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.

Leiths: Intermediate Term, Week 3

Isn’t it amazing how a four day week feels like a special and magical treat when you are used to a five day working week routine? Only one day off, and suddenly everything seems much more lovely. Thursday is the new Friday. Wednesday is the new Thursday. By the end of Tuesday, you’re already halfway through. It’s excellent.

Can you tell I had a four day week this week?

Once again, we started our Monday morning with a wine lecture. It’s a bit of an odd curriculum choice, because I never particularly feel like wine quite so early, especially not on a Monday. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still drank it. I’m only registering that it feels strange. We also got served food to taste with the wine to see how they affected each other, which I was very happy about because the food included goats’ cheese and duck. Might be too early for wine; never too early for goats’ cheese. That’s my new motto.


Monday afternoon featured a disarmingly relaxing cooking session. We started off by making a lovage cream. Don’t know what that is? Me neither, really: before I started this course I hadn’t a clue what lovage was, let alone how one might make a cream out of it. I’ll show you a picture in a minute and then you will be enlightened. We also made cheese soufflés, which I don’t have a picture of because mine were rubbish. A savoury soufflé is a dish that requires both a soft, slightly undercooked centre and a risen, proud and golden dome. Suffice to say it’s quite tricky to achieve both these things and mine ended up looking a bit anaemic. Still ate them, obviously.

Tuesday morning started with an offal dem, which I was happy about because I love offal, and which I estimate around 85% of students were not happy about because they decidedly did not love offal.


In the picture above you can see Phil lovingly caressing the ‘pluck’ from a pig. This is the entirety of a pig’s innards which have been plucked from the animal and left intact. This was the morning during which we ate liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, heart, and bone marrow. All frightfully good for you and absolutely delicious.

In afternoon we served our lovage cream, which had set from the day before, and I actually got complimented on my presentation for the first time in approximately, ooh… forever.


We then made a honey bavarois to serve the following day – on which more later – and our first attempt at pâte sucrée, a French sweet pastry. We made it the classic way (of course), which involves no whizzing up of ingredients in a machine but rather smushing (the technical term is ‘pecking’, but it felt like smushing to me) butter, sugar, and egg yolks together with our fingers directly on to the table top. This very much appealed to the five year old in me who misses finger painting, and all in all it was much more fun that shortcrust.

Wednesday’s dem had a far wider appeal than Tuesday’s offal offering, because it was on steaming. Think treacle sponge, steak and kidney pudding, and stacks of steamed vegetables. I have never steamed a pudding in my life (well, had never, I should say, because we did one the next day), and while it did all seem like a bit of a hassle, I have to say the end results were absolutely delicious and have almost inspired me to purchase a pudding basin. I might cheat and buy one with its own lid though, so as to avoid faffing around making a water-tight foil and greaseproof seal and a handle out of string.

The afternoon saw the return of offal, with the preparation of the kidney dish you see below. Kidneys are actually surprisingly tricky little things to prep: you need to remove their outer membrane and internal vein system, both of which are pretty fiddly and hard to do without damaging the delicate meat. I was praised on the taste of my sauce but criticised for my sloppy presentation, which is pretty much the norm for me.


We also served our honey bavarois, made the day before (told you I’d come back to it), with roasted rhubarb and pâte sucrée biscuits. A bavarois, for the uninitiated, is a custard lightened with cream and set with gelatine, and I was very happy with mine because it was completely delicious. I made lemon and ginger biscuits to go with it, along with the rhubarb you see there. I love the sharpness of rhubarb and can eat it raw – yes I know you’re not supposed to do that – so I left it with a bit of bite and sourness to contrast with the sweetness of the bavarois and biscuits. This turned out to be a bad idea which slightly horrified the tastebuds of the teacher marking that day.


We ended the week on Thursday with another dem from Phil, this time on sauces. It’s not as theatrical a subject as offal but Phil managed to keep it interesting and everything we got to taste was amazing. Sauces are one of those things that aren’t too flashy or necessarily particularly theoretically exciting, but worth getting right because a really good one can boost an average dish into another category.

In the afternoon we got to exercise our newly acquired steaming skills to make a treacle sponge. The collective amount of effort it took in the kitchen to get the entire classes’ sponges neatly wrapped up and kept snug in a pot of cheerfully bubbling water that never boiled dry was pretty astounding, and I went back to thinking it was all too much of a pain to manage until I tasted mine and it was airy and sweet and warmingly lovely and I started thinking about buying a pudding basin again. We also made a wood pigeon salad, which you may have noticed at the top of the page. It was my choice cover photo this week because once again I was actually praised on my presentation. Either my class teacher was feeling very forgiving or perhaps I am finally learning something.


