Vanilla, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cake


This is my go-to birthday cake recipe. Or just when-one-is-in-need-of-cake recipe. I made it last weekend and gave the princess most of it to take back to London. The rest I took to the office, where my colleagues made happy cake eating sounds. This recipe makes a glorious sponge cake that you can make into a bundt (as above) or into a triple or even quadruple layer cake with a frosting of your choice. Don’t like blueberries? Leave them out, or replace them with raspberries or orange zest or lemon zest. Ditto for the vanilla and the white chocolate chips…

So this makes a lot of cake. I made a large bundt cake and a loaf tin out of this. I suspect if you halved the recipe (totally do-able), it would make a regular size bundt cake or a three-layer round cake. You are forewarned.

Vanilla, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker via Smitten Kitchen

4 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

227g unsalted butter, softened

2 cups golden caster sugar

4 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

300ml buttermilk

100ml double cream

100ml plain yoghurt

1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped

200g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 170C. Liberally grease a bundt tin with butter, and grease and line a loaf tin; or grease and line 3 layer cake tins.


Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time.

Combine the buttermilk, cream and yoghurt in a small bowl.

Fold in the flour mixture in three goes, alternating with the buttermilk mixture – flour then buttermilk, flour then buttermilk, flour.

Finally fold in the blueberries and white chocolate.


Spoon the batter into the bundt tin and the loaf tin.


Bake for approximately 40 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out and cooling.


Allow the cakes to cool completely before icing. I used a combination of cookie butter frosting and cream cheese frosting that I’d had in the freezer to ice both cakes.



Reading List (2/2)

I listened to Amanda Palmer and Maria Popova talk about the creative life over on Tim Ferriss’ podcast last week. This then culminated in a ‘podcast binge’ that is on-going, and I am currently listening to Alain de Botton, whose How Proust Can Change Your Life is a favourite book. He talks about starting up The School of Life which seems to be asking and investigating the very questions I have started to ask on this blog.

What are the responsibilities of newspapers for reporting significant events? A short video on the holocaust and the New York Times.

How do you teach children to eat well when on a budget? Do tastes and preferences formulated in childhood make a difference to your choices as an adult?

Eating, hunger and the mind. Hunger operates outside of consciousness. Who knew? A fascinating mind/body thought experiment of sorts. (Thanks Jen).

I’m not sure what it is about Deb over at Smitten Kitchen but she seems to be making all the things I want to eat for dinner. This week is no exception. Taco torte anyone?

Also this squash lasagne from Diana Henry in The Telegraph. I’m a huge fan of squash and really, who needs an excuse to eat cheese?

‘Meanwhile, in the real world, we’re all just doing our best. Any meal you don’t eat standing up, illuminated by the cruel light of an open fridge door, has to count as a success. If, between chucking your coat on the hall chair and hurling yourself into bed, you manage to spoon something into your mouth that’s both delicious and nutritious, you’re winning.’ I love food writers who are realistic about what can actually be achieved on a normal working day. And I like the sound of the lazy meatballs.

I clicked on this link for the blood orange sorbet recipe but really, the Chinese pork loin made me salivate.

Women in top kitchen positions (or lack thereof).


Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

It is that time of year for marmalade making! Which means it is essential to use up whatever is left of last years marmalade stores to make way for the new. I guess you can tell I’m slightly obsessed with citrus this year. Andrés found blood oranges in the market the other day and seemed surprised when, upon finding them in the kitchen I immediately peeled one and ate it, the juices running down my hand. Blood oranges are my absolute favourite – the colour wheel of reds, oranges and purples delights me – and it turns out they’re superbly good for you too, which is always an added bonus for favourite foods.

2016-01-24 10.58.47-1Anyway, on Sunday I made the new batch of marmalade (having recovered sufficiently from the earlier in the week mess) and, because it was overcast and dark in a way only a January afternoon can be dark, I decided to use up the almost-last jar of 2015 marmalade in a cake. A brief scour of the web combined with Annie Bell’s Baking Bible lead to this: a rather glorious, bitter, damp, orange loaf cake that I intend to eat around 4pm most of this week.


In truth, it is an exceedingly simple riff on a pound cake and could probably be adapted to use up whatever jam you have skulking in the back of the fridge. I used ingredients I had to hand, hence the use of honey – feel free to substitute for more soft brown sugar. Personally, I love this because it is not very sweet and the marmalade glaze gives it a bitter edge. Serve it with vanilla ice-cream for a winter dessert.

Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

Makes one loaf tin

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature

90g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

60g runny honey

75g marmalade

175g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

zest and juice of one orange

2 tbsp poppyseeds

marmalade to glaze

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a loaf tin with butter and parchment.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating after each one. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and add in two tablespoons to the egg mixture. Beat lightly.


