Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

I look forward to rhubarb season every year. There is something so cheery about getting through the grey bleakness of January with a little help from these long bright pink stems, quite unlike anything else in season at this time of year. Those long stems may look a little bit ridiculous poking out of my bag as I walk through Cambridge, squeezed in amongst my dissertation draft and books on the Enlightenment, but it’s worth it for this cake.

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

I initially really wanted to make a rhubarb galette with my stash, but as I’ve cooked a lot with pastry in the last week or so I have put this on hold for now. After searching through my rhubarb recipes and discounting elaborate tarts, delicate jellies and creams I settled on this cake – thinking that a generous slice warm from the oven, with a big dollop of crème fraiche alongside it, would be the perfect change from the baking trays of shortbread and cookies my oven has been churning out so far this term. Even my chocolate-dedicated friends enjoyed this and I didn’t face the predicament of having this languishing in a tin for days (admittedly not that miserable a prospect) as it was all gone in two days between three of us.

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

  • 170g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • zest 2 oranges
  • 150g almonds
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick of rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line the base of a 21cm tin with greaseproof paper.

Slice the rhubarb into lengths around 7cm long. Cut each one into quarters lengthways to create thinner batons. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, beating well in between the addition of each egg. Add the orange zest and dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Top with the rhubarb sticks in a clock pattern. Bake for 30-35 mins until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

When my sister and I started baking, everything we made was lemon flavoured. One of my earliest independent baking memories is of us making Lemon Meringue Pie to take to our Nana down in Eastbourne. There was one particularly memorable time we made it where I managed to get my hair caught in our electric whisk. Aside from attempting to sneak lemon into every bake, my other baking trait was that I primarily turned out biscuits. Of every shape, style, flavour and size – they were all I wanted to make. Now I’m at university, the most popular bakes with my friends are always chocolate based, but this weekend I wanted to recreate those early baking traits.

Lemon meltaway cookies

I always refuse to do any work on a Saturday – taking it as my one day each week to completely relax and temporarily forget about whatever Renaissance issue I’ve been tackling that week. Baking replaces reading as my top priority and the thought of whichever cookie, cake or pie I’ve chosen for the weekend ahead gets me through many a long library session midweek. This week, I fancied a break from chocolate and as I was considering a return to my lemon-obsessed ways, I thought may as well equally return to being a cookie fanatic. When I started baking I churned out many a tray of cookies, working my way through most of Rachel Allen’s back catalogue.

Today’s inspiration came from Smitten Kitchen, who initially made a key lime version that I’ve had bookmarked for years. They were every bit as buttery, crumbly and moreish as I had anticipated – with the bonus of being a total cinch to make. The heavy icing sugar coating means they are not the best surreptitious library snack – but that just gives you an excuse to take a break.

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Makes 18-20

  • 175g soft butter
  • 40g icing sugar, plus around 150g more to coat
  • 1 lemon, zested and ½ juiced
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 240g plain flour

Mix the butter and 40g icing sugar together until well combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and stir to incorporate. Add the flour gradually, stirring well until it is all incorporated and smooth.

Tip the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and shape into a 30cm log. Roll up in the paper, twisting each end like a cracker. Place in the fridge for an hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Remove the dough log from the fridge and unwrap. Slice into 1cm rounds and place on two lined baking trays. Bake fro 15minutes until beginning to go golden round the edge.

Tip plenty of icing sugar into a small bowl. Toss the cookies gently, a few at a time, in the icing sugar to fully coat and place on a wire rack to cool.

Apple crumble

Apple crumble is pure nostalgia. The world could do with a little comfort food right now, and crumble is the dish to do this. For my family, crumble is what we miss whenever any of us go away. Whether it is me at university, my Dad for work, my sister since she’s moved out or my Mum going travelling – I think crumble symbolises home for all of us.

