Apple & Sultana cake with Maple frosting

By Di Melling on May 11, 2014

I always like to do a big cake alongside all the traybakes and cookies at my Friday Pop-up Cafe. This Apple cake was in a cookbook I have had for ages but I just hadn't really looked at it before. The picture wasn't very good, so I didn't know what to expect. Well, what you can expect is a really delicious cake, that is hard to describe, but the closest I got was to say it was a cross between a hot cross bun and a cheesecake. Yep, you got to try it now, haven't you?

Recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

80g sultanas

4tbsp water

280g plain flour

half tsp cinnamon

quarter tsp salt

half tsp baking powder

One and a quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda

120ml olive oil

160g caster sugar

half tsp vanilla pod

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 bramley apples (I didn't have them, so used a braeburns) peeled and diced

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 egg whites


Start by greasing and lining a 20cm springform, or loose bottomed cake tin. Oven is 170˚C (150˚C fan).

Now put the sultanas in a saucepan with the water and heat up and boil until the water is absorbed into the fruit. Leave to cool.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

With an electric mixer, combine the olive oil and sugar. Add the vanilla (I use a vanilla bean paste, or you can do the slitting the bean thing!) now gradually add the whole eggs. The mix will be quite thick and emulsified. Mix in the apple, sultanas and lemon zest. Now fold in the dry ingredients (it will be quite dry at this stage).

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peak stage and then fold into the mix in about 3 stages, trying not to bash out the air you have created.

Pour into the prepared tin and level with a knife. Place in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour 15 mins (the recipe says 1 hour 30, but I found mine was cooked early, so best to check).

Cool for a while in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled. You can now cut the cake in half and apple the frosting (see below) in the middle and on top. The top of my cake was pretty domed, so I just sliced a little bit off (and used as a very important taster) before frosting.

Maple frosting

100g butter at room temp

75g light muscovado sugar

60ml maple syrup

200g cream cheese

For the frosting I reduced the sugar and maple quantities as I was worried it was going to blow my mind with sweetness (and also because I'm not some maple syrup millionaire). So if you follow the quantities above and then have a little taste, don't feel bad if you want to slug a little more sweetness in.

Beat sugar, butter and syrup with an electric whisk, then add the cream cheese and continue to whisk until lovely and smooth.

It's now ready for lashing over the cake.

Valentine Cakes

By Di Melling on February 13, 2014

In my little corner of the country we have been hit pretty bad by the rains and storms, so it is lovely to have a bright sunny day to do my baking. I am sure it's just the calm before the next storm though.

I've done some little chocolate cakes in my silicone heart moulds, then made a ganache with equal quantities of double cream and dark choc, melted over a pan of simmering water and then finished off with a half strawberry.

But the way to my Valentine's heart is via Lemon cake, so I have also made a lemon layer cake and sandwiched it with a cream cheese frosting, lemon curd and blueberries. Then finished with a drizzly icing made from lemon juice and icing sugar.

I hope that someone is spoiling you this Valentines and that you are warm and dry x


It's beginning to look a bit like…

By Di Melling on December 12, 2013

Oh yes, the kitchen is sprinkled in cinnamon sugar and studded with cloves. The smell of Christmas cakes and mince pies in the oven at this joyful time of year.

At the pop-up cafe this friday (13th) we have these lovely Gingerbread Blondies which are great if you want something Christmassy but you're not into mince pies. And, oh dear, I've cut them a bit big today! Don't worry we will be at hand with tea and coffee aplenty to keep it company.




Pop up Cafe

By Di Melling on November 24, 2013

I've been very busy in my little kitchen for the last few weeks. I am doing a pop-up cafe every friday in our local church hall (St Edmund Campion, Maidenhead).

It has taken loads of organising and then loads of cooking, but we have now done 2 fridays and I'm so pleased with the results. We have created a lovely space where people can come and enjoy lunch or coffee.

It has given me an excuse to try out new recipes and air my old favourites.

Marmalade Cake with Almond and Polenta

By Di Melling on October 15, 2013

There was a lovely golden Autumnal moment at the end of last week but it has now been replaced with a cold greyness. I am sharing this cake with you to get us back to the lovely warm late sun and forget our cold feet!

I created this cake last season for the events in the van. I had been making a Sherry and Almond cake which was similar, but wanted to find a way to get some marmalade into a cake, because I love it!

The advantage of this cake is, it is great for anyone wanting a gluten free treat, but doesn't feel like a "special need" cake, so will be fine for everyone else too.

About an hour before you want to get baking, soak the raisins so they will be lovely and tender and soft when they go into the cake.

