In the words of Jez (Peep Show reference, sorry if you don’t watch it), ‘I am a Christmassist’. I love everything associated this time of year; heady spices, mulled anything, twinkling lights, the smell of fir, infinite chocolate, roll necks and nostalgic films. With that in mind, I’ve got lots of festive recipes lined up for December, kicking off with these spiced buns, packed full of orange-soaked fruit and white chocolate- delicious warm from the oven with a strong coffee.
For the dough
75g butter, plus extra for greasing
50g caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
500g strong white bread flour
2 sachets fast action dried yeast (14g)
2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for glazing)
For the filling
75g dried cranberries, roughly chopped
50g sultanas, roughly chopped
Zest and juice 2 oranges
125g butter, softened
125g dark brown soft sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
For the topping
The reserved orange juice, plus 3tbsp caster sugar
A few extra cranberries, roughly chopped (optional)
75g white chocolate, melted (optional)
Start off by making the dough. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan and very gently heat until the butter melts, then set aside until lukewarm. Stir together the sugar, salt, yeast and flour in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached) then make a well and add in the lukewarm milk/butter and one of the eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, first using a wooden spoon to bring everything together, then using your hands to form a soft dough (alternatively, do this by setting your dough hook to a low speed).
Once you have a soft dough, turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes (or just keep the dough in your stand mixer bowl and increase the speed of your dough hook for 6-8 minutes) or until your dough is smooth, stretchy and elastic.
Now tip the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for about an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
For the bun filling, place the cranberries, sultanas, orange zest and orange juice in a bowl and leave to soak for half an hour. Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice until smooth. Grease a high sided 20x30cm rectangular tin or 25x25cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.
Once the dough has proved, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 5mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter mixture across the surface of the rectangle in an even layer, ensuring that you go all the way to the edges. Now strain the orange juice away from the dried fruits into a saucepan (save this for later). Sprinkle the fruits over the cinnamon butter then lastly distribute the chopped white chocolate.
Now, with the long side facing you, roll the rectangle up like a roulade. Slice into 12 even slices if you’re using a rectangular tin (about 2cm wide) or 9 even slices if you’re using a square (about 2.5cm wide). Arrange the pieces, swirl side up, in the prepared tin and cover with a piece of lightly oiled cling film. Leave to prove for 30-40 minutes or until well risen and springy (before this prove there will be little gaps between the buns, but they should be just touching when ready to bake). Preheat the oven to 180c.
Once risen, whisk the remaining egg and brush all over the tops of the buns. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, place the reserved orange juice and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy. When the buns are baked, brush the syrup all over the tops, then drizzle on the white chocolate and finish with chopped cranberries, if you like.
I’m under no illusion that this bake is a bit of a project and should probably come with a health warning, but I can honestly say that the the result it delivers is well worth the effort and extra 4539 calories (joking about the calories… although probably not far off). I’ve gone for a brown butter rye pastry in place of a biscuit base here, which might sound controversial (maverick), but it matches up to the nutty pecan topping really well and acts as a great textural contrast to the smooth, caramel-cored cheesecake filling. Give it a go, but be warned, it’s been described as ‘like crack’ by my eloquent taste-testers (who aren’t and never have been ‘on crack’, for the record).
For the base
175g plain flour
75g rye flour
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
For the caramel core
100g caster sugar
50ml double cream
pinch sea salt
2tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)
For the filling
600g full fat cream cheese
150g caster sugar
2tbsp corn flour
180ml soured cream
For the topping
50g dark brown soft sugar
3tbsp golden syrup or honey
1tbsp butter, melted
1tbsp plain flour
100g pecan halves, lightly toasted
Start off by browning the butter for the pastry. To do this simply melt it in a pan until it’s gently foaming, smells nutty and is a light golden brown colour. At this stage pour the butter in a heatproof bowl and pop in the fridge or freezer to set hard.
While the butter is firming up, make the caramel core. Place the sugar and water in a pan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and you are left with a clear syrup, then increase the heat and boil until it reaches a deep golden brown. Add in the cream (be careful as it will spit!) and stir for a further two minutes on the heat, then remove from the heat and add the salt and rum to taste. Set aside until needed.
