keep running the mixer. With the mixer running, add your eggs one by one, and pour in your milk and vanilla.
  3. You should now have a rather thin, green, fairly smooth mixture. Take it out of the processor and pop it in a bowl, then add your baking powder, plain flour, and blackberries, then fold to just combine but don’t mix further. If your blackberries are huge you might want to cut them in half for more even distribution.
  4. Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and pop in your preheated oven to bake. This is a slow, gentle bake – my cake took 60 minutes in my quite fierce oven, but as with any cake with a long baking time it will vary quite a bit depending on your oven. Check at 45 minutes and then keep checking every ten minutes until the cake is risen and firm and passes the skewer test.
  5. You can absolutely keep it as it is, but if you want to gild the lily, sieve your icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add lemon juice, whisking it into an icing that is fairly thick and falls off a spoon in a slow drizzle. Let your cake cool in the tin, then turn it out and finish it with a flair of lemon icing and some artfully arranged blackberries and pistachios.

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.



Ginger Cake with a Lemon Drizzle and Rhubarb and Raspberry Compote

I ate the most unbelievable amount of junk food when I was at school. Not only was school food itself usually pretty spectacularly unhealthy, but also any money I had usually went on books, costume jewellery, and chocolate. I could quite happily go through a 100g bar of Dairy Milk without much thought; I still could, if not for the fact that it would pain my conscience. It’s truly both a blessing and a curse, but I can really eat pretty much anything. Quite apart from being lucky enough not to have any allergies, I also have tremendous capacity: when other people are groaning that they are painfully full or feeling sick from sugar, I would usually be happy to keep going.


Of course, when you’re young you don’t worry as much about trashing your body, and it’s the done thing – or at least it was when I was at school – to make regular trips to the corner shop to stock up on all things sweet. My best friend from those years, Ella, and I did this regularly, and to be honest I can’t remember any adults fussing particularly about stopping us, although it’s entirely possible I may have just blanked any admonitions out. Ella and I lived a five minute walk apart and we were practically inseparable for years, both at school and in our free time. I have a very specific memory of us sitting in an empty classroom across the corridor from the school library and eating an entire McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger cake between the two of us in what must have been about seven minutes.

Times change, but not very much, it seems, because here I am with another massive ginger cake which I am planning to eat a great deal of. True, I’ve fancied it up a bit, but basically this is still the essence of a delicious ginger cake – moist, flavoursome, and comforting. I don’t know what Ella is up to these days, but I hope that she’d like it.


Source: The base ginger cake recipe has been adapted from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz, which is a fantastic book.

Notes: This cake will keep well for about four or five days. You don’t have to make the compote, or even the drizzle – it would be good plain, too. But if you want to make it a bit fancier for a dessert then these are nice accompaniments. I also think it goes very well with crème fraîche, which cuts through it nicely.


115g fresh ginger (peeled weight)
200ml golden syrup
50ml black treacle
200g caster sugar (or brown sugar would work well too if you have it in)
250ml corn oil (or other flavourless oil)
350g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
200ml water
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs

for the compote

4 sticks or so of rhubarb
1 vanilla pod, if you have one kicking about
50ml water
50g sugar (or to taste)
1 punnet/ 150g raspberries

for the drizzle

juice of 1 lemon
150g icing sugar



  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and grease and line a 23cm cake tin – you will need a pretty big tin or the cake won’t bake through, and if it’s springform it will make your life easier. Chop your ginger very finely, or whack it in the food processor and blitz it down (if you are lazy, like me). In your largest bowl, mix together the golden syrup, sugar, and oil. In a little pan, bring your water just to the boil (but don’t let it boil away), and stir in the bicarb, which will make it fizz up excitingly. Then whisk your water into the sugar mixture and stir in the chopped ginger.
  2. Sift your flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and pepper over your wet mixture and slowly whisk it in. Finally, crack your two large eggs into the bowl and whisk them in too. The mixture will seem very wet and loose. Don’t worry, it will all come out okay. Pop it in your tin and bake for around 1 hour. It’s a long bake time, so if it starts looking a bit too dark a bit early then turn your oven down a touch. Make sure your cake passes the skewer test before you bring it out.
  3. Meanwhile, while your cake is baking, make your compote. Chop your rhubarb into 4cm pieces, or thereabouts, and pop it in a saucepan with your sugar, water, and a vanilla pod split in half if you have one. Leave on a gentle heat to cook down for about 20 minutes, or until your rhubarb is soft and your compote is syrupy. Stir in your raspberries and cook for 5 minutes more. Leave to stand and thicken.
  4. When your cake is out of the oven, make your lemon drizzle. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually whisk in drops of lemon juice, until you have a drizzle-able icing – you may or may not use all the juice. Careful, because it’s very easy to add too much liquid and make it too liquid. Drizzle it artfully over the cake and serve with the compote.

Fennel, Apple, and Cucumber Salad

I don’t post many savoury recipes on this blog, mostly because I don’t tend to cook savoury food from recipes. It’s much more about what we’ve got in the cupboards, and what I fancy tossing into the pot that I think might taste good. Translating that into recipes for blog posts is tricky, because I don’t tend to make something in the same way twice and I’ve usually forgotten how I made a meal by the time we’re eating it.

Also, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. With cakes, it feels more like a science to me. Add x, y and z and mix to the power of n to make blueberry muffins. The outcomes feel more predictable with desserts than savoury dishes, although I admit that’s partly because I cook proper meals so haphazardly most of the time.

