Pistachio Carrot Cake

I don’t make carrot cake as much as I should. I never really think of it, because I’m too obsessed with chocolate. Also, to be completely honest, grating things is my absolute least favourite kitchen activity, and I’m lazy. I hate grating carrots. You don’t have to grate chocolate for chocolate cake. It’s a shame, though, because carrot cake is great, particularly for spring. This pistachio carrot cake is simple, robust, and delicious.


It’s also surprisingly light. There’s no point pretending that because this cake’s got fruit and vegetables in it that it’s healthy, but it’s definitely not as heavy as the chocolate-fudge-caramel-frosting confections I usually pedal on here. It keeps very well because of the high moisture content of the carrot and pineapple. And everyone loves a good carrot cake.



Adapted from and inspired by this recipe.


I have never put pineapple in carrot cake before, even though I have seen it in plenty of recipes. I always thought it was unnecessary. But this time I thought I’d give it a go, and I actually loved it. You can skip it if you like and it won’t ruin the cake, but I’d urge you to try it if you haven’t done so before.

This list of ingredients looks long, but it’s because it’s got a few spices and cupboard staples in it that you likely have knocking around.


240g all-purpose flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
350g light brown softsugar
130g coconut oil (or any flavourless oil like vegetable or corn)
130g buttermilk (or natural yoghurt)
2 tsp vanilla extract
180g freshly grated carrot
200g tinned or frozen pineapple
70g dessicated coconut
100g chopped pistachios

cream cheese icing

450g cream cheese
120g butter, room temperature
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

handful of chopped pistachios


  1. Get the butter for your icing out of the fridge first. Thank me later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease and line two matching cake tins (around 20cm in diameter). Put your flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger in any bowl and give them a mix. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the eggs and sugar together until combined. Beat in the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix in your dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in your grated carrot, pineapple, coconut, and pistachios.
  3. Divide your cake mix evenly between the two cake tins. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden and set in the centre. Let the cakes cool completely before you try to ice them.
  4. For the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together until evenly combined. Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla – don’t overbeat because if you overmix cream cheese frosting it just goes runny. Put half the icing on one cake, top it with the other and finish with the rest of the icing. Sprinkle with your reserved pistachios.


The Bake Off Bake Along: Chocolate & Pistachio Caramel Cake

I was embarrassingly excited about caramel week from the moment I heard of its existence. ‘Now that’, I thought, ‘is going to be a fun bake off bake along week’. I mean, who doesn’t love caramel? People who are wrong, that’s who.

Stroopwafels are one of my favourite things ever… but I don’t have a waffle iron. I was very torn. There was a serious moment when I considered buying one (I got to the ‘looking up prices on Amazon’ stage), but it seems a bit too insane and profligate to buy an expensive bit of kit just for the sake of making one bake off bake along technical challenge. Even on caramel week.

Realistically I would never use it again, and in my teeny tiny kitchen every single bit of kit has to be there for a good reason. It’s a bit rubbish, actually, for them to set a technical challenge that requires an obscure bit of equipment, so people at home generally can’t join in. Also, considering that every single person messed up the stroopwafel caramel, I reckon they were either given insufficient instructions or insufficient time. I mean, if half of them messed it up then fine – but all of them?


So, down to a choice of two things. I absolutely love a millionaire’s shortbread, but since I have done the signature challenge every single week for the bake off bake along so far, I thought this was perhaps my one chance to give a showstopper a go. You know, when it wasn’t something insane, like a biscuit board game or a bread sculpture. A caramel cake seems pretty reasonable. I make stupid huge cakes fairly often.

It felt like cursing myself to think this, but I have never been particularly scared by the concept of making caramel. One of the things I bake most often is salted caramel brownies, so I make caramel for those all the time. And it hasn’t gone wrong yet. Cue targeted lightning strike from the heavens directed at my kitchen and everything blowing up.


It was actually fine. But I did cheat slightly in that I didn’t use a spun sugar decoration. I’ve done spun sugar at culinary school, and I love playing with it, but… well, to be honest, it’s an absolute and total pain cleaning up little bits of spun sugar when they are scattered and hardened all over your kitchen, and now that I’m working full time I have to cram these bake along sessions into sneaky little grabbed hours.

So here we have it: a chocolate brownie and pistachio cake, sandwiched with a salted caramel layer and a pistachio buttercream, decorated with raspberries, homemade honeycomb, and pistachio caramel shards. It’s not the prettiest thing ever. It’s fairly messy, and I was rushing. But it was tasty. And it has caramel, chocolate, and pistachio. And those are three of my favourite things.


So where’s the recipe?

This might be a bit of a cop out, but I’m not sharing the recipe, because it would be incredibly long and complicated. Two different types of cake, salted caramel, pistachio buttercream, honeycomb, pistachio shards… I am assuming no one is going to be casually making this! Do let me know in the comments if you’re particularly after the recipe for any of the elements of the cake and I will happily provide it.