Apple crumble

Whether we’re going fancy with an amaretti laced plum version, or simple like this, you just can’t really go wrong with crumble. Tinned fruit work equally well if you’re in a pinch, but for my version I went as classic as you can get because I had some apples languishing in my cupboard that were beginning to get a bit tired and in desperate need of a covering of sugar and cream. I had such good intentions to share this, but somehow it was all gone within 24 hours…

Apple crumble

  • 75g plain flour
  • 20g brown sugar
  • 20g caster sugar, plus 1tbsp
  • 50g butter
  • 3 small apples

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Mix the flour and sugars (saving the extra 1tbsp of caster sugar) together. Cut the butter into small cubes, and rub it into the flour and sugar mixture until fully incorporated and sandy textured. I like to go a tiny bit further to get some larger chunks as well.

Peel, core and chop the apples into 2cm dice. Tip into the crumble dish and scatter with the reserved tbsp. of caster sugar. Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the top.

Bake for 20-25mins until the crumble is golden and crisp. Serve with custard or extra thick double cream.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

I mean. Recipes with titles like that don’t need much explaining, do they? Those five words should get you scrambling to the kitchen with very little persuasion from me. But I’ll go ahead anyway, in case by some miracle of resistance you are still here.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Want cookies but don’t have time to be scooping and rolling and swapping endless trays in and out of the oven? Love the crispy edge and gooey middle of a perfect cookie but never manage to bake it quite right? Are you cooking for others and need to provide dessert that’s fractionally fancier than a pile of biscuits in the middle of the table? This cookie pie solves all these conundrums.

I’ve written before about the issue of having to eat something for days on end when you’re cooking for one. This is entirely not an issue with this bake because not only would I be happy to eat just this for eternity, as soon as I posted this on Instagram I had multiple friends in college commenting enthusiastically. My message of ‘wanna chill and help me eat cookie pie?’ could not have been answered faster. Make this. I promise you won’t forget it.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

I adapted this from this Nigella recipe for chocolate cookie pots, which she makes in ramekins. Ramekin servings would up the adorable factor, whilst one big one feels extra decadent and ensures plenty of gooey centre – the choice is yours! I baked mine in an 18cm dish which serves up to 4 people (it’s very rich) but this would also be easily doubled up to suit bigger tins and bigger crowds.

  • 110g soft butter
  • 90g soft light brown sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 150g plain flour
  • big pinch of baking powder
  • 100g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Cream the butter and sugar together until soft. Add the vanilla and egg and stir until combined. Fold in the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough into an 18cm pie dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden round the edge but still a little soft in the middle (the joy is the melting centre so better to under than over bake here). Serve warm with plenty of ice cream or crème fraiche. Enjoy!

Baked Pineapple Upside Down Cake Doughnuts

I can’t remember why now, but one birthday I asked for a doughnut pan. Typically, this would be the type of novelty bakeware you use once when you get it before it languishes forgotten at the back of the cupboard. However, I bought mine with me to university and it is the only bakeware I own here in Cambridge aside from a flat baking tray. This means that whilst I can’t make cupcakes, muffins, or big square apple cakes – I can make doughnuts. And so I do!

Baked Pineapple Upside Down Cake Doughnuts

Of course, the first ones I made were double chocolate ones with sprinkles, just like the doughnut emoji. Most cupcake and muffin recipes can be made in a doughnut pan with little trouble. However, when I saw this idea on Instagram I was excited to try something that actually works most effectively in my tin and set about creating a recipe. These taste just like the big pineapple upside down cakes (sadly minus the shiny glacé cherries) and are super simple to make, but so effective. They are the type of cheery bake that can’t help but make people smile no matter how grey and cold the day is – bringing a bit of tropical sunshine to a Cambridge kitchen!

Baked Pineapple Upside Down Cake Doughnuts

Makes 8-10 doughnuts.

