AMARETTO DACQUOISE

A dacquoise is a like sandwich cake, only made with nutty meringue layers. There is something gloriously serene about the pillowy meringue, and when it involves ground almonds, Amaretti biscuits, apricot jam and Amaretto liqueur, well, that’s just the food of angels 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - serves 8 

  • 5 egg whites
  • 285g caster sugar 
  • 150g ground almonds

For the filling

  • 300ml double cream 
  • 50ml Amaretto liqueur 
  • 50g apricot jam
  • 6 Amaretti biscuits

Essential equipment

  • 2 baking sheets lined with baking paper 
  • Piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle 

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C fan. On each of the lined baking sheets, draw a circle of 23cm/9-inch diameter. An easy way to do this is to draw around a 23cm cake-tin base.

Place the egg whites in a metal mixing bowl, or freestanding electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, and whisk the whites until stiff. Slowly add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, while whisking on medium speed, until all the sugar is in and is dissolved. You can check by rubbing a little of the mixture between your fingers; if it feels gritty, it needs more beating. Turn off the mixer and fold in the ground almonds.

Fill the piping bag with the mixture. Pipe on to the first circle in a spiral – start from the centre
and spiral out until you have a large, flattish disc. Do the same with the other. Place in the warm oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 130°C and allow to dry out for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, turn the oven off but leave the discs in there until cool, with the oven door slightly ajar. When cool, peel off the paper.

Place one disc on a large flat plate, upside down: in other words, with the side that was in contact with the paper facing up. Whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks and fold in the liqueur. Dollop this boozy cream on to the disc and spread out evenly. Beat the apricot jam with a spoon until loose, then drizzle over the cream. Crumble the Amaretti biscuits over the top, then finish with the second disc, the right way up. 

DAMSONS

DAMSON, GUINNESS AND COCOA JAM

Every year I make a batch or two of damson jam. It's a therapeutic ritual and somewhat grounding; there's something rewarding and gratifying about taking the time and care to forage the fruits. Taking the stones out is the most tedious part, but it's just a case of skimming them away with a slotted spoon as the fruit breaks down. They lurk just beneath the surface like sharks in a blood-red pool. 

Last year my flavour of choice was damson and liquorice, a jar of which is still safely stashed in my cupboard, away from thieving hands. This year is something a little more experimental, and the results are weird and truly wonderful.  

The jam will keep for months, if not years, but sterilised jars are a must. Simply run them and their lids through a hot cycle on the dishwasher, allow them to dry, then remove them. Failing that, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water, then put them onto a tray and into the oven at 140C/120C fan for a good 30 minutes. However you sterilise them, once it's done, don't even think about touching the inside of either jar or lid.

The only test I trust for setting point is temperature. I use an instant read digital thermometer to ensure the jam is 105C, and I always stir the pot before taking a reading to ensure an even temperature. 

When it comes to yield it's impossible to be too prescriptive. The quantity below filled 6 regular sized jam jars. Have 8 handy, just in case. 

Ingredients 

  • 1.3kg damsons 
  • 1 x 440ml can Guinness
  • 1.5kg caster sugar 
  • 4tbsp cocoa powder 

Method

Put the damsons and the Guinness into a large saucepan and set over a high heat. Stirring, allow the contents of the pan to come to a boil, then reduce to a quick simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has completely broken down. It's tempting to skip this part, but trust me, it'll make your life easier when it comes to skimming the stones. 

Add the sugar to pan and stir to dissolve. The stones (and some skins) will float to the surface. Remove the stones with a slotted spoon or kitchen spider. 

Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and stir together with enough of the damson liquid to create a thick paste. Pour the paste back into the jam pan and stir to incorporate. 

Bring the jam to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 105C. And it bears repeating: stir the jam before you take a temperature reading. 

Decant the jam into the sterilised jars and pop on the lids. Allow to cool and set. Don't forget to label; I once opened (admittedly after a few drinks) what I thought to be jam. It turned out to be a far too spicy Christmas chutney. It wasn't at all pleasant on my midnight toast.

 


DAMSON CHEESE

Damson cheese is a very thick paste made from damsons and sugar. It sets to a thick jelly, like a soft fruit sweet, and can be sliced to accompany actual cheese. It's also ideal as a petit four if cut into bite-sized cubes and rolled in caster sugar. Or, as recommended by queen of preserves Vivien Lloyd, dip cubes of it in melted chocolate for a confectionary not too dissimilar to, but far more tempting than, chocolate-covered Turkish delight. 

 

 

Ingredients - fills a 20cm square cake tin 

  • 3kg damsons 
  • Caster sugar (quantity below*) 

Method

Grease and line with baking paper a 20cm square cake tin. Lightly grease the baking paper, too.

Put the damsons into a large saucepan with a splash of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a quick simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit breaks down. 

Set a sieve over a large bowl and put the damsons - in batches is sensible - into the sieve. With a wooden spoon, beat and press the damsons so their puree falls down into the bowl. Discard the skins and stones.

Weigh the puree. *For every 500g/ml puree, you need to add 350g caster sugar. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring very frequently - especially as it thickens - until so thick that when you draw a wooden spoon across the pan, the the base of the pan peers through for a second. Pour the damson cheese into the cake tin and allow to cool and set for a few hours. 