Another week, another bake off bake along done, and enough caramel made to use up all the white sugar in my baking cupboard. And there was a really serious amount of sugar in my baking cupboard.

The story so far: bake along one, two, and three


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.

Blackberry and Pistachio Frozen Yoghurt

I know, I know, I used blackberry and pistachio together in a recipe last month. And I also put pistachios in pretty much absolutely everything. I’ve mentioned before that I go through food obsessions and phases, and poor James has to put up with eating the same things over and over until I get bored and move onto something else. Basically, purple and green is just where it’s at with me right now, I’m afraid, so that’s what you get. Frozen yoghurt.

I never picked fruit as a child, living mainly in London and lacking that sort of bucolic rural upbringing, and so it never really occurred to me to do so as an adult until recently. A couple of summers ago, I was walking the dog of a dear friend who was temporarily immobile, post-surgery, and stumbled across the most incredible treasure-trove of untouched, heavy-ripe blackberries, just across the river from where our boat is moored.

It was part of our neighbouring nature reserve, and the plants had grown so high and wild that they’d formed winding paths through the field down to the river, each lined with dripping, plump fruit. We’re not in blackberry season yet – although it’s been so warm that perhaps it will come early this year – but when the time is right I am going to find my way back there again and gather a few tubs of berries to freeze for the colder months. Frozen yoghurt is only one of a thousand things to do with them.

Of course, you can buy perfectly lovely frozen fruit from the supermarket, but it makes me feel outdoorsy and practical to try and pick it myself occasionally. In reality, I am the least outdoorsy person you are likely to ever meet.


Anyway, we had what passes for a heat-wave in these parts last week (three full days of heat, anyone in an actual hot country is laughing at us right now), and all we really wanted to eat was ice cream. But I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I’m kind of too impatient for all that setting, stirring, setting thing you have to do with a no-churn recipe. So instead, I give you frozen yoghurt. It’s an incredibly simple recipe (as was last week’s actually – clearly I am getting lazy). It’s healthy-ish. But also nice, promise. You could legitimately have this for breakfast. I did have this for breakfast.



Obviously, you can make this with just about anything you like. I think raspberry and almond or blueberry and pecan would also be delicious, but hey, throw whatever you’ve got in the cupboards or the freezer in there and go wild. You could also stir through chocolate chips, crumbled biscuit, fudge pieces, cereal… That’s the beauty of frozen yoghurt. It’s adaptable.


300g frozen blackberries
50g pistachios
200g Greek yoghurt (I like the proper, thick, full fat stuff, but whatever you prefer will be fine)
2-4 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)


  1. Either get your blackberries out of the freezer ten minutes before you want to make this, or whack them in the microwave for 30 seconds or a minute to soften them up – some blenders (mine included) will struggle with absolutely rock hard frozen fruit. Pop your pistachios in a dry pan on a medium heat to toast for around 5 minutes – keep shaking them around now and then to make sure they don’t burn.
  2. Put your blackberries, yoghurt, and honey in a blender and blitz until smooth and thick. Taste, adjust honey if needed.
  3. Chop your pistachios roughly and serve the frozen yoghurt sprinkled with chopped nuts, and some whole blackberries if you like.

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.

Pistachio and Apricot Macarons

Yes, I know my last blog post was also a macaron recipe. I spent a little while worrying about this, before I remembered that this is my blog and I can put whatever I like on it, and if I want to do seventeen variations on macarons in a row and never post a thing about vegetables again, then no one will really care. Except maybe my dentist (sidenote: I used to think I didn’t have a problem with dentists, until I had to have a wisdom tooth removed a couple of months ago. Now I understand why people fear dentists).


Anyway, these were experimental macarons, partly because I have never done macarons with a nut other than almonds in the shell before, and partly because I had a pack of apricot leather leftover from teaching a class and wasn’t sure what to use it for. Apricot and pistachio sounded like a pretty delicious combination. And thus these little babies were born.


Notes (my standard macaron notes):

  • 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 1cm 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.


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
100g ground almonds
100g pistachios
160g egg whites (divided into two bowls of 80g each)
Pinch of salt

for the apricot filling

apricot leather – I lazily bought mine, but you can make it, or substitute a thick apricot gel or jam, or flavour buttercream with apricot jam, or use something else entirely. I can’t tell you how to live your life.


