Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.

Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

I like to have one or two definitive recipes for each seasonal fruit. Ones that I know will always work and when the season for that fruit comes around again I get excited and start salivating about making again. But up until now, I have never had one such recipe for blueberries. So, I set about rectifying the situation and the first thing that sprang to mind was Blueberry Cheesecake.

I am always a little apprehensive about making cheesecake. I think I have just had so many horrid ones, over sweet, gelatinous and gloopy! When I was a kid in the 70’s I even remember making one from a packet which was pretty disgusting. But then I went to New York and I will never forget the wondrous baked cheesecakes, topped with sour cream. Slightly grainy at the edges, totally wobbling creaminess in the middle. Mind-blowing. So, I was a little nervous of trying to recreate what I had reminisced. I scoured through hundreds of recipes to find one that sounded right, and never imagined that the first one I tried was going to turn out such perfection.

Baked Blueberry and Vanilla Cheesecake

150g digestive biscuits, smashed

20g caster sugar

70g butter, melted


800g Philadelphia cream cheese

150g creme fraiche

190g caster sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, or essence

4 eggs

30g flour

50ml milk

200g blueberries

100g creme fraiche

200g blueberries to decorate

Preheat oven to 170 C / Gas mark 4. Lightly oil a 25cm cake tin. I lined mine with grease-proof as I was frightened that otherwise it would leak.

Mix the biscuits, sugar and butter together and press evenly into the bottom of the tin to form a base. I used a potato masher.

Mix the creme fraiche, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla using an electric mixer. Add the eggs one after another and always mix well in between. Add the milk and flour and mix as well. Stir in the blueberries and pour into the tin. Bake for about 1 hour in the oven. The cake should be well risen, golden brown on top and just very slightly wobbly in the middle. Take out and allow to cool. After cooling spread the cake with 100g of creme fraiche and let it cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I couldn’t wait and ate mine after about an hour. Decorate with blueberries.


Carrot Cake

I can’t believe that in over a year of writing this blog with Simon, that I have never shared my Carrot Cake recipe with you. I have served this cake up at countless Riverford Lunches over the years and everyone is always after the recipe. So here it is. By the way, when I say “my” Carrot Cake recipe, I actually blatantly stole it  from the fabulous “Baking with Passion” by Dan Lepard.


Carrot Cake

This cake can be dairy-free if you use a different icing. This is a big cake. You can half the recipe for a smaller one, or it works well as cupcakes too. Just cook for a little less time.

Serves: 10-12

300g self raising flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

4 eggs

335ml sunflower oil

450g sugar

125g of grated carrots

140g chopped walnuts

2 tbsp boiling water


175g unsalted butter softened

300 full fat cream cheese softened

200g icing sugar sifted

Pre-heat the oven to 170C. I use two spring form tins (23 cm) that I butter bottom and sides. Cover the buttered bottoms of the tins with a circular piece of baking paper. Separate 2 of the 4 eggs. In a large bowl (or food processor) beat together both the oil and the sugar. Add the whole eggs one at a time, beat the mixture well before adding the two egg yolks. Stir in both the grated carrots and the chopped walnuts. Fold in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt then add the boiling water. In another bowl, whisk the 2 egg whites to soft peak stage. Fold it into the batter. Divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool before removing them from the tins.

Make sure the butter is really soft before making the icing. Whisk all the ingredients together with a electric mixer until thick like frosting. Make sure your cake is really cool before you ice it. In summer, keep the icing in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Sandwich some icing between the two tiers of cake and then cover the rest with what remains.


Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

Pears can be a little tiring. They often seem to go from rock hard to too soft whenever you are not looking. It is so rare to catch them just perfect. This is a great recipe because it doesn’t really matter how hard they are. You just cook them in the caramel for a little longer and it the best pear cake I have ever eaten.