To portion, lightly grease a chef's knife and chopping board and cut the damson cheese into slabs of whatever size you fancy - I wear blue gloves to avoid marking the cheese with fingerprints. Wrap in parchment and store in the fridge. 

 

 

 

 

BAILEYS PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE CHEESECAKE

Crisp and sunny mornings, and the crunch of dried leaves underneath your feet: these are the things that epitomise, and excite me most about, autumn. It's the beginning of our hibernation. We harvest the fields and take stock of what the year has given us. We pickle and we preserve, and we prepare for months of little yield.  

Most thrillingly - and perhaps a vast antithesis to the grateful gathering - we begin to let loose and indulge. Pumpkin spice lattes are my guilty pleasure, so when Baileys released their Pumpkin Spice, I had to get down to work. 

Ingredients - serves 8-10

For the Base

  • 300g gingernut biscuits
  • 75g unsalted butter 

For the Filling

  • 900g full-fat cream cheese
  • 250g sour cream
  • 250g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 125ml Baileys pumpkin spice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour 
  • 1 tbsp coffee extract 

For the Topping and Finish

  • 250ml sour cream
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 2tbsp Baileys pumpkin spice
  • 250ml double cream
  • Gingernut biscuits, broken
  • Dried bay leaves
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon sticks 

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180 conventional/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

For the base, put the biscuits into a food processor fitted with blade attachment and add the butter. Blitz to a damp sand consistency, then tip into the prepared tin and press down to compact evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. If you don’t have a food processor, put the biscuits into a bag and bash them to a fine crumb. Melt the butter and allow to cool, then combine with the biscuit crumbs in a mixing bowl and continue as above.

Meanwhile make the filling. Put the cream cheese and sour cream into a freestanding mixer fitted with paddle attachment, and beat until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and beat again, then add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

Pour the filling over the cooled base and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven to 140C fan/160C conventional/gas mark 3 and bake for a further 50-60 minutes. The cheesecake should be set with a slight tremble in the middle. Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature – don’t worry if it cracks a little. Increase the oven to 160C fan/180C conventional/gas mark 4.

For the topping, mix together the sour cream, sugar and Baileys. Pour the mixture over the cooled cheesecake and bake for just 15 minutes. This will set the sour cream. Allow to cool completely, then chill overnight, or for at least 4 hours.

To finish, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and spread it over the top of the cheesecake. Decorate with the gingernut crumbs, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and cloves – don’t forget to tell those eating it to remove the decorations before eating it, unless they’re partial to the mouth-numbing qualities of clove.

 

WHOLE CHERRY BROWNIES

Richard Bertinet recently taught me a really valuable life lesson: how to pit a cherry without removing the stalks. The answer lies in a paperclip. These brownies not only look so delicious, but the cherry really helps to balance that sweet, gooey, chocolaty goodness. 

(c) John Whaite

Ingredients (makes up to 16 brownies)

  • 16 pitted cherries (see instructions below) 
  • 200g dark chocolate 
  • 200g salted butter, cubed
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 150g plain flour  
  • 100g white chocolate chips 
  • 100g dark chocolate chips 

Essential Equipment

  • 20cm square cake tin, greased and lined 

Method

(c) John Whaite 

To pit the cherries, take a paperclip and unbend it, leaving the hook shaped part as a hook. Insert that hook up into the base of a cherry. Feel the way around the stone - I think it helps to imagine you're shaving the stone with the paperclip. Gently manipulate out the stone, being careful not to squash the cherry or remove too much flesh. Place them wound side down onto paper towel. 

(c) John Whaite 

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. To make the brownie batter place the chocolate and butter into a saucepan and set over a low heat. Stirring constantly, melt them together until very smooth and shiny. Remove from the heat and add the eggs and beat in until smooth, then beat in the sugar until it is more or less dissolved. Sift over the flour and fold in along with the chocolate chips until you have an evenly smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and press the cherries into the mixture as evenly spaced as possible, leaving their tops and stalks poking out. Return to the oven and bake for a final 15 minutes. When ready, the brownie should be a cracked, paler brown on top, and dark brown, dense and gooey underneath. Allow to cool until completely cold, then chill in the fridge before cutting - this just helps to achieve an even, neater cut. 

CHOCOLATE AND ALE MUFFINS

Now before you start grimacing at the thought of beer in a chocolate cake, let me assure you that these are the best chocolate muffins I've ever made. The ale comes through, not in its regular, slightly bitter tanginess, but instead it brings a haunting malt flavour which only serves to amplify the chocolate.

Ingredients - makes 12

For the muffins

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarb
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 150g caster sugar 
  • 125g dark chocolate chips
  • 225ml ale (golden or brown) 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted  

For the ganache

  • 225g Bourneville chocolate, roughly chopped 
  • 225ml double cream 

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas mark 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases. 

Into a large mixing bowl sift the flour, bicarb and cocoa powder then stir through the caster sugar and chocolate chips - I stir this with a whisk, to ensure everything is well blended. 

In a jug or another bowl, beat together the ale, eggs and butter until well mixed. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter comes together smoothly - again, I do this with a whisk to avoid over-mixing. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling them almost entirely full, just under 1 centimetre from the edge of the muffin case. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.  

