Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake {gluten-free}

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

I am hooked into stories. I was an early reader and would consume book after book. Now, I’m not saying these books I read were all that literary, I grew up reading a lot of Jilly Cooper. But I studied English Literature at A-Level and then Film and Literature at university so my love for fictional worlds and their impact on society continued and evolved, my life became analysing books and films for credit and I was consumed by it. Although Jilly Cooper never made the syllabus for some reason.

Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake

I get totally invested in these stories, obsessed by the characters in them and although I am not reading that much at the moment, as the mere action of picking up a book seems to summon sleep in seconds, I still watch a bit of TV. I would have professed to have left my obsessive nature of it behind though since being a mother, running my own business and paying a mortgage has really made me grow up. Then on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this week I discovered that Greg, one of the main characters in the series, has left the show for good and I broke down and cried when the internet confirmed it. But I loved him, my nearly 36 year old self sobbed to my husband, why won’t he come back.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

The sadness I feel when I have to say goodbye to these characters is weird but real. In times gone by I have had to bid a fond adieu to Buffy Summers which took me years to get over, Felicity Porter and Ben Covington and not to mention the loss of Veronica Mars. In 2007 though I was struck by devastation again when I was forced by the powers that be to say goodbye to Stars Hollow, a place I had come to think of as a second home. I had heard about Gilmore Girls just after it finished airing in the US but it hadn’t been on TV in the UK so I imported the first box set over on a whim. Soon I had binged the whole seven series, getting up at 6am so I could sneak in an episode before work and staying up into the early hours to get them in. I was not enjoying my job and these girls and their life was a pleasant refuge.

I shared the DVDs with my Mum and we would mail them to each other back and forth, bickering over which of Rory’s boyfriends was the best (duh, Jess forever!!), how thoughtless Lorelei was being and why the hell was April suddenly on the scene. Then it was over, season seven finished a bit up in the air and we couldn’t believe there wasn’t any more. I scoured for any articles or a glimpse of information on another series, a movie but nothing. It was done.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

In my last days of pregnancy Mum sent me the DVDs back through the post and for the first few weeks of Cole’s life I re-watched the whole thing again, babe in arms, on the sofa. Too petrified to leave the house with my newborn and too tired to do anything other than nurse and watch TV. I was sure I could see his little eyes flutter every time he heard the Carol King theme tune (rolling his eyes- never!) and I would sing it to him to calm him down when he was fractious. I still do (despite his protests).

So incase you don’t know, Gilmore Girls is back tomorrow. Friday November 25th a special day, and to say I am excited is to underestimate my devotion, fandom and the fact that I probably don’t have a social life. It’s like PI day all over again (March 14th 2014 when Veronica Mars returned to me). So this week I have done what any sane baker would do in this instance, I baked a cake to commemorate the day and I’m going to eat it all tomorrow, fork in one hand, remote in the other. Of course if you know Gilmore Girls then I had no choice but to bake a coffee cake as those girls sure do like their coffee coffee coffee. It’s a Pecan Butterscotch Latte cake and I think one of the most delicious cakes I sell on my market stall so I am thrilled to find an excellent reason to share it with you.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

I came up with the recipe as customers kept asking me if I did a coffee and walnut cake and although I have baked many a coffee and walnut in the past I never thought it was that special to warrant a place on the stall. So I fixed it. This Pecan Butterscotch Latte cake is truly wonderful, packed full of pecans, which are finely ground and add a really rich flavour, further impounded by the toffee taste of the light muscovado sugar and the butterscotch notes of the oat flour. The coffee powder I use is Nescafé Azera which can be used directly into the batter and icing without needing to be dissolved. It’s a strong and deep coffee flavour, perfectly balanced by the sweet notes of the sponge. The icing is a traditional buttercream but made creamier by the mascarpone so you feel you are drinking a light frothy coffee. A latte if I may be so bold. It’s my perfect cake for a celebration and tomorrow you betcha I’ll be celebrating.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

Oh, and if you too are a fan of Gilmore Girls and are as excited about the reunion as me then I hope you also know about the Gilmore Guys podcast which is brilliant and funny and excellent company for me during my baking days. You must check them out as they really make me smile.

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.
Print Recipe
Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake
This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.
This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
12 people
Ingredients
Cake
  • 440 g light muscovado sugar
  • 350 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 160 g rice flour
  • 50 g oat flour
  • 160 g ground pecans
  • tablespoons coffee powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Icing
  • 300 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon coffee powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 12 pecan halves to decorate
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
12 people
Ingredients
Cake
  • 440 g light muscovado sugar
  • 350 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 160 g rice flour
  • 50 g oat flour
  • 160 g ground pecans
  • tablespoons coffee powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Icing
  • 300 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon coffee powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 12 pecan halves to decorate
This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line and grease 2 x 20cm round baking tins
  2. Cream the sugar and butter for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down after each addition and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Then add the maple syrup and vanilla extract, mixing in well.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, ground pecans, coffee powder, baking powder and salt. Add it to the rest of the batter and beat well until the batter is smooth.
  6. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven and carefully turn out onto wire racks to cool completely before icing.
  8. For the icing beat the butter and sugar together for ten minutes until airy.
  9. Add the mascarpone, coffee powder and salt and beat again until incorporated.
  10. To assemble the cake spread the icing on one layer of the cake, enough so that the icing spills out a little over the sides. Place the second layer on top and spread some more icing evenly over the surface.
  11. Smooth the icing which is peeking out of the middle over the sides of the cake very thinly to achieve the naked cake effect.
  12. Decorate the top of the cake with the pecan halves.

Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing distils the very essence of summer baking.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

It boasts a wonderfully light sponge with a tender crumb thanks to the combination of rice and oat flour which not only makes this bad boy gluten-free but also lends it a toasted, coming to the end of high summer, campfire in the evenings vibe. It is iced with a creamy lemon mascarpone with only a mere whisper of sugar, but plenty of zesty citrus as a perfect compliment to the delicate courgette flavour. A perfect treat for our heady August days when cake might otherwise seem too indulgent.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

This cake was inspired by the bountiful mountain of courgette at the farmer’s market last week, all shapes and sizes in varying shades of green. I have been fancying a courgette cake for a few weeks now and just like that it all fell into place.

These days courgette nests proudly in my vegetable drawer. At one time considered a boring watery addition to Sunday roasts, it dragged everything down with its mopey presence. Then I started using it raw in salads, roasted in garlicky olive oil and finally as courgetti. Now courgette is celebrated and embraced in our family, an absolute must in our weekly shop but it’s at its very best right now. Like any vegetable you have to know how to get the best out of it and boiling it to oblivion is never the answer. In my house, cake is the more obvious solution.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

And this courgette oatmeal cake with lemon mascarpone icing is my new favourite family friendly bake. It’s a complete stunner and despite making and eating it more times this week than is really acceptable for someone who is on a never ending mission to lose her baby weight, I haven’t come to resent it once. That is because the batter comes together in moments, baking up a dream so it is ready, iced and on your fork before you can change your mind about having an afternoon slice of cake.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

The sponge is so light thanks to the power partnership of rice and oat flour. If you can’t find oat flour then by all means whizz up some oats very finely in your food processor, the results will be the same and oat flour can be quite pricey. Rice flour though is more accessible these days and is an absolute must in my larder, not just for gluten-free baking. I intend to post a lot more using rice flour since I am having a little love affair with it at the moment but having just had this particular delicacy for lunch here is one of my favourite uses for it.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

The courgette cake is then carefully spiced with a touch of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, not too much to overpower but just to add soft flavour.

The icing feels like a bit of a cheat as it is just so easy and unlike most icings you don’t even need a mixer, just whipping together with a wooden spoon is enough. It barely uses any sugar, a tip I garnered from my neighbour after being bowled over by how creamy and cheesy her cream cheese icing was. She confessed that she had only used a smattering of sugar to make it more child friendly. However I found without the addition of butter and hardly any sugar, the icing then becomes all about the texture and flavour rather than a sickly counterpoint.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish

This idea works so well with this mascarpone icing to which I’ve only grated in the zest of 1 lemon and added 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and then a couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt to help with the consistency and add tang. It’s so delicious that you can happily eat with a spoon all day long. Actually I don’t know if that makes this icing more dangerous but I do know that it is simply dreamy with the courgette oatmeal cake.

This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish
Print Recipe
Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing
This cake makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish. Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Carrot Spice Cake in Flavor Flours
This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
16 slices
Ingredients
  • 400 g light muscovado sugar
  • 300 ml light olive oil or other flavourless oil
  • 4 eggs about 200g
  • 240 g rice flour
  • 80 g oatflour or oats finely ground to a powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 340 g grated courgettes (about 4) squeezed to remove excess moisture
For the Icing
  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 lemon grated zest
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
16 slices
Ingredients
  • 400 g light muscovado sugar
  • 300 ml light olive oil or other flavourless oil
  • 4 eggs about 200g
  • 240 g rice flour
  • 80 g oatflour or oats finely ground to a powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 340 g grated courgettes (about 4) squeezed to remove excess moisture
For the Icing
  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 lemon grated zest
This Gluten-Free Courgette Oatmeal Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Icing makes the most of summer’s bounty and is perfectly light, moist and incredibly moreish
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line a grease a 13x9x4 inch baking tin.
  2. In a large bowl (or stand mixer) beat together the sugar, olive oil and eggs until smooth and thick.
  3. Add all the other ingredients in, except for the courgette, and beat until everything is fully mixed together.
  4. Finally stir in the courgette until evenly dispersed and pour into the prepared baking tin.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, checking after 20 minutes and covering with foil if the cake seems to be browning too much.
  6. When ready, leave the cake in the tin for 5 minutes to settle before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely before icing.
  7. To make the icing beat the mascarpone together with the yoghurt, icing sugar and lemon zest until light and smooth and spread onto the top of the cooled courgette cake with a palette knife.

How to Make a Classic Victoria Sandwich

The Victoria Sandwich is the quintessential British cake, resplendent in any village tea shop worth their salt. It is the cake which can be called upon for any occasion, a special afternoon tea, birthday, Friday treat and of course is the cake to always sit pride of place on any Women’s Institute cake stall.

Victoria Sandwich

What is a Victoria Sandwich?

An utterly perfect cake in every way. Named after Queen Victoria who wasn’t allowed sweet treats in her youth so made up for it with gusto in her later years. The Queen had many foods of the day named after her but I think the Victoria Sandwich or Victoria Sponge must have been the one she was most proud of. At that time sponge cakes had always been quite leaden affairs until the invention of baking powder of which this cake was one of the first recipients, giving the cake height and airiness. It is a lovely easy cake to bake consisting of two circular sponges sandwiched together with a hearty helping of jam (and buttercream if you’re adventurous) and then sprinkled liberally over with caster sugar.

