sponge | The Proof of the Pudding


I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again (and many times more): Scottish strawberries are the best strawberries. Despite the amount of moaning we do about our weather here, we are actually lucky enough to live in a country which happens to have the perfect strawberry-growing climate: long daylight hours during the summer, consistent temperatures that aren’t too scorching (see, it’s good for something!) and water, water everywhere. Right now we can get a kilo of Scottish strawberries for £3 in our local supermarket, which is the perfect excuse for over-indulging in the small, sweet treats until your finger tips are stained pink and your tummy is just a liiittle bit sore.

And this weekend is the perfect time to fit some strawberry-themed baking into your schedule, since it’s the Wimbledon finals. This cake is just a regular Victoria sponge, but it’s a handy little recipe to have under your belt, or up your sleeve, or in whatever metaphorical clothing garment you desire. It’s the simple rule of 200:200:200:4, which means 200g of butter to 200g of sugar to 200g of flour and 4 eggs, and it works perfectly every time. A Victoria sponge is often sandwiched together with jam and butter cream icing, which is lovely too, but I think fresh strawberries and double cream are called for during the summer. And without horribly jinxing the outcome of tonight’s semi-final, maybe your Scottish strawberry cake will have a particularly patriotic connotation come Sunday afternoon…

One year ago:
– Strawberry and vanilla muffins

Ingredients 200g soft butter, plus a little extra for greasing 200g caster sugar 4 medium eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 200g self-raising flour 1 tsp baking powder 300ml double cream 400g strawberries

Icing sugar for decoration

Method 1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease and flour 2 x 21cm cake tins.

2. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well to a light, fluffy consistency.

3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one by one, and add the vanilla extract. A tip to avoid a split batter (where the mixture looks a little curdled) is to add a dessert spoon of the flour after both the first and third eggs.

This recipe comes from my very lovely Auntie Rosie. My mum has had a hand-written copy tucked away in a folder for years, and it’s really the only go-to carrot cake recipe that you need. It’s very lightly spiced with cinnamon and comes out the oven dense, but deliciously moist thanks to the carrots and apples. A light, fluffy Victoria sponge can be absolute perfection, but sometimes your cravings call for a richer cake, one with the caramel flavour of brown sugar, the softness of cooked fruits and vegetables and small bursts of fudgy raisins throughout. The sourness of the icing on top helps to balance the sweet sponge. It’s a simple cream cheese affair, flavoured with lemon juice and, my own personal addition, orange zest.

Ingredients 115g butter 2 tbsp olive oil 250g carrots, peeled and grated 2 apples, peeled and grated 170g soft brown sugar 2 eggs 200g flour 7 tsp baking powder 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp salt 115g raisins

3 tbsp milk

60g icing sugar 250g cream cheese 1 tbsp lemon juice

Zest of 1 orange

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter. 2. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil.

3. Mix the fats with the sugar, eggs, and grated carrots and apples.

4. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and fold into the wet mix.


5. Add the milk and raisins to the cake mixture and stir well.

6. Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean.

7. Turn the cake out and leave to cool while you make the icing.

8. To make the icing simply beat together the icing sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice and orange zest. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake.

9. Once the sponge is completely cool, spoon the cream cheese frosting onto the cake and spread evenly. Leave like this, or decorate in whatever way takes your fancy: I dotted some orange food colouring gel around the top of the cake and then used a skewer to swirl it through the icing.

This carrot cake doesn’t need any extras, like cream, on the side whether it’s served up mid-afternoon or for pudding. All you need is a generous wedge of cake, and perhaps a cup of tea.

Thanks for the fabulous recipe Auntie Rosie! x


There are some food combinations that just undeniably work: tomato and basil, salmon and dill, goats cheese and figs, lamb and mint, and so it goes on. In my books, chocolate and fruit are one of these matches made in heaven. I’ve been seeing punnets of really plump, dark raspberries in the shops lately and find them utterly irresistible. After a fruitful (seewhatIdidthere) trip to the greengrocers on Sunday morning, I spent Sunday afternoon whipping up some treats for an afternoon tea catch-up with some of my very favourite ladies. Of course there had to be chocolate included in the spread somewhere, and so the chocolate-raspberry loaf was born.

If raspberries aren’t really to your taste (although we may have to have a little falling out if this is the case) or if you can’t get your paws on any, then this recipe would definitely be easy to adapt. Try candied orange peel folded through the sponge mix and orange zest in the icing. Or dried cherries and a splash of Kirsch. Or freeze-dried strawberries in the sponge and strawberry puree whisked through the icing. If the idea of fruit anywhere near your chocolate is an insult, then just leave the offending ingredients out for an unadulterated chocolate hit. A table spoon or two of cocoa powder in the icing might be more up your street. Whatever you decide, the underlying recipe is ridiculously easy – we’re using the “all-in-one” method where all the ingredients are whisked together in one go. No creaming, no risk of egg-curdling, no sifting. Convinced? Ready, set, let’s go!

Ingredients 140g butter, softened 180g plain flour 20g cocoa powder 3 tsp baking powder 200g caster sugar 3 large eggs 6 tbsp milk

3 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries

125g butter, softened 250g icing sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp milk

100g fresh raspberries

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/gas Mark 4. Butter a loaf tin and line with baking parchment. Leaving some excess paper hanging over the long sides makes it easier to lift the cake out after baking.

2. Place the butter, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and milk in a large bowl. Using a hand whisk or wooden spoon mix the ingredients together for a few minutes until they are fully combined and the mixture has a light, aerated texture.

3. Gently fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the cake batter. Try not to over-mix as you will lose some of the air that you whisked in at the previous step.

4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth flat with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is dark brown and a knife or cake tester comes out the centre of the cake clean. Lift out of the loaf tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

6. Whisk the softened butter together with the icing sugar for 5 minutes. A good tip here is to cover the bowl with a large tea towel to stop every surface in your kitchen becoming dusted in powdered sugar.

7. Add the vanilla extract and milk, and continue whisking for a few more minutes. Finally add the fresh raspberries and whisk until evenly combined.



8. Ice the top of the cooled loaf with a generous layer of raspberry icing.

This cake is super light and fluffy in texture, and the icing is a perfect mix of butter-icing sweetness and sharp raspberry flavour. It is at its peak eaten on the day of baking, but will keep well for another couple of days in an airtight container. Serve with tea or a large glass of ice-cold milk. Lovely.