For the ganache, place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over a high heat, just until it starts to bubble at the edge. Pour the warm cream over the chocolate chips, leave it for 30 seconds, then stir it to form a smooth, glossy ganache. If some of the chocolate chips don't melt - the stubborn little buggers - put the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until the ganache is smooth. Pour onto a large plate and allow the ganache to cool to the consistency of Nutella on a hot summer day. Spread or pipe the ganache on top of the cupcakes. 

Did you know that John now owns a cookery school in the heart of rural Lancashire? If you didn't know that, or to get a little more info on his courses, click here

CHOCOLATE AND LIQUORICE CAKE

This is one of my all time favourite flavour combinations. It's based around the liquorice chocolates I enjoyed in Stockholm a few years back, and since then I've been making this cake often. Its current permutation is somewhat of a showstopper, and is perfect as an occasion cake - though in my view, this cake is a cause to celebrate in its own right! 

Ingredients - serves 10-12

For the cake

  • 300g dark brown muscovado sugar 
  • 200ml boiling water 
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 100g caster sugar 
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 240ml buttermilk 
  • 80g cocoa powder 
  • 320g self raising flour  
  • 2 tbsp liquorice powder 
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb

For the ganache and topping 

  • 1 tsp Calabrian liquorice lozenges
  • 40ml water 
  • 280ml whipping cream
  • 320g Bournville chocolate, roughly chopped 
  • Selection of liquorice sweets and chocolate nonpareils, to decorate 

Essential equipment 

  • 2 x 20cm cake tins, greased with the bases line with baking paper
  • Deep-sided baking tray 
  • 20cm cake card  

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. 

In a heatproof jug, mix together the dark muscovado sugar and boiling water until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to one side until needed. 

In a mixing bowl or KitchenAid fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the butter and caster sugar until well mixed. Add the eggs, buttermilk and cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Sift over the the flour, liquorice powder and bicarb, and fold in until smooth - this will be a very thick batter. Then slowly pour in the muscovado/water mixture and beat just until incorporated - don't overmix this. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for five minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. The cakes will look a little cracked on top, but don't worry. 

For the ganache heat the lozenges and water in a medium saucepan over a high heat. Stir constantly until the lozenges more or less dissolve into the water. Add the cream and reduce the heat to medium. Put the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl, and once the cream starts to simmer around the edge pour it over the chocolate. Leave the cream to melt the chocolate for about thirty seconds, then beat to a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour onto a large, clean, deep-sided baking tray, and allow to cool until thick but spreadable. 

Meanwhile, slice the tops off each cake to level (reserve the crumbs for sprinkling), then slice each cake in half so you have four equal layers of cake. 

To assemble, place the cake card onto a cake stand (I use a cake decorating turntable at this stage) and place a layer of cake onto that. Spread over a little ganache - you don't want this to be too thick a layer, just a reasonable spread. Repeat with the remaining layers of cake until you have four layers of cake sandwiched together with three layers of ganache. Spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the cake. I use a small, crank-handled palette knife to get a really neat top and sides. When you're happy with how neat the cake is, place into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes. 

When the cake has chilled, chop a selection of the sweets and arrange these into a neat line about one third of the way across the cake. Sprinkle over a few cake crumbs - be delicate here - and the masterpiece is ready to serve. 

Did you know that John now owns a cookery school in the heart of rural Lancashire? If you didn't know that, or to get a little more info on his courses, click here. 

LONE WOLF'S BAKED EGGS

For those moments of solitude and peace, these eggs are a must! And, to ensure your moment is completely personal to your own palate, they can be easily customised (I love a drizzle of truffle oil and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese). 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - per person 

  • Butter for greasing
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30ml double cream 
  • A few leaves of thyme (optional)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper 
  • A good grating of a cheese of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas 5.

Grease a short fat teacup or ramekin with butter and break the eggs into it; do not break the yolks. Gently pour on the cream or milk, and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, then put the grated cheese on top. Don’t stir anything.

Place the cup or ramekin into a deep sided baking tray and fill the tray with hot water so that it comes halfway up the ramekin. Bake for 12–14 minutes, so that the white is just set, and the yolk is perfectly runny. 

APPLE AND LAVENDER SANDWICH TARTS

INGREDIENTS - MAKES 10 

  • 500g shop- bought all-butter puff pastry 

For the poached ‘applettes’

  • 6 large eating apples (Cox or Braeburn are perfect)
  • 1 lemon
  • 500g golden caster sugar
  • 500g water
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
  • 2 tbsp calvados

For the apple purée

  • Leftover apple from above (see step 3)
  • 50g golden caster sugar

For the cream filling

  • 225ml double cream
  • 130g full-fat crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 tbsp calvados
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar

To finish

  • 10 lavender flowers
  • Icing sugar, to dust 

Essential equipment

  • 2 baking sheets lined with baking paper 
  • Melon baller 
  • 7cm/2.5-inch circle cookie cutter
  • Deep-sided frying pan 
  • Disposable piping bag fitted with 10mm nozzle

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/Gas 7.

Roll out half the pastry until it is just smaller than the baking sheet and about 4mm thick. Prick it all over with a fork, then place it on to a lined baking sheet. Top with the second piece of baking paper and then another baking sheet. This is to stop the pastry puffing up too much – we want the flakiness but we don’t want volume. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a deep golden colour. As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven, cut out 10 discs with the cookie cutter. Allow these to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining half of pastry. (If you are generously supplied with baking sheets, you can do this all in a single batch.)

