*pokes head around the door*

Hello! Yes, I’m back, finally. Almost a year to the day since my last post, goodness. Well, since I’ve been gone my second book has come out – RHS Plants from Pips – and I’ve another two due out in the spring. And I had a baby, a gorgeous little girl. But that’s enough about me…

So, The Great British Bake Off is over for another year. It’s something I always find time to put my feet up for, but I have to confess, I didn’t see the final, as we had family visiting. Possibly I enjoy it so much because it means a mid-week pudding? It’s essential to have something to hand whilst watching, just as it’s impossible to watch the film Chocolat without a cocoa-based snack. I tried to theme my bakes with the program’s theme for the week as well. Sometimes they were rather tenuous – for history week, I baked scones, as they were the first bake of mine that my husband ate (i.e. it was from our history, rather than the history of baking!) – but pastry week I not only baked a filo-pastry dessert but also used a recipe from a previous contestant, Ruby Tandoh. I felt this double-whammy more than made up for not making my own filo (see previous paragraph)!

This particular recipe I’d torn out from her column in the Saturday Guardian, though I can also recommend her book, Crumb. In the tearing out, I’d omitted the title, and scribbled ‘cheesecake pasties’ on it, but I’d say cheesecake samosas would be a more accurate description. Spoonfuls of cheesecake mix and fresh raspberries are folded into filo parcels, baked, and allowed to cool before eating. They were delicious.

I had thought to use blackberries, being more in season, but couldn’t locate any. However, I think this is a recipe that is ripe for adaptation. I’m going to try it with blackberries, and perhaps small strawberries, though these may be too watery, I’m not sure yet. I’m also quite excited about the prospect of making them half the size or smaller – bite-size – and filled with chocolate (orange) ganache. That’s a definite possibility for my daughter’s first birthday party, though I should probably concentrate on the cake first, as I just can’t decide what to do yet…

Apologies for absence

I think it’s fair to say this site has been somewhat neglected of late. As well as working on a new book, my life has changed significantly, and somehow it always got put to the bottom of the to-do list. Unfortunately, as I’m now on maternity leave, it’s unlikely that situation will change any time in the immediate future!

However, I hope to be back here soon, writing about our new home and courtyard garden on the Shropshire/Herefordshire borders, and the challenges of gardening and baking with a newborn and new dog to look after!

Grow your own Cake: vegetables


I’ve never really known what to call my husband on here or in the big bad world of social media. So many other writers have already picked good names for their loved ones that both protects their identity and projects a good image of them and their relationship. Laetitia Maklouf calls her husband the Hunk, others use names like ‘Best Beloved’. I don’t want to go down the ‘Him Indoors’ route – our marriage is alive and kicking thank you very much – nor do I want to be reaching for the vomit bag. Suggestions on a postcard please!

Anyway, my husband doesn’t like carrot cake. This is both a pity (I do), and a Good Thing, (capital G, T) for my waistline. However, it’s nothing to do with the carrots – it’s the additional dried fruit and nuts that are used that he’s not a fan of. So, this year my veg plot will be taking a new direction, and devoted to all things cake. By the autumn I hope to have developed a recipe or two for veg-based cakes not including dried fruit and nuts, and to have eaten a lot of other veggie cakes in the meantime! I imagine I’ll be using lots of recipe books, but to start off, you can’t go wrong with Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth, which has a good number of fruit and veg cakes, not always in the combinations you’d expect. (The picture above is of her recipe for pear and parsnip cake).

Subsequent posts will look at fruit for fillings, jams, jellies and drizzles; herbs and flowers for flavourings; and edible flowers for decorations, but let’s start off with the veg.

Root vegetables are the classic ingredients for cakes, and were used widely during the Second World War to add bulk, moisture (in place of eggs) and sweetness to cakes baked in the face of rationing. I will therefore be growing carrots, good long thick ones (steady on) such as ‘Kingston’ and ‘Resistafly’ that will be easy to grate.

Beetroot, so good in chocolate cakes, will be sown successionally from spring to late summer to ensure a regular supply. It’s hard to beat ‘Boltardy’ for this kind of sowing schedule, but it will be fun to experiment with some different coloured varieties to see how they affect the cake and to find the sweetest roots.

Then there will be parsnips and squash for the autumn and winter, and courgettes for the summer. Savoury muffins often include spinach, so I’ll grow some of that too. There’s a rhubarb crown in what used to be the neighbour’s garden, so I can pinch some from there! My north-facing, heavily shaded, plot is unlikely to give good crops of sweet potatoes and sweetcorn, but if you have the space and sun these would be good baking crops too.

There is never any point to growing things you are not going to eat. If you’re a baker, why not grow veg specifically to bake with? Growing vegetables for cake gives the veg plot a new purpose – and if you’re trying to encourage children to eat vegetables, getting them to help grow the plants, then serving them up as cake, is probably the easiest way there is! Even if you’re an urban baker with no garden, try growing a few crops in pots – beetroot is ideal, and you can get smaller carrot varieties such as the ‘Chantenay’ types that will fit into a pot or windowbox.