Carrot cake with orange mascarpone icing and candied pecans

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.

Carrot cake with orange mascarpone icing and candied pecans

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Apple and rosemary olive oil cake

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.

Apple and rosemary olive oil cake recipe - Lily Vanilli recipe


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More adventures at Le Cordon Bleu

Last time we spoke about my pâtisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu I was saying goodbye. The basic course was over and I really did think that I was done. Fast forward a couple of months and I’m midway through the intermediate level – what can I say, it was just too soon to leave. The learning curve has been steep but I’m loving my new set of skills and the creative challenges that the term is throwing at me. So I thought I’d show you guys what I’ve been up to back at school with a gallery of goodies. Special mention must go to my step palette knife who has become my best friend of late, he’s called Walter and he rules.

Click on the images below for a larger view and to launch the gallery

Pistachio and orange blossom cake

Don’t you just love pistachios? They’re so damn chic as well as delicious, all jade green with a hint of pink, definitely the prettiest of nuts and my favourite to bake with. This gorgeous cake partners the pistachios with the delicate tang of orange blossom water, a winning combo that contrasts well with the creamy mascarpone topping. Swayed by the sophisticated flavours, I decided to make some crystallised lavender flowers to sit on top, these are super simple but are best done the day before so that they can be left to dry overnight.

Pistachio and orange blossom cake on a cake stand and a vase of flowers

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Rock cakes: the Queens of the Stone Age red velvet

Queens of the Stone Age have a new album out, … Like Clockwork, and it rules. In my world, this triggers certain behaviours that are to be tolerated, nay encouraged. These include spontaneous woops of joy, doing a little dance and the baking of a bad ass cake. Here is the bad ass cake. I love a red velvet sponge and I liked the idea of taking this sweet bake to the dark side with black cream cheese frosting and a little QOTSA tongue-in-cheek. Plus, for Josh Homme, it has to be red; all hail the king of the gingers!

A red cake with a black Queens of the Stone Age sperm logo

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Margarita cake with two-toned roses

I was quite happy to call this cake The Tequila Smash but, my entry-level piping skills aside, the cake turned out to be a little too sophisticated for a comedy moniker in the end. Like any truly great cocktail, a cocktail cake is all about your ratios, so keep the hit of alcohol to either the sponge or the icing, never both. On this occasion, I went for a zesty lime sponge topped with margarita-infused, two-toned iced roses. I say roses, although swirls might be a more accurate description, but the thought was there and more importantly, so was the taste.

Margarita cake with white and green two-toned iced roses

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Apple & elderflower muffins

In a desperate bid to encourage some small sense of summer, I reached for one of my favourite sunny flavours and decided to lace a batch of muffins with it. Bit of baking logic for you there. Elderflower’s fragrant sweetness is so good with apple, its subtle but substantial, and really makes these muffins sing. These light, fluffy lovelies will be the perfect partner to a G&T in the garden should the sun ever come and join the party this year. Sigh.

Apple and elderflower muffins in brown paper cases

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