Peel the apples. Using the melon baller scoop out at least 50 balls of apple. Put these straight into a mixing bowl with the juice of the lemon to prevent them from going brown and horrible. Don’t throw away the used bits of apple; put them into a separate bowl with water and lemon juice.

To make a poaching liquid, put the sugar, water and lavender flowers into a deep-sided frying pan or large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a heavy simmer and add the apple balls. Simmer for 5 minutes until a sharp knife goes into an apple ball without any resistance. Remove from the heat and drain the apples, though do reserve the poaching syrup. Pour the calvados over the apple balls and leave in a small bowl until needed.

To make the apple purée, roughly chop the remaining chunks of apple – removing core and calyxes – and put into a small saucepan with the sugar and 6 tablespoons of the poaching liquid. Bring to the boil then reduce to a heavy simmer and allow the apples to cook down until mushy. Allow to cool.

To make the cream filling, simply whip the double cream to peaks that are just a little firmer than soft and floppy. Fold in the crème fraiche, vanilla, calvados and icing sugar and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble, take 10 of the pastry discs and place on a flat serving plate or tray. Fill the piping bag with the cream filling, then pipe a circle of filling on to each of the 10 pastry discs, just a few millimetres from the edge. Inside this circle of filling, dot 5 balls of poached apple, evenly spaced. In the centre of the apples, place a scant teaspoon of the apple purée. Squeeze some of the cream over the apple purée so that it sneaks in between the apples and joins the first circle of filling. Top with another disc of puff pastry. You should have 10 perfect tarts. Top each one with a small sprig of lavender flowers, and a heavy dusting of icing sugar.  

SPICED PEAR TARTE TATIN

I love tarte tatin. What I especially love is the fact that you can experiment and use different fillings – or toppings, rather – and achieve some lovely flavours. This is one of my absolute favourites, and can be served at any time of the year, though it feels far more fitting during the chilly autumn months.  

Ingredients - serves 8-10

  • 100ml water
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 star anise
  • 4-5 conference medium pears
  • 40g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 300g shop-bought, all-butter puff pastry

Essential Equipment

  • 24cm/9-inch ovenproof frying pan

Method

Start by making a spiced caramel. Put the water, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom pods and star anise into a 24cm/9in ovenproof frying pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then set over a high heat and allow to boil away until dark golden - you must not stir this or it will crystalise. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the pears and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core with a melon baller or small spoon, leaving the stalks intact. Put the pears into a bowl of water.Once the caramel is dark golden, add the butter cubes, but still don’t stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Remove the spices with tongs, saving them for later.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7

Place the pears on the caramel – being careful not to burn your fingers – hump sides down, with their fat bottoms out towards the edges of the pan.

Roll the pastry to about 4mm thick, and cut out a circle about 2.5cm bigger in diameter than the frying pan. Place the pastry on top of the pears and tuck it down the sides using a wooden spoon. Stab a few holes with a sharp knife, then place the frying pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is a glorious golden brown and has puffed up.

To serve, remove the frying pan from the oven. Take a plate that is larger than the pan, and place it top-side down on the pan. Wearing oven gloves, or shielding your arm with a tea towel, hold the base of the plate with one hand, and with the other flip the pan over so that the tarte is pastry-side down on the plate. Decorate with the spices, and serve with custard or whipped cream.

summertime, meringue, fruit

ARABIAN NIGHTS PAVLOVA

Although originally a recipe from my Christmas collection, this almost otherworldly pavlova would be an ideal treat for these sunny evenings. 

ArabianPavlova_photoshopped.jpg

Ingredients - serves 10-12

For the Meringue

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 340g caster sugar
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar

For the Topping

  • 600ml double cream
  • 4 fresh figs, quartered
  • Kernels from 1 pomegranate
  • 50g dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 75g pistachio kernels
  • 1 persimon, finely sliced
  • 1⁄2 tsp rose water
  • 1tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Icing sugar to dust

Essential Equipment

  • Large baking sheet, lined with greaseproof/ baking paper 

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas mark 3.

Whisk the egg whites to medium peaks, then slowly add the sugar in a steady stream whilst whisking constantly. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and you have a very glossy meringue. Add the corflour and vinegar, folding in gently.

Take a fingerful of meringue and dot a little bit onto each corner of the baking paper, then place that down onto the baking sheet to make sure it sticks. Dollop the meringue into the centre of the baking sheet then smooth it into a thick disk of about 23cm in diameter – I use a small crank handle palette knife, but a large flat spoon would work. Place the meringue into the oven, turn the oven down to 140C/120C fan/gas mark 1, and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, then turn the oven off but leave the meringue inside to cool completely, preferably overnight.

Once cooled, invert the meringue onto a cake stand or plate. For the topping, whisk the cream to soft, floppy peaks and dollop it on top of the meringue. Scatter over the figs, pomegranate kernels, chopped apricots, pistachios and persimon slices. Dribble the rosewater and drizzle the pomegranate molasses over the fruits, before finishing with a snowfall of icing sugar.