Victoria Sandwich

The Women’s Institute, of which I am a member and proud President of Stroud Green WI since you ask, is fastidious about the rules and regulations of a Victoria Sandwich; the number of eggs used, the flavour of jam, what sugar you use for dusting. So it’s here that I confess the Victoria Sandwich recipe I’m about to give might not win you first prize at a WI cake stall as I like to go a little off piste but that doesn’t mean I don’t adhere to a few of the rules, the ones I deem most important.

Ingredient tips for making a perfect Victoria Sponge

Kerrygold Butter for Victoria Sandwich

Butter. Not margarine – ever! The butter should be creamed into your caster sugar. There is no place here for the all-in-one method. The end results will speak for themselves. The most nutritious butter for the job is the product of grass-fed cows which are loaded with Vitamin K2 and for that local butter is your best bet. If you can’t your butter from local grass-fed cows then Kerrygold butter is the next best thing, found in most supermarkets and is about 90% grass-fed.

Clarence Court Burford Browns for Victoria Sandwich

Eggs. Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court are the superior supermarket egg. Their yolks custard yellow and creamy creating a rich and very flavourful addition to your sponge. The WI insists that only 3 eggs should be used but in my mind 4 is the magic number for this regal Victoria Sandwich.

Doves Farm Plain White Flour for Victoria Sandwich

Flour. I don’t think you can go wrong with Doves Farm flours which are now agreeably prolific in the supermarkets. I use their organic plain white flour here to make a truly precious sponge. The fact that they are based in Hungerford, my home town, also doesn’t hurt.

Vanilla extract or essence? The addition of vanilla in a Victoria Sandwich is not obligatory but I love the taste and if you do too then you will pass over the essence which is artificial and not nice and go directly to the extract for a pure vanilla taste.

Whole Milk. Not a WI approved ingredient but it certainly makes for a creamier and lighter sponge. Only 2 tablespoons are required to be added at the end of the mixing stage but it really makes all the difference.

Victoria Sandwich

Do I need to weigh my eggs beforehand?

The traditional method of measuring out your ingredients for your Victoria Sandwich is to weigh the eggs first, in their shells, then use that measurement to know how much butter, sugar and flour to use. Or do what I do and if you use 4 medium sized eggs (which are between 53g-63g each in their shells) then you can’t go wrong with using 240g butter, 240g sugar and 240g flour.

How do you ensure against a wonky cake?

Digital scales here are your best friend. Place one of your greased and lined cake tins onto the scales, set to zero then pour in about half of the batter. Remove from the scales, put the other cake tin on the scales and set to zero again. Add the other half of the batter. Once you have equal weights of batter in your tins and you have smoothed them out then they are ready for the oven.

How long does it take to bake a sponge cake?

I like to bake my sponge cakes low and slow. This is a tall sponge since the batter boasts 4 eggs plus baking powder so if baked at too high a temperature the surface could easily burn without being fully baked all the way through. If you are worried that the surface of the cake seems to be browning too much before it is baked all the way through then loosely drape some tin foil over the top of the cake tin. The foil must not touch the top of the sponge as it could cause the cake to fall. I bake my sponge at 160°C for about 30 minutes which helps protect the cake and ensure an even bake. It is also vital not to bake the cake in a fan-assisted oven as the cake will just bake too quickly.

How do I turn out my cake to avoid any ugly cooling rack marks?

This is not for the faint hearted but if you do want to abide by the WI’s rules then the surface of your cake must not be marred by the criss cross pattern of your cooling rack. The Victoria Sandwich is a sturdy little number and is unlikely to fall apart in your hands if you are careful enough. Leave your cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes exactly. Run a small palette knife around the edges of your cake which should have come away from the edges of the tin anyway. Get as close as possible to your cooling rack then turn the cake gently out into your hand so you are holding the surface of the cake for just a moment, as you use your other hand to thrust the cake tin aside and quickly place your cooling rack to the underside of the cake, flipping over with caution then leaving to cool. Perhaps don’t try this on your first Victoria Sandwich attempt as broken cakes can be very upsetting.

Victoria Sandwich

But what jam should I use for my Victoria Sandwich?

Any jam you ninny. Jam is delicious. Buuuttt… Again, my contemporaries at the WI are not so casual about the choice of jam and insist the only true jam for a Victoria Sandwich is raspberry jam. I may have deviated here slightly and used my Raspberry and Coconut Jam but really, can you blame me? Also it is important to use a nice thickly set jam. You can warm it up in the saucepan slightly to aid in spreadability but if your jam is too loose there is a high chance it won’t sit happily within the cake and will spill out before serving.

Victoria Sandwich

To buttercream or not to buttercream?

Gosh, now we are entering some choppy waters. The WI does not like their Victoria Sandwich buttercreamed, instead preferring the jam to sit uninterrupted in the middle of their cake. Delicious? Of course. But you know what would be more delicious? That’s right, buttercream. Any sort of fancy swiss meringue, boiled icing, French-this, Italian-that is not the thing for our schoolmarm of a cake. We need straightforward butter plus icing sugar and that-is-that buttercream. The buttercream adds moisture to this sturdy sponge and also gives the jam a bit of a helping hand in the luxury department. There is nothing better than a squidgy piece of Victoria Sponge oozing with jam and buttercream. Without buttercream is far too austere for this baker.

How do you make buttercream icing for a Victoria Sponge?

Well, I’m glad you asked. The rule of thumb for the easiest and most traditional of buttercreams is equal amounts icing sugar and unsalted butter. Beat these two lovebirds on high for 5-10 minutes and you will achieve the lightest fluffiest buttercream which pipes like a dream and melts in the mouth. For creaminess add a dash of whole milk and then for a little bit of flavour add a drop of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.

