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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Orange and pomegranate cake

Grey January days, the kind when the rain’s making a racket on the windows and the sky has been bleached of its blue, are the days that demand cake. Something simple yet vibrant, something reminiscent of the colours and tastes of the last couple of weeks – and here she is. This sweet, syrupy loaf cake is a riot of orange and pink, with a satisfying pop of sharpness thanks to the generous smattering of pomegranate seeds. Sliced thick and served with a pot of tea, it’s the perfect start to the year.

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Chocolate and hazelnut cookies

I seem to remember from my uni days that revising for exams requires three things; self-discipline, a decent soundtrack and sustenance. It was with this in the mind that I set about making a batch of Nigel Slater’s chocolate and hazelnut cookies before curling up in a chair to confront the reams of pastry recipes and baking trivia currently fighting it out for space in my brain box. These cookies are perfect. They have the power to comfort, encourage, delight and boost a flagging spirit, whether you’re being beaten by the books or simply wishing the rain away.

Chocolate and hazelnut cookies

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Fig flapjacks

Maybe it’s an age thing, or perhaps it’s because my baking is currently in the throes of French finessing, but right now, even the most familiar of recipes needs to offer a little something more. Something subtle to lift it above what you’re expecting but not enough to chase away the comfort and nostalgia often attached to our baking favourites. Case in point, a flamboyant flapjack strewn with flirty figs, dotted with golden apricots and laced with the earthy sweetness of maple syrup. Cosy just got chic.

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Chocolate muscovado banana cake

If Nigella is the Queen B of baking, then Nigel Slater is most definitely my king. Not only are his recipes a dream to follow and delicious to eat, it’s the way he writes them, gently coaxing you to the kitchen full of excitement at what you are about to create. His books are beautiful and tend to live on my bedside table, never quite making it to the book shelf, that’s how often I dip into them for inspiration. This week I was determined to face a fruity foe and turned to Nigel for back up. Bananas have been the bane of my baking life for as long as I can remember, fundamentally it’s a texture thing I think, mushy and stringy don’t really do it for me, and I’ve failed to find one recipe to change my mind – until now. Banana-phobes prepare to be converted, this cake has superpowers of persuasion.

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Rock cakes: Bowie brownies

*As seen on Easy Living*

My search for the perfect brownie recipe has been long and fraught but it turns out, the key to that elusive soft centre is to accept that brownies don’t play by the rules. When you test a batch of brownies, the knife should never come out clean, in fact, in the words of Nigel Slater, ‘if the skewer comes out clean, then I’m afraid you’ve blown it.’ And while I’m sure that the success of this particular batch comes down to knowing this, I like to think that the addition of a Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt played it’s part too.

Six chocolate brownies with Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt decoration

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