  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 160g butter
  • 350g pineapple rings (fresh or tinned – I found mine in the fruit salad section of the supermarket)
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla (almond essence would also be delicious here instead)
  • 110g self-raising flour

Melt the brown sugar with 50g of the butter. Evenly poon a little into the bottom of each doughnut tin hole. Slice each pineapple ring in half through the middle, to make them thinner and place on top of the sugar mixture in the tin – you may also need to trim the pineapple rings to make them fit (the trimmings are cooks perks!).

Cream the caster sugar and remaining butter until soft and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat until combined. Sift in the flour and stir until just fully incorporated. Spoon over the pineapple in the doughnut tin, filling to the top and covering the pineapple evenly.

Bake for 15-20mins until golden and firm. Use a knife to release the pineapple from the inner and outer edges of the tin, and flip onto a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Orange Dipped Shortbread

The start of term is always a blank canvas for my kitchen cupboards. Whilst the odd tin of tomatoes and packet of microwaveable rice stayed in my lockable storage over Christmas, on the whole my cupboards were bare when I returned this week. This is largely positive – starting afresh means I can make anything, the fridge is clean and there is nothing lurking forgotten at the back. However, it also means that my first few food shops are pretty hefty as I try to rebuild stocks to enable me to actually cook regularly. This means when it came to baking this week, I wanted to find something that required buying as little as possible (so that I don’t fill up my cupboards with ingredients I will only use once) yet would still go down well with my friends. Shortbread fit the bill perfectly.

Chocolate Orange Dipped ShortbreadBakes being popular with my friends are vital to save me eating 24 shortbread fingers myself, and luckily these went down extremely well. With flour and sugar already in the cupboard, all I needed was butter, an orange and a bar of chocolate and I was ready to get started. The process of making these was quite therapeutic – cutting out the neat rectangles, pronging them all with a fork, dipping and drizzling each one with chocolate. They are the epitome of simple but effective – the perfect bake to ease me back into baking in Cambridge.

Chocolate Orange Dipped ShortbreadOf course, this shortbread is completely adaptable to suit whatever you have in your cupboards should they be more bountiful than mine. Swap the orange for a lime and dip in white chocolate and desiccated coconut for a tropical feel. Replace some of the flour with ground almonds and dip in toasted crushed nuts. Use cocoa powder in the dough for a triple chocolate treat. Instead of a white chocolate drizzle, sprinkle with freeze dried raspberries, chopped candied peel or hundreds and thousands. The opportunities are endless!

Chocolate Orange Dipped Shortbread

  • 55g caster sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • 125g butter
  • 180g plain flour
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50g white chocolate

Zest the orange into the sugar and stir to release the oils (and maximise your orange flavour).

Add the butter and beat together until soft. Stir in the flour to form a dough.

Roll out to 1/2cm thick. If you want a rectangle, trim the edges of dough to form one large square and divide it neatly before rerolling the scraps. Otherwise, cut into whatever shape you desire. Place on a lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for 20minutes.

Bake at 180’C for 15-20 minutes and then cool completely. Break the chocolate into chunks and melt in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Dip each cooled biscuit a third into the chocolate, and place back on the lined tray. Melt the white chocolate as before, and drizzle over each chocolate dipped end.

Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

‘What do you feed a horse?’ is not a question I expected to be asked in a one-on-one class with my Cambridge history lecturer. Somehow a conversation on Medieval economics and agriculture had led to me revealing my extreme lack of farming knowledge. ‘Grass?’ I offered hesitantly, after much thought. ‘Well done!’ my lecturer grinned, and I felt like I was back in primary school. ‘Anything else?’ ‘Crops?’ ‘Yes! Whereas an ox eats…?’ ‘Just grass?’ ‘Yes, well done!’ It was the simplest conversation ever but there is something about sitting in a room with an extremely clever Cambridge professor that makes you doubt everything you know. ‘And other than farming, what else can you use a horse for?’ ‘You can like.. ride it?’ ‘Yes!’

