Raspberry cake and other good things

potato salad and raspberry NY Times torte 021

This has been a weekend full of local bounty, both from our veg patch and our local fruit farm: new potato salad; sugar snap peas with tiny broad beans and courgettes; and a sensationally good raspberry cake.

For the potato salad I boiled some freshly dug Charlottes and then tossed them in olive oil, white vinegar, mustard and some very finely diced red onion. Very delicious – although our local retired general said he thought it looked a terrible mess (Thanks Arthur) . There was some left over and I spread it out on roasting tray and roasted it in a hot oven for about 50 minutes until the potatoes were crisp and the onions well browned. Perfect with roast lamb and it’s juices and the aforementioned sugar snaps, broad beans and courgettes.

The raspberry cake was really something. A perfect balance of simple cake and juicy bursting raspberries. The observant amongst you will spot that the recipe is remarkably similar to the cherry cake I wrote about last year. Thank you once again to Sarah’s godmother, lovely Helen Heider, who introduced us to this recipe from the New York Times. And then yesterday (did I mention that I like cake?) I made another one with our blackcurrants – also good but very full on so only make it if you really like blackcurrants. The rest of the blackcurrants were then turned into blackcurrant jam, one of my favourite jams alongside plum, apricot and raspberry.

Raspberry Cake

serves 8 to 12 depending on how hungry you are
1 x 22cm square cake tin – I use a silicone mould

125g butter
125g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
100g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
350g fresh raspberries (or 275g blackcurrants – fewer as they have such a strong flavour)
a little extra sugar and flour to go on top

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Mix in the beaten eggs and then the flour/baking powder/salt so that you have a fairly loose batter.
  3. Spread the batter evenly over the tin.
  4. To try to stop the berries sinking to the bottom too quickly: sift a dessertspoon of flour and one of sugar over the batter then gently put the raspberries on top.
  5. Bake at 170C for 45 minutes to an hour until just set.

Best served slightly warm.

Very sticky Chelsea buns


New Year diets are all very well but the time comes when you need a Chelsea bun. When that moment arises these are the Chelsea buns that you should be making. Sticky, rich and delicious. And if you foolishly don’t eat them all straight away, even several days later a few seconds in the microwave will bring them back to a highly acceptable sticky and aromatic warmth.

We got very enthusiastic at home about watching the Great British Bake-off before Christmas and it got me all excited about all things Bun. I’ve now made Chelsea buns a few times at home tweaking the recipe a bit each time. I started off with the recipe in Lynda Collister’s excellent Bread Book, but added considerably to the filling and the glaze. If butter, sugar and raisins are good, then surely more butter, sugar and raisins are even better? They certainly are in this case. I’ve also added cinnamon to makes these half way between a Chelsea bun and a Swedish cinnamon bun.

For the buns I’ve photographed for this blog post I proved the finished but un-cooked buns in the fridge overnight. This is not at all essential but it adds to the flexibility of making them to know that it works should you want to do it.

Tragically we don’t currently have space in our kitchens in either Hereford or Cambridge to be making these for the cafés but maybe in the future…

There are three bits to these buns: the dough, the filling and the glaze. That makes it all sound rather complicated but as long as you take it steadily it’s not too fiddly. But be sure the first time you make this recipe you’re not in a rush. It’s a really lovely thing to do on a cold wet winter’s day such as the one I’m looking out at while I’m writing this.

makes 9 buns

I use a silicone cake mould which is 22cm square. It’s fairly crucial that the tin you use has roughly these dimensions (or a similar total area) as the buns need to fit snugly in.

For the dough

450g white flour
5g salt
40g caster sugar
1 x 7g packet of dried yeast
170ml milk
60g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten

For the filling

40g butter, melted
100g light muscovado sugar
200g raisins
5g ground cinnamon (about 1 dsp)

For the glaze

50g honey
90g butter
120g light muscovado sugar

  1. To make the dough. Put all the ingredients a Kenwood chef (or similar) and knead for about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise until roughly doubled in size.
  2. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 22cm deep and 40cm wide.
  3. Mix all the filling ingredients together and spread over the rectangle of dough eaving a margin of about 1cm at the far edge. Then roll it up like a Swiss roll as tightly as possible starting at the near long edge.
  4. Then divide into 9 slices with a dough cutter and put each of them on a cut side into the tin, quite close together but barely touching.
  5. Leave to rise until at least doubled in size. This can take as long as a couple of hours if the kitchen is cold.
  6. In a small pan stir all the glaze ingredients together.
  7. Once the buns have at least double in size, pour the glaze over and bake at 200C for about 25 minutes until the buns are golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool somewhat in the tin before attempting to remove or all the glaze will fall off. If you leave it too long and the glaze has hardened too much to get the buns out then put the tin back in the oven for a bit to warm the glaze up just enough to move them.