Back to the pastry; once your butter has firmed up, chop into cubes and tip into a food processor along with the flours, cinnamon and sugar. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add in the milk and egg yolks. Pulse again a few times until the mix comes together in large lumps, then tip out onto your work surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease a 2.5inch tall/ 8inch wide spring form cake tin with butter and place a disc of greaseproof paper in the base.
Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick on a floured work surface then line the prepared tin, pushing the pastry into the corners as you go (I actually find it easier to cut out a circle of pastry for the base and 2 long rectangles for the walls when I’m using a cake tin for pies and tarts- just make sure you blend the joins between the pieces together and don’t leave any gaps). Trim away any excess from the top of the tin, prick a fork all over the base (not all the way through) to prevent air bubbles, then chill for 10 minutes, or until very firm. If you like you can cut out some leaves for decoration at this stage.
Once firm, line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans (ensuring that they come all the way to the top of the walls), then blind bake for about 15 minutes, or until the walls are supporting themselves. At this stage, remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and golden. Set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 120c.
For the cheesecake filling simply whisk together the cream cheese, sugar and corn flour until smooth, then add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Lastly, whisk in the soured cream and salt. Tip half of this mixture into the pastry case then drizzle over the caramel. Top with the remaining cheesecake mix (this should come to about an inch below the rim of the pastry case). Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the middle retains a little wobble. Set aside and allow to settle and cool down slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 170c.
While the cheesecake is baking, mix together all the topping ingredients, except the pecans,until smooth. Once your cheesecake has cooled to a point where it’s no longer hot to the touch, arrange the pecan halves across the surface, then pour over the syrupy mixture. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the topping has thickened slightly. Set aside to cool then chill to set up for at least 4 hours (ideally overnight). When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the tin and gently release the cheesecake, then slice up and enjoy!
Make the most of squash season with an ode to the Autumn months; made up of heavily spiced pumpkin and brown butter layers, smooth bourbon-laced caramel cream cheese icing and a slightly salty crunch of pecan brittle, this cake is absolutely delicious and marries together some of my favourite flavours.
Ingredients (serves 10-12)
For the bourbon caramel
200g caster sugar
100ml double cream
1-2tbsp bourbon ( spiced rum would also work, or feel free to omit the alcohol)
pinch sea salt
For the cake
250g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
225g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
large pinch salt
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cardamom
1tsp mixed spice
450g grated pumpkin (alternatively, you could use carrot or squash)
zest 1 lemon
100g pecans, roughly chopped
For the icing
250g full fat cream cheese
the bourbon caramel
For decoration (optional)
pecan praline (to make this melt 100g caster sugar in a pan until golden, then add 75g pecans, stir to coat and set on a piece of baking paper- once set, crush up)
Start off by making the caramel. To do this place the water and sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat; do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a clear syrup, increase the heat and boil until it turns golden brown. At this stage add the double cream and stir, then pour in the bourbon and stir again. Continue to stir on the heat for another couple of minutes, then set aside and add the salt to taste. Leave to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper. Place the butter in a saucepan and leave to melt and bubble until it starts to brown and smell nutty. Set aside to cool.
Once the butter has cooled put it in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) along with the sugars and egg and mix until pale and thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, baking powder and spices and stir until just combined. Stir through the pumpkin, sultanas, lemon zest and pecans. Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins. Meanwhile, make the icing by simply whisking together the mascarpone, cream cheese and caramel until smooth. Pile into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the tins and slice in half horizontally (leaving you with 4 layers). Pipe the icing in little mounds over the whole surface area of the first layer, then stack up the remaining layers, repeating the piping as you go. Decorate the top with pecan praline and thyme.
Bloom and Wild have just released a beautiful range of bouquets for Autumn/Winter, in collaboration with infamous London department store, Liberty. Each bouquet has been artfully designed to reflect some of the most coveted prints in the Liberty archive, from the vintage look 1910 Elysian Day, to the vibrant 60s Ciara. This week marks 5 years of letterbox flowers from Bloom & Wild, and to mark the occasion they asked me to create a very special birthday cake which encapsulates the style of the Bloom and Wild X Liberty collection.