MIDNIGHT BLUES TART

A tart as dark, and as star-studded, as the midnight sky. This is best made in advance and left to set a little in the fridge before serving. 

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

  • 1 quantity Crème Pâtissière (recipe here
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2tsp Limoncello liqueur (optional)
  • 1 quantity Rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe here), or 500g shop bought shortcrust pastry
  • 3 leaves gelatine
  • 350g frozen blueberries 
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 300g fresh blueberries
  • Edible gold stars
  • Edible glitter

Essential equipment

  • 23cm/9-inch fluted tart tin

Method

Make the crème pâtissière according to the recipe (link above). Mix the lemon zest and Limoncello into it, cover the surface with cling and place in the fridge until cold.

Make the pastry according to the recipe (link above), line the tart tin, chill it, then blind-bake it as described here. Set aside to cool.

Put the gelatine into a bowl of cold water to soak. 

Put the frozen blueberries, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan over a high heat. Stir until the sauce begins to bubble, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until slightly reduced and the blueberries have lost their shape. Remove from the heat. Take the gelatine leaves (they should now be floppy and yielding) squeeze the moisture from them and add them to the blueberry sauce. Stir until dissolved, then allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Use a pastry brush to paint the inside of the baked and cooled pastry case with it. Allow this to set for about 5 minutes. Spoon the crème pâtissière into the case and level it off.

Stir the fresh blueberries into the blueberry sauce and stir to coat them, but don’t pop them. Gently spoon over the crème pâtissière. Finish the tart with gold stars and glitter, and allow the jelly to set for a few hours (preferably overnight) before serving. 

PIZZA PUTTANESCA

Forgive me but I couldn’t resist this ‘prostitute’s pizza’. When you share it with a lover, you’ll see that it isn’t a sordid thing at all, but a delicious, passionate pizza that is perfect after a bit of, well... Puttanesca was originally a pasta sauce, and one that I practically lived on when I spent a summer in Rome and Milan, working for a perfume manufacturer. The days were long and the offices were hot, but it was all worth it when I got to tuck into my favourite dish in the evenings. Thanks to the olives and anchovies, this has a bold and gutsy flavour, along with a lip-tingling spiciness from the chillies, which is never a bad thing. 

Matt Russell 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - makes one pizza for two to share 

For the dough

  • 225g strong white flour
  • 7g fast-action yeast (1 sachet) 
  • 2g salt
  • 140ml tepid water 

For the topping

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 6 anchovies from a jar/tin, roughly chopped
  • 80g black olives, roughly chopped
  • 3 tsp capers from a jar
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Small handful finely chopped parsley for scattering
  • 30g freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Method

For the dough, put the flour into a mixing bowl with the yeast and stir together, then stir in the salt. Add the water, then use a wooden spoon or your hands to bring the ingredients together into a rough dough

Turn out on to the worktop and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Alternatively, knead for about 6 minutes in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Allow the dough to rise in an oiled bowl covered with a damp tea towel for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, place it on the large baking sheet and roll it out into a rough circle of about 28cm diameter, or make a heart shape, if you feel adventurous. Allow to rise for a second hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Make the topping by heating the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and frying the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute, then add the tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers and chilli. Allow this to simmer for 10 minutes, or until thick and spreadable, then take off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Spread the topping over the risen pizza base, leaving a 1cm crust – there might be a few tablespoons of topping left for the cook to snack on – then slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the underneath is firm.

Finish with a sprinkling of parsley and a grating of Parmesan, then cut into whatever size slices you can manage. 

SHERBET LEMON CAKE

The word ‘sherbet’ evokes memories of youth, but, ironically, I disliked sherbet as a child – I was a kid who needed a more toothsome, chewy sort of jelly sweet. This cake is perfect for baking with children, because the cake batter uses a ‘one mix’ method, so there is no need to go through the stages of making a cake, which can sometimes tire fickle little kids. And though it’s a simple cake to make, with a simple filling, the presentation takes it up a notch. This cake is a nod to all things youthful, but it is also absolutely acceptable at a sophisticated, child-free gathering. 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - serves 10/12

For the candied lemon topping 

  • 2 lemons
  • 600ml water (in batches of 200ml)
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml water
  • 75g golden caster sugar 

For the cake

  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g golden caster sugar 
  • 225g stork 
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

For the filling

  • 400ml whipping cream 
  • 500g mascarpone cheese 
  • 300g icing sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 packets of lemon Dip Dabs (sherbet only) 
  • Icing sugar, to dust 

Essential equipment

  • Two 20cm/8-inch loose- bottomed round cake tins, greased and lined with baking paper
  • Cake stand at least 20cm/ 8 inches across
  • Disposable piping bag fitted with 12mm nozzle 

Method

For the lemon topping, use a potato peeler to pare thick strips of peel from the lemons – if you get any white pith, scrape it off with a knife. Chop the lemon peel into thin matchsticks, then place in a small saucepan with 200ml water. Bring to the boil, then drain the water, place the lemon zest back into the pan with another 200ml water and repeat. Drain again then repeat – you should bring the lemon zest to the boil 3 times in total. Set the drained lemon zest matchsticks aside. Place the 100g sugar and 100ml water in the saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar is dissolved, then return the lemon zest and allow to poach for about 5 minutes. Drain. Place the 75g caster sugar in a bowl and add the lemon matchsticks. Toss in the sugar then arrange on a baking sheet and allow to dry out for a few hours (overnight is better).