‘I can tell you are not from a farming background’, my lecturer laughed politely. ‘Neither am I,’ he continued, ‘but I do know what a horse eats.’ My London heritage has never been so obvious. Next week, I am doing an essay on towns: much more my forte. After an hour of struggling through farming chat, I was definitely in need of a post-supervision treat. Luckily, I had stores of this super simple ice cream waiting in my freezer.

lemon meringue pie ice cream

As June is now here, I felt it was time for a properly summery ice cream. I’ve been making a lot of rich, chocolatey ones recently (of which more soon!) but, much to the despair of my chocoholic friend, I was craving something more refreshing and light. Lemon meringue pie was one of the first desserts I ever made and it seemed like it would make a great ice cream. This one is a little more complicated than previous versions of my no-churn ice cream, but only because it has a few more additions – the base is exactly the same and it still takes less than 10 minutes to make. Particularly if you have a few friends on hand to form an ice cream team like I did! I think this turned out to be my favourite ice cream so far – zesty, light, tangy with lemon curd but sweet with meringues. It was definitely a challenge having this in my freezer and having to resist it, but luckily it was popular with my friends too and it did not last long.

No Churn Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1/2 tin of condensed milk
  • zest of 2 lemons, the juice of one
  • 4 shop-bought meringues
  • 100g shortcake biscuits
  • 100g lemon curd

Whisk together the double cream, condensed milk and lemon zest until soft peaks form. Crush the meringues and biscuits together into bitesize small chunks. Stir into the cream along with the lemon juice.

Scoop half the mixture into a Tupperware box and dollop over half the lemon curd. Swirl the lemon curd into the ice cream with the end of a spoon to create long ripples. Top with the remaining mixture and lemon curd and repeat the ripple process. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

My Ultimate Rocky Road

Rocky road

There are three desserts that I can never resist. Pavlova, Scottish tablet, and rocky road. No matter how full I am or what else there is to eat, I cannot ignore these if they’re on offer. And the most dangerous thing about them is that they are all things that you can just walk by, cutting another sliver and another sliver until suddenly you realise you have eaten way too much and you’re really rather full. So then you cut one ‘last’ sliver.

Rocky road

To save my waistline, I have been slicing this up as soon as I’ve made it, filling up my jar with generous wedges and then promptly inviting my friends in college to come round ASAP and take it off my hands. I live on the far side of college so it can be tricky to persuade people to make the journey (although this the Cambridge bubble we are talking about, so the ‘journey’ is well under five minutes) but I find the offer of chocolate on arrival definitely helps!

Rocky road is one of those endlessly adaptable puds: you can change the type of biscuit, add nuts, use a mixture of chocolates. Even the name varies for different people: rocky road, refrigerator cake, no-bake cake. In my family, it was simply chocolate biscuit cake, using digestive biscuits and dried fruit with plenty of glace cherries. Now when I make it, I jazz it up with marshmallows and a white chocolate drizzle. You can go classy with chopped pistachios and dried apricots, or all out sugar high with crushed maltesers and honeycomb. Really, with the two main ingredients being chocolate and biscuit, how can this ever go wrong? This also makes a super easy birthday cake when you don’t have an oven – piled high and studded with candles.

My ultimate rocky road

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 4tbsps golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • handful of marshmallows
  • 100g of dried fruit
  • 100g glace cherries
  • 80g white chocolate

Melt together the dark chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a microwave – stirring at 30 second intervals so it doesn’t overheat.

Bash the digestive biscuits with the end of a rolling pin (or wine bottle) in a sandwich bag into a mixture of crumbs and larger pieces. Tip into a large bowl with the marshmallows, fruit and cherries. Pour the chocolate mixture over and stir everything together. Spoon into a clingfilm lined cake tin and level off until smooth. Chill in the fridge for an hour.

Melt the white chocolate very gently in a microwave. Drizzle all over the top of the chocolate biscuit cake, then chill again for another half an hour. Cut into generous wedges, and let the challenge of resisting eating it all at once begin…