Victoria Sandwich

Icing or caster sugar for dusting?

Ha! Use icing sugar at your peril. I am in complete agreement with the WI that caster sugar is the only sugar to use here. It glistens on the top and adds crunch, a most welcome texture.

The simplicity and importance of a Victoria Sandwich at teatime cannot be stressed enough. It is the cake I cannot possibly refuse and the one which is always the first to fly off of every single WI cake stall I have ever managed. It is a perfect cake.

Print Recipe
Victoria Sandwich
A classically perfect Victoria Sponge Cake
Victoria Sandwich
Servings
12
Ingredients
  • 240 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 240 g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 240 g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
For the filling
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 175 g raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar for dusting
Servings
12
Ingredients
  • 240 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 240 g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 240 g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
For the filling
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 200 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 175 g raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar for dusting
Victoria Sandwich
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line and grease 2 x round 20cm sandwich tins.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar on a high speed in a food mixer for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until completely incorporated, then add the vanilla extract.
  4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate mixing bowl then add into the food mixer. Beat until just combined.
  5. Finally mix in the milk until completely incorporated then divide the batter equally between the two sandwich tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to settle for 5 minutes in their tins, then turn out onto cooling racks. Leave to cool completely before filling with jam and buttercream.
  7. To make the buttercream beat the icing sugar and butter together in a food mixer for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy, scraping down the sides occasionally for an even mixture. Add the milk, vanilla extract and salt and continue beating until combined.
  8. To fill the sandwich cake, spread the jam evenly on the top of one of the sponges, all the way to the edge. Then fill a piping bag equipped with a round nozzle with the buttercream and pipe the buttercream on top of the jam in circles, starting from the middle and working your way out. Leave about a centimetre from the edge of the cake. Smooth over with a small palette knife.
  9. Place the second sponge lightly on top so as not to squish the jam and buttercream out of the sides. Sprinkle a light dusting of caster sugar over the top of the cake. Serve to happy smiling faces.
Victoria Sandwich

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

In the run-up to re-launching my cake stall again next month I am currently embarking on the phase of what I like to call ‘recipe testing’ and what others might like to say is just baking and eating a ridiculous amount of cake.

I feel I owe it to my new pitch at Tottenham Green Market to burst forth from my maternity leave with a pantheon of new creations. I only really like to sell cakes whose recipes I have carefully honed to my idea of perfection; not too sweet, interesting flavour combinations and generally that are worth breaking your diet for. There is nothing worse than being seduced by a particularly ravishing looking lemon drizzle when you are supposedly disavowing sugar, carbs and joy, only to be disappointed by a bland, dry and tooth curlingly sugary affair. I aim for my cakes to not be like that. Cake should always be a celebration, whether it’s your birthday, Wednesday morning coffee with your fellow new mums or because you deserve it after a particularly trying day with an eight-month old gentleman, frustrated, as he can’t quite master crawling.

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

This weekend’s recipe testing for my new Cinnamon Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream coincided with our February Women’s Institute meeting which was perfect as I love it when my cakes have a purpose rather than just for baking’s sake. Plus my fellow WI members quite rightly know their cake and are not afraid to hold back with honest feedback. I was rather chuffed then when the whole cake was devoured in record time and the appropriate yummy noises were made. This time I promise it wasn’t just me doing that.

apple puree

Apples and salted caramel are absolutely BFFs, as evidenced by yesteryear’s Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Throw cream cheese into the mix and you have a particularly splendid party right there. Also there is a lot of apple puree involved here which delights me no end – I am an apple puree fanatic. Is puree the right word – or does that just refer to baby food? Hmmm, you decide, I have complete baby-weaning brain. Oh, did I mention I have a baby? Sorry, checking that now at the door.

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

This is not just any run of the mill apple cake though, in case you were wondering. I have been experimenting with different flours recently and I added a few tablespoons of buckwheat flour to lend an earthy nutty chew to the sponge. This apple cake is wonderfully flavourful and the depth of the buckwheat rounds out the warmth of the cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg. I wonder even if next time I might like to be a little more daring with the buckwheat – if that happens I will be sure to add an update here. For now though, the amount here worked like gangbusters.

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

I got the idea of the Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream from Ovenly, my new favourite baking book. Before Cole was born I was banned from buying any more recipe books; apparently we didn’t have the space and I couldn’t possibly have cooked all the recipes in the ones I already had. However, since ruining my body to give birth then henceforth devoting every waking and non-waking second to my precious firstborn, I now think that I deserve at least one new cookbook a week, nay, a day! Anyway, I have been buying them on the sly.

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

I digress, the recipe in Ovenly pairs the buttercream with a Chocolate Stout sponge which sounds an absolutely sublime combination and something I must try. I can’t help but do something different though as I have always been contrary (actually that’s not true I’m very conformist, I just like pretend I invented the whole thing – look at me, aren’t I clever) and I have been craving apple cake for a few weeks now. Never being one to abstain from cravings the idea of combining the apple cake with the inspiration for the buttercream seemed like kismet. Plus the good thing with the salted caramel recipe I have included below is that it makes slightly more than you need for the buttercream which means finger dipping fun for all the family. Weeelllll… just me as I don’t think Luke’s yet clocked it’s there, probably because I have it hidden behind the broccoli and Cole has yet to be introduced to the wonder of sugar – so young, so innocent.