Fold in the honey, marmalade, orange zest and poppyseeds. Lastly fold in the rest of the flour mixture followed by the orange juice.


Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for half an hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the tin for ten minutes before turning out and cooling. I spread the marmalade directly from the jar onto the still warm cake so it has a chance to absorb some of the syrup. Slice when cool. (Slicing when warm will lead to the cake falling apart.) Eat.


Reading List 26/1

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Banoffee pies. For that time when you haven’t really thought about dessert but want something sweet. Or potentially to use up all that salted caramel. I made a version of this on Friday evening, because we felt like dessert. I had peanut butter Oreo crumbs in the pantry and two half-full jars of salted caramel. It was ridiculously good.

Pizza making at Yale. Hooray for activist students! And edible education at university.

Cassoulet. Cassoulet. Sigh. A project requiring planning and a rather large budget.

Why you shouldn’t bother with extra vitamins if you’re eating a balanced diet.

Taste education and family meals.

I love this idea of cooking for paying diners within the confines of your home.

I went back to the library this weekend, for the first time in absolute ages. I forget how much I like libraries, especially since online shopping makes it so easy to order books. But the library will help me save my book budget for books I really really want to keep, rather than simply to read once and pass on. This weekend I read Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. I loved her first book, Garden Spells, so much that I have read it over and over. I am a sucker for books about magic and cooking.

Leading a life well lived. Some great ideas about how to focus on small changes to attain a better balance of things.

The complexities of eating right for the planet.

I was transported to Rome and back in Rachel Roddy’s latest blog post. Her description of eating in Rome – ‘flowers dipped in batter and fried until golden’ – have instantly transported me to the Europe of my imagination, possibly one that really only exists in the 1950s and 60s. Possibly it never existed at all. The writing is evocative of bright sunshine, dark winding alleyways with tall apartment buildings on either side, shouting market traders, cobbled streets and lunch in a steamy cafe.

Have a good week!



Reading List (19/1)

I am busy reading, and thoroughly enjoying, The Land Where Lemons Grow. It is a fascinating account of citrus trees in Italy, weaving together history, art and food in a very readable text.

Sausage rolls! I’ve been wanting to make some for months and months. Also I do love this blog and the associated column in The Guardian.

Children going to school hungry.

The realities of school lunch in the US.

Tin Pot Creamery

I finally made this apple cake. It was a snow day on Sunday so it seemed only appropriate. I added poppyseeds to mine. It made for perfect Sunday evening dessert. And yes, I used all the icing. Possibly excessively. (Apologies for the out-of-focus shot – it was dark, we were eager to eat cake.) I brought the rest to the office today, where we have been snacking on it.


Whilst I cooked on Sunday, I listened to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast. I almost managed all the episodes in one shot. They’re engaging, funny, sometimes poignant and she talks to the most interesting people, including Zadie Smith (whose voice I just love and whose strategy for writing – discussed in the ‘work’ episode – is just fascinating).

The Tree Farm – a fascinating long read on forestry plantations in Scotland, the way landscapes change and move as a result. ‘These untrustworthy woods shapeshift, arriving and departing without ceremony. The landscape forms and reforms according to the whims of the plantation planners.’

Michael Pollan on Netflix. Yay for another cooking show to binge watch.

Working at McDonalds.

The world’s most famous butcher.

Marmalade. I still haven’t made any yet and then had a meltdown last night after burning the peels – apparently my predicted timings were way off (thank goodness for boys who understand how to get burnt black peelings off the bottom of a jam pan) – but if there are any Seville’s kicking about this weekend, I will be trying to make some again. Or maybe I’ll make the grapefruit marmalade? Either way I’ll be paying far more attention this time.



Citrus Cupcakes

I have been thinking a lot this week about purpose. I had lunch with a fellow recently-finished-PhD last Sunday and we were talking about life post-thesis. It turns out I am not alone in wondering about purpose. We established that part of the problem is we spent the last four years very specifically working with purpose on a task – to contribute to knowledge, to produce something for the academy that helps us better understand ourselves and the world we live in. In short, we had very purposeful jobs, with very clear remits. And now, quite a lot of the time, I worry that I am no longer doing anything purposeful.


Of course, this is all very philosophical – it is related to other questions I have been asking myself of late: how do I define success? How do I want to live my life? What is important? In our current society almost all definitions of success are defined through work-related accomplishment. But there is obviously much more to life than just work and I suppose part of my post-PhD-purpose-wondering has been thinking about what else I define as successful in my life. And relatedly, what gives my life purpose? What makes me feel good about life? Relationships? Friendships? Family? And other things, like baking, running, doing yoga. How does one do these things well?

