Orange and Rhubarb Cheesecake

Here is an antidote to the grey days, the rainy days, the days when Spring is a misty, half-forgotten memory and you can’t remember the last time you went out without a coat. Yes, the cold snap is dragging on a bit, but that’s all the more reason to make yourself a sunshine-y treat, even if you’re doing it with winter ingredients. Rhubarb and oranges are both plentiful right now, and they’re an ideal match in this creamy cheesecake. The vibrant pinks and oranges will cheer up any gloomy day, and this crowd-pleasing dessert is sure to put a smile on your face.


There’s something completely addictive about this cheesecake. James and I ate half of it between the two of us on day one, and gave the rest away very reluctantly as a self-preservation measure. There’s a luxurious creaminess to it, but also the bright and refreshing lightness of fruit. A worryingly delicious combination.

It’s also very simple to make. My inherently laziness has always resulted in my plumping for set cheesecakes rather than baked cheesecakes as a general rule (except that one time I went mad). Even though both are delicious, the set variety are undeniably easier.



400g rhubarb
2 tbsp caster sugar
250g ginger biscuits (or biscuits of your choice – digestives and oat biscuits also work well)
100g butter, melted
600g full-fat cream cheese
zest of 3 oranges – use the segments for the decoration
125g icing sugar
150ml double cream


  1. Heat your oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 5. Trim your rhubarb, and cut it into roughly 3cm chunks. Toss the rhubarb in the 2 tbsp caster sugar. Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft but not collapsing. I then ran over it with a blowtorch for extra char, but that’s obviously totally not necessary – I realise most people don’t have a kitchen blowtorch! Leave it to cool.
  2. Line a 23cm springform tin. Gently melt your butter, if you haven’t already. Blitz your biscuits to rubble in a food processor, or pop them in a bag and bash them for some stress-busting fun. Mix the biscuits and the melted butter together, then press them into your tin as evenly as possible. Chill while you make the filling.
  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, blend the cream cheese, orange zest, and icing sugar until smooth. Add the cream and beat until the mixture has thickened a little. Gently fold in half your roasted rhubarb, saving the rest for decoration. Spread the filling evenly over the base and chill until set, six hours or overnight.
  4. Finish the cheesecake with segments of the zested oranges and the remaining rhubarb.

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.



Chocolate Orange Macarons

Hey, remember when I had a semi-proper food blog on which I often posted recipes, instead of moaning about how busy and exhausted I was and listing all my new burns? No? I don’t. I had to plough back through the archives to find the last recipe I posted, and it was only for what is essentially a fridge cake. A delicious fridge cake with an exciting name, but still.


My first term at Leiths finished a couples of weeks ago, and I am metaphorically (and sometimes literally) spinning round in a circle going ‘wait, whoa, wow, what just happened to me?’ I’ve been ambushed by term. I’ve been completely immersed for ten weeks and I haven’t thought about anything else. I’ve been muttering choux pastry recipes to myself and having nightmares about underproved bread. Term ended, and as soon as I got home and relaxed for the first time in months, I immediately got ill, and spent a few days wrapped in duvets on the sofa, holding the cat hostage, slipping in and out of sleep while watching box-sets.

It’s time for me to start cooking for fun again.


Macarons are fun. I mean, they’re a complete pain in the arse, but they’re beautiful, and delicious, and fancy. These chocolate orange macarons are decorated with nuts, and I think they look pretty enough to be rather nice gifts for Christmas. I mean, for someone you really actually like.

I do not claim to be a macaron expert at all. They’re notoriously tricky, and there are dozens of very good, comprehensive, and knowledgeable articles and blog posts floating about that will give you dozens of tips about how to make them perfect. BraveTart‘s writing on this is a fantastic resource that I would recommend you reading if you’re interested. I’ve found a method that works for me now and I am sticking with it, but it’s certainly not inherently better than any other method. Much to my own surprise, I’ve found the Italian meringue route actually easier than the French one here – which is odd because any recipe which involves heating sugar syrup to precise temperatures usually freaks me out a bit – as it tends to give me more consistent results. And it’s not as scary as I thought it was.