So after a tweak and a poke here and there this recipe has now been deemed fit for public consumption and lo I share it with you and in a few weeks I will also share it with Tottenham Green Market. Boom, here I come!

Spiced Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

(next post I promise there won’t be so much baby chat. Or maybe there will. See? Contrary.)

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

225g plain flour
50g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of nutmeg
170g unsalted butter
280g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g apple puree (about 4-5 apples – I used cox’s)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line and grease 2 x 20cm round baking tins.
  2. Sift together the flours, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar for 5-10 minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Drop the eggs, one at a time, into the creamed butter and sugar and mix in well. Then add the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture alternately with the apple puree, adding the flour in three additions and the apple puree in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed and mix until just combined.
  6. Divide between the two cake tins.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack completely before covering with the buttercream.

Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

To make the salted caramel:
125g caster sugar
150ml double cream
20g unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract

  1. Tip the sugar into a small saucepan and heat on a medium temperature until the sugar melts. Do not touch with a spoon but you can encourage the melting by swirling the actual saucepan around occasionally if you like.
  2. Once melted, carefully stir in the double cream and butter which will bubble up furiously, the caramel may harden slightly but just keep on stirring the bubbly mixture until the cream, butter and sugar are smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and salt, stir in quickly and remove from the heat.
  4. Pour directly into a glass jar, seal and place in the fridge to chill thoroughly.

To make the buttercream:
500g unsalted butter
600g icing sugar
120ml salted caramel
380g cream cheese

  1. Cream the butter until soft then add the icing sugar and mix for about 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
  2. Scoop in the cream cheese and chilled salted caramel mixing in thoroughly.
  3. Generously sandwich the buttercream between the two apple sponges and cover the sides and top, piping decoration if you wish.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

This Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake is dark, rich and intense. A sublime treat for your afternoon tea.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

I’m making my Seville orange marmalade this week which meant that I needed to finish the scrapings at the bottom of last year’s jar to make room for the new.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

The marmalade had not been easy to spread on toast for a few months now as the surface had crystallised a little but the intense zesty bitter flavour was still all there and I found that once I had sawn through the solid sugar structure with gritted teeth this cake turned out to be the perfect way to make use of the dregs. It might have lost its lustre but last year’s marmalade has managed to find a new lease of life paired with chocolate, ricotta and pine nuts. I mean, what ingredient wouldn’t? Of course you are more than welcome to make this cake with this season’s offering, you certainly don’t have to be using 2015’s rejects.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

My life is full of to-do, should-really-do and must-do-upon-point-of-death lists at the moment, none of which ever really get completely crossed of by the end of the day. However, cakes always seem to jump to the top of the queue, ahead of taking my pile of unloved clothing, which I keep tripping over every morning, to the charity shop, or paying that cheque into the bank, or even finding that blasted cheque which no longer seems to be sitting proudly on my mantelpiece where I placed it very safely about three months ago.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

So when I decided that the marmalade had to go in a cake the ingredients magically gathered themselves up and jumped into a baking tin without so much as consulting any of my lists. I blame the ricotta. Mmm ricotta, just seeing the word on the screen makes me want to dollop it into and onto everything I eat. It’s ideal here, adding such a luxurious dampness to the cake without imparting heaviness.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

The marriage of flavours is so lovely and subtle that this cake is fit for any purpose. The newly revived marmalade just adds a hint of tang with the occasional rind peeking through the sponge as well as a wonderful jammy blanket to the top – the glaze is definitely all important. The toasted pine nuts were a last minute addition but integral to give a welcome break in texture. I don’t think I need to convince you about the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

So my to-do list may be never-ending but at least I can end the day with a slice of darkly decadent cake and the promise of tomorrow’s marmalade.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

Inspired by Emiko Davies’ Ricotta and Dark Chocolate Cake

250g dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 54%)
75g pine nuts
300g ricotta
175g light soft brown sugar
100ml olive oil
3 eggs
60g Seville orange marmalade + 2 tablespoons for glazing
200g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C then line and grease a 9 inch loaf tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and set aside.
  3. Scatter the pine nuts onto a baking tray (reserving about 20g to keep untoasted) then bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes until very lightly toasted. Set aside.
  4. Place the ricotta, brown sugar, olive oil, eggs and marmalade in a large bowl and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate in then and stir thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl then add into the mixture and beat until just combined.
  7. Finally fold in the toasted pine nuts then pour it all into the loaf tin.
  8. Scatter the remaining untoasted pine nuts over the top of the mixture, pressing down to slightly submerge into the batter.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for about 90 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack.
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of marmalade in a small saucepan then brush over the top of the cake liberally to glaze.
  12. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

A Tres Leches cake is a traditional cake popular in Central and South America. Although if you search for Tres Leches on the internet you can see it’s pretty popular all over America. Just like my Nanaimo Bars last week, this is a recipe that I have repinned from dozens of food bloggers and always vowed I would make myself. I usually get caught up in my own individual cravings though and cakes I intend to make inspired by other people’s recipes often get placed on the back burner. I am pleased then that last week I perfected my Nanaimo Bar recipe and this week I managed to balance my craving for a traditionally British coffee and walnut cake with the Tres Leches cake I had been wanting to make for so long.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

Sometimes I have to make cakes a few times to get them right, either re-addressing the amount of sugar, especially when I’m adapting American recipes as I don’t like things too sweet, or adding vanilla here and there or maybe ramping up all the ingredients if the cake turns out too shallow. Here especially there was a lot to balance out as I was doing a bit of a recipe mash-up but oh my did I get this one bang on first time round.

