Lemon and almond cake, crème fraiche, berries

Whilst desserts and afternoon bakes come to my mind endlessly, it’s not long before I have to rack my brain to think of an inspiring savoury course for dinner. When I work as a private chef, my menus are always based around the dessert course. They are what come to me first and are always the longest section of my ‘menu ideas’ list that I send to clients. Alongside a pavlova and crème brulees, this dish is one of my go-to desserts when I am on a private cooking job. I have cooked a lemon and almond cake in Norfolk, Wales, the South of France and the Scilly Isles. Always for very different people, but it always goes down well. It also often appeals to people without too much of a sweet tooth (my fear) but still feels like enough of a treat for sugar addicts like me.

Lemon and almond cake

I’ve made this in so many places because it is so versatile. Not only can you mix up the fruit depending where and when you are baking – berries in an English summer, stewed apricots in Avignon – but the cake is also tough enough to survive all manner of tin shapes and ovens. I have served this straight out of terracotta dishes like a pudding, cut into squat slices from a loaf tin for picnics or elegantly plated up with quenelles of the crème fraiche for stylish desserts. If you can resist, it also keeps well and will happily sit in a tin for a few days with the ground almonds keeping it moist.

Lemon and almond cake

  • 200g soft butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 125g ground almonds
  • zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line a 20-22cm round cake tin, or a 22cm square tin with baking parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric hand whisk or wooden spoon. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. When the eggs are fully incorporated, fold in the flour, then the almonds and lemon zest.

Scrape the mixture into the tin and tap the sides to release any air bubbles. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the sponge is lightly golden-brown, coming away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Salted Caramel Pineapple Cake

In my final year at school, classes started to have cake rotas. A sure fire way to lift the spirits (and waste a few minutes passing around a tin of muffins), these weekly occurrences were a great development of education. Sadly at university, any such notion disappeared. Even when I did a paper called ‘Food and Drink in Britain and the Wider World’, for an entire year, not once did we eat food in class. Equally my dissertation on food writers and 7,000 word coursework on the beginnings of the sugar trade turned up no eating opportunities in supervisions. Imagine my envy, therefore, when my friend announced that in her sole class of the year touching upon the theme of food and drink, the lecturer had turned up with a variety of cakes for them to try. One of these had been the 1970s classic of an Upside Down Pineapple Cake, complete with shiny glacé cherries, which are one of my many guilty pleasures. I decided to channel this case of envy and bad luck into my own seventies throwback, updated with salted caramel for a 21st century twist.

Salted Caramel Pineapple Cake

Sometimes cakes can over deliver on looks and disappoint on taste. Not this one. This more than lived up to expectations. The almonds (oh, and the lashings of caramel sauce) keep the cake super soft and moist, which also means it lasts well, not that that should be a problem. Although it lacks my beloved glacé cherries, the aforementioned sauce definitely makes up for it. The recipe makes a surprisingly fairly small cake, but it is rich and sweet enough that you don’t need (as much as you might want) huge slices so this is perfect. The recipe was originally from Waitrose Magazine but I tweaked it a bit to suit my ingredients to hand to ensure I could make it immediately.

Salted Caramel Pineapple Cake

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 100g plain flour
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder

For caramel:

  • 75g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • 1 tin of pineapple

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line the base of a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment. For the caramel, gently melt the butter, sugar, salt and cream in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat, stirring now and then. When smooth and all combined, pour into the base of the tin. Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on top of the caramel, making sure they are fairly tightly packed, cutting one slice into pieces to fill in the gaps.

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar together until light and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating constantly, followed by the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder to make a stiff batter. Spoon into the cake tin and smooth flat, being careful not to dislodge the pineapple layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the sponge is golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then place a serving plate (with a lip to catch the caramel) over the tin, carefully flip over and remove the tin and baking parchment.

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

It is always my pleasure to bake for friends. Let’s be honest, as much as I might want to, even I can’t eat the results of baking twice a week all by myself. I’m quite the feeder and offering up blondies, cookies and cake is as much to minimise damage to my own waistline as it is a sign of generosity.

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

Nevertheless, after a while one of my friends wanted to contribute to the baking so we came to a deal where she helps me out with an ingredient in return for baked goods. I made the rhubarb tart, she brought the custard. Today, she bought the raspberries, I baked the cake. Together we sat on my bed, eating warm freshly baked cake, gossiping and discussing Broadchurch theories. An ideal Saturday. The raspberries really made all the difference in this super simple cake – going super jammy and adding little pockets of colour and flavour throughout. It was light, sweet but sharp and dangerously moreish – enjoy!

Lemon and raspberry drizzle cake

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 115g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 125g plain flour
  • 5tsp baking powder
  • zest 2 lemons
  • punnet of raspberries
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line the base of a 20cm round tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Pour in the milk and stir through. Add the lemon zest, plain flour and baking powder and stir until just combined.

Scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin. Dot the cake with raspberries. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

In a small bowl, sift the icing sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the lemon juice and stir to a drizzle-able consistency! When the cake is cooled, drizzle the icing over the cake.

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.

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.