  • For this, you will need at least three baking sheets (I sometimes go onto a fourth) and parchment to line them, a sugar thermometer, a food processor, an electric hand whisk or a stand mixer, and a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle, as well as the normal bowls and scales and stuff. Sorry, lots of kit I know, but that’s just how it is for these.
  • This recipe makes around 50 shells, or 25 paired macarons, although this obviously depends on how big you pipe them.
  • I don’t personally think you need to bother ageing your egg whites unless they are stupendously fresh to start with – perhaps you have your own chickens or something, who knows – but I do always make sure mine are room temperature.
  • I am not awesome at piping, and so my personal preference is to line my baking sheets with disposable parchment and, using a cookie cutter, draw circles onto it in black Sharpie as a guide, then flip it over ready to be piped on to. You can also buy templates that are already on silicone mats (which I should do but I am cheap) or print them off the internet, or just pipe freestyle if you are confident. You want to end up with something like this.
  • I could go on and on about macarons but I have been quite brief in the recipe below. If anything needs clarifying or you have specific questions, do ask. I am also happy to add step by step pictures if they are needed.


for the shells

200g white caster sugar
75ml hot water (from a hot tap is fine, but boil a kettle if you like)
200g icing sugar
200g ground almonds
25g cocoa powder (this obviously makes the chocolate shells, but leave it out if you want plain ones)
160g egg whites (divided into two bowls of 80g each)
Pinch of salt

for the ganache filling

100g good quality dark chocolate
100g double cream
20g butter
2 tsp orange extract
zest of 1 orange (you can skip this if you want a totally smooth ganache but I like the flavour)
1/2 tsp good sea salt (or more to taste)

to decorate

50g good quality dark chocolate
a mixture of nuts and dried fruit of your choice – whatever you’ve got in the cupboard


  1. Get out three baking sheets and line them with parchment (or silicone), and create a template if you need one. Pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan, stir it gently together with a wooden spoon, and put the pan on a low heat to dissolve the sugar (starting with hot water speeds this up). While that’s happening, pop your almonds, icing sugar, and cocoa in a food processor and blitz for 1 minute. Scrape the sides down, then blitz for an additional minute. Pass the sugar and nut powder through a sieve into a large bowl. You will be left with some chunkier almond mixture in the sieve. Chuck this away, don’t force it through – you want smooth macarons.
  2. If your sugar has dissolved into your water (the liquid shouldn’t feel gritty), turn up the heat on your syrup, stick your thermometer in it, and start to bubble it up to 115 degrees celsius (which is your target). Meanwhile, mix 80g of egg white into your sieved almond mixture with a spatula to make a thick, stiff paste. It will look like there isn’t enough liquid, but keep working it and it will come together. Pop the other 80g of egg white into a clean glass bowl with the pinch of salt and whisk to stiff peaks.
  3. When the sugar syrup hits 115 degrees, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream while still whisking them on high speed. The mixture will become shiny. Once all the sugar syrup is in the whites, keep whisking for five minutes or so while the bowl cools until you have your stiff meringue mix. Whack 1/3 of the meringue mix into the almond paste and beat it in any old how to loosen it.
  4. Now gently fold the remaining meringue into your macaron batter with a spatula. You need to make sure it’s well incorporated and there are no streaks, but the more you mix it the more air will be knocked out, and the looser the batter becomes. If you don’t mix enough, there will be unincorporated meringue and the batter won’t smooth out when piped. If you go too far, it will run everywhere when piped. You want to be able to lift the spatula up and draw a trail of batter across the surface of the bowl and leave a line which stays there for around 10 seconds, but then gradually disappears back into the body of the mixture. People say it is supposed to look like lava but that’s totally unhelpful to me as I don’t know what lava looks like. Go slowly, one fold at a time, and keep checking it. If in doubt, go for under rather than over mixing, as the process of piping the batter will knock more air out too.DSC_0001-764x1024
  5. When you are happy with your batter, put half of it into your piping bag and begin to pipe out your rounds. I find it easier to only use half the mix at once or the weight of it makes it come out of the bag very fast, which is tricky to pipe. Piping these just takes practice. Give yourself space, pipe directly down rather than at an angle, move quickly and get into a rhythm. Your batter will spread a little so aim for batter circles slightly smaller than your template circles. Once you have finished piping, pick up each tray, lift it a good few inches off the surface, and drop it straight down. Do this a couple of times. You need to knock out any air bubbles that have accumulated. After this is done, leave your macarons to rest for around half an hour. Once rested, they should have a slight skin. Leaving them for longer – up to a couple of hours – shouldn’t hurt them.
  6. While they are resting, make ganache. Break your chocolate into small pieces and pop it in a bowl. Heat your cream in a pan until it’s just steaming and little bubbles are appearing at the edges. Pour it onto the chocolate and leave it alone to sit for a couple of minutes. Beat the mixture until smooth, then beat in the butter, then add your salt and orange extract/ zest to taste. Leave to set in the fridge.
  7. Heat your oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Bake your macaron shells for around 20 minutes. This is obviously dependent on your oven and the size of your macarons, so keep an eye on them. Check after 17 minutes. When your shells are cooked, they should lift off your baking parchment without leaving much residue behind. If they are leaving lots of very sticky mixture, give them more time. If they are completely dry and hollow then they are over-baked (but will still be yummy when filled). When they are done, get them on a cooling rack and once they are cool enough to touch, take them off the parchment.
  8. Get your ganache out the fridge – it might need a couple of minutes at room temperature to become pipeable, depending on how long it’s been in there. Match the shells of your macarons into pairs of similar sizes. Pipe a circle of ganache onto the base shell of each pair and gently sandwich on the top shell.
  9. You are now free to decorate. Here, I dipped a (clean) paintbrush into melted chocolate, brushed the top of each macaron, and then sprinkled cranberries, pistachios, and toasted chopped hazelnuts on top. But go wild – or don’t. They will be lovely plain or with a simple dusting of cocoa powder.