If you are not familiar with a Tres Leches Cake then the name is Spanish (which you had probably worked out yourselves) and means ‘three milks.’ This refers to the soak that the cake is given after baking, drizzled usually with a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk (although I have seen the latter frequently substituted for single or double cream). Technically in my recipe I have drizzled the cake with four milks though as I also added some coconut milk which is an idea I stole shamelessly from Joy the Baker, as well as the basic method, but then she adapted her recipe from Alton Brown so it’s natural recipe evolution.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

Wikipedia says that although the Tres Leches cake has its traditional home overseas the origin is probably Medieval European. This makes complete sense as when Luke came home from work and I thrust a piece of this cake at him to try I caveated it with the breathless sentence, ‘I think this is one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made. You won’t like it.’ He hates trifle, which to me is incomprehensible, as he claims that he doesn’t like the soggy cake at the bottom. What the deliciously vanilla scented thick doorstop at the foundation of a trifle, lightly fragranced with sweet sherry and dripping with fruit juice? He’s insane. Still you can see how this three-milk soaked cake bears a resemblance to the British Trifle or French Rum Cake or Italian Tiramisu.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

I’m not sure what made me marry up my Coffee and Walnut craving with the Tres Leches but the two cakes have come together in blissful harmony. I haven’t included large pieces of walnut in the sponge but rather ground up some toasted walnuts and mingled them with the flour which adds a density to the sponge, creating an even better carrier for the après soak. I used the best instant coffee I could find as it seemed a bit of a waste of time to fiddle around with the cafetiere for the job. Instead I used Nescafe’s Azera Americano, a barista style instant coffee apparently, which although I am not a coffee drinker I am assured is a great substitute if you can’t be doing with cafetieres.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

This cake is most definitely latte inspired, not only due to the heavy amount of dairy involved but also because the coffee taste is subtle, especially in the whipped latte cream adorning the top. The caramelised walnuts give the finished cake a textured crunch, contrasting wildly to the soft sponge and dreamlike latte cream. However, you must keep the cake in the fridge due to all the dairy involved and I found the next day when I had some for breakfast (yeah, so what – pregnancy cravings, ahem) that the caramelised walnuts had slightly softened overnight which was just as good as the crunch the day before. Although, this cake really could do no wrong in my eyes. Despite the amount of moisture added to the cake after baking the cake still retains a solid yet light structure and is moist rather than soggy, it’s actually really rather amazing.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

Oh, and Luke did like the cake and believe me after 14 years together he doesn’t worry himself with tact when it comes to giving me his honest opinions on my baking and cooking, so if it converted him to the idea of a soaked cake and you are already a fan then you are in for an absolute treat.

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake

Walnut Latte Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 16 squares

200g plain flour
75g walnuts, toasted then ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
115g butter
225g caster sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaped tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water, then cooled
200g evaporated milk
200g condensed milk
75ml single cream
75ml coconut milk
½ cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod
pinch of salt

For the whipped latte cream:
1 heaped teaspoon coffee
2 teaspoons boiling water
300ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

For the caramelised walnuts:
75g caster sugar
50g chopped walnuts

Also: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C then grease and line an 8 inch square baking tin.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition then add the vanilla.
  5. Spoon in half of the flour mixture and mix in well then add the coffee, beat into the rest of the ingredients then add the rest of the flour. Mix in until just combined.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the tin then place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, turn out of the tin and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile prepare the soak by whisking the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream, coconut milk, cinnamon and cardamom pod in a saucepan over medium heat until it is just warm. Remove from the heat.
  9. Portion the cake into 2 inch squares and poke four holes into each square with a cocktail stick.
  10. Arrange the cake in a dish with high sides then spoon the glaze over.
  11. Cover the dish with clingfilm then refrigerate overnight.
  12. Remove the cake from the fridge to take the chill off whilst you prepare the toppings.
  13. Begin with the caramelised walnuts by the placing the walnuts on a baking tray in an oven pre-heated to 180°C for 5 minutes until toasted. Remove and set aside.
  14. In a smallish saucepan pour the caster sugar evenly into one layer and heat over a medium heat. The sugar will slowly melt, beginning at the sides. Carefully shake the saucepan every so often so the sugar melts evenly, do not stir. As soon as all the sugar has melted drop in a pinch of salt.
  15. Prepare a baking sheet with baking parchment before pouring the walnuts into the molten sugar and stir in with a silicone spatula. Quickly coat the walnuts with the sugar then tip onto the baking parchment, spreading out in 1 layer. Leave to cool then chop finely.
  16. To make the whipped latte cream, mix the coffee with the water, stir in until dissolved then set aside.
    Whip the cream for a few minutes with the icing sugar until thick and cloudlike. Pour in the coffee and mix in well.
  17. Remove the cake squares from their dish, spread the whipped cream over each one, sprinkle some caramelised walnuts over then add a final dusting of ground cinnamon.

Strawberry Honey Cake

Strawberry Honey Cake.
It was an exciting moment this week when I found the first of the British strawberries in the supermarket. I love their newly prolonged season, especially since I never get bored of a strawberry. As Spring moves into Summer the taste of the strawberries evolve meaning you get a little bit of something different as the seasons progress.

Strawberry Honey Cake

These strawberries I took home this week were sweet and juicy. It was excellent forward thinking on my part that I had picked up a couple of punnets as the first one was unashamedly eaten during the prepping stages of baking this cake.