Firm Conference pears should work a treat here. Add a glug of Amaretto if you like or a little vanilla extract. You can replace the flour with gluten free flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Serves 8

For the caramel

25g Butter

25g Sugar

For the cake

225g unsalted butter, softened

190g caster sugar

6 pears, firm but not too hard, peeled, cored and quartered

3 eggs

115g ground almonds

115g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter, spring-form cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sugar. When it starts to melt, stir and cook until a deep golden brown and beginning to smoke. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir to dissolve and add the pear quarters and return to a medium heat. Cook the pears in the buttery caramel for five to 10 minutes, until they start to brown and soften (the time taken will vary greatly, depending on how ripe the pears are). Tip into the bottom of your prepared tin.

Put the remaining butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the amaretto or vanilla if using. Add the self-raising flour and almonds and fold in gently (or pulse in the food processor.) Top the pears with the cake mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife pushed into the centre comes out clean.  Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.


Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

More on rhubarb – my favourite rhubarb recipe of all has to be this delicious upside down cake.  I am bit particular about my flavour pairings with my rhubarb.  Whilst many lean towards orange and ginger, I feel that they are too distracting in flavour and think that the more subtle vanilla or almond works better. Muscovado sugar adds a toffee note and makes sure that the cake is not too sweet. I am particularly fond of the sort of cakes that you can serve as a pudding, with a big dollop of clotted cream or a jug of custard Finally you cannot deny that this cake fully exploits the rhubarbs beautiful colour with its mosaic like pattern on top. If you wished you could take a little time arranging the rhubarb pieces in even more of an intricate design, but personally I just chuck them in.  The rhubarb gently stews in its own juices and ever so slightly begins to caramelise.  Quite delicious!

(I am attempting a dairy-free / gluten free version of this cake this week using rice flour and baking powder instead of the self-raising flour.  I’ll let you know how I get on.)

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake prep

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Upside-down Cake

400g pink rhubarb

150g golden caster sugar

130g dark muscovado Sugar

150g unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs, beaten

110g self-raising flour

110g ground almonds

135g (1/2 cup) sour cream

1 tsp of Vanilla Bean Paste

pinch salt

Spring-form cake tin with a diameter of 24cm and a depth of 6cm, greased, sides and base lined with one piece of baking parchment

Serves: 8

Cut the rhubarb into 1cm slices and toss them, in a bowl, with the caster sugar.

Tip into your tin and scatter evenly.

Preheat the oven to 170C, 325F, gas mark 3.

Cream together the butter and muscovado sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs.  Don’t worry if it curdles.  Fold in the flour, almonds, vanilla and sour cream. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth on top of the rhubarb, making sure it is evenly covered.  Bake in the oven for about 3/4 hour or until the cake is firm to a light touch in the centre. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before loosening around the edges with a knife and turning out either onto a serving plate or a wire rack to finish cooling.

This is good served with some custard, clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb 1

Butternut Squash & Walnut Cake with Maple Icing

Of all the recipes that I have posted on this blog, the one I wanted to work on the most was the Butternut Squash Muffins. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the finished result and I also felt unhappy that the recipe was in cups and not grams and ounces. So this week I have been working on another version – Butternut Squash & Walnut Cake with Maple Frosting. I like the fact that the butternut squash goes in raw rather than adding a baked puree. It add moisture to the cake in the same way as a carrot cake does and is much less heavy.

Week after week, when cooking the Riverford Lunches, people ask me how to get their kids to be more adventurous with vegetables and try new flavours. Cakes are such a great way of doing this, especially if you can include a vegetable that they believe to have a particular aversion to, be it beetroot, parsnips, carrots or butternut squash. By getting them to try new vegetables this way it challenges their preconceptions of what they do and do not like.

Butternut Squash & Walnut Cake with Maple Icing 3

Butternut Squash & Walnut Cake with Maple Icing
160g/ ¾ cup butter, softened
230g / 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
380g / 2 ½ cups plain flour
300mls / ¾ cup buttermilk
300g / 2 cups grated butternut squash (about ½ a butternut squash)
75g / ½ cup chopped walnuts

150g cream cheese, softened
400g Icing Sugar
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
Chopped Walnuts for the top

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a tin. Either about 30cms round or a 30cm x 30cm square.
In large bowl beat the butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until fluffy. Beat in baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add flour alternately with buttermilk, scraping side of bowl. Beat 1 minute. Stir in squash and the walnuts. Pour into the tin. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The amount of cooking will depend on your tin size. Cool completely. In medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and the maple syrup. Beat until smooth and creamy. Frost cake. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if you like.

