Angel food cake, light as air and fat-free. It’s like eating cloud. Really sweet cloud. But surprisingly, it can be sliced and layered, filled with cream and fruit and curd without fear of collapsing. What it is basically is a butterless, fatless, egg yolk-less sponge. Airy-fairy.
Cheat's apple strudel with apple chunks and raisins wrapped in sweet tea bread dough. This is a cheat’s recipe. There’s no stretching and stretching and stretching and reading love letters through the dough involved.
The dough for these sweet apricot buns is very versatile. Try spreading it out, focaccia-style, in a baking tray and topping with fruit and crumble. Try putting lots of dried fruit on top, folding in half or rolling and baking into a strudel.
Apricot upside-down butter cake. Just when I thought I've seen it all when it comes to cake batters, here comes this little number and what a lovely one it is. The texture is gorgeous, it's not hard to make and it keeps if you let it.
White chocolate banana blondie with chunks of brazil nut toffee. Banana blondie recipe from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet recipe book.
Banana bran muffins with raisins and cinnamon - perfect for breakfast. Most pastries can be frozen when baked and just cool and they will be good as fresh after an hour on the kitchen top. The only problem is they can never, ever win with the competition from a bacon butty…
Banana cake with raisins and honey glaze. Not sure why some call it banana ‘bread’ – it’s cake all right, sweet and raisiny, and just to make double certain no one will cut a slice of it for a ham and cheese sarnie, I’ve glazed it with sticky honey and cream topping.
Banana muffins with dried mango and pineapple chunks. This is a good cake mix – the best, the banana cake. I honestly can’t recall where the recipe comes from.
Blood orange and olive oil cake with zest and chunks of orange in the mix. If you’d like to ice it, beat juice of half a blood orange into 80g icing sugar until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake and spread with a palette knife.
Blood orange muffins with poppy seeds and orange syrup drizzle. These muffins could well be made with ordinary oranges but for the pleasure of handling that lovely fruit, use blood. BLOOD. Not blush. Recipe courtesy Good Food Magazine.
Sweet focaccia-style tea bread topped with blueberries and crumble. Ordinarily, thinking focaccia will bring to mind an image of flat, thin bread decorated sparsely with whatever, preferably savoury, preferably olives.
Blueberry muffins. The best. The easiest. By all means use frozen berries in the bleak mid-winter. Better that than paying extortionate price of bluebs imported from Darkest Peru. And frozen ones are very well-behaved: they stir nicely into the mix, don’t go mushy like raspberries and retain their shapes.
Brown cake - the easiest apple cake with cocoa and spices. I’ve had the recipe for so long I can’t say where it comes from, just a printout without any heading. It must have been one of my first attempts at baking, I liked it so much that one year...
The ultimate brownie - the best you've ever eaten, with milk and white chocolate chunks, just to be extra indulgent. I do understand chocoholics and this is specially for them. Good old fashioned brownie. Hits the right spot without fail.
Yule log, or buche de Noel made with chocolate sponge and chocolate whipped cream filling. This is DEFINITELY the best dessert on Christmas day. It rides onto the table when everyone is in deep gluttonous stupor after third helpings of turkey and just one more last spoonful of stuffing, and suddenly they perk up mumbling ‘this is a bit of all right’ and ‘I might have room for the thinnest slice more’.
Carrot cake - what a classic! Staple in every respectable old-fashioned English tea room, and in those quaint eateries that line up puddings on the counter, under the glass cloches, and the choice you get is invariably victoria sponge, cheesecake and carrot cake.
Carrot cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting. Best cupcakes ever – adopted for Halloween because carrot cake mix is a/ comforting, b/ easy to make with kids...
Carrot cake with a fancy twist - with oranges and pistachios, flavoured with tahini and pomegranate molasses, with cream cheese frosting. Posh carrot cake. Fancy carrot cake. Use your regular recipe 364 days a year but make THIS once for a special occasion.
Cherry and marzipan cake: a simple buttermilk cake batter with glace cherries and a layer of homemade marzipan. Result: stunning. Just try. And don’t you DARE use shop bought marzipan!
Sweet triple cherry buns - with jam, dried and glace cherries. The dough is gorgeous. My grandmother used to make this type of dough, stretch it, focaccia style, into the bottom of a large baking tray, then put fresh soft fruit on top and cover the lot in crumble.
Chocolate cake with apricot filling and chocolate ganache. So what’s special? It’s chocolaty all right, but it’s got a whisper of apricot jam which was made to be in a marriage with chocolate, it has dark chocolate ganache...
Chocolate genoise cake with layer of raspberry buttercream and whipped chocolate ganache frosting. I can wholeheartedly recommend that combination for a birthday or a non-birthday cake. It can be prepared in stages.
Double chocolate muffins, wonderfully gooey in the centre and a doddle to make. These little things will surely be firm favourites with whoever you make them for, builders or not. Incredibly easy to make it must be said - you needn’t even take care not to overmix like usually with muffins.
Chocolate loaf cake with crunchy streusel; not too sweet, not too sickly, just right. With a large mug of milky coffee it will go down a treat even at half past seven in the morning.
Chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow frosting. The classic is chocolate but they come in other flavours: vanilla, raspberry, red velvet or pumpkin. The filling should be marshmallow (made with Marshmallow Fluff if you’re in New England), but cream cheese, buttercream or chocolate all acceptable too.
A different take on a Christmas pudding, with carrots and dates, baked instead of steamed. A cross between a carrot and date cake, a lighter sticky toffee pudding, baked not steamed, sauce still served – this is the one to try.
Christmas Stollen with homemade marzipan. Stollen tastes absolutely divine when still warm from the oven but it keeps surprisingly well, better than panettone, admittedly not as light and fluffy.
Cinnamon swirls with raisins and maple syrup. Almost like Danish, only easier to make. Best straight from the oven. If you keep them – give them a two minute grill attention.
Colomba Pasquale - Italian Easter bread baked in the shape of a dove. I know that different parts of the world have different celebration cakes for Easter: Simnel, Roisinbrot, Kulich, and so many others.
Danish pastries with jam and raisin wheels - brushed with lemon icing. Just about the best thing ever – laminated dough. On average I bet people don’t realise that it’s actually simple bread dough enriched with butter.
Dome cake made with genoise sponge filled with raspberry mousse and buttercream. A lot of faff, admittedly, but it definitely delivers the ‘wow’ factor.
Easy Danish dough, homemade apple and raspberry filling. So what you are supposed to do is simply mix the butter a bit with yeasty flour and some liquid, leave it in the fridge and then roll out once or twice.
Christmas fruit cake - lighter in colour and in taste but still rich and full of raisins, berries, apricots, figs and almonds. It keeps very well but needn’t be made weeks ahead of Christmas – tastes best when it had been standing for a couple of days.
Fruity, nut free mince pies made from scratch: the best shortcrust pastry and delicious fruit filling. I never used to like mince pies until I made them at home. The fact is that all shop-bought pies, even the posh, fancy, Hestonised and overpriced numbers taste mainly of too much orange peel and too much booze. As much as I’m the last person to complain about too much booze, I like to keep it separate from cakes. And orange peel is usually nasty, unless you make it yourself (I don’t) or spend quite a bit more money than even Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients charge.
Galette des rois, an elegant treat for the night of Epiphany, or any other time during the twelve days of Christmas. There are some lovely traditions associated with the galette: a ‘fève’ is hidden inside the cake - a tiny china figurine or an almond - and the lucky person to find it (and not choke on it) is crowned a king or queen for the carnival.
Gâteau Basque, the traditional butter pastry from the Basque region. The pastry is awfully rich, buttery and heavy, like a posh relative to shortcrust. Easy to put together, especially that, unlike shortcrust, it doesn’t need chilling in the fridge
Gateau Breton, Breton butter cake is unlike any other cake I’ve tried, the crunchy crust quite short and dense but not as crumbly as shortcrust. It melts in your mouth and has a lovely flavour from all those egg yolks and butter. It can be filled with jam...
This is a genoise sponge cake with mascarpone and blueberry filling. Before my last birthday (oh yes, I make my own birthday cake in this house, no respite for the wicked) I thought I’d make something restrained. Elegant.
St. Louis gooey butter cake made from scratch, with the best gooey buttery topping. The gooey butter is sold as breakfast pastry and there are two variants, fiercely defended by the respective factions. One: ready cake mix and a cream cheese topping sounds lovely and easy but the yeast base and buttery sugary goo on top appeals to me with the force of the original.
Hazelnut ricotta cake, with poppy seeds and an apricot jam and grated chocolate topping. A grownup cake - none of that bish bash mix-everything-together nonsense: you have to separate the eggs...
The best hot cross buns with proper piped crosses and honey glaze. I start baking them in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on, and I probably bake up to 50 in a season! Because there’s nothing better for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun.
Hot cross buns with raisins, dried apricots and citrus peel. Try this – by all means. It’s still a good bun and none you can buy in the shops are a patch on it. They keep rather well and only on the third day had to be toasted a little.
Hungarian flourless hazelnut cake with buttercream filling. This is a fantastically nice cake that incidentally happens to be flourless, just so, and anyone will completely love it, gluten-shy or not.
Island buttermilk cake: no eggs, no butter, just fresh berries and the magic ingredient - buttermilk. The cake originates from Cranberry Island Bakery in Maine which sadly is no more. Huge shame as their defunct Facebook page also shows some divine whoopies.
Italian yoghurt cake, or torta allo yogurt, or torta 7 vasetti. Also known as gâteau au yaourt in France. Lovely and moist, fragrant with lemon zest.
Julekake, Norwegian Christmas bread with raisins, citrus peel and cardamom flavour. Now this is what I call Christmas Day breakfast - and even better on Boxing Day, toasted and thickly buttered. Better than a brioche - firmer and more substantial, and not so rich.
Festive Krantz cake with chocolate and walnut filling - quite unusual. No idea what its name means and no, it’s not the same as Kranz – creamy ‘crown’ cake. I found my recipe in ‘Baking with Passion’ by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington.
Lemon drizzle cake with poppy seeds. The kind of cake that can make you hum when eating it. It’s the one-slice-is-never-enough cake. It’s the how-come-there’s-none-left? kind of cake. And it’s easy, easy-peasy, even my nephew could whip it up.
Cookies and privacy
We welcome your feedback and suggestions.