Strawberry Honey Cake

I couldn’t help but pair this cake with honey, I have been collecting local honey from all the little farm shops and farmer’s markets I have been visiting these past few months so I have quite the larder full. I chose a light clear floral honey for the cake and baked it into the batter along with some sour cream to add density and offset the sweetness. I then topped the cake in the same way, a simple buttercream which I then imbued with more of the honey and sour cream.

Strawberry Honey Cake

It was a perfect teatime treat, eaten out in the garden with the distant sound of a lawnmower buzzing in the background. Although it did lead me to contemplate what a sorry state my garden is actually in at the moment and fret over the grassless lawn and ghostly pots of long gone plants so it wasn’t the perfect idyll.

Strawberry Honey Cake

I regret not drizzling my finished cake with honey as well before I took the photos, the idea only came to me as I was tucking into the cake afterwards. The extra drizzle really lifted the strawberries and accentuated the honey so make sure you don’t forget it like me.

 

Strawberry Honey Cake

170g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
120g honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
270g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
200g sour cream
150g strawberries, hulled and chopped into quarters

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and line and grease a 9 inch loaf tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes until pale and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs one at a time until fully combined.
  4. Pour in the honey and mix well, then the vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour to the rest of the cake batter, mixing well. Then follow with half the sour cream, mix it in then another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the sour cream then the last third of the flour. Mix until the batter has just combined.
  7. Pour nearly all of the cake batter into the baking tin.
  8. Puncture the batter with the chopped strawberries in a single layer before spreading on the very last of the cake batter to cover the strawberries.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes.

For the honey icing:
100g unsalted butter
165g icing sugar
50g honey
50g sour cream
pinch of salt

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  2. Pour in the honey, sour cream and a pinch of salt and mix until completely combined.

Decorate the iced cake with strawberries and drizzled honey.

Green Tomato and Stem Ginger Cake with Streusel Topping

Green Tomato and Stem Ginger Cake with Streusel Topping
When my sister first told me she had made this cake a few weeks ago with the last remaining green tomatoes in her vegetable garden I immediately thought that this was one of her weird experiments and dismissed it.

Green Tomato Cake with Streusel Topping

The idea stayed with me though and I couldn’t stop thinking of this green tomato cake that she had been raving about. I’m a huge fan of green tomatoes and the thought of incorporating them into my baking was intriguing. So I called her back up a few days later and asked her a bit more about it. She said the texture was incredibly moist but the closest thing she could see that it resembled was a carrot cake. Suddenly it all made sense and I kicked myself for not seeing how this was the perfect use for the firm, tangy tomatoes that are still hanging round well into Autumn, especially when spiced up with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

10Green Tomato Cake with Streusel Topping

I thought I had missed out though as I hadn’t seen any green tomatoes for a while and assumed their time had passed for the season. Then on a chance visit to Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market I saw huge mounds of the these emerald green beauties glinting in the frost bitten sun. I am useless when it comes to understanding quantities of things and rather than be floundering with too few tomatoes I bought bags of them, just in case.

Green Tomato Cake with Streusel topping

There wasn’t a huge amount of recipes for green tomato cake online but those that were all emanated from the Deep South which is understandable since they are the guys that brought us the sublime fried green tomatoes and seem to understand this ingredient better than most. It does seem that the cake is treated much like any vegetable cake with plenty of sugar, oil instead of butter and spicing aplenty. I took my Autumn theme a bit more seriously though and dotted diced stem ginger throughout, and topped the cake with a sweetly buttered crunchy streusel crown. The streusel topping turned out to be a wonderful adornment, making the cake taste almost like a deliciously moist fruit crumble. The pockets of juicy tomato are so enticing and add another texture every now and then to the now complex structure of the cake. It’s just as well then that the assembling of the cake is so darn simple. The recipe really is a keeper and will definitely be brought to my kitchen table every October/November when the glut of green tomatoes is at its peak.

Green Tomato Cake with Streusel Topping

Green Tomato and Stem Ginger Cake with Streusel Topping
Adapted from a recipe on southernfood.about.com

225g caster sugar
225g light brown sugar
240ml olive oil
40ml stem ginger syrup
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
375g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
350g green tomatoes, diced
75g stem ginger, finely diced

For the streusel topping:
40g flour
85g demerara sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
50g cold butter
2 tablespoons oats

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170° and line and grease a 20cm deep round cake tin
  2. First make the streusel topping by rubbing together the flour, 85g sugar, cinnamon and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the oats, then set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat together the caster sugar, light brown sugar, olive oil, stem ginger syrup, eggs and vanilla until completely combined.
  4. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger.
  5. Add the flour to the sugar and egg mixture and beat until just combined.
  6. Stir in the green tomatoes and the stem ginger until evenly distributed then pour into the cake tin.
  7. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the cake mixture then scatter over the remaining 1 tablespoon of demerara sugar.
  8. Place the cake in the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean. You might want to check the cake halfway through and cover the top with foil if the streusel topping is getting too brown.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and leave for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake
Conversation this week in our house turned towards Christmas. Yes I know it’s miles away but I’m never far from thinking about Christmas, especially when Pinterest makes me think it’s only round the corner from all the festive images that have been cropping up on my homepage this week.

I don’t want any presents this year I declared magnanimously when I wasn’t even asked. There is nothing I want. My husband looked at me in disbelief, so I felt a bit of clarification was needed. All I really want for Christmas is a mound of pretzels, bags of onion rings and some peanut butter Lindt Lindor.