To make this celebratory cake really striking, I’ve decorated it with meadowy blooms and wild greenery from the Rachel Deluxe bouquet, which is inspired by a 1988 Liberty print. To keep things simple but delicious, the sponge I’ve developed is light and zesty, with a hum of pistachio. For the filling I’ve gone with a raspberry and rose cream, in part because the bouquet boasts stunning quicksand roses but also because British raspberries are nearing the end of their season, so we need to make the most of them while we can. To apply the flowers, I trimmed and sealed the stems, then arranged them in as natural a way as possible, staying true to the print. I hope you all like what I came up with and enjoy the recipe- it’s perfect for late summer celebrations!
For the sponges
350g soft unsalted butter
325g golden caster sugar
Zest 2 lemons
200g ground pistachios (just blitz 200g shelled pistachios in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the rose and raspberry cream
400g double cream
2-3tbsp rose water (add this in small amounts, tasting between each addition)
2-3tbsp icing sugar (to taste)
200g fresh raspberries, lightly crushed with a fork
To finish (optional)
Bloom and Wild Rachael bouquet, or pistachios and crystallised rose petals
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy (this can take about 10 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little bit of the flour with each egg if you’re worried about curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, add the rest of the flour, ground pistachios, salt and baking powder and fold in using a large metal spoon.
Once you have a light, lump free cake batter, split between the two tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the cream, icing sugar, mascarpone and rose water until spreadable. Take 2/3 of this filling and ripple through the raspberries. Put the remaining 1/3 to the side (this is for coating the outside of the cake).
When you cakes are completely cool, slice in half horizontally so that you have four even layers. Place the first layer on your serving plate and spread over 1/3 of the raspberry cream, then repeat until you’ve stacked all four.
Take the remaining rose cream and spread a very thin layer over the cake to seal in any crumbs. Chill for 10 minutes to firm up a little, then cover with the last bit of rose cream (use a palette knife or cake scraper to do this). This stage is optional, you can leave the sides bare if you like.
To finish the cake, arrange fresh flowers all over the top (ensuring that you seal any ends and remove them from the cake before consumption!). Alternatively, decorate with lemon zest, pistachios and rose petals.
Sometimes ingredients just belong together, and that is certainly the case when it comes to sticky baked apricots and almonds. With these upside down almond cakes I’ve taken this tried and tested flavour combination and made it that little bit more delicious with the addition of fragrant, slightly woody rosemary, and salty-sweet pine nut praline (which, by the way, is extremely moreish). Serve up with a generous dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of good quality honey and take a basic, fairly retro little cake to a great seasonal dessert.
Ingredients (makes 12)
For the rosemary honey
2 sprigs rosemary
6tbsp runny honey
For the cakes
225g softened unsalted butter
225g golden caster sugar
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp chopped rosemary
150g ground almonds
6 ripe apricots
For the pine nut praline
100g pine nuts, toasted
125g caster sugar
generous pinch sea salt
creme fraiche or mascarpone
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a mini cake tray (I have a tray with 6 holes, each slightly larger in size than a muffin- I just used it twice as the recipe yields 12 mini cakes) with butter then dust with flour and shake out any excess (greasing and flouring should prevent any sticking). To be extra safe, place a little circle of greaseproof paper in the base of each hole. If you don’t have a mini cake tray, you could make these in large muffin cases, yielding about 15-18.
Before you make the cake batter, place the honey in a saucepan along with the rosemary sprigs. Heat gently until the honey starts bubbling slightly then set aside to infuse. You’ll use this later.
For the cake batter, place the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. To prevent curdling, add a little bit of the flour with each egg. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir together the rest of the flour, almonds, baking powder, salt, and chopped rosemary in a bowl. Add half of these fry ingredients along with half of the milk and fold in, then add the rest and fold again until you have a smooth mixture.
Drizzle about half a teaspoon of your infused honey into the base of each hole in your prepared tray. Half the apricots and place one half, cut side down, on top of the honey. Top with your cake mix (about 2/3 full) and level off the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cakes are baking, make the pine nut praline. To do this simply place the sugar in a pan and heat gently until it starts melting at the edges. Give it a swirl (do not stir) and once it’s all dissolved add the pine nuts. Stir to coat the pine nuts and once the caramel has reached a deep golden colour, scrape onto a piece of greaseproof paper and level out. Leave it to set hard (about 10-15 minutes) then blitz it up in a food processor with a very generous pinch of sea salt (don’t over blitz, it’s nice to have a bit of crunch).