Life’s a bowl of cherries

It’s been a luscious summer for fruit. The strawberries have been sweet right from the start; raspberries have been rich and tart; even supermarket nectarines and peaches have ripened properly and drip with juice once they’re ready to eat. And the cherries have been never-ending. We’ve had cherries from Oakchurch (our local fruit farm) for well over a month and all big, fat and juicy. At home we have a huge cherry tree just outside our back door which normally produces just enough pale cherries to feed the birds, but this year the crop was so large that the birds left plenty for us.

The bowl of beautiful bowl of fruit pictured above came from our big tree and went in to a New York Times torte. It got eaten before I had a chance to take a picture of the finished cake. The cake is so named because the recipe (I’m told) is re-printed year after year in the New York Times in response to constant reader requests. It’s simple, adaptable and delicious. It works well with cherries, plums, raspberries, cranberries (best mixed with some pears), nectarines, peaches – anything with juice and some acidity.

1 x 25cm loose-bottomed cake tin, greased and lined

700g cherries
100g butter
100g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
80g plain white flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Juice of ½ a lemon
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 dsp Icing sugar

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add flour, baking powder, salt and beaten eggs. Mix well.
  3. Spoon the batter into greased and lined tin and arrange the pitted cherries on top
  4. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar depending on how sweet the fruit is.
  5. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the sponge is springy to touch
  6. Serve either warm or at room temperature with a big dollop of crème fraiche.


Rhubarb streusel cake

For about half the year rhubarb is the only native ‘fruit’ being harvested in the UK. We start with the delicate pink-stemmed early forced rhubarb from Yorkshire just before Christmas and then by May anyone with a rhubarb plant will be wondering what triffid-like size it will have grown to by tomorrow. As we can tell by its form, rhubarb is not really a fruit but a vegetable. But it’s lengthy availability means that one of the many food quests of my life is to find the ultimate rhubarb cake recipe which we can then use in my cafes for a large part of the year. I think this may be it. It’s moist, rich and rhubarby. The clever bit about its construction is that the base is partially cooked before the rhubarb is added which stops it becoming claggy. At its best served when still warm, but also very fine at room temperature – I’ve just had a slice for breakfast.

It’s very slightly adapted from ‘Seasonal Secrets’, the outpouring of several decades cooking experience from Victoria O’Neil, Australian/Herefordian extraordinaire whose ‘Cooking with Class’ cookery school has delighted and engaged Herefordian cooks for many years.

18cm loose-bottomed cake tin, greased

for the middle
500g rhubarb – chopped into 1cm pieces
75g light muscovado sugar

for the base
75g ground almonds
75g self-raising flour
40g light muscovado sugar
125g butter – diced
1 egg, lightly beaten

for the streusel topping
100g light muscovado sugar (or a mix of whateve brown sugars you have to hand)
75g plain flour
75g cold butter, diced
40g flaked almonds

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C

2. Mix the chopped rhubarb with the sugar and spread on to a baking tray and put in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until if feels tender but not disintegrated. Leave the rhubarb in the tray until you need it.

3. Prepare the base. Mix the all the base ingredients except the egg either in a food mixer of food processor until they look like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix again to make a dough. Spread the dough into the base of the greased cake tin and bake in the same oven that you’ve got the rhubarb in for 15 minutes. It will have begun to firm up but won’t look quite cooked.

4. Make the topping. Whizz the topping ingredients together – again either a food mixer or a food processor will do the job. If you want the flaked almonds to stay in large pieces then add them right at the end.

5. Assemble and bake the cake. Take the rhubarb out of the baking tray with a slotted spoon, leaving any liquid behind (which you can keep and use as a sauce) and spoon the rhubarb on to the partially cooked base. Spoon the topping evenly on top of the rhubarb. Cook the whole thing at 180C for 30 to 40 minutes until the topping is beginning to brown.

Try to leave it to cool a little before devouring.