That’s right, Christmas is when my favourite junkiest foods come into play, which might be something to do with why it’s my favourite time of year. I have learnt to forgo crisps and snacking foods all year round, but those that I have an uncontrollable weakness for, mainly the afore mentioned three, are deemed acceptable on December 25th. From January to November, they are banned from the house. If they are within sniffing range then I shall devour them like a hungry lion, ripping apart the defenseless packet with my teeth whilst omitting guttural growls from the most primal part of me.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake  |  Stroud Green Larder

So the moment when I decided to use pretzels as the base for this creamy peach pie was the first signal of an imminent downfall. The second signal was when the recipe called for 200g of pretzels and Tesco’s only stocked 175g bags. A saner woman would have judiciously decided to scale down the crust recipe to suit this turn of events, but by this time I had become a lion stalking its prey and I deemed the recipe be altered upon pain of death, so I had to buy 2 x 175g bags. What will you do with the rest of the pretzels my husband nervously inquired. I shrugged non-committedly. The way a double crossing CTU agent has learnt to fool even its most seasoned colleagues. I may also have been on a 24 binge this week.

It has taken me all my adult life to try a pretzel-based pie crust. I know cooks have been churning them out of their kitchens for years, pleased to have alternatives to the digestive biscuit. But it has been something I always admired from afar. However this was the next recipe to try on the baking to-do list which I am currently working my way through.

Turns out that little list of mine is throwing out some absolute corkers. The use of pretzels really has raised the bar for all other crusts. Sweetly savoury with a satisfying crunch, it provides the perfect nest for the pillowy bourbon spiked mascarpone cream and the silky buttery peaches.

Thank goodness we’re still in the last vestiges of summer fruit so this insanely amazing combination was made possible; it was definitely the best reason to crack open my Christmas snacks early doors.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake  |  Stroud Green LarderAnd those excess pretzels? They didn’t even make it to the end of Stroud Green Road as I carried my shopping home.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake

200g salted pretzels
2 tbsp caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, melted
3 peaches, peeled, stone removed and sliced
40g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp bourbon
250g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
75g icing sugar
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a 20cm springform tin.
  2. Place the pretzels in a food processor and whizz up to breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared tin, bringing the crust slightly up the sides and pressing tightly into place.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and leave to cool.
  6. Next, prepare the peaches by melting the 40g of unsalted butter, then add the peaches. Cook for 10 minutes until the peaches are starting to caramelise at the edges then add the bourbon which will sizzle. Once the bourbon has reduced slightly then remove the peaches from the pan and leave to cool.
  7. To make the bourbon mascarpone cream, pour the cream cheese, mascarpone and icing sugar into a food mixer and whip on high until the cheeses are light and fluffy.
  8. Slowly pour in the bourbon and icing sugar until fully incorporated.
  9. Spooning the bourbon mascarpone cream into the pretzel crust and spread the top evenly.
  10. Place the cheesecake in the fridge overnight to settle.
  11. The next day, when you are ready to eat, arrange the peaches on top, then serve.

Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake
A tiffin cake is never something I go about sourcing ingredients for deliberately. For me, the tiffin is a method of finishing my half packets of biscuits which lie about my cupboards, or finally using the very aromatic bananas which are on their last legs in the fruit bowl. The leftover peanut brittle which I made for my crunchy nut cornflake choc ices also needs to go somewhere that isn’t directly into my stomach whilst I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. Then a few dates which have been languishing in a jar probably since Christmas but still moist enough to provide a good chew to the cake are also included.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

However, do not throw ingredients into your tiffin willy nilly. The beauty of a throw together dish, whether it’s in baking or cooking a quick supper after work is knowing when you should leave something out. Just because I also had half a packet of marshmallows, some sweetened cranberries which are begging for a home and some pretzels which have been outright taunting me from their half eaten packet doesn’t mean they should all go in as well. Be selective and purposeful and then you will find that your cobbled together garbage cake assumes its own identity.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Due to the bananas the cake is much softer than a regular tiffin cake so be gentle when slicing. I used milk chocolate for the cake as that is what I had to hand but if I were to make it again I would probably go for half milk and half dark chocolate to add more intensity of flavour and reduce the sweetness. Usually I am an advocate with more is more when it comes to cake, but here, you want to be thinking less. Just a slither of the cake will be deliciously ample, if you over indulge you won’t be thanking me an hour later. This cake is richie rich.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Although the serving suggestion I most recommend is to place the cake in the freezer for a couple of hours; it will emerge as a deliciously cool easy to slice dessert which will happily pair with freshly picked raspberries after a long lazy Saturday barbecue.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake

400g chocolate – milk or dark or a mixture of both
2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
200g Lotus Biscoff Biscuits
175g peanut brittle, roughly chopped
50g dates, de-stoned and roughly chopped
A good pinch of sea salt

  1. Melt the chocolate in a large bain marie set over simmering water.
  2. Turn the heat off the water but do not take the chocolate off the bain marie, you want it kept smooth and melty whilst you are adding the other ingredients.
  3. Add the bananas first and mix in thoroughly to make sure they are well incorporated.
  4. Crush the Lotus Biscoff biscuits roughly with a rolling pin, so that some biscuits are obliterated and some are left quite lumpy to give the cake good texture. Then stir them in.
  5. Finally add in the peanut brittle, dates and the salt, mixing everything together so it’s all turned into a lovely chocolatey cake batter.
  6. Resist spooning the mixture into your mouth and pour into an 18cm, baking parchment lined, springform round cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with tin foil.
  7. Leave in the fridge overnight to set and chill before carefully removing from the cake tin and serving immediately. This is best served cold.