And there you have it. What an incredibly long recipe. It will all be worth it in the end. Really, you should store macarons in the fridge in an air-tight container for 24 hours before eating them to let the shells soften into the filling but my willpower isn’t always up to this. Regardless, they keep very well.


Chocolate Orange Cake

If you could only eat five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? You are also allowed water. You will have unlimited access to the best quality foods on your list, but nothing else. You can have dishes (for example, ‘lasagne’ is an acceptable answer) but not meals (for example, ‘Christmas dinner’ would not be permitted). Yes, of course this is a completely arbitrary hypothetical situation and it’s not actually going to happen. Probably. But who knows? Best to be prepared, right?

I play this game with friends sometimes, and there are two very distinct ways of going about it. Firstly, there is the approach of gluttony and joy. Here is where you can name your absolute favourite foods in the spirit of excess. Caviar, profiteroles, sirloin steaks, raspberries, chocolate mousse, chips, spaghetti carbonara…

Secondly, there is the practical approach. You know, the one where you attempt to avoid scurvy and rickets and death. Kale, blueberries, brown rice, salmon, oranges, beans, spinach, yoghurt… er, what else? I don’t even know what should go in this category.


So, as you can probably guess, I’m in the first camp. The camp that has the profiteroles in it. I mean, if there has been some weird, apocalyptic, food-destroying event on earth then we will probably all die anyway, so I might as well go down eating as hedonistically as possible.

Enter: chocolate orange cake. Can anyone else sense a theme emerging? I have already featured chocolate orange brownies – well, they were chocolate orange that day – and a chocolate fudge cake, and this is basically the love-child of those two things. What can I say? I love chocolate cake. I mean, yes, I also love macarons, and crème brûlée, and entremets, and all the fancy stuff. But really, when it comes down to it, nothing quite has my heart like a big slab of moist, fudgy chocolate cake. It’s a ‘last meal on earth’ type thing. It would be on my list of five things.


Source: This is barely adapted from this post on Pastry Affair, which is a fantastic blog that I would encourage you to check out.

Notes: I couldn’t quite bring myself to use 340g of chocolate, as specified, for the frosting in this recipe, so I used 300g, which worked fine in terms of proportions. However, I had a load of frosting leftover, so below I am suggesting 2/3 of the quantity I used. The frosting, as you can see from the pictures, isn’t perfectly smooth as it’s got orange zest in it. It’s not split, though – it’s delicious. I used 70% chocolate, as is my wont, which makes a very dark, rich frosting. I think this is lovely, but would forgive you for dialling it down a notch if you’re into that sort of thing.


for the cakes

350g granulated sugar
zest of 2 large oranges
2 large eggs
120ml oil (any unflavoured oil is fine)
115g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g plain flour
65g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
240ml buttermilk (they sell this in Sainsburys, but plain yoghurt works too)
6 tbsp orange juice

for the frosting

200g dark chocolate
75g butter
zest of 1 large orange
75g sour cream
1 tbsp orange extract (optional)
orange zest, gold leaf, and/or chocolate orange matchsticks to garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and grease and line two loose bottomed cake tins – I use 20cm ones. In a large mixing bowl, combine your granulated sugar and orange zest and rub it together between your fingers – you should end up with a pile of orange scented sugar. Add your eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat until smooth and well combined.
  2. In another bowl, sieve together your flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt. Measure out your buttermilk in a jug. Add the flour mix and the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating between the two, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Divide it evenly between your tins, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cakes are well risen and pass the skewer test. While they are cooling in their tins, use a knife, fork, or skewer to poke a few holes in the top of each cake and pour the orange juice over the top.
  3. Once the cakes are completely cool and out of their tins, make your frosting. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a pan on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and add the orange zest, sour cream, and orange extract if using. Stir until smooth, and then leave to cool for half an hour to let it thicken.
  4. Place one cake on the plate you are planning to serve it on, and cover the surface with a thin layer of frosting. Pop the second cake on top, and coat the whole thing with the rest of the frosting. Decorate as desired.