But mainly, it’s because by the time I get dinner ready, we’re far too hungry to hang about while I photograph it. For dinner this evening, we had chicken wrapped in streaky bacon, stuffed with spinach and goats’ cheese and roasted in homemade garlic butter. It tasted pretty great, but I can’t do a blog post on it because it never got photographed before being fallen upon by ravenous coyotes (or, more accurately, James and I at 9pm after a really long day).


This salad feels like a cheat of a blog post, to be honest, because it’s not even really a ‘recipe’. All you have to do is chop things up and chuck them in a bowl.

Still, it’s delicious and healthy and summery, and I make it all the time, so I thought I might as well post it to break up the endless parade of cakes, if nothing else.


Notes: Obviously you don’t need to worry massively about quantities here. Use your best judgement.


1 large fennel bulb
1 eating apple (I use Jazz apples here, partly for the pleasing colour contrast of their red skins with all the green, and partly because they provide a good balance of sweetness and sharpness)
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed
1 lemon
5 tbsp good quality olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Slice your fennel as thinly as you reasonably can, and chop your apple and cucumber into small matchsticks. There are probably julienne peelers or mandolins or something that would do this job admirably, but I just use a knife. Pop the fennel, apple, and cucumber into a bowl and mix them together.
  2. Juice your lemon, and mix it with around 5 tbsp of your good olive oil. Feel free to use more or less as you wish – you want to coat the salad well without drowning it. Toss the fennel, apple, and cucumber in the lemon and olive oil mixture. Season well with salt and pepper, then toss again.
  3. Top the salad with some fresh dill. Cover, and chill in the fridge until needed. I find this salad is best served cold.

See? There was hardly any point at all in me writing that. You could have worked it all out from looking at the picture.


Gin Lemon Drizzle Birthday Cake

A couple of years ago, I lived with one of my closest friends, Ren. Ren is funny and smart, creative and kind, and I love her dearly, but Christ is she a pain in the arse to cook for. Not only is she a vegetarian, she’s a picky vegetarian, with allergies to random things like red food colouring and white chocolate, who irrationally dislikes things that are traditional cornerstones of vegetarian meals, like mushrooms and salad. On her birthday one year, I made the mistake of asking her what she wanted me to cook for her birthday dinner.

‘Anything you like!’ I said, hopefully. ‘Come on, let me treat you!’

‘I want an omelette’, she replied, definitively.

My face fell. ‘Omelette? Really? I could make you anything! Something special! What about a goats’ cheese and red onion tart? Homemade ravioli? A vegetarian pithivier?’

‘Omelette’, she repeated, stubbornly.

In the end, she consented to let me make it ‘special’ by putting blue cheese on top. I didn’t try to make her a special birthday meal again.

I was reminded of this recently when I asked my fiancé’s brother what kind of birthday cake he’d like me to bake for him, and he answered, without hesitation, ‘Lemon drizzle’.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a good lemon drizzle cake. Sometimes it really hits the spot. But when I’m making a birthday cake for someone I care about, I like to make an occasion of it. You know the sort of thing. Multiple layers, probably ombre. New and exciting flavour combinations. Two types of frosting. Edible flowers. Chocolate all the way. Something that’s going to take hours and probably cause me a huge amount of stress and be impossible to transport when ready, because I never learn.

So, because I can’t let well enough alone, I decided to try to create a sort of ultimate special occasion lemon drizzle cake. A cake with the base values of a lemon drizzle very much included, but with a bit more pizzazz. A bit more excitement. A bit more… gin.

And this cake was born.


Source: I began with the sumptuous Nigella’s base recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, but have adapted it liberally.

Notes: The gin measurements are merely suggestions. They give a definite taste of gin, but not an overwhelming raw punch of it. Obviously, feel free to add more if you want the sort of cake you can’t drive after eating.


For the cakes
250g butter
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs
zest of 2 lemons
350g self raising flour
1 tsp salt
3 shots gin

For the syrup
juice of 3 lemons
200 g icing sugar
3 shots of gin

Optional: 4 more shots of gin

For the buttercream
100g butter
250g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon

Optional: 1 jar of lemon curd


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ gas 4. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each, and then lemon zest, beating again. Sift the flour and the salt together and then fold them into the mixture. Once combined, add the gin and mix again.
  3. Divide the batter between your tins as evenly as you can, and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the cakes are risen, golden, and firm.
  4. While the cakes are baking, make the syrup. Put the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly, and then add the gin – you don’t want to cook off the alcohol.
  5. Immediately after you take the cakes out of the oven, puncture all over with a skewer or a fork, and pour the syrup over the cakes while they are still warm. It will seem like there is too much liquid, but the cakes will eventually drink it up. If you want an extra gin hit, pour two more shots of ‘raw’ gin over each cake after the syrup.
  6. Once the cakes have cooled completely, remove them from the tins. To make the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric whisk until it’s completely soft. Sift the icing sugar over the butter, then beat it in gently with a spatula before attacking it with the electric whisk – if you go straight for the whisk it will go everywhere. Add the lemon zest and blend again.
  7. Up-end one cake on a plate and spread lemon curd over the surface, if using. Spread the other cake with buttercream and sandwich them together. Cover the cakes completely with the remaining buttercream, if you like (you could also just do the top or leave them bare). Top with whatever you fancy. Raspberries? Lemon zest? Candied peel? Decorating birthday cakes is not exactly my strength, as you can see.

Share with friends, and hope none of them are teetotal. Or driving.