200g raisins

150ml orange juice

zest of half a large orange (or more if you are orange mad)


The cake mix is as follows:

250g softened butter

250g caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten

200g ground almond

100g polenta

100g self-raising flour (I used Dove's farm gluten-free flour, but you don't have to)

heaped dessertsp marmalade (approx 60g)


Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl with an electric hand whisk, until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, whisking in between additions until it's all used up.

Add the spoon of marmalade to the raisin mixture and stir well. Now add the orangey raisins into the creamed butter mix. Next add the dry ingredients and stir carefully until it is all combined.

The recipe only makes 1 cake, I was being flash doing 2 at the same time!



Now pop the mixture into a lined 9" springform round tin and smooth over the top. I sprinkle a little demerara over the top to make it look sparkly. It's now ready to go in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C (160˚fan) for approx 60 minutes. You will find if you are using gluten-free flour it seems to take a bit more cooking (about 15 mins) but keep checking until the centre doesn't feel soft and liquidy anymore. (If it is turning too brown while you wait for it to be cooked through, then just pop a little foil over the top).

Cool in the tin and enjoy.

Note: the cake freezes very well.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

By Di Melling on September 23, 2013

A little while ago, my friend Maria asked me if I had a recipe for a bundt tin (a tin with a hole). Well I don't have the tin, so have never really bothered to acquire a recipe.

But I found this one whilst browsing through Blue Eyed Bakers blog and decided to give it a go. The thing about cakes in these tins is they are huge, so you really only want to be baking them if you have a crowd to feed.

My eldest son is doing his confirmation soon and they were all asked to bake cakes for a sale this weekend. The perfect excuse to make a big ol' cake. So this was my contribution. And thank you to Maria for letting me borrow the tin to practice in.


16oz self raising flour

0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

18oz caster sugar

8oz butter

5 eggs

zest of 2 lemons

250ml buttermilk (most of a 284ml pot)

3 tbsp lemon juice



3.5oz caster sugar

5 tbsp lemon juice


Mix the soda and flour together in a bowl (with a hand whisk puts a little air into it too).

With an electric whisk cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs and lemon rind and continue to whisk. Now add the flour in 3 batches, alternating with the thirds of the buttermilk. Lastly add the lemon juice. (I continued to use the electric whisk but with speed at minimum as it stops any lumps appearing).

Pour into a greased and sprinkled with flour bundt tin. Bake for 55 mins at 350˚F, 180˚C (160 fan). Test with a skewer, it should come out clean when it's cooked through. Also it will have a lovely golden crisp top.

Turning out a cake like this is a bit nerve-racking. So leave it for 5-10 mins and say a little prayer to the patron saints of cake extraction. I turned mine out onto a tray and then poured the glaze over it. As you can imagine you end up with a lot of the glaze on the tray, but that will soak into the bottom of the cake nicely.

Wait until it has cooled before slicing into nice thick chunks.

Had to test it before it went to the Bake Sale…was delicious and now I want to bake another one!




Apple and Cinnamon Cake

By Di Melling on September 10, 2013

I've spent the last couple of weeks getting annoyed when people mention that it feels a bit Autumny. Up until last thursday we still had 29˚C temperatures and all the leaves still on the trees.

Well, what a difference a week makes. Yesterday it was only about a third of the temperature and the trees are turning brown and all I want to do is shut all the windows and get my winter clothes out!

This cake is my change of season cake. There are literally apples everywhere down my road and I am getting offers of more and carrier bags full of them keep appearing on my doorstep! So this will, at least, help to use them up.

The recipe is taken from a 1980s Marks and Spencers cookbook. I have added the cinnamon. It also works really well with plums.

Here is the recipe:

2 large eggs

8oz caster sugar

4oz butter

1/4 pint of milk (full-fat if possible)

6.5oz self-raising flour

3-4 bramley apples (but I used tiny apples, so increased the amount, see picture) chopped, or sliced

Half a cinnamon stick

10z demerara sugar

In the original recipe you peel and thinly slice the apples and lay them on top of the batter. I have eaten this cake many times that way, and I love it. But today my apples are so small there is no way I was peeling them. So I just trimmed round the core and chunked them up.

Now for the cinnamon sugar. If you can't be bothered to crush up a stick, then just use about 1/2 tsp of ground. But this really does give a fresher, more subtle flavour and is quite fun to do. Mash up the stick and sugar in a pestle and mortar until you have got rid of most of the big bits of bark. I just picked out anything that I thought would be too big to eat and was left with consistency of dried tea leaves.

Pour all the sugar over the cut apples and leave while you make the cake batter.

Line a 9 x 13" roasting/baking tin.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy and the whisk leaves a trail when it is lifted out. Put the butter and milk into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir, still boiling, into the egg mix.

Sieve in the flour and carefully mix together (I used a balloon whisk) until there's no lumps of flour left. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and then evenly drop the apple pieces over the top. Don't let too much of the juice fall in with them.

