It feels right to get blogging again with a classic and as far as I’m concerned, the carrot cake completes the holy trinity of cake baking grande dames – flanked either side by the Victoria sponge and the chocolate cake. I know that a classic shouldn’t really need messing about with but I have to insist on pecans over walnuts here. You get all the texture without any of the bitterness and, when candied and dipped in bronze, you also get an ostentatious flourish that no diva worth her salt would turn down.
You know about me and brioche by now, we’re involved and it’s serious. I would normally be telling you to add absolutely nothing to the buttery perfection of a good brioche dough, why would you? But for those days when you feel like embracing a more is more attitude, give these babies a try. Crunchy pistachios and sweet tangy apricots manage to hold their own against the richness of the brioche, and they’re even better torn in half, smothered in jam and served as breakfast in bed.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of collapsing with a coffee and a slice of cake at Lily Vanilli’s bakery, chances are you’ll already know the wonders of this cake. If not, let me share the love, and the recipe, from her brilliant book Sweet Tooth. This isn’t a cake to call on when you need a slab of something sweet and familiar, it’s something altogether more thoughtful; for those days when chic trumps comfort.
When a Pac-Man cookie cutter meets a classic biscuit recipe only good things can happen, trust me. After successfully transforming the humble custard cream last year into a geeky tea time treat, I thought it was about time that the jammy dodger got the 16-bit treatment too. Novelty cutters aside, this is the best jammy dodger recipe I’ve found and comes courtesy of Justin Gellatly and his wonderful baking book Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding, so, even if Pac-Man isn’t your thing, I can guarantee that this recipe will be.
Here’s a little known fact. I’m an East End girl at heart, actually born within the sound of Bow bells and therefore perfectly entitled to go a little bit giddy at the prospect of a Hackney Bun. I have my newest cook book splurge, Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth, to thank for the introduction to Chelsea’s edgy little sister, and having given them a go, I’m hooked and can’t recommend them enough. What sets the Hackney Bun apart is the Guinness-soaked fruit, bringing a bittersweet, malty stickiness that’s almost too cool for school.
Ask any good double act and they’ll tell you that the secret to their success lies in the blending of opposites; a subtle mix that both elevates and tames their individual traits that on their own can be, well, just that little bit too much. For me, a rich, velvety custard tart needs a serious side of tang to cut the creaminess down to size, and this rhubarb compote has that in spades. On top of the rhubarb’s natural sharpness, the pink peppercorns give a hint of smoky warmth as well as adding to the Pretty in Pink vibe – always a good thing in my book.
As a citrus fiend, I’m never happier than when I can turn something inherently sweet just that little bit sour, and I’ve found that when you want citrus to take centre stage don’t mess about, you need a diva; step forward the pink grapefruit. Ridiculously beautiful, pale pink segments, fragrant tropically-tinted zest and a juice that while sharp, has non of the bitterness of lemons or limes, she’s the complete package in my book – and so this zingy take on the classic Bakewell slice is my ode to her. If you need any more convincing of the pink grapefruit’s fabulousness, it translates into French as la pamplemousse rose, chic, non?