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.

Place the ingredients for the cake into a mixing bowl and beat together until well incorporated and smooth. If you have a freestanding electric mixer, use the paddle attachment. Divide the batter between the two prepared tins, and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, before removing from the tins and turning on to a cooling rack until completely cold.

Meanwhile, make the filling by whipping the cream to very soft floppy peaks. Fold this into the mascarpone along with the sifted icing sugar and lemon zest until smooth. Then quickly beat in the lemon juice – though don’t overbeat, as you don’t want the mixture to split.

When the cake is cooled, and the candied lemon is dry, slice each cake in half horizontally so that you have four layers. Place one on the cake stand. Fill the piping bag with the filling and pipe little blobs around the edge of the cake, then a spiral of filling in the centre. Sprinkle over a third of the sherbet, then top with another slice of cake. Repeat this until you have four layers of cake and three layers of cream and sherbet. Sift a layer of icing sugar over the top, then scatter over the candied lemon matchsticks. 

RHUBARB, WHITE CHOCOLATE & THYME TRAYBAKES

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g caster sugar
  • Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 200g fresh rhubarb, cut into 5mm chunks
  • 180g white chocolate chips

Essential equipment

  • 23cm/9-inch square baking tin, greased and lined with baking paper (or use a 23cm/9-inch square disposable foil container) 

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas 4.

Place the butter, sugar and thyme in a mixing bowl and beat together until the sugar has dissolved into the butter, and the mixture is pale and fluffy. You can do this in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition, adding the vanilla with the last egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the top and fold in, then fold in the rhubarb and white chocolate chips.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35–40 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean – though don’t mistake a bit of soggy rhubarb or melted white chocolate for uncooked cake batter. Allow to cool in the tin.  

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE & HAZELNUT CELEBRATION CAKE

Is it a brownie or is it a cake? Regardless, it's deliciousness. The caramel-dipped hazelnuts couldn’t be simpler, and they make what would otherwise look like a plain chocolate cake (not that there’s anything wrong with that) into something straight out of a boutique cake store. 

Photo by Matt Russell

Ingredients - serves 12

  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 300g blanched hazelnuts 
  • 150g dark muscovado sugar 
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated

For the ganache

  • 250g dark chocolate 
  • 220ml double cream
  • 30g salted butter, softened

For the hazelnut spikes

  • 200g golden caster sugar 
  • About 20 blanched hazelnuts

Essential equipment

  • 23cm/9-inch loose-bottomed cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper
  • Wire cooling rack 
  • Paper clips 

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas 3.

Slowly melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.

Blitz the hazelnuts in a food processor until roughly chopped, then add the sugars and blitz again to a fine sand. Blitz in the egg yolks and one white; this will be a very stiff batter indeed. When well incorporated, beat in the melted chocolate and set to one side.

Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk them until they are at a medium peak. Spoon a quarter of the egg white on to the batter and beat in to incorporate, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35–40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out reasonably clean, but the best indication of doneness is a smooth top with perhaps a few cracks, and a subtle springiness to the cake when gently prodded.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat on high until it begins to bubble around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for 30 seconds to melt it, then, with a whisk, stir until smooth. Beat in the butter until incorporated, then pour on to a plate to cool until spreadable.

When the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin and place it on a cake stand or platter. Spread the ganache generously over the entire surface – as neatly or as messily as desired.

To make the hazelnut spikes, place a wire cooling rack on the worktop with a short side hanging over the edge by an inch. Place a sheet of baking paper on the floor directly underneath – this will catch any drops of caramel. Place a medium saucepan over a high heat and allow it to get hot. Add a quarter of the sugar and allow that to slowly melt, then add another quarter, and continue until you have used all the sugar – you may have a few lumps of sugar here and there, but the majority of it should be liquid. When the caramel turns a gorgeous amber, remove from the heat and allow to cool and thicken to the consistency of golden syrup – if it sets too solid, melt again over a low heat.

Take a paper clip and straighten one end – you need one end to be hooked and one end straight. Drive the straight end into one of the hazelnuts, then dredge that through the thickened caramel, coating it very generously. Hook the paper clip on to the wire rack and allow the caramel to drip, like a stalactite, towards the floor and set hard. Repeat with all the hazelnuts and allow the caramel to set. When hardened, use a pair of scissors to gently snip the fine threads of caramel off the more robust, decorative spikes. Arrange the hazelnuts, spikes pointing up, in the centre of the cake. 

BANOFFEE CREAM HORNS

As a child, I was always intrigued by the cream horns I saw in bakeries. I was never fond of just pastry and cream – believe it or not – but I was curious as to how they would taste. When I was allowed to try one, it was love at first bite. The flaky pastry, slightly caramelised on the outside, stuffed with floppy but fluffy cream seemed too simple to be so good. These are even better than that, and take the humble cream horn up a notch. If you do bake these with kids, it goes without saying that the caramel has to be done by an adult, and a careful one at that. And don’t use not having children as an excuse not to make these; they are addictive, even for adults.