Bake at 200˚C (180˚C fan) for 20-25 mins until well risen and golden (when testing the cake, be aware it is a soft cake). Cool in the tin and then eat in any way you think suitable. For me it is served slightly warm with a drizzle of single cream.

Thank you autumn for your bounty, I am ready to embrace you now!


Raspberry Drizzle

By Di Melling on July 18, 2013

Yes, apparently a raspberry can drizzle!

I like it when an idea comes into my very confused and over-burdened brain. I needed a nice summery cake for my husband and pals to munch on after their triathlon last weekend and this is what I came up with.

I usually go towards all things lemony when the sun comes out, and push all thoughts of chocolate to the back of the cupboard. I was all set to make a lemon drizzle. But I had over-bought raspberries at the market, so I thought I would throw a few in with the lemon mixture and see how it went.

I think this needs a bit more work as the cake was very soft. But after an hour in the fridge it seemed fine. The thing I hadn't realised was just how "pink" this cake would be. Perfect for an afternoon tea with the ladies, but I wasn't sure how well it would go down with the burly blokes after their race!

My usual lemon drizzle recipe is:

175g butter, softened

175g caster sugar

2 eggs (beaten)

175g self raising flour

splash of milk (approx 2-3 tbsp)

8" square tin, lined with baking parchment

For the raspberry version I mashed up a handful of raspberries to go in with the cake mixture. And the rest of the punnet I reserved for the drizzle. (NB, I know the measurement of "a handful" is not very exact, but see how much your mixture will take and how raspberry-ish you want it).

Cream butter and sugar with electric hand whisk, until light and fluffed up a bit. Add beaten eggs a little at a time and then fold in the flour, this will be too dry to take all the flour, hence the splash of milk. Keep quite a stiff mixture, and then fold in the mashed raspberries.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C (160˚C fan) for approx 30-35 mins, until the centre springs back when lightly pressed and it has a nice golden brown top.

For the drizzle I used juice from half a lemon, plus another handful of raspberries mashed and sieved, and add 50g of caster sugar and pour over the top of the cake.

This cake went in a flash after the triathlon and absolutely nobody mentioned the great big "pink" elephant in the room!

Enjoy your summer baking x

Pimms o'clock!

By Di Melling on July 4, 2013

I am going over to some very good friends (and drinking companions) tomorrow night and wanted to take something special with me.

I remembered having some homemade Pimms courtesy of my step-mum. It was so delicious and had a far greater "kick" than anything you can buy ready-made.

Now this will make me sound like a heavy drinker, which I am not. But I do love a strong Gin and Tonic and then usually leave it at that. And although I really like drinking Pimms, it does feel a bit like non-alcoholic punch.

So this version is definitely not "session" alcohol. If you are going to be sipping something all evening, stick to the weaker stuff!

Only 3 ingredients:

Gin (good stuff if you can)

Red Vermouth (I used Martini Rosso and the smell took me straight back to my parents drink cabinet)

Triple Sec (or any Orange liqueur, I used Grand Marnier because it was on special offer)


You use 2 parts Gin, 2 parts Vermouth and 1 part Triple Sec.

I made 500ml with 200ml Gin, 200ml Vermouth and 100ml Grand Marnier.


This is definitely not a cheaper version, if you need to buy all the ingredients it will cost a fair bit. Hopefully you have some of them lurking in the cupboard already.

I fancy a little taste of this…what time is Pimms o'clock anyway?

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

By Di Melling on June 6, 2013

Wow! We had some lovely weekends in the garden in May. That is definitely something to celebrate.

This has been my favourite cake this month. It uses lovely rhubarb that is growing its socks off in my garden.

It works equally well for afternoon tea and for a pudding with a dollop of cream.

100g butter, softened

100g caster sugar

100g mixed nuts, chopped

1tsp cinnamon

250g dark brown sugar

1 large egg

225g plain flour

1tsp bicarb of soda

0.5tsp salt

2 cartons of sour cream (142ml each, or 1 x 300ml)

300g rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces

Oven is pre-heated to 180˚C (160˚C fan). Line a 9 x 13" baking tin with baking parchment.

Melt 15g of butter and stir into the caster sugar, nuts and cinnamon in a bowl and leave until later.

Beat the rest of the butter with the brown sugar and egg (electric hand whisk is good for this). When it's nice and smooth stir in the flour, soda and salt and the soured cream. Finally stir in the rhubarb pieces.

Pour this mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the sugary nut topping. Bake for 30-35 mins. It is quite a soft cake, but you can tell it's cooked if it looks nicely brown and crisp on top.

You can serve it straight away if it's for a pudding, or else leave to cool in the tin and cut into chunky squares to eat any time of day. Enjoy x