Butternut Squash & Walnut Cake with Maple Icing 2

Chocolate and Beetroot Brownie

Not feeling at all well this week. I had a serious bronchial, chesty cough and felt really under the weather All of my great New Year resolutions about healthy eating have gone out the window. I need energy fast and that means chocolate. I am a strong believer that we crave what we need, so I simply must be deficient in chocolate. I even found this article on Net Doctor, although it may be a bit far fetched.

“A study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal has shown that eating chocolate could have a positive effect in reducing cough symptoms. The study showed that an ingredient in chocolate, called theobromine, was more effective at stopping persistent coughs than common cough treatments. There’s one study that’s shown some links. But the benefit may well only be due to the sweetness of the chocolate rather than anything else,’ says Professor Eccles. This stimulates salivation and mucus secretion that helps relieve cough symptoms.'”

Rather than eat large mouthfuls of the cooking chocolate straight out of the fridge, I decided to make a chocolate brownie, and so as not to give up on all my good resolutions quite yet, I decided to add some healthy beetroot from my veg box.


There is absolutely no doubt, beetroot is super good for you –

1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

2. Boost Your Stamina
If you need a boost to make it through your next workout, beet juice may again prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

3. Fight Inflammation
Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.

4. Anti-Cancer Properties
The powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson colour may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumour formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.

5. Rich in Valuable Nutrients and Fibre
Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fibre, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.

6. Detoxification Support
The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.

So as you see, it is just what the doctor ordered!

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie (Gluten Free) 1

Chocolate and Beetroot Brownie
This is particularly delicious with a dollop of clotted cream. Riverford do a very good one.
250g dark chocolate, chopped
200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
350g beetroot, about 2 medium sized
3 eggs
vanilla extract
200g golden caster sugar
50g cocoa powder,
50g rice flour (ground rice)
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C. Wrap the beetroot in tin foil and put in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are cooked when a skewer inserts and removes very easily. Remove the tin foil and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so. Slip the skins off, whilst still warm. (Wear surgical gloves if you have some.) Meanwhile put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Leave to melt. Alternatively, heat in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Purée the cooked beetroot in a food processor. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and sugar, and mix until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, rice flour, baking powder and ground almonds. Whiz up and then mix in the melted chocolate and butter.

Turn the oven down to 170C. Butter and then line with baking parchment a preferably rectangular tin, roughly 28 x 18cm. (I used a round one.) Pour in the mixture and place in the and bake for 30–35 minutes, until just firm to the touch. It’s important not to overcook brownies; a skewer inserted in the centre should come out only just clean. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into squares.

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownie (Gluten Free) 3

Banana & Pecan Bread

I always have bananas in the fruit bowl. They are the most perfectly packaged high nutritious snack. Yes, they may be high in sugar but at least it is unrefined sugar and it is so much better than reaching for a chocolate bar.

Bananas help overcome depression due to high levels of Tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin — the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter. They sustain your blood sugar level, are high in fibre, magnesium, B-vitamin, iron and potassium with can help lower your blood pressure.

The only trouble with bananas is, one minute they are sitting there, just a little bit green to eat and the next minute you turn round and the whole lot have gone black and the kids won’t touch them with a barge-pole.

I hate throwing food away! So here is a great use- up recipe. The blacker the bananas the better. Banana and Pecan bread! Never throw another banana away.