Cream horn moulds are easily available online, and fairly cheap too, but if you don’t have time to wait for them to arrive, wrap 6 waffle ice cream cones in foil. You’ll need to be extra delicate with those, and stop the kids from nibbling at them when your back is turned. 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - makes 6

  • 500g shop-bought all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt, to glaze
  • 50g golden caster sugar Icing sugar, to dust

For the toffee sauce

  • 150g dark muscovado sugar
  • 100ml double cream
  • 40g unsalted butter

For the filling

  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 bananas, peeled

Essential equipment

  • 6 x cream horn moulds, or 6 x ice cream waffle cones wrapped well with foil
  • Baking sheet, greased and lined with baking paper
  • Disposable piping bag, with 1cm hole snipped into the end 

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7.

Flour the worktop and a rolling pin, and roll out the pastry to 30 x 45cm. Trim the edges to neaten, then slice along the length into 6 equal strips of about 4 x 40cm. Wrap these strips around the cones: start at the point of the cone then wrap the strip of pastry around and up the cone, overlapping each twist of pastry a third over the one before it. If you have surplus at the top, snip it off; don’t tuck it into the mould as you’ll not get the pastry off after baking. Paint these very sparingly with the glaze, then sprinkle with a generous helping of caster sugar. Lay the pastry cones on the baking sheet, and chill for about 15 minutes.

Take the pastry cones from the fridge and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a pale golden brown and puffy. Remove from the oven and gently manipulate the moulds/cones out – remembering to hold the hot cones with a clean oven cloth – and allow to cool completely.

To make the toffee sauce, place the sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and heat, stirring until everything melts together. Bring to the boil, again stirring, and boil for a minute, then remove from the heat and decant into a heatproof bowl to cool.

Place the cream in a mixing bowl and whip to soft peaks. Slice the bananas lengthways into 4, then chop into fine, small chunks and fold into the cream. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes, then ripple two-thirds of the toffee sauce through the cream.

Drizzle the remaining toffee into the pastry horns, zigzagging it up the insides. Load the piping bag with the whipped banana cream, and pipe into the pastry horns, trying to make sure you get it right down to the narrow tip. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar. 

GIANT BANANA BUTTERSCOTCH CHELSEA BUN

Not only do I love this because of its size, but the flavours, too, are just out of this world. When this is on the breakfast table, it’s definitely worth getting out of bed. If you can’t get dried banana pieces from a health food store, use banana chips instead. 

Matt Russell 

Ingredients - Serves 10-12

For the dough

  • 500g white bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 15g golden caster sugar
  • 10g fast-action yeast
  • 200ml warm water
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened

For the filling

  • 100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 200g dried ripe banana pieces (from a health food store)
  • 150g small fudge pieces

For the glaze

  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 50g water

For the butterscotch topping

  • 50g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 75g salted butter, in 1cm cubes
  • 125ml double cream

Essential equipment

  • 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper 

Method

To make the dough, simply place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir through the salt and sugar, then the yeast. In a jug, beat together the water, milk and egg, add this to the dry ingredients, then add the butter in chunks. Stir the dough – elbow grease required – into a scraggy ball, then tip out on to the worktop and knead until you achieve a smooth, elastic dough – about 10–15 minutes. This is, admittedly, far easier in a freestanding electric mixer with dough hook attached – that will take about 7–10 minutes.

Place the dough in a floured or oiled bowl, and cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled in size. This could be between 1 and 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your room. Even longer if you live in a fridge-cold house.

When the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour the worktop and roll the dough into a rectangle of about 40x50cm. Paint over the melted butter, then sprinkle over the sugar, banana and fudge pieces. Slice the dough lengthways into strips 5cm wide. This will give you 8 long strips of dough. Take one of these strips and roll it into a tight spiral. Take another strip and wrap it around the first spiral to create a bigger one. Repeat until all the lengths of dough are used, and you have a giant spiral bun. Place it in the prepared cake tin. It might be easier to do the first two spirals on the worktop, then continue the wrapping process in the tin.

Allow to rest for another 45 minutes, and preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

When the giant bun has rested, bake it for 30-35 minutes, or until golden on top.

Whilst the dough bakes, make the glaze and the butterscotch topping. For the glaze, put the sugar and water into a pan and bring to the boil. Boil for a minute then remove from the heat. For the butterscotch, put the ingredients into a medium pan and set over a high heat. Stirring constantly, allow the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve into the cream and melted butter. Bring to the boil for just a minute, then remove from the heat.

When the giant bun comes out of the oven, paint the glaze all over the top. When it has cooled, spatter the butterscotch over the top. 

FIG, PECAN AND ORANGE BUNDT CAKE

This is a thing of great beauty. The texture is moist like a carrot cake, but the flavour is packed with light, zesty orange, the earthy nuttiness of pecans and the gooey, malty sweetness of figs. I like to have it smeared with cream cheese and a spoonful of honey. Even better, if you manage to keep your gannet-like friends from eating every slice, this makes for perfect toast, topped with some boisterous Stilton cheese. The bundt (also known as a gugelhopf) tin you use is your choice, but I recommend one with sharply angled edges. Not only does this look impressive, but because of the sharp edges the sugars caramelize in the cake making it, not crispy, but unbelievably chewy. 