My fabled three day weekend has now almost drawn to a close, along with Week 3. I am firmly back in the swing of term now: gone are the holiday days of binge-watching Orange Is The New Black and baking experimental brownies. Come at me, Week 4.


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.

Sugar Free Rhubarb, Strawberry, and Hazelnut Cake – Bake Off Bake Along Week 5

Okay, so I realise I am essentially begging the universe to smite me down now, but when I saw last week’s episode, I thought ‘Well, that’s doable!’. I mean, not the dairy free Arctic roll, because I don’t have an ice cream maker. And I wasn’t hugely keen on making the gluten free pitta breads, because they didn’t look massively thrilling and any gluten free pitta I made would be immeasurably worse than one I could buy. But sugar free cakes? No problem. Anyway, I did the technical challenge last week, so I figure that gets me off the hook for a little while.


They were actually playing it pretty fast and loose with their definition of ‘sugar free’, I reckon. I mean, just because a cake doesn’t have actual granules of caster sugar or muscovado sugar or whatever in it, it doesn’t necessarily make it sugar free. Agave is still a processed, refined sweetener. Fruit has sugar in it (annoyingly). By the show’s definition, I actually make sugar free cake fairly regularly. The very first recipe I posted on this blog is sugar free. I bake sugar free banana bread for James every couple of weeks. I mean, you basically just substitute sugar for an equal weight of maple syrup or honey and go along with a regular cake recipe.

Wasn’t it great to see Nadiya win star baker? She really deserved it, and it obviously meant a huge amount to her. Plus, you know, it was boring seeing Ian win it every week.


I’ve wanted to make a cake with roasted rhubarb for a while, and I know we’re just about out of the season now but I couldn’t quite resist it. Strawberry and rhubarb is a classic pairing – very American, I believe – as sharp rhubarb is rounded out well by something very sweet. The vanilla goes well with both and provides a complementary background note, while the hazelnuts are a strong and textured base.

I have to say, I am loving this bake along. Not only is it great getting to see what everyone has made each week, but it’s also wonderful being challenged to make new things. I find I am watching the programme in a different – more involved – way, because I am planning what on earth I am going to scrape together every time. Thanks so much to Amanda and Ala for setting it all up.

Source: This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s Love Bake Nourish, which is an excellent place to go if you are looking for more sugar free cake ideas.

Notes: I don’t know whether to blame my oven or my inattentiveness, but these cakes browned incredibly fast: I admit, I wasn’t watching them like a hawk. I don’t know if the honey or even maybe the nuts make the cakes prone to catching, but I had to cover them with foil for the last ten minutes of the bake. They came out fine; just a little darker than I would have liked.


115g blanched hazelnuts
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
260g butter, soft
4 eggs
130g honey
130g maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

to decorate

350ml double cream
3-4 tbsp honey
100g strawberries, hulled and halved
100g rhubarb


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas mark 4, and grease and line two 20cm cake tins. If your hazelnuts aren’t toasted already, do that now. Whack them in the oven on a baking tray for about 5 minutes, until they are just starting to change colour and are smelling delicious and nutty. Then, using a food processor, grind them into a fine meal. Watch you don’t blend them for too long and make hazelnut butter.
  2. This is an all-in-one cake, so sift your flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then beat in your hazelnuts, butter, eggs, honey, vanilla, and maple syrup until everything is evenly incorporated. Divide the mixture between your tins and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.
  3. When your cakes are well risen, golden, and pass the skewer test, take them out and leave them to cool. Leave the oven on. Cut your rhubarb into even pieces an inch or two long, and place them in a baking tray. Toss them around with 1-2 tbsp of honey, and then cover the baking tray with foil and pop it in the oven. Roast your rhubarb for 10-15 minutes, or until soft but still able to maintain its shape.
  4. When the cakes and rhubarb are completely cool, assemble your confection. Whip the cream into peaks, and the whip in the remaining honey. Add more if you prefer a sweeter cream. Spread half of the cream onto your base cake, and top it with half of the strawberries and rhubarb. Pop your other cake on top and finish with the rest of the cream and fruit.