Banaana Bread

Banana and Pecan Bread
1 cup / 220g golden caster sugar
½ cup / 110g butter
2 eggs
2 cups / 300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1 cup / 100g pecans
1 cup / 2 or 3 / 200g black bananas, mashed

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time and amalgamate. Add the banana and mix well. (I used a food processor for the whole thing.) Mix the flour with the salt, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add in batches into the mixture, beating each time but don’t over mix. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pre-heat your oven to 160⁰C. Grease a loaf tin. (I used silicone which was brilliant.) Poor in the mix ¾ to the top. (If you have a little mix left, put into cupcake wrappers and bake at the same time.) Cook for about 40 to 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Banana Bread 3

Parsnip & maple syrup cake

This week, I am still experimenting with my “cakes with vegetables in them.” I went to do a Riverford lunch last week and put one of my old favourites on the menu – Parsnip & Maple Syrup Cake but then I was a little concerned as I realised that although I have made it many times in the last few years, I hadn’t actually tried it in ages. Unfortunately, due to often having to make a dash for it at the end of my lunches, for the school run, I am rarely around to get to try the dessert. So I thought I had better test it out at home, just to see if it was up to scratch. And now sitting here, at my computer and just finishing off my third slice, I can happily say, “It is!”

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

Parsnip & maple syrup cake
175g butter, plus extra for greasing
250g Demerara sugar
100ml maple syrup
3 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
250g parsnips, peeled and grated
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
50g pecans, roughly chopped
Zest and juice 1 small orange
Icing sugar, to serve

250g tub mascarpone
Maple syrup

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a large loaf tin. Line with greaseproof paper. (I used a silicone one which did not need lining.) Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over gentle heat, then cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into this mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice. Pour into the tin, then bake for 25-30 mins until the top spring back when pressed lightly and a skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone with just enough maple syrup to sweeten. Spread over the top of the loaf. If you like, dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake Crumbs

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins

And finally for this week, I am always looking for new puddings, cakes and desserts which help use up vegetable too. Firstly, it is a great way of ensuring that you get more veg into your and your kids diets but also it is really good at using up stray vegetables at the end of the week. I had a butternut squash hanging around and so I set to work thinking up something new. The only trouble with finding new recipes for cakes, is they have to work. It is not like a recipe for soup or curry; add a bit of this, chuck in a bit of that. Baking is a science and unless you have all your ingredients weighed out exactly, it just does not work.

Butternut Squash for microwave

I googled Butternut Squash Muffins and started wading through possible suggestions. Jamie Oliver’s received very bad press, a couple of American recipes did better. You have to be so careful with cakes with vegetables in them, as so often the recipe is completely precise until it lists “1 butternut squash” with no indication of even their size, let alone weight. I finally narrowed it down to the best sounding recipe with the most stars – “Perfect Butternut Squash Muffins.” It was a complete disaster. The batter was like glue, they were inedible and I had to completely start again. It was a bit distressing as it had made the hugest amount of mix which I hadn’t realised, as the measurements where all in cups. 3 cups of flour doesn’t sound much, but it is a whole lb in weight. The whole lot had to go in the bin.

I was determined to get it right next time. Just to be safe, I halved the recipe, made a lot changes and finally I am happy to share them with you. I have to say, they really are very good – lots of flavour, light and crumbly and a nice added crunch from the nuts. I just ate 3!

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins 2

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins
The microwaving the squash is a strange one, but it does work. Muffins do not like to be overworked so go easy. Finally, you need to allow them to cool well before eating so that the baking soda can do it’s work.
Makes 11- 12 Muffins
1 small butternut squash or ½ a larger one (1 cup cooked)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cut a 1/2-inch hole into the larger part of the squash and cook squash in a microwave for 6 minutes on high. Turn the squash over and cook for another 6 minutes until squash can be easily pierced with a fork. (If you would rather use the oven, cut the quash in half and roast in the oven at about 180⁰C for about 40 minutes, until soft.) Set aside to cool. If you haven’t turned on your oven then pre-heat it now, or turn it down to 170⁰C. Halve squash lengthwise, if you microwaved it and scoop out seeds. Measure 1 cup squash into a mixer or food processor. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar and maple syrup into the squash. Whisk well. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves and add to the squash mixture until you have a smooth batter. Do not over mix, pulse the food processor if necessary. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into muffin cups to about 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre

of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Butternut Squash, Microwaved