I don’t profess to have any of the answers yet although they are forming a thinking project for the year. In this I am reminded of Annie Dillard: ‘how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives‘. She goes on ‘there is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by’. And that is, of course, what we are all pursuing. The good life.

There is no easy transition, I suppose, from talking about the good life to talking about citrus cupcakes, except that this kind of cake adds to a good life, I think. If, like me, you feel January is mostly grey and dark, these are a burst of sun and zest. A fragrant reminder of yellow days. I am currently reading (isn’t everyone?) The Land Where Lemons Grow which I suppose has contributed to the need to eat citrus at the moment. And today is a SNOW DAY, so when better to bake than today? I’m prepping marmalade (citrus fever!), am going to make oxtail for dinner and I intend to make this apple cake for dessert (more on that next time).

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These cupcakes are based on a family Madeira cake recipe, one that has been used and reused for years and years. You can flavour them with any citrus fruit you fancy. I had tangerines to hand and so I used those but an orange (perhaps a blood orange now that they have appeared), a lemon or even a few limes would work. Perhaps some poppyseeds too. If you’d prefer them plain, substitute the zest for vanilla extract perhaps – a teaspoon is sufficient here.

Citrus Cupcakes

Makes 9

140g unsalted butter, softened

120g golden caster sugar

zest of 2 tangerines

3 eggs

140g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake holders. (I only have a 6-hole cupcake tin so I bake in batches but if you have a larger one, use that.)

In a bowl, beat the butter, caster sugar and zest until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and then add the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour and the baking powder in a small bowl. Add the flour into the butter/egg mixture in three batches, beating well in-between and scraping down the sides so that it is evenly incorporated. Lastly, add in the milk.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake moulds – I normally do a generous dessert spoon scoop so that it is approximately 3/4 full. Bake for 12 minutes – check the cupcakes. A skewer inserted should come out clean. If not, return to the oven for a few minutes. Once cooked through, remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before placing the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Tangering Frosting

125g unsalted butter, softened

300g icing sugar

juice of one tangerine

Beat the butter and icing sugar on a slow speed, until they begin to come together. Add in the tangerine juice and beat slowly until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixer up and beat on medium until the icing is white and very fluffy. Ice the cupcakes liberally. Garnish with zest if you so desire.



Dillard, A. (2013) The Writing Life (Harper Perennial: New York)

Reading List (12/1)

Croissants (Lucky Peach)

For those of us not eating clean or fresh or whatever is currently underway for creating a new body in the new year, pasta with potatoes. YES. Andrés made this for lunch last week when I was recovering from my latest knee injury. (I won’t lie, I instructed heavily and was generally quite difficult.) It was a wonderfully comforting dish, plain and simple, salty from the parmesan we grated into it, with bursts of orange carrot against the beige.

I sometimes smell the perfume my grandmother used to wear and I am instantly returned to her house in Cape Town. This made me think about her smell again, and that profound way smell can transport you to other times and places. (I was directed to the article via Rachel Roddy’s latest blog post.)

On food and memory. Jacques Pépin describes some of his food memories, the rituals made up of traditions, and food made with love and care.

How much do you want to make preserved quince tart tatin? Or anything quince related for that matter – everyone seems to be writing about them at the moment. Molly over at Orangette has a recipe for poaching them which also sounds divine. I have never eaten quince (other than as membrillo) and I’ve been keeping an eye out but haven’t found any yet!

‘Knowing where you are in the world is fundamental to knowing who you are’. A fascinating read about celestial navigation and how we navigate our place in the world. I have always found looking at the stars comforting in a way I cannot really explain. The stars are different here but seeing Orion in the night sky is immensely reassuring. His presence signals that I am on the same planet as the one before, even though sometimes I feel very far away from home, in a strange place with strange cultures (and Orion appears to me to be upside-down). But his presence in the night sky is a comfort, like the swallows that return year on year, that I can imagine at my mother’s house, swooping into the eaves on the stoep, raising their babies. I cannot wait to show Andrés the southern cross and the Milky Way, which you can see so clearly in the South African countryside.

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I particularly love how the article goes on to talk about storytelling: ‘The human mind is structured around stories. Connecting things to stories, poems, songs, music and visual art makes this knowledge more real to us, charged with emotive power, which aids in the forming of memories. It helps us come to know things, and to know their place, by knowing ourselves more deeply as well. Storytelling helps us to find our place in the world’.

On family, living away and sharing meals  (Guernica)

The world of black market cheeses. Who knew? (Thanks Jen!)

Lastly, how much do you want to make a peanut caramel flapjack? The snack of snacks I think.

Have a good week!