When your cakes are ready, leave to cool in the tins for a while then carefully turn out. Heat the remaining infused honey, just to loosen, then brush all over the surfaces. Serve each cake with a spoonful of mascarpone and some of the pine nut praline.
This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloisebouquet by Bloom and Wild,is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.
For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)
100ml runny honey
4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender
For the blackberry compote
400g fresh blackberries
3tbsp runny honey
Zest and juice 1 lemon
For the hazelnut sponges
350g soft unsalted butter
325g light brown soft sugar
200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the lavender mascarpone cream
3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
350ml double cream
To garnish (optional)
The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
Crushed and toasted hazelnuts
Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.
This recipe is the first in a two part collaboration with Bloom and Wild, the letterbox flower delivery service. They’ve recently launched a collection of bouquets inspired by three well recognised destinations we all associate with summer; the tropics, the meadow and the desert. This week I’m going all club tropicana with the Ines, a bouquet inspired by the flora and fauna of, you guessed it, the tropics. The cake I’ve created to reflect this theme boasts four coconut sponge layers, a filling of caramelised pineapple and rum caramel, and a lime cream cheese frosting. It really delivers on flavour and if you’re throwing a birthday party any time soon would be a great centre piece… Also, the UK feels like the tropics at the moment anyway so you might as well go the whole hog and theme your baking accordingly (nearly went a whole post without mentioning the weather there… NEARLY).
For the coconut sponges
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g caster sugar
zest and juice 2 limes
350g self raising flour
50g desiccated coconut
100g coconut yoghurt
For the caramelised pineapple filling
1 ripe pineapple
75g soft dark brown sugar
50g unsalted butter, cubed
For the rum caramel (this will leave you with a little left over- keep in the fridge for a few days and use on ice cream!)
200g caster sugar
85g butter, cubed
125ml double cream
spiced rum, to taste (I used 2 shots)
generous pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese icing
125g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
200g cream cheese (full fat)
zest 2 limes
For decoration (optional)
the Ines bouquet by Bloom and Wild
toasted coconut shavings
rum caramel drips
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160c.
Start off by making the sponges. Place the butter, caster sugar and lime zest/juice in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour every now and then if you’re worried about curdling).
Once the eggs are well incorporated, add the flour, salt and desiccated coconut and fold carefully with a large metal spoon. Finally, fold through the coconut yoghurt.
Scrape the batter into the two cake tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, set aside to cool in the tins.
Increase the oven temperature to 180c. Slice the pineapple into even chunks, discarding the skin and central core. Soften the butter slightly and mix together with the sugar. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dot over half the butter mixture then place the pineapple pieces over the top in one layer. Top with the remaining butter mixture then place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and finally, add another baking tray to weight it down. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the pineapple pieces over and cook for another 15 minutes (or until golden and caramelised). Once caramelised, roughly crush the pineapple then set aside and leave to cool completely.
While the cakes and pineapple are cooling, make the rum caramel. To do this simply tip the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat until it melts (do not stir, just swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted, allow it to reach a deep golden colour then add in the butter and stir (it will spit a little so be careful). Now add the cream and stir again. Cook out for a further 2 minutes on the heat, then remove from the hob, add the rum and stir once more. Set aside to cool.
Finally, make the cream cheese icing. Place the butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and smooth. Add half the icing sugar and beat again (cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel to avoid an icing sugar explosion) until well combined, then add the rest along with the lime zest. Once these ingredients are well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Once all the elements are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. To do this slice both sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers) and place the first down on your serving plate of choice. Mix half the rum caramel in with the pineapple (reserve the rest for drips). Pipe a ring of cream cheese around the edge of this layer and fill the middle with your pineapple mixture. Repeat until you’ve used up all your sponges then spread a light layer of cream cheese icing all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes (to catch all the crumbs) then spread the rest of the icing on neatly. Finish with the flowers, or alternatively use toasted coconut and lime zest.