Ingredients - serves 12 

  • 250g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 400g light brown soft sugar 
  • Zest of 2 medium oranges 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 200g pecan pieces
  • 200g dried figs, roughly chopped 

Essential Equipment 

  • 23cm/9-inch non stick bundt tin, sprayed with grease spray or painted liberally with melted butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas 3.

Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl and add the sugar and zest. Beat together until the sugar is well incorporated in the butter and it is fluffy.

Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and beat in. Sift over the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, and stir in until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the pecans and figs, then scoop into the prepared bundt tin.

Bake for 60–75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for a good 30 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack – this will help to create a gorgeous crust on the cake. 

CHOCOLATE LUSTRE CAKE

This cake was inspired by one I saw in a shop window in Le Marais, Paris. The shop itself looked a little down-at-heel, but in the window sat this awe-inspiring cake. I just had to stand and stare ... until dragged away by bored partner. This is the ultimate in chocolate cakes. Its strong cocoa flavour is simply beautiful – only a small slice is required. 

(c) Matt Russell 

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 250ml water
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 250g salted butter
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 200g light brown soft sugar
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 140g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the chocolate ganache crumb coat

  • 300ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped  
  • 200g milk chocolate, chopped

To decorate

  • 1 quantity freshly made Mirror Glaze (see recipe here)
  • Edible gold shimmer spray 1 tsp edible gold lustre

Essential equipment

  • 23cm/9-inch springform round cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper
  • 23cm/9-inch round cake card
  • Icing turntable (if possible)
  • Crank-handled palette knife
  • Wire rack with baking paper underneath to catch the drips 

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/Gas 3.

Place the water, chocolate chips and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of just simmering water. Allow to warm through until both the chocolate and butter have melted into the water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, before adding the cocoa powder, sugars and yoghurt. Beat until well incorporated, then add the eggs and vanilla, before sifting over the flour and bicarb and folding those in too.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin until completely cold.

To make the chocolate ganache crumb coat, place the cream in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. When the cream starts to bubble around the edges, pour over the chocolate chips and allow to warm them for a minute, then with a whisk beat to a smooth, glossy ganache. Allow this to cool – spread on to a tray is best – until it is the consistency of a chocolate spread.

If the cake has domed slightly in the middle, trim it so that it is perfectly flat-topped. Place on to the cake card, and on to an icing turntable if possible. Now ‘mask’ the cake: using the crank- handled palette knife, apply the ganache, spreading it delicately on top of the cake and around the sides. Get it as straight and smooth as possible – the more perfect this layer, the better the mirror glaze will look. I first concentrate on getting the top well covered, and then I manipulate and gently spread the ganache around the sides. Finish it off by neatening the corner where the top meets the sides, and chill for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the mirror glaze as described here. Pass the glaze through a sieve into a cold bowl and allow to cool for a minute – it still needs to be warm so that it is runny, rather than cooled and set. It can be reheated, but do so over a very low heat stirring constantly to avoid burning. 

To finish the cake off, place it – still on the cake card – on to the wire rack. Pour the glaze over the masked cake, easing it down the sides while trying not to disturb the natural flow. To paint the gold strip, in a small ramekin spray plenty of the shimmer spray so that it pools in the bottom, then add the lustre. Mix together, then dip the paintbrush in and gently drag in a line across a segment of the glazed cake. If the mirror glaze needs a little retouching, don’t spread it with a palette knife, simply waft a hairdryer over it, on warm but medium speed, and this should melt the mirror glaze and reset it.

Allow the glaze to set for an hour or two before serving. 

 

CHERRY BERRY BLONDIE CAKE

This is one indulgent cake, in both vision and taste. The dense, gooey cake is perfectly accompanied by the white chocolate ganache and the soft cherries and raspberries. When cooling the cakes tend to sink slightly in the middle, but don't be worried; that's exactly what you want. It gives an even more gooey cake. 

Ingredients (serves 8 - 10)

  • 250g white chocolate 
  • 75g butter 
  • 4 eggs, separated 
  • 200g caster sugar 
  • 200g plain flour 

For the Ganache 

  • 500g white chocolate
  • 175g double cream 

For the Topping

  • 200g fresh raspberries 
  • 200g fresh cherries, pitted 
  • 50g caster sugar 

Essential Equipment

2 x 20cm sandwich tins greased and bases lined with baking paper (I love the Alan Silverwood range)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. 

Place the white chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water until melted. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly then beat in the egg yolks. This may look a little like mayonnaise, but don't worry, that emulsion will make for the perfect blondie cake. 

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then slowly add the sugar, whisking constantly, until you have a silky meringue. Fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture being careful not to deflate the whites too much. Finally, sift over the flour and fold in. Divide between the two prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and slightly cracked. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins to room temperature.  

For the ganache, place the chopped chocolate and the cream into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir together until the chocolate melts into the cream and you have a smooth glossy ganache. Pour onto a large plate and allow to cool until thick and spreadable - this make take some time, so do be patient. 

For the berries, place 25g of cherries and 25g of raspberries into a small saucepan with the 50g caster sugar and just a teaspoon of water. Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer until the cherries and berries break down and you have a gorgeous sauce. Allow to cool. 

To assemble, place one cake onto a plate or cake stand and top with half of the ganache. Top with the other cake then the remaining ganache. Scatter over the cherries and berries, then pour over that dark sauce.