  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 pistachios with 2 tbsp of the icing sugar in a food processor and blitz for about 2 minutes, or until you have a very fine pistachio flour. Add the rest of the icing sugar and the ground almonds, then blitz again 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 might be left with some chunkier nut mixture in the sieve. Don’t force it through – you want smooth macarons – but save it to sprinkle over the top of the shells once baked, if you like.
  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 pistachio 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 whisked 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 pistachio 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.
  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. When your macarons have rested, 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 or not lifting off, 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.
  7. Match the shells of your macarons into pairs of similar sizes. Using a cookie cutter, stamp rounds out of your apricot leather and place between your pairs of shells – or, if you are using an alternative apricot filling, simply pipe rounds of it onto the bottom shell and gently sandwich on the top. If using, sprinkle with the leftover pistachio and almond mix.

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.


White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Fudge

So, it’s exactly one month until Christmas day. Also, it’s a month minus two days until my birthday, in case you were wondering. You weren’t? You don’t care about my neglected and forgotten ill-timed December birthday? How very dare you and so on.

I always worry about Christmas presents. I am slightly uneasy with the consumerist mindset of buying loads of people loads of stuff that they don’t necessarily want in an arbitrary way. I know there are dozens of local charities that need my money more than my uncle needs a new sweater. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I buy things and I like giving gifts: I think Christmas can be a great opportunity to treat someone to something they have been really wanting or needing. But the fact is that you don’t necessarily know everyone in your ‘gift circle’ well enough to get them that perfect, meaningful, useful, lusted after Thing. And you feel rude showing up to someone’s house empty handed, especially when you know that they will have bought you a present. So you panic (or I do, at least) and end up buying them some perfume, or a book, or a gift voucher. And it’s well-meant, and I’m sure it’s appreciated. But it’s not necessarily something they really needed or wanted. And don’t we all just have too much stuff anyway?

I am also, to put it mildly, not exactly burdened by the weight of huge wads of cash. I simply can’t afford to go buying glamourous and exotic presents for every person who I’d like to show I care about at this time of year. The obvious solution is to do what I did last year and make a load of food instead. Yes, you are correct: this is my solution to all problems. But it made sense. I spent days making lots of gift food and packaging it all up in hampers for friends and family. It was less expensive than buying everyone proper presents, and while you don’t know if people are going to have already read that book you bought them, you can be confident that at some point they would probably like to eat some food.


This year, though, I’m doubting myself. Don’t home-made presents stop being desirable and adorable once the giver is past the age of six? What if everyone already has far too much food at this time of year and they’re gritting their teeth and smiling politely while inwardly groaning at having even more to get through? Will I look like a cheapskate giving people this stuff when they’ve actually spent proper money on gifts for my husband and I? Surely people are sick of me giving them food when I literally do that all the time?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. There isn’t a proper conclusion to this post.

Except this recipe for white chocolate, cranberry, and pistachio fudge. This is the sort of thing that would make a charming and thoughtful gift for people around the festive season. Or would it? I don’t know. Help me.

It’s really tasty though. I can attest to that because I ate a lot of it this week. Well, I did before I had my wisdom tooth taken out. Now I can’t really eat anything.


Notes: Obviously you can add any fruit, nuts, or chocolate you like. But this, believe me, is a winning combination.

I have a thermometer for testing the temperature of meat and sugar and things like that. I’m not pretending it’s not useful here – they are not expensive and if you do any cooking on a regular basis they are a good investment – but you can most definitely make this fudge without a sugar thermometer if you don’t have one to hand.

This is actually an incredibly simple and easy recipe, but it does require your fairly undivided attention for around twenty minutes. Listen to a podcast or something while you stir.


500g double cream
500g golden caster sugar (gives it a better colour and flavour, I think, but white caster will work if that’s all you have)
3 tbsp liquid glucose (this sounds like a frightening ingredient but Dr Oetker do tubes of it you can get from Sainsburys)
1 tsp salt
100g good white chocolate (I like Green & Black’s)
75 shelled pistachios
100g dried cranberries


  1. Put your cream, sugar, and liquid glucose into a big (this is important, a small one will not work), non-stick saucepan. Stir it all together and pop the pan on a low-medium heat so that the sugar can melt. Stir it occasionally (I find a silicone spatula works best for this) and make sure it’s not catching on the bottom. Meanwhile, grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Chop your chocolate into big chunks. Chop your pistachios coarsely. Have your cranberries ready to go. Get a spoon and a glass of cold water and keep it by your pan, or get a sugar thermometer ready.
  2. When the sugar has melted and the mixture no longer seems grainy, whack that heat up and boil your fudge mixture hard. Now you have to keep stirring all the time. This is why a big pan is needed, because it’s a lot of mixture and it will be bubbling and splashing around and you don’t want it all over everything (especially your hands, because it will burn you – wear an oven glove if you are nervous). You need to keep bubbling it away until it reaches soft ball stage, or around 118C. To test for soft ball stage, spoon a little mixture into your glass of water and it should form a soft ball you can squidge between your fingers. It will take a good ten or fifteen minutes – depending on your heat and pan – to get to this stage, so make sure you have reached it or your fudge won’t set.
  3. When you’re there, take it off the heat. Stir in your cranberries, pistachios, and salt, and keep stirring for five minutes to let the mixture cool and thicken. Scatter in your white chocolate, stir roughly once, and immediately tip your fudge mixture into your lined tin and smooth it out – your white chocolate will melt and marble slightly, but if you over-stir it then it will just melt entirely into the mix (which will still taste good but look less pretty).
  4. Your fudge should start setting pretty much immediately. I left mine on the counter for half an hour, then froze it for half an hour, and it set completely in the hour. When you’re happy, cut it into squares. It will keep for a couple of months (as long as you don’t let me anywhere near it), but don’t leave it in the fridge because it will go soft.

The Belazu Ingredient is King Challenge – Olive Oil Cake with Pistachios, Balsamic Peaches, and Balsamic Caramel Sauce

When challenged to make an innovative dish using olive oil and balsamic vinegar, my first instinct was to make a cake. Of course, making a cake is my first instinct in most situations.


One of the perks of being at Leiths is being visited by lots of people bringing us delicious things. The Belazu Ingredient Company set up the first olive oil and vinegar tasting I’ve ever attended, and challenged us to create an innovative dish using any combination of their Early Harvest Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, or Freekeh. The olive oil was very good, but it was the balsamic vinegar that surprised me: it was so delicious that I ended up drinking it like a shot.


I chose to work with the olive oil and vinegar, and decided to make these ingredients – traditionally used in savoury dishes – the stars of a cake. The olive oil I used instead of butter as the main source of fat for the cake: it creates a moist and tender crumb and gives a subtle flavour and a lovely golden tawny colour. The balsamic vinegar I initially used to marinate the peaches, and then later to flavour a warm caramel sauce.


My next job was to come up with some accent flavours and textures to complement the oil and vinegar. Balsamic strawberries are a well-known concept now, but I wanted to try something a little different, and so I went for balsamic peaches. The complex richness and fruity sharpness of the balsamic vinegar works well with the softer sweetness of the peach. The peaches are then baked on the base of the cake, later to be turned over: the vinegar darkens and caramelises as it cooks and the peaches meld into the cake, ending up sitting golden on top. Pistachios are probably my favourite nut, and I included them as I thought the cake needed a little texture, and the slight saltiness they bring to the dish helps balance the sweetness of the cake and peaches. Plus they always look so pretty, garlanding a cake in green and hints of purple.


The caramel sauce is one of my favourite parts of this dish. I am a big salted caramel fan, but balsamic caramel might be even better. A high quality balsamic vinegar like this one adds both a sharpness and an interesting fruitiness to the caramel, and I had to stop myself eating it out of the pan with a spoon.

Even though it makes for a pretty long blog post title, I am really happy with my cake, and a I had a lot of fun with this challenge. I made the recipe loads of times to test all my little tweaks to the it and I am not bored of it yet, which is a good sign. Now, I’m off to go and finish the rest of that caramel sauce.


for the cake

2 barely-ripe peaches
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
120g Greek yoghurt
3 large eggs
150ml extra virgin olive oil
200g golden caster sugar
220g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
100g pistachio kernels, roughly chopped

for the caramel sauce

130g granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
130g double cream
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (from marinating the peaches)
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes


  1. Two hours before you plan to bake your cake, core your peaches. Cut them into slices and place them in a shallow bowl or dish with the balsamic vinegar. Turn the peaches in the vinegar and make sure they are covered and immersed. Cover, and leave at room temperature, ideally for two hours but for as long as you can if not.
  2. When you’re ready to bake your cake, preheat your oven to 170C/ 150C fan/ gas 3. Grease a 23cm cake tin and line the base with a circle of silicone/ parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, or in a stand mixer, beat the eggs together with the yoghurt. When evenly combined, beat in the olive oil, followed by the sugar. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir through the chopped pistachios, reserving 2 tbsp of nuts. Fold this mixture into the wet mixture and beat to combine.
  3. Arrange the peach slices over the centre of the base of your cake tin in whatever pattern takes your fancy. Reserve the leftover balsamic vinegar from the peaches. Carefully, so as not to displace the peaches, pour the cake batter into the tin. Bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until it’s firm and risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes away clean.
  4. While the cake is baking, make the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar with the water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and continue to cook the caramel until it’s the copper colour of a penny, which should take 5-10 minutes. While the caramel is cooking, warm the cream gently in another pan until steaming, then keep warm on a low heat. Once the caramel is ready, carefully whisk in the cream, off the heat, followed by the balsamic vinegar and the salt. Cook for a further minute, then take off the heat again. Taste and adjust as needed – I often add a little more balsamic vinegar.
  5. When the cake is ready, leave to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin. Carefully peel off the silicone disc to reveal the peaches. Sprinkle your reserved pistachios over the cake. Serve with